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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Correct Quotes (28 quotes)

Dilbert: Maybe I’m unlucky in love because I’m so knowledgeable about science that I intimidate people. Their intimidation becomes low self-esteem, then they reject me to protect their egos.
Dogbert: Occam’s Razor.
Dilbert: What is “Occam's Razor”?
Dogbert: A guy named Occam had a rule about the world. Basically he said that when there are multiple explanations for something the simplest explanation is usually correct. The simplest explanation for your poor love life is that you’re immensely unattractive.
Dilbert: Maybe Occam had another rule that specifically exempted this situation, but his house burned down with all his notes. Then he forgot.
Dogbert: Occam’s Razor.
Dilbert: I’m an idiot.
Dogbert: I don’t think we can rule it out at this point.
Dilbert comic strip (11 Jul 1993).
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A disease which new and obscure to you, Doctor, will be known only after death; and even then not without an autopsy will you examine it with exacting pains. But rare are those among the extremely busy clinicians who are willing or capable of doing this correctly.
In Atrocis, nee Descipti Prius, Morbi Historia as translated in Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (1944), 43, 217.
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Biot, who assisted Laplace in revising it [The Mécanique Céleste] for the press, says that Laplace himself was frequently unable to recover the details in the chain of reasoning, and if satisfied that the conclusions were correct, he was content to insert the constantly recurring formula, 'Il est àisé a voir' [it is easy to see].
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 427.
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Careful and correct use of language is a powerful aid to straight thinking, for putting into words precisely what we mean necessitates getting our own minds quite clear on what we mean.
In The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950,1957), 91.
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Don’t confuse hypothesis and theory. The former is a possible explanation; the latter, the correct one. The establishment of theory is the very purpose of science.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944), 7.
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For it is the duty of an astronomer to compose the history of the celestial motions or hypotheses about them. Since he cannot in any certain way attain to the true causes, he will adopt whatever suppositions enable the motions to be computed correctly from the principles of geometry for the future as well as for the past.
From unauthorized preface Osiander anonymously added when he was entrusted with arranging the printing of the original work by Copernicus. As translated in Nicolaus Copernicus and Jerzy Dobrzycki (ed.), Nicholas Copernicus on the Revolutions (1978), xvi.
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Good lawyers know that in many cases where the decisions are correct, the reasons that are given to sustain them may be entirely wrong. This is a thousand times more likely to be true in the practice of medicine than in that of the law, and hence the impropriety, not to say the folly, in spending your time in the discussion of medical belief and theories of cure that are more ingenious and seductive than they are profitable.
Introductory lecture (22 Sep 1885), Hahnemann Medical College, Chicago, printed in United States Medical Investigator (1885), 21, 526.
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I would teach the world that science is the best way to understand the world, and that for any set of observations, there is only one correct explanation. Also, science is value-free, as it explains the world as it is. Ethical issues arise only when science is applied to technology – from medicine to industry.
Response to question “What is the one thing everyone should learn about science?” in 'Life Lessons' The Guardian (7 Apr 2005).
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Imagination comes first in both artistic and scientific creations, but in science there is only one answer and that has to be correct.
In 'Discoverers of the Double Helix', The Daily Telegraph (27 Apr 1987), in Max Perntz (ed.), Is Science Necessary: Essays on Science and Scientists (1991), 182.
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Intelligence is an extremely subtle concept. It’s a kind of understanding that flourishes if it's combined with a good memory, but exists anyway even in the absence of good memory. It’s the ability to draw consequences from causes, to make correct inferences, to foresee what might be the result, to work out logical problems, to be reasonable, rational, to have the ability to understand the solution from perhaps insufficient information. You know when a person is intelligent, but you can be easily fooled if you are not yourself intelligent.
In Irv Broughton (ed.), The Writer's Mind: Interviews with American Authors (1990), Vol. 2, 57.
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It appears that anything you say about the way that theory and experiment may interact is likely to be correct, and anything you say about the way that theory and experiment must interact is likely to be wrong.
In Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature (1992), 128.
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It does appear that on the whole a physicist… tries to reduce his theory at all times to as few parameters as possible and is inclined to feel that a theory is a “respectable” one, though by no means necessarily correct, if in principle it does offer reasonably specific means for its possible refutation. Moreover the physicist will generally arouse the irritation amongst fellow physicists if he is not prepared to abandon his theory when it clashes with subsequent experiments. On the other hand it would appear that the chemist regards theories—or perhaps better his theories (!) —as far less sacrosanct, and perhaps in extreme cases is prepared to modify them continually as each bit of new experimental evidence comes in.
'Discussion: Physics and Chemistry: Comments on Caldin's View of Chemistry', British Journal of the Philosophy of Science, 1960, 11, 222.
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It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can’t go on without the facts … if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly.
Feynman Lectures on Gravitation, edited by Brian Hatfield (2002), 137.
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It is … a sign of the times—though our brothers of physics and chemistry may smile to hear me say so—that biology is now a science in which theories can be devised: theories which lead to predictions and predictions which sometimes turn out to be correct. These facts confirm me in a belief I hold most passionately—that biology is the heir of all the sciences.
From Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1960).
