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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Dangerous

Dangerous Quotes (105 quotes)

Error of confounding cause and effect.—There is no more dangerous error than confounding consequence with cause: I call it the intrinsic depravity of reason. … I take an example: everybody knows the book of the celebrated Comaro, in which he recommends his spare diet as a recipe for a long and happy life,—for a virtuous life also. Few books have been read so much… I believe hardly any book … has caused so much harm, has shortened so many lives, as this well-meant curiosity. The source of this mischief is in confounding consequence with cause. The candid Italian saw in his diet the cause of his long life, while the prerequisite to long life, the extraordinary slowness of the metabolic process, small consumption, was the cause of his spare diet. He was not at liberty to eat little or much; his frugality—was not of “free will;” he became sick when he ate more.
From 'The Four Great Errors', The Twilight of the Idols (1888), collected in Thomas Common (trans.), The Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (1896), Vol. 11, 139.
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Ich have auf eine geringe Vermutung eine gefährliche Reise gewagt und erblicke schon die Vorgebirge neuer Länder. Diejenigen, welche die Herzhaftigheit haben die Untersuchung fortzusetzen, werden sie betreten.
Upon a slight conjecture [on the origin of the solar system] I have ventured on a dangerous journey and I already behold the foothills of new lands. Those who have the courage to continue the search will set foot on them.
From Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels (Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1755). As quoted in D. ter Haar and A.G.W. Cameron, 'Historical Review of Theories of the Origin of the Solar System', collected in Robert Jastrow and A. G. W. Cameron (eds.), Origin of the Solar System: Proceedings of a Conference Held at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, January 23-24, 1962, (1963), 3. 'Cosmogonical Hypotheses' (1913), collected in Harlow Shapley, Source Book in Astronomy, 1900-1950 (1960), 347.
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A century ago, Darwin and his friends were thought to be dangerous atheists, but their heresy simply replaced a benevolent personal deity called God by a benevolent impersonal deity called Evolution. In their different ways Bishop Wilberforce and T.H. Huxley both believed in Fate.
From transcript of BBC radio Reith Lecture (12 Nov 1967), 'A Runaway World', on the bbc.co.uk website.
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A fool who, after plain warning, persists in dosing himself with dangerous drugs should be free to do so, for his death is a benefit to the race in general.
…...
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A learned man is an idler who kills time with study. Beware of his false knowledge: it is more dangerous than ignorance.
In 'Maxims for Revolutionists: Education', in Man and Superman (1905), 230.
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A little knowledge is dangerous. So is a lot.
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A little learning is a dangerous thing;—not if you know how little it is.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lxvi.
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A surplus of ideas is as dangerous as a drought. The tendency to jump from idea to idea spreads your energy horizontally rather than vertically. As a result you'll struggle to make progress.
In 'The Action Method', Making Ideas Happen (2012).
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A sword in the hands of a drunken slave is less dangerous than science in the hands of the immoral.
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A work of genius is something like the pie in the nursery song, in which the four and twenty blackbirds are baked. When the pie is opened, the birds begin to sing. Hereupon three fourths of the company run away in a fright; and then after a time, feeling ashamed, they would fain excuse themselves by declaring, the pie stank so, they could not sit near it. Those who stay behind, the men of taste and epicures, say one to another, We came here to eat. What business have birds, after they have been baked, to be alive and singing? This will never do. We must put a stop to so dangerous an innovation: for who will send a pie to an oven, if the birds come to life there? We must stand up to defend the rights of all the ovens in England. Let us have dead birds..dead birds for our money. So each sticks his fork into a bird, and hacks and mangles it a while, and then holds it up and cries, Who will dare assert that there is any music in this bird’s song?
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 86. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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All err the more dangerously because each follows a truth. Their mistake lies not in following a falsehood but in not following another truth.
From Pensées, as translated in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 325. From the original French, “Tous errent d'autant plus dangereusement qu’ils suivent chacun une vérité. Leur faute n’est pas de suivre une fausseté, mais de ne pas suivre une autre vérité,” in Oeuvres Complètes (1864), Vol. 1, 363.
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All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.
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An error is the more dangerous in proportion to the degree of truth which it contains.
