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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index C > Category: Clock

Clock Quotes (47 quotes)

A man who has once looked with the archaeological eye will never see quite normally. He will be wounded by what other men call trifles. It is possible to refine the sense of time until an old shoe in the bunch grass or a pile of nineteenth century beer bottles in an abandoned mining town tolls in one’s head like a hall clock.
The Night Country (1971), 81.
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And there are absolutely no judgments (or rules) in Mechanics which do not also pertain to Physics, of which Mechanics is a part or type: and it is as natural for a clock, composed of wheels of a certain kind, to indicate the hours, as for a tree, grown from a certain kind of seed, to produce the corresponding fruit. Accordingly, just as when those who are accustomed to considering automata know the use of some machine and see some of its parts, they easily conjecture from this how the other parts which they do not see are made: so, from the perceptible effects and parts of natural bodies, I have attempted to investigate the nature of their causes and of their imperceptible parts.
Principles of Philosophy (1644), trans. V. R. and R. P. Miller (1983), 285-6.
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By the 18th century science had been so successful in laying bare the laws of nature that many thought there was nothing left to discover. Immutable laws prescribed the motion of every particle in the universe, exactly and forever: the task of the scientist was to elucidate the implications of those laws for any particular phenomenon of interest. Chaos gave way to a clockwork world. But the world moved on ...Today even our clocks are not made of clockwork. ... With the advent of quantum mechanics, the clockwork world has become a lottery. Fundamental events, such as the decay of a radioactive atom, are held to be determined by chance, not law.
Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos (2002). xi.
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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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For it is not cell nuclei, not even individual chromosomes, but certain parts of certain chromosomes from certain cells that must be isolated and collected in enormous quantities for analysis; that would be the precondition for placing the chemist in such a position as would allow him to analyse [the hereditary material] more minutely than [can] the morphologists ... For the morphology of the nucleus has reference at the very least to the gearing of the clock, but at best the chemistry of the nucleus refers only to the metal from which the gears are formed.
Ergebnisse über die Konstitution der chromatischen Substam des Zellkems (1904), 123. Translated in Robert Olby, The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1994), xx.
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For truly in nature there are many operations that are far more than mechanical. Nature is not simply an organic body like a clock, which has no vital principle of motion in it; but it is a living body which has life and perception, which are much more exalted than a mere mechanism or a mechanical motion.
The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (1692), trans. and ed. Allison Coudert and Taylor Corse (1996), 64.
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Hieroglyphics, or picture writing, consisted of owls, canaries, garter snakes, and the insides of alarm clocks.
In The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody (1950), 8.
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Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.
As quoted, without citation, by Kurt W. Beyer, 'Grace Murray Hopper', in Joseph J. Thomas, Leadership Embodied: The Secrets to Success of the Most Effective Navy and Marine Corps Leaders (2005), 160.
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I begin my work at about nine or ten o'clock in the evening and continue until four or five in the morning. Night is a more quiet time to work. It aids thought.
In Orison Swett Marden, 'Bell Telephone Talk: Hints on Success by Alexander G. Bell', How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves (1901), 31.
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If some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the offer.
'On Descartes' "Discourse Touching the Method of Using One's Reason Rightly and of Seeking Scientific Truth'" (1870). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 1, 192-3.
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In a way, cancer is so simple and so natural. The older you get, this is just one of the things that happens as the clock ticks.
As quoted in Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle (28 Oct 2005)
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In modern Europe, the Middle Ages were called the Dark Ages. Who dares to call them so now? … Their Dante and Alfred and Wickliffe and Abelard and Bacon; their Magna Charta, decimal numbers, mariner’s compass, gunpowder, glass, paper, and clocks; chemistry, algebra, astronomy; their Gothic architecture, their painting,—are the delight and tuition of ours. Six hundred years ago Roger Bacon explained the precession of the equinoxes, and the necessity of reform in the calendar; looking over how many horizons as far as into Liverpool and New York, he announced that machines can be constructed to drive ships more rapidly than a whole galley of rowers could do, nor would they need anything but a pilot to steer; carriages, to move with incredible speed, without aid of animals; and machines to fly into the air like birds.
In 'Progress of Culture', an address read to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, 18 July 1867. Collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 475.
