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Classical Quotes (45 quotes)

δος μοι που στω και κινω την γην — Dos moi pou sto kai kino taen gaen (in epigram form, as given by Pappus, classical Greek).
δος μοι πα στω και τα γαν κινάσω — Dos moi pa sto kai tan gan kinaso (Doric Greek).
Give me a place to stand on and I can move the Earth.
About four centuries before Pappas, but about three centuries after Archimedes lived, Plutarch had written of Archimedes' understanding of the lever:
Archimedes, a kinsman and friend of King Hiero, wrote to him that with a given force, it was possible to move any given weight; and emboldened, as it is said, by the strength of the proof, he asserted that, if there were another world and he could go to it, he would move this one.
A commonly-seen expanded variation of the aphorism is:
Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I can move the earth.
As attributed to Pappus (4th century A.D.) and Plutarch (c. 46-120 A.D.), in Sherman K. Stein, Archimedes: What Did He Do Besides Cry Eureka? (1999), 5, where it is also stated that Archimedes knew that ropes and pulley exploit “the principle of the lever, where distance is traded for force.” Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis, in his book, Archimedes (1956), Vol. 12., 15. writes that Hiero invited Archimedes to demonstrate his claim on a ship from the royal fleet, drawn up onto land and there loaded with a large crew and freight, and Archimedes easily succeeded. Thomas Little Heath in The Works of Archimedes (1897), xix-xx, states according to Athenaeus, the mechanical contrivance used was not pulleys as given by Plutarch, but a helix., Heath provides cites for Pappus Synagoge, Book VIII, 1060; Plutarch, Marcellus, 14; and Athenaeus v. 207 a-b. What all this boils down to, in the opinion of the Webmaster, is the last-stated aphorism would seem to be not the actual words of Archimedes (c. 287 – 212 B.C.), but restatements of the principle attributed to him, formed by other writers centuries after his lifetime.
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[About describing atomic models in the language of classical physics:] We must be clear that when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.
As quoted by Werner Heisenberg, as translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, in Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 41. The words are not verbatim, but as later recollected by Werner Heisenberg describing his early encounter with Bohr in 1920.
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A closer look at the course followed by developing theory reveals for a start that it is by no means as continuous as one might expect, but full of breaks and at least apparently not along the shortest logical path. Certain methods often afforded the most handsome results only the other day, and many might well have thought that the development of science to infinity would consist in no more than their constant application. Instead, on the contrary, they suddenly reveal themselves as exhausted and the attempt is made to find other quite disparate methods. In that event there may develop a struggle between the followers of the old methods and those of the newer ones. The former's point of view will be termed by their opponents as out-dated and outworn, while its holders in turn belittle the innovators as corrupters of true classical science.
In 'On the Development of the Methods of Theoretical Physics in Recent Times', Populäre Schriften, Essay 14. Address (22 Sep 1899) to the Meeting of Natural Scientists at Munich. Collected in Brian McGuinness (ed.), Ludwig Boltzmann: Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, Selected Writings (1974), 79.
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A system such as classical mechanics may be ‘scientific’ to any degree you like; but those who uphold it dogmatically — believing, perhaps, that it is their business to defend such a successful system against criticism as long as it is not conclusively disproved — are adopting the very reverse of that critical attitude which in my view is the proper one for the scientist.
In The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959, reprint 2002), 28.
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A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises is, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended is its area of applicability. Therefore the deep impression which classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content concerning which I am convinced that within the framework of the applicability of its basic concepts, it will never be overthrown.
Autobiographical Notes (1946), 33. Quoted in Gerald Holton and Yehuda Elkana, Albert Einstein: Historical and Cultural Perspectives (1997), 227.
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All of my knowledge, of both science and religion, I incorporate into the classical tradition of my painting.
In G. Barry Golson (ed.), The Playboy Interview II (1983), 35.
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Before an experiment can be performed, it must be planned—the question to nature must be formulated before being posed. Before the result of a measurement can be used, it must be interpreted—nature's answer must be understood properly. These two tasks are those of the theorist, who finds himself always more and more dependent on the tools of abstract mathematics. Of course, this does not mean that the experimenter does not also engage in theoretical deliberations. The foremost classical example of a major achievement produced by such a division of labor is the creation of spectrum analysis by the joint efforts of Robert Bunsen, the experimenter, and Gustav Kirchoff, the theorist. Since then, spectrum analysis has been continually developing and bearing ever richer fruit.
