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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index B > Category: Better

Better Quotes (486 quotes)

... finding that in [the Moon] there is a provision of light and heat; also in appearance, a soil proper for habitation fully as good as ours, if not perhaps better who can say that it is not extremely probable, nay beyond doubt, that there must be inhabitants on the Moon of some kind or other?
Letter to Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne (1780). Quoted in Patrick Moore, Patrick Moore on the Moon (2006), 144.
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... in time of war, soldiers, however sensible, care a great deal more on some occasions about slaking their thirst than about the danger of enteric fever.
[Better known as typhoid, the disease is often spread by drinking contaminated water.]
Parliamentaray Debate (21 Mar 1902). Quoted in Winston Churchill and Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469.
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...for our wisdom is better than the strength of men or of horses. ... nor is it right to prefer strength to excellent wisdom. For if there should be in the city [any athlete whose skill] is honoured more than strength ... the city would not on that account be any better governed.
Quoted in Arthur Fairbanks (ed. And trans.), The First Philosophers of Greece (1898), 73, fragment 19.
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...sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.
Journal entry (23 Apr 1838), Ralph Waldo Emerson and Joel Porte (ed.), Emerson in His Journals (1960, 1982), 185.
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...to many it is not knowledge but the quest for knowledge that gives greater interest to thought—to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.
Last sentences, Physics and Philosophy (1943, 2003), 217
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A stands for atom; it is so small No one has ever seen it at all.
B stands for bomb; the bombs are much bigger,
So, brother, do not be too fast on the trigger.
H has become a most ominous letter.
It means something bigger if not something better.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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Ce grand ouvrage, toujours plus merveilleux à mesure qu’il est plus connu, nous donne une si grande idée de son ouvrier, que nous en sentons notre esprit accablé d’admiration et de respect.
[The Universe] This great work, always more amazing in proportion as it is better known, raises in us so grand an idea of its Maker, that we find our mind overwhelmed with feelings of wonder and adoration.
Original French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed.) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 119-120.
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Publius Ovid quote Some wounds are made worse
Wall mural uncovered at Pompeii shows a Roman army medic using pinchers to remove an object from a soldier’s wound from before 79 a.d. (source)
Curando fieri quaedam majora videmus vulnera, quae melius non tetigisse fuit.
Some wounds are made worse by treatment, as we see: it had been better not to touch them.
From Epistolae ex Ponto, III., 7, 25. Original Latin and translation in Arthur Leslie Wheeler (trans.), Ovid: With an English Translation: Tristia, Ex Ponto (1939), 416-417. Also seen translated as “Some wounds grow worse beneath the surgeon’s hand; ’Twere better that they were not touched at all” as in Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1897), 39. [However, note that this is an artistic translation, not very literal; the words for surgeon or hand do not appear in the Latin text. The Google translation engine outputs this translation of the Latin: “We see greater things to be done taking care of the kind of wounds, which would be better not to touch them.” —Webmaster]
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Dinosaur: I plan to use punctuated equilibrium to turn this zit into a third eye.
Catbert: That's not a natural advantage. You'd better stay away from the fitter dinosaurs.
Dilbert comic strip (30 Aug 2002).
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Every teacher certainly should know something of non-euclidean geometry. Thus, it forms one of the few parts of mathematics which, at least in scattered catch-words, is talked about in wide circles, so that any teacher may be asked about it at any moment. … Imagine a teacher of physics who is unable to say anything about Röntgen rays, or about radium. A teacher of mathematics who could give no answer to questions about non-euclidean geometry would not make a better impression.
On the other hand, I should like to advise emphatically against bringing non-euclidean into regular school instruction (i.e., beyond occasional suggestions, upon inquiry by interested pupils), as enthusiasts are always recommending. Let us be satisfied if the preceding advice is followed and if the pupils learn to really understand euclidean geometry. After all, it is in order for the teacher to know a little more than the average pupil.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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Goldsmith: If you put a tub full of blood into a stable, the horses are like to go mad.
Johnson: I doubt that.
Goldsmith: Nay, sir, it is a fact well authenticated.
Thrale: You had better prove it before you put it into your book on natural history. You may do it in my stable if you will.
Johnson: Nay, sir, I would not have him prove it. If he is content to take his information from others, he may get through his book with little trouble, and without much endangering his reputation. But if he makes experiments for so comprehensive a book as his, there would be no end to them; his erroneous assertions would then fall upon himself: and he might be blamed for not having made experiments as to every particular.
In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works (1785, 1830), 229-230.
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I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not. The importance of the strength of our conviction is only to provide a proportionally strong incentive to find out if the hypothesis will stand up to critical examination.
In Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 39.
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Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout. Car il est bien plus beau de savoir quelque chose de tout que de savoir rout d'une chose; cette universalité est la plus belle. Si on pouvait avoir les deux, encore mieux.
Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything, For it is far better to know something about everything than to know all about one thing.
Pensées. Quoted in Nigel Rees, Brewer's Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (2006), 249.
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Wer Wissenschaft und Kunst besitzt,
Hat auch Religion;
Wer jene beiden nicht besitzt,
Der habe Religion

He who possesses science and art,
Possesses religion as well;
He who possesses neither of these,
Had better have religion.
'Gedichte' in Goethes Werke (1948, 1952), Vol. 1, 367. Cited in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (2002), 79.
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[On President Bush's plan to get to Mars in 10 years] Stupid. Robots would do a better job and be much cheaper because you don't have to bring them back.
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
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[When questioned on his longevity] First of all, I selected my ancestors very wisely. ... They were long-lived, healthy people. Then, as a chemist, I know how to eat, how to exercise, keep my blood circulating. ... I don't worry. I don't get angry at people. I don't worry about things I can't help. I do what I can to make the world a better place to live, but I don't complain if things aren't right. As a scientist I take the world as I find it.
[About celebrating his 77th birthday by swimming a half mile in 22 minutes] I used swim fins and webbed gloves because a man of intelligence should apply his power efficiently, not just churn the water.
As quoted in obituary by Wallace Turner, 'Joel Hildebrand, 101', New York Times (3 May 1983), D27.
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SCIENCE: a way of finding things out and then making them work. Science explains what is happening around us the whole time. So does RELIGION, but science is better because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it's wrong.
Wings (1990, 2007), 147.
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A boy is better unborn than untaught.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 27
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A chess problem is genuine mathematics, but it is in some way “trivial” mathematics. However, ingenious and intricate, however original and surprising the moves, there is something essential lacking. Chess problems are unimportant. The best mathematics is serious as well as beautiful—“important” if you like, but the word is very ambiguous, and “serious” expresses what I mean much better.
'A Mathematician's Apology', in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), 2029.
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A conceptual scheme is never discarded merely because of a few stubborn facts with which it cannot be reconciled; a conceptual scheme is either modified or replaced by a better one, never abandoned with nothing left to take its place.
Science and Common Sense (1951), 173.
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A good mathematical joke is better, and better mathematics, than a dozen mediocre papers.
In A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953), reissued as Béla Bollobás, Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 24.
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Carolus Linnaeus quote: A herbarium is better than any illustration; every botanist should make one.
A herbarium is better than any illustration; every botanist should make one.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 11. Trans. Frans A. Statfleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 38.
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A laboratory is only a place where one may better set up and control conditions.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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A leg of mutton is better than nothing,
Nothing is better than Heaven,
Therefore a leg of mutton is better than Heaven.
Aphorism 21 in Notebook C (1772-1773), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 35.
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A lucky physician is better than a learned one.
In Dwight Edwards Marvin, The Antiquity of Proverbs (1922), 238.
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A man who writes a great deal and says little that is new writes himself into a daily declining reputation. When he wrote less he stood higher in people’s estimation, even though there was nothing in what he wrote. The reason is that then they still expected better things of him in the future, whereas now they can view the whole progression.
Aphorism 43 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 50.
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A man would have to be an idiot to write a book of laws for an apple tree telling it to bear apples and not thorns, seeing that the apple-tree will do it naturally and far better than any laws or teaching can prescribe.
On Secular Authority (1523). In Harro Höpfl (ed.), Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority (1991), 9.
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A mile and a half from town, I came to a grove of tall cocoanut trees, with clean, branchless stems reaching straight up sixty or seventy feet and topped with a spray of green foliage sheltering clusters of cocoanuts—not more picturesque than a forest of colossal ragged parasols, with bunches of magnified grapes under them, would be. I once heard a grouty northern invalid say that a cocoanut tree might be poetical, possibly it was; but it looked like a feather-duster struck by lightning. I think that describes it better than a picture—and yet, without any question, there is something fascinating about a cocoanut tree—and graceful, too.
In Roughing It (1913), 184-85.
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A scientist lives with all of reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it and eventually to love it.
…...
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A scientist lives with all reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it, and eventually to love it.
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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A skilful leech is better far than half a hundred men of war.
…...
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A slave world is not worth preserving. Better be lifeless like the cold moon, or primitively vegetal like desolate Mars, than be a planet populated by social robots.
From speech (Oct 1947), 'Peace or Pieces: or Who Amends the Golden Rule'. As reprinted in Henry Goddard Leach (ed.), The American-Scandinavian Review (1950), 37-38, 34. As quoted in 'Dr. Harlow Shapley Dies at 86; Dean of American Astronomers', New York Times (21 Oct 1972), 69.
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A smart mother makes often a better diagnosis than a poor doctor.
…...
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A thesis has to be presentable… but don't attach too much importance to it. If you do succeed in the sciences, you will do later on better things and then it will be of little moment. If you don’t succeed in the sciences, it doesn’t matter at all.
Quoted in Leidraad (1985), 2. (This is a periodical of the University of Leiden, Holland.)
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After a tremendous task has been begun in our time, first by Copernicus and then by many very learned mathematicians, and when the assertion that the earth moves can no longer be considered something new, would it not be much better to pull the wagon to its goal by our joint efforts, now that we have got it underway, and gradually, with powerful voices, to shout down the common herd, which really does not weigh arguments very carefully?
Letter to Galileo (13 Oct 1597). In James Bruce Ross (ed.) and Mary Martin (ed., trans.), 'Comrades in the Pursuit of Truth', The Portable Renaissance Reader (1953, 1981), 599. As quoted and cited in Merry E. Wiesner, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (2013), 377.
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All your names I and my friend approve of or nearly all as to sense & expression, but I am frightened by their length & sound when compounded. As you will see I have taken deoxide and skaiode because they agree best with my natural standard East and West. I like Anode & Cathode better as to sound, but all to whom I have shewn them have supposed at first that by Anode I meant No way.
Letter (3 May 1834) to William Whewell, who coined the terms. In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1993), Vol. 2, 181. Note: Here “No way” is presumably not an idiomatic exclamation, but a misinterpretation from the Greek prefix, -a “not”or “away from,” and hodos meaning “way.” The Greek ἄνοδος anodos means “way up” or “ascent.”
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Almost right is no better than wrong.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 189.
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Alphonse of Castile is reported to have said that if he had had the making of the universe he would have done it much better. And I think so too. Instead of making a man go through the degradation of faculties and death, he should continually improve with age, and then be translated from this world to a superior planet, where he should begin life with the knowledge gained here, and so on. That would be to my mind, as an old man, a more satisfactory way of conducting affairs
Address, in 'Report to the Chemical Society's Jubilee', Nature (26 Mar 1891), 43, 493.
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Although man is not armed by nature nor is naturally swiftest in flight, yet he has something better by far—reason. For by the possession of this function he exceeds the beasts to such a degree that he subdues. … You see, therefore, how much the gift of reason surpasses mere physical equipment.
As given in Toby E. Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West (2003), 102, citing Tina Stiefel, Science, Reason, and Faith in the Twelfth Century (1976), 3.
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An aching tooth is better out than in,
To lose a rotting member is a gain.
'Man', Poetical Fragments
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An experiment is an observation that can be repeated, isolated and varied. The more frequently you can repeat an observation, the more likely are you to see clearly what is there and to describe accurately what you have seen. The more strictly you can isolate an observation, the easier does your task of observation become, and the less danger is there of your being led astray by irrelevant circumstances, or of placing emphasis on the wrong point. The more widely you can vary an observation, the more clearly will the uniformity of experience stand out, and the better is your chance of discovering laws.
In A Text-Book of Psychology (1909), 20.
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An idea must not be condemned for being a little shy and incoherent; all new ideas are shy when introduced first among our old ones. We should have patience and see whether the incoherency is likely to wear off or to wear on, in which latter case the sooner we get rid of them the better.