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It was about three o’clock at night when the final result of the calculation [which gave birth to quantum mechanics] lay before me ... At first I was deeply shaken ... I was so excited that I could not think of sleep. So I left the house ... and awaited the sunrise on top of a rock.
[That was “the night of Heligoland”.]
Quoted in Abraham Pais, Niels Bohr’s Times: in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity (1991), 275. Cited in Mauro Dardo, Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics (2004), 179.
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Laws and institutions are constantly tending to gravitate. Like clocks, they must be occasionally cleansed, and wound up, and set to true time.
In Life Thoughts (1860), 80.
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My aim is to say that the machinery of the heavens is not like a divine animal but like a clock (and anyone who believes a clock has a soul gives the work the honour due to its maker) and that in it almost all the variety of motions is from one very simple magnetic force acting on bodies, as in the clock all motions are from a very simple weight.
Letter to J. G. Herwart von Hohenburg (16 Feb 1605). Johannes Kepler Gesammelte Werke (1937- ), Vol. 15, letter 325, l. 57-61, p. 146.
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One of the ways the telegraph changed us as humans was it gave us a new sense of what time it is. It gave us an understanding of simultaneity. It gave us the ability to synchronize clocks from one place to another. It made it possible for the world to have standard time and time zones and then Daylight Savings Time and then after that jetlag. All of that is due to the telegraph because, before that, the time was whatever it was wherever you were.
From transcript for video interview on bigthink website
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Our clocks do not measure time. ... Time is defined to be what our clocks measure.
Anonymous
Unnamed person at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, U.S.A., quoted by Tim Folger in 'Newsflash: Time May Not Exist', Discover Magazine (Jun 2007).
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Professor Tyndall once said the finest inspiration he ever received was from an old man who could scarcely read. This man acted as his servant. Each morning the old man would knock on the door of the scientist and call, “Arise, Sir: it is near seven o'clock and you have great work to do today.”
A Thousand & One Epigrams: Selected from the Writings of Elbert Hubbard (1911), 72.
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Since you are now studying geometry and trigonometry, I will give you a problem. A ship sails the ocean. It left Boston with a cargo of wool. It grosses 200 tons. It is bound for Le Havre. The mainmast is broken, the cabin boy is on deck, there are 12 passengers aboard, the wind is blowing East-North-East, the clock points to a quarter past three in the afternoon. It is the month of May. How old is the captain?
Letter (14 Aug 1853) to Louise Colet. As quote and cited in Robert A. Nowlan, Masters of Mathematics: The Problems They Solved, Why These Are Important, and What You Should Know about Them (2017), 271.
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Some guns were fired to give notice that the departure of the balloon was near. ... Means were used, I am told, to prevent the great balloon's rising so high as might endanger its bursting. Several bags of sand were taken on board before the cord that held it down was cut, and the whole weight being then too much to be lifted, such a quantity was discharged as would permit its rising slowly. Thus it would sooner arrive at that region where it would be in equilibrio with the surrounding air, and by discharging more sand afterwards, it might go higher if desired. Between one and two o’clock, all eyes were gratified with seeing it rise majestically from above the trees, and ascend gradually above the buildings, a most beautiful spectacle. When it was about two hundred feet high, the brave adventurers held out and waved a little white pennant, on both sides of their car, to salute the spectators, who returned loud claps of applause. The wind was very little, so that the object though moving to the northward, continued long in view; and it was a great while before the admiring people began to disperse. The persons embarked were Mr. Charles, professor of experimental philosophy, and a zealous promoter of that science; and one of the Messrs Robert, the very ingenious constructors of the machine.
While U.S. ambassador to France, writing about witnessing, from his carriage outside the garden of Tuileries, Paris, the first manned balloon ascent using hydrogen gas on the afternoon of 1 Dec 1783. A few days earlier, he had watched the first manned ascent in Montgolfier's hot-air balloon, on 21 Nov 1783.
Letter to Sir Charles Banks (1 Dec 1783). In The Writings of Benjamin Franklin: 1783-1788 (1906), Vol. 9, 119-120.
