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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Abyss

Abyss Quotes (29 quotes)

Ode to The Amoeba
Recall from Time's abysmal chasm
That piece of primal protoplasm
The First Amoeba, strangely splendid,
From whom we're all of us descended.
That First Amoeba, weirdly clever,
Exists today and shall forever,
Because he reproduced by fission;
He split himself, and each division
And subdivision deemed it fitting
To keep on splitting, splitting, splitting;
So, whatsoe'er their billions be,
All, all amoebas still are he.
Zoologists discern his features
In every sort of breathing creatures,
Since all of every living species,
No matter how their breed increases
Or how their ranks have been recruited,
From him alone were evoluted.
King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba
And Hoover sprang from that amoeba;
Columbus, Shakespeare, Darwin, Shelley
Derived from that same bit of jelly.
So famed is he and well-connected,
His statue ought to be erected,
For you and I and William Beebe
Are undeniably amoebae!
(1922). Collected in Gaily the Troubadour (1936), 18.
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Changements arrivées dans le globe: Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.
Changes That Have Occurred in the Globe: When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain progressing into a plain; that is to say, an immense boulder separating from this mountain and covering the fields; an entire castle broken into pieces over the ground; a river swallowed up which then bursts out from its abyss; clear marks of a vast amount of water having once flooded regions now inhabited, and a hundred vestiges of other transformations, then we are much more willing to believe that great changes altered the face of the earth, than a Parisian lady who knows only that the place where her house was built was once a cultivated field. However, a lady from Naples who has seen the buried ruins of Herculaneum, is much less subject to the bias which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it is today.
From article 'Changements arrivées dans le globe', in Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), collected in Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire (1878), Vol. 2, 427-428. Translated by Ian Ellis.
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A terrible wilderness of mountainous country constitutes the immediate environment of St. Paul's. It is a precipitous cliff into the abyss, a gate of hell, more horrible than the fantasy of Dante could express it.
St. Paul's Monastery is located 300-km southeast of Cairo, on the southern edge of a desert mountain range, adjacent to the Gulf of Suez
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All over the world there lingers on the memory of a giant tree, the primal tree, rising up from the centre of the Earth to the heavens and ordering the universe around it. It united the three worlds: its roots plunged down into subterranean abysses, Its loftiest branches touched the empyrean. Thanks to the Tree, it became possible to breathe the air; to all the creatures that then appeared on Earth it dispensed its fruit, ripened by the sun and nourished by the water which it drew from the soil. From the sky it attracted the lightning from which man made fire and, beckoning skyward, where clouds gathered around its fall. The Tree was the source of all life, and of all regeneration. Small wonder then that tree-worship was so prevalent in ancient times.
From 'L'Arbre Sacre' ('The Sacred Tree'), UNESCO Courier (Jan 1989), 4. Epigraph to Chap 1, in Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley, Trees of Life: Saving Tropical Forests and Their Biological Wealt (1991), 1.
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As we descend deeper and deeper into this region, the inhabitants become more and more modified, and fewer and fewer, indicating our approach to an abyss where life is either extinguished, or exhibits but a few sparks to mark its lingering presence.
In The Natural History of the European Seas (1859), 26-27. (In the 19th century, knowledge was gained from deep sea life hauled in with nets.)
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By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed.
The Conduct of Life (1951), 14.
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Does it seem all but incredible to you that intelligence should travel for two thousand miles, along those slender copper lines, far down in the all but fathomless Atlantic; never before penetrated … save when some foundering vessel has plunged with her hapless company to the eternal silence and darkness of the abyss? Does it seem … but a miracle … that the thoughts of living men … should burn over the cold, green bones of men and women, whose hearts, once as warm as ours, burst as the eternal gulfs closed and roared over them centuries ago?
A tribute to the Atlantic telegraph cable by Edward Everett, one of the topics included in his inauguration address at the Washington University of St. Louis (22 Apr 1857). In Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions: Volume 3 (1870), 509-511.
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During the time of the Deluge, whilst the Water was out upon, and covered the Terrestrial Globe, … all Fossils whatever that had before obtained any Solidity, were totally dissolved, and their constituent Corpuscles all disjoyned, their Cohesion perfectly ceasing … [A]nd, to be short, all Bodies whatsoever that were either upon the Earth, or that constituted the Mass of it, if not quite down to the Abyss, yet at least to the greatest depth we ever dig: I say all these were assumed up promiscuously into the Water, and sustained in it, in such a manner that the Water, and Bodies in it, together made up one common confused Mass. That at length all the Mass that was thus borne up in the Water, was again precipitated and subsided towards the bottom. That this subsidence happened generally, and as near as possibly could be expected in so great a Confusion, according to the laws of Gravity.
