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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Darkness

Darkness Quotes (68 quotes)

Nautae etiam mare legentes, cum beneficium claritatis solis in tempore nubilo non sentiunt, aut etiam cum caligne nocturnarum tenebrarum mundus obvolvitur, et ignorant in quem mundi cardinem prora tendat, acum super mangentem ponunt, quae circulariter circumvolvitur usque dum, ejus motu cessante.
Mariners at sea, when, through cloudy weather in the day which hides the sun, or through the darkness of night, they lose knowlege of the quarter of the world to which they are sailing, touch a needle with a magnet, which will turn round till, on its motion ceasing, its point will be directed towards the north.
De naturis rerum. Original Latin text quoted in Thomas Wright, A Volume of Vocabularies... (1873), 114. Translation from Lloyd A Brown, The Story of Maps (1980), 127.
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To the Memory of Fourier
Fourier! with solemn and profound delight,
Joy born of awe, but kindling momently
To an intense and thrilling ecstacy,
I gaze upon thy glory and grow bright:
As if irradiate with beholden light;
As if the immortal that remains of thee
Attuned me to thy spirit’s harmony,
Breathing serene resolve and tranquil might.
Revealed appear thy silent thoughts of youth,
As if to consciousness, and all that view
Prophetic, of the heritage of truth
To thy majestic years of manhood due:
Darkness and error fleeing far away,
And the pure mind enthroned in perfect day.
In R. Graves, Life of W. R. Hamilton (1882), Vol. l, 696.
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A scientist strives to understand the work of Nature. But with our insufficient talents as scientists, we do not hit upon the truth all at once. We must content ourselves with tracking it down, enveloped in considerable darkness, which leads us to make new mistakes and errors. By diligent examination, we may at length little by little peel off the thickest layers, but we seldom get the core quite free, so that finally we have to be satisfied with a little incomplete knowledge.
Lecture to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, 23 May 1764. Quoted in J. A. Schufle 'Torbern Bergman, Earth Scientist', Chymia, 1967, 12, 78.
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According to the Boshongo people of central Africa, in the beginning, there was only darkness, water, and the great god Bumba. One day Bumba, in pain from a stomach ache, vomited up the sun. The sun dried up some of the water, leaving land. Still in pain, Bumba vomited up the moon, the stars, and then some animals. The leopard, the crocodile, the turtle, and finally, man. This creation myth, like many others, tries to answer the questions we all ask. Why are we here? Where did we come from?
Lecture (1987), 'The Origin of the Universe', collected in Black Holes And Baby Universes And Other Essays (1993), 99.
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And if one look through a Prism upon a white Object encompassed with blackness or darkness, the reason of the Colours arising on the edges is much the same, as will appear to one that shall a little consider it. If a black Object be encompassed with a white one, the Colours which appear through the Prism are to be derived from the Light of the white one, spreading into the Regions of the black, and therefore they appear in a contrary order to that, when a white Object is surrounded with black. And the same is to be understood when an Object is viewed, whose parts are some of them less luminous than others. For in the borders of the more and less luminous Parts, Colours ought always by the same Principles to arise from the Excess of the Light of the more luminous, and to be of the same kind as if the darker parts were black, but yet to be more faint and dilute.
Opticks (1704), Book I, Part 2, Prop. VIII, Prob. III, 123.
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And if you want the exact moment in time, it was conceived mentally on 8th March in this year one thousand six hundred and eighteen, but submitted to calculation in an unlucky way, and therefore rejected as false, and finally returning on the 15th of May and adopting a new line of attack, stormed the darkness of my mind. So strong was the support from the combination of my labour of seventeen years on the observations of Brahe and the present study, which conspired together, that at first I believed I was dreaming, and assuming my conclusion among my basic premises. But it is absolutely certain and exact that the proportion between the periodic times of any two planets is precisely the sesquialterate proportion of their mean distances.
Harmonice Mundi, The Harmony of the World (1619), book V, ch. 3. Trans. E. J. Aiton, A. M. Duncan and J. V. Field (1997), 411.
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And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
Bible
(circa 325 A.D.)
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As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.
…...
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Bernard Bolzano dispelled the clouds that throughout all the foregone centuries had enveloped the notion of Infinitude in darkness, completely sheared the great term of its vagueness without shearing it of its strength, and thus rendered it forever available for the purposes of logical discourse.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 42.
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Bertrand Russell had given a talk on the then new quantum mechanics, of whose wonders he was most appreciative. He spoke hard and earnestly in the New Lecture Hall. And when he was done, Professor Whitehead, who presided, thanked him for his efforts, and not least for “leaving the vast darkness of the subject unobscured.”
Quoted in Robert Oppenheimer, The Open Mind (1955), 102.
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Does it seem all but incredible to you that intelligence should travel for two thousand miles, along those slender copper lines, far down in the all but fathomless Atlantic; never before penetrated … save when some foundering vessel has plunged with her hapless company to the eternal silence and darkness of the abyss? Does it seem … but a miracle … that the thoughts of living men … should burn over the cold, green bones of men and women, whose hearts, once as warm as ours, burst as the eternal gulfs closed and roared over them centuries ago?
