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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Atom Quotes (213 quotes)

Als Physiker, der sein ganzes Leben der nüchternen Wissenschaft, der Erforschung der Materie widmete, bin ich sicher von dem Verdacht frei, für einen Schwarmgeist gehalten zu werden. Und so sage ich nach meinen Erforschungen des Atoms dieses: Es gibt keine Materie an sich. Alle Materie entsteht und besteht nur durch eine Kraft, welche die Atomteilchen in Schwingung bringt und sie zum winzigsten Sonnensystem des Alls zusammenhält. Da es im ganzen Weltall aber weder eine intelligente Kraft noch eine ewige Kraft gibt - es ist der Menschheit nicht gelungen, das heißersehnte Perpetuum mobile zu erfinden - so müssen wir hinter dieser Kraft einen bewußten intelligenten Geist annehmen. Dieser Geist ist der Urgrund aller Materie.
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
Lecture, 'Das Wesen der Materie' [The Essence/Nature/Character of Matter], Florence, Italy (1944). Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797. Excerpt in Gregg Braden, The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (2009), 334-35. Note: a number of books showing this quote cite it as from Planck's Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1918), which the Webmaster has checked, and does not see this quote therein.
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Den förslags-mening: att olika element förenade med ett lika antal atomer af ett eller flere andra gemensamma element … och att likheten i krystallformen bestämmes helt och hållet af antalet af atomer, och icke af elementens.
[Mitscherlich Law of Isomerism] The same number of atoms combined in the same way produces the same crystalline form, and the same crystalline form is independent of the chemical nature of the atoms, and is determined only by their number and relative position.
Original Swedish from 'Om Förhållandet emellan chemiska sammansättningen och krystallformen hos Arseniksyrade och Phosphorsyrade Salter', Kungl. Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar (1821), 4. In English as expressed later by James F.W. Johnston, 'Report on the Recent Progress and present State of Chemical Science', to Annual Meeting at Oxford (1832), collected in Report of the First and Second Meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1833), 422. A Google raw translation of the Swedish is: “The present proposal-sense: that various elements associated with an equal number of atoms of one or several other common elements … and that the similarity in: crystal shape is determined entirely by the number of atoms, and not by the elements.”
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Hab’s aans g’sehn?
Have you ever seen one?
As called out from the audience at one of Ludwig Boltzmann’s lectures on atoms, and his frequent retort upon any mention of the atom having electron orbits. He was a fierce critic and held that science should stick to only phenomena directly observable by the senses. This quote is seen widely, without citation. For example, in Daniel Greenberger, ‎Klaus Hentschel and ‎Friedel Weinert, Compendium of Quantum Physics: Concepts, Experiments, History and Philosophy (2009), 615.
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Nature is curious, and such worke may make,
That our dull sense can never finde, but scape.
For Creatures, small as Atomes, may be there,
If every Atome a Creatures Figure beare.
If foure Atomes a World can make, then see
What severall Worlds might in an Eare--ring bee:
For Millions of these Atomes may bee in
The Head of one Small, little, Single Pin.
And if thus Small, then Ladies may well weare
A World of Worlds, as Pendents in each Eare.
From 'Of Many Worlds in this World', in Poems and Fancies (1653), 44-5.
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[About describing atomic models in the language of classical physics:] We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
As quoted by Werner Heisenberg, as translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, in Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. The words are not verbatim, but as later recollected by Werner Heisenberg describing his early encounter with Bohr in 1920.
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[When asked “Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?”] That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics.
Einstein's answer to a conferee at a meeting at Princeton, N.J. (Jan 1946), as recalled by Greenville Clark in 'Letters to the Times', in New York Times (22 Apr 1955), 24.
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A cell is regarded as the true biological atom.
The Physiology of Common Life (1860), 297.
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A Dr van’t Hoff of the veterinary college at Utrecht, appears to have no taste for exact chemical investigation. He finds it a less arduous task to mount Pegasus (evidently borrowed from the veterinary school) and to proclaim in his La Chemie dans l’espace how, during his bold fight to the top of the chemical Parnassus, the atoms appeared to him to have grouped themselves together throughout universal space. … I should have taken no notice of this matter had not Wislicenus oddly enough written a preface to the pamphlet, and not by way of a joke but in all seriousness recommended it a worthwhile performance.
'Signs of the Times', Journal fur Praktische Chemie, 15, 473. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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A star is drawing on some vast reservoir of energy by means unknown to us. This reservoir can scarcely be other than the subatomic energy which, it is known exists abundantly in all matter; we sometimes dream that man will one day learn how to release it and use it for his service. The store is well nigh inexhaustible, if only it could be tapped. There is sufficient in the Sun to maintain its output of heat for 15 billion years.
Address to the British Association in Cardiff, (24 Aug 1920), in Observatory (1920), 43 353. Reprinted in Foreward to Arthur S. Eddington, The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926, 1988), x.
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A wonder then it must needs be,—that there should be any Man found so stupid and forsaken of reason as to persuade himself, that this most beautiful and adorned world was or could be produced by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.
John Ray
The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), 21-2.
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According to Democritus, atoms had lost the qualities like colour, taste, etc., they only occupied space, but geometrical assertions about atoms were admissible and required no further analysis. In modern physics, atoms lose this last property, they possess geometrical qualities in no higher degree than colour, taste, etc. The atom of modern physics can only be symbolized by a partial differential equation in an abstract multidimensional space. Only the experiment of an observer forces the atom to indicate a position, a colour and a quantity of heat. All the qualities of the atom of modern physics are derived, it has no immediate and direct physical properties at all, i.e. every type of visual conception we might wish to design is, eo ipso, faulty. An understanding of 'the first order' is, I would almost say by definition, impossible for the world of atoms.
Philosophic Problems of Nuclear Science, trans. F. C. Hayes (1952), 38.
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After the discovery of spectral analysis no one trained in physics could doubt the problem of the atom would be solved when physicists had learned to understand the language of spectra. So manifold was the enormous amount of material that has been accumulated in sixty years of spectroscopic research that it seemed at first beyond the possibility of disentanglement. An almost greater enlightenment has resulted from the seven years of Röntgen spectroscopy, inasmuch as it has attacked the problem of the atom at its very root, and illuminates the interior. What we are nowadays hearing of the language of spectra is a true 'music of the spheres' in order and harmony that becomes ever more perfect in spite of the manifold variety. The theory of spectral lines will bear the name of Bohr for all time. But yet another name will be permanently associated with it, that of Planck. All integral laws of spectral lines and of atomic theory spring originally from the quantum theory. It is the mysterious organon on which Nature plays her music of the spectra, and according to the rhythm of which she regulates the structure of the atoms and nuclei.
Atombau und Spektrallinien (1919), viii, Atomic Structure and Spectral Lines, trans. Henry L. Brose (1923), viii.
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All that can be said upon the number and nature of elements is, in my opinion, confined to discussions entirely of a metaphysical nature. The subject only furnishes us with indefinite problems, which may be solved in a thousand different ways, not one of which, in all probability, is consistent with nature. I shall therefore only add upon this subject, that if, by the term elements, we mean to express those simple and indivisible atoms of which matter is composed, it is extremely probable we know nothing at all about them; but, if we apply the term elements, or principles of bodies, to express our idea of the last point which analysis is capable of reaching, we must admit, as elements, all the substances into which we are capable, by any means, to reduce bodies by decomposition.
Elements of Chemistry (1790), trans. R. Kerr, Preface, xxiv.
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All things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence ... there is an enormous amount of information about the world.
His suggestion that the most valuable information on scientific knowledge in a single sentence using the fewest words is to state the atomic hypothesis.
Six Easy Pieces (1995), 4.
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All things on the earth are the result of chemical combination. The operation by which the commingling of molecules and the interchange of atoms take place we can imitate in our laboratories; but in nature they proceed by slow degrees, and, in general, in our hands they are distinguished by suddenness of action. In nature chemical power is distributed over a long period of time, and the process of change is scarcely to be observed. By acts we concentrate chemical force, and expend it in producing a change which occupies but a few hours at most.
In chapter 'Chemical Forces', The Poetry of Science: Or, Studies of the Physical Phenomena of Nature (1848), 235-236. Charles Dicken used this quote, with his own sub-head of 'Relative Importance Of Time To Man And Nature', to conclude his review of the book, published in The Examiner (1848).
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Although we know nothing of what an atom is, yet we cannot resist forming some idea of a small particle, which represents it to the mind ... there is an immensity of facts which justify us in believing that the atoms of matter are in some way endowed or associated with electrical powers, to which they owe their most striking qualities, and amongst them their mutual chemical affinity.
[Summarizing his investigations in electrolysis.]
Experimental Researches in Electricity (1839), section 852. Cited in Laurie M. Brown, Abraham Pais, Brian Pippard, Twentieth Century Physics (1995), Vol. 1, 51.
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An atom must be at least as complex as a grand piano.
As quoted by Oliver Lodge in Atoms and Rays (1924, 1931), 78. Lodge refers to this as a saying of W. K. Clifford who was "my brilliant teacher of more than half a century ago."
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Ancient stars in their death throes spat out atoms like iron which this universe had never known. ... Now the iron of old nova coughings vivifies the redness of our blood.
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st century (2003), 223. Quoted in Rob Brezsny, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (2005), 228.
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And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out;
The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the Planets, and the Firmament
They seeke so many new; and then see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his Atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all cohaerence gone;
All just supply, and all Relation;
Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a phoenix, and that then can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hee.
An Anatomie of the World, I. 205-18. The Works of John Donne (Wordsworth edition 1994), 177.
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Anything made out of destructible matter
Infinite time would have devoured before.
But if the atoms that make and replenish the world
Have endured through the immense span of the past
Their natures are immortal—that is clear.
Never can things revert to nothingness!
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book I, lines 232-7, 31.
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Are the atoms of the dextroacid (tartaric) grouped in the spirals of a right-hand helix or situated at the angles of an irregular tetrahedron, or arranged in such or such particular unsymmetrical fashion? We are unable to reply to these questions. But there can be no reason for doubting that the grouping of the atoms has an unsymmetrical arrangement with a non-superimposable image. It is not less certain that the atoms of the laevo-acid realize precisely an unsymmetrical arrangement of the inverse of the above.
Leçons de Chemie (1860), 25.
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As far as I see, such a theory [of the primeval atom] remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being. He may keep, for the bottom of space-time, the same attitude of mind he has been able to adopt for events occurring in non-singular places in space-time. For the believer, it removes any attempt to familiarity with God, as were Laplace's chiquenaude or Jeans' finger. It is consonant with the wording of Isaiah speaking of the 'Hidden God' hidden even in the beginning of the universe ... Science has not to surrender in face of the Universe and when Pascal tries to infer the existence of God from the supposed infinitude of Nature, we may think that he is looking in the wrong direction.
'The Primeval atom Hypothesis and the Problem of Clusters of Galaxies', in R. Stoops (ed.), La Structure et l'Evolution de l'Univers (1958), 1-32. Trans. Helge Kragh, Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe (1996), 60.