In Samuel Butler and Henry Festing Jones (ed.), 'Higgledy-Piggledy', The Note-books of Samuel Butler (1912, 1917), 216-217.
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An idea must not be condemned for being a little shy and incoherent; all new ideas are shy when introduced first among our old ones. We should have patience and see whether the incoherency is likely to wear off or to wear on, in which latter case the sooner we get rid of them the better.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 216-217.
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An Individual, whatever species it might be, is nothing in the Universe. A hundred, a thousand individuals are still nothing. The species are the only creatures of Nature, perpetual creatures, as old and as permanent as it. In order to judge it better, we no longer consider the species as a collection or as a series of similar individuals, but as a whole independent of number, independent of time, a whole always living, always the same, a whole which has been counted as one in the works of creation, and which, as a consequence, makes only a unity in Nature.
'De la Nature: Seconde Vue', Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1765), Vol. 13, i. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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An unelectrified atom is so elusive that unless more than a million million are present we have no means sufficiently sensitive to detect them, or, to put it another way, unless we had a better test for a man than for an unelectrified molecule, we should be unable to find out that the earth was inhabited. … A billion unelectrified atoms may escape our observation, whereas a dozen or so electrified ones are detected without difficulty.
From the Romanes Lecture (10 Jun 1914) delivered in the Sheldonian Theatre, published as The Atomic Theory (1914), 9.
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And let me adde, that he that throughly understands the nature of Ferments and Fermentations, shall probably be much better able than he that Ignores them, to give a fair account of divers Phænomena of severall diseases (as well Feavers and others) which will perhaps be never throughly understood, without an insight into the doctrine of Fermentation.
Essay 2, 'Offering some Particulars relating to the Pathologicall Part of Physick', in the Second Part of Some Considerations Touching The Usefulnesse of Naturall Philosophy (1663, 1664), 43.
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And science, we should insist, better than other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search to objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive, not tolerating any lapse from precision or neglect of any anomaly, fearing only prejudice and preconception, accepting nature’s answers humbly and with courage, and giving them to the world with an unflinching fidelity. The world cannot afford to lose such a contribution to the moral framework of its civilisation.
Concluding statements of Pilgrim Trust Lecture (22 Oct 1946) delivered at National Academy of Science Washington, DC. Published in 'The Freedom of Science', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (25 Feb 1947), 91, No. 1, 72.
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And therefore, sir, as you desire to live,
A day or two before your laxative,
Take just three worms, nor under nor above,
Because the gods unequal numbers love.
These digestives prepare you for your purge,
Of fumetery, centaury, and spurge;
And of ground-ivy add a leaf or two.
All which within our yard or garden grow.
Eat these, and be, my lord, of better cheer:
Your father’s son was never born to fear.
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And we daily in our experiments electrise bodies plus or minus, as we think proper. [These terms we may use till your Philosophers give us better.] To electrise plus or minus, no more needs to be known than this, that the parts of the Tube or Sphere, that are rubb’d, do, in the Instant of Friction, attract the Electrical Fire, and therefore take it from the Thin rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the Friction upon them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received, to any Body that has less.
Letter 25 May 1747. Quoted in I. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton: An Enquiry into Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science and Franklin’s Work in Electricity as an Example Thereof (1956), 439.
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Any theory is better than no theory.
In Barry G. Firkin, Judith A. Whitworth, Dictionary of Medical Eponyms (1996), 5.
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Are we using science in ways that it wasn't intended to, in which case we should be a little careful, or are we using faith in ways that faith wasn't really designed for? There are certain questions that are better answered by one approach than the other, and if you start mixing that up, then you end up in … conflict.
From video of interview with Huffington post reporter at the 2014 Davos Annual Meeting, World Economic Forum (25 Jan 2014). On web page 'Dr. Francis Collins: “There Is An Uneasiness” About Evolution'
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As a confirmed astronomer
I’m always for a better sky.
From 'The Objection to Being Stepped On', collected in Edward Connery Latham (ed.), The Poetry of Robert Frost (1971), 451.
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As every circumstance relating to so capital a discovery as this (the greatest, perhaps, that has been made in the whole compass of philosophy, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton) cannot but give pleasure to all my readers, I shall endeavour to gratify them with the communication of a few particulars which I have from the best authority. The Doctor [Benjamin Franklin], after having published his method of verifying his hypothesis concerning the sameness of electricity with the matter lightning, was waiting for the erection of a spire in Philadelphia to carry his views into execution; not imagining that a pointed rod, of a moderate height, could answer the purpose; when it occurred to him, that, by means of a common kite, he could have a readier and better access to the regions of thunder than by any spire whatever. Preparing, therefore, a large silk handkerchief, and two cross sticks, of a proper length, on which to extend it, he took the opportunity of the first approaching thunder storm to take a walk into a field, in which there was a shed convenient for his purpose. But dreading the ridicule which too commonly attends unsuccessful attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to no body but his son, who assisted him in raising the kite.
The kite being raised, a considerable time elapsed before there was any appearance of its being electrified. One very promising cloud passed over it without any effect; when, at length, just as he was beginning to despair of his contrivance, he observed some loose threads of the hempen string to stand erect, and to avoid one another, just as if they had been suspended on a common conductor. Struck with this promising appearance, he inmmediately presented his knuckle to the key, and (let the reader judge of the exquisite pleasure he must have felt at that moment) the discovery was complete. He perceived a very evident electric spark. Others succeeded, even before the string was wet, so as to put the matter past all dispute, and when the rain had wetted the string, he collected electric fire very copiously. This happened in June 1752, a month after the electricians in France had verified the same theory, but before he had heard of any thing that they had done.
The History and Present State of Electricity, with Original Experiments (1767, 3rd ed. 1775), Vol. 1, 216-7.
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As for France and England, with all their pre-eminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other of pirates. If science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine, and destitution of national morality, I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest, and estimable as our neighboring savages are.
Letter (21 Jan 1812) to John Adams. Collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers (1829), Vol. 4, 173.
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As for those wingy mysteries in divinity, and airy subtleties in religion, which have unhinged the brains of better heads, they never stretched the pia mater of mine: methinks there be not impossibilities enough in Religion for an active faith.
In T. Chapman (ed.), Religio Medici (1643, 1831), part 1, sect. 9, 17.
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As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the other day, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read, as part of his duty, the words, 'If the dead rise not again, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all that well best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to the source from whence it came, the cause of a great happiness, still retaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and will spring from that cause, I am to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovel in bestiality? Why, the very apes know better, and if you shoot their young, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in a gorge.
Letter to Charles Kingsley (23 Sep 1860). In L. Huxley, The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1903), Vol. 1, 318.
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As never before, the work of the engineer is basic to the kind of society to which our best efforts are committed. Whether it be city planning, improved health care in modern facilities, safer and more efficient transportation, new techniques of communication, or better ways to control pollution and dispose of wastes, the role of the engineer—his initiative, creative ability, and hard work—is at the root of social progress.
Remarks for National Engineers Week (1971). As quoted in Consulting Engineer (1971), 36, 18.
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As the saying goes, the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; we transitioned to better solutions. The same opportunity lies before us with energy efficiency and clean energy.
In letter (1 Feb 2013) to Energy Department employees announcing his decision not to serve a second term.
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Beasts have not the high advantages which we possess; but they have some which we have not. They have not our hopes, but then they have not our fears; they are subject like us to death, but it is without being aware of it; most of them are better able to preserve themselves than we are, and make a less bad use of their passions.
In Edwin Davies, Other Men's Minds, Or, Seven Thousand Choice Extracts (1800), 55.
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Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.
In 'Philosophy, Religion, and So Forth', A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (1989), 12.
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Better far off to leave half the ruins and nine-tenths of the churches unseen and to see well the rest; to see them not once, but again and often again; to watch them, to learn them, to live with them, to love them, till they have become a part of life and life’s recollections.
…...
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Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry.
Anonymous
Advertising campaign slogan for the DuPont Company from 1935.
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Better to hunt in fields, for health unbought, Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught, The wise, for cure, on exercise depend; God never made his work for man to mend.
'To my Honoured Kinsman, John Dryden', The English Poets (1901), Vol. 2, 491.
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Better to take pleasure in a rose than to put its root under a microscope.
In Oscariana: Epigrams (1895), 27.
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Better to withdraw confidence than measure it.
From the original French, “Mieux vaut retirer sa confiance que la mesurer”, in Actes de l'Académie Nationale des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Bordeaux (1872), 479. English as in Franz Liszt, The Letters of Franz Liszt to Olga Von Meyendorff (1979), 82.
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Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.
From Essays on Education. In Alfred Whitney Griswold, 1906-1963: In Memoriam (1964), 24.
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But for the persistence of a student of this university in urging upon me his desire to study with me the modern algebra I should never have been led into this investigation; and the new facts and principles which I have discovered in regard to it (important facts, I believe), would, so far as I am concerned, have remained still hidden in the womb of time. In vain I represented to this inquisitive student that he would do better to take up some other subject lying less off the beaten track of study, such as the higher parts of the calculus or elliptic functions, or the theory of substitutions, or I wot not what besides. He stuck with perfect respectfulness, but with invincible pertinacity, to his point. He would have the new algebra (Heaven knows where he had heard about it, for it is almost unknown in this continent), that or nothing. I was obliged to yield, and what was the consequence? In trying to throw light upon an obscure explanation in our text-book, my brain took fire, I plunged with re-quickened zeal into a subject which I had for years abandoned, and found food for thoughts which have engaged my attention for a considerable time past, and will probably occupy all my powers of contemplation advantageously for several months to come.
In Johns Hopkins Commemoration Day Address, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 3, 76.
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But in the present century, thanks in good part to the influence of Hilbert, we have come to see that the unproved postulates with which we start are purely arbitrary. They must be consistent, they had better lead to something interesting.
In A History of Geometrical Methods (1940, reprint 2003), 423.
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But there is another alchemy, operative and practical, which teaches how to make the noble metals and colours and many other things better and more abundantly by art than they are made in nature. And science of this kind is greater than all those preceding because it produces greater utilities. For not only can it yield wealth and very many other things for the public welfare, but it also teaches how to discover such things as are capable of prolonging human life for much longer periods than can be accomplished by nature … Therefore this science has special utilities of that nature, while nevertheless it confirms theoretical alchemy through its works.
Opus Tertium [1266-1268], chapter 12, quoted in A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo (1959), Vol. I, 69.
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But we shall not satisfy ourselves simply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill. We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forev
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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But, as Bacon has well pointed out, truth is more likely to come out of error, if this is clear and definite, than out of confusion, and my experience teaches me that it is better to hold a well-understood and intelligible opinion, even if it should turn out to be wrong, than to be content with a muddle-headed mixture of conflicting views, sometimes miscalled impartiality, and often no better than no opinion at all.
Principles of General Physiology (1915), x.
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Butterflies may be better indicators of the health of our environment than birds.
In Roger Tory Peterson's Dozen Birding Hot Spots (1976), 202.
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By the year 2070 we cannot say, or it would be imbecile to do so, that any man alive could understand Shakespearean experience better than Shakespeare, whereas any decent eighteen-year-old student of physics will know more physics than Newton.
'The Case of Leavis and the Serious Case’, Times Literary Supplement (9 Jul 1970), 737-740. Collected in Public Affairs (1971), 95.
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Calculating machines do sums better than even the cleverest people… As arithmetic has grown easier, it has come to be less respected.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 5. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 46.
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Casting off the dark fog of verbal philosophy and vulgar medicine, which inculcate names alone ... I tried a series of experiments to explain more clearly many phenomena, particularly those of physiology. In order that I might subject as far as possible the reasonings of the Galenists and Peripatetics to sensory criteria, I began, after trying experiments, to write dialogues in which a Galenist adduced the better-known and stronger reasons and arguments; these a mechanist surgeon refuted by citing to the contrary the experiments I had tried, and a third, neutral interlocutor weighed the reasons advanced by both and provided an opportunity for further progress.
'Malpighi at Pisa 1656-1659', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 1, 155-6.
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Computers are better than we are at arithmetic, not because computers are so good at it, but because we are so bad at it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 51.
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Computers are better than we are at arithmetic, not because computers are so good at it, but because we are so bad at it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 51.
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Considered in its entirety, psychoanalysis won’t do. It is an end product, moreover, like a dinosaur or a zeppelin, no better theory can ever be erected on its ruins, which will remain for ever one of the saddest and strangest of all landmarks in the history of twentieth century thought.
From 'Further Comments on Psychoanalysis', The Hope of Progress: A Scientist Looks at Problems in Philosophy, Literature and Science (1973), 69.
