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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index C > Category: Contemplate

Contemplate Quotes (29 quotes)
Contemplating Quotes

“Talent is a long patience.” We must look on what we wish to express long enough and with enough attention to discover an aspect that has not been seen and portrayed by another. There is, in everything, something unexplored, because we always use our eyes only with the recollection of what has been thought before on the subject we are contemplating.
From Pierre et Jean (1888), as translated by Alexina Loranger in 'Introduction', Pierre et Jean (Peter and John) (1890), 38-39. The opening words are quoted from Gustave Flaubert. From the original French, “Le talent est une longue patience. — Il s’agit de regarder tout ce qu’on veut exprimer assez longtemps et avec assez d’attention pour en découvrir un aspect qui n’ait été vu et dit par personne. Il y a, dans tout, de l’inexploré, parce que nous sommes habitués à ne nous servir de nos yeux qu’avec le souvenir de ce qu’on a pensé avant nous sur ce que nous contemplons.”
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[On the 11th day of November 1572], in the evening, after sunset, when, according to my habit, I was contemplating the stars in a clear sky, I noticed that a new and unusual star, surpassing all others in brilliancy, was shining almost directly over my head; and since I had, almost from boyhood, known all the stars of the heavens perfectly (there is no great difficulty in gaining that knowledge), it was quite evident to me that there had never before been any star in that place in the sky, even the smallest, to say nothing of a star so conspicuously bright as this. I was so astonished at this sight that I was not ashamed to doubt the trustworthiness of my own eyes. But when I observed that others, too, on having the place pointed out to them, could see that there was a star there, I had no further doubts. A miracle indeed, either the greatest of all that have occurred in the whole range of nature since the beginning of the world, or one certainly that is to be classed with those attested by the Holy Oracles.
De Stello. Nova (On the New Star) (1573). Quoted in H. Shapley and A. E. Howarth (eds.), Source Book in Astronomy (1929), 13.
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[T]he rapt philosopher, and he who contemplates a work of art, inhabit a world with an intense and peculiar significance of its own; that significance is unrelated to the significance of life.
In Art (1913), 26.
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And an ingenious Spaniard says, that “rivers and the inhabitants of the watery element were made for wise men to contemplate, and fools to pass by without consideration.”
In Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton, The Complete Angler (1653, 1859), 31.
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And I believe there are many Species in Nature, which were never yet taken notice of by Man, and consequently of no use to him, which yet we are not to think were created in vain; but it’s likely … to partake of the overflowing Goodness of the Creator, and enjoy their own Beings. But though in this sense it be not true, that all things were made for Man; yet thus far it is, that all the Creatures in the World may be some way or other useful to us, at least to exercise our Wits and Understandings, in considering and contemplating of them, and so afford us Subject of Admiring and Glorifying their and our Maker. Seeing them, we do believe and assert that all things were in some sense made for us, we are thereby obliged to make use of them for those purposes for which they serve us, else we frustrate this End of their Creation.
John Ray
The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), 169-70.
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Euclid always contemplates a straight line as drawn between two definite points, and is very careful to mention when it is to be produced beyond this segment. He never thinks of the line as an entity given once for all as a whole. This careful definition and limitation, so as to exclude an infinity not immediately apparent to the senses, was very characteristic of the Greeks in all their many activities. It is enshrined in the difference between Greek architecture and Gothic architecture, and between Greek religion and modern religion. The spire of a Gothic cathedral and the importance of the unbounded straight line in modern Geometry are both emblematic of the transformation of the modern world.
In Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 119.
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Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, (25 Sep 1961). On U.S. Department of State website.
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He that borrows the aid of an equal understanding, doubles his own; he that uses that of a superior elevates his own to the stature of that he contemplates.
Collected, without citation, in Edge-tools of Speech (1886), 406. Also quoted, without citation, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'Quotation and Originality', in Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 178. Webmaster has not yet identified a primary source.
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If we are to define science, ... it does not consist so much in knowing, nor even in “organized knowledge,” as it does in diligent inquiry into truth for truth’s sake, without any sort of axe to grind, nor for the sake of the delight of contemplating it, but from an impulse to penetrate into the reason of things.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 19.
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If we had a complete knowledge of all events in the world, everywhere and at all times, there would be no use for the laws of physics, or, in fact, of any other science. … They might give us a certain pleasure and perhaps amazement to contemplate, even though they would not furnish new information.
In Symmetries and Reflections: Scientific Essays of Eugene P. Wigner (1979), 17.
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In our search after the Knowledge of Substances, our want of Ideas, that are suitable to such a way of proceeding, obliges us to a quite different method. We advance not here, as in the other (where our abstract Ideas are real as well as nominal Essences) by contemplating our Ideas, and considering their Relations and Correspondencies; that helps us very little, for the Reasons, and in another place we have at large set down. By which, I think it is evident, that Substances afford Matter of very little general Knowledge; and the bare Contemplation of their abstract Ideas, will carry us but a very little way in the search of Truth and Certainty. What then are we to do for the improvement of our Knowledge in Substantial beings? Here we are to take a quite contrary Course, the want of Ideas of their real essences sends us from our own Thoughts, to the Things themselves, as they exist.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 4, Chapter 12, Section 9, 644.