'The Meaning and Limits of Exact Science', Science (30 Sep 1949), 110, No. 2857, 325. Advance reprinting of chapter from book Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography (1949), 110.
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Being in love with the one parent and hating the other are among the essential constituents of the stock of psychical impulses which is formed at that time and which is of such importance in determining the symptoms of the later neurosis... This discovery is confirmed by a legend that has come down to us from classical antiquity: a legend whose profound and universal power to move can only be understood if the hypothesis I have put forward in regard to the psychology of children has an equally universal validity. What I have in mind is the legend of King Oedipus and Sophocles' drama which bears his name.
The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), In James Strachey (ed.) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (1953), Vol. 4, 260-1.
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Classical thermodynamics ... is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced ... will never be overthrown.
Quoted in Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (ed.), A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion (2007), 353.
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Fractal is a word invented by Mandelbrot to bring together under one heading a large class of objects that have [played] … an historical role … in the development of pure mathematics. A great revolution of ideas separates the classical mathematics of the 19th century from the modern mathematics of the 20th. Classical mathematics had its roots in the regular geometric structures of Euclid and the continuously evolving dynamics of Newton. Modern mathematics began with Cantor’s set theory and Peano’s space-filling curve. Historically, the revolution was forced by the discovery of mathematical structures that did not fit the patterns of Euclid and Newton. These new structures were regarded … as “pathological,” .… as a “gallery of monsters,” akin to the cubist paintings and atonal music that were upsetting established standards of taste in the arts at about the same time. The mathematicians who created the monsters regarded them as important in showing that the world of pure mathematics contains a richness of possibilities going far beyond the simple structures that they saw in Nature. Twentieth-century mathematics flowered in the belief that it had transcended completely the limitations imposed by its natural origins.
Now, as Mandelbrot points out, … Nature has played a joke on the mathematicians. The 19th-century mathematicians may not have been lacking in imagination, but Nature was not. The same pathological structures that the mathematicians invented to break loose from 19th-century naturalism turn out to be inherent in familiar objects all around us.
From 'Characterizing Irregularity', Science (12 May 1978), 200, No. 4342, 677-678. Quoted in Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), 3-4.
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Haldane could have made a success of any one of half a dozen careers—as mathematician, classical scholar, philosopher, scientist, journalist or imaginative writer. On his life’s showing he could not have been a politician, administrator (heavens, no!), jurist or, I think, a critic of any kind. In the outcome he became one of the three or four most influential biologists of his generation.
Essay, 'J.B.S.', in Pluto’s Republic: Incorporating The Art of the Soluble and Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (1982), collected in The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice and Other Classic Essays on Science (1996), 87.
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I do not intend to go deeply into the question how far mathematical studies, as the representatives of conscious logical reasoning, should take a more important place in school education. But it is, in reality, one of the questions of the day. In proportion as the range of science extends, its system and organization must be improved, and it must inevitably come about that individual students will find themselves compelled to go through a stricter course of training than grammar is in a position to supply. What strikes me in my own experience with students who pass from our classical schools to scientific and medical studies, is first, a certain laxity in the application of strictly universal laws. The grammatical rules, in which they have been exercised, are for the most part followed by long lists of exceptions; accordingly they are not in the habit of relying implicitly on the certainty of a legitimate deduction from a strictly universal law. Secondly, I find them for the most part too much inclined to trust to authority, even in cases where they might form an independent judgment. In fact, in philological studies, inasmuch as it is seldom possible to take in the whole of the premises at a glance, and inasmuch as the decision of disputed questions often depends on an aesthetic feeling for beauty of expression, or for the genius of the language, attainable only by long training, it must often happen that the student is referred to authorities even by the best teachers. Both faults are traceable to certain indolence and vagueness of thought, the sad effects of which are not confined to subsequent scientific studies. But certainly the best remedy for both is to be found in mathematics, where there is absolute certainty in the reasoning, and no authority is recognized but that of one’s own intelligence.
In 'On the Relation of Natural Science to Science in general', Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects, translated by E. Atkinson (1900), 25-26.
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I 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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In ancient days two aviators procured to themselves wings. Daedalus flew safely through the middle air and was duly honored on his landing. Icarus soared upwards to the sun till the wax melted which bound his wings and his flight ended in fiasco. In weighing their achievements, there is something to be said for Icarus. The classical authorities tell us that he was only “doing a stunt,” but I prefer to think of him as the man who brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying machines of his day.