In An Essay Toward A Natural History of the Earth (1695), 74-75.
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Far must thy researches go
Wouldst thou learn the world to know;
Thou must tempt the dark abyss
Wouldst thou prove what Being is;
Naught but firmness gains the prize,—
Naught but fullness makes us wise,—
Buried deep truth ever lies!
In Edgar A. Bowring (trans.), The Poems of Schiller (1875), 260.
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Have you ever plunged into the immensity of space and time by reading the geological treatises of Cuvier? Borne away on the wings of his genius, have you hovered over the illimitable abyss of the past as if a magician’s hand were holding you aloft?
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated by Herbert J. Hunt in The Wild Ass’s Skin (1977), 40-41.
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Have you ever plunged into the immensity of time and space by reading the geological tracts of Cuvier? Transported by his genius, have you hovered over the limitless abyss of the past, as if held aloft by a magician’s hand?
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go.
In Sir Winston Churchill: A Self-Portrait (1954), 38.
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If the historical development of science has indeed sometimes pricked our vanity, it has not plunged us into an abyss of immorality ... it has liberated us from misconceptions, and thereby aided us in our moral progress.
…...
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If you are dangling from a rope over an abyss, don’t bother snatching at he coin that falls out of your pocket.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 261.
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Nature vibrates with rhythms, climatic and diastrophic, those finding stratigraphic expression ranging in period from the rapid oscillation of surface waters, recorded in ripple-mark, to those long-deferred stirrings of the deep imprisoned titans which have divided earth history into periods and eras. The flight of time is measured by the weaving of composite rhythms- day and night, calm and storm, summer and winter, birth and death such as these are sensed in the brief life of man. But the career of the earth recedes into a remoteness against which these lesser cycles are as unavailing for the measurement of that abyss of time as would be for human history the beating of an insect's wing. We must seek out, then, the nature of those longer rhythms whose very existence was unknown until man by the light of science sought to understand the earth. The larger of these must be measured in terms of the smaller, and the smaller must be measured in terms of years.
'Rhythm and the Measurement of Geologic Time', Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 1917, 28,746.
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People have noted with admiration how the progress of scientific enquiry is like the growth of a coral reef; each generation of little toilers building a sure foundation on which their successors may build yet further. The simile is apt in many ways, and in one way in particular that is worth considering. When we see how industrious and how prolific are the coral insects, our chief astonishment should be, not how vast are the structures they have built, but how few and scattered. Why is not every coast lined with coral? Why is the abyss if ocean not bridged with it. The answer is that coral only lives under certain limitations; it can only thrive at certain depths, in water of certain temperatures and salinities; outside these limits it languishes and dies. Science is like coral in this. Scientific investigators can only work in certain spots of the ocean of Being, where they are at home, and all outside is unknown to them...
Scientific Method: An Inquiry into the Character and Validy of Natural Law (1923), 195. Quoted in Wilson Gee, Social science research methods (1950), 182.
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The fascination of any search after truth lies not in the attainment, which at best is found to be very relative, but in the pursuit, where all the powers of the mind and character are brought into play and are absorbed by the task. One feels oneself in contact with something that is infinite and one finds joy that is beyond expression in sounding the abyss of science and the secrets of the infinite mind.
In Isabel Fothergill Smith, The Stone Lady: a Memoir of Florence Bascom (1981). Cited in Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society (992), Vols. 11-12, 39.
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The mathematical giant [Gauss], who from his lofty heights embraces in one view the stars and the abysses …
Kurzer Grundriss eines Versuchs (1851), 44. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 158.
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The primary rocks, ... I regard as the deposits of a period in which the earth's crust had sufficiently cooled down to permit the existence of a sea, with the necessary denuding agencies,—waves and currents,—and, in consequence, of deposition also; but in which the internal heat acted so near the surface, that whatever was deposited came, matter of course, to be metamorphosed into semi-plutonic forms, that retained only the stratification. I dare not speak of the scenery of the period. We may imagine, however, a dark atmosphere of steam and vapour, which for age after age conceals the face of the sun, and through which the light of moon or star never penetrates; oceans of thermal water heated in a thousand centres to the boiling point; low, half-molten islands, dim through the log, and scarce more fixed than the waves themselves, that heave and tremble under the impulsions of the igneous agencies; roaring geysers, that ever and anon throw up their intermittent jets of boiling fluid, vapour, and thick steam, from these tremulous lands; and, in the dim outskirts of the scene, the red gleam of fire, shot forth from yawning cracks and deep chasms, and that bears aloft fragments of molten rock and clouds of ashes. But should we continue to linger amid a scene so featureless and wild, or venture adown some yawning opening into the abyss beneath, where all is fiery and yet dark,—a solitary hell, without suffering or sin,—we would do well to commit ourselves to the guidance of a living poet of the true faculty,—Thomas Aird and see with his eyes.