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Coolidge is a better example of evolution than either Bryan or Darrow, for he knows when not to talk, which is the biggest asset the monkey possesses over the human.
[Referring to the Scopes trial, with Darrow defending a teacher being prosecuted for teaching evolution in the state of Tennessee.]
'Rogers Thesaurus'. Saturday Review (25 Aug 1962). In Will Rogers' Weekly Articles (1981), Vol. 2, 66.
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Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before. Some day, I doubt not, we shall arrive at an understanding of the evolution of the aesthetic faculty; but all the understanding in the world will neither increase nor diminish the force of the intuition that this is beautiful and that is ugly.
'Evolution and Ethics' (1893). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 80.
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Damn the Solar System. Bad light; planets too distant; pestered with comets; feeble contrivance; could make a better myself.
Attributed.
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Darwin's characteristic perspicacity is nowhere better illustrated than in his prophecy of the reaction of the world of science. He admitted at once that it would be impossible to convince those older men '...whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts, all viewed ... from a point of view directly opposite to mine ... A few naturalists endowed with much flexibility of mind and who have already begun to doubt the immutability of species, may be influenced by this volume; but I look with confidence to the young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides with equal impartiality.
'The Reaction of American scientists to Darwinism', American Historical Review 1932), 38, 687. Quoted in David L. Hull, Science as Process (), 379.
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Despair is better treated with hope, not dope.
Lancet (1958), 1, 954.
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Do not … keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play. That will also better enable you to discern the natural capacities of each
Plato
From The Republic 7 536e-537a, as translated by Paul Shorey (1930).
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Do the day’s work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don’t be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don’t be a demagogue. Don’t hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don’t hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don’t hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.
Speech (7 Jan 1914), to the State Senate of Massachusetts upon election as its president. Collected in Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts (1919, 2004), 7-8.
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Doctor, no medicine.—We are machines made to live—organized expressly for that purpose.—Such is our nature.—Do not counteract the living principle.—Leave it at liberty to defend itself, and it will do better than your drugs.
As given in Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.
Lao Tzu
Tao Te Ching. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 183
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Dr Ian G. MacDonald, a Los Angeles surgeon who smokes (but doesn't inhale), contends that “For the majority of people, the use of tobacco has a beneficial effect, far better for you than taking tranquilizers.”
Quoted in Newsweek (18 Nov 1969), 62, Pt. 2, 66. A misguided comment, often seen as the shortened quote “For the majority ... beneficial effect” in a list of regrettable remarks, without the fuller context of the quote given here. MacDonald was quoted in the article to be an example that physicians were not unanimous in their attitudes against smoking. The quote is an opinion expressed to the reporter; it was not the result of scholarly research.
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During the eight days I spent in space, I realized that mankind needs height primarily to better know our long-suffering Earth, to see what cannot be seen close up. Not just to love her beauty, but also to ensure that we do not bring even the slightest harm to the natural world
Pham Tuan
In Jack Hassard and Julie Weisberg , Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project (1999), 40.
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During the last two centuries and a half, physical knowledge has been gradually made to rest upon a basis which it had not before. It has become mathematical. The question now is, not whether this or that hypothesis is better or worse to the pure thought, but whether it accords with observed phenomena in those consequences which can be shown necessarily to follow from it, if it be true
In Augustus De Morgan and Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (ed.), A Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 2.
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Each patient ought to feel somewhat the better after the physician’s visit, irrespective of the nature of the illness.
…...
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Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army. If we retrench the wages of the schoolmaster, we must raise those of the recruiting sergeant.
Given as a column-end filler in The Farmer's Cabinet, and American Herd Book (15 Mar 1839), Vol. 3, No. 8, 247. This is the earliest occurrence yet found by the editor. If you know the primary source, please contact the Webmaster.
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ELECTRICITY, n. The power that causes all natural phenomena not known to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning, and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most picturesque incidents in that great and good man's career. The memory of Dr. Franklin is justly held in great reverence, particularly in France, where a waxen effigy of him was recently on exhibition, bearing the following touching account of his life and services to science:
Monsieur Franqulin, inventor of electricity. This illustrious savant, after having made several voyages around the world, died on the Sandwich Islands and was devoured by savages, of whom not a single fragment was ever recovered.
Electricity seems destined to play a most important part in the arts and industries. The question of its economical application to some purposes is still unsettled, but experiment has already proved that it will propel a street car better than a gas jet and give more light than a horse.
The Cynic's Word Book (1906), 87. Also published later as The Devil's Dictionary.
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Engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the use and the convenience of people. In its modern form engineering involves people, money, materials, machines, and energy. It is differentiated from science because it is primarily concerned with how to direct to useful and economical ends the natural phenomena which scientists discover and formulate into acceptable theories. Engineering therefore requires above all the creative imagination to innovate useful applications of natural phenomena. It seeks newer, cheaper, better means of using natural sources of energy and materials.
In McGraw Hill, Science and Technology Encyclopedia
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Every man has some forte something he can do better than he can do anything else. Many men, however, never find the job they are best fitted for. And often this is because they do not think enough. Too many men drift lazily into any job, suited or unsuited for them; and when they don’t get along well they blame everybody and everything except themselves.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle; when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.
Anonymous
As seen in The Economist (1985), 296, 37. Sometimes cited in other sources as an African proverb. For example, referred as from a poster of an old African proverb in Venise T. Berry, So Good (1996), 241.
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Every species of plant and animal is determined by a pool of germ plasm that has been most carefully selected over a period of hundreds of millions of years. We can understand now why it is that mutations in these carefully selected organisms almost invariably are detrimental.The situation can be suggested by a statement by Dr. J.B.S. Haldane: “My clock is not keeping perfect time. It is conceivable that it will run better if I shoot a bullet through it; but it is much more probable that it will stop altogether.” Professor George Beadle, in this connection, has asked: “What is the chance that a typographical error would improve Hamlet?”
In No More War! (1958), Chap. 4, 53.
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Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.
In 'The Future of Data Analysis', Annals of Mathematical Statistics (1962), 33, No. 1, 13-14.
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Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much or suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Speech (15 Apr 1899), 'The Strenuous Life', to the Hamilton Club of Chicago. Collected in Murat Halstead (ed.), The Life of Theodore Roosevelt: Twenty-fifth President of the United States (1902), 161.
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Five per cent vision is better than no vision at all. Five per cent hearing is better than no hearing at all. Five per cent flight efficiency is better than no flight at all. It is thoroughly believable that every organ or apparatus that we actually see is the product of a smooth trajectory through animal space, a trajectory in which every intermediate stage assisted survival and reproduction.
[Rebutting the Creationist assertion that fully developed organs could not have arisen 'by chance.']
The Blind Watchmaker (1986, 1996) 90-91.
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Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul and can never be taken in overdoses.
From Paper (18 Jun 1901), read before the California Academy of Sciences, published in 'The Making of New Flowers', American Gardening (13 Jul 1901), 22, No. 342, 489.
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Follow Descartes! Do not give up the religion of your youth until you get a better one.
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For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible! Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have, any hold on him. A God who rewards and punishes is for him unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for the movements which it makes. Science, in consequence, has been accused of undermining morals—but wrongly. The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.
From 'Religion and Science', The New York Times Magazine, (9 Nov 1930), 1. Article in full, reprinted in Edward H. Cotton (ed.), Has Science Discovered God? A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931), 101. The wording differs significantly from the version collected in 'Religion And Science', Ideas And Opinions (1954), 39, giving its source as: “Written expressly for the New York Times Magazine. Appeared there November 9, 1930 (pp. 1-4). The German text was published in the Berliner Tageblatt, November 11, 1930.” This variant form of the quote from the book begins, “The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation….” and is also on the Albert Einstein Quotes page on this website. As for why the difference, Webmaster speculates the book form editor perhaps used a revised translation from Einstein’s German article.
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For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
…...
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For the better part of my last semester at Garden City High, I constructed a physical pendulum and used it to make a “precision” measurement of gravity. The years of experience building things taught me skills that were directly applicable to the construction of the pendulum. Twenty-five years later, I was to develop a refined version of this measurement using laser-cooled atoms in an atomic fountain interferometer.
[Outcome of high school physics teacher, Thomas Miner, encouraging Chu's ambitious laboratory project.]
Autobiography in Gösta Ekspong (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1996-2000 (2002), 116.
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Forty years ago the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead thought it self-evident that you would get a good government if you took power out of the hands of the acquisitive and gave it to the learned and the cultivated. At present, a child in kindergarten knows better than that.
In Before the Sabbath (1979), 40-41.
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Furthermore, it’s equally evident that what goes on is actually one degree better than self-reproduction, for organisms appear to have gotten more elaborate in the course of time. Today's organisms are phylogenetically descended from others which were vastly simpler than they are, so much simpler, in fact, that it’s inconceivable, how any kind of description of the latter, complex organism could have existed in the earlier one. It’s not easy to imagine in what sense a gene, which is probably a low order affair, can contain a description of the human being which will come from it. But in this case you can say that since the gene has its effect only within another human organism, it probably need not contain a complete description of what is to happen, but only a few cues for a few alternatives. However, this is not so in phylogenetic evolution. That starts from simple entities, surrounded by an unliving amorphous milieu, and produce, something more complicated. Evidently, these organisms have the ability to produce something more complicated than themselves.
From lecture series on self-replicating machines at the University of Illinois, Lecture 5 (Dec 1949), 'Re-evaluation of the Problems of Complicated Automata—Problems of Hierarchy and Evolution', Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (1966).
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Geology does better in reclothing dry bones and revealing lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and beds of iron; astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven than in teaching navigation; surgery better in investigating organiation than in setting limbs; only it is ordained that, for our encouragement, every step we make in science adds something to its practical applicabilities.
Modern Painters (1852), Part 3, 8-9.
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Geology is rapidly taking its place as an introduction to the higher history of man. If the author has sought to exalt a favorite science, it has been with the desire that man—in whom geological history had its consummation, the prophecies of the successive ages their fulfilment—might better comprehend his own nobility and the true purpose of his existence.
Concluding remark in Preface (1 Nov 1862), in Manual of Geology, Treating of the Principles of the Science (1863), ix.
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Given one well-trained physician of the highest type and he will do better work for a thousand people than ten specialists.
From speech 'In the Time of Henry Jacob Bigelow', given to the Boston Surgical Society, Medalist Meeting (6 Jun 1921). Printed in Journal of the Medical Association (1921), 77, 601.
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God has not revealed all things to man and has entrusted us with but a fragment of His mighty work. But He who directs all things, who has established and laid the foundation of the world, who has clothed Himself with Creation, He is greater and better than that which He has wrought. Hidden from our eyes, He can only be reached by the spirit.
From Quaestiones Naturales as translated in Charles Singer, From Magic to Science (1958), 57.
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God’s interest in the human race is nowhere better evinced than in obstetrics.
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Good methods can teach us to develop and use to better purpose the faculties with which nature has endowed us, while poor methods may prevent us from turning them to good account. Thus the genius of inventiveness, so precious in the sciences, may be diminished or even smothered by a poor method, while a good method may increase and develop it.
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Good writers indulge their audience; great writers know better.
In The Well-Spoken Thesaurus (2011), 117.
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Had I been present at the Creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.
Remarking on the complexity of Ptolemaic model of the universe after it was explained to him.
Footnote: Carlyle says, in his History of Frederick the Great, book ii. chap. vii. that this saying of Alphonso about Ptolemy's astronomy, 'that it seemed a crank machine; that it was pity the Creator had not taken advice,' is still remembered by mankind, — this and no other of his many sayings.
In John Bartlett and Nathan Haskell Dole (Ed.), Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources (1914), 954.
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Hands-on experience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist. Better to be an untutored savage for a while, not to know the names or anatomical detail. Better to spend long stretches of time just searching and dreaming.
In Naturalist (1994), 11-12.
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Have you tried neuroxing papers? It.'s a very easy and cheap process. You hold the page in front of your eyes and you let it go through there into the brain. It’s much better than xeroxing.
Quoted in L. Wolpert and A. Richards (eds.), A Passion for Science (1988), 104.
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Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. A mystery is a phenomenon that people don't know how to think about—yet. There have been other great mysteries: the mystery of the origin of the universe, the mystery of life and reproduction, the mystery of the design to be found in nature, the mysteries of time, space, and gravity. These were not just areas of scientific ignorance, but of utter bafflement and wonder. We do not yet have the final answers to any of the questions of cosmology and particle physics, molecular genetics and evolutionary theory, but we do know how to think about them. The mysteries haven't vanished, but they have been tamed. They no longer overwhelm our efforts to think about the phenomena, because now we know how to tell the misbegotten questions from the right questions, and even if we turn out to be dead wrong about some of the currently accepted answers, we know how to go about looking for better answers. With consciousness, however, we are still in a terrible muddle. Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist—and hope—that there will never be a demystification of consciousness.
