Celebrating 19 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index A > Category: Ambiguous

Ambiguous Quotes (13 quotes)

A chess problem is genuine mathematics, but it is in some way “trivial” mathematics. However, ingenious and intricate, however original and surprising the moves, there is something essential lacking. Chess problems are unimportant. The best mathematics is serious as well as beautiful—“important” if you like, but the word is very ambiguous, and “serious” expresses what I mean much better.
'A Mathematician's Apology', in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), 2029.
Science quotes on:  |  Beautiful (258)  |  Best (459)  |  Better (486)  |  Chess (25)  |  Essential (199)  |  Genuine (52)  |  Important (209)  |  Ingenious (55)  |  Intricate (29)  |  Mathematics (1328)  |  Mean (809)  |  Move (216)  |  Original (58)  |  Problem (676)  |  Serious (91)  |  Something (719)  |  Surprise (86)  |  Trivial (57)  |  Unimportant (6)  |  Way (1217)  |  Word (619)

Given any domain of thought in which the fundamental objective is a knowledge that transcends mere induction or mere empiricism, it seems quite inevitable that its processes should be made to conform closely to the pattern of a system free of ambiguous terms, symbols, operations, deductions; a system whose implications and assumptions are unique and consistent; a system whose logic confounds not the necessary with the sufficient where these are distinct; a system whose materials are abstract elements interpretable as reality or unreality in any forms whatsoever provided only that these forms mirror a thought that is pure. To such a system is universally given the name MATHEMATICS.
In 'Mathematics', National Mathematics Magazine (Nov 1937), 12, No. 2, 62.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstract (124)  |  Assumption (92)  |  Conform (13)  |  Confound (21)  |  Consistent (48)  |  Deduction (82)  |  Distinct (97)  |  Domain (69)  |  Element (310)  |  Empiricism (21)  |  Form (959)  |  Free (232)  |  Fundamental (250)  |  Implication (23)  |  Induction (77)  |  Inevitable (49)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Logic (287)  |  Material (353)  |  Mathematics (1328)  |  Mirror (41)  |  Name (333)  |  Necessary (363)  |  Objective (91)  |  Operation (213)  |  Operations (107)  |  Pattern (110)  |  Process (423)  |  Provide (69)  |  Pure (291)  |  Reality (261)  |  Sufficient (128)  |  Symbol (93)  |  System (537)  |  Term (349)  |  Terms (184)  |  Thought (953)  |  Transcend (26)  |  Unique (67)  |  Universal (189)  |  Unreality (3)  |  Whatsoever (41)

I think people get it upside down when they say the unambiguous is the reality and the ambiguous is merely uncertainty about what is really unambiguous. Let’s turn it around the other way: the ambiguous is the reality and the unambiguous is merely a special case of it, where we finally manage to pin down some very special aspect.
In William Byers, How Mathematicians Think (2007), 25.
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Ambiguity (17)  |  Aspect (124)  |  Down (456)  |  Manage (23)  |  Merely (316)  |  Other (2236)  |  People (1005)  |  Pin (18)  |  Reality (261)  |  Say (984)  |  Special (184)  |  Special Case (9)  |  Think (1086)  |  Turn (447)  |  Uncertainty (56)  |  Upside Down (8)  |  Way (1217)

Journalists do not like to report on uncertainties. They would almost rather be wrong than ambiguous.
In 'How Journalists Regard Their Field', Christian Science Monitor (23 Jan 1985).
Science quotes on:  |  Ambiguity (17)  |  Do (1908)  |  Journalist (8)  |  Uncertainty (56)  |  Wrong (234)

