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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Best Quotes (173 quotes)

3. The Third Law of Ecology: Nature knows best.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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Cuando no se ha nacido rico y es fuerza, por tanto, luchar por la existencia, la más hábil y piadosa conducta consiste en adormecer y atenuar la toxicidad de nuestros émulos y adversarios con el cloroformo de la cortesía y del halago. Procedamos como el bacteriólogo que, en la imposibilidad de aniquilar al microbio, opta por embolarlo, es decir, por convertirlo en saludable vacuna.
It is best to attenuate the virulence of our adversaries with the chloroform of courtesy and flattery, much as bacteriologists disarm a pathogen by converting it into a vaccine.
In Charlas de Café: pensamientos, anécdotas y confidencias (1920, 1967), 32. (Café Chats: Thoughts, Anecdotes and Confidences). As translated in Peter McDonald (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 83. A more complete translation attempted by Webmaster using Google Translate is “When you are not born rich and mighty, thus, struggle for existence, the most shrewd and pious behavior is to calm and reduce the toxicity of our rivals and adversaries with the chloroform of politeness and flattery. Proceed as the bacteriologist who, unable to kill the microbe, opt for embolization (?), ie, by converting it healthy vaccine.”
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Der bis zur Vorrede, die ihn abweist, gelangte Leser hat das Buch für baares Geld gekauft und frägt, was ihn schadlos hält? – Meine letzte Zuflucht ist jetzt, ihn zu erinnern, daß er ein Buch, auch ohne es gerade zu lesen, doch auf mancherlei Art zu benutzen weiß. Es kann, so gut wie viele andere, eine Lücke seiner Bibliothek ausfüllen, wo es sich, sauber gebunden, gewiß gut ausnehmen wird. Oder auch er kann es seiner gelehrten Freundin auf die Toilette, oder den Theetisch legen. Oder endlich er kann ja, was gewiß das Beste von Allem ist und ich besonders rathe, es recensiren.
The reader who has got as far as the preface and is put off by that, has paid money for the book, and wants to know how he is to be compensated. My last refuge now is to remind him that he knows of various ways of using a book without precisely reading it. It can, like many another, fill a gap in his library, where, neatly bound, it is sure to look well. Or he can lay it on the dressing-table or tea-table of his learned lady friend. Or finally he can review it; this is assuredly the best course of all, and the one I specially advise.
In Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xv-xvi. As translated by E.F.J. Payne in The World as Will and Representation (1958, 1969), Vol. 1, xvii. In the preface, Schopenhauer is joking that some readers of his book may find his work does not interest them.
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Question: If you were to pour a pound of molten lead and a pound of molten iron, each at the temperature of its melting point, upon two blocks of ice, which would melt the most ice, and why?
Answer: This question relates to diathermancy. Iron is said to be a diathermanous body (from dia, through, and thermo, I heat), meaning that it gets heated through and through, and accordingly contains a large quantity of real heat. Lead is said to be an athermanous body (from a, privative, and thermo, I heat), meaning that it gets heated secretly or in a latent manner. Hence the answer to this question depends on which will get the best of it, the real heat of the iron or the latent heat of the lead. Probably the iron will smite furthest into the ice, as molten iron is white and glowing, while melted lead is dull.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 180-1, Question 14. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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A government, at bottom, is nothing more than a gang of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men ... Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent. Indeed, it would not be far wrong to describe the best as the common enemy of all decent citizens.
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A Law of Nature, (Lex Naturalis) is a Precept, or general Rule, found out by Reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved
Leviathan, ch. 14 (1651).
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A man can do his best only by confidently seeking (and perpetually missing) an unattainable perfection.
In Forbes (1946), 57, 46.
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A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
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A problem is a chance for you to do your best.
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A research laboratory jealous of its reputation has to develop less formal, more intimate ways of forming a corporate judgment of the work its people do. The best laboratories in university departments are well known for their searching, mutual questioning.
In Editorial, 'Is Science Really a Pack of Lies', Nature (1983), 303, 1257. As quoted and cited in Bradley P. Fuhrman, Jerry J. Zimmerman, Pediatric Critical Care (2011).
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After all, it is only the mediocre who are always at their best.
Likely a false attribution, although often seen but without citation. For a much earlier version (1904), with primary source, see the page for Max Beerbohm: “Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best.” Also of questionable originality, often seen but without citation, is W. Somerset Maugham: “Only a mediocre person is always at his best.” For example in John Peers, Gordon Bennett, 1,001 logical laws, accurate axioms,… (1979), 92.
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Algebra reverses the relative importance of the factors in ordinary language. It is essentially a written language, and it endeavors to exemplify in its written structures the patterns which it is its purpose to convey. The pattern of the marks on paper is a particular instance of the pattern to be conveyed to thought. The algebraic method is our best approach to the expression of necessity, by reason of its reduction of accident to the ghost-like character of the real variable.
In Science and Philosophy (1948), 116.
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An old writer says that there are four sorts of readers: “Sponges which attract all without distinguishing; Howre-glasses which receive and powre out as fast; Bagges which only retain the dregges of the spices and let the wine escape, and Sives which retaine the best onely.” A man wastes a great many years before he reaches the ‘sive’ stage.
Address for the Dedication of the New Building of the Boston Medical Library (12 Jan 1901). Printed as 'Books and Men', The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (17 Jan 1901), 144, No. 3, 60. [Presumably “Howre-glasses” refers to Hour-glasses. -Webmaster]
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Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, the first time quick and dirty and the second time the best way you can.
As quoted in Steven Chu and Charles H. Townes, 'Arthur Schawlow', Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (2003), Vol. 83, 201.
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At their best, at their most creative, science and engineering are attributes of liberty—noble expressions of man’s God-given right to investigate and explore the universe without fear of social or political or religious reprisals.
From 'Sarnoff Honored by I.R.E.', in Department of Information of the Radio Corporation of America, Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting (Apr 1953), 12, No. 2, 32.
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But when science, passing beyond its own limits, assumes to take the place of theology, and sets up its own conception of the order of Nature as a sufficient account of its cause, it is invading a province of thought to which it has no claim, and not unreasonably provokes the hostility of its best friends.
Presidential Address (14 Aug 1872) to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Brighton, reprinted in The Journal of the Society of Arts (16 Aug 1872), 20, No. 1030, 799, penultimate sentence.
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Committees are dangerous things that need most careful watching. I believe that a research committee can do one useful thing and one only. It can find the workers best fitted to attack a particular problem, bring them together, give them the facilities they need, and leave them to get on with the work. It can review progress from time to time, and make adjustments; but if it tries to do more, it will do harm.