Entry for 26 Dec 1852 in Amiel’s Journal: The Journal Intime of Henri-Frédéric Amiel, trans. Humphry Ward (1893), 34.
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And so many think incorrectly that everything was created by the Creator in the beginning as it is seen, that not only the mountains, valleys, and waters, but also various types of minerals occurred together with the rest of the world, and therefore it is said that it is unnecessary to investigate the reasons why they differ in their internal properties and their locations. Such considerations are very dangerous for the growth of all the sciences, and hence for natural knowledge of the Earth, particularly the art of mining, though it is very easy for those clever people to be philosophers, having learnt by heart the three words 'God so created' and to give them in reply in place of all reasons.
About the Layers of the Earth and other Works on Geology (1757), trans. A. P. Lapov (1949), 55.
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As a different, but perhaps more common, strategy for the suppression of novelty, we may admit the threatening object to our midst, but provide an enveloping mantle of ordinary garb… . This kind of cover-up, so often amusing in our daily lives, can be quite dangerous in science, for nothing can stifle originality more effectively than an ordinary mantle placed fully and securely over an extraordinary thing.
In 'A Short Way to Big Ends', Natural History (Jan 1986), 95, No. 1, 18.
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Bankers regard research as most dangerous a thing that makes banking hazardous due to the rapid changes it brings about in industry.
Address (1927), quoted in U.S. National Resources Committee Technology and Planning, Washington 1937, 5-6. Also U.S. Government Report, Technological Trends (1937), 63.
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By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man—man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 256.
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Chiromancy is a most dangerous science, and one that ought not to be encouraged, except in a “tête-à-tête.”
Aphorism collected in Sebastian Melmoth (1908), 15. Note: Sebastian Melmoth was the pseudonym used by Oscar Wilde in his exile in France after released from prison. Chiromancy is palmistry.
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Committees are dangerous things that need most careful watching. I believe that a research committee can do one useful thing and one only. It can find the workers best fitted to attack a particular problem, bring them together, give them the facilities they need, and leave them to get on with the work. It can review progress from time to time, and make adjustments; but if it tries to do more, it will do harm.
Attributed.
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Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
As translated by R.J. Hollingdale (trans.) in Human, All Too Human: A book for Free Spirits (1878/1996), Part 1, 179, aphorism 483.
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Copernicus … did not publish his book [on the nature of the solar system] until he was on his deathbed. He knew how dangerous it is to be right when the rest of the world is wrong.
In a speech at Waterville, Maine, July 30, 1885.
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Dangerous, therefore, is it to take shelter under a tree, during a thunder-gust. It has been fatal to many, both men and beasts.
'Letter IV. Containing Observations and Suppositions towards forming a new Hypothesis, for explaining the several Phænomena of Thunder-Gusts', in Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America by Mr. Benjamin Franklin, and Commnicated in Several Letters to Mr. P. Collinson, of London, F.R.S. (1751), 47. In the book, the letter is undated, but it is printed after a footnote dated 29 Apr 1749, and is followed by one dated 29 Jul 1750. Therefore, it is assumed by later authors to have been written in summer 1749. When I. Bernard Cohen editted Benjamin Franklin's Experiments (1941), 209, he wrote that the letter was wrtten during summer or autumn of 1749 and “was dispatched, not to Collinson, but to Dr John Mitchel F.R.S." In his later books, Cohen dates it as 29 Apr 1749.
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Dear Sir Walter ... Your account of his seizure grieved us all much. Coleridge had a dangerous attack a few weeks ago; Davy is gone. Surely these are men of power, not to be replaced should they disappear, as one alas has done.
From letter to Samuel Rogers (30 Jul 1830), collected in Peter William Clayden, Rogers and His Contemporaries (1889), Vol. 2, 41. Also Quoted in Raymond Lamont-Brown, Humphry Davy: Life Beyond The Lamp (2004), 168.
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Encryption...is a powerful defensive weapon for free people. It offers a technical guarantee of privacy, regardless of who is running the government... It’s hard to think of a more powerful, less dangerous tool for liberty.