Keep in mind that new ideas are commonplace, and almost always wrong. Most flashes of insight lead nowhere; statistically, they have a half-life of hours or maybe days. Most experiments to follow up the surviving insights are tedious and consume large amounts of time, only to yield negative or (worse!) ambiguous results.
In Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998, 1999), 60
Science quotes on:  |  Amount (151)  |  Common (436)  |  Commonplace (23)  |  Experiment (695)  |  Flash (49)  |  Follow (378)  |  Half-Life (2)  |  Hour (186)  |  Idea (843)  |  Insight (102)  |  Large (394)  |  Lead (384)  |  Life (1795)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Most (1731)  |  Negative (63)  |  New (1216)  |  Result (677)  |  Statistics (155)  |  Tedious (14)  |  Time (1877)  |  Wrong (234)  |  Yield (81)

Man … begins life as an ambiguous speck of matter which can in no way be distinguished from the original form of the lowest animal or plant. He next becomes a cell; his life is precisely that of the animalcule. Cells cluster round this primordial cell, and the man is so far advanced that he might be mistaken for an undeveloped oyster; he grows still more, and it is clear that he might even be a fish; he then passes into a stage which is common to all quadrupeds, and next assumes a form which can only belong to quadrupeds of the higher type. At last the hour of birth approaches; coiled within the dark womb he sits, the image of an ape; a caricature of the man that is to be. He is born, and for some time he walks only on all fours; he utters only inarticulate sounds; and even in his boyhood his fondness for climbing trees would seem to be a relic of the old arboreal life.
In The Martyrdom of Man (1876), 393.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Animal (617)  |  Animalcule (12)  |  Ape (53)  |  Arboreal (8)  |  Become (815)  |  Begin (260)  |  Belong (162)  |  Birth (147)  |  Boy (94)  |  Caricature (6)  |  Cell (138)  |  Climbing (4)  |  Cluster (16)  |  Common (436)  |  Dark (140)  |  Development (422)  |  Distinguish (160)  |  Distinguished (83)  |  Evolution (590)  |  Fish (120)  |  Fondness (7)  |  Form (959)  |  Grow (238)  |  Hour (186)  |  Image (96)  |  Inarticulate (2)  |  Last (426)  |  Life (1795)  |  Man (2251)  |  Matter (798)  |  More (2559)  |  Next (236)  |  Old (481)  |  Oyster (11)  |  Plant (294)  |  Precisely (92)  |  Primordial (10)  |  Quadruped (4)  |  Relic (6)  |  Sit (48)  |  Sound (183)  |  Speck (23)  |  Stage (143)  |  Still (613)  |  Time (1877)  |  Tree (246)  |  Type (167)  |  Undeveloped (6)  |  Walk (124)  |  Way (1217)  |  Womb (24)

Most classifications, whether of inanimate objects or of organisms, are hierarchical. There are “higher” and “lower” categories, there are higher and lower ranks. What is usually overlooked is that the use of the term “hierarchy” is ambiguous, and that two fundamentally different kinds of arrangements have been designated as hierarchical. A hierarchy can be either exclusive or inclusive. Military ranks from private, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, up to general are a typical example of an exclusive hierarchy. A lower rank is not a subdivision of a higher rank; thus, lieutenants are not a subdivision of captains. The scala naturae, which so strongly dominated thinking from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, is another good illustration of an exclusive hierarchy. Each level of perfection was considered an advance (or degradation) from the next lower (or higher) level in the hierarchy, but did not include it.
The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance (1982), 205-6.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (280)  |  Ambiguity (17)  |  Arrangement (91)  |  Captain (14)  |  Century (310)  |  Classification (97)  |  Consider (416)  |  Degradation (17)  |  Different (577)  |  Exclusive (29)  |  Fundamental (250)  |  General (511)  |  Good (889)  |  Hierarchy (17)  |  Illustration (48)  |  Inanimate (16)  |  Include (90)  |  Inclusive (4)  |  Kind (557)  |  Level (67)  |  Military (40)  |  Most (1731)  |  Next (236)  |  Object (422)  |  Organism (220)  |  Overlook (31)  |  Perfection (129)  |  Rank (67)  |  Term (349)  |  Thinking (414)  |  Two (937)  |  Use (766)  |  Usually (176)