Attributed.
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Common sense is science exactly in so far as it fulfills the ideal of common sense; that is, sees facts as they are, or at any rate, without the distortion of prejudice, and reasons from them in accordance with the dictates of sound judgment. And science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
The Crayfish: an Introduction to the Study of Zoölogy (1880), 2. Excerpted in Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 789.
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Common sense, (which, in truth, is very uncommon) is the best sense I know of: abide by it; it will counsel you best.
From Letter (27 Sep 1748, O.S.) to his son, collected in Letters Written by Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope (1777), Vol. 2, 65.
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Counting stars by candlelight all are dim but one is bright; the spiral light of Venus rising first and shining best, from the northwest corner of a brand-new crescent moon crickets and cicadas sing a rare and different tune.
Terrapin Station
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Discoveries that are anticipated are seldom the most valuable. … It’s the scientist free to pilot his vessel across hidden shoals into open seas who gives the best value.
From 'Why Our Scientific Discoveries Need to Surprise Us', in The Globe and Mail (1 Oct 2011).
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Education consists in co-operating with what is already inside a child's mind … The best way to learn geometry is to follow the road which the human race originally followed: Do things, make things, notice things, arrange things, and only then reason about things.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 27.
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Engineering is the science of economy, of conserving the energy, kinetic and potential, provided and stored up by nature for the use of man. It is the business of engineering to utilize this energy to the best advantage, so that there may be the least possible waste.
(1908). Quoted, without source, in Appendix A, 'Some Definitions of Engineering' in Theodore Jesse Hoover and John Charles Lounsbury Fish, The Engineering Profession (1941), 463.
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Equations are Expressions of Arithmetical Computation, and properly have no place in Geometry, except as far as Quantities truly Geometrical (that is, Lines, Surfaces, Solids, and Proportions) may be said to be some equal to others. Multiplications, Divisions, and such sort of Computations, are newly received into Geometry, and that unwarily, and contrary to the first Design of this Science. For whosoever considers the Construction of a Problem by a right Line and a Circle, found out by the first Geometricians, will easily perceive that Geometry was invented that we might expeditiously avoid, by drawing Lines, the Tediousness of Computation. Therefore these two Sciences ought not to be confounded. The Ancients did so industriously distinguish them from one another, that they never introduced Arithmetical Terms into Geometry. And the Moderns, by confounding both, have lost the Simplicity in which all the Elegance of Geometry consists. Wherefore that is Arithmetically more simple which is determined by the more simple Equation, but that is Geometrically more simple which is determined by the more simple drawing of Lines; and in Geometry, that ought to be reckoned best which is geometrically most simple.
In 'On the Linear Construction of Equations', Universal Arithmetic (1769), Vol. 2, 470.
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Everyone doing his best is not the answer. It is necessary that people know what to do.
In Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position (1982), ii. A similar quote often attributed to Deming, but without citation, is “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”
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Evolution advances, not by a priori design, but by the selection of what works best out of whatever choices offer. We are the products of editing, rather than of authorship.
In 'The Origin of Optical Activity', Annals of the New York Academy of Science (1957), 69, 367.
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Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
From Address (7 Sep 1903), at the State Fair, Syracuse, N.Y., collected in Addresses and Presidential Messages of Theodore Roosevelt, 1902-1904 (1907), Vol. 1, 241.
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Fire is the best of servants, but what a master!
In Past and Present (1843, 1872), 78.
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For my confirmation, I didn't get a watch and my first pair of long pants, like most Lutheran boys. I got a telescope. My mother thought it would make the best gift.
Quoted in 'Reach For The Stars', Time (17 Feb 1958), 71, 22.
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For the sick it is important to have the best.
Examination for Inquiry on Scutari (20 Feb 1855). In Great Britain Parliament, Report upon the State of the Hospitals of the British Army in Crimea and Scutari, House of Commons Papers (1855), Vol. 33 of Sess 1854-55, 343.
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Genius always gives its best at first, prudence at last.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 105.
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Give me the third best technology. The second best won’t be ready in time. The best will never be ready.
As quoted in a speech by an unnamed executive of General Electric, excerpted in Richard Dowis, The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write It, How to Deliver It (2000), 150. By
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He who designs an unsafe structure or an inoperative machine is a bad Engineer; he who designs them so that they are safe and operative, but needlessly expensive, is a poor Engineer, and … he who does the best work at lowest cost sooner or later stands at the top of his profession.
From Address on 'Industrial Engineering' at Purdue University (24 Feb 1905). Reprinted by Yale & Towne Mfg Co of New York and Stamford, Conn. for the use of students in its works.
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He who knows what best to omit is the best teacher.
In Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology (1973), 220.
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He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1733).
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Hyper-selectionism has been with us for a long time in various guises; for it represents the late nineteenth century’s scientific version of the myth of natural harmony–all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds (all structures well designed for a definite purpose in this case). It is, indeed, the vision of foolish Dr. Pangloss, so vividly satirized by Voltaire in Candide–the world is not necessarily good, but it is the best we could possibly have.
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I believe the best test of a model is how well can the modeller answer the questions, ‘What do you know now that you did not know before?’ and ‘How can you find out if it is true?’
In Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul (1995), 177.
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I do not intend to go deeply into the question how far mathematical studies, as the representatives of conscious logical reasoning, should take a more important place in school education. But it is, in reality, one of the questions of the day. In proportion as the range of science extends, its system and organization must be improved, and it must inevitably come about that individual students will find themselves compelled to go through a stricter course of training than grammar is in a position to supply. What strikes me in my own experience with students who pass from our classical schools to scientific and medical studies, is first, a certain laxity in the application of strictly universal laws. The grammatical rules, in which they have been exercised, are for the most part followed by long lists of exceptions; accordingly they are not in the habit of relying implicitly on the certainty of a legitimate deduction from a strictly universal law. Secondly, I find them for the most part too much inclined to trust to authority, even in cases where they might form an independent judgment. In fact, in philological studies, inasmuch as it is seldom possible to take in the whole of the premises at a glance, and inasmuch as the decision of disputed questions often depends on an aesthetic feeling for beauty of expression, or for the genius of the language, attainable only by long training, it must often happen that the student is referred to authorities even by the best teachers. Both faults are traceable to certain indolence and vagueness of thought, the sad effects of which are not confined to subsequent scientific studies. But certainly the best remedy for both is to be found in mathematics, where there is absolute certainty in the reasoning, and no authority is recognized but that of one’s own intelligence.