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Everybody using C is a dangerous thing. We have other languages that don’t have buffer overflows. But what is the longer-term cost to us as an enterprise in increased vulnerability, increased need for add-on security services or whatever else is involved? Those kinds of questions don’t get asked often enough.
As quoted in magazine article, an interview by John McCormick, 'Computer Security as a Business Enabler', Baseline (7 Jul 2007).
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Far from attempting to control science, few among the general public even seem to recognize just what “science” entails. Because lethal technologies seem to spring spontaneously from scientific discoveries, most people regard dangerous technology as no more than the bitter fruit of science, the real root of all evil.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 181.
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Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.
A Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40), ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (1888), book 1, part 4, section 7, 272.
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However dangerous might be the shock of a comet, it might be so slight, that it would only do damage at the part of the Earth where it actually struck; perhaps even we might cry quits if while one kingdom were devastated, the rest of the Earth were to enjoy the rarities which a body which came from so far might bring it. Perhaps we should be very surprised to find that the debris of these masses that we despised were formed of gold and diamonds; but who would be the most astonished, we, or the comet-dwellers, who would be cast on our Earth? What strange being each would find the other!
From 'Lettre sur la comète', Œuvres de M. Maupertuis (1752), 203. As quoted in Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979), 95-96.
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I am concerned at the over-enthusiasm of unbridled reformers who initiate costly and frequently useless or even dangerous schemes. Progress is not synonymous with radicalism.
Myre Sim
In 'Myre Sim', Gale, Contemporary Authors Online (2002).
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I do not think we can impose limits on research. Through hundreds of thousands of years, man’s intellectual curiosity has been essential to all the gains we have made. Although in recent times we have progressed from chance and hit-or-miss methods to consciously directed research, we still cannot know in advance what the results may be. It would be regressive and dangerous to trammel the free search for new forms of truth.
In Margaret Mead and Rhoda Bubendey Métraux (ed.), Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views (1979), 89.
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I have a sense of humor; but over the years that sense has developed one blind spot. I can no longer laugh at ignorance or stupidity. Those are our chief enemies, and it is dangerous to make fun of them.
Draft (22 May 1970) of speech he hoped to give upon his retirement. In Susan Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 309.
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I require a term to express those bodies which can pass to the electrodes, or, as they are usually called, the poles. Substances are frequently spoken of as being electro-negative, or electro-positive, according as they go under the supposed influence of a direct attraction to the positive or negative pole. But these terms are much too significant for the use to which I should have to put them; for though the meanings are perhaps right, they are only hypothetical, and may be wrong; and then, through a very imperceptible, but still very dangerous, because continual, influence, they do great injury to science, by contracting and limiting the habitual view of those engaged in pursuing it. I propose to distinguish these bodies by calling those anions which go to the anode of the decomposing body; and those passing to the cathode, cations; and when I have occasion to speak of these together, I shall call them ions.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1834, 124, 79.
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If physical science is dangerous, as I have said, it is dangerous because it necessarily ignores the idea of moral evil; but literature is open to the more grievous imputation of recognizing and understanding it too well.
In 'Duties of the Church Towards Knowledge', The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated (1852, 1873), Discourse 9, 229.
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If this cynicism and apathy are allowed to continue to fester, it will not only be dangerous, but in our democracy it will be suicidal.
Stating (1998) his commitment upon the announcement of the creation of the John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy Institute. As quoted on the OSU website, which also gives that in letters and documents from 1997, when he announced his retirement after four U.S. Senate terms, Glenn underscored his intent to dedicate his time toward dispelling “the apathy, mistrust and outright cynicism among our young people", which he saw as “a looming danger for the future of the country.”
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In acute diseases the physician must conduct his inquiries in the following way. First he must examine the face of the patient, and see whether it is like the faces of healthy people, and especially whether it is like its usual self. Such likeness will be the best sign, and the greatest unlikeness will be the most dangerous sign. The latter will be as follows. Nose sharp, eyes hollow, temples sunken, ears cold and contracted with their lobes turned outwards, the skin about the face hard and tense and parched, the colour of the face as a whole being yellow or black.
Prognostic, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 9.
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In addition, each barrel of oil we save through conservation further decreases our dangerous reliance on unstable Middle East oil.