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As soon as we touch the complex processes that go on in a living thing, be it plant or animal, we are at once forced to use the methods of this science [chemistry]. No longer will the microscope, the kymograph, the scalpel avail for the complete solution of the problem. For the further analysis of these phenomena which are in flux and flow, the investigator must associate himself with those who have labored in fields where molecules and atoms, rather than multicellular tissues or even unicellular organisms, are the units of study.
'Experimental and Chemical Studies of the Blood with an Appeal for More Extended Chemical Training for the Biological and Medical Investigator', Science (6 Aug 1915), 42, 176.
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Astronomy affords the most extensive example of the connection of physical sciences. In it are combined the sciences of number and quantity, or rest and motion. In it we perceive the operation of a force which is mixed up with everything that exists in the heavens or on earth; which pervades every atom, rules the motion of animate and inanimate beings, and is a sensible in the descent of the rain-drop as in the falls of Niagara; in the weight of the air, as in the periods of the moon.
On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1858), 1.
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Astronomy is older than physics. In fact, it got physics started by showing the beautiful simplicity of the motion of the stars and planets, the understanding of which was the beginning of physics. But the most remarkable discovery in all of astronomy is that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth.
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6.
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At first, the sea, the earth, and the heaven, which covers all things, were the only face of nature throughout the whole universe, which men have named Chaos; a rude and undigested mass, and nothing more than an inert weight, and the discordant atoms of things not harmonizing, heaped together in the same spot.
Describing the creation of the universe from chaos, at the beginning of Book I of Metamorphoses, lines 5-9. As translated by Henry T. Riley, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Vol I: Books I-VII (1858), 1-2. Riley footnoted: “A rude and undigested mass.—Ver. 7. This is very similar to the words of the Scriptures, ‘And the earth was without form and void,’ Genesis, ch. i. ver. 2.”
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At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form 'associations' here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.
From 'Molecular Evolution', Nature, 8, 1873. In Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 637.
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Atoms and molecules … from their very nature can never be made the objects of sensuous contemplation.
In Ernst Mach and Thomas J. McCormack (trans.), 'Space and Geometry from the Point of View of Physical Inquiry', Space and Geometry in the Light of Physiological, Psychological and Physical Inquiry (1906), 138. Originally written as an article for The Monist (1 Oct 1903), 14, No. 1, Mach believed the realm of science should include only phenomena directly observable by the senses, and rejected theories of unseeable atomic orbitals.
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Atoms are round balls of wood invented by Dr. Dalton.
Answer given by a pupil to a question on atomic theory, as reported by Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe.
Reports of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 57th report, 1887, 7.
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Atoms for peace. Man is still the greatest miracle and the greatest problem on earth. [Message tapped out by Sarnoff using a telegraph key in a tabletop circuit demonstrating an RCA atomic battery as a power source.]
The Wisdom of Sarnoff and the World of RCA (1967), 251.
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Atoms have a nucleus, made of protons and neutrons bound together. Around this nucleus shells of electrons spin, and each shell is either full or trying to get full, to balance with the number of protons—to balance the number of positive and negative charges. An atom is like a human heart, you see.
The Lunatics (1988). In Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (2006), 323.
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Bohr’s standpoint, that a space-time description is impossible, I reject a limine. Physics does not consist only of atomic research, science does not consist only of physics, and life does not consist only of science. The aim of atomic research is to fit our empirical knowledge concerning it into our other thinking. All of this other thinking, so far as it concerns the outer world, is active in space and time. If it cannot be fitted into space and time, then it fails in its whole aim and one does not know what purpose it really serves.
Letter to Willy Wien (25 Aug 1926). Quoted in Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989), 226.
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Borel makes the amusing supposition of a million monkeys allowed to play upon the keys of a million typewriters. What is the chance that this wanton activity should reproduce exactly all of the volumes which are contained in the library of the British Museum? It certainly is not a large chance, but it may be roughly calculated, and proves in fact to be considerably larger than the chance that a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen will separate into the two pure constituents. After we have learned to estimate such minute chances, and after we have overcome our fear of numbers which are very much larger or very much smaller than those ordinarily employed, we might proceed to calculate the chance of still more extraordinary occurrences, and even have the boldness to regard the living cell as a result of random arrangement and rearrangement of its atoms. However, we cannot but feel that this would be carrying extrapolation too far. This feeling is due not merely to a recognition of the enormous complexity of living tissue but to the conviction that the whole trend of life, the whole process of building up more and more diverse and complex structures, which we call evolution, is the very opposite of that which we might expect from the laws of chance.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 158-9.
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But I must confess I am jealous of the term atom; for though it is very easy to talk of atoms, it is very difficult to form a clear idea of their nature, especially when compounded bodies are under consideration.
'On the Absolute Quantity of Electricity Associated with the Particles or Atoms of Matter,' (31 Dec 1833), published in Philosophical Transactions (Jan 1834) as part of Series VII. Collected in Experimental Researches in Electricity: Reprinted from the Philosophical Transactions of 1831-1838 (1839), 256.

But it is necessary to insist more strongly than usual that what I am putting before you is a model—the Bohr model atom—because later I shall take you to a profounder level of representation in which the electron instead of being confined to a particular locality is distributed in a sort of probability haze all over the atom.
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 34.
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By convention sweet is sweet, by convention bitter is bitter, by convention hot is hot, by convention cold is cold, by convention colour is colour. But in reality there are atoms and the void. That is, the objects of sense are supposed to be real and it is customary to regard them as such, but in truth they are not. Only the atoms and the void are real.
Cited as from Sext. Emp. Math. VII. 135, in Charles Montague Bakewell, Source Book in Ancient Philosophy (1907), 60.
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Certain elements have the property of producing the same crystal form when in combination with an equal number of atoms of one or more common elements, and the elements, from his point of view, can be arranged in certain groups. For convenience I have called the elements belonging to the same group … isomorphous.
Originally published in 'Om Förhållandet emellan chemiska sammansättningen och krystallformen hos Arseniksyrade och Phosphorsyrade Salter', (On the Relation between the Chemical Composition and Crystal Form of Salts of Arsenic and Phosphoric Acids), Kungliga Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar (1821), 4. In F. Szabadváry article on 'Eilhard Mitscherlich' in Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 424; perhaps from J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4 (1964), 210.
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Circumstantial evidence can be overwhelming. We have never seen an atom, but we nevertheless know that it must exist.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 31.
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Compare ... the various quantities of the same element contained in the molecule of the free substance and in those of all its different compounds and you will not be able to escape the following law: The different quantities of the same element contained in different molecules are all whole multiples of one and the same quantity, which always being entire, has the right to be called an atom.
Sketch of a Course of Chemical Philosophy (1858), Alembic Club Reprint (1910), 11.
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Consider now the Milky Way. Here also we see an innumerable dust, only the grains of this dust are no longer atoms but stars; these grains also move with great velocities, they act at a distance one upon another, but this action is so slight at great distances that their trajectories are rectilineal; nevertheless, from time to time, two of them may come near enough together to be deviated from their course, like a comet that passed too close to Jupiter. In a word, in the eyes of a giant, to whom our Suns were what our atoms are to us, the Milky Way would only look like a bubble of gas.
Science and Method (1908), trans. Francis Maitland (1914), 254-5.
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Da Vinci was as great a mechanic and inventor as were Newton and his friends. Yet a glance at his notebooks shows us that what fascinated him about nature was its variety, its infinite adaptability, the fitness and the individuality of all its parts. By contrast what made astronomy a pleasure to Newton was its unity, its singleness, its model of a nature in which the diversified parts were mere disguises for the same blank atoms.
From The Common Sense of Science (1951), 25.
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Decades spent in contact with science and its vehicles have directed my mind and senses to areas beyond their reach. I now see scientific accomplishments as a path, not an end; a path leading to and disappearing in mystery. Science, in fact, forms many paths branching from the trunk of human progress; and on every periphery they end in the miraculous. Following these paths far enough, one must eventually conclude that science itself is a miracle—like the awareness of man arising from and then disappearing in the apparent nothingness of space. Rather than nullifying religion and proving that “God is dead,” science enhances spiritual values by revealing the magnitudes and minitudes—from cosmos to atom—through which man extends and of which he is composed.
A Letter From Lindbergh', Life (4 Jul 1969), 60B. In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 409.
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Democritus sometimes does away with what appears to the senses, and says that none of these appears according to truth but only according to opinion: the truth in real things is that there are atoms and void. 'By convention sweet', he says, 'by convention bitter, by convention hot, by convention cold, by convention colour: but in reality atoms and void.'
Against the Professors, 7, 135. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), 410.
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Earlier this week … scientists announced the completion of a task that once seemed unimaginable; and that is, the deciphering of the entire DNA sequence of the human genetic code. This amazing accomplishment is likely to affect the 21st century as profoundly as the invention of the computer or the splitting of the atom affected the 20th century. I believe that the 21st century will be the century of life sciences, and nothing makes that point more clearly than this momentous discovery. It will revolutionize medicine as we know it today.
Senate Session, Congressional Record (29 Jun 2000) Vol. 146, No 85, S6050.
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Einstein, twenty-six years old, only three years away from crude privation, still a patent examiner, published in the Annalen der Physik in 1905 five papers on entirely different subjects. Three of them were among the greatest in the history of physics. One, very simple, gave the quantum explanation of the photoelectric effect—it was this work for which, sixteen years later, he was awarded the Nobel prize. Another dealt with the phenomenon of Brownian motion, the apparently erratic movement of tiny particles suspended in a liquid: Einstein showed that these movements satisfied a clear statistical law. This was like a conjuring trick, easy when explained: before it, decent scientists could still doubt the concrete existence of atoms and molecules: this paper was as near to a direct proof of their concreteness as a theoretician could give. The third paper was the special eory of relativity, which quietly amalgamated space, time, and matter into one fundamental unity. This last paper contains no references and quotes no authority. All of them are written in a style unlike any other theoretical physicist's. They contain very little mathematics. There is a good deal of verbal commentary. The conclusions, the bizarre conclusions, emerge as though with the greatest of ease: the reasoning is unbreakable. It looks as though he had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done.
Variety of Men (1966), 100-1.
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Energy is the measure of that which passes from one atom to another in the course of their transformations. A unifying power, then, but also, because the atom appears to become enriched or exhausted in the course of the exchange, the expression of structure.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 42. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Engineers apply the theories and principles of science and mathematics to research and develop economical solutions to practical technical problems. Their work is the link between scientific discoveries and commercial applications. Engineers design products, the machinery to build those products, the factories in which those products are made, and the systems that ensure the quality of the product and efficiency of the workforce and manufacturing process. They design, plan, and supervise the construction of buildings, highways, and transit systems. They develop and implement improved ways to extract, process, and use raw materials, such as petroleum and natural gas. They develop new materials that both improve the performance of products, and make implementing advances in technology possible. They harness the power of the sun, the earth, atoms, and electricity for use in supplying the Nation’s power needs, and create millions of products using power. Their knowledge is applied to improving many things, including the quality of health care, the safety of food products, and the efficient operation of financial systems.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2000) as quoted in Charles R. Lord. Guide to Information Sources in Engineering (2000), 5. This definition has been revised and expanded over time in different issues of the Handbook.