Lecture Sixth, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 297-298.
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The ridge of the Lammer-muir hills... consists of primary micaceous schistus, and extends from St Abb's head westward... The sea-coast affords a transverse section of this alpine tract at its eastern extremity, and exhibits the change from the primary to the secondary strata... Dr HUTTON wished particularly to examine the latter of these, and on this occasion Sir JAMES HALL and I had the pleasure to accompany him. We sailed in a boat from Dunglass ... We made for a high rocky point or head-land, the SICCAR ... On landing at this point, we found that we actually trode [sic] on the primeval rock... It is here a micaceous schistus, in beds nearly vertical, highly indurated, and stretching from S.E. to N. W. The surface of this rock... has thin covering of red horizontal sandstone laid over it, ... Here, therefore, the immediate contact of the two rocks is not only visible, but is curiously dissected and laid open by the action of the waves... On us who saw these phenomena for the first time, the impression will not easily be forgotten. The palpable evidence presented to us, of one of the most extraordinary and important facts in the natural history of the earth, gave a reality and substance to those theoretical speculations, which, however probable had never till now been directly authenticated by the testimony of the senses... What clearer evidence could we have had of the different formation of these rocks, and of the long interval which separated their formation, had we actually seen them emerging from the bosom of the deep? ... The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time; and while we listened with earnestness and admiration to the philosopher who was now unfolding to us the order and series of these wonderful events, we became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes go than imagination can venture to follow.
'Biographical Account of the Late Dr James Hutton, F.R.S. Edin.' (read 1803), Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1805), 5, 71-3.
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The stream of thought flows on but most of its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion. Of some, no memory survives the instant of their passage. Of others, it is confined to a few moments, hours or days. Others, again, leave vestiges which are indestructible, and by means of which they may be recalled as long as life endures.
…...
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The universe is a philosophical abyss.
…...
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There are no summits without abysses.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Sara Appleton-Weber (trans.), The Human Phenomenon (1999, 2003), 206. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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What clearer evidence could we have had of the different formation of these rocks, and of the long interval which separated their formation, had we actually seen them emerging from the bosom of the deep? … The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.
As quoted in Dennis R. Dean, James Hutton and the History of Geology (1992), 122.
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What strange wonder is this? Our prayer to thee was for water,
Earth! What is this that thou now send’st from thy womb in reply?
In the abyss is there life ? Or hidden under the lava
Dwelleth some race now unknown? Does what hath fled e’er return?
Greeks and Romans, oh come! Oh, see the ancient Pompeii
Here is discover’d again,—Hercules’ town is rebuilt!
Beginning lines of poem, 'Pompeii and Herculaneum', in Edgar A. Bowring (trans.), The Poems of Schiller (1875), 237.
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When science, art, literature, and philosophy are simply the manifestation of personality, they are on a level where glorious and dazzling achievements are possible, which can make a man’s name live for thousands of years. But above this level, far above, separated by an abyss, is the level where the highest things are achieved. These things are essentially anonymous.
In Simone Weil and Siân Miles (ed.), 'Human Personality', Simone Weil: An Anthology (2000), 55.
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Who then understands the reciprocal flux and reflux of the infinitely great and the infinitely small, the echoing of causes in the abysses of being, and the avalanches of creation?
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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[Should Britain fail, then the entire world would] sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister ... by the lights of perverted science.
“Finest Hour” speech after Dunkirk during WW II (18 Jun 1940). In Robert Rhodes James, ed. Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963 (1974), Vol. 6, p.6238.
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Oliver Goldsmith quote: [T]here are depths of thousands of miles which are hidden from our inquiry. The only tidings we have fro
Volcano Sunset - Mount Shishaldin, Japan (source)
[T]here are depths of thousands of miles which are hidden from our inquiry. The only tidings we have from those unfathomable regions are by means of volcanoes, those burning mountains that seem to discharge their materials from the lowest abysses of the earth.
In History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774, 1847), Vol. 1, 92.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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