Consciousness Explained (1991), 21-22.
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Humans ... would not exist but for the wreckage of spent stars. So you're made of detritus [from exploded stars]. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?
In Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries (2007), 222.
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I always love geology. In winter, particularly, it is pleasant to listen to theories about the great mountains one visited in the summer; or about the Flood or volcanoes; about great catastrophes or about blisters; above all about fossils … Everywhere there are hypotheses, but nowhere truths; many workmen, but no experts; priests, but no God. In these circumstances each man can bring his hypothesis like a candle to a burning altar, and on seeing his candle lit declare ‘Smoke for smoke, sir, mine is better than yours’. It is precisely for this reason that I love geology.
In Nouvelles Genevoises (1910), 306. First edition, 1841.
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I am a misanthrope, but exceedingly benevolent; I am very cranky, and am a super-idealist. ... I can digest philosophy better than food.
In Ake Erlandsson, 'The Nobel Library of the Swediah Academy', Libri (1999), 167.
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I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.
'Isaac Asimov on Science and the Bible'. In Sidney Hook, et. al. On the Barricades: Religion and Free Inquiry in Conflict (1989), 329.
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I am delighted that I have found a new reaction to demonstrate even to the blind the structure of the interstitial stroma of the cerebral cortex. I let the silver nitrate react with pieces of brain hardened in potassium dichromate. I have already obtained magnificent results and hope to do even better in the future.
Letter to Nicolo Manfredi, 16 Feb 1873. Archive source. Quoted in Paolo Mazzarello, The Hidden Structure: A Scientific Biography of Camillo Golgi, trans. and ed. Henry A. Buchtel and Aldo Badiani (1999), 63.
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I am just laboring in the vineyard. I am at the operating table, and I make my rounds. I believe there is a cross-fertilization between writing and surgery. If I withdraw from surgery, I would not have another word to write. Having become a writer makes me a better doctor.
[Reply to reporter's question whether he would rather be a full-time writer instead of a surgeon.]
Quoted in Thomas Lask, 'Publishing:Surgeon and Incisive Writer', New York Times (28 Sep 1979), C24.
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I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
From poem, 'Song of the Open Road', Leaves of Grass (1881), 123.
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I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.
…...
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I appeal to the contemptible speech made lately by Sir Robert Peel to an applauding House of Commons. 'Orders of merit,' said he, 'were the proper rewards of the military' (the desolators of the world in all ages). 'Men of science are better left to the applause of their own hearts.' Most learned Legislator! Most liberal cotton-spinner! Was your title the proper reward of military prowess? Pity you hold not the dungeon-keys of an English Inquisition! Perhaps Science, like creeds, would flourish best under a little persecution.
Chemical Recreations (1834), 232.
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I became expert at dissecting crayfish. At one point I had a crayfish claw mounted on an apparatus in such a way that I could operate the individual nerves. I could get the several-jointed claw to reach down and pick up a pencil and wave it around. I am not sure that what I was doing had much scientific value, although I did learn which nerve fiber had to be excited to inhibit the effects of another fiber so that the claw would open. And it did get me interested in robotic instrumentation, something that I have now returned to. I am trying to build better micromanipulators for surgery and the like.
In Jeremy Bernstein, 'A.I.', The New Yorker (14 Dec 1981).
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I believe it to be of particular importance that the scientist have an articulate and adequate social philosophy, even more important than the average man should have a philosophy. For there are certain aspects of the relation between science and society that the scientist can appreciate better than anyone else, and if he does not insist on this significance no one else will, with the result that the relation of science to society will become warped, to the detriment of everybody.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950), 287.
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I believed that, instead of the multiplicity of rules that comprise logic, I would have enough in the following four, as long as I made a firm and steadfast resolution never to fail to observe them.
The first was never to accept anything as true if I did not know clearly that it was so; that is, carefully to avoid prejudice and jumping to conclusions, and to include nothing in my judgments apart from whatever appeared so clearly and distinctly to my mind that I had no opportunity to cast doubt upon it.
The second was to subdivide each on the problems I was about to examine: into as many parts as would be possible and necessary to resolve them better.
The third was to guide my thoughts in an orderly way by beginning, as if by steps, to knowledge of the most complex, and even by assuming an order of the most complex, and even by assuming an order among objects in! cases where there is no natural order among them.
And the final rule was: in all cases, to make such comprehensive enumerations and such general review that I was certain not to omit anything.
The long chains of inferences, all of them simple and easy, that geometers normally use to construct their most difficult demonstrations had given me an opportunity to think that all the things that can fall within the scope of human knowledge follow from each other in a similar way, and as long as one avoids accepting something as true which is not so, and as long as one always observes the order required to deduce them from each other, there cannot be anything so remote that it cannot be reached nor anything so hidden that it cannot be uncovered.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 2, 16.
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I belong to those theoreticians who know by direct observation what it means to make a measurement. Methinks it were better if there were more of them.
Referring to his laboratory experience during his assistantship in experimental physics, as quoted in Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989, 1998), 58-59. Moore describes that Schrödinger in his early days in the laboratory, “learned to believe that physics is not based upon mathematical fantasies but on a solid ground of experimental observations.”
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I can certainly wish for new, large, and properly constructed instruments, and enough of them, but to state where and by what means they are to be procured, this I cannot do. Tycho Brahe has given Mastlin an instrument of metal as a present, which would be very useful if Mastlin could afford the cost of transporting it from the Baltic, and if he could hope that it would travel such a long way undamaged… . One can really ask for nothing better for the observation of the sun than an opening in a tower and a protected place underneath.
As quoted in James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin, The Portable Renaissance Reader (1968), 605.
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I can understand your aversion to the use of the term ‘religion’ to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza ... I have not found a better expression than ‘religious’ for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason.
…...
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I cannot, however, but think that the world would be better and brighter if our teachers would dwell on the Duty of Happiness as well as the Happiness of Duty; for we ought to be as cheerful as we can, if only because to be happy ourselves is a most effectual contribution to the happiness of others.
The Pleasures of Life (1887, 2007), 7.
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I do believe that a scientist is a freelance personality. We’re driven by an impulse which is one of curiosity, which is one of the basic instincts that a man has. So we are … driven … not by success, but by a sort of passion, namely the desire of understanding better, to possess, if you like, a bigger part of the truth. I do believe that science, for me, is very close to art.
From 'Asking Nature', collected in Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards (eds.), Passionate Minds: The Inner World of Scientists (1997), 197.
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I find that by confining a workman to one particular limb of the pistol until he has made two thousand, I save at least one quarter of his labor, to what I should provided I finishd them by small quantities; and the work will be as much better as it is quicker made. ... I have some seventeen thousand screws & other parts of pistols now forgd. & many parts nearly finished & the business is going on brisk and lively.
Describing subdivision of labour and standardization of parts.
Letter to the Secretary of the Navy (1808), in S.N.D. and R.H. North, Memoir of Simeon North (1913), 64. Quoted in Joseph Wickham Roe, English and American Tool Builders (1916), 134.
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I have always assumed, and I now assume, that he [Robert Oppenheimer] is loyal to the United States. I believe this, and I shall believe it until I see very conclusive proof to the opposite. … [But] I thoroughly disagreed with him in numerous issues and his actions frankly appeared to me confused and complicated. To this extent I feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better, and therefore trust more.
After Teller paid tribute to Oppenheimer’s talents, especially his “very outstanding achievement” as the wartime organizer and director of Los Alamos, Teller continued his testimony to the Gray board hearings (28 Apr 1954) in the Atomic Energy Commission building, “In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer.” The subject quotes were excerpted from Teller’s answers to their questions. As given in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 72-74.
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I have destroyed almost the whole race of frogs, which does not happen in that savage Batrachomyomachia of Homer. For in the anatomy of frogs, which, by favour of my very excellent colleague D. Carolo Fracassato, I had set on foot in order to become more certain about the membranous substance of the lungs, it happened to me to see such things that not undeservedly I can better make use of that [saying] of Homer for the present matter—
“I see with my eyes a work trusty and great.”
For in this (frog anatomy) owing to the simplicity of the structure, and the almost complete transparency of the vessels which admits the eye into the interior, things are more clearly shown so that they will bring the light to other more obscure matters.
De Pulmonibus (1661), trans. James Young, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1929-30), 23, 7.
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I have found no better expression than ‘religious’ for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism.
…...
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I have no desire to write my own biography, as long as I have strength and means to do better work.
Passages From the Life of a Philosopher (1864), vii.
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I hope that in due time the chemists will justify their proceedings by some large generalisations deduced from the infinity of results which they have collected. For me I am left hopelessly behind and I will acknowledge to you that through my bad memory organic chemistry is to me a sealed book. Some of those here, [August] Hoffman for instance, consider all this however as scaffolding, which will disappear when the structure is built. I hope the structure will be worthy of the labour. I should expect a better and a quicker result from the study of the powers of matter, but then I have a predilection that way and am probably prejudiced in judgment.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (9 Dec 1852), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), 209-210.
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I like to think that when Medawar and his colleagues showed that immunological tolerance could be produced experimentally the new immunology was born. This is a science which to me has far greater potentialities both for practical use in medicine and for the better understanding of living process than the classical immunochemistry which it is incorporating and superseding.
'Immunological Recognition of Self', Nobel Lecture, 12 December 1960. In Nobel Lectures Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962 (1964), 689.
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I purpose, in return for the honour you do us by coming to see what are our proceedings here, to bring before you, in the course of these lectures, the Chemical History of a Candle. I have taken this subject on a former occasion; and were it left to my own will, I should prefer to repeat it almost every year—so abundant is the interest that attaches itself to the subject, so wonderful are the varieties of outlet which it offers into the various departments of philosophy. There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play, and is touched upon in these phenomena. There is no better, there is no more open door by which you can enter the study of natural philosophy, than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.
A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle (1861), 13-4.
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I saw a horrible brown heap on the floor in the corner, which, but for previous experience in this dismal wise, I might not have suspected to be “the bed.” There was something thrown upon it and I asked what it was. “’Tis the poor craythur that stays here, sur; and ’tis very bad she is, ’tis very bad she’s been this long time, and ’tis better she’ll never be, and ’tis slape she doos all day, and ’tis wake she doos all night, and ‘tis the lead, Sur.” “The what?” “The lead, Sur. Sure, ’tis the lead-mills, where women gets took on at eighteen pence a day, Sur, when they makes application early enough, and is lucky and wanted, and ’tis lead-pisoned she is, Sur, and some of them gits lead-pisoned soon and some of them gets lead-pisoned later, and some but not many, niver, and ’tis all according to the constitooshun, Sur, and some constitooshuns is strong, and some is weak, and her constitooshun is lead-pisoned, bad as can be, Sur, and her brain is coming out at her ear, and it hurts her dreadful, and that’s what it is and niver no more and niver so less, Sur.”
In 'New Uncommercial Samples: A Small Star in the East', All the Year Round (19 Dec 1868), New Series, No. 3, 62.
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I specifically paused to show that, if there were such machines with the organs and shape of a monkey or of some other non-rational animal, we would have no way of discovering that they are not the same as these animals. But if there were machines that resembled our bodies and if they imitated our actions as much as is morally possible, we would always have two very certain means for recognizing that, none the less, they are not genuinely human. The first is that they would never be able to use speech, or other signs composed by themselves, as we do to express our thoughts to others. For one could easily conceive of a machine that is made in such a way that it utters words, and even that it would utter some words in response to physical actions that cause a change in its organs—for example, if someone touched it in a particular place, it would ask what one wishes to say to it, or if it were touched somewhere else, it would cry out that it was being hurt, and so on. But it could not arrange words in different ways to reply to the meaning of everything that is said in its presence, as even the most unintelligent human beings can do. The second means is that, even if they did many things as well as or, possibly, better than anyone of us, they would infallibly fail in others. Thus one would discover that they did not act on the basis of knowledge, but merely as a result of the disposition of their organs. For whereas reason is a universal instrument that can be used in all kinds of situations, these organs need a specific disposition for every particular action.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 5, 40.
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I talk to myself through the computer. I ask myself questions, leave things to be looked at again, things that you would do with a notepad. It turns out today that it’s much better today to do with a personal computer rather than a notepad.
In transcript of a video history interview with Seymour Cray by David K. Allison at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, (9 May 1995), 30.
