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

Blunder Quotes (13 quotes)

Question: Explain why pipes burst in cold weather.
Answer: People who have not studied acoustics think that Thor bursts the pipes, but we know that is nothing of the kind for Professor Tyndall has burst the mythologies and has taught us that it is the natural behaviour of water (and bismuth) without which all fish would die and the earth be held in an iron grip. (1881)
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1881), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 186-7, Question 10. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.) Webmaster notes that “fish would die” may refer to being taught that water's greatest density is at 4°C, and sinks below a frozen surface, so bodies of water can remain liquid underneath, to the benefit of the fish. The student was likely taught that bismuth, like water, expands when it freezes.
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All frescoes are as high finished as miniatures or enamels, and they are known to be unchangeable; but oil, being a body itself, will drink or absorb very little colour, and changing yellow, and at length brown, destroys every colour it is mixed with, especially every delicate colour. It turns every permanent white to a yellow and brown putty, and has compelled the use of that destroyer of colour, white lead, which, when its protecting oil is evaporated, will become lead again. This is an awful thing to say to oil painters ; they may call it madness, but it is true. All the genuine old little pictures, called cabinet pictures, are in fresco and not in oil. Oil was not used except by blundering ignorance till after Vandyke’s time ; but the art of fresco painting being lost, oil became a fetter to genius and a dungeon to art.
In 'Opinions', The Poems: With Specimens of the Prose Writings of William Blake (1885), 276-277.
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Buffon, who, with all his theoretical ingenuity and extraordinary eloquence, I suspect had little actual information in the science on which he wrote so admirably For instance, he tells us that the cow sheds her horns every two years; a most palpable error. ... It is wonderful that Buffon who lived so much in the country at his noble seat should have fallen into such a blunder I suppose he has confounded the cow with the deer.
In The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1826), Vol. 3, 70, footnote.
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Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. ... the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.
In 'Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution', The American Biology Teacher (Mar 1973), 125-129.
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For, the great enemy of knowledge is not error, but inertness. All that we want is discussion, and then we are sure to do well, no matter what our blunders may be. One error conflicts with another; each destroys its opponent, and truth is evolved.
In History of Civilization in England (1861), Vol. 2, 408.
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If sleeping and dreaming do not perform vital biological functions, then they must represent nature's most stupid blunder and most colossal waste of time.
Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming (1995, 1997), 91.
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Much later, when I discussed the problem with Einstein, he remarked that the introduction of the cosmological term was the biggest blunder he ever made in his life. But this “blunder,” rejected by Einstein, is still sometimes used by cosmologists even today, and the cosmological constant denoted by the Greek letter Λ rears its ugly head again and again and again.
My World Line (1970). Cited in Edward Robert Harrison, Cosmology: the Science of the Universe (2000), 379, which adds: “The Λ force is referred to by various names, such as the cosmological constant, cosmological term, cosmical constant or cosmical term.”
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Success covers a multitude of blunders.
…...
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The best class of scientific mind is the same as the best class of business mind. The great desideratum in either case is to know how much evidence is enough to warrant action. It is as unbusiness-like to want too much evidence before buying or selling as to be content with too little. The same kind of qualities are wanted in either case. The difference is that if the business man makes a mistake, he commonly has to suffer for it, whereas it is rarely that scientific blundering, so long as it is confined to theory, entails loss on the blunderer. On the contrary it very often brings him fame, money and a pension. Hence the business man, if he is a good one, will take greater care not to overdo or underdo things than the scientific man can reasonably be expected to take.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 217.
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The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 28.
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The laboratory work was the province of Dr Searle, an explosive, bearded Nemesis who struck terror into my heart. If one made a blunder one was sent to ‘stand in the corner’ like a naughty child. He had no patience with the women students. He said they disturbed the magnetic equipment, and more than once I heard him shout ‘Go and take off your corsets!’ for most girls wore these garments then, and steel was beginning to replace whalebone as a stiffening agent. For all his eccentricities, he gave us excellent training in all types of precise measurement and in the correct handling of data.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 116.
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When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a long history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting, I speak from experience, does the study of natural history become!
From the Conclusion of Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (3rd. ed., 1861), 521.
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Your printers have made but one blunder,
Correct it instanter, and then for the thunder!
We'll see in a jiffy if this Mr S[pencer]
Has the ghost of a claim to be thought a good fencer.
To my vision his merits have still seemed to dwindle,
Since I have found him allied with the great Dr T[yndall]
While I have, for my part, grown cockier and cockier,
Since I found an ally in yourself, Mr L[ockyer]
And am always, in consequence, thoroughly willin',
To perform in the pages of Nature's M[acmillan].
Postcard from Tait to Lockyer, editor of Nature, cited by H. Dingle, Nature (1969), 224, 829.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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