In 'On the Relation of Natural Science to Science in general', Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects, translated by E. Atkinson (1900), 25-26.
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I don’t believe in evolution, like people believe in God … Science and technology are not advanced by people who believe, but by people who don’t know but are doing their best to find out.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 41.
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I love to race the best people in the world and the fastest people in the world.
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I speak twelve languages—English is the bestest.
As quoted in Robin Wilson and Jeremy Gray, Mathematical Conversations: Selections from The Mathematical Intelligencer (2000, 2001), 40.
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I suggest that the best geologist is he who has seen most rocks.
The Granite Controversy: Geological Addresses Illustrating the Evolution of a Disputant (1957), 3.
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I tell [medical students] that they are the luckiest persons on earth to be in medical school, and to forget all this worry about H.M.O.’s and keep your eye on helping the patient. It’s the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a couple of years ago.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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I think equation guessing might be the best method to proceed to obtain the laws for the part of physics which is presently unknown.
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), 177.
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Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away.
As quoted, without citation, in Cleophus Jackson, Reprogram Your Mind for Success and Happiness (2001), 150.
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If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
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If the national park idea is, as Lord Bryce suggested, the best idea America ever had, wilderness preservation is the highest refinement of that idea.
In magazine article, 'It All Began with Conservation', Smithsonian (Apr 1990), 21, No. 1, 34-43. Collected in Wallace Stegner and Page Stegner (ed.), Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: The Making of the American West (1998, 1999), 131.
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If you advertise to tell lies, it will ruin you, but if you advertise to tell the public the truth, and particularly to give information, it will bring you success. I learned early that to tell a man how best to use tires, and to make him want them, was far better than trying to tell him that your tire is the best in the world. If you believe that yours is, let your customer find it out.
As quoted by H.M. Davidson, in System: The Magazine of Business (Apr 1922), 41, 446.
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If you go out to fight for freedom and truth, you should never wear your best trousers.
Dialog for Dr. Stockmann in play, An Enemy of the People (1882, 2001), 102.
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If you have an idea that you wish your audience to carry away, turn it upside down and inside out, rephrasing it from different angles. Remember that the form in which the thing may appear best to you may not impress half your audience.
Advice to the writer of his first paper for presentation at a scientific meeting. As expressed in quotation marks by Charles Thom in 'Robert Almer Harper', National Academy Biographical Memoirs (1948), 25, 233-234. Also, in Thom's words, “[Harper] added that a miscellaneous audience can not he expected to carry away a lot of separate facts but one good idea, well pictured out, will be remembered by some of them.”
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If you hope to make a success of life you must be willing to do whatever comes your way to the best of your ability.
From address to the Brown University YMCA, as quoted in 'Young Rockefeller: Defending Trusts, Uses American Beauty Similitude,' Cincinnati Enquirer (9 Feb 1902), 4, citing the New York Journal.
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In order that the relations between science and the age may be what they ought to be, the world at large must be made to feel that science is, in the fullest sense, a ministry of good to all, not the private possession and luxury of a few, that it is the best expression of human intelligence and not the abracadabra of a school, that it is a guiding light and not a dazzling fog.
'Hindrances to Scientific Progress', The Popular Science Monthly (Nov 1890), 38, 121.
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In the discovery of lemmas the best aid is a mental aptitude for it. For we may see many who are quick at solutions and yet do not work by method ; thus Cratistus in our time was able to obtain the required result from first principles, and those the fewest possible, but it was his natural gift which helped him to the discovery.
Proclus
As given in Euclid, The Thirteen Books of Euclid's Elements, translated from the text of Johan Ludvig Heiberg by Sir Thomas Little Heath, Vol. 1, Introduction and Books 1,2 (1908), 133. The passage also states that Proclus gives the definition of the term lemma as a proposition not proved beforehand. Glenn Raymond Morrow in A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements (1992), 165, states nothing more seems to be known of Cratistus.
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In the last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen is that it appears to us as vitally necessary.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Sara Appleton-Weber (trans.), The Human Phenomenon (1999, 2003), 163. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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It is always the case with the best work, that it is misrepresented, and disparaged at first, for it takes a curiously long time for new ideas to become current, and the older men who ought to be capable of taking them in freely, will not do so through prejudice.
From letter reprinted in Journal of Political Economy (Feb 1977), 85, No. 1, back cover, as cited in Stephen M. Stigler, The History of Statistics: The Measurement of Uncertainty Before 1900 (1986), 307. Stigler notes the letter is held by David E. Butler of Nuffield College, Oxford.
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It is by no means hopeless to expect to make a machine for really very difficult mathematical problems. But you would have to proceed step-by-step. I think electricity would be the best thing to rely on.
In Charles Sanders Peirce, Max Harold Fisch, Christian J. W. Kloesel Writings of Charles S. Peirce: 1884-1886 (1993), 422.
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It is for such inquiries the modern naturalist collects his materials; it is for this that he still wants to add to the apparently boundless treasures of our national museums, and will never rest satisfied as long as the native country, the geographical distribution, and the amount of variation of any living thing remains imperfectly known. He looks upon every species of animal and plant now living as the individual letters which go to make up one of the volumes of our earth’s history; and, as a few lost letters may make a sentence unintelligible, so the extinction of the numerous forms of life which the progress of cultivation invariably entails will necessarily render obscure this invaluable record of the past. It is, therefore, an important object, which governments and scientific institutions should immediately take steps to secure, that in all tropical countries colonised by Europeans the most perfect collections possible in every branch of natural history should be made and deposited in national museums, where they may be available for study and interpretation. If this is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.
In 'On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1863), 33, 234.
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It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.
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I’ve met a lot of people in important positions, and he [Wernher von Braun] was one that I never had any reluctance to give him whatever kind of credit they deserve. He owned his spot, he knew what he was doing, and he was very impressive when you met with him. He understood the problems. He could come back and straighten things out. He moved with sureness whenever he came up with a decision. Of all the people, as I think back on it now, all of the top management that I met at NASA, many of them are very, very good. But Wernher, relative to the position he had and what he had to do, I think was the best of the bunch.
From interview with Ron Stone (24 May 1999) for NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project on NASA website.
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Louis Agassiz quote: Lay aside all conceit Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have fol
Lay aside all conceit. Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have followed for years some slim thread which once in a while has broadened out and disclosed some treasure worth a life-long search.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law and without justice.