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I think a future flight should include a poet, a priest and a philosopher… we might get a much better idea of what we saw.
…...
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I think the name atomic theory was an unfortunate one. We talk fluently about atoms as the smallest particles that exist, and chemists regard them as indivisible … To my mind the infinitely small is as incomprehensible as the infinitely great. … we cannot comprehend it, we cannot take it in. And so with the atom. Therefore I think that it would have been better to have taken a different word—say minim—which would have been a safer term than atom.
Address, in 'Report to the Chemical Society's Jubilee', Nature (26 Mar 1891), 43, 493.
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I think, on the whole that scientists make slightly better husbands and fathers than most of us, and I admire them for it.
Quoted in I. Langmuir, Langmuir: The Man and the Scientist (1962), 97.
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I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices. It ought to signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet, and the proper selection and administration of diet—all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.
Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not (1860), 2.
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I used to get so depressed about the environment. … But I feel much better since I joined my Environmental Grief Counseling Group, which is a wonderful New Age approach to gaining the personal serenity you need in a world of melting ice caps, shrinking rain forests, and toxic lakes.
In 'Stop Beaching, Think Positive', Mother Jones Magazine (Oct 1988), 14, No. 8, 8.
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I want to get back again from Chemistry to Physics as soon as I can. The second-rate men seem to know their place so much better.
R. J. Strutt, John William Strutt, Third Baron Rayleigh (1924), 222.
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I was always very interested in science, and I knew that for me, science was a better long-term career than tennis. So I decided on science when I was in college.
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
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I was the only female in my class. I sat on one side of the room and the guys on the other side of the room. I guess they didn't want to associate with me. But I could hold my own with them, and sometimes did better.
In interview with Laurel M. Sheppard, 'An Interview with Mary Ross: First Native American Woman Engineer Aerospace Pioneer Returns to her Native American Roots', on website of Lash Publications.
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I with my hammer pounding evermore
The rocky coast, smite Andes into dust.
Strewing my bed and, in another age.
Rebuild a continent for better men.
Poem, 'Seashore' (1857), published in The Boatswain’s Whistle (Boston 18 Nov 1864). Collected in Percy H. Boynton (ed.), American poetry (1921), 217. The blank verse of this poem was recast from a prose passage he wrote in his journal (3 Jul 1857), the day after a two-week visit to Cap Ann.
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I would not be confident in everything I say about the argument: but one thing I would fight for to the end, both in word and in deed if I were able—that if we believe we should try to find out what is not known, we should be better and braver and less idle than if we believed that what we do not know is impossible to find out and that we need not even try.
Socrates
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I've never seen a job being done by a five-hundred-person engineering team that couldn't be done better by fifty people.
Statement once told to the author, as quoted in Thomas J. Peters, Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties (1992), 572.
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If a child left school at ten, knowing nothing of detailed information, but knowing the pleasure that comes from agreeable music, from reading, from making things, from finding things out, it would be better off than a man who left university at twenty-two, full of facts but without any desire to enquire further into such dry domains.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 9.
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If a man is in any sense a real mathematician, then it is a hundred to one that his mathematics will be far better than anything else he can do, and that it would be silly if he surrendered any decent opportunity of exercising his one talent in order to do undistinguished work in other fields. Such a sacrifice could be justified only by economic necessity of age.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 70.
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If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbour, tho' he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
Attributed to Emerson by Sarah S. B. Yule, in her book Borrowings (compiled 1889, published 1893). Mrs Yule was quoted in The Docket (Feb 1912), that she wrote this in her notebook of memorable statements during an Emerson address. The Docket thus disproved Elbert Hubbard's claim to its authorship.
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If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is Nature’s way.
Aristotle
In Nichomachean Ethics (4th century B.C.).
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If the poor overweight jogger only knew how far he had to run to work off the calories in a crust of bread he might find it better in terms of pound per mile to go to a massage parlor.
In M. P. Singh, Quote Unquote: A Handbook of Quotations (2007), 131.
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If the [Vestiges] be true, the labours of sober induction are in vain; religion is a lie; human law is a mass of folly, and a base injustice; morality is moonshine; our labours for the black people of Africa were works of madmen; and man and woman are only better beasts!
Letter to Charles Lyell (9 Apr 1845). In John Willis Clark and Thomas McKenny Hughes (eds.), The Life and Letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (1890), Vol. 2, 84.
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If there is anything that we wish to change in a child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves.
Carl Jung
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If they don’t depend on true evidence, scientists are no better than gossips.
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If to be the Author of new things, be a crime; how will the first Civilizers of Men, and makers of Laws, and Founders of Governments escape? Whatever now delights us in the Works of Nature, that excells the rudeness of the first Creation, is New. Whatever we see in Cities, or Houses, above the first wildness of Fields, and meaness of Cottages, and nakedness of Men, had its time, when this imputation of Novelty, might as well have bin laid to its charge. It is not therefore an offence, to profess the introduction of New things, unless that which is introduc'd prove pernicious in itself; or cannot be brought in, without the extirpation of others, that are better.
The History of the Royal Society (1667), 322.
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If we can combine our knowledge of science with the wisdom of wildness, if we can nurture civilization through roots in the primitive, man’s potentialities appear to be unbounded, Through this evolving awareness, and his awareness of that awareness, he can emerge with the miraculous—to which we can attach what better name than “God”? And in this merging, as long sensed by intuition but still only vaguely perceived by rationality, experience may travel without need for accompanying life.
A Letter From Lindbergh', Life (4 Jul 1969), 61. In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 409.
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If we have learned anything at all in this century, it is that all new technologies will be put to use, sooner or later, for better or worse, as it is in our nature to do
In 'Autonomy', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 79.
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If we [humans] disappeared overnight, the world would probably be better off.
Interview about Life In The Undergrowth (book and TV series on insects), The Daily Telegraph (12 Nov 2005).
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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 are too smart to pay the doctor, you had better be too smart to get ill.
Anonymous
African proverb, Transvaal
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If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?
From 'Arithmetic', Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960), 116.
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If you defend a behavior by arguing that people are programmed directly for it, then how do you continue to defend it if your speculation is wrong, for the behavior then becomes unnatural and worthy of condemnation. Better to stick resolutely to a philosophical position on human liberty: what free adults do with each other in their own private lives is their business alone. It need not be vindicated–and must not be condemned–by genetic speculation.
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If you look over my Scientific American columns you will see that they get progressively more sophisticated as I began reading math books and learning more about the subject. There is no better way to learn anything than to write about it!
In Kendrick Frazier, 'A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner', Skeptical Inquirer (Mar/Apr 1998), 22, No. 2, 36.
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If you're shopping for a home entertainment system you can't do better than a good dissecting microscope.
Quoted from NPR radio interview, also published on NPR web page by Christopher Joyce, Morning Edition (1 Aug 2013).
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If your result needs a statistician then you should design a better experiment.
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In a strange way, Marcion understood the situation better than the more conventional followers of the church, for Lucifer is merely one of the faces of a larger force. Evil is a by-product, a component, of creation.
In 'Who is Lucifer?', The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (1997), 2.
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In a University we are especially bound to recognise not only the unity of science itself, but the communion of the workers in science. We are too apt to suppose that we are congregated here merely to be within reach of certain appliances of study, such as museums and laboratories, libraries and lecturers, so that each of us may study what he prefers. I suppose that when the bees crowd round the flowers it is for the sake of the honey that they do so, never thinking that it is the dust which they are carrying from flower to flower which is to render possible a more splendid array of flowers, and a busier crowd of bees, in the years to come. We cannot, therefore, do better than improve the shining hour in helping forward the cross-fertilization of the sciences.
'The Telephone', Nature, 15, 1878. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 743-4.
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In all science error precedes the truth, and it is better it should go first than last.
Quoted in Adam Wooléver (ed.), Encyclopædia of Quotations: A Treasury of Wisdom, Wit and Humor, Odd Comparisons and Proverbs (6th ed, 1876), 128.
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In all science, error precedes the truth, and it is better it should go first than last.
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In an age of egoism, it is so difficult to persuade man that of all studies, the most important is that of himself. This is because egoism, like all passions, is blind. The attention of the egoist is directed to the immediate needs of which his senses give notice, and cannot be raised to those reflective needs that reason discloses to us; his aim is satisfaction, not perfection. He considers only his individual self; his species is nothing to him. Perhaps he fears that in penetrating the mysteries of his being he will ensure his own abasement, blush at his discoveries, and meet his conscience. True philosophy, always at one with moral science, tells a different tale. The source of useful illumination, we are told, is that of lasting content, is in ourselves. Our insight depends above all on the state of our faculties; but how can we bring our faculties to perfection if we do not know their nature and their laws! The elements of happiness are the moral sentiments; but how can we develop these sentiments without considering the principle of our affections, and the means of directing them? We become better by studying ourselves; the man who thoroughly knows himself is the wise man. Such reflection on the nature of his being brings a man to a better awareness of all the bonds that unite us to our fellows, to the re-discovery at the inner root of his existence of that identity of common life actuating us all, to feeling the full force of that fine maxim of the ancients: 'I am a man, and nothing human is alien to me.'
Considerations sur les diverses méthodes à suivre dans l'observation des peuples sauvages (1800) The Observation of Savage Peoples, trans. F. C. T. Moore (1969), 61.
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In general, a fact is worth more than theories in the long run. The theory stimulates, but the fact builds. The former in due time is replaced by one better but the fact remains and becomes fertile.
Letter to Dr. E. B. Krumhaar (11 Oct 1933), in Journal of Bacteriology (Jan 1934), 27, No. 1, 20.
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In Japan, an exceptional dexterity that comes from eating with chopsticks … is especially useful in micro-assembly. (This … brings smiles from my colleagues, but I stand by it. Much of modern assembly is fine tweezer work, and nothing prepares for it better than eating with chopsticks from early childhood.)
In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (1998, 1999), 475.
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In my position you can’t go out and just say, “I think,” because it’s a very serious thing. So if you get up and say climate is changing because of CO2 emissions, you better bloody well be right.
As quoted in interview with Joe Shute, 'David Attenborough at 90: ‘I think about my mortality every day’', The Telegraph (29 Oct 2016). Note: Elsewhere, Attenborough says that the evidence of climate change is now, in fact, “ironclad.”
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In no subject is there a rule, compliance with which will lead to new knowledge or better understanding. Skilful observations, ingenious ideas, cunning tricks, daring suggestions, laborious calculations, all these may be required to advance a subject. Occasionally the conventional approach in a subject has to be studiously followed; on other occasions it has to be ruthlessly disregarded. Which of these methods, or in what order they should be employed is generally unpredictable. Analogies drawn from the history of science are frequently claimed to be a guide; but, as with forecasting the next game of roulette, the existence of the best analogy to the present is no guide whatever to the future. The most valuable lesson to be learnt from the history of scientific progress is how misleading and strangling such analogies have been, and how success has come to those who ignored them.
'Cosmology', in Arthur Beer (ed.), Vistas in Astronomy (1956), Vol. 2, 1722.
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In reality, I have sometimes thought that we do not go on sufficiently slowly in the removal of diseases, and that it would he better if we proceeded with less haste, and if more were often left, to Nature than is the practice now-a-days. It is a great mistake to suppose that Nature always stands in need of the assistance of Art. If that were the case, site would have made less provision for the safety of mankind than the preservation of the species demands; seeing that there is not the least proportion between the host of existing diseases and the powers possessed by man for their removal, even in those ages wherein the healing art was at the highest pitch, and most extensively cultivated.
As quoted by Gavin Milroy in 'On the Writings of Sydenham', The Lancet (14 Nov 1846), 524.
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In scientific study, or, as I prefer to phrase it, in creative scholarship, the truth is the single end sought; all yields to that. The truth is supreme, not only in the vague mystical sense in which that expression has come to be a platitude, but in a special, definite, concrete sense. Facts and the immediate and necessary inductions from facts displace all pre-conceptions, all deductions from general principles, all favourite theories. Previous mental constructions are bowled over as childish play-structures by facts as they come rolling into the mind. The dearest doctrines, the most fascinating hypotheses, the most cherished creations of the reason and of the imagination perish from a mind thoroughly inspired with the scientific spirit in the presence of incompatible facts. Previous intellectual affections are crushed without hesitation and without remorse. Facts are placed before reasonings and before ideals, even though the reasonings and the ideals be more beautiful, be seemingly more lofty, be seemingly better, be seemingly truer. The seemingly absurd and the seemingly impossible are sometimes true. The scientific disposition is to accept facts upon evidence, however absurd they may appear to our pre-conceptions.