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In the discussion of the. energies involved in the deformation of nuclei, the concept of surface tension of nuclear matter has been used and its value had been estimated from simple considerations regarding nuclear forces. It must be remembered, however, that the surface tension of a charged droplet is diminished by its charge, and a rough estimate shows that the surface tension of nuclei, decreasing with increasing nuclear charge, may become zero for atomic numbers of the order of 100. It seems therefore possible that the uranium nucleus has only small stability of form, and may, after neutron capture, divide itself into two nuclei of roughly equal size (the precise ratio of sizes depending on liner structural features and perhaps partly on chance). These two nuclei will repel each other and should gain a total kinetic energy of c. 200 Mev., as calculated from nuclear radius and charge. This amount of energy may actually be expected to be available from the difference in packing fraction between uranium and the elements in the middle of the periodic system. The whole 'fission' process can thus be described in an essentially classical way, without having to consider quantum-mechanical 'tunnel effects', which would actually be extremely small, on account of the large masses involved.
[Co-author with Otto Robert Frisch]
Lise Meitner and O. R. Frisch, 'Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: a New Type of Nuclear Reaction', Nature (1939), 143, 239.
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It is now widely realized that nearly all the “classical” problems of molecular biology have either been solved or will be solved in the next decade. The entry of large numbers of American and other biochemists into the field will ensure that all the chemical details of replication and transcription will be elucidated. Because of this, I have long felt that the future of molecular biology lies in the extension of research to other fields of biology, notably development and the nervous system.
Letter to Max Perua, 5 June 1963. Quoted in William B. Wood (ed.), The Nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans (1988), x-xi.
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It seems sensible to discard all hope of observing hitherto unobservable quantities, such as the position and period of the electron... Instead it seems more reasonable to try to establish a theoretical quantum mechanics, analogous to classical mechanics, but in which only relations between observable quantities occur.
In Helge Kragh, Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century (1999), 161.
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It was not easy for a person brought up in the ways of classical thermodynamics to come around to the idea that gain of entropy eventually is nothing more nor less than loss of information.
Letter to Irving Langmuir, 5 Aug 1930. Quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in America: A Documentary History 1900-1939 (1981), 400.
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Medicine is essentially a learned profession. Its literature is ancient, and connects it with the most learned periods of antiquity; and its terminology continues to be Greek or Latin. You cannot name a part of the body, and scarcely a disease, without the use of a classical term. Every structure bears upon it the impress of learning, and is a silent appeal to the student to cultivate an acquaintance with the sources from which the nomenclature of his profession is derived.
From Address (Oct 1874) delivered at Guy’s Hospital, 'On The Study of Medicine', printed in British Medical journal (1874), 2, 425. Collected in Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), 11.
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Modern physics has changed nothing in the great classical disciplines of, for instance, mechanics, optics, and heat. Only the conception of hitherto unexplored regions, formed prematurely from a knowledge of only certain parts of the world, has undergone a decisive transformation. This conception, however, is always decisive for the future course of research.
In Philosophical Problems of Nuclear Science: Eight Lectures (1952), 18.
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Modern theories did not arise from revolutionary ideas which have been, so to speak, introduced into the exact sciences from without. On the contrary they have forced their way into research which was attempting consistently to carry out the programme of classical physics—they arise out of its very nature. It is for this reason that the beginnings of modern physics cannot be compared with the great upheavals of previous periods like the achievements of Copernicus. Copernicus’s idea was much more an import from outside into the concepts of the science of his time, and therefore caused far more telling changes in science than the ideas of modern physics are creating to-day.
In Philosophical Problems of Nuclear Science: Eight Lectures (1952), 13.
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Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than Dr. Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else being taught, except a little ancient geography and history. The school as a means of education to me was simply a blank. During my whole life I have been singularly incapable of mastering any language. Especial attention was paid to versemaking, and this I could never do well. I had many friends, and got together a good collection of old verses, which by patching together, sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
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), 8.
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O. Hahn and F. Strassmann have discovered a new type of nuclear reaction, the splitting into two smaller nuclei of the nuclei of uranium and thorium under neutron bombardment. Thus they demonstrated the production of nuclei of barium, lanthanum, strontium, yttrium, and, more recently, of xenon and caesium. It can be shown by simple considerations that this type of nuclear reaction may be described in an essentially classical way like the fission of a liquid drop, and that the fission products must fly apart with kinetic energies of the order of hundred million electron-volts each.