Aristotle
In Politics, Book 1, 1253a. As given in Maturin Murray Ballou (ed.), Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and Modern Authors (1872), 323. As translated by Benjamin Jowett, The Politics of Aristotle (1899), 4: “For man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.” As translated by Harris Rackham in Aristotle: Politics, 13: “For as man is the best of the animals when perfected, so he is the worst of all when sundered from law and justice.”
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Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
Address at The Physical Society, Berlin (1918) for Max Planck’s 60th birthday, 'Principles of Research', collected in Essays in Science (1934, 2004) 3.
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Mathematics is the language of languages, the best school for sharpening thought and expression, is applicable to all processes in nature; and Germany needs mathematical gymnasia. Mathematics is God’s form of speech, and simplifies all things organic and inorganic. As knowledge becomes real, complete and great it approximates mathematical forms. It mediates between the worlds of mind and of matter.
Summarizing the ideas presented by Christian Heinrich Dillmann in Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889). From book review, 'Recent Literature on Arithmetic and Arithmetical Teaching', in Granville Stanley Hall (ed.), The Pedagogical Seminary (1892), 2, 168. Dillmann’s book title translates as “Mathematics the Torchbearer of a New Era”. (However, Conant concluded that it was a “loosely-written, vague and incoherent book, which belies every anticipation awakened by its attractive title.”)
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Mathematics … above all other subjects, makes the student lust after knowledge, fills him, as it were, with a longing to fathom the cause of things and to employ his own powers independently; it collects his mental forces and concentrates them on a single point and thus awakens the spirit of individual inquiry, self-confidence and the joy of doing; it fascinates because of the view-points which it offers and creates certainty and assurance, owing to the universal validity of its methods. Thus, both what he receives and what he himself contributes toward the proper conception and solution of a problem, combine to mature the student and to make him skillful, to lead him away from the surface of things and to exercise him in the perception of their essence. A student thus prepared thirsts after knowledge and is ready for the university and its sciences. Thus it appears, that higher mathematics is the best guide to philosophy and to the philosophic conception of the world (considered as a self-contained whole) and of one’s own being.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 40. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 49.
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Measured objectively, what a man can wrest from Truth by passionate striving is utterly infinitesimal. But the striving frees us from the bonds of the self and makes us comrades of those who are the best and the greatest.
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Most impediments to scientific understanding are conceptual locks, not factual lacks. Most difficult to dislodge are those biases that escape our scrutiny because they seem so obviously, even ineluctably, just. We know ourselves best and tend to view other creatures as mirrors of our own constitution and social arrangements. (Aristotle, and nearly two millennia of successors, designated the large bee that leads the swarm as a king.)
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My profession often gets bad press for a variety of sins, both actual and imagined: arrogance, venality, insensitivity to moral issues about the use of knowledge, pandering to sources of funding with insufficient worry about attendant degradation of values. As an advocate for science, I plead ‘mildly guilty now and then’ to all these charges. Scientists are human beings subject to all the foibles and temptations of ordinary life. Some of us are moral rocks; others are reeds. I like to think (though I have no proof) that we are better, on average, than members of many other callings on a variety of issues central to the practice of good science: willingness to alter received opinion in the face of uncomfortable data, dedication to discovering and publicizing our best and most honest account of nature’s factuality, judgment of colleagues on the might of their ideas rather than the power of their positions.
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My visceral perception of brotherhood harmonizes with our best modern biological knowledge ... Many people think (or fear) that equality of human races represents a hope of liberal sentimentality probably squashed by the hard realities of history. They are wrong. This essay can be summarized in a single phrase, a motto if you will: Human equality is a contingent fact of history. Equality is not true by definition; it is neither an ethical principle (though equal treatment may be) nor a statement about norms of social action. It just worked out that way. A hundred different and plausible scenarios for human history would have yielded other results (and moral dilemmas of enormous magnitude). They didn’t happen.
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Mythology is wondrous, a balm for the soul. But its problems cannot be ignored. At worst, it buys inspiration at the price of physical impossibility ... At best, it purveys the same myopic view of history that made this most fascinating subject so boring and misleading in grade school as a sequential take of monarchs and battles.
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Nature indifferently copied is far superior to the best idealities.
Journal entry (1 Mar 1827). On an artist’s goal to faithfully reproduce nature as actually observed, not stylized or contrived. He explained this credo a young artist (J.B. Kidd, age 19) over breakfast. Stated in John James Audubon and Mrs. Audubon (ed.), The Life and Adventures of John James Audubon, the Naturalist (1868), 140.
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Next to the promulgation of the truth, the best thing I can conceive that man can do is the public recantation of an error.
In Collected Papers of Joseph Baron Lister (1909), Vol. 1, 366. As quoted and cited in Sir Rickman John Godlee, Lord Lister (1918), 278.
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No politics, no committees, no reports, no referees, no interviews – just highly motivated people picked by a few men of good judgment.
[Describing the compelling ideas of Max Perutz on how best to nurture research.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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Nobody in the world of policy appears to be asking what is best for society, wild fish or farmed fish. And what sort of farmed fish, anyway? Were this question to be asked, and answered honestly, we might find that our interests lay in prioritizing wild fish and making their ecosystems more productive by leaving them alone enough of the time.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat (2008), 313.
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Of all my inventions, I liked the phonograph best. Life’s most soothing things are sweet music and a child’s goodnight.
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Of all the reciprocals of integers, the one that I best like is 1/0 for it is a titan amongst midgets.
Attributed in a space filler, Pi Mu Epsilon (1949), 1, No. 1, 17.
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One of the best examples of a scientific parable that got taken literally at first is the wave-theory of light.
Concluding paragraph of chapter, 'Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics: Or Beyond Common-Sense', contributed to Naomi Mitchison (ed.), An Outline For Boys And Girls And Their Parents (1932), 357.
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One wonders whether the rare ability to be completely attentive to, and to profit by, Nature’s slightest deviation from the conduct expected of her is not the secret of the best research minds and one that explains why some men turn to most remarkably good advantage seemingly trivial accidents. Behind such attention lies an unremitting sensitivity.
In The Furtherance of Medical Research (1941), 98.
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Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs.
In 'Dan Leno', The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art (5 Nov 1904), 98, 574. Variations of this quote, lacking any primary source, have been spuriously attributed to W. Somerset Maugham and Jean Giraudoux, respectively as “Only a mediocre person is always at his best” (referring to writers); and “Only the mediocre are always at their best.”
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Our friends should be companions who inspire us, who help us rise to our best.
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Progress is achieved by exchanging our theories for new ones which go further than the old, until we find one based on a larger number of facts. … Theories are only hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 165.
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Rajamma, my aunt, often told me stories from the Puranas. That was the best education I ever received.
