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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Ad Infinitum

Ad Infinitum Quotes (5 quotes)

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn have, greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
[He was imitating: 'So, naturalists observe, a flea Has smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite 'em; And so proceed ad infinitum.' Poetry, a Rhapsody, by Jonathan Swift.]
A Budget of Paradoxes (1915), first published 1872, Vol. 2, 191.
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In both social and natural sciences, the body of positive knowledge grows by the failure of a tentative hypothesis to predict phenomena the hypothesis professes to explain; by the patching up of that hypothesis until someone suggests a new hypothesis that more elegantly or simply embodies the troublesome phenomena, and so on ad infinitum. In both, experiment is sometimes possible, sometimes not (witness meteorology). In both, no experiment is ever completely controlled, and experience often offers evidence that is the equivalent of controlled experiment. In both, there is no way to have a self-contained closed system or to avoid interaction between the observer and the observed. The Gödel theorem in mathematics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in physics, the self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecy in the social sciences all exemplify these limitations.
Inflation and Unemployment (1976), 348.
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In science, each of us knows that what he has accomplished will be antiquated in ten, twenty, fifty years. That is the fate to which science is subjected; it is the very meaning of scientific work, to which it is devoted in a quite specific sense, as compared with other spheres of culture for which in general the same holds. Every scientific “fulfilment” raises new “questions”; it asks to be “surpassed” and outdated. Whoever wishes to serve science has to resign himself to this fact. Scientific works certainly can last as “gratifications” because of their artistic quality, or they may remain important as a means of training. Yet they will be surpassed scientifically—let that be repeated—for it is our common fate and, more our common goal. We cannot work without hoping that others will advance further than we have. In principle, this progress goes on ad infinitum.
Max Weber
From a Speech (1918) presented at Munich University, published in 1919, and collected in 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', Gessammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre (1922), 524-525. As given in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright-Mills (translators and eds.), 'Science as a Vocation', Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (1946), 138. A different translation of a shorter excerpt from this quote, beginning “[In] the realm of science, …” is also on the Max Weber Quotes web page on this site.
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Louise: ‘How did you get here?’ Johnny: ‘Well, basically, there was this little dot, right? And the dot went bang and the bang expanded. Energy formed into matter, matter cooled, matter lived, the amoeba to fish, to fish to fowl, to fowl to frog, to frog to mammal, the mammal to monkey, to monkey to man, amo amas amat, quid pro quo, memento mori, ad infinitum, sprinkle on a little bit of grated cheese and leave under the grill till Doomsday.’
Movie
From the movie Naked
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The Vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an Inch.
So, Naturalists observe, a Flea
Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller Fleas to bite 'em.
And so proceed ad infinitum.
On Poetry: A Rhapsody (1735), lines 339-44.
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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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