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In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together, and which will continue to exist there when the last of their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven.
From Address (22 Apr 1857) for Inauguration of Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, collected in 'Academical Education', Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions (1870), Vol. 3, 514. This is seen misattributed to Eric Temple Bell, who only quoted it, attributing it to Everett, in for example, Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Sciences (1938), 20.
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It is not surprising, in view of the polydynamic constitution of the genuinely mathematical mind, that many of the major heros of the science, men like Desargues and Pascal, Descartes and Leibnitz, Newton, Gauss and Bolzano, Helmholtz and Clifford, Riemann and Salmon and Plücker and Poincaré, have attained to high distinction in other fields not only of science but of philosophy and letters too. And when we reflect that the very greatest mathematical achievements have been due, not alone to the peering, microscopic, histologic vision of men like Weierstrass, illuminating the hidden recesses, the minute and intimate structure of logical reality, but to the larger vision also of men like Klein who survey the kingdoms of geometry and analysis for the endless variety of things that flourish there, as the eye of Darwin ranged over the flora and fauna of the world, or as a commercial monarch contemplates its industry, or as a statesman beholds an empire; when we reflect not only that the Calculus of Probability is a creation of mathematics but that the master mathematician is constantly required to exercise judgment—judgment, that is, in matters not admitting of certainty—balancing probabilities not yet reduced nor even reducible perhaps to calculation; when we reflect that he is called upon to exercise a function analogous to that of the comparative anatomist like Cuvier, comparing theories and doctrines of every degree of similarity and dissimilarity of structure; when, finally, we reflect that he seldom deals with a single idea at a tune, but is for the most part engaged in wielding organized hosts of them, as a general wields at once the division of an army or as a great civil administrator directs from his central office diverse and scattered but related groups of interests and operations; then, I say, the current opinion that devotion to mathematics unfits the devotee for practical affairs should be known for false on a priori grounds. And one should be thus prepared to find that as a fact Gaspard Monge, creator of descriptive geometry, author of the classic Applications de l’analyse à la géométrie; Lazare Carnot, author of the celebrated works, Géométrie de position, and Réflections sur la Métaphysique du Calcul infinitesimal; Fourier, immortal creator of the Théorie analytique de la chaleur; Arago, rightful inheritor of Monge’s chair of geometry; Poncelet, creator of pure projective geometry; one should not be surprised, I say, to find that these and other mathematicians in a land sagacious enough to invoke their aid, rendered, alike in peace and in war, eminent public service.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 32-33.
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It is precisely because I have studied and reflected that I have to-day the faith of a Breton; and had I studied and reflected more I should have the faith of a Breton’s wife.
Apocryphal - doubtful that Pasteur actually said this. There seem to be no first-hand documents to support it. Alleged reply to a student, who supposedly asked Pasteur how it was possible for a scientific man, who had studied and reflected so much, to remain a devout Roman Catholic. As given in Michael Peter Hill, 'Scientific Freedom', The Catholic's Ready Answer: A Popular Vindication of Christian Beliefs and Practices Against the Attacks of Modern Criticism (1915), 415. Translated from the German, and expanded, from the work of Franz Xaver Brors, Modernes A B C. It was Pasteur’s position that science and faith were not mutually exclusive.
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It is very remarkable that while the words Eternal, Eternity, Forever, are constantly in our mouths, and applied without hesitation, we yet experience considerable difficulty in contemplating any definite term which bears a very large proportion to the brief cycles of our petty chronicles. There are many minds that would not for an instant doubt the God of Nature to have existed from all Eternity, and would yet reject as preposterous the idea of going back a million of years in the History of His Works. Yet what is a million, or a million million, of solar revolutions to an Eternity?
Memoir on the Geology of Central France (1827), 165.
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Like most fathers, by clear star-studded skies I used to take each of my two little boys in my arms for a glimpse at infinity. The splendor of the unreachable silenced their chatterboxes for a few seconds. They raised their arms and closed their little fingers in a futile attempt to grasp one of the twinkling sparks that dot our dreams. The little fellows obeyed the command reported by Ovid: “God elevated man's forehead and ordered him to contemplate the stars.”
Written as opening paragraph for 'Foreword' to Kevin W. Kelley (ed.), The Home Planet (1988) (unpaginated).
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MAGNITUDE, n. Size. Magnitude being purely relative, nothing is large and nothing small. If everything in the universe were increased in bulk one thousand diameters nothing would be any larger than it was before, but if one thing remained unchanged all the others would be larger than they had been. To an understanding familiar with the relativity of magnitude and distance the spaces and masses of the astronomer would be no more impressive than those of the microscopist. For anything we know to the contrary, the visible universe may be a small part of an atom, with its component ions, floating in the life-fluid (luminiferous ether) of some animal. Possibly the wee creatures peopling the corpuscles of our own blood are overcome with the proper emotion when contemplating the unthinkable distance from one of these to another.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  209.