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Taking a very gloomy view of the future of the human race, let us suppose that it can only expect to survive for two thousand millions years longer, a period about equal to the past age of the earth. Then, regarded as a being destined to live for three-score years and ten, humanity although it has been born in a house seventy years old, is itself only three days old. But only in the last few minutes has it become conscious that the whole world does not centre round its cradle and its trappings, and only in the last few ticks of the clock has any adequate conception of the size of the external world dawned upon it. For our clock does not tick seconds, but years; its minutes are the lives of men.
EOS: Or the Wider Aspects of Cosmology (1928), 12-3.
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The age of the earth was thus increased from a mere score of millions [of years] to a thousand millions and more, and the geologist who had before been bankrupt in time now found himself suddenly transformed into a capitalist with more millions in the bank than he knew how to dispose of … More cautious people, like myself, too cautious, perhaps, are anxious first of all to make sure that the new [radioactive] clock is not as much too fast as Lord Kelvin’s was too slow.
1921 British Association for the Advancement of Science symposium on 'The Age of the Earth'. In Nature (1921), 108, 282.
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The great physicist von Laue said … a pendulum clock is not the Box you buy in a shop; a pendulum clock is the box you buy in a shop together with the Earth.
From Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967), 12.
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The history of men of science has one peculiar advantage, as it shows the importance of little things in producing great results. Smeaton learned his principle of constructing a lighthouse, by noticing the trunk of a tree to be diminished from a curve to a cyclinder ... and Newton, turning an old box into a water-clock, or the yard of a house into a sundial, are examples of those habits of patient observation which scientific biography attractively recommends.
Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (1855), 129.
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The hours of Folly are measured by the clock, but of Wisdom no clock can measure.
In 'Proverbs', The Poems: With Specimens of the Prose Writings of William Blake (1885), 279.
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The human race, whose intelligence dates back only a single tick of the astronomical clock, could hardly hope to understand so soon what it all means.
The Stars in their Courses (1931), 153.
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The late Mr. David Hume, in his posthumous works, places the powers of generation much above those of our boasted reason; and adds, that reason can only make a machine, as a clock or a ship, but the power of generation makes the maker of the machine; … he concludes, that the world itself might have been generated, rather than created; that is, it might have been gradually produced from very small beginnings, increasing by the activity of its inherent principles, rather than by a sudden evolution of the whole by the Almighty fiat.—What a magnificent idea of the infinite power of THE GREAT ARCHITECT! THE CAUSE OF CAUSES! PARENT OF PARENTS! ENS ENTIUM!
For if we may compare infinities, it would seem to require a greater infinity of power to cause the causes of effects, than to cause the effects themselves.
'Generation', Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 509. Note that this passage was restated in a 1904 translation of a book by August Weismann. That rewording was given in quotation marks and attributed to Erasumus Darwin without reference to David Hume. In the reworded form, it is seen in a number of later works as a direct quote made by Erasmus Darwin. For that restated form see the webpage for August Weismann. Webmaster has checked the quotation on this webpage in the original Zoonomia, and is the only verbatim form found so far.
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The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball. They know that overstaying the festivities—that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future—will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There’s a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.
…...
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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions. As instances of such discoveries, which are in most cases due to the increasing order of accuracy made possible by improvements in measuring instruments, may be mentioned: first, the departure of actual gases from the simple laws of the so-called perfect gas, one of the practical results being the liquefaction of air and all known gases; second, the discovery of the velocity of light by astronomical means, depending on the accuracy of telescopes and of astronomical clocks; third, the determination of distances of stars and the orbits of double stars, which depend on measurements of the order of accuracy of one-tenth of a second-an angle which may be represented as that which a pin's head subtends at a distance of a mile. But perhaps the most striking of such instances are the discovery of a new planet or observations of the small irregularities noticed by Leverrier in the motions of the planet Uranus, and the more recent brilliant discovery by Lord Rayleigh of a new element in the atmosphere through the minute but unexplained anomalies found in weighing a given volume of nitrogen. Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that “our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.”
In Light Waves and Their Uses (1903), 23-4. Michelson had some years earlier referenced “an eminent physicist” that he did not name who had “remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals,” near the end of his Convocation Address at the Dedication of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, 'Some of the Objects and Methods of Physical Science' (4 Jul 1894), published in University of Chicago Quarterly Calendar (Aug 1894), 3, No.2, 15. Also
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The nicest constitutions of government are often like the finest pieces of clock-work, which, depending on so many motions, are therefore more subject to be out of order.