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Firm support has been found for the assertion that electricity occurs at thousands of points where we at most conjectured that it was present. Innumerable electrical particles oscillate in every flame and light source. We can in fact assume that every heat source is filled with electrons which will continue to oscillate ceaselessly and indefinitely. All these electrons leave their impression on the emitted rays. We can hope that experimental study of the radiation phenomena, which are exposed to various influences, but in particular to the effect of magnetism, will provide us with useful data concerning a new field, that of atomistic astronomy, as Lodge called it, populated with atoms and electrons instead of planets and worlds.
'Light Radiation in a Magnetic Field', Nobel Lecture, 2 May 1903. In Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1967), 40.
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For the world was built in order,
And the atoms march in tune.
In poem, 'Monadnock', collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 533.
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For us, an atom shall be a small, spherical, homogeneous body or an essentially indivisible, material point, whereas a molecule shall be a separate group of atoms in any number and of any nature.
Annales de Chimie 1833, 52, 133. Trans. W. H. Brock.
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From all we have learnt about the structure of living matter, we must be prepared to find it working in a manner that cannot be reduced to the ordinary laws of physics. And that not on the ground that there is any “new force” or what not, directing the behavior of the single atoms within a living organism, but because the construction is different from anything we have yet tested in the physical laboratory.
What is Life? (1956), 74.
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I am afraid all we can do is to accept the paradox and try to accommodate ourselves to it, as we have done to so many paradoxes lately in modern physical theories. We shall have to get accustomed to the idea that the change of the quantity R, commonly called the 'radius of the universe', and the evolutionary changes of stars and stellar systems are two different processes, going on side by side without any apparent connection between them. After all the 'universe' is an hypothesis, like the atom, and must be allowed the freedom to have properties and to do things which would be contradictory and impossible for a finite material structure.
Kosmos (1932), 133.
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I am further inclined to think, that when our views are sufficiently extended, to enable us to reason with precision concerning the proportions of elementary atoms, we shall find the arithmetical relation alone will not be sufficient to explain their mutual action, and that we shall be obliged to acquire a geometric conception of their relative arrangement in all three dimensions of solid extension.
Paper. Read to the Royal Society (28 Jan 1808), in 'On Super-acid and Sub-acid salts', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, (1808), 98, 101.
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I am now convinced that we have recently become possessed of experimental evidence of the discrete or grained nature of matter, which the atomic hypothesis sought in vain for hundreds and thousands of years. The isolation and counting of gaseous ions, on the one hand, which have crowned with success the long and brilliant researches of J.J. Thomson, and, on the other, agreement of the Brownian movement with the requirements of the kinetic hypothesis, established by many investigators and most conclusively by J. Perrin, justify the most cautious scientist in now speaking of the experimental proof of the atomic nature of matter, The atomic hypothesis is thus raised to the position of a scientifically well-founded theory, and can claim a place in a text-book intended for use as an introduction to the present state of our knowledge of General Chemistry.
In Grundriss der allgemeinen Chemie (4th ed., 1909), Preface, as cited by Erwin N. Hiebert and Hans-Gunther Korber in article on Ostwald in Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography Supplement 1, Vol 15-16, 464.
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I do not understand modern physics at all, but my colleagues who know a lot about the physics of very small things, like the particles in atoms, or very large things, like the universe, seem to be running into one queerness after another, from puzzle to puzzle.
In 'On Science and Certainty', Discover Magazine (Oct 1980).
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I do not want chemistry to degenerate into a religion; I do not want the chemist to believe in the existence of atoms as the Christian believes in the existence of Christ in the communion wafer.
Said to Alfred Nacquet in a debate on chemical education. Quoted in 'Berthelot', Berichte, 1908, 41, 4855.
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I have a peculiar theory about radium, and I believe it is the correct one. I believe that there is some mysterious ray pervading the universe that is fluorescing to it. In other words, that all its energy is not self-constructed but that there is a mysterious something in the atmosphere that scientists have not found that is drawing out those infinitesimal atoms and distributing them forcefully and indestructibly.
Quoted in 'Edison Fears Hidden Perils of the X-Rays', New York World (3 Aug 1903), 1.
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I hope that in 50 years we will know the answer to this challenging question: are the laws of physics unique and was our big bang the only one? … According to some speculations the number of distinct varieties of space—each the arena for a universe with its own laws—could exceed the total number of atoms in all the galaxies we see. … So do we live in the aftermath of one big bang among many, just as our solar system is merely one of many planetary systems in our galaxy? (2006)
In 'Martin Rees Forecasts the Future', New Scientist (18 Nov 2006), No. 2578.
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I like relativity and quantum theories
because I don't understand them
and they make me feel as if space shifted about
like a swan that
can't settle,
refusing to sit still and be measured;
and as if the atom were an impulsive thing
always changing its mind.
'Relativity', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 437.
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I remember discussions with Bohr which went through many hours till very late at night and ended almost in despair; and when at the end of the discussion I went alone for a walk in the neighboring park I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature possibly be as absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?
In Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958, 1962), 42.
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I should like to call the number of atom groups, with which an elementary atom coordinates … to form a complex radical, the coordination number of the atom in question … We must differentiate between valence number and coordination number. The valence number indicates the maximum number of monovalent atoms which can be bound directly to the atom in question without the participation of other elementary atoms … Perhaps this concept [of coordination number] is destined to serve as a basis for the theory of the constitution of inorganic compounds, just as valence theory formed the basis for the constitutional theory of carbon compounds.
In 'Beitrag zur Konstitution anorganischer Verbindungen', Zeitschrift fur anorganische Chemie, (1893), 3, 267-330. Translated in George G. Kauffman (ed.), Classics in Coordination Chemistry: Part I: The Selected Papers of Alfred Werner (1968), 84-87.
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I think the facts leave no doubt that the very mightiest among the chemical forces are of electric origin. The atoms cling to their electric charges, and opposite electric charges cling to each other.
'On the Modern Development of Faraday's Conception of Electricity', Journal of the Chemical Society 1881, 39, 302.
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I try to identify myself with the atoms ... I ask what I would do If I were a carbon atom or a sodium atom.
Comment made to George Gray (Rockefeller's resident science writer and publicist). Quoted In Thomas Hager, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling (1995), 377.
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I was an impostor, the worthy associate of a brigand, &c., &c., and all this for an atom of chlorine put in the place of an atom of hydrogen, for the simple correction of a chemical formula!
Chemical Method (1855), 203.
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I would efface the word atoms from science, persuaded that it goes further than experience... In chemistry we should never go further than experience. Could there be any hope of ever identifying the minuscule entities?
Quoted, without citation, in Nick Herbert, Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics, (1985), 9.
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I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
'Jack London Credo' quoted, without citing a source, in Irving Shepard (ed.), Jack London’s Tales of Adventure (1956), Introduction, vii. (Irving Shepard was London's literary executor.) This sentiment, expressed two months before his death, was quoted by journalist Ernest J. Hopkins in the San Francisco Bulletin (2 Dec 1916), Pt. 2, 1. No direct source in London's writings has been found, though he wrote “I would rather be ashes than dust&rdquo. as an inscription in an autograph book. Biographer Clarice Stasz cautions that although Hopkins had visited the ranch just weeks before London's death, the journalist's quote (as was not uncommon in his time) is not necessarily reliable, or may be his own invention. See this comment in 'Apocrypha' appended to Jack London, The Call Of The Wild (eBookEden.com).
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If atoms do, by chance, happen to combine themselves into so many shapes, why have they never combined together to form a house or a slipper? By the same token, why do we not believe that if innumerable letters of the Greek alphabet were poured all over the market-place they would eventually happen to form the text of the Iliad?
The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Book 2, Chapter 12, 'Apology for Raymond Sebond', trans. M. A. Screech (1991), 612.
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If molecules can be structurally identical and yet possess dissimilar properties, this can be explained only on the ground that the difference is due to a different arrangement of the atoms in space.
In Annalen der Chemie (1873), 166, 47, translated in A. Ihde, The Development of Modern Chemistry (1964), 326.
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If the atoms in [a] decimetre cube of lead were all put into a chain side by side the same distance apart as they are in the normal lead, the strings of atoms so formed would reach over six million million miles.
In Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Atomic Theory', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 99.
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If we consider what science already has enabled men to know—the immensity of space, the fantastic philosophy of the stars, the infinite smallness of the composition of atoms, the macrocosm whereby we succeed only in creating outlines and translating a measure into numbers without our minds being able to form any concrete idea of it—we remain astounded by the enormous machinery of the universe.
Address (10 Sep 1934) to the International Congress of Electro-Radio Biology, Venice. In Associated Press, 'Life a Closed Book, Declares Marconi', New York Times (11 Sep 1934), 15.
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If we ever establish contact with intelligent aliens living on a planet around a distant star … They would be made of similar atoms to us. They could trace their origins back to the big bang 13.7 billion years ago, and they would share with us the universe's future. However, the surest common culture would be mathematics.
In 'Take Me to Your Mathematician', New Scientist (14 Feb 2009), 201, No. 2695.
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If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could.
Spoken by Thomasina in Arcadia (1993), Act I, Scene 1, 13.
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In defining an element let us not take an external boundary, Let us say, e.g., the smallest ponderable quantity of yttrium is an assemblage of ultimate atoms almost infinitely more like each other than they are to the atoms of any other approximating element. It does not necessarily follow that the atoms shall all be absolutely alike among themselves. The atomic weight which we ascribe to yttrium, therefore, merely represents a mean value around which the actual weights of the individual atoms of the “element” range within certain limits. But if my conjecture is tenable, could we separate atom from atom, we should find them varying within narrow limits on each side of the mean.
Address to Annual General Meeting of the Chemical Society (28 Mar 1888), printed in Journal of the Chemical Society (1888), 491.
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In reality, nothing but atoms and the void.
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In science, probably ninety-nine percent of the knowable has to be discovered. We know only a few streaks about astronomy. We are only beginning to imagine the force and composition of the atom. Physics has not yet found any indivisible matter, or psychology a sensible soul.
'This World Depression of Ours is Chock-full of Good News', Hearst's International Combined with Cosmopolitan, (Oct 1932), 26. Reprinted in Ella Winter and Herbert Shapiro The World of Lincoln Steffens (1962), 216.
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In size the electron bears the same relation to an atom that a baseball bears to the earth. Or, as Sir Oliver Lodge puts it, if a hydrogen atom were magnified to the size of a church, an electron would be a speck of dust in that church.
Quoted in 'Science Entering New Epoch', New York Times (5 Apr 1908), Sunday Magazine, 3.