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In our popular discussions, unwise ideas must have a hearing as well as wise ones, dangerous ideas as well as safe.
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It can even be thought that radium could become very dangerous in criminal hands, and here the question can be raised whether mankind benefits from knowing the secrets of Nature, whether it is ready to profit from it or whether this knowledge will not be harmful for it. The example of the discoveries of Nobel is characteristic, as powerful explosives have enabled man to do wonderful work. They are also a terrible means of destruction in the hands of great criminals who lead the peoples towards war. I am one of those who believe with Nobel that mankind will derive more good than harm from the new discoveries.
Nobel Lecture (6 June 1905), 'Radioactive Substances, Especially Radium', collected in Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1998), 78.
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It is almost a universal fact that the rattlesnake will do all that it reasonably can to avoid man. The rattler's first wish is to get away from anything as large and as potentially dangerous as man. If the snake strikes, it is because it is cornered or frightened for its own safety.
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It is often said that experiments should be made without preconceived ideas. That is impossible. Not only would it make every experiment fruitless, but even if we wished to do so, it could not be done. Every man has his own conception of the world, and this he cannot so easily lay aside. We must, example, use language, and our language is necessarily steeped in preconceived ideas. Only they are unconscious preconceived ideas, which are a thousand times the most dangerous of all.
Science and Hypothesis (1902), trans. W.J.G. (1905), 143.
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It is sometimes as dangerous to be run into by a microbe as by a trolley car.
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It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.
Science and the Modern World: Lowell Lectures, 1925 (1925), 291.
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It is the triumph of civilization that at last communities have obtained such a mastery over natural laws that they drive and control them. The winds, the water, electricity, all aliens that in their wild form were dangerous, are now controlled by human will, and are made useful servants.
In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 75.
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It might be thought … that evolutionary arguments would play a large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case. It is difficult enough to study what is happening now. To figure out exactly what happened in evolution is even more difficult. Thus evolutionary achievements can be used as hints to suggest possible lines of research, but it is highly dangerous to trust them too much. It is all too easy to make mistaken inferences unless the process involved is already very well understood.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 138-139.
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It seems to me that your Reverence and Signor Galileo act prudently when you content yourselves with speaking hypothetically and not absolutely, as I have always understood that Copernicus spoke. To say that on the supposition of the Earth's movement and the Sun's quiescence all the celestial appearances are explained better than by the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is to speak with excellent good sense and to run no risk whatsoever. Such a manner of speaking is enough for a mathematician. But to want to affirm that the Sun, in very truth, is at the center of the universe and only rotates on its axis without going from east to west, is a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arouse all Scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our holy faith by contradicting the Scriptures.
Letter to Paolo Antonio Foscarini, 12 April 1615. Quoted in Giorgio De Santillana, The Crime of Galileo (1955), 99.
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It’s very dangerous to invent something in our times; ostentatious men of the other world, who are hostile to innovations, roam about angrily. To live in peace, one has to stay away from innovations and new ideas. Innovations, like trees, attract the most destructive lightnings to themselves.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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Just think of the differences today. A young person gets interested in chemistry and is given a chemical set. But it doesn't contain potassium cyanide. It doesn't even contain copper sulfate or anything else interesting because all the interesting chemicals are considered dangerous substances. Therefore, these budding young chemists don't get a chance to do anything engrossing with their chemistry sets. As I look back, I think it is pretty remarkable that Mr. Ziegler, this friend of the family, would have so easily turned over one-third of an ounce of potassium cyanide to me, an eleven-year-old boy.
In Barbara Marinacci, Linus Pauling In His Own Words (1995), 29.
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Leaving aside genetic surgery applied humans, I foresee that the coming century will place in our hands two other forms of biological technology which are less dangerous but still revolutionary enough to transform the conditions of our existence. I count these new technologies as powerful allies in the attack on Bernal's three enemies. I give them the names “biological engineering” and “self-reproducing machinery.” Biological engineering means the artificial synthesis of living organisms designed to fulfil human purposes. Self-reproducing machinery means the imitation of the function and reproduction of a living organism with non-living materials, a computer-program imitating the function of DNA and a miniature factory imitating the functions of protein molecules. After we have attained a complete understanding of the principles of organization and development of a simple multicellular organism, both of these avenues of technological exploitation should be open to us.