'Thoughts On Various Subjects', The Works of Alexander Pope (1806), Vol. 6, 406.
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The night before Easter Sunday of that year (1920) I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of thin paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at six o’clock in the morning that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at three o’clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered seventeen years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory, and performed a simple experiment on a frog heart according to the nocturnal design. I have to describe this experiment briefly since its results became the foundation of the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse. The hearts of two frogs were isolated, the first with its nerves, the second without. Both hearts were attached to Straub cannulas filled with a little Ringer solution. The vagus nerve of the first heart was stimulated for a few minutes. Then the Ringer solution that had been in the first heart during the stimulation of the vagus was transferred to the second heart. It slowed and its beats diminished just as if its vagus had been stimulated. Similarly, when the accelerator nerve was stimulated and the Ringer from this period transferred, the second heart speeded up and its beats increased. These results unequivocally proved that the nerves do not influence the heart directly but liberate from their terminals specific chemical substances which, in their turn, cause the well-known modifications of the function of the heart characteristic of the stimulation of its nerves.
'An Autobiographic Sketch', Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1960), 4, 17.
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The oldest empires,—what we called venerable antiquity, now that we have true measures of duration, show like creations of yesterday. … The old six thousand years of chronology become a kitchen clock,—no more a measure of time than an hour-glass or an egg-glass,—since the duration of geologic periods has come into view.
In 'Progress of Culture', an address read to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, 18 July 1867. Collected in Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1883), 475.
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The person who observes a clock, sees in it not only the pendulum swinging to and fro, and the dial-plate, and the hands moving, for a child can see all this; but he sees also the parts of the clock, and in what connexion the suspended weight stands to the wheel-work, and the pendulum to the moving hands.
'The Study of the Natural Sciences: An Introductory Lecture to the Course of Experimental Chemistry in the University of Munich, for the Winter Session of 1852-53,' as translated and republished in The Medical Times and Gazette (22 Jan 1853), N.S. Vol. 6, 82.
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The picture of scientific method drafted by modern philosophy is very different from traditional conceptions. Gone is the ideal of a universe whose course follows strict rules, a predetermined cosmos that unwinds itself like an unwinding clock. Gone is the ideal of the scientist who knows the absolute truth. The happenings of nature are like rolling dice rather than like revolving stars; they are controlled by probability laws, not by causality, and the scientist resembles a gambler more than a prophet. He can tell you only his best posits—he never knows beforehand whether they will come true. He is a better gambler, though, than the man at the green table, because his statistical methods are superior. And his goal is staked higher—the goal of foretelling the rolling dice of the cosmos. If he is asked why he follows his methods, with what title he makes his predictions, he cannot answer that he has an irrefutable knowledge of the future; he can only lay his best bets. But he can prove that they are best bets, that making them is the best he can do—and if a man does his best, what else can you ask of him?
The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951, 1973), 248-9. Collected in James Louis Jarrett and Sterling M. McMurrin (eds.), Contemporary Philosophy: A Book of Readings (1954), 376.
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The result would inevitably be a state of universal rest and death, if the universe were finite and left to obey existing laws. But it is impossible to conceive a limit to the extent of matter in the universe; and therefore science points rather to an endless progress, through an endless space, of action involving the transformation of potential energy into palpable motion and thence into heat, than to a single finite mechanism, running down like a clock, and stopping for ever.
In 'On the Age of the Sun's Heat' (1862), Popular Lectures and Addresses (1891), Vol. 1, 349-50.
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The science of the geologist seems destined to exert a marked influence on that of the natural theologian... Not only—to borrow from Paley's illustration—does it enable him to argue on the old grounds, from the contrivance exhibited in the watch found on the moor, that the watch could not have lain upon the moor for ever; but it establishes further, on different and more direct evidence, that there was a time when absolutely the watch was not there; nay, further, so to speak, that there was a previous time in which no watches existed at all, but only water-clocks; yet further, that there was at time in which there we not even water-clocks, but only sun-dials; and further, an earlier time still in which sun-dials were not, nor an measurers of time of any kind.
Lecture to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, 'Geology in its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Part 1', collected in The Testimony of the Rocks: or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed (1857), 211.
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The world changed from having the determinism of a clock to having the contingency of a pinball machine.