A tribute to the Atlantic telegraph cable by Edward Everett, one of the topics included in his inauguration address at the Washington University of St. Louis (22 Apr 1857). In Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions: Volume 3 (1870), 509-511.
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Essentially only one thing in life interests us: our psychical constitution, the mechanism of which was and is wrapped in darkness. All human resources, art, religion, literature, philosophy and historical sciences, all of them join in bringing lights in this darkness. But man has still another powerful resource: natural science with its strictly objective methods. This science, as we all know, is making huge progress every day. The facts and considerations which I have placed before you at the end of my lecture are one out of numerous attempts to employ a consistent, purely scientific method of thinking in the study of the mechanism of the highest manifestations of life in the dog, the representative of the animal kingdom that is man's best friend.
'Physiology of Digestion', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1904). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967), 134
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Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expressions for knowledge and ignorance ; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.
In essay, 'Language', collected in Nature: An Essay ; And, Lectures on the Times (1844), 23-24.
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Every discovery opens a new field for investigation of facts, shows us the imperfection of our theories. It has justly been said, that the greater the circle of light, the greater the boundary of darkness by which it is surrounded.
Humphry Davy and John Davy, 'Consolations in Travel--Dialogue V--The Chemical Philosopher', The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy (1840), Vol. 9, 362.
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Exits sun; enters moon.
This moon is never alone.
Stars are seen all around.
These twinklers do not make a sound.
The tiny ones shine from their place.
Mother moon watches with a smiling face.
Its light is soothing to the eyes.
Night’s darkness hides its face.
Cool and calm is its light.
Heat and sweat are never felt.
Some days, moon is not seen.
Makes kids wonder, where had it been?
Partial eclipse shades the moon.
In summers it does not arrive soon.
Beautiful is this milky ball.
It is the love of one and all.
…...
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From the womb of darkness and cocoon of indifference is emerging a form of treatment that will eventually be added to the armamentarium of the alert and concerned physician.
Let's Live (Apr 1976). In Morton Walker and Hitendra H. Shah, Everything You Should Know About Chelation Therapy (1998), 15.
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Genius, without religion, is only a lamp on the outer gate of a palace. It may serve to cast a gleam of light on those that are without while the inhabitant sits in darkness.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 106.
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He who lacks a sense of the past is condemned to live in the narrow darkness of his own generation
Quoted, and described as “an old Armenian saying”, in Differential Equations: With Applications and Historical Notes (1972), ix.
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I came to biochemistry through chemistry; I came to chemistry, partly by the labyrinthine routes that I have related, and partly through the youthful romantic notion that the natural sciences had something to do with nature. What I liked about chemistry was its clarity surrounded by darkness; what attracted me, slowly and hesitatingly, to biology was its darkness surrounded by the brightness of the givenness of nature, the holiness of life. And so I have always oscillated between the brightness of reality and the darkness of the unknowable. When Pascal speaks of God in hiding, Deus absconditus, we hear not only the profound existential thinker, but also the great searcher for the reality of the world. I consider this unquenchable resonance as the greatest gift that can be bestowed on a naturalist.
Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life before Nature (1978), 55.
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I have now said enough to show you that it is indispensable for this country to have a scientific education in connexion with manufacturers, if we wish to outstrip the intellectual competition which now, happily for the world, prevails in all departments of industry. As surely as darkness follows the setting of the sun, so surely will England recede as a manufacturing nation, unless her industrial population become much more conversant with science than they are now.
In 'The Study of Abstract Science Essential to the Progress of Industry', Records of the School of Mines (1852) 1, 48.
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I know no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history. Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes, a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not led him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions, which make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life with barren toil and battle.
'Agnosticism' (1889). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 5, 256.
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I never got tired of watching the radar echo from an aircraft as it first appeared as a tiny blip in the noise on the cathode-ray tube, and then grew slowly into a big deflection as the aircraft came nearer. This strange new power to “see” things at great distances, through clouds or darkness, was a magical extension of our senses. It gave me the same thrill that I felt in the early days of radio when I first heard a voice coming out of a horn...
In Boffin: A Personal Story of the Early Days of Radar, Radio Astronomy and Quantum Optics (1991), 9.
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I raised the visor on my helmet cover and looked out to try to identify constellations. As I looked out into space, I was overwhelmed by the darkness. I felt the flesh crawl on my back and the hair rise on my neck.
In How Do You Go To The Bathroom In Space?: All the Answers to All the Questions You Have About Living in Space (1999), 118.
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I will insist particularly upon the following fact, which seems to me quite important and beyond the phenomena which one could expect to observe: The same [double sulfate of uranium and potassium] crystalline crusts, arranged the same way [as reported to the French academy on 24 Feb 1896] with respect to the photographic plates, in the same conditions and through the same screens, but sheltered from the excitation of incident rays and kept in darkness, still produce the same photographic images … [when kept from 26 Feb 1896] in the darkness of a bureau drawer. … I developed the photographic plates on the 1st of March, expecting to find the images very weak. Instead the silhouettes appeared with great intensity.