No hypothesis concerning the nature of this 'something' shall be advanced thereby or based thereon. Therefore it appears as most simple to use the last syllable 'gen' taken from Darwin's well-known word pangene since it alone is of interest to use, in order thereby to replace the poor, more ambiguous word, 'Anlage'. Thus, we will say for 'das pangene' and 'die pangene' simply 'Das Gen' and 'Die Gene,' The word Gen is fully free from every hypothesis; it expresses only the safely proved fact that in any case many properties of organisms are conditioned by separable and hence independent 'Zustiinde,' 'Grundlagen,' 'Anlagen'—in short what we will call 'just genes'—which occur specifically in the gametes.
Elemente der Exakten Erblichkeitslehre (1909), 124. Trans. G. E. Allen and quoted in G. E. Allen, Thomas Hunt Morgan: The Man and His Science (1978), 209-10 (Footnote 79).
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Alone (311)  |  Call (769)  |  Condition (356)  |  Charles Darwin (303)  |  Fact (1210)  |  Free (232)  |  Gamete (5)  |  Gene (98)  |  Hypothesis (296)  |  Interest (386)  |  Known (454)  |  Last (426)  |  More (2559)  |  Most (1731)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Nomenclature (146)  |  Occur (150)  |  Order (632)  |  Organism (220)  |  Poor (136)  |  Say (984)  |  Short (197)  |  Simple (406)  |  Something (719)  |  Use (766)  |  Will (2355)  |  Word (619)

On the whole, I cannot help saying that it appears to me not a little extraordinary, that a theory so new, and of such importance, overturning every thing that was thought to be the best established in chemistry, should rest on so very narrow and precarious a foundation, the experiments adduced in support of it being not only ambiguous or explicable on either hypothesis, but exceedingly few. I think I have recited them all, and that on which the greatest stress is laid, viz. That of the formation of water from the decomposition of the two kinds of air, has not been sufficiently repeated. Indeed it required so difficult and expensive an apparatus, and so many precautions in the use of it, that the frequent repetition of the experiment cannot be expected; and in these circumstances the practised experimenter cannot help suspecting the accuracy of the result and consequently the certainty of the conclusion.
Considerations on the Doctrine of Phlogiston (1796), 57-8.
Science quotes on:  |  Accuracy (78)  |  Air (347)  |  All (4108)  |  Ambiguity (17)  |  Apparatus (68)  |  Being (1278)  |  Best (459)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Chemistry (353)  |  Circumstance (136)  |  Circumstances (108)  |  Conclusion (254)  |  Decomposition (18)  |  Difficult (246)  |  Difficulty (196)  |  Establish (57)  |  Exceedingly (28)  |  Expect (200)  |  Experiment (695)  |  Experimenter (40)  |  Explanation (234)  |  Extraordinary (79)  |  Formation (96)  |  Foundation (171)  |  Greatest (328)  |  Hypothesis (296)  |  Importance (286)  |  Indeed (324)  |  Kind (557)  |  Little (707)  |  Narrow (84)  |  New (1216)  |  Precarious (5)  |  Repeat (42)  |  Repetition (28)  |  Required (108)  |  Rest (280)  |  Result (677)  |  Stress (22)  |  Support (147)  |  Theory (970)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Think (1086)  |  Thought (953)  |  Two (937)  |  Use (766)  |  Water (481)  |  Whole (738)

Science now finds itself in paradoxical strife with society: admired but mistrusted; offering hope for the future but creating ambiguous choice; richly supported yet unable to fulfill all its promise; boasting remarkable advances but criticized for not serving more directly the goals of society.
How to Win the Nobel Prize: An Unexpected Life in Science (2004), xi.
Science quotes on:  |  Admiration (59)  |  Advance (280)  |  All (4108)  |  Boast (22)  |  Choice (110)  |  Criticism (78)  |  Find (998)  |  Future (429)  |  Goal (145)  |  Hope (299)  |  Mistrust (4)  |  More (2559)  |  Paradox (50)  |  Promise (67)  |  Remarkable (48)  |  Science (3879)  |  Science And Society (23)  |  Service (110)  |  Serving (15)  |  Society (326)  |  Strife (9)  |  Support (147)