From 3rd J.D. Bernal Lecture, Birkbeck College London (16 May 1972), The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1972), 6. Collected in The Scientist as Rebel (2006), 292. (The World, the Flesh & the Devil: An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul is the title of a book by J. D Bernal, a scientist who pioneered X-ray crystallography.)
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Like taxes, radioactivity has long been with us and in increasing amounts; it is not to be hated and feared, but accepted and controlled. Radiation is dangerous, let there be no mistake about that—but the modern world abounds in dangerous substances and situations too numerous to mention. ... Consider radiation as something to be treated with respect, avoided when practicable, and accepted when inevitable.
Recommending the same view towards radiation as the risks of automobile travel.
While in the Office of Naval Research. In Must we Hide? (1949), 44.
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Many scientists have tried to make determinism and complementarity the basis of conclusions that seem to me weak and dangerous; for instance, they have used Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to bolster up human free will, though his principle, which applies exclusively to the behavior of electrons and is the direct result of microphysical measurement techniques, has nothing to do with human freedom of choice. It is far safer and wiser that the physicist remain on the solid ground of theoretical physics itself and eschew the shifting sands of philosophic extrapolations.
In New Perspectives in Physics (1962), viii.
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Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
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Mathematics is a dangerous profession; an appreciable proportion of us go mad.
In A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953), reissued as Béla Bollobás (ed.), Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 104.
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Mathematics is indeed dangerous in that it absorbs students to such a degree that it dulls their senses to everything else.
While a student, an observation made about his teacher, Professor Karl Schellbach. Quoted, without citation, in Howard W. Eves, Mathematical Circles Adieu, (1977).
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Most of the dangerous aspects of technological civilization arise, not from its complexities, but from the fact that modern man has become more interested in the machines and industrial goods themselves than in their use to human ends.
In A God Within (1972).
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Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous.
…...
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Nazis started the Science of Eugenics. It’s the theory that to them, justified the holocaust. The problem is the Science has been broadly accepted around the world, including the United States. We even went as far as to hire the Scientists that were working on it and brought them over here rather then charging them with war crimes. [Project Paperclip] I think it is a very dangerous Science that contains ideologies that are a grave danger to the entire world.
James Dye
…...
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No voyage is dangerous to the one who waves from the shore.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 104.
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Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
In The Foundation Trilogy (1951), 155.
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Of all regions of the earth none invites speculation more than that which lies beneath our feet, and in none is speculation more dangerous; yet, apart from speculation, it is little that we can say regarding the constitution of the interior of the earth. We know, with sufficient accuracy for most purposes, its size and shape: we know that its mean density is about 5½ times that of water, that the density must increase towards the centre, and that the temperature must be high, but beyond these facts little can be said to be known. Many theories of the earth have been propounded at different times: the central substance of the earth has been supposed to be fiery, fluid, solid, and gaseous in turn, till geologists have turned in despair from the subject, and become inclined to confine their attention to the outermost crust of the earth, leaving its centre as a playground for mathematicians.
'The Constitution of the Interior of the Earth, as Revealed by Earthquakes', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1906), 62, 456.
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On May 7, a few weeks after the accident at Three-Mile Island, I was in Washington. I was there to refute some of that propaganda that Ralph Nader, Jane Fonda and their kind are spewing to the news media in their attempt to frighten people away from nuclear power. I am 71 years old, and I was working 20 hours a day. The strain was too much. The next day, I suffered a heart attack. You might say that I was the only one whose health was affected by that reactor near Harrisburg. No, that would be wrong. It was not the reactor. It was Jane Fonda. Reactors are not dangerous.
From statement, published as a two-page advertisement, 'I Was the Only Victim of Three-Mile Island', placed by Dresser Industries in The Wall Street Journal (31 Jul 1979), U.S. Representative Larry McDonald entered the entire content of the ad, as Extensions of Remarks, into the Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the Congress (18 Dec 1979), 36876. [Note: The Three Mile Island accident happened on 28 Mar 1979. —Webmaster]
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One may say that predictions are dangerous particularly for the future. If the danger involved in a prediction is not incurred, no consequence follows and the uncertainty principle is not violated.