On quantum theory's break with classical Newtonian physics, The Cosmic Code Simon & Schuster 82
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The world was created on 22nd October, 4004 BC at six o’clock in the evening.
This quote is definitely not verbatim wording, but a commonly seen synopsis giving the date of creation Ussher worked out from scripture chronology. Full text from which this paraphrase is condensed comes from Annals of the World Oxford (1658), and starts, “In the beginning…” on the James Usher Quotes page of this website. Also seen cited as Bishop of Armagh, Chronologia Sacra (1660), 45.
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There are three departments of architecture: the art of building, the making of time-pieces, and the construction of machinery.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 3, Sec. 3. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 16.
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These days at ten o’clock at night a most alarming wonder has manifested itself in the skies. The firmament was rent asunder and through this gap one could distinguish chariots and armies, riders with yellow, white, red and black standards, though to do battle against each other. This awesome and unusual vision continued from ten at night till about two of the morning, and was witnessed with alarm and dismay by many honest and trustworthy people. The significance thereof is known but to God Almighty, Who may graciously prevent the shedding of innocent blood.
Anonymous
'Frightful Apparition in the Sky at Vienna. From Vienna, the 11th day of August 1590'. As quoted in George Tennyson Matthews (ed.) News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959), 188. A handwritten collection of news reports (1568-1604) by the powerful banking and merchant house of Fugger in Ausburg.
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Time is that which is measured by a clock. This is a sound way of looking at things. A quantity like time, or any other physical measurement, does not exist in a completely abstract way. We find no sense in talking about something unless we specify how we measure it. It is the definition by the method of measuring a quantity that is the one sure way of avoiding talking nonsense about this kind of thing.
From Relativity and Common Sense: A New Approach to Einstein (1980), 65.
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Today even our clocks are not made of clockwork.
Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos (2002), xi.
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We can see that there is only one substance in the universe and that man is the most perfect one. He is to the ape and the cleverest animals what Huygens's planetary clock is to one of Julien Leroy's watches. If it took more instruments, more cogs, more springs to show or tell the time, if it took Vaucanson more artistry to make his flautist than his duck, he would have needed even more to make a speaking machine, which can no longer be considered impossible, particularly at the hands of a new Prometheus. Thus, in the same way, nature needed more artistry and machinery to construct and maintain a machine which could continue for a whole century to tell all the beats of the heart and the mind; for we cannot tell the time from the pulse, it is at least the barometer of heat and liveliness, from which we can judge the nature of the soul.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 33-4.
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We never really see time. We see only clocks. If you say this object moves, what you really mean is that this object is here when the hand of your clock is here, and so on. We say we measure time with clocks, but we see only the hands of the clocks, not time itself. And the hands of a clock are a physical variable like any other. So in a sense we cheat because what we really observe are physical variables as a function of other physical variables, but we represent that as if everything is evolving in time.
Quoted by Tim Folger in 'Newsflash: Time May Not Exist', Discover Magazine (Jun 2007).
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Whenever you note the time on the clock, realize that it is now—right now—later than it has ever been.
As quoted in Douglas Martin, 'Kenneth Franklin, Astronomer, Dies at 84', New York Times (21 Jun 2007), C13. This was Martin’s concluding remark in a paper for the new millenium making clear it properly began not on in 2000, but on 1 Jan 2001.
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[Animals] do not so much act as be put into action, and that objects make an impression on their senses such that it is necessary for them to follow it just as it is necessary for the wheels of a clock to follow the weights and the spring that pulls them.
[In his philosophy, he regarded animals to be merely automatons.].
'Traitez de la voix', Harmonie Universelle (1637), Vol. 1, prop. lii, 79. In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 318.
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[There was] in some of the intellectual leaders a great aspiration to demonstrate that the universe ran like a piece of clock-work, but this was was itself initially a religious aspiration. It was felt that there would be something defective in Creation itself—something not quite worthy of God—unless the whole system of the universe could be shown to be interlocking, so that it carried the pattern of reasonableness and orderliness. Kepler, inaugurating the scientist’s quest for a mechanistic universe in the seventeenth century, is significant here—his mysticism, his music of the spheres, his rational deity demand a system which has the beauty of a piece of mathematics.
In The Origins of Modern Science (1950), 105.
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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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