The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermonuclear weapons systems and soft drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudoevents, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century—sex and paranoia.
Crash (1973, 1995), catalogue notes. In J. G. Ballard, The Kindness of Women (2007), 221.
Science quotes on:  |  20th Century (36)  |  Advertisement (13)  |  Advertising (9)  |  Birth (147)  |  Century (310)  |  Coexist (4)  |  Commercial (26)  |  Communication (94)  |  Dream (208)  |  Drink (53)  |  Great (1574)  |  Landscape (39)  |  Live (628)  |  Marriage (39)  |  Money (170)  |  More (2559)  |  Move (216)  |  Nightmare (4)  |  Paranoia (3)  |  Realm (85)  |  Reason (744)  |  Rule (294)  |  Science (3879)  |  Sex (69)  |  Sinister (8)  |  Soft (29)  |  System (537)  |  Technology (257)  |  Thermonuclear (4)  |  Twin (15)  |  Weapon (92)  |  Weapons (58)  |  World (1774)

There are still psychologists who, in a basic misunderstanding, think that gestalt theory tends to underestimate the role of past experience. Gestalt theory tries to differentiate between and-summative aggregates, on the one hand, and gestalten, structures, on the other, both in sub-wholes and in the total field, and to develop appropriate scientific tools for investigating the latter. It opposes the dogmatic application to all cases of what is adequate only for piecemeal aggregates. The question is whether an approach in piecemeal terms, through blind connections, is or is not adequate to interpret actual thought processes and the role of the past experience as well. Past experience has to be considered thoroughly, but it is ambiguous in itself; so long as it is taken in piecemeal, blind terms it is not the magic key to solve all problems.
In Productive Thinking (1959), 65.
Science quotes on:  |  Actual (117)  |  Adequate (46)  |  Aggregate (23)  |  All (4108)  |  Application (242)  |  Approach (108)  |  Appropriate (61)  |  Basic (138)  |  Blind (95)  |  Both (493)  |  Connection (162)  |  Consider (416)  |  Develop (268)  |  Differentiate (19)  |  Dogmatic (7)  |  Experience (467)  |  Field (364)  |  Gestalt (3)  |  Interpret (19)  |  Investigate (103)  |  Key (50)  |  Long (790)  |  Magic (86)  |  Misunderstanding (12)  |  Oppose (24)  |  Other (2236)  |  Past (337)  |  Piecemeal (3)  |  Problem (676)  |  Process (423)  |  Psychologist (15)  |  Question (621)  |  Role (86)  |  Scientific (941)  |  Solve (130)  |  Still (613)  |  Structure (344)  |  Tend (124)  |  Term (349)  |  Terms (184)  |  Theory (970)  |  Think (1086)  |  Thoroughly (67)  |  Thought (953)  |  Through (849)  |  Tool (117)  |  Total (94)  |  Try (283)  |  Underestimate (7)  |  Whole (738)

We live in an essential and unresolvable tension between our unity with nature and our dangerous uniqueness. Systems that attempt to place and make sense of us by focusing exclusively either on the uniqueness or the unity are doomed to failure. But we must not stop asking and questing because the answers are complex and ambiguous.
In 'Our Natural Place', Hen's Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1994, 2010), 250.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (366)  |  Ask (411)  |  Asking (73)  |  Attempt (251)  |  Complex (188)  |  Dangerous (105)  |  Doom (32)  |  Essential (199)  |  Exclusively (10)  |  Failure (161)  |  Focus (35)  |  Live (628)  |  Must (1526)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Place (177)  |  Quest (39)  |  Sense (770)  |  Stop (80)  |  System (537)  |  Tension (24)  |  Uniqueness (11)  |  Unity (78)


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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.