Edward Teller , Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Conversations from the Dark Side of Physics (1991, 2002), 235.
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Only to often on meeting scientific men, even those of genuine distiction, one finds that they are dull fellows and very stupid. They know one thing to excess; they know nothing else. Pursuing facts too doggedly and unimaginatively, they miss all the charming things that are not facts. ... Too much learning, like too little learning, is an unpleasant and dangerous thing.
A Second Mencken Chrestomathy: A New Selection from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (2006), 157.
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Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous…
From Richard III (Nov 1633), Act 1, Scene 1. In The Plays of William Shakespeare (1804), Vol. 5, 2.
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Printer's ink, when it spells out a doctor's promise to cure, is one of the subtlest and most dangerous of poisons.
'The Sure-Cure School,' Collier’s Weekly (14 Jul 1906). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 84.
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Radium could become very dangerous in criminal hands, and here the question can be raised whether mankind benefits from knowing the secrets of Nature…
Nobel Lecture (6 June 1905), 'Radioactive Substances, Especially Radium', collected in Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1998), 78. A longer version of this quote on this web page begins, “It can even be thought that…”
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Science becomes dangerous only when it imagines that it has reached its goal.
In Preface to the play, The Doctor’s Dilemma (1911), xc.
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Science is always simple and profound. It is only the half truths that are dangerous.
…...
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Science is dangerous. There is no question but that poison gas, genetic engineering, and nuclear weapons and power stations are terrifying. It may be that civilization is falling apart and the world we know is coming to an end. In that case, why no turn to religion and look forward to the Day of Judgment, ... [being] lifted into eternal bliss ... [and] watching the scoffers and disbelievers writhe forever in torment.
The 'Threat' of Creationism. In Ashley Montagu (ed.), Science and Creationism (1984), 192.
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Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled.
Brave New World (1932, 1998), 225.
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Scientists, especially when they leave the particular field in which they are specialized, are just as ordinary, pig-headed, and unreasonable as everybody else, and their unusually high intelligence only makes their prejudices all the more dangerous.
Sense and Nonsense in Psychology (1957), 108.
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Sir Hiram Maxim is a genuine and typical example of the man of science, romantic, excitable, full of real but somewhat obvious poetry, a little hazy in logic and philosophy, but full of hearty enthusiasm and an honorable simplicity. He is, as he expresses it, “an old and trained engineer,” and is like all of the old and trained engineers I have happened to come across, a man who indemnifies himself for the superhuman or inhuman concentration required for physical science by a vague and dangerous romanticism about everything else.
In G.K. Chesterton, 'The Maxims of Maxim', Daily News (25 Feb 1905). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 87.
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Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others.
As quoted in The Artist (1978), 93, 5.
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Suddenly there was an enormous explosion, like a violent volcano. The nuclear reactions had led to overheating in the underground burial grounds. The explosion poured radioactive dust and materials high up into the sky. It was just the wrong weather for such a tragedy. Strong winds blew the radioactive clouds hundreds of miles away. It was difficult to gauge the extent of the disaster immediately, and no evacuation plan was put into operation right away. Many villages and towns were only ordered to evacuate when the symptoms of radiation sickness were already quite apparent. Tens of thousands of people were affected, hundreds dying, though the real figures have never been made public. The large area, where the accident happened, is still considered dangerous and is closed to the public.
'Two Decades of Dissidence', New Scientist (4 Nov 1976), 72, No. 72, 265.
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The canyon country does not always inspire love. To many it appears barren, hostile, repellent—a fearsome, mostly waterless land of rock and heat, sand dunes and quicksand. cactus, thornbush, scorpion, rattlesnake, and agoraphobic distances. To those who see our land in that manner, the best reply is, yes, you are right, it is a dangerous and terrible place. Enter at your own risk. Carry water. Avoid the noon-day sun. Try to ignore the vultures. Pray frequently.
The Journey Home
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The future is too interesting and dangerous to be entrusted to any predictable, reliable agency. We need all the fallibility we can get. Most of all, we need to preserve the absolute unpredictability and total improbability of our connected minds. That way we can keep open all the options, as we have in the past.