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SEA. Bottomless. Symbol of infinity. Induces deep thoughts. At the shore one should always have a good glass. While contemplating the sea, always exclaim: “Water, water everywhere.”
In The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas (1881), trans. Jaques Barzun (1968), 79.
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The biologist can push it back to the original protist, and the chemist can push it back to the crystal, but none of them touch the real question of why or how the thing began at all. The astronomer goes back untold million of years and ends in gas and emptiness, and then the mathematician sweeps the whole cosmos into unreality and leaves one with mind as the only thing of which we have any immediate apprehension. Cogito ergo sum, ergo omnia esse videntur. All this bother, and we are no further than Descartes. Have you noticed that the astronomers and mathematicians are much the most cheerful people of the lot? I suppose that perpetually contemplating things on so vast a scale makes them feel either that it doesn’t matter a hoot anyway, or that anything so large and elaborate must have some sense in it somewhere.
As co-author with Robert Eustace, The Documents in the Case (1930), 72.
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The focal points of our different reflections have been called “science”’ or “art” according to the nature of their “formal” objects, to use the language of logic. If the object leads to action, we give the name of “art” to the compendium of rules governing its use and to their technical order. If the object is merely contemplated under different aspects, the compendium and technical order of the observations concerning this object are called “science.” Thus metaphysics is a science and ethics is an art. The same is true of theology and pyrotechnics.
Definition of 'Art', Encyclopédie (1751). Translated by Nelly S. Hoyt and Thomas Cassirer (1965), 4.
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The great truths with which it [mathematics] deals, are clothed with austere grandeur, far above all purposes of immediate convenience or profit. It is in them that our limited understandings approach nearest to the conception of that absolute and infinite, towards which in most other things they aspire in vain. In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths, which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together, and which will continue to exist there, when the last of their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven. They existed not merely in metaphysical possibility, but in the actual contemplation of the supreme reason. The pen of inspiration, ranging all nature and life for imagery to set forth the Creator’s power and wisdom, finds them best symbolized in the skill of the surveyor. "He meted out heaven as with a span;" and an ancient sage, neither falsely nor irreverently, ventured to say, that “God is a geometer”.
In Orations and Speeches (1870), Vol. 3, 614.
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The idea of an atom has been so constantly associated with incredible assumptions of infinite strength, absolute rigidity, mystical actions at a distance, and individuality, that chemists and many other reasonable naturalists of modern times, losing all patience with it, have dismissed it to the realms of metaphysics, and made it smaller than ‘anything we can conceive.’ But if atoms are inconceivably small, why are not all chemical actions infinitely swift? Chemistry is powerless to deal with this question, and many others of paramount importance, if barred by the hardness of its fundamental assumptions, from contemplating the atom as a real portion of matter occupying a finite space, and forming not an immeasurably small constituent of any palpable body.
Sir William Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait, A Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1883), Vol. I, Part 2, 495.
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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.
Recollection of a statement to William Miller, an editor, as quoted in, 'Old Man’s Advice to Youth: “Never Lose a Holy Curiosity”', Life (2 May 1955), 64.
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The skein of human continuity must often become this tenuous across the centuries (hanging by a thread, in the old cliché), but the circle remains unbroken if I can touch the ink of Lavoisier’s own name, written by his own hand. A candle of light, nurtured by the oxygen of his greatest discovery, never burns out if we cherish the intellectual heritage of such unfractured filiation across the ages. We may also wish to contemplate the genuine physical thread of nucleic acid that ties each of us to the common bacterial ancestor of all living creatures, born on Lavoisier’s ancienne terre more than 3.5 billion years ago—and never since disrupted, not for one moment, not for one generation. Such a legacy must be worth preserving from all the guillotines of our folly.
From The Lying Stones of Marrakech (2000, 2011), 114, previously published in an article in Natural History Magazine. Gould was writing about tangibly having Lavoisier’s signature on proof plates bought at an auction. (The plates were made to accompany Lavoisier’s sole geological article of 1789.)
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Those who dwell as scientists … among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
In The Sense of Wonder (1956, 1965), 88-89.
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Two lights for guidance. The first, our little glowing atom of community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the stars, symbol of the hypercosmical reality, with its crystal ecstasy. Strange that in this light, in which even the dearest love is frostily asserted, and even the possible defeat of our half-waking world is contemplated without remission of praise, the human crisis does not lose but gains significance. Strange, that it seems more, not less, urgent to play some part in this struggle, this brief effort of animalcules striving to win for their race some increase of lucidity before the ultimate darkness.
…...
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Ultra-modern physicists [are tempted to believe] that Nature in all her infinite variety needs nothing but mathematical clothing [and are] strangely reluctant to contemplate Nature unclad. Clothing she must have. At the least she must wear a matrix, with here and there a tensor to hold the queer garment together.
As quoted by Stephen T. Keith and Pierre Quédec, in 'Magnetism and Magnetic Materials', an article collected in Out of the Crystal Maze: Chapters from The History of Solid State Physics (1992), 361.
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When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.
John Muir
Travels in Alaska
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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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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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