The Ethical Functions of Scientific Study: An Address Delivered at the Annual Commencement of the University of Michigan, 28 June 1888, 7-8.
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In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed”? Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.'
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), 52.
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In the beginning the gods did not at all reveal all things clearly to mortals, but by searching men in the course of time find them out better.
Quoted in Arthur Fairbanks (ed. And trans.), The First Philosophers of Greece (1898), 71, fragment 16.
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In the center of everything rules the sun; for who in this most beautiful temple could place this luminary at another better place whence it can light up the whole at once? ... In this arrangement we thus find an admirable harmony of the world, and a constant harmonious connection between the motion and the size of the orbits as could not be found otherwise.
…...
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In the summer of 1937, … I told Banach about an expression Johnny [von Neumann] had once used in conversation with me in Princeton before stating some non-Jewish mathematician’s result, “Die Goim haben den folgendenSatzbewiesen” (The goys have proved the following theorem). Banach, who was pure goy, thought it was one of the funniest sayings he had ever heard. He was enchanted by its implication that if the goys could do it, Johnny and I ought to be able to do it better. Johnny did not invent this joke, but he liked it and we started using it.
In Adventures of a Mathematician (1976, 1991), 107. Von Neumann, who was raised in Budapest by a Jewish family, knew the Yiddish word “goy” was equivalent to “gentile” or a non-Jew. Stefan Banach, a Polish mathematician, was raised in a Catholic family, hence “pure goy”. Ulam thus gives us the saying so often elsewhere seen attributed to von Neumann without the context: “The goys have proved the following theorem.” It is seen anecdotally as stated by von Neumann to begin a classroom lecture.
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Is a park any better than a coal mine? What’s a mountain got that a slag pile hasn’t? What would you rather have in your garden—an almond tree or an oil well?
In play, spoken by character, "A Prospector", The Madwoman of Chaillot (1947), 22.
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It be urged that the wild and uncultivated tree, hitherto yielding sour and bitter fruit only, can never be made to yield better; yet we know that the grafting art implants a new tree on the savage stock, producing what is most estimable in kind and degree. Education, in like manner, engrafts a new man on the native stock, and improves what in his nature was vicious and perverse into qualities of virtue and social worth.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia', included in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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It does appear that on the whole a physicist… tries to reduce his theory at all times to as few parameters as possible and is inclined to feel that a theory is a “respectable” one, though by no means necessarily correct, if in principle it does offer reasonably specific means for its possible refutation. Moreover the physicist will generally arouse the irritation amongst fellow physicists if he is not prepared to abandon his theory when it clashes with subsequent experiments. On the other hand it would appear that the chemist regards theories—or perhaps better his theories (!) —as far less sacrosanct, and perhaps in extreme cases is prepared to modify them continually as each bit of new experimental evidence comes in.
'Discussion: Physics and Chemistry: Comments on Caldin's View of Chemistry', British Journal of the Philosophy of Science, 1960, 11, 222.
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It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
…...
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It has long been a complaint against mathematicians that they are hard to convince: but it is a far greater disqualification both for philosophy, and for the affairs of life, to be too easily convinced; to have too low a standard of proof. The only sound intellects are those which, in the first instance, set their standards of proof high. Practice in concrete affairs soon teaches them to make the necessary abatement: but they retain the consciousness, without which there is no sound practical reasoning, that in accepting inferior evidence because there is no better to be had, they do not by that acceptance raise it to completeness.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611.
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It has often been said that, to make discoveries, one must be ignorant. This opinion, mistaken in itself, nevertheless conceals a truth. It means that it is better to know nothing than to keep in mind fixed ideas based on theories whose confirmation we constantly seek, neglecting meanwhile everything that fails to agree with them.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 37.
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It is a better world with some buffalo left in it, a richer world with some gorgeous canyons unmarred by signboards, hot-dog stands, super highways, or high-tension lines, undrowned by power or irrigation reservoirs. If we preserved as parks only those places that have no economic possibilities, we would have no parks. And in the decades to come, it will not be only the buffalo and the trumpeter swan who need sanctuaries. Our own species is going to need them too. It needs them now.
Conclusion of essay 'The Marks of Human Passage', collected in This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and its Magic Rivers (1955), 17.
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It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing than to believe what is wrong.
In Letter (19 Jul 1788) to James Madison. Collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Memoirs, Correspondence, and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 2, 223.
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It is astonishing how much the word infinitely is misused: everything is infinitely more beautiful, infinitely better, etc. The concept must have something pleasing about it, or its misuse could not have become so general.
Aphorism 133 in Notebook J (1789-1793), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 155.
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It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit for continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccinations is broad enough to cover cutting Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
Chief Justice Holmes contributed this opinion to the judgment by which the sterilization law of Virginia was declared constitutional. Quoted from Journal of Heredity (1927), 18, 495. In Henry Ernest Sigerist, Civilization and Disease (1970), 105.
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It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
Utilitarianism (1861), 212.
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It is better to copulate than never.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259.
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It is better to do the right problem the wrong way than the wrong problem the right way.
Quoted in Julie K. Petersen, Fiber Optics Illustrated Dictionary (2003), 435.
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It is better to employ a doubtful remedy than to condemn the patient to a certain death.
Anonymous
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It is better to go near the truth and be imprisoned than to stay with the wrong and roam about freely, master Galilei. In fact, getting attached to falsity is terrible slavery, and real freedom is only next to the right.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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It is better to have a few forms well known than to teach a little about many hundred species. Better a dozen specimens thoroughly studied as the result of the first year’s work, than to have two thousand dollars’ worth of shells and corals bought from a curiosity-shop. The dozen animals would be your own.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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It is better to have recourse to a Quack, if he can cure our disorder, although he cannot explain it than to a Physician, if he can explain our disease but cannot cure it.
Reflection 323, in Lacon: Or Many Things in Few Words, Addressed to Those who Think (1820), 166.
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It is better to stir up a question without deciding it than to decide it without stirring it up.
In Pensées and Letters of Joseph Joubert (1928), 74.
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It is better to teach the child arithmetic and Latin grammar than rhetoric and moral philosophy, because they require exactitude of performance it is made certain that the lesson is mastered, and that power of performance is worth more than knowledge.
In Lecture on 'Education'. Collected in J.E. Cabot (ed.), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 145.
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It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages, than to know the age of the rocks; it is better for one to know that he is close to the Heavenly Father, than to know how far the stars in the heavens are apart.
In chapter, 'The Origin of Man', In His Image (1922), 93.
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It is curious to reflect on how history repeats itself the world over. Why, I remember the same thing was done when I was a boy on the Mississippi River. There was a proposition in a township there to discontinue public schools because they were too expensive. An old farmer spoke up and said if they stopped the schools they would not save anything, because every time a school was closed a jail had to be built.
It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. He'll never get fat. I believe it is better to support schools than jails.
Address at a meeting of the Berkeley Lyceum, New York (23 Nov 1900). Mark Twain's Speeches (2006), 69-70.
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It is good to recall that three centuries ago, around the year 1660, two of the greatest monuments of modern history were erected, one in the West and one in the East; St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Taj Mahal in Agra. Between them, the two symbolize, perhaps better than words can describe, the comparative level of architectural technology, the comparative level of craftsmanship and the comparative level of affluence and sophistication the two cultures had attained at that epoch of history. But about the same time there was also created—and this time only in the West—a third monument, a monument still greater in its eventual import for humanity. This was Newton’s Principia, published in 1687. Newton's work had no counterpart in the India of the Mughuls.
'Ideals and Realities' (1975). Reprinted in Ideals and Realities (1984), 48.
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It is hard to tell what causes the pervasive timidity. One thinks of video-induced stupor, intake of tranquilizers, fear of not living to enjoy the many new possessions and toys, the example of our betters in cities and on campuses who high-mindedly surrender to threats of violence and make cowardice fashionable.
In 'Thoughts on the Present', First Things, Last Things (1971), 111.
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It is in everything else as it is in colors; bad eyes can distinguish between black and white; better eyes, and eyes much exercised, can distinguish every nicer gradation.
As translated in definition for 'Extreme', A Philosophical Dictionary: From the French (1824), Vol. 3, 139.
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It is infinitely better to transplant a heart than to bury it to be devoured by worms.
In 'People', Time (31 Oct 1969).
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It is much better to learn the elements of geology, of botany, or ornithology and astronomy by word of mouth from a companion than dully from a book.
'Concord Walks'. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), Vol. 12, 176.
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It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better that knowledge.
Note: Although attributed as his viewpoint to Enrico Fermi, it is probably not a direct quote by him.
Not a direct quotation by Enrico Fermi, but his viewpoint, as described by his wife, Laura Fermi, in Atoms in the Family: My Life with Enrico Fermi (1954), 244. See it in context elsewhere on this page, in a longer quote that begins: “Some men said an atomic bomb…”
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It is not children who ought to read the words of Lewis Carroll; they are far better employed making mud-pies.
In 'The Library of the Nursery', in Lunacy and Letters (1958), 26.
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It is not so long since, during one of the meetings of the Association, one of the leading English newspapers briefly described a sitting of this Section in the words, “Saturday morning was devoted to pure mathematics, and so there was nothing of any general interest:” still, such toleration is better than undisguised and ill-informed hostility.
In Report of the 67th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
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It is not, indeed, strange that the Greeks and Romans should not have carried ... any ... experimental science, so far as it has been carried in our time; for the experimental sciences are generally in a state of progression. They were better understood in the seventeenth century than in the sixteenth, and in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth. But this constant improvement, this natural growth of knowledge, will not altogether account for the immense superiority of the modern writers. The difference is a difference not in degree, but of kind. It is not merely that new principles have been discovered, but that new faculties seem to be exerted. It is not that at one time the human intellect should have made but small progress, and at another time have advanced far; but that at one time it should have been stationary, and at another time constantly proceeding. In taste and imagination, in the graces of style, in the arts of persuasion, in the magnificence of public works, the ancients were at least our equals. They reasoned as justly as ourselves on subjects which required pure demonstration.
History (May 1828). In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 36.
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It is now necessary to indicate more definitely the reason why mathematics not only carries conviction in itself, but also transmits conviction to the objects to which it is applied. The reason is found, first of all, in the perfect precision with which the elementary mathematical concepts are determined; in this respect each science must look to its own salvation .... But this is not all. As soon as human thought attempts long chains of conclusions, or difficult matters generally, there arises not only the danger of error but also the suspicion of error, because since all details cannot be surveyed with clearness at the same instant one must in the end be satisfied with a belief that nothing has been overlooked from the beginning. Every one knows how much this is the case even in arithmetic, the most elementary use of mathematics. No one would imagine that the higher parts of mathematics fare better in this respect; on the contrary, in more complicated conclusions the uncertainty and suspicion of hidden errors increases in rapid progression. How does mathematics manage to rid itself of this inconvenience which attaches to it in the highest degree? By making proofs more rigorous? By giving new rules according to which the old rules shall be applied? Not in the least. A very great uncertainty continues to attach to the result of each single computation. But there are checks. In the realm of mathematics each point may be reached by a hundred different ways; and if each of a hundred ways leads to the same point, one may be sure that the right point has been reached. A calculation without a check is as good as none. Just so it is with every isolated proof in any speculative science whatever; the proof may be ever so ingenious, and ever so perfectly true and correct, it will still fail to convince permanently. He will therefore be much deceived, who, in metaphysics, or in psychology which depends on metaphysics, hopes to see his greatest care in the precise determination of the concepts and in the logical conclusions rewarded by conviction, much less by success in transmitting conviction to others. Not only must the conclusions support each other, without coercion or suspicion of subreption, but in all matters originating in experience, or judging concerning experience, the results of speculation must be verified by experience, not only superficially, but in countless special cases.
In Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 105. As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 19.
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It is obvious that man dwells in a splendid universe, a magnificent expanse of earth and sky and heaven, which manifestly is built on a majestic plan, maintains some mighty design, though man himself cannot grasp it. Yet for him it is not a pleasant or satisfying world. In his few moments of respite from labor or from his enemies, he dreams that this very universe might indeed be perfect, its laws operating just as now they seem to do, and yet he and it somehow be in full accord. The very ease with which he can frame this image to himself makes the reality all the more mocking. ... It is only too clear that man is not at home in this universe, and yet he is not good enough to deserve a better.
In The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939, 1954), 7.
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It is possible that in ten years’ time penicillin itself will be a back number and will be replaced by something better. It is quite certain though that to displace penicillin any newcomer will have to be very, very good.