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In the beginning there was an explosion. Not an explosion like those familiar on earth, starting from a definite center and spreading out to engulf more and more of the circumambient air, but an explosion which occurred simultaneously everywhere, filling all space from the beginning, with every particle of matter rushing apart from every other particle. ‘All space’ in this context may mean either all of an infinite universe, or all of a finite universe which curves back on itself like the surface of a sphere. Neither possibility is easy to comprehend, but this will not get in our way; it matters hardly at all in the early universe whether space is finite or infinite. At about one-hundredth of a second, the earliest time about which we can speak with any confidence, the temperature of the universe was about a hundred thousand million (1011) degrees Centigrade. This is much hotter than in the center of even the hottest star, so hot, in fact, that none of the components of ordinary matter, molecules, or atoms, or even the nuclei of atoms, could have held together. Instead, the matter rushing apart in this explosion consisted of various types of the so-called elementary particles, which are the subject of modern high­energy nuclear physics.
The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977), 5.
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In the heavens we discover [stars] by their light, and by their light alone ... the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds ... that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac.
[Footnote: Where Maxwell uses the term “molecule” we now use the term “atom.”]
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford (1873), 'Atoms and Molecules'. Quoted by Ernest Rutherford, in 'The Constitution of Matter and the Evolution of the Elements', The Popular Science Monthly (Aug 1915), 112.
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In the last four days I have got the spectrum given by Tantalum. Chromium. Manganese. Iron. Nickel. Cobalt. and Copper and part of the Silver spectrum. The chief result is that all the elements give the same kind of spectrum, the result for any metal being quite easy to guess from the results for the others. This shews that the insides of all the atoms are very much alike, and from these results it will be possible to find out something of what the insides are made up of.
Letter to his mother (2 Nov 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 209.
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In this communication I wish first to show in the simplest case of the hydrogen atom (nonrelativistic and undistorted) that the usual rates for quantization can be replaced by another requirement, in which mention of “whole numbers” no longer occurs. Instead the integers occur in the same natural way as the integers specifying the number of nodes in a vibrating string. The new conception can be generalized, and I believe it touches the deepest meaning of the quantum rules.
'Quantisierung als Eigenwertproblem', Annalen der Physik (1926), 79, 361. Trans. Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989), 200-2.
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In this great celestial creation, the catastrophy of a world, such as ours, or even the total dissolution of a system of worlds, may possibly be no more to the great Author of Nature, than the most common accident in life with us, and in all probability such final and general Doomsdays may be as frequent there, as even Birthdays or mortality with us upon the earth. This idea has something so cheerful in it, that I know I can never look upon the stars without wondering why the whole world does not become astronomers; and that men endowed with sense and reason should neglect a science they are naturally so much interested in, and so capable of enlarging their understanding, as next to a demonstration must convince them of their immortality, and reconcile them to all those little difficulties incident to human nature, without the least anxiety. All this the vast apparent provision in the starry mansions seem to promise: What ought we then not to do, to preserve our natural birthright to it and to merit such inheritance, which alas we think created all to gratify alone a race of vain-glorious gigantic beings, while they are confined to this world, chained like so many atoms to a grain of sand.
In The Universe and the Stars: Being an Original Theory on the Visible Creation, Founded on the Laws of Nature (1750, 1837), 132.
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It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil—which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.
'Viewpoint' Interview (with Bill Stout) for Los Angeles KNXT television station (1 May 1959), printed in Michelle Feynman (ed.) Perfectly Reasonable Deviations (from the Beaten Track) (2006), Appendix I, 426. Also quoted in James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 372. Gleick adds that KNXT “felt obliged to suppress” the interview. It was not broadcast until after Feynman, asked to redo the interview, wrote back with a letter objecting to “a direct censorship of the expression of my views.”
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It is a vulgar belief that our astronomical knowledge dates only from the recent century when it was rescued from the monks who imprisoned Galileo; but Hipparchus … who among other achievements discovered the precession of the eqinoxes, ranks with the Newtons and the Keplers; and Copernicus, the modern father of our celestial science, avows himself, in his famous work, as only the champion of Pythagoras, whose system he enforces and illustrates. Even the most modish schemes of the day on the origin of things, which captivate as much by their novelty as their truth, may find their precursors in ancient sages, and after a careful analysis of the blended elements of imagination and induction which charaterise the new theories, they will be found mainly to rest on the atom of Epicurus and the monad of Thales. Scientific, like spiritual truth, has ever from the beginning been descending from heaven to man.
Lothair (1879), preface, xvii.
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It is as easy to count atomies as to resolve the propositions of a lover.
As You Like It (1599), III, ii.
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It is not surprising that our language should be incapable of describing the processes occurring within the atoms, for, as has been remarked, it was invented to describe the experiences of daily life, and these consists only of processes involving exceedingly large numbers of atoms. Furthermore, it is very difficult to modify our language so that it will be able to describe these atomic processes, for words can only describe things of which we can form mental pictures, and this ability, too, is a result of daily experience. Fortunately, mathematics is not subject to this limitation, and it has been possible to invent a mathematical scheme—the quantum theory—which seems entirely adequate for the treatment of atomic processes; for visualization, however, we must content ourselves with two incomplete analogies—the wave picture and the corpuscular picture.
The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, trans. Carl Eckart and Frank C. Hoyt (1949), 11.
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It is structure that we look for whenever we try to understand anything. All science is built upon this search; we investigate how the cell is built of reticular material, cytoplasm, chromosomes; how crystals aggregate; how atoms are fastened together; how electrons constitute a chemical bond between atoms. We like to understand, and to explain, observed facts in terms of structure. A chemist who understands why a diamond has certain properties, or why nylon or hemoglobin have other properties, because of the different ways their atoms are arranged, may ask questions that a geologist would not think of' formulating, unless he had been similarly trained in this way of thinking about the world.
‘The Place of Chemistry In the Integration of the Sciences’, Main Currents in Modern Thought (1950), 7, 110.
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It is unreasonable to expect science to produce a system of ethics—ethics are a kind of highway code for traffic among mankind—and the fact that in physics atoms which were yesterday assumed to be square are now assumed to be round is exploited with unjustified tendentiousness by all who are hungry for faith; so long as physics extends our dominion over nature, these changes ought to be a matter of complete indifference to you.
Letter to Oskar Pfister, 24 Feb 1928. Quoted in H. Meng and E. Freud (eds.), Psycho-Analysis and Faith: The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Oscar Pfister (1963), 123.
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It is well known that theoretical physicists cannot handle experimental equipment; it breaks whenever they touch it. Pauli was such a good theoretical physicist that something usually broke in the lab whenever he merely stepped across the threshold. A mysterious event that did not seem at first to be connected with Pauli's presence once occurred in Professor J. Franck's laboratory in Göttingen. Early one afternoon, without apparent cause, a complicated apparatus for the study of atomic phenomena collapsed. Franck wrote humorously about this to Pauli at his Zürich address and, after some delay, received an answer in an envelope with a Danish stamp. Pauli wrote that he had gone to visit Bohr and at the time of the mishap in Franck's laboratory his train was stopped for a few minutes at the Göttingen railroad station. You may believe this anecdote or not, but there are many other observations concerning the reality of the Pauli Effect!
From Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory (1966), 64. Note the so-called Pauli Effect is merely anecdotal to provide humor about supposed parapsychology phenomena in coincidences involving Pauli; it should not be confused with scientifically significant Pauli Exclusion Principle.
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It seems probable to me that God, in the beginning, formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportions to space, as most conduced to the end for which He formed them; and that these primitive particles, being solids, are incomparably harder than any porous bodies compounded of them, even so very hard as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God had made one in the first creation.
From Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 375-376.
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It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man!
In The Creation of the Universe (1952), 139.
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It would be a poor thing to be an atom in a universe without physicists, and physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is an atom’s way of knowing about atoms.
In lecture, 'Life and Mind in the Universe', versions of which George Wald delivered throughout the 1980s. On the website of his son, Elijah Wald, who states it was the last of his father's major lectures.
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It would not become physical science to see in its self created, changeable, economical tools, molecules and atoms, realities behind phenomena... The atom must remain a tool for representing phenomena.
'The Economical Nature of Physics' (1882), in Popular Scientific Lectures, trans. Thomas J. McConnack (1910), 206-7.
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Let him look at that dazzling light hung aloft as an eternal lamp to lighten the universe; let him behold the earth, a mere dot compared with the vast circuit which that orb describes, and stand amazed to find that the vast circuit itself is but a very fine point compared with the orbit traced by the stars as they roll their course on high. But if our vision halts there, let imagination pass beyond; it will fail to form a conception long before Nature fails to supply material. The whole visible world is but an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of Nature. No notion comes near it. Though we may extend our thought beyond imaginable space, yet compared with reality we bring to birth mere atoms. Nature is an infinite sphere whereof the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short, imagination is brought to silence at the thought, and that is the most perceptible sign of the all-power of God.
Let man reawake and consider what he is compared with the reality of things; regard himself lost in this remote corner of Nature; and from the tiny cell where he lodges, to wit the Universe, weigh at their true worth earth, kingdoms, towns, himself. What is a man face to face with infinity?
Pensées (1670), Section 1, aphorism 43. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal's Pensées (1950), 19.
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Life is not found in atoms or molecules or genes as such, but in organization; not in symbiosis but in synthesis.
'Cell and Protoplasm Concepts: Historical Account', The Cell and the Protoplasm: Publication of the American Association of Science, 1940, Number 114, 18.
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Life through many long periods has been manifested in a countless host of varying structures, all circumscribed by one general plan, each appointed to a definite place, and limited to an appointed duration. On the whole the earth has been thus more and more covered by the associated life of plants and animals, filling all habitable space with beings capable of enjoying their own existence or ministering to the enjoyment of others; till finally, after long preparation, a being was created capable of the wonderful power of measuring and weighing all the world of matter and space which surrounds him, of treasuring up the past history of all the forms of life, and considering his own relation to the whole. When he surveys this vast and co-ordinated system, and inquires into its history and origin, can he be at a loss to decide whether it be a work of Divine thought and wisdom, or the fortunate offspring of a few atoms of matter, warmed by the anima mundi, a spark of electricity, or an accidental ray of sunshine?
Life on the Earth: Its Origin and Succession (1860), 216-7.
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Man is an imperceptible atom always trying to become one with God.
Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904, 1913), 332.
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Man is slightly nearer to the atom than to the star. … From his central position man can survey the grandest works of Nature with the astronomer, or the minutest works with the physicist. … [K]nowledge of the stars leads through the atom; and important knowledge of the atom has been reached through the stars.
Lecture 1. Stars and Atoms (1928, 2007), 9.
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Matter, though divisible in an extreme degree, is nevertheless not infinitely divisible. That is, there must be some point beyond which we cannot go in the division of matter. ... I have chosen the word “atom” to signify these ultimate particles.
Dalton's Manuscript Notes, Royal Institution Lecture 18 (30 Jan 1810). In Ida Freund, The Study of Chemical Composition: An Account of its Method and Historical Development (1910), 288.
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Memories are not recycled like atoms and particles in quantum physics. They can be lost forever.
Lady Gaga
From music video, Marry The Night: The Prelude Pathétique (2011). Quoted in Richard J. Gray II, The Performance Identities of Lady Gaga: Critical Essays (2011), 137.