Quoted in India Today (Apr 2008), 33, No 16, as cited on webpage of Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
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Religion shows a pattern of heredity which I think is similar to genetic heredity. ... There are hundreds of different religious sects, and every religious person is loyal to just one of these. ... The overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one their parents belonged to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained-glass, the best music when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing compared to the matter of heredity.
From edited version of a speech, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival (15 Apr 1992), as reprinted from the Independent newspaper in Alec Fisher, The Logic of Real Arguments (2004), 82-83.
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Science at best is not wisdom, it is knowledge. Wisdom is knowledge tempered with judgment.
From essay, 'Mortgaging the Old Homestead', in Frank H.T. Rhodes and Richard O. Stone (eds.), Language of the Earth (2013), 361.
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Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best one we have. In this respect, as in many others, it’s like democracy.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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Science is neither a single tradition, nor the best tradition there is, except for people who have become accustomed to its presence, its benefits and its disadvantages. In a democracy it should be separated from the state just as churches are now separated from the state.
Against Method, p. 238 (1975).The author's warning against allowing scientists to become the new 'high priests' of society.
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Science is the best idea humans have ever had. The more people who embrace that idea, the better.
Bill Nye
In interview with Brian Anthony Hernandez, 'Bill Nye: “When Rush Limbaugh Says I'm Not a Scientist, I'm Charmed”' (31 May 2013) on mashable.com web site.
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Science progresses best when observations force us to alter our preconceptions.
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Scientists are not robotic inducing machines that infer structures of explanation only from regularities observed in natural phenomena (assuming, as I doubt, that such a style of reasoning could ever achieve success in principle). Scientists are human beings, immersed in culture, and struggling with all the curious tools of inference that mind permits ... Culture can potentiate as well as constrain–as Darwin’s translation of Adam Smith’s laissez-faire economic models into biology as the theory of natural selection. In any case, objective minds do not exist outside culture, so we must make the best of our ineluctable embedding.
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Scientists wrote beautifully through the 19th century and on into the early 20th. But somewhere after that, coincident with the explosive growth of research, the art of writing science suffered a grave setback, and the stultifying convention descended that the best scientific prose should sound like a non-human author addressing a mechanical reader.
In Boojums All the Way Through: Communicating Science in a Prosaic Age (1990), Preface, xii.
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Simple diet is best.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 67.
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Some of the scientists, I believe, haven’t they been changing their opinion a little bit on global warming? There’s a lot of differing opinions and before we react I think it’s best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what’s taking place.
Presidential Debate (2000). In Historic Documents of 2000 (2001), 823.
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Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.
As quoted in 'Rule Britannia', Financial Mail (1983), 242. Also quoted in Francis J. Gouillart, Transforming the Organization (1995), 85.
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Students who have attended my [medical] lectures may remember that I try not only to teach them what we know, but also to realise how little this is: in every direction we seem to travel but a very short way before we are brought to a stop; our eyes are opened to see that our path is beset with doubts, and that even our best-made knowledge comes but too soon to an end.
In Notes on the Composition of Scientific Papers (1904), 3.
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Success is achievable without public recognition, and the world has many unsung heroes. The teacher who inspires you to pursue your education to your ultimate ability is a success. The parents who taught you the noblest human principles are a success. The coach who shows you the importance of teamwork is a success. The spiritual leader who instills in you spiritual values and faith is a success. The relatives, friends, and neighbors with whom you develop a reciprocal relationship of respect and support - they, too, are successes. The most menial workers can properly consider themselves successful if they perform their best and if the product of their work is of service to humanity.
From 'Getting to the Heart of Success', in Jim Stovall, Success Secrets of Super Achievers: Winning Insights from Those Who Are at the Top (1999), 42-43.
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Suppose then I want to give myself a little training in the art of reasoning; suppose I want to get out of the region of conjecture and probability, free myself from the difficult task of weighing evidence, and putting instances together to arrive at general propositions, and simply desire to know how to deal with my general propositions when I get them, and how to deduce right inferences from them; it is clear that I shall obtain this sort of discipline best in those departments of thought in which the first principles are unquestionably true. For in all our thinking, if we come to erroneous conclusions, we come to them either by accepting false premises to start with—in which case our reasoning, however good, will not save us from error; or by reasoning badly, in which case the data we start from may be perfectly sound, and yet our conclusions may be false. But in the mathematical or pure sciences,—geometry, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, the calculus of variations or of curves,— we know at least that there is not, and cannot be, error in our first principles, and we may therefore fasten our whole attention upon the processes. As mere exercises in logic, therefore, these sciences, based as they all are on primary truths relating to space and number, have always been supposed to furnish the most exact discipline. When Plato wrote over the portal of his school. “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here,” he did not mean that questions relating to lines and surfaces would be discussed by his disciples. On the contrary, the topics to which he directed their attention were some of the deepest problems,— social, political, moral,—on which the mind could exercise itself. Plato and his followers tried to think out together conclusions respecting the being, the duty, and the destiny of man, and the relation in which he stood to the gods and to the unseen world. What had geometry to do with these things? Simply this: That a man whose mind has not undergone a rigorous training in systematic thinking, and in the art of drawing legitimate inferences from premises, was unfitted to enter on the discussion of these high topics; and that the sort of logical discipline which he needed was most likely to be obtained from geometry—the only mathematical science which in Plato’s time had been formulated and reduced to a system. And we in this country [England] have long acted on the same principle. Our future lawyers, clergy, and statesmen are expected at the University to learn a good deal about curves, and angles, and numbers and proportions; not because these subjects have the smallest relation to the needs of their lives, but because in the very act of learning them they are likely to acquire that habit of steadfast and accurate thinking, which is indispensable to success in all the pursuits of life.
In Lectures on Teaching (1906), 891-92.
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Take the rose—most people think it very beautiful: I don’t care for It at all. I prefer the cactus, for the simple reason that it has a more interesting personality. It has wonderfully adapted itself to its surroundings! It is the best illustration of the theory of evolution in plant life.
From George MacAdam, 'Steinmetz, Electricity's Mastermind, Enters Politics', New York Times (2 Nov 1913), SM3.
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The advantage is that mathematics is a field in which one’s blunders tend to show very clearly and can be corrected or erased with a stroke of the pencil. It is a field which has often been compared with chess, but differs from the latter in that it is only one’s best moments that count and not one’s worst. A single inattention may lose a chess game, whereas a single successful approach to a problem, among many which have been relegated to the wastebasket, will make a mathematician’s reputation.
In Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth (1953), 21.
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The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly. Arouse his will to believe in himself, give him a great goal to believe in, and he will create the means to reach it.
Given with date 1 Jan 1960 in Brian M. Thomsen, The Dream That Will Not Die: Inspiring Words of John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy (2010), 79. Webmaster has not seen a primary document for this quote. Although it is widely circulated, the origin is usually never cited. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
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The best and safest way of philosophising seems to be, first to enquire diligently into the properties of things, and to establish those properties by experiences [experiments] and then to proceed slowly to hypotheses for the explanation of them. For hypotheses should be employed only in explaining the properties of things, but not assumed in determining them; unless so far as they may furnish experiments.
Letter to the French Jesuit, Gaston Pardies. Translation from the original Latin, as in Richard S. Westfall, Never at Rest: a Biography of Isaac Newton (1983), 242.
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The best answer to the question, “Will computers ever be as smart as humans?” is probably “Yes, but only briefly”.
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The best education will not immunize a person against corruption by power. The best education does not automatically make people compassionate. We know this more clearly than any preceding generation. Our time has seen the best-educated society, situated in the heart of the most civilized part of the world, give birth to the most murderously vengeful government in history.
In Before the Sabbath (1979), 40-41.
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The best material model of a cat is another, or preferably the same, cat.
As coauthor with Norbert Wiener, in 'The Role of Models in Science', Philosophy of Science (Oct 1945), 12, 320.
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The best men are always first discovered by their enemies: it is the adversary who turns on the searchlight, and the proof of excellence lies in being able to stand the gleam.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Dec 1904), 20, No. 1, 18.
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The best of all medicines are rest and fasting.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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The best person able to appraise promise as a mathematician is a gifted teacher, and not a professional tester.
In speech, 'Education for Creativity in the Sciences', Conference at New York University, Washington Square. As quoted by Gene Currivan in 'I.Q. Tests Called Harmful to Pupil', New York Times (16 Jun 1963), 66.
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The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance— the idea that anything is possible.
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The best sex education for kids is when Daddy pats Mommy on the fanny when he comes home from work.
NBC TV 16 Aug 71
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The best surgeon is one that hath been hacked himself.
In Dwight Edwards Marvin, The Antiquity of Proverbs (1922), 238.
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The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone’s backyard.
In David Leonhardt, 'John Tukey, 85, Statistician; Coined the Word ‘Software’', New York Times (28 Jul 2000). No citation, except “Mr. Tukey once told a colleague.”
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The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
Anonymous
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The best way to accelerate a Macintosh is at 9.8 m/sec/sec.
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The best way to increase the intelligence of scientists would be to decrease their number.
In Man the Unknown (1935), 49.
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The best way to know what’s in the soup, is to boil yourself in it.
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The best way to learn to swim is to dive.
Advice to his medical students
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The best way to make a fire with two sticks is to make sure that one of them is a match.
(1925) In Cutler J. Cleveland and Christopher G. Morris, Dictionary of Energy (2009), 575. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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The best way to study Mars is with two hands, eyes and ears of a geologist, first at a moon orbiting Mars … and then on the surface.
In his article, '40 Years After Apollo 11 Moon Landing, It’s Time for a Mission to Mars', in Washington post (16 Jul 2009).
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The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.
In 'Proverbs', The Poems: With Specimens of the Prose Writings of William Blake (1885), 281.
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The canyon country does not always inspire love. To many it appears barren, hostile, repellent—a fearsome, mostly waterless land of rock and heat, sand dunes and quicksand. cactus, thornbush, scorpion, rattlesnake, and agoraphobic distances. To those who see our land in that manner, the best reply is, yes, you are right, it is a dangerous and terrible place. Enter at your own risk. Carry water. Avoid the noon-day sun. Try to ignore the vultures. Pray frequently.
The Journey Home
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The complexity of contemporary biology has led to an extreme specialization, which has inevitably been followed by a breakdown in communication between disciplines. Partly as a result of this, the members of each specialty tend to feel that their own work is fundamental and that the work of other groups, although sometimes technically ingenious, is trivial or at best only peripheral to an understanding of truly basic problems and issues. There is a familiar resolution to this problem but it is sometimes difficulty to accept emotionally. This is the idea that there are a number of levels of biological integration and that each level offers problems and insights that are unique to it; further, that each level finds its explanations of mechanism in the levels below, and its significances in the levels above it.
From 'Interaction of physiology and behavior under natural conditions', collected in R.I. Bowman (ed.), The Galapagos (1966), 39.
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The effects of general change in literature are most tellingly recorded not in alteration of the best products, but in the transformation of the most ordinary workaday books; for when potboilers adopt the new style, then the revolution is complete.
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The Engineer is one who, in the world of physics and applied sciences, begets new things, or adapts old things to new and better uses; above all, one who, in that field, attains new results in the best way and at lowest cost.
From Address on 'Industrial Engineering' at Purdue University (24 Feb 1905). Reprinted by Yale & Towne Mfg Co of New York and Stamford, Conn. for the use of students in its works.
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The facts of nature are what they are, but we can only view them through the spectacles of our mind. Our mind works largely by metaphor and comparison, not always (or often) by relentless logic. When we are caught in conceptual traps, the best exit is often a change in metaphor–not because the new guideline will be truer to nature (for neither the old nor the new metaphor lies ‘out there’ in the woods), but because we need a shift to more fruitful perspectives, and metaphor is often the best agent of conceptual transition.
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The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted.
John Muir
Opening sentence in magazine article, 'The American Forests', The Atlantic (Aug 1897), 80, No. 478, 145.
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The great truths with which it [mathematics] deals, are clothed with austere grandeur, far above all purposes of immediate convenience or profit. It is in them that our limited understandings approach nearest to the conception of that absolute and infinite, towards which in most other things they aspire in vain. In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths, which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together, and which will continue to exist there, when the last of their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven. They existed not merely in metaphysical possibility, but in the actual contemplation of the supreme reason. The pen of inspiration, ranging all nature and life for imagery to set forth the Creator’s power and wisdom, finds them best symbolized in the skill of the surveyor. "He meted out heaven as with a span;" and an ancient sage, neither falsely nor irreverently, ventured to say, that “God is a geometer”.
In Orations and Speeches (1870), Vol. 3, 614.
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The highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people.
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The history of thought should warn us against concluding that because the scientific theory of the world is the best that has yet been formulated, it is necessarily complete and final. We must remember that at bottom the generalizations of science or, in common parlance, the laws of nature are merely hypotheses devised to explain that ever-shifting phantasmagoria of thought which we dignify with the high-sounding names of the world and the universe. In the last analysis magic, religion, and science are nothing but theories of thought.