In 'Truman Hails Fleming For Penicillin Drug', New York Times (26 Jul 1945), 17.
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It is reported of Margaret Fuller that she said she accepted the universe. “Gad, she'd better!” retorted Carlyle. Carlyle himself did not accept the universe in a very whole-hearted manner. Looking up at the midnight stars, he exclaimed: “A sad spectacle! If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly; if they be na inhabited, what a waste of space!”
Opening paragraph of book of collected essays, Accepting the Universe (1920), 3. “‘I accept the universe’ is reported to have been a favorite utterance of our New England transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller…” was stated by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), 41. James continues, “and when some one repeated this phrase to Thomas Carlyle, his sardonic comment is said to have been: ‘Gad! she'd better!’” Note that James does not here merge Carlyle's remark about the universe. Burroughs’ attribution of the “sad spectacle” quote is, so far, the earliest found by the Webmaster, who has not located it in a printed work by Carlisle himself. If you know a primary source, or earlier attribution, please contact Webmaster.
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It is slower, but better, to creep along the downward path that to leap over the cliff.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 144.
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It is the destiny of the sciences, which must necessarily be in the hands of a few, that the utility of their progress should be invisible to the greater part of mankind, especially if those sciences are associated with unobtrusive pursuits. Let a greater facility in using our navigable waters and opening new lines of communication but once exist, simply because at present we know vastly better how to level the ground and construct locks and flood-gates—what does it amount to? The workmen have had their labors lightened, but they themselves have not the least idea of the skill of the geometer who directed them; they have been put in motion nearly as the body is by a soul of which it knows nothing; the rest of the world has even less perception of the genius which presided over the enterprise, and enjoys the success it has attained only with a species of ingratitude.
As quoted in Joseph Henry, 'Report of the Secretary', Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1859 (1860), 16-17. Webmaster has not yet been able to locate a primary source for this quote.
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It may be unpopular and out-of-date to say—but I do not think that a scientific result which gives us a better understanding of the world and makes it more harmonious in our eyes should be held in lower esteem than, say, an invention which reduces the cost of paving roads, or improves household plumbing.
From final remarks in 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics' (1944), collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 41.
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It might be argued that a genetically enhanced athlete, like a drug-enhanced one, would have an unfair advantage over his unenhanced competitors. But the fairness argument against enhancement has a fatal flaw: it has always been the case that some athletes are better endowed genetically than others, and yet we do not consider this to undermine the fairness of competitive sports. From the standpoint of fairness, enhanced genetic differences would be no worse than natural ones, assuming they were safe and made available to all. If genetic enhancement in sports is morally objectionable, it must be for reasons other than fairness.
Michael J. Sandel, 'The Case Against Perfection', The Atlantic Monthly (Apr 2004).
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It seems better that a scientist should compile his own bibliography than that he should leave the work for another to do after he is dead.
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It seems to me that the physical constitution of the valley, on which I am reporting, must cast doubt in the minds of those who may have accepted the assumptions of any of the geologic systems hitherto proposed; and that those who delight in science would do better to enrich themselves with empirical facts than take upon themselves the burden of defending and applying general hypotheses.
Della valle vulcanico-marina di Roncà nel Territorio Veronese (1778), trans. Ezio Vaccari, vii-viii.
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It seems to me that your Reverence and Signor Galileo act prudently when you content yourselves with speaking hypothetically and not absolutely, as I have always understood that Copernicus spoke. To say that on the supposition of the Earth's movement and the Sun's quiescence all the celestial appearances are explained better than by the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is to speak with excellent good sense and to run no risk whatsoever. Such a manner of speaking is enough for a mathematician. But to want to affirm that the Sun, in very truth, is at the center of the universe and only rotates on its axis without going from east to west, is a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arouse all Scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our holy faith by contradicting the Scriptures.
Letter to Paolo Antonio Foscarini, 12 April 1615. Quoted in Giorgio De Santillana, The Crime of Galileo (1955), 99.
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It seems very strange … that in the course of the world’s history so obvious an improvement should never have been adopted. … The next generation of Britishers would be the better for having had this extra hour of daylight in their childhood.
In Report, and Special Report, from the Select Committee on the Daylight Saving Bill: Minutes of Evidence (1908), 116.
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It was a felicitous expression of Goethe’s to call a noble cathedral “frozen music,” but it might even better be called “petrified mathematics.”
In The Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1906), 44.
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It was badly received by the generation to which it was first addressed, and the outpouring of angry nonsense to which it gave rise is sad to think upon. But the present generation will probably behave just as badly if another Darwin should arise, and inflict upon them that which the generality of mankind most hate—the necessity of revising their convictions. Let them, then, be charitable to us ancients; and if they behave no better than the men of my day to some new benefactor, let them recollect that, after all, our wrath did not come to much, and vented itself chiefly in the bad language of sanctimonious scolds. Let them as speedily perform a strategic right-about-face, and follow the truth wherever it leads.
'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 2, 204.
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It would be better for the true physics if there were no mathematicians on earth.
Quoted in The Mathematical Intelligencer (Winter 1991), 13, No. 1, 6.
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It’s better to light a candle then to curse the darkness.
…...
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It’s better to read first rate science fiction than second rate science—it’s a lot more fun, and no more likely to be wrong.
Lecture at Wired 2013 (18 Oct 2013).
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It’s not the critic who counts; not the man which points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
In Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Inside: A Public and Private Life (2005), 356.
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I’m convinced that the best solutions are often the ones that are counterintuitive—that challenge conventional thinking—and end in breakthroughs. It is always easier to do things the same old way … why change? To fight this, keep your dissatisfaction index high and break with tradition. Don’t be too quick to accept the way things are being done. Question whether there’s a better way. Very often you will find that once you make this break from the usual way - and incidentally, this is probably the hardest thing to do—and start on a new track your horizon of new thoughts immediately broadens. New ideas flow in like water. Always keep your interests broad - don’t let your mind be stunted by a limited view.
1988
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I’m much better. I just say what it is, who it is, how it is and get off there.
On how to she curbed her previously rather verbose writing style. As quoted in 'Words of the Week',Jet (3 Jan 1980), 57, No. 16, 32.
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I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
First stanza of poem 'On Turning 70'. The poem is printed in Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, Annual Report 2004 (2005), no page number.
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Judged superficially, a progressive saturation of the germ plasm of a species with mutant genes a majority of which are deleterious in their effects is a destructive process, a sort of deterioration of the genotype which threatens the very existence of the species and can finally lead only to its extinction. The eugenical Jeremiahs keep constantly before our eyes the nightmare of human populations accumulating recessive genes that produce pathological effects when homozygous. These prophets of doom seem to be unaware of the fact that wild species in the state of nature fare in this respect no better than man does with all the artificality of his surroundings, and yet life has not come to an end on this planet. The eschatological cries proclaiming the failure of natural selection to operate in human populations have more to do with political beliefs than with scientific findings.
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 126.
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Just as it will never be successfully challenged that the French language, progressively developing and growing more perfect day by day, has the better claim to serve as a developed court and world language, so no one will venture to estimate lightly the debt which the world owes to mathematicians, in that they treat in their own language matters of the utmost importance, and govern, determine and decide whatever is subject, using the word in the highest sense, to number and measurement.
In 'Sprüche in Prosa', Natur, III, 868.
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Just refrigerator efficiency saves more energy than all that we're generating from renewables, excluding hydroelectric power... I cannot impress upon you how important energy efficiency is. It doesn't mean you eat lukewarm food and your beers are lukewarm. You can still have it; you just make a better thing
Talk (Summer 2008) quoted in 'Obama's Energy and Environment Team Includes a Nobel Laureate', Kent Garber, US News website (posted 11 Dec 2008).
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Kepler’s suggestion of gravitation with the inverse distance, and Bouillaud’s proposed substitution of the inverse square of the distance, are things which Newton knew better than his modern readers. I have discovered two anagrams on his name, which are quite conclusive: the notion of gravitation was not new; but Newton went on.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 82.
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Knowledge does not keep any better than fish. You may be dealing with knowledge of the old species, with some old truth; but somehow or other it must come to the students, as it were, just drawn out of the sea and with the freshness of its immediate importance.
In 'Universities and Their Function', The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 98.
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Later scientific theories are better than earlier ones for solving puzzles in the often quite different environments to which they are applied. That is not a relativist's position, and it displays the sense in which I am a convinced believer in scientific progress.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edition (1970), 206.
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Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball, but one of us places it better.
In Pensées (1670), Section 7, No. 9. From Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 14. From the French, “Qu’on ne dise pas que je n’ai rien dit de nouveau: la disposition des matières est nouvelle. Quand on joue à la paume, c’est une même balle dont on joue l’un et l’autre; mais l’un la place mieux,” in Oeuvres Complètes de Blaise Pascal (1864), Vol. 1, 287.
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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
…...
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Love is a better teacher than duty.
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Macaulay somewhere says, that it is extraordinary that, whereas the laws of the motions of the heavenly bodies, far removed as they are from us, are perfectly well understood, the laws of the human mind, which are under our observation all day and every day, are no better understood than they were two thousand years ago.
In Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1859), 7.
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Magnetic lines of force convey a far better and purer idea than the phrase magnetic current or magnetic flood: it avoids the assumption of a current or of two currents and also of fluids or a fluid, yet conveys a full and useful pictorial idea to the mind.
Diary Entry for 10 Sep 1854. In Thomas Martin (ed.), Faraday's Diary: Being the Various Philosophical Notes of Experimental Investigation (1935), Vol. 6, 315.
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Mathematicians attach great importance to the elegance of their methods and their results. This is not pure dilettantism. What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution, in a demonstration? It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details. But this is exactly what yields great results, in fact the more we see this aggregate clearly and at a single glance, the better we perceive its analogies with other neighboring objects, consequently the more chances we have of divining the possible generalizations. Elegance may produce the feeling of the unforeseen by the unexpected meeting of objects we are not accustomed to bring together; there again it is fruitful, since it thus unveils for us kinships before unrecognized. It is fruitful even when it results only from the contrast between the simplicity of the means and the complexity of the problem set; it makes us then think of the reason for this contrast and very often makes us see that chance is not the reason; that it is to be found in some unexpected law. In a word, the feeling of mathematical elegance is only the satisfaction due to any adaptation of the solution to the needs of our mind, and it is because of this very adaptation that this solution can be for us an instrument. Consequently this esthetic satisfaction is bound up with the economy of thought.
In 'The Future of Mathematics', Monist, 20, 80. Translated from the French by George Bruce Halsted.
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Mathematics is like childhood diseases. The younger you get it, the better.
Quoted by Dudley Herschbach in 'Einstein as a Student', collected in Peter Galison (ed.), Gerald James Holton (ed.), Silvan S. Schweber (ed.), Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Srt, and Modern Culture (2008), 236. The remark quoted was footnoted as heard by Dudley Herschbach many years earlier in a class by George Polya, but not found in print.
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May the Gods confound that man who first disclosed the hours, and who first, in fact, erected a sun-dial here; who, for wretched me, minced the day up into pieces. For when I was a boy, this stomach was the sun-dial, one much better and truer than all of these; when that used to warn me to eat. Except when there was nothing to eat. Now, even when there is something to eat, it’s not eaten, unless the sun chooses; and to such a degree now, in fact, is the city filled with sun-dials, that the greater part of the people are creeping along the streets shrunk up with famine.
Plautus
A fragment, preserved in the works of Aulus Gellius, as translated by Henry Thomas Riley, in The Comedies of Plautus (1890), Vol. 2, 517.
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My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain that alone on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine would not, I suppose, have thus suffered, and if I had to live my life over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept alive through use.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 51.
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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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Natural selection produces systems that function no better than necessary. It results in ad hoc adaptive solutions to immediate problems. Whatever enhances fitness is selected. The product of natural selection is not perfection but adequacy, not final answers but limited, short-term solutions.
In 'The role of natural history in contemporary biology', BioScience (1986), 36, 325.
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Nature is nowhere accustomed more openly to display her secret mysteries than in cases where she shows tracings of her workings apart from the beaten paths; nor is there any better way to advance the proper practice of medicine than to give our minds to the discovery of the usual law of nature, by careful investigation of cases of rarer forms of disease.
Letter IX, to John Vlackveld (24 Apr 1657), in The Circulation of the Blood (2006), 200.
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Nature, the parent of all things, designed the human backbone to be like a keel or foundation. It is because we have a backbone that we can walk upright and stand erect. But this was not the only purpose for which Nature provided it; here, as elsewhere, she displayed great skill in turning the construction of a single member to a variety of different uses.