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Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!
Mock on, mock on: 'Tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.
The atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
Notebook Drafts (c. 1804). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 481.
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MOLECULE, n. The ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. It is distinguished from the corpuscle, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter, by a closer resemblance to the atom, also the ultimate, indivisible unit of matter. Three great scientific theories of the structure of the universe are the molecular, the corpuscular and the atomic. A fourth affirms, with Haeckel, the condensation or precipitation of matter from ether—whose existence is proved by the condensation or precipitation. The present trend of scientific thought is toward the theory of ions. The ion differs from the molecule, the corpuscle and the atom in that it is an ion. A fifth theory is held by idiots, but it is doubtful if they know any more about the matter than the others.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  220-221.
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Natural causes, as we know, are at work, which tend to modify, if they do not at length destroy, all the arrangements and dimensions of the earth and the whole solar system. But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred and may yet occur in the heavens, though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins, the molecules [i.e. atoms] out of which these systems are built—the foundation stones of the material universe—remain unbroken and unworn.‎ They continue to this day as they were created—perfect in number and measure and weight.
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford, 'Molecules', Nature (1873), 8, 437-441. Reprinted in James Clerk Maxwell and W. D. Niven, editor, The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (2003), 377. By
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Nature is neutral. Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or make the deserts bloom. There is no evil in the atom; only in men's souls.
Speech, 'The Atomic Future' (18 Sep 1952), ed. Richard Harrity, quoted in A. Stevenson, Speeches (1953), 129.
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Neither is there a smallest part of what is small, but there is always a smaller (for it is impossible that what is should cease to be). Likewise there is always something larger than what is large.
Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, 164, 17-9. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds.), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 360.
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New sources of power … will surely be discovered. Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy we use today. The coal a man can get in a day can easily do five hundred times as much work as himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still. If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine and form helium, they would suffice to drive a thousand-horsepower engine for a whole year. If the electrons, those tiny planets of the atomic systems, were induced to combine with the nuclei in hydrogen, the horsepower would be 120 times greater still. There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, or it may be the detonator to cause the dynamite to explode. The scientists are looking for this.
[In his last major speech to the House of Commons on 1 Mar 1955, Churchill quoted from his original printed article, nearly 25 years earlier.]
'Fifty Years Hence'. Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57:3, 395.
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Nobody knows how the stand of our knowledge about the atom would be without him. Personally, [Niels] Bohr is one of the amiable colleagues I have met. He utters his opinions like one perpetually groping and never like one who believes himself to be in possession of the truth.
Quoted in Bill Becker, 'Pioneer of the Atom', New York Times Sunday Magazine (20 Oct 1957), 52.
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Nothing is indifferent, nothing is powerless in the universe; an atom might destroy everything, an atom might save everything!
In Aurélia ou Le Rêve et la vie (1855).
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Now I know what the atom looks like.
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One might talk about the sanity of the atom
the sanity of space
the sanity of the electron
the sanity of water—
For it is all alive
and has something comparable to that which we call sanity in ourselves.
The only oneness is the oneness of sanity.
'The Sane Universe', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 428.
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One summer day, while I was walking along the country road on the farm where I was born, a section of the stone wall opposite me, and not more than three or four yards distant, suddenly fell down. Amid the general stillness and immobility about me the effect was quite startling. ... It was the sudden summing up of half a century or more of atomic changes in the material of the wall. A grain or two of sand yielded to the pressure of long years, and gravity did the rest.
Under the Apple-Trees (1916), 105.
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One thought [spectra are] marvellous, but it is not possible to make progress there. Just as if you have the wing of a butterfly then certainly it is very regular with the colors and so on, but nobody thought one could get the basis of biology from the coloring of the wing of a butterfly.
Quoted from Interviews (I, 7) in 'The Genesis of the Bohr Atom', J.L. Heilbron and T.S. Kuhn, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences (1969), 257, reprinted in J. L. Heilbron, Historical Studies in the Theory of Atomic Structure (1981), 195.
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Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world.
Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans.), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. He calls this his first “literary dream”. It came to him at Auschwitz.
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Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter. ... Transmutation of the elements, unlimited power, ability to investigate the working of living cells by tracer atoms, the secret of photosynthesis about to be uncovered, these and a host of other results, all in about fifteen short years. It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under the and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a life span far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age.
Speech at the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Science Writers, New York City (16 Sep 1954), asquoted in 'Abundant Power From Atom Seen', New York Times (17 Sep 1954) 5.
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Over the last century, physicists have used light quanta, electrons, alpha particles, X-rays, gamma-rays, protons, neutrons and exotic sub-nuclear particles for this purpose [scattering experiments]. Much important information about the target atoms or nuclei or their assemblage has been obtained in this way. In witness of this importance one can point to the unusual concentration of scattering enthusiasts among earlier Nobel Laureate physicists. One could say that physicists just love to perform or interpret scattering experiments.
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1994), in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1994 (1995).
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Pauling was shocked by the freedom with which the X-ray crystallographers of the time, including particularly Astbury, played with the intimate chemical structure of their models. They seemed to think that if the atoms were arranged in the right order and about the right distance apart, that was all that mattered, that no further restrictions need to be put on them.
Quoted by John Law in 'The Case of X-ray Protein Crystallography', collected in Gerard Lemaine (ed.), Perspectives on the Emergence of Scientific Disciplines, 1976, 140.
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Philosophers say, that Man is a Microcosm, or little World, resembling in Miniature every Part of the Great: And, in my Opinion, the Body Natural may be compared to the Body Politic: and if this be so, how can the Epicureans Opinion be true, that the Universe was formed by a fortuitous Concourse of Atoms; which I will no more believe, than that the accidental Jumbling of the Letters of the Alphabet, could fall by Chance into a most ingenious and learned Treatise of Philosophy. Risum teneatis Amici, Hor.
In 'A Tritical Essay Upon the Faculties of the Mind' (6 Aug 1707), collected in various volumes and editions, for example, The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D.: Volume 1: Miscellanies in Prose (1739), 173. An earlier, undated, fourth volume of Miscellanies gives the 6 Aug 1707 date the essay was written. The final Latin phrase can be translated as, “Can you help laughing, friends?” attributed to Horace. In Jonathan Swift and Temple Scott (ed.), The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift: A Tale of a Tub: the Battle of the Books, and Other Early Works (1897, reprint 1907), Vol. 1, 291, the editor footnotes that “this essay is a parody on the pseudo-philosophical essays of the time, in which all sense was lost in the maze of inconsequential quotations.” Indeed, the rest of the essay is, by design, a jumble of disjointed thoughts and makes next to no sense.
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Physicist Isador Isaac Rabi, who won a Nobel Prize for inventing a technique that permitted scientists to probe the structure of atoms and molecules in the 1930s, attributed his success to the way his mother used to greet him when he came home from school each day. “Did you ask any good questions today, Isaac?” she would say.
Thomas J. Peters, Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties (1992).
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Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination—stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern—of which I am a part. … What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the “why?” It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6, footnote.
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Probably our atomic weights merely represent a mean value around which the actual atomic weights of the atoms vary within certain narrow limits... when we say, the atomic weight of, for instance, calcium is 40, we really express the fact that, while the majority of calcium atoms have an actual atomic weight of 40, there are not but a few which are represented by 39 or 41, a less number by 38 or 42, and so on.
Presidential Address, 2 September 1886, Section B, Chemical Science. Reports of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1886), 569.
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Quantum provides us with a striking illustration of the fact that though we can fully understand a connection … we can only speak of it in images and parables. We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
In conversation during first meeting with Werner Heisenberg (summer 1920), as quoted in Werner Heisenberg and Arnold J. Pomerans (trans.), Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. As cited in Philip Kuberski, The Forgèd Feature: Toward a Poetics of Uncertainty: New and Selected Essays (1995), 177-178.
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Quantum theory thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated “building blocks,” but rather appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole. These relations always include the observer in an essential way. The human observer constitute the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any atomic object can be understood only in terms of the object’s interaction with the observer.
In The Tao of Physics (1975), 68.
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Radiant energy, which at the beginning [of the universe] played a predominant role in the evolutionary process, gradually lost its importance and by the end of the thirty-millionth year yielded its priority in favor of ordinary atomic matter.
In The Creation of the Universe (1952, 2012), 136.
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Science as an intellectual exercise enriches our culture, and is in itself ennobling. ... Though to the layman, the world revealed by the chemist may seem more commonplace, it is not so to him. Each new insight into how the atoms in their interactions express themselves in structure and transformations, not only of inanimate matter, but particularly also of living matter, provides a thrill.
Speech at the Nobel Banquet (10 Dec 1983) for his Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes (1984), 43.
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Science has blown to atoms, as she can rend and rive in the rocks themselves; but in those rocks she has found, and read aloud, the great stone book which is the history of the earth, even when darkness sat upon the face of the deep. Along their craggy sides she has traced the footprints of birds and beasts, whose shapes were never seen by man. From within them she has brought the bones, and pieced together the skeletons, of monsters that would have crushed the noted dragons of the fables at a blow.
Book review of Robert Hunt, Poetry of Science (1848), in the London Examiner (1848). Although uncredited in print, biographers identified his authorship from his original handwritten work. Collected in Charles Dickens and ‎Frederic George Kitton (ed.) Old Lamps for New Ones: And Other Sketches and Essays (1897), 87.
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Science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the guide—rather than a priori prejudices, hopes, fears or desires—we are forced out of our comfort zone. One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.
In op-ed, 'A Universe Without Purpose', Los Angeles Times (1 Apr 2012).
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Science has zipped the atom open in a dozen places, it can read the scrawlings on the Rosetta stone as glibly as a literary critic explains Hart Crane, but it doesn’t know anything about playwrights.
In article 'Roaming in the Gloaming' collected in Collecting Himself: James Thurber on Writing and Writers, Humour and Himself (1989). As cited in Eugene Ehrlich and Marshall De Bruhl (eds.)International Thesaurus of Quotations (1996), 601.
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Sir Arthur Eddington deduces religion from the fact that atoms do not obey the laws of mathematics. Sir James Jeans deduces it from the fact that they do.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 77.
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So erst the Sage [Pythagoras] with scientific truth
In Grecian temples taught the attentive youth;
With ceaseless change how restless atoms pass
From life to life, a transmigrating mass;
How the same organs, which to-day compose
The poisonous henbane, or the fragrant rose,
May with to-morrow's sun new forms compile,
Frown in the Hero, in the Beauty smile.
Whence drew the enlighten'd Sage the moral plan,
That man should ever be the friend of man;
Should eye with tenderness all living forms,
His brother-emmets, and his sister-worms.
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 417-28, page 163.
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Sooner or later every one of us breathes an atom that has been breathed before by anyone you can think of who has lived before us—Michelangelo or George Washington or Moses.
From 'Biography of an Atom—and the Universe', New York Times Magazine (13 Oct 1963), 118.
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Subatomic particles do not exist but rather show “tendencies to exist”, and atomic events do not occur with certainty at definite times and in definite ways, but rather show “tendencies to occur”.