In The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (1890, 1900), Vol. 3, 460.
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The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues-self-restraint.
Circle of the Seasons
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The mathematician’s best work is art, a high and perfect art, as daring as the most secret dreams of imagination, clear, and limpid. Mathematical genius and artistic genius touch each other.
As quoted in Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life (1923), 139.
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The mathematician’s best work is art, a high perfect art, as daring as the most secret dreams of imagination, clear and limpid. Mathematical genius and artistic genius touch one another.
As quoted, without citation, in Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life (1923), 139.
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The method of science is tried and true. It is not perfect, it’s just the best we have. And to abandon it, with its skeptical protocols, is the pathway to a dark age.
From a sound clip from CSICOP, now CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). If you know a more specific citation, please contact Webmaster.
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The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91.
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The more efficient causes of progress seem to consist of a good education during youth whilst the brain is impressible, and of a high standard of excellence, inculcated by the ablest and best men, embodied in the laws, customs and traditions of the nation, and enforced by public opinion. It should, however, be borne in mind, that the enforcement of public opinion depends on our appreciation of the approbation and disapprobation of others; and this appreciation is founded on our sympathy, which it can hardly be doubted was originally developed through natural selection as one of the most important elements of the social instincts.
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The national park idea, the best idea we ever had, was inevitable as soon as Americans learned to confront the wild continent not with fear and cupidity but with delight, wonder, and awe.
In Wallace Stegner and Page Stegner (ed.), 'The Best Idea We Ever Had', Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: The Making of the American West (1998, 1999), 137.
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The picture of scientific method drafted by modern philosophy is very different from traditional conceptions. Gone is the ideal of a universe whose course follows strict rules, a predetermined cosmos that unwinds itself like an unwinding clock. Gone is the ideal of the scientist who knows the absolute truth. The happenings of nature are like rolling dice rather than like revolving stars; they are controlled by probability laws, not by causality, and the scientist resembles a gambler more than a prophet. He can tell you only his best posits—he never knows beforehand whether they will come true. He is a better gambler, though, than the man at the green table, because his statistical methods are superior. And his goal is staked higher—the goal of foretelling the rolling dice of the cosmos. If he is asked why he follows his methods, with what title he makes his predictions, he cannot answer that he has an irrefutable knowledge of the future; he can only lay his best bets. But he can prove that they are best bets, that making them is the best he can do—and if a man does his best, what else can you ask of him?
The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951, 1973), 248-9. Collected in James Louis Jarrett and Sterling M. McMurrin (eds.), Contemporary Philosophy: A Book of Readings (1954), 376.
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The poor are my best patients. God pays for them.
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 94.
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The power that produced Man when the monkey was not up to the mark, can produce a higher creature than Man if Man does not come up to the mark. What it means is that if Man is to be saved, Man must save himself. There seems no compelling reason why he should be saved. He is by no means an ideal creature. At his present best many of his ways are so unpleasant that they are unmentionable in polite society, and so painful that he is compelled to pretend that pain is often a good. Nature holds no brief for the human experiment: it must stand or fall by its results. If Man will not serve, Nature will try another experiment.
Back to Methuselah: a Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), xvii.
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The problem is not to find the best or most efficient method to proceed to a discovery, but to find any method at all.
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), 177.
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The psychiatric interviewer is supposed to be doing three things: considering what the patient could mean by what he says; considering how he himself can best phrase what he wishes to communicate to the patient; and, at the same time, observing the general pattern of the events being communicated. In addition to that, to make notes which will be of more than evocative value, or come anywhere near being a verbatim record of what is said, in my opinion is beyond the capacity of most human beings.
From The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 48.
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The weeping philosopher too often impairs his eyesight by his woe, and becomes unable from his tears to see the remedies for the evils which he deplores. Thus it will often be found that the man of no tears is the truest philanthropist, as he is the best physician who wears a cheerful face, even in the worst of cases.
From Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions (1841), Vol. 1, 323.
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The world has arisen in some way or another. How it originated is the great question, and Darwin's theory, like all other attempts, to explain the origin of life, is thus far merely conjectural. I believe he has not even made the best conjecture possible in the present state of our knowledge.
In Evolution and Permanence of Type (1874), 12.
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There is one best path to the mountain crest; yet there are other paths, nearly as good. Let Youth be assured that the steeps of success have as many paths as there are stout-hearted climbers.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 173-174.
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There was, I think, a feeling that the best science was that done in the simplest way. In experimental work, as in mathematics, there was “style” and a result obtained with simple equipment was more elegant than one obtained with complicated apparatus, just as a mathematical proof derived neatly was better than one involving laborious calculations. Rutherford's first disintegration experiment, and Chadwick's discovery of the neutron had a “style” that is different from that of experiments made with giant accelerators.
From 'Physics in a University Laboratory Before and After World War II', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, (1975), 342, 463. As cited in Alan McComas, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse (2011), 107.
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They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it... and it’s worked out pretty well so far. I present to you the newest in Stark Industries’ Freedom line. Find an excuse to let one of these off the chain, and I personally guarantee, the bad guys won’t even wanna come out of their caves. Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration... the Jericho.
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This beast is best felt. Shake, rattle, and roll. We are thrown left and right against our straps in spasmodic little jerks. It is steering like crazy, like a nervous lady driving a wide car down a narrow alley, and I just hope it knows where it’s going, because for the first ten seconds we are perilously close to that umbilical tower.
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This is the patent-age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions;
Sir Humphrey Davy's lantern, by which coals
Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions,
Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind, as true,
Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.
Don Juan (1819, 1858), Canto I, CXXXII, 36. Although aware of scientific inventions, the poet seemed to view them with suspicion. Davy invented his safety lamp in 1803. Sir W.E. Parry made a voyage to the Arctic Regions (4 Apr to 18 Nov 1818).
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This single Stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that neglected Corner, I once knew in a flourishing State in a Forest: It was full of Sap, full of Leaves, and full of Boughs: But now, in vain does the busy Art of Man pretend to vie with Nature, by tying that withered Bundle of Twigs to its sapless Trunk: It is at best but the Reverse of what it was; a Tree turned upside down, the Branches on the Earth, and the Root in the Air.
'A Meditation Upon a Broom-stick: According to The Style and Manner of the Honorable Robert Boyle's Meditations' (1703), collected in 'Thoughts On Various Subjects', The Works of Jonathan Swift (1746), Vol. 1, 55-56.