It Provides a Path for the Spinal Marrow, Yet is Flexible.
Firstly, she bored a hole through the posterior region of the bodies of all the vertebrae, thus fashioning a suitable pathway for the spinal marrow which would descend through them.
Secondly, she did not make the backbone out of one single bone with no joints. Such a unified construction would have afforded greater stability and a safer seat for the spinal marrow since, not having joints, the column could not have suffered dislocations, displacements, or distortions. If the Creator of the world had paid such attention to resistance to injury and had subordinated the value and importance of all other aims in the fabric of parts of the body to this one, he would certainly have made a single backbone with no joints, as when someone constructing an animal of wood or stone forms the backbone of one single and continuous component. Even if man were destined only to bend and straighten his back, it would not have been appropriate to construct the whole from one single bone. And in fact, since it was necessary that man, by virtue of his backbone, be able to perform a great variety of movements, it was better that it be constructed from many bones, even though as a result of this it was rendered more liable to injury.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, 57-58, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in 'Nature’s Skill in Creating a Backbone to Hold Us Erect', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), 138.
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Never, I believe, did a vessel leave England better provided, or fitted for the service she was destined to perform, and for the health and comfort of her crew, than the Beagle. If we did want any thing which could have been carried, it was our own fault; for all that was asked for, from the Dockyard, Victualling Department, Navy Board, or Admiralty, was granted.
In Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the Years 1826 and 1836 (1839), Vol. 2, 43.
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Newton’s and Darwin’s world were different from the worlds of most men, and yet their worlds were not the world, but more and better than mine, as they had followed out further and better the teachings of the sense.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xlviii.
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Not greatly moved with awe am I
To learn that we may spy
Five thousand firmaments beyond our own.
The best that's known
Of the heavenly bodies does them credit small.
View'd close, the Moon's fair ball
Is of ill objects worst,
A corpse in Night's highway, naked, fire-scarr'd, accurst;
And now they tell
That the Sun is plainly seen to boil and burst
Too horribly for hell.
So, judging from these two,
As we must do,
The Universe, outside our living Earth,
Was all conceiv'd in the Creator's mirth,
Forecasting at the time Man's spirit deep,
To make dirt cheap.
Put by the Telescope!
Better without it man may see,
Stretch'd awful in the hush'd midnight,
The ghost of his eternity.
'The Two Deserts' (1880-85). Poems, Introduction Basil Champneys (1906), 302.
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Not only is science fiction an idea of tremendous import, but it is to be an important factor in making the world a better place to live in, through educating the public to the possibilities of science and the influence of science on life which, even today, are not appreciated byu the man on the street. ... If every man, woman, boy and girl, could be induced to read science fiction right along, there would certainly be a great resulting benefit to the community, in that the educational standards of its people would be raised tremendously. Science fiction would make people happier, give them a broader understanding of the world, make tham more tolerant.
Editorial, Science Fiction Week (1930). In Gary Westfahl, Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction (2007), 166.
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Not only such Actions as were at first Indifferent to us, but even such as were Painful, will by Custom and Practice become Pleasant. Sir Francis Bacon observes in his Natural Philosophy, that our Taste is never pleased better, than with those things which at first created a Disgust in it. He gives particular Instances of Claret, Coffee, and other Liquors, which the Palate seldom approves upon the first Taste; but when it has once got a Relish of them, generally retains it for Life.
In The Spectator (2 Aug 1712), No. 447, collected in The Spectator (9th ed., 1728), Vol. 6, 225-226.
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Now this supreme wisdom, united to goodness that is no less infinite, cannot but have chosen the best. For as a lesser evil is a kind of good, even so a lesser good is a kind of evil if it stands in the way of a greater good; and the would be something to correct in the actions of God if it were possible to the better. As in mathematics, when there is no maximum nor minimum, in short nothing distinguished, everything is done equally, or when that is not nothing at all is done: so it may be said likewise in respect of perfect wisdom, which is no less orderly than mathematics, that if there were not the best (optimum) among all possible worlds, God would not have produced any.
Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God and Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil (1710), 128.
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Nowadays there is a pill for everything—to keep your nose from running, to keep you regular, to keep your heart beating, to keep your hair from falling out, to improve your muscle tone ... Why thanks to advances in medical science, every day people are dying who never looked better.
Anonymous
In Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (2003), 174-175.
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Nowhere is it more true that “prevention is better than cure,” than in the case of Parasitic Diseases.
From Author's Preface to English edition, trans. by William E. Hoyle, The Parasites of Man, and the Diseases which Proceed from Them: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners (1886), vii.
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Observe the practice of many physicians; do not implicitly believe the mere assertion of your master; be something better than servile learner; go forth yourselves to see and compare!
In Armand Trousseau, as translated by P. Victor and John Rose Cormack, Lectures on Clinical Medicine: Delivered at the Hôtel-Dieu, Paris (1873), Vol. 1, 40.
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Oddly enough, eccentrics are happier and healthier than conformists. A study of 1,000 people found that eccentrics visit a doctor an average of just once every eight years, while conformists go twice a year. Eccentrics apparently enjoy better health because they feel less pressured to follow society’s rules, said the researcher who did the study at Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland.
Eccentrics (1995).Study results in SELF magazine - 1992 National Enquirer.
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Of all the frictional resistances, the one that most retards human movement is ignorance, what Buddha called 'the greatest evil in the world.' The friction which results from ignorance ... can be reduced only by the spread of knowledge and the unification of the heterogeneous elements of humanity. No effort could be better spent.
'The Problem of Increasing Human Energy', The Century (Jun 1900), 211. Collected in The Century (1900), Vol. 60, 211
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Of course we have no means of staying back for any length of Time, any more than a savage or an animal has of staying six feet above the ground. But a civilized man is better off than the savage in this respect. He can go up against gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?
In The Time Machine (1898), 13.
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Oh! But I have better news for you, Madam, if you have any patriotism as citizen of this world and wish its longevity. Mr. Herschel has found out that our globe is a comely middle-aged personage, and has not so many wrinkles as seven stars, who are evidently our seniors. Nay, he has discovered that the Milky Way is not only a mob of stars, but that there is another dairy of them still farther off, whence, I conclude, comets are nothing but pails returning from milking, instead of balloons filled with inflammable air.
Letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory (4 Jul 1785) in W. S. Lewis (ed.), Horace Walpole's Correspondence with the Countess of Upper Ossory (1965), Vol. 33, 474.
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Old King Coal was a merry old soul:
“I’ll move the world,” quoth he;
“My England’s high, and rich, and great,
But greater she shall be !”
And he call’d for the pick, and he call’d for the spade,
And he call’d for his miners bold;
“ And it’s dig,” he said, “in the deep, deep earth;
You’ll find my treasures better worth
Than mines of Indian gold!”

Old King Coal was a merry old soul,
Yet not content was he;
And he said, “I’ve found what I’ve desired,
Though ’tis but one of three.”
And he call’d for water, he call’d for fire,
For smiths and workmen true:
“Come, build me engines great and strong ;
We’ll have,” quoth he, “a change ere long;
We’ll try what Steam can do.”

Old King Coal was a merry old soul:
“’Tis fairly done,” quoth he,
When he saw the myriad wheels at work
O’er all the land and sea.
They spared the bones and strength of men,
They hammer’d, wove, and spun;
There was nought too great, too mean, or small,
The giant Steam had power for all;—
His task was never done.
From song, 'Old King Coal' (1846), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 565. To the melody of 'Old King Cole'.
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On Breaking Habits. To begin knocking off the habit in the evening, then the afternoon as well and, finally, the morning too is better than to begin cutting it off in the morning and then go on to the afternoon and evening. I speak from experience as regards smoking and can say that when one comes to within an hour or two of smoke-time one begins to be impatient for it, whereas there will be no impatience after the time for knocking off has been confirmed as a habit.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 220.
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One of the major goals when studying specific genetic diseases is to find the primary gene product, which in turn leads to a better understanding of the biochemical basis of the disorder. The bottom line often reads, 'This may lead to effective prenatal diagnosis and eventual eradication of the disease.' But we now have the ironic situation of being able to jump right to the bottom line without reading the rest of the page, that is, without needing to identify the primary gene product or the basic biochemical mechanism of the disease. The technical capability of doing this is now available. Since the degree of departure from our previous approaches and the potential of this procedure are so great, one will not be guilty of hyperbole in calling it the 'New Genetics'.
'Prenatal Diagnosis and the New Genetics', The American Journal of Human Genetics, 1980, 32:3, 453.
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One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one’s trouble does not make it better.
Diary entry for 31 Oct 1937, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 66.
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One way of dealing with errors is to have friends who are willing to spend the time necessary to carry out a critical examination of the experimental design beforehand and the results after the experiments have been completed. An even better way is to have an enemy. An enemy is willing to devote a vast amount of time and brain power to ferreting out errors both large and small, and this without any compensation. The trouble is that really capable enemies are scarce; most of them are only ordinary. Another trouble with enemies is that they sometimes develop into friends and lose a great deal of their zeal. It was in this way the writer lost his three best enemies. Everyone, not just scientists, needs a good few enemies.
Quoted in George A. Olah, A Life of Magic Chemistry (2001), 146.
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Our aim [with poetry therapy] is to help the individual learn the art of helping himself or herself. We believe strongly with Walt Whitman, who wrote, “I am larger, better than I thought/I did not know I held so much goodness.”
As given in obituary, Myrna Oliver, 'Arthur Lerner; Promoted Use of Poetry in Therapy', Los Angeles Times (8 Apr 1998), quoting from a The Times article (1987).
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Our ultimate end must be precisely what Dr. Pauling says, peace based on agreement, upon understanding, on universally agreed and enforced law. I think this is a wonderful idea, but peace based on force buys us the necessary time, and in this time we can work for better understanding, for closer collaboration.
From debate (20 Feb 1958) between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller on WQED-TV, San Francisco. Transcript published as Fallout and Disarmament: The Pauling-Teller Debate (1958). Reprinted in 'Fallout and Disarmament: A Debate between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller', Daedalus (Spring 1958), 87, No. 2, 160.
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Peace means creative giving, making a contribution to the betterment of our own people and to the betterment of people throughout the world. And who better understands that than the men and women of American agriculture?
'Remarks to Farm Leaders Participating in the “Salute to Agriculture”' (7 May 1971), Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard M. Nixon (1972), 627.
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Penguins are an indicator of the health of our watery planet, and if they are unable to survive, we had better take notice or we might find our own survival threatened.
In Penguins (1998), 160.
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Perhaps it is better in this present world of ours that a revolutionary idea or invention instead of being helped and patted be hampered and ill-treated in its adolescence—by want of means, by selfish interest, pedantry, stupidity and ignorance; that it be attacked and stifled; that it pass through bitter trials and tribulations, through the heartless strife of commercial existence. ... So all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combatted, suppressed—only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.
'The Transmission of Electrical Energy Without Wires As a Means for Furthering Peace', Electrical World and Engineer (7 Jan 1905), 24. Reproduced in John T. Ratzlaff, editor, Tesla Said (1984), 86. Also reprinted in Nikola Tesla, Miscellaneous Writings (2007), 58.
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Producing food for 6.2 billion people, adding a population of 80 million more a year, is not simple. We better develop an ever improved science and technology, including the new biotechnology, to produce the food that’s needed for the world today. In response to the fraction of the world population that could be fed if current farmland was convered to organic-only crops: “We are 6.6 billion people now. We can only feed 4 billion. I don’t see 2 billion volunteers to disappear.” In response to extreme critics: “These are utopian people that live on Cloud 9 and come into the third world and cause all kinds of confusion and negative impacts on the developing countries.”
…...
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Professor Dewar
Is a better man than you are,
None of you asses
Can condense gases.
E. C. Bentley, Biography for Beginners (1905). Collected in Complete Clerihews (2008), 39.
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Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians.
…...
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Psychologists, like other scientists, pride themselves on being extremely modern, and therefore much better than any group of people that ever were before....
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 118.
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Quite often, when an idea that could be helpful presents itself, we do not appreciate it, for it is so inconspicuous. The expert has, perhaps, no more ideas than the inexperienced, but appreciates more what he has and uses it better.
How to Solve it: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (1957), 223.
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Rachel Carson. Her very name evokes the beatific luminosity of the canonized. Yet Carson was not a saint, but better, a prophet—that rare soul who diverts our attention into the path of the oncoming truth.
In his Foreward to Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1950, 2003), xvi.
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RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  273.
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Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.
From a History Channel TV show, (?) The Universe.
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