In The Tao of Physics (1975), 133.
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Take the living human brain endowed with mind and thought. …. The physicist brings his tools and commences systematic exploration. All that he discovers is a collection of atoms and electrons and fields of force arranged in space and time, apparently similar to those found in inorganic objects. He may trace other physical characteristics, energy, temperature, entropy. None of these is identical with thought. … How can this collection of ordinary atoms be a thinking machine? … The Victorian physicist felt that he knew just what he was talking about when he used such terms as matter and atoms. … But now we realize that science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom. The physical atom is, like everything else in physics, a schedule of pointer readings.
From a Gifford Lecture, University of Edinburgh (1927), published in 'Pointer Readings: Limits of Physical Knowledge', The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 258-259.
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Thales thought that water was the primordial substance of all things. Heraclitus of Ephesus… thought that it was fire. Democritus and his follower Epicurus thought that it was the atoms, termed by our writers “bodies that cannot be cut up” or, by some “indivisibles.” The school of the Pythagoreans added air and the earthy to the water and fire. Hence, although Democritus did not in a strict sense name them, but spoke only of indivisible bodies, yet he seems to have meant these same elements, because when taken by themselves they cannot be harmed, nor are they susceptible of dissolution, nor can they be cut up into parts, but throughout time eternal they forever retain an infinite solidity.
In De Architectura, Book 2, Chap 2, Sec. 1. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 42.
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That the Universe was formed by a fortuitous Concourse of Atoms, I will no more believe than that the accidental Jumbling of the Letters of the Alphabet would fall by Chance into a most ingenious and learned Treatise of Philosophy, Risum teneatis Amici, Hor.
In 'A Tritical Essay Upon the Faculties of the Mind' (6 Aug 1707), collected in various volumes and editions, for example, The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D.: Volume 1: Miscellanies in Prose (1739), 173. An earlier, undated, fourth volume of Miscellanies gives the 6 Aug 1707 date the essay was written. The final Latin phrase can be translated as, “Can you help laughing, friends?” attributed to Horace.
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The astronomer who catalogues the stars cannot add one atom to the universe; the poet can call an universe from the atom.
From Zanoni (1842), 6.
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The astronomers said, ‘Give us matter and a little motion and we will construct the universe. It is not enough that we should have matter, we must also have a single impulse, one shove to launch the mass and generate the harmony of the centrifugal and centripetal forces.’ ... There is no end to the consequences of the act. That famous aboriginal push propagates itself through all the balls of the system, and through every atom of every ball.
From essay, 'Nature', collected in Ralph Waldo Emerson and J.E. Cabot (ed.), Emerson's Complete Works: Essays, Second Series (1884), Vol. 3, 176-177.
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The Atoms or Particles, which now constitute Heaven and Earth, being once separate and diffused in the Mundane Space, like the supposed Chaos, could never without a God by their Mechanical affections have convened into this present Frame of Things or any other like it.
A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World. (1693), Part II, 7.
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The Bohr atom was introduced to us by Bohr himself. I still have the notes I took during his lectures … His discourse was rendered almost incomprehensible by his accent; there were endless references to what I recorded as “soup groups”, only later emended to “sub-groups”.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 116-117.
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The Chemical conviction
That Nought be lost
Enable in Disaster
My fractured Trust—
The Faces of the Atoms
If I shall see
How more the Finished Creatures
Departed Me!
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The chemists who uphold dualism are far from being agreed among themselves; nevertheless, all of them in maintaining their opinion, rely upon the phenomena of chemical reactions. For a long time the uncertainty of this method has been pointed out: it has been shown repeatedly, that the atoms put into movement during a reaction take at that time a new arrangement, and that it is impossible to deduce the old arrangement from the new one. It is as if, in the middle of a game of chess, after the disarrangement of all the pieces, one of the players should wish, from the inspection of the new place occupied by each piece, to determine that which it originally occupied.
Chemical Method (1855), 18.
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The dogma of the impossibility of determining the atomic constitution of substances, which until recently was advocated with such fervor by the most able chemists, is beginning to be abandoned and forgotten; and one can predict that the day is not far in the future when a sufficient collection of facts will permit determination of the internal architecture of molecules. A series of experiments directed toward such a goal is the object of this paper.
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The electron, as it leaves the atom, crystallises out of Schrödinger’s mist like a genie emerging from his bottle.
Gifford Lectures (1927), The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 199.
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The energy of a covalent bond is largely the energy of resonance of two electrons between two atoms. The examination of the form of the resonance integral shows that the resonance energy increases in magnitude with increase in the overlapping of the two atomic orbitals involved in the formation of the bond, the word ‘overlapping” signifying the extent to which regions in space in which the two orbital wave functions have large values coincide... Consequently it is expected that of two orbitals in an atom the one which can overlap more with an orbital of another atom will form the stronger bond with that atom, and, moreover, the bond formed by a given orbital will tend to lie in that direction in which the orbital is concentrated.
Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals (1939), 76.
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The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.
Address at Leicester (11 Sep 1933). Cited as New York Herald Tribune (12 Sep 1933), in Laurie M. Brown, Abraham Pais, Brian Pippard, Twentieth Century Physics (1995), Vol. 1, 113.
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The existence of life must be considered as an elementary fact that can not be explained, but must be taken as a starting point in biology, in a similar way as the quantum of action, which appears as an irrational element from the point of view of classical mechanical physics, taken together with the existence of elementary particles, forms the foundation of atomic physics. The asserted impossibility of a physical or chemical explanation of the function peculiar to life would in this sense be analogous to the insufficiency of the mechanical analysis for the understanding of the stability of atoms.
'Light and Life', Nature, 1933, 131, 458.
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The first principles of the universe are atoms and empty space. Everything else is merely thought to exist. The worlds are unlimited. They come into being and perish. Nothing can come into being from that which is not nor pass away into that which is not. Further, the atoms are unlimited in size and number, and they are borne along in the whole universe in a vortex, and thereby generate all composite things—-fire, water, air, earth. For even these are conglomerations of given atoms. And it is because of their solidarity that these atoms are impassive and unalterable. The sun and the moon have been composed of such smooth and spherical masses [i.e. atoms], and so also the soul, which is identical with reason.
Diogenes Laertius IX, 44. Trans. R. D. Hicks (1925), Vol. 2, 453-5. An alternate translation of the opening is "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion."
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The first quality we know in matter is centrality,—we call it gravity,—which holds the universe together, which remains pure and indestructible in each mote, as in masses and planets, and from each atom rays out illimitable influence. To this material essence answers Truth, in the intellectual world,—Truth, whose centre is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere, whose existence we cannot disimagine,—the soundness and health of things, against which no blow can be struck but it recoils on the striker,—Truth, on whose side we always heartily are. And the first measure of a mind is its centrality, its capacity of truth, and its adhesion to it.
In 'Progress of Culture', an address read to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, 18 July 1867. Collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 477.
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The genius of Man in our time has gone into jet-propulsion, atom-splitting, penicillin-curing, etc. There is left none over for works of imagination; of spiritual insight or mystical enlightenment. I asked for bread and was given a tranquilizer. It is important to recognize that in our time man has not written one word, thought one thought, put two notes or two bricks together, splashed color on to canvas or concrete into space, in a manner which will be of any conceivable imaginative interest to posterity.
The Most of Malcolm Muggeridge (1966), 70.
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The history of the cosmos
is the history of the struggle of becoming.
When the dim flux of unformed life
struggled, convulsed back and forth upon itself,
and broke at last into light and dark
came into existence as light,
came into existence as cold shadow
then every atom of the cosmos trembled with delight.
God is Born', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 571.
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The idea of an indivisible, ultimate atom is inconceivable by the lay mind. If we can conceive of an idea of the atom at all, we can conceive it as capable of being cut in half; indeed, we cannot conceive it at all unless we so conceive it. The only true atom, the only thing which we cannot subdivide and cut in half, is the universe. We cannot cut a bit off the universe and put it somewhere else. Therefore the universe is a true atom and, indeed, is the smallest piece of indivisible matter which our minds can conceive; and they cannot conceive it any more than they can the indivisible, ultimate atom.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 58.
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The interpretation of messages from the earth’s interior demands all the resources of ordinary physics and of extraordinary mathematics. The geophysicist is of a noble company, all of whom are reading messages from the untouchable reality of things. The inwardness of things—atoms, crystals, mountains, planets, stars, nebulas, universes—is the quarry of these hunters of genius and Promethean boldness.
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The kinetic concept of motion in classical theory will have to undergo profound modifications. (That is why I also avoided the term “orbit” in my paper throughout.) … We must not bind the atoms in the chains of our prejudices—to which, in my opinion, also belongs the assumption that electron orbits exist in the sense of ordinary mechanics—but we must, on the contrary, adapt our concepts to experience.
Letter to Niels Bohr (12 Dec 1924), in K. von Meyenn (ed.), Wolfgang Pauli - Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz (1979), Vol. 1, 188. Quoted and cited in Daniel Greenberger, ‎Klaus Hentschel and ‎Friedel Weinert, Compendium of Quantum Physics: Concepts, Experiments, History and Philosophy (2009), 615.
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The landed classes neglected technical education, taking refuge in classical studies; as late as 1930, for example, long after Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge had discovered the atomic nucleus and begun transmuting elements, the physics laboratory at Oxford had not been wired for electricity. Intellectual neglect technical education to this day.
[Describing C.P. Snow's observations on the neglect of technical education.]
In Visions of Technology (1999), 23.
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The man who discovers a new scientific truth has previously had to smash to atoms almost everything he had learnt, and arrives at the new truth with hands blood stained from the slaughter of a thousand platitudes.
The Revolt of the Masses: Authorised Translation From the Spanish (1950), 116
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The material universe must consist ... of bodies ... such that each of them exercises its own separate, independent, and invariable effect, a change of the total state being compounded of a number of separate changes each of which is solely due to a separate portion of the preceding state.
A Treatise on Probability (), 249. In Antony Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy (1984), 30.
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The mathematical framework of quantum theory has passed countless successful tests and is now universally accepted as a consistent and accurate description of all atomic phenomena. The verbal interpretation, on the other hand – i.e., the metaphysics of quantum theory – is on far less solid ground. In fact, in more than forty years physicists have not been able to provide a clear metaphysical model.
In The Tao of Physics (1975), 132.
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The mind of man has perplexed itself with many hard questions. Is space infinite, and in what sense? Is the material world infinite in extent, and are all places within that extent equally full of matter? Do atoms exist or is matter infinitely divisible?
The Theory of Molecules', lecture to the British Association at Bradford. In The Popular Science Monthly (1874) vol. 4, 277.
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The most stable arrangement for an assemblage of molecules is one in which the component atoms and groups are packed together so that (a) the distances between neighbors are close to the equilibrium distance, (b) each atom or group has as many close neighbors as possible, and (c) there are no large unoccupied regions. In other words, each structure tends to be as 'close-packed' as possible, consistent with the 'sizes' of its component atoms or groups.