In 'Computers', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 132-133.
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The mere eminence of a specialist makes him the more dangerous.
In Man, the Unknown.
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The most dangerous tendency of the modern world is the way in which bogus theories are given the force of dogma.
The Lord of History (1958), 103.
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The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.
Aphorism 7 in Notebook H, as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990).
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The most remarkable thing was his [Clifford’s] great strength as compared with his weight, as shown in some exercises. At one time he could pull up on the bar with either hand, which is well known to be one of the greatest feats of strength. His nerve at dangerous heights was extraordinary. I am appalled now to think that he climbed up and sat on the cross bars of the weathercock on a church tower, and when by way of doing something worse I went up and hung by my toes to the bars he did the same.
Anonymous
Quoted from a letter by one of Clifford’s friends to F. Pollock, in Clifford’s Lectures and Essays (1901), Vol. 1, Introduction, 8.
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The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this.
…...
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The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage. If knowledge is real and genuine, I do not believe that it is other than a very valuable posession, however infinitesimal its quantity may be. Indeed, if a little knowledge is dangerous, where is a man who has so much as to be out of danger?
'Instruction in Physiology', in Science and Culture and Other Essays (1882), 91.
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The sciences have sworn among themselves an inviolable partnership; it is almost impossible to separate them, for they would rather suffer than be torn apart; and if anyone persists in doing so, he gets for his trouble only imperfect and confused fragments. Yet they do not arrive all together, but they hold each other by the hand so that they follow one another in a natural order which it is dangerous to change, because they refuse to enter in any other way where they are called. ...
Les Préludes de l'Harmonie Universelle (1634), 135-139. In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 316.
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The vacuum-apparatus requires that its manipulators constantly handle considerable amounts of mercury. Mercury is a strong poison, particularly dangerous because of its liquid form and noticeable volatility even at room temperature. Its poisonous character has been rather lost sight of during the present generation. My co-workers and myself found from personal experience-confirmed on many sides when published—that protracted stay in an atmosphere charged with only 1/100 of the amount of mercury required for its saturation, sufficed to induce chronic mercury poisoning. This first reveals itself as an affection of the nerves, causing headaches, numbness, mental lassitude, depression, and loss of memory; such are very disturbing to one engaged in intellectual occupations.
Hydrides of Boron and Silicon (1933), 203.
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The word “definition” has come to have a dangerously reassuring sound, owing no doubt to its frequent occurrence in logical and mathematical writings.
In 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism', From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays (1953, 1961), 26.
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The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
Widely quoted, but without citation, for example in Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 79. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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There is a lurking fear that some things are “not meant” to be known, that some inquiries are too dangerous for human beings to make.
In Broca’s Brain: Reflections of the Romance of Science (1979).
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There is no great harm in the theorist who makes up a new theory to fit a new event. But the theorist who starts with a false theory and then sees everything as making it come true is the most dangerous enemy of human reason.
In The Flying Inn (1914), 103.
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This is a mighty wonder: in the discharge from the lungs alone, which is not particularly dangerous, the patients do not despair of themselves, even although near the last.
Concerning Tuberculosis.
On the Causes and Symptoms of Acute Diseases, II, ii,18.
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To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of Life.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
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Truth is a dangerous word to incorporate within the vocabulary of science. It drags with it, in its train, ideas of permanence and immutability that are foreign to the spirit of a study that is essentially an historically changing movement, and that relies so much on practical examination within restricted circumstances. … Truth is an absolute notion that science, which is not concerned with any such permanency, had better leave alone.
In The Universe of Science (1933).
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We live in an essential and unresolvable tension between our unity with nature and our dangerous uniqueness. Systems that attempt to place and make sense of us by focusing exclusively either on the uniqueness or the unity are doomed to failure. But we must not stop asking and questing because the answers are complex and ambiguous.
In 'Our Natural Place', Hen's Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History (1994, 2010), 250.