'Products of the Fission of the Urarium Nucleus', Nature (1939), 143, 471.
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Poincaré was a vigorous opponent of the theory that all mathematics can be rewritten in terms of the most elementary notions of classical logic; something more than logic, he believed, makes mathematics what it is.
In Men of Mathematics (1937), 552.
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Science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the guide—rather than a priori prejudices, hopes, fears or desires—we are forced out of our comfort zone. One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.
In op-ed, 'A Universe Without Purpose', Los Angeles Times (1 Apr 2012).
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Study actively. Don’t just read it; fight it! Ask your own questions, look for your own examples, discover your own proofs. Is the hypothesis necessary? Is the converse true? What happens in the classical special case? What about the degenerate cases? Where does the proof use the hypothesis?
In I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography (1985), 69.
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The advantage of a classical education is that it enables you to despise the wealth which it prevents you from achieving.
…...
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The classical example of a successful research programme is Newton’s gravitational theory: possibly the most successful research programme ever.
In Radio Lecture (30 Jun 1973) broadcast by the Open University, collected in Imre Lakatos, John Worrall (ed.) and Gregory Currie (ed.), 'Introduction: Science and Pseudoscience', The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes (1978, 1980), Vol. 1, 48.
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The existence of life must be considered as an elementary fact that can not be explained, but must be taken as a starting point in biology, in a similar way as the quantum of action, which appears as an irrational element from the point of view of classical mechanical physics, taken together with the existence of elementary particles, forms the foundation of atomic physics. The asserted impossibility of a physical or chemical explanation of the function peculiar to life would in this sense be analogous to the insufficiency of the mechanical analysis for the understanding of the stability of atoms.
'Light and Life', Nature, 1933, 131, 458.
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The Greeks made Space the subject-matter of a science of supreme simplicity and certainty. Out of it grew, in the mind of classical antiquity, the idea of pure science. Geometry became one of the most powerful expressions of that sovereignty of the intellect that inspired the thought of those times. At a later epoch, when the intellectual despotism of the Church, which had been maintained through the Middle Ages, had crumbled, and a wave of scepticism threatened to sweep away all that had seemed most fixed, those who believed in Truth clung to Geometry as to a rock, and it was the highest ideal of every scientist to carry on his science “more geometrico.”
In Space,Time, Matter, translated by Henry Leopold Brose (1952), 1.
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The kinetic concept of motion in classical theory will have to undergo profound modifications. (That is why I also avoided the term “orbit” in my paper throughout.) … We must not bind the atoms in the chains of our prejudices—to which, in my opinion, also belongs the assumption that electron orbits exist in the sense of ordinary mechanics—but we must, on the contrary, adapt our concepts to experience.
Letter to Niels Bohr (12 Dec 1924), in K. von Meyenn (ed.), Wolfgang Pauli - Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz (1979), Vol. 1, 188. Quoted and cited in Daniel Greenberger, Klaus Hentschel and Friedel Weinert, Compendium of Quantum Physics: Concepts, Experiments, History and Philosophy (2009), 615.
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The landed classes neglected technical education, taking refuge in classical studies; as late as 1930, for example, long after Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge had discovered the atomic nucleus and begun transmuting elements, the physics laboratory at Oxford had not been wired for electricity. Intellectual neglect technical education to this day.
[Describing C.P. Snow's observations on the neglect of technical education.]
In Visions of Technology (1999), 23.
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The main steps of my argument may be summarized thus:
1. Organisms are highly coordinated structures.
2. Only certain avenues of change are compatible with their conditions of coordination.
3. The formative and selective action of these internal conditions is theoretically and empirically different from that of Darwinian selection.
4. Mutations in the mode of coordination of the genetic system lie outside the scope of the classical arguments purporting to show that natural selection is the only directive agency.
5. The coordinative conditions constitute a second directive agency.
In Internal Factors in Evolution (1965), 73.
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The position of the anthropologist of to-day resembles in some sort the position of classical scholars at the revival of learning. To these men the rediscovery of ancient literature came like a revelation, disclosing to their wondering eyes a splendid vision of the antique world, such as the cloistered of the Middle Ages never dreamed of under the gloomy shadow of the minster and within the sound of its solemn bells. To us moderns a still wider vista is vouchsafed, a greater panorama is unrolled by the study which aims at bringing home to us the faith and the practice, the hopes and the ideals, not of two highly gifted races only, but of all mankind, and thus at enabling us to follow the long march, the slow and toilsome ascent, of humanity from savagery to civilization. And as the scholar of the Renaissance found not merely fresh food for thought but a new field of labour in the dusty and faded manuscripts of Greece and Rome, so in the mass of materials that is steadily pouring in from many sides—from buried cities of remotest antiquity as well as from the rudest savages of the desert and the jungle—we of to-day must recognise a new province of knowledge which will task the energies of generations of students to master.