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Through most of his existence man’s survival depended on his ability to cope with nature. If the mind evolved as an aid in human survival it was primarily as an instrument for the mastery of nature. The mind is still at its best when tinkering with the mathematics that rule nature.
In Before the Sabbath (1979), 26.
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To act with common sense according to the moment, is the best wisdom I know; and the best philosophy, to do one’s duties, take the world as it comes, submit respectfully to one’s lot, bless the Goodness that has given so much happiness with it, whatever it is, and despise affectation.
From Letter (27 May 1776) to Horace Mann, collected in Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann (1843), Vol. 2, 378.
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To live for a time close to great minds is the best kind of education.
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True wisdom is to know what is best worth knowing, and to do what is best worth doing.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 16.
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Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible.
The narrator (Mr. Carter), in The Dolly Dialogues, no. 15 (1894). (Full name: Anthony Hope Hawkins.).
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Water is the best of all things.
Pindar
Olympian Odes.
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We are consuming our forests three times faster than they are being reproduced. Some of the richest timber lands of this continent have already been destroyed, and not replaced, and other vast areas are on the verge of destruction. Yet forests, unlike mines, can be so handled as to yield the best results of use, without exhaustion, just like grain fields.
Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee (4 Oct 1907), 'Our National Inland Waterways Policy'. In American Waterways (1908), 9.
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We are placed here with certain talents and capabilities. It is up to each of us to use those talents and capabilities as best you can. If you do that, I think there is a power greater than any of us that will place the opportunities in our way, and if we use our talents properly, we will be living the kind of life we should live.
At NASA press conference (9 Apr 1959) to introduce the Mercury 7 astronauts. As quoted in Joseph N. Bell, Seven Into Space: The Story of the Mercury Astronauts (1960), 69.
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We cannot hope to fill the schools with persons of high intelligence, for persons of high intelligence simply refuse to spend their lives teaching such banal things as spelling and arithmetic. Among the teachers male we may safely assume that 95% are of low mentality, el se they would depart for more appetizing pastures. And even among the teachers female the best are inevitably weeded out by marriage, and only the worst (with a few romantic exceptions) survive.
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We do not listen with the best regard to the verses of a man who is only a poet, nor to his problems if he is only an algebraist; but if a man is at once acquainted with the geometric foundation of things and with their festal splendor, his poetry is exact and his arithmetic musical.
In 'Works and Days', Society and Solitude (1883), Chap. 7, 171.
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We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because these things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism… We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe–and would benefit the vast majority–are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.
From This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014), 18.
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We may fondly imagine that we are impartial seekers after truth, but with a few exceptions, to which I know that I do not belong, we are influenced—and sometimes strongly—by our personal bias; and we give our best thoughts to those ideas which we have to defend.
(Said in Boston, 1929.) As quoted by E. Snorrason, 'Krogh, Schack August Steenberg', in Charles Coulton Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1973), Vol 7, 503.
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We receive it as a fact, that some minds are so constituted as absolutely to require for their nurture the severe logic of the abstract sciences; that rigorous sequence of ideas which leads from the premises to the conclusion, by a path, arduous and narrow, it may be, and which the youthful reason may find it hard to mount, but where it cannot stray; and on which, if it move at all, it must move onward and upward… . Even for intellects of a different character, whose natural aptitude is for moral evidence and those relations of ideas which are perceived and appreciated by taste, the study of the exact sciences may be recommended as the best protection against the errors into which they are most likely to fall. Although the study of language is in many respects no mean exercise in logic, yet it must be admitted that an eminently practical mind is hardly to be formed without mathematical training.
In Orations and Speeches (1870), Vol. 8, 510.
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What intellectual phenomenon can be older, or more oft repeated, than the story of a large research program that impaled itself upon a false central assumption accepted by all practitioners? Do we regard all people who worked within such traditions as dishonorable fools? What of the scientists who assumed that the continents were stable, that the hereditary material was protein, or that all other galaxies lay within the Milky Way? These false and abandoned efforts were pursued with passion by brilliant and honorable scientists. How many current efforts, now commanding millions of research dollars and the full attention of many of our best scientists, will later be exposed as full failures based on false premises?
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What is education? Teaching a man what his powers and relations are, and how he can best extend, strengthen, and employ them.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lxi.
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When it’s too easy to get money, then you get a lot of noise mixed in with the real innovation and entrepreneurship. Tough times bring out the best parts of Silicon Valley
As quoted by Jessica Guynn, reporting on a media roundtable at a conference on Google’s campus, in 'Google’s Schmidt, Page and Brin hold court at Zeitgeist', Los Angeles Times (17 Sep 2008). On latimesblogs.latimes.com webpage.
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When the world is mad, a mathematician may find in mathematics an incomparable anodyne. For mathematics is, of all the arts and sciences, the most austere and the most remote, and a mathematician should be of all men the one who can most easily take refuge where, as Bertrand Russell says, “one at least of our nobler impulses can best escape from the dreary exile of the actual world.”
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 43.
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When you do not know what you are doing and what you are doing is the best - that is inspiration.
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Whenever science makes a discovery, the devil grabs it while the angels are debating the best way to use it.
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Which do I consider my greatest invention? … I like the phonograph best … because I love music. And then it has brought so much joy into millions of homes all over this country, and, indeed, all over the world.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 86.
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While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.
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Why do they [Americans] quarrel, why do they hate Negroes, Indians, even Germans, why do they not have science and poetry commensurate with themselves, why are there so many frauds and so much nonsense? I cannot soon give a solution to these questions ... It was clear that in the United States there was a development not of the best, but of the middle and worst sides of European civilization; the notorious general voting, the tendency to politics... all the same as in Europe. A new dawn is not to be seen on this side of the ocean.
The Oil Industry in the North American State of Pennsylvania and in the Caucasus (1877). Translated by H. M. Leicester, from the original in Russian, in 'Mendeleev's Visit to America', Journal of Chemical Education (1957), 34, 333.
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You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don’t give up.
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[The best motivator for employees is] progress.
In Issie Lapowsky, 'Scott Belsky', Inc. (Nov 2013), 140. Biography in Context,
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[To give insight to statistical information] it occurred to me, that making an appeal to the eye when proportion and magnitude are concerned, is the best and readiest method of conveying a distinct idea.
In The Statistical Breviary: Shewing, on a Principle Entirely New, the Resources of Every State and Kingdom in Europe (1801), 2.
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~~[Unverified]~~ Nuance: for best results apply with sledge hammer.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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Euclid
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- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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