'The Structure of Fibrous Proteins', Chemical Reviews (1943), 32, 198.
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The most startling result of Faraday’s Law is perhaps this. If we accept the hypothesis that the elementary substances are composed of atoms, we cannot avoid concluding that electricity also, positive as well as negative, is divided into definite elementary portions, which behave like atoms of electricity.
Faraday Lecture (1881). In 'On the Modern Development of Faraday's Conception of Electricity', Journal of the Chemical Society 1881, 39, 290. It is also stated in the book by Laurie M. Brown, Abraham Pais and Brian Pippard, Twentieth Century P, Vol. 1, 52, that this is 'a statement which explains why in subsequent years the quantity e was occasionally referred to in German literature as das Helmholtzsche Elementarquantum'.
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The present state of atomic theory is characterized by the fact that we not only believe the existence of atoms to be proved beyond a doubt, but also we even believe that we have an intimate knowledge of the constituents of the individual atoms.
'The structure of the atom', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1922. In Nobel Lectures: Physics 1922-1941 (1998), 5.
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The quantum entered physics with a jolt. It didn’t fit anywhere; it made no sense; it contradicted everything we thought we knew about nature. Yet the data seemed to demand it. ... The story of Werner Heisenberg and his science is the story of the desperate failures and ultimate triumphs of the small band of brilliant physicists who—during an incredibly intense period of struggle with the data, the theories, and each other during the 1920s—brought about a revolutionary new understanding of the atomic world known as quantum mechanics.
Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb (2009), 90. Selected and contributed to this website by the author.
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The question whether atoms exist or not... belongs rather to metaphysics. In chemistry we have only to decide whether the assumption of atoms is an hypothesis adapted to the explanation of chemical phenomena... whether a further development of the atomic hypothesis promises to advance our knowledge of the mechanism of chemical phenomena... I rather expect that we shall some day find, for what we now call atoms, a mathematico-mechanical explanation, which will render an account of atomic weight, of atomicity, and of numerous other properties of the so-called atoms.
Laboratory (1867), 1, 303.
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The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.
In A Preface to Morals (1929, 1982), 127.
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The self-same atoms which, chaotically dispersed, made the nebula, now, jammed and temporarily caught in peculiar positions, form our brains; and the “evolution” of brains, if understood, would be simply the account of how the atoms came to be so caught and jammed.
Principles of Psychology (1918), 146.
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The separate atoms of a molecule are not connected all with all, or all with one, but, on the contrary, each one is connected only with one or with a few neighbouring atoms, just as in a chain link is connected with link.
'The Scientific Aims and Achievements of Chemistry', Nature (1878), 18, 212.
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The smallest particles of matter were said [by Plato] to be right-angled triangles which, after combining in pairs, ... joined together into the regular bodies of solid geometry; cubes, tetrahedrons, octahedrons and icosahedrons. These four bodies were said to be the building blocks of the four elements, earth, fire, air and water ... [The] whole thing seemed to be wild speculation. ... Even so, I was enthralled by the idea that the smallest particles of matter must reduce to some mathematical form ... The most important result of it all, perhaps, was the conviction that, in order to interpret the material world we need to know something about its smallest parts.
[Recalling how as a teenager at school, he found Plato's Timaeus to be a memorable poetic and beautiful view of atoms.]
In Werner Heisenberg and A.J. Pomerans (trans.) The Physicist's Conception of Nature (1958), 58-59. Quoted in Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory (2001), Vol. 2, 12. Cited in Mauro Dardo, Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics (2004), 178.
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The soul seems to be a very tenuous substance … [and] seems to be made of a most subtle texture, extremely mobile or active corpuscles, not unlike those of flame or heat; indeed, whether they are spherical, as the authors of atoms propound, or pyramidical as Plato thought, or some other form, they seem from their own motion and penetration through bodies to create the heat which is in the animal.
As quoted in Margaret J. Osler and Paul Lawrence Farber (eds.), Religion, Science, and Worldview: Essays in Honor of Richard S. Westfall (2002), 169.
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The story is told of Lord Kelvin, a famous Scotch physicist of the last century, that after he had given a lecture on atoms and molecules, one of his students came to him with the question, “Professor, what is your idea of the structure of the atom.”
“What,” said Kelvin, “The structure of the atom? Why, don’t you know, the very word ‘atom’ means the thing that can’t be cut. How then can it have a structure?”
“That,” remarked the facetious young man, “shows the disadvantage of knowing Greek.”
As described in 'Assault on Atoms' (Read 23 Apr 1931 at Symposium—The Changing World) Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1931), 70, No. 3, 219.
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The study of the radio-active substances and of the discharge of electricity through gases has supplied very strong experimental evidence in support of the fundamental ideas of the existing atomic theory. It has also indicated that the atom itself is not the smallest unit of matter, but is a complicated structure made up of a number of smaller bodies.
In Radio-activity (1905), 1.
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The sun atom shakes; my eye electron shakes eight minutes later, because of a direct interaction across.
In his Nobel Prize Lecture (11 Dec 1965), 'The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics'. Collected in Stig Lundqvist, Nobel Lectures: Physics, 1963-1970 (1998), 156.
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The thoughts of Plato and Machiavelli... don't seem quite enough armor for a world beset with splitting the atoms, urban guerrillas, nineteen varieties of psychotherapists, amplified guitars, napalm, computers, astronauts, and an atmosphere polluted simultaneously with auto exhaust and TV commercials.
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The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.
Telegram (24 May 1946) sent to prominent Americans. Quoted in New York Times (25 May 1946). In Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 340. Variations exist due to different translations from the original German.
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The vortex theory [of the atom] is only a dream. Itself unproven, it can prove nothing, and any speculations founded upon it are mere dreams about dreams.
Quoted in Henry Smith Williams, 'Some Unsolved Scientific Problems', Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1899-1900), Vol. 100, 779.
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The whole subject of the X rays is opening out wonderfully, Bragg has of course got in ahead of us, and so the credit all belongs to him, but that does not make it less interesting. We find that an X ray bulb with a platinum target gives out a sharp line spectrum of five wavelengths which the crystal separates out as if it were a diffraction grating. In this way one can get pure monochromatic X rays. Tomorrow we search for the spectra of other elements. There is here a whole new branch of spectroscopy, which is sure to tell one much about the nature of an atom.
Letter to his mother (18 May 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 205.
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The words are strung together, with their own special grammar—the laws of quantum theory—to form sentences, which are molecules. Soon we have books, entire libraries, made out of molecular “sentences.” The universe is like a library in which the words are atoms. Just look at what has been written with these hundred words! Our own bodies are books in that library, specified by the organization of molecules—but the universe and literature are organizations of identical, interchangeable objects; they are information systems.
In The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature (1983), 255.
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There are infinite worlds both like and unlike this world of ours. For the atoms being infinite in number... are borne on far out into space.
Letter to Herodotus, in Epicurus: The Extant Remains (1926), trans. C. Bailey, 25.
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There can never be two or more equivalent electrons in an atom, for which in a strong field the values of all the quantum numbers n, k1, k2 and m are the same. If an electron is present, for which these quantum numbers (in an external field) have definite values, then this state is ‘occupied.’
Quoted by M. Fierz, in article ‘Wolfgang Pauli’, in C. C. Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 10, 423.
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There is no kind of material, no body, and no thing that can be produced or conceived of, which is not made up of elementary particles; and nature does not admit of a truthful exploration in accordance with the doctrines of the physicists without an accurate demonstration of the primary causes of things, showing how and why they are as they are.
In De Architectura, Book 2, Chap 1, Sec. 9. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 41.
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There must be some bond of union between mass and the chemical elements; and as the mass of a substance is ultimately expressed (although not absolutely, but only relatively) in the atom, a functional dependence should exist and be discoverable between the individual properties of the elements and their atomic weights. But nothing, from mushrooms to a scientific dependence can be discovered without looking and trying. So I began to look about and write down the elements with their atomic weights and typical properties, analogous elements and like atomic weights on separate cards, and soon this convinced me that the properties of the elements are in periodic dependence upon their atomic weights; and although I had my doubts about some obscure points, yet I have never doubted the universality of this law, because it could not possibly be the result of chance.
Principles of Chemistry (1905), Vol. 2, 18.
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These differences, they say, are three: shape, arrangement, and position; because they hold that what is differs only in contour, inter-contact, inclination.
Quoted in Aristotle, Metaphysics A 4 985b 13-16. Trans. Hugh Tredennick (1933), Vol. 1, 31.

Though much new light is shed by ... studies in radioactivity, the nucleus of the atom, with its hoard of energy, thus continues to present us with a fascinating mystery. ... Our assault on atoms has broken down the outer fortifications. We feel that we know the fundamental rules according to which the outer part of the atom is built. The appearance and properties of the electron atmosphere are rather familiar. Yet that inner citadel, the atomic nucleus, remains unconquered, and we have reason to believe that within this citadel is secreted a great treasure. Its capture may form the main objective of the physicists’ next great drive.
'Assault on Atoms' (Read 23 Apr 1931 at Symposium—The Changing World) Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1931), 70, No. 3, 229.
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To Avogadro and Cannizzaro, as to Couper and Kekulé, the molecules and atoms considered in this great theory were real objects: they were thought of the same way as one thinks of tables and chairs.
On the Operational Interpretation of Classical Chemistry', British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1955), 6, 32. In Mary Jo Nye, From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry (1993), 58
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To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; and those who argue thus should put forth a definite conception of matter, with clearly enunciated properties, and show, that the necessary result of a certain complex arrangement of the elements or atoms of that matter, will be the production of self-consciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter, and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter. The foregoing considerations lead us to the very important conclusion, that matter is essentially force, and nothing but force; that matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable. When we touch matter, we only really experience sensations of resistance, implying repulsive force; and no other sense can give us such apparently solid proofs of the reality of matter, as touch does. This conclusion, if kept constantly present in the mind, will be found to have a most important bearing on almost every high scientific and philosophical problem, and especially on such as relate to our own conscious existence.
In 'The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man', last chapter of Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (1870), 365-366.
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To trace in Nature's most minute design
The signature and stamp of power divine.
The Invisible in things scarce seen revealed,
To whom an atom is an ample field.
'Retirement' in William Cowper, Robert Southey, William Harvey, The Poetical Works of William Cowper (1854), 220.

To try to make a model of an atom by studying its spectrum is like trying to make a model of a grand piano by listening to the noise it makes when thrown downstairs.
In Oliver Lodge in Atoms and Rays (1924), 74.
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To-day we not only have no perfect model [of the atom] but we know that it is of no use to search for one.
In Physics and Philosophy (1942, 1955), 10.
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Today we no longer ask what really goes on in an atom; we ask what is likely to be observed—and with what likelihood—when we subject atoms to any specified influences such as light or heat, magnetic fields or electric currents.
What Little I Remember (1979), 20.