'Author’s Introduction' (1900). In Dr Theodor H. Gaster (ed.), The New Golden Bough (1959), xxv-xxvi.
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The Theory of Relativity confers an absolute meaning on a magnitude which in classical theory has only a relative significance: the velocity of light. The velocity of light is to the Theory of Relativity as the elementary quantum of action is to the Quantum Theory: it is its absolute core.
'A Scientific Autobiography' (1948), in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. Frank Gaynor (1950), 47.
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The ultimate origin of the difficulty lies in the fact (or philosophical principle) that we are compelled to use the words of common language when we wish to describe a phenomenon, not by logical or mathematical analysis, but by a picture appealing to the imagination. Common language has grown by everyday experience and can never surpass these limits. Classical physics has restricted itself to the use of concepts of this kind; by analysing visible motions it has developed two ways of representing them by elementary processes; moving particles and waves. There is no other way of giving a pictorial description of motions—we have to apply it even in the region of atomic processes, where classical physics breaks down.
Max Born
Atomic Physics (1957), 97.
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The vital act is the act of participation. “Participator” is the incontrovertible new concept given by quantum mechanics. It strikes down the term “observer” of classical theory, the man who stands safely behind the thick glass wall and watches what goes on without taking part. It can’t be done, quantum mechanics says.
In Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, John Archibald Wheeler, 'Beyond the Edge of Time', Gravitation (1973), Part 3, 1217.
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This is a classical example of the process which we call, with Tinbergen, a redirected activity. It is characterized by the fact that an activity is released by one object but discharged at another, because the first one, while presenting stimuli specifically eliciting the response, simultaneously emits others which inhibit its discharge. A human example is furnished by the man who is very angry with someone and hits the table instead of the other man's jaw, because inhibition prevents him from doing so, although his pent-up anger, like the pressure within a volcano, demands outlet.
On Aggression, trans. M. Latzke (1966), 145.
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Turbulence is the most important unsolved problem of classical physics.
In The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964).
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We spend long hours discussing the curious situation that the two great bodies of biological knowledge, genetics and embryology, which were obviously intimately interrelated in development, had never been brought together in any revealing way. An obvious difficulty was that the most favorable organisms for genetics, Drosophila as a prime example, were not well suited for embryological study, and the classical objects of embryological study, sea urchins and frogs as examples, were not easily investigated genetically. What might we do about it? There were two obvious approaches: one to learn more about the genetics of an embryologically favourable organism, the other to better understand the development of Drosophila. We resolved to gamble up to a year of our lives on the latter approach, this in Ephrussi’s laboratory in Paris which was admirably equipped for tissue culture, tissue or organ transplantation, and related techniques.
In 'Recollections', Annual Review of Biochemistry, 1974, 43, 6.
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What really matters for me is … the more active role of the observer in quantum physics … According to quantum physics the observer has indeed a new relation to the physical events around him in comparison with the classical observer, who is merely a spectator.
Letter to Niels Bohr (1955). Quoted in Robert J. Scully, The Demon and the Quantum (2007), 22.
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Where chaos begins, classical science stops.
In Chaos: Making a New Science (1985, 1987), 3
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[Before college] I was almost more interested in literature and history than in the exact sciences; I was equally good in all subjects including the classical languages.
As quoted in Paul Forman and Armin Hermann, 'Sommerfeld, Arnold (Johannes Wilhelm)', Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975), Vol. 12, 526. Cited from 'Autobiographische Skizze', Gesammelte Schriften, Vol 4, 673–682.
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[In addition to classical, literary and philosophical studies,] I devoured without much appetite the Elements of Algebra and Geometry…. From these serious and scientific pursuits I derived a maturity of judgement, a philosophic spirit, of more value than the sciences themselves…. I could extract and digest the nutritive particles of every species of litterary food.
In The Autobiographies of Edward Gibbon (1896), 235. [“litterary” is sic.]
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[Quantum mechanics is] a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way.
…...
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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