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It's only through honesty and courage that science can work at all. The Ptolemaic understanding of the solar system was undermined and corrected by the constant pressure of more and more honest reporting.
In essay, 'The Origin of the Universe,' 6. Written after hearing Stephen Hawking's lecture (2006) at Oxford, about the origin of the universe.
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No matter how correct a mathematical theorem may appear to be, one ought never to be satisfied that there was not something imperfect about it until it also gives the impression of being beautiful.
As quoted in Desmond MacHale. Comic Sections (1993), 107, without citation. Please contact the Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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Physical Science and Industrialism may be conceived as a pair of dancers, both of whom know their steps and have an ear for the rhythm of the music. If the partner who has been leading chooses to change parts and to follow instead, there is perhaps no reason to expect that he will dance less correctly than before.
From 'Introduction: The Geneses of Civilizations', A Study of History (1948), Vol. 1, 3, footnote.
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Psychology appeared to be a jungle of confusing, conflicting, and arbitrary concepts. These pre-scientific theories doubtless contained insights which still surpass in refinement those depended upon by psychiatrists or psychologists today. But who knows, among the many brilliant ideas offered, which are the true ones? Some will claim that the statements of one theorist are correct, but others will favour the views of another. Then there is no objective way of sorting out the truth except through scientific research.
From The Scientific Analysis of Personality (1965), 14.
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The establishment of the periodic law may truly be said to mark a line in chemical science, and we anticipate that its application and and extension will be fraught With the most important consequences. It reminds us how important above all things is the correct determination of the fundamental constants of our science—the atomic weights of the elements, about which in many cases great uncertainty prevails; it is much to be desired that this may not long remain the case. It also affords the strongest encouragement to the chemist to persevere in the search for new elements.
In The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Ninth Edition (1877), Vol. 5, 714.
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The great horde of physicians are always servile imitators, who can neither perceive nor correct the faults of their system, and are always ready to growl at and even to worry the ingenious person that could attempt it. Thus was the system of Galen secured in the possession of the schools of physic.
In Lectures Introductory to the Practice of Physic, Collected in The Works of William Cullen: Containing his Physiology, Nosology, and first lines of the practice of physic (1827), Vol. 1, 386.
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The great masters of modern analysis are Lagrange, Laplace, and Gauss, who were contemporaries. It is interesting to note the marked contrast in their styles. Lagrange is perfect both in form and matter, he is careful to explain his procedure, and though his arguments are general they are easy to follow. Laplace on the other hand explains nothing, is indifferent to style, and, if satisfied that his results are correct, is content to leave them either with no proof or with a faulty one. Gauss is as exact and elegant as Lagrange, but even more difficult to follow than Laplace, for he removes every trace of the analysis by which he reached his results, and studies to give a proof which while rigorous shall be as concise and synthetical as possible.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 468.
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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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The traditional mathematics professor of the popular legend is absentminded. He usually appears in public with a lost umbrella in each hand. He prefers to face a blackboard and to turn his back on the class. He writes a, he says b, he means c, but it should be d. Some of his sayings are handed down from generation to generation:
“In order to solve this differential equation you look at it till a solution occurs to you.”
“This principle is so perfectly general that no particular application of it is possible.”
“Geometry is the science of correct reasoning on incorrect figures.”
“My method to overcome a difficulty is to go round it.”
“What is the difference between method and device? A method is a device which you used twice.”
In How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), 208.
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There are reported to be six species of metals, namely, gold, silver, iron, copper, tin, and lead. Actually there are more. Mercury is a metal although we differ on this point with the chemists. Plumbum cinereum (gray lead) which we call bisemutum was unknown to the older Greek writers. On the other hand, Ammonius writes correctly many metals are unknown to us, as well as many plants and animals.
As translated by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean A. Bandy from the first Latin Edition of 1546 in De Natura Fossilium: (Textbook of Mineralogy) (2004), 19. Originally published by Geological Society of America as a Special Paper (1955). There are other translations with different wording.
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There was once an Editor of the Chemical Society, given to dogmatic expressions of opinion, who once duly said firmly that 'isomer' was wrong usage and 'isomeride' was correct, because the ending 'er' always meant a 'do-er'. 'As in water?' snapped Sidgwick.
Obituary of Nevil Vincent Sidgwick by L. E Sutton, Proceedings of the Chemical Society (1958), 318.
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We have also here an acting cause to account for that balance so often observed in nature,—a deficiency in one set of organs always being compensated by an increased development of some others—powerful wings accompanying weak feet, or great velocity making up for the absence of defensive weapons; for it has been shown that all varieties in which an unbalanced deficiency occurred could not long continue their existen The action of this principle is exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident; and in like manner no unbalanced deficiency in the animal kingdom can ever reach any conspicuous magnitude, because it would make itself felt at the very first step, by rendering existence difficult and extinction almost sure soon to follow.
In 'On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type', Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, Zoology (1858), 3, 61-62.
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When the logician has resolved each demonstration into a host of elementary operations, all of them correct, he will not yet be in possession of the whole reality, that indefinable something that constitutes the unity ... Now pure logic cannot give us this view of the whole; it is to intuition that we must look for it.
Science and Method (1914 edition, reprint 2003), 126.
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Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (1967), 116.
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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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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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