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Tyndall declared that he saw in Matter the promise and potency of all forms of life, and with his Irish graphic lucidity made a picture of a world of magnetic atoms, each atom with a positive and a negative pole, arranging itself by attraction and repulsion in orderly crystalline structure. Such a picture is dangerously fascinating to thinkers oppressed by the bloody disorders of the living world. Craving for purer subjects of thought, they find in the contemplation of crystals and magnets a happiness more dramatic and less childish than the happiness found by mathematicians in abstract numbers, because they see in the crystals beauty and movement without the corrupting appetites of fleshly vitality.
In Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), lxi-lxii.
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Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one,
but there is also a third thing, that makes it water
and nobody knows what it is.
The atom locks up two energies
but it is a third thing present which makes it an atom.
'The Third Thing', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 428.
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We have now got what seems to be definite proof that an X ray which spreads out in a spherical form from a source as a wave through the aether can when it meets an atom collect up all its energy from all round and concentrate it on the atom. It is as if when a circular wave on water met an obstacle, the wave were all suddenly to travel round the circle and disappear all round and concentrate its energy on attacking the obstacle. Mechanically of course this is absurd, but mechanics have in this direction been for some time a broken reed.
Letter to Margery Moseley (2 Feb 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 201.
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We have seen that a proton of energy corresponding to 30,000 volts can effect the transformation of lithium into two fast α-particles, which together have an energy equivalent of more than 16 million volts. Considering the individual process, the output of energy in the transmutation is more than 500 times greater than the energy carried by the proton. There is thus a great gain of energy in the single transmutation, but we must not forget that on an average more than 1000 million protons of equal energy must be fired into the lithium before one happens to hit and enter the lithium nucleus. It is clear in this case that on the whole the energy derived from transmutation of the atom is small compared with the energy of the bombarding particles. There thus seems to be little prospect that we can hope to obtain a new source of power by these processes. It has sometimes been suggested, from analogy with ordinary explosives, that the transmutation of one atom might cause the transmutation of a neighbouring nucleus, so that the explosion would spread throughout all the material. If this were true, we should long ago have had a gigantic explosion in our laboratories with no one remaining to tell the tale. The absence of these accidents indicates, as we should expect, that the explosion is confined to the individual nucleus and does not spread to the neighbouring nuclei, which may be regarded as relatively far removed from the centre of the explosion.
The Transmutation of the Atom (1933), 23-4
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We intend to say something about the structure of the atom but lack a language in which we can make ourselves understood. We are in much the same position as a sailor, marooned on a remote island where conditions differ radically from anything he has ever known and where, to make things worse, the natives speak a completely alien tongue.
In conversation during first meeting with Werner Heisenberg (summer 1920), as quoted in William H. Cropper, Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking (2001), 249-250.
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We must infer that a plant or animal of any species, is made up of special units, in all of which there dwells the intrinsic aptitude to aggregate into the form of that species: just as in the atoms of a salt, there dwells the intrinsic aptitude to crystallize in a particular way.‎
In The Principles of Biology (1872), Vol. 1, 181.
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We ought then to consider the present state of the universe as the effect of its previous state and as the cause of that which is to follow. An intelligence that, at a given instant, could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings that make it up, if moreover it were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, would encompass in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atoms. For such an intelligence nothing would be uncertain, and the future, like the past, would be open to its eyes.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 2.
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We set out, therefore, with the supposition that an organised body is not produced by a fundamental power which is guided in its operation by a definite idea, but is developed, according to blind laws of necessity, by powers which, like those of inorganic nature, are established by the very existence of matter. As the elementary materials of organic nature are not different from those of the inorganic kingdom, the source of the organic phenomena can only reside in another combination of these materials, whether it be in a peculiar mode of union of the elementary atoms to form atoms of the second order, or in the arrangement of these conglomerate molecules when forming either the separate morphological elementary parts of organisms, or an entire organism.
Mikroskopische Untersuchungen über die Uebereinstimmung in der Struktur und dem Wachsthum der Thiere und Pflanzen (1839). Microscopic Researches into the Accordance in the Structure and Growth of Animals and Plants, trans. Henry Smith (1847), 190-1.
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We shall never get people whose time is money to take much interest in atoms.
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What remains to be learned may indeed dwarf imagination. Nevertheless, the universe itself is closed and finite. … The uniformity of nature and the general applicability of natural laws set limits to knowledge. If there are just 100, or 105, or 110 ways in which atoms may form, then when one has identified the full range of properties of these, singly and in combination, chemical knowledge will be complete.
Presidential Address (28 Dec 1970) to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 'Science: Endless Horizons or Golden Age?', Science (8 Jan 1971), 171, No. 3866, 24.
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When people talk of atoms obeying fixed laws, they are either ascribing some kind of intelligence and free will to atoms or they are talking nonsense. There is no obedience unless there is at any rate a potentiality of disobeying.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 72.
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Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle I. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 507.
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Why are atoms so small? ... Many examples have been devised to bring this fact home to an audience, none of them more impressive than the one used by Lord Kelvin: Suppose that you could mark the molecules in a glass of water, then pour the contents of the glass into the ocean and stir the latter thoroughly so as to distribute the marked molecules uniformly throughout the seven seas; if you then took a glass of water anywhere out of the ocean, you would find in it about a hundred of your marked molecules.
What is life?: the Physical Aspect of the Living Cell (1944). Collected in What is Life? with Mind And Matter & Autobiographical Sketches (1967, 1992), 6-7.
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Why can the chemist not take the requisite numbers of atoms and simply put them together? The answer is that the chemist never has atoms at his disposal, and if he had, the direct combination of the appropriate numbers of atoms would lead only to a Brobdingnagian potpourri of different kinds of molecules, having a vast array of different structures. What the chemist has at hand always consists of substances, themselves made up of molecules, containing defined numbers of atoms in ordered arrangements. Consequently, in order to synthesize anyone substance, his task is that of combining, modifying, transforming, and tailoring known substances, until the total effect of his manipulations is the conversion of one or more forms of matter into another.
In 'Art and Science in the Synthesis of Organic Compounds: Retrospect and Prospect', in Maeve O'Connor (ed.), Pointers and Pathways in Research (1963), 28.
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With crystals we are in a situation similar to an attempt to investigate an optical grating merely from the spectra it produces... But a knowledge of the positions and intensities of the spectra does not suffice for the determination of the structure. The phases with which the diffracted waves vibrate relative to one another enter in an essential way. To determine a crystal structure on the atomic scale, one must know the phase differences between the different interference spots on the photographic plate, and this task may certainly prove to be rather difficult.
Physikalische Zeitschrift (1913), 14. Translated in Walter Moore, Schrödinger. Life and Thought (1989), 73.
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Within a hundred years of physical and chemical science, men will know what the atom is. It is my belief when science reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say to humanity, 'Gentlemen, it is closing time.'
Quoted in R. Desper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 17.
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Yet is it possible in terms of the motion of atoms to explain how men can invent an electric motor, or design and build a great cathedral? If such achievements represent anything more than the requirements of physical law, it means that science must investigate the additional controlling factors, whatever they may be, in order that the world of nature may be adequately understood. For a science which describes only the motions of inanimate things but fails to include the actions of living organisms cannot claim universality.
The Human Meaning of Science (1940), 31.
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[Certain students] suppose that because science has penetrated the structure of the atom it can solve all the problems of the universe. ... They are known in every ... college as the most insufferable, cocksure know-it-alls. If you want to talk to them about poetry, they are likely to reply that the "emotive response" to poetry is only a conditioned reflex .... If they go on to be professional scientists, their sharp corners are rubbed down, but they undergo no fundamental change. They most decidedly are not set apart from the others by their intellectual integrity and faith, and their patient humility in front of the facts of nature.... They are uneducated, in the fullest sense of the word, and they certainly are no advertisement for the claims of science teachers.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 18-19.
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[Decoding the human genome sequence] is the most significant undertaking that we have mounted so far in an organized way in all of science. I believe that reading our blueprints, cataloguing our own instruction book, will be judged by history as more significant than even splitting the atom or going to the moon.
Interview (23 May 1998), 'Cracking the Code to Life', Academy of Achievement web site.
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[Man] … his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labour of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…
From 'A Free Man's Worship', Independent Review (Dec 1903). Collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1918), 47-48.
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[Mitscherlich Law of Isomerism] An equal number of atoms, combined in the same way produce the same crystal forms, and the same crystal form does not depend on the nature of the atoms, but only on their number and mode of combination.
Originally published in 'Om Förhållandet emellan chemiska sammansättningen och krystallformen hos Arseniksyrade och Phosphorsyrade Salter', (On the Relation between the Chemical Composition and Crystal Form of Salts of Arsenic and Phosphoric Acids), Kungliga Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar (1821), 4. This alternate translation of the law appears is given by F. Szabadváry article on 'Eilhard Mitscherlich' in Charles Coulston Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 424; perhaps from J.R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, Vol. 4 (1964), 210.
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[Professor W.L. Bragg asserts that] In sodium chloride there appear to be no molecules represented by NaCl. The equality in number of sodium and chlorine atoms is arrived at by a chess-board pattern of these atoms; it is a result of geometry and not of a pairing-off of the atoms.
In Henry E. Armstrong, 'Poor Common Salt!', Nature (1927), 120, 478.
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[The] structural theory is of extreme simplicity. It assumes that the molecule is held together by links between one atom and the next: that every kind of atom can form a definite small number of such links: that these can be single, double or triple: that the groups may take up any position possible by rotation round the line of a single but not round that of a double link: finally that with all the elements of the first short period [of the periodic table], and with many others as well, the angles between the valencies are approximately those formed by joining the centre of a regular tetrahedron to its angular points. No assumption whatever is made as to the mechanism of the linkage. Through the whole development of organic chemistry this theory has always proved capable of providing a different structure for every different compound that can be isolated. Among the hundreds of thousands of known substances, there are never more isomeric forms than the theory permits.
Presidential Address to the Chemical Society (16 Apr 1936), Journal of the Chemical Society (1936), 533.
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[To elucidate using models] the different combining powers in elementary atoms, I … select my illustrations from that most delightful of games, croquet. Let the croquet balls represent our atoms, and let us distinguish the atoms of different elements by different colours. The white balls are hydrogen, the green ones chlorine atoms; the atoms of fiery oxygen are red, those of nitrogen, blue; the carbon atoms, lastly, are naturally represented by black balls. But we have, in addition, exhibit the different combining powers of these atoms … by screwing into the balls a number of metallic arms (tubes and pins), which correspond respectively to the combining powers of the atoms represented … to join the balls … in imitation of the atomic edifices represented.
Paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
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[We should] abandon all attempts to construct perceptual models of atomic processes.
In Physics and Beyond (1971), 76.
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…where the electron behaves and misbehaves as it will,
where the forces tie themselves up into knots of atoms
and come united…
'Give Us Gods', David Herbert Lawrence, The Works of D.H. Lawrence (1994), 354.
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“By convention there is color, by convention sweetness, by convention bitterness, but in reality there are atoms and the void,” announced Democritus. The universe consists only of atoms and the void; all else is opinion and illusion. If the soul exists, it also consists of atoms.
In Masks of the Universe: Changing Ideas on the Nature of the Cosmos (1985), 55.
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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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