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What I then got hold of, something frightful and dangerous, a problem with horns but not necessarily a bull, in any case a new problem—today I should say that it was the problem of science itself, science considered for the first time as problematic, as questionable. But the book in which my youthful courage and suspicion found an outlet—what an impossible book had to result from a task so uncongenial to youth! Constructed from a lot of immature, overgreen personal experiences, all of them close to the limits of communication, presented in the context of art—for the problem of science cannot be recognized in the context of science—a book perhaps for artists who also have an analytic and retrospective penchant (in other words, an exceptional type of artist for whom one might have to look far and wide and really would not care to look) …
In The Birth of Tragedy (1872). Collected in Friedrich Nietzsche and Walter Kaufmann (trans.), The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner (1967), 18.
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What signifies Philosophy that does not apply to some Use? May we not learn from hence, that black Clothes are not so fit to wear in a hot Sunny Climate or Season, as white ones; because in such Cloaths the Body is more heated by the Sun when we walk abroad, and are at the same time heated by the Exercise, which double Heat is apt to bring on putrid dangerous Fevers? The Soldiers and Seamen, who must march and labour in the Sun, should in the East or West Indies have an Uniform of white?
Letter to Miss Mary Stevenson, 20 Sep 1761. In Albert Henry Smyth (ed.), The Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1906), Vol. 4, 115.
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When men are engaged in war and conquest, the tools of science become as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child of three. We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are being exploited for false and destructive purposes. Rather, we should remember that the fate of mankind hinges entirely upon man’s moral development.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. The British Library Sound Archive holds a recording of this statement by Einstein. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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When the mathematician says that such and such a proposition is true of one thing, it may be interesting, and it is surely safe. But when he tries to extend his proposition to everything, though it is much more interesting, it is also much more dangerous. In the transition from one to all, from the specific to the general, mathematics has made its greatest progress, and suffered its most serious setbacks, of which the logical paradoxes constitute the most important part. For, if mathematics is to advance securely and confidently, it must first set its affairs in order at home.
With co-author James R. Newman, in Mathematics and the Imagination (1940), 219.
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While Occam’s razor is a useful tool in the physical sciences, it can be a very dangerous implement in biology. It is thus very rash to use simplicity and elegance as a guide in biological research.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 138.
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[Misattributed] A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.
See the original quoted on the page for Alexander Pope, beginning “A little learning …”.
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[My grandmother] lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house. It leaked, she contended, out of empty sockets if the wall switch had been left on. She would go around screwing in bulbs, and if they lighted up, she would fearfully turn off the wall switch and go back to her Pearson's or Everybody's, happy in the satisfaction that she had stopped not only a costly but dangerous leakage. nothing could ever clear this up for her.
In My Life and Hard Times (1937, 1999), 16.
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[O]ur long-term security is threatened by a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism: human-induced climate change. … The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a “weapon of mass destruction.” Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries. It can strike anywhere, in any form…
London Guardian (28 Jul 2003)
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[Retirement] is a dangerous experiment, and generally ends in either drunkenness or hypochrondriacism.
Letter to Robert Darwin, October 1792. Quoted in Desmond King-Hele, Erasmus Darwin: A Life of Unequalled Achievement (1999), 274.
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[Science] dissipates errors born of ignorance about our true relations with nature, errors the more damaging in that the social order should rest only on those relations. TRUTH! JUSTICE! Those are the immutable laws. Let us banish the dangerous maxim that it is sometimes useful to depart from them and to deceive or enslave mankind to assure its happiness.
Exposition du Système du Monde (1796), 2, 312, trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 175.
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[The infinitely small] neither have nor can have theory; it is a dangerous instrument in the hands of beginners [ ... ] anticipating, for my part, the judgement of posterity, I would dare predict that this method will be accused one day, and rightly, of having retarded the progress of the mathematical sciences.
Annales des Mathematiques Pures et Appliquées (1814-5), 5, 148.
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…tis a dangerous thing to ingage the authority of Scripture in disputes about the Natural World, in opposition to Reason; lest Time, which brings all things to light, should discover that to be evidently false which we had made Scripture to assert.
The Sacred Theory of the Earth (1681)
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“I had,” said he, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.”
From 'VIII—The Adventure of the Speckled Band', Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, in The Strand Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly (Feb 1892), Vol. 3, 156.
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“Obvious” is the most dangerous word in mathematics.
In The Queen of the Sciences (1938), 14.
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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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- 10 -
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Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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