It is important to observe that it appears this phenomenon must not be attributed to the luminous radiation emitted by phosphorescence … One hypothesis which presents itself to the mind naturally enough would be to suppose that these rays, whose effects have a great similarity to the effects produced by the rays studied by M. Lenard and M. Röntgen, are invisible rays …
[Having eliminated phosphorescence as a cause, he has further revealed the effect of the as yet unknown radioactivity.]
Read at French Academy of Science (2 Mar 1896). In Comptes Rendus (1896), 122, 501. As translated by Carmen Giunta on the Classic Chemistry web site.
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If a photographic plate under the center of a lens focused on the heavens is exposed for hours, it comes to reveal stars so far away that even the most powerful telescopes fail to reveal them to the naked eye. In a similar way, time and concentration allow the intellect to perceive a ray of light in the darkness of the most complex problem.
From Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), 34.
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If they [enlightened men] take any interest in examining, in the infancy of our species, the almost obliterated traces of so many nations that have become extinct, they will doubtless take a similar interest in collecting, amidst the darkness which covers the infancy of the globe, the traces of those revolutions which took place anterior to the existence of all nations.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 3.
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In shades of black and blue the skies do bow as darkness falls the lights go out.
Nature softly immersed in glee as all mankind drifts off to sleep.
Water breathes a sigh of relief now aquatic creatures can do as they please.
Animals whether large or small regain the natural instincts that man has fought.
The moon shines bright he’s happy too people can’t over-ride his rules.
Midnight calms the wounds of the world the break of dawn disperses new hope...
…...
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In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth … Which beginning of time, according to our Cronologie, fell upon the entrance of the night preceding the twenty third day of Octob. in the year of the Julian Calendar, 710 [or 4004 B.C.]. Upon the first day therefore of the world, or Octob. 23. being our Sunday, God, together with the highest Heaven, created the Angels. Then having finished, as it were, the roofe of this building, he fell in hand with the foundation of this wonderfull Fabrick of the World, he fashioned this lowermost Globe, consisting of the Deep, and of the Earth; all the Quire of Angels singing together and magnifying his name therefore … And when the Earth was void and without forme, and darknesse covered the face of the Deepe, on the very middle of the first day, the light was created; which God severing from the darknesses, called the one day, and the other night.
In 'Annals of the Old Testament', The Annals of the World (1658), excerpted in Louis A. Ruprecht, God Gardened East: A Gardener's Meditation on the Dynamics of Genesis (2008), 53-54.
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In the beginning God created the heaven and earth. And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. … God said, “Let there be a vault in the waters to divide the waters in two.” And so it was. God made the vault, and it divided the waters above the vault from the waters under the vault. God called the vault “heaven.”
Bible
Genesis 1:1 in The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments Translated Out of the Original Tongues. Printed for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (1895), 1.
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It is not always the truth that tells us where to look for new knowledge. We don’t search for the penny under the lamp post where the light is. We know we are more likely to find it out there in the darkness. My favorite way of expressing this notion to graduate students who are trying to do very hard experiments is to remind them that “God loves the noise as much as he does the signal.”
In 'Physics and the APS in 1979', Physics Today (Apr 1980), 33, No. 4, 50.
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It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully,but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretches out his arms for others.
Letter to Farkas Wolfgang Bolyai (2 Sep 1808). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 416.
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It is the middle of the night when a glittering theatre of light suddenly appears in front of the Dhaka. Where, moments before there was only darkness, suddenly there are hundreds of columns of light. The sound of helicopters and car horns carry across to the ship on the breeze. There is the scent of rain after it has evaporated from warm streets. This is unmistakably Singapore, the small city-state at the most southern point of the Asiatic mainland. Singapore was built as a centre for world trade by the British over 250 years ago, and today, Singapore has the largest container harbour in the world. This is where the axes of world trade cross paths: from the Far East to Europe, from the Far East to Southeast Asia/the East, and from the Far East to Australia. Everything runs like clockwork here. Within five hours the Dhaka has been unloaded.
Made on Earth
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It’s better to light a candle then to curse the darkness.
…...
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Just as knowing how a magic trick is done spoils its wonder, so let us be grateful that wherever science and reason turn they finally plunge into darkness.
John Mitchinson and John Lloyd, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 274.
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Life, this anti-entropy, ceaselessly reloaded with energy, is a climbing force, toward order amidst chaos, toward light, among the darkness of the indefinite, toward the mystic dream of Love, between the fire which devours itself and the silence of the Cold.
Nobel Lecture, The Coming Age of the Cell, 12 Dec 1974
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Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance. Neither his destiny nor his duty have been written down. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose.
Concluding remarks in Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1972), 180. Also seen translated as, “The ancient covenant is in pieces; man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is time for him to choose.”
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Men have been talking now for a week at the post office about the age of the great elm, as a matter interesting but impossible to be determined. The very choppers and travelers have stood upon its prostrate trunk and speculated upon its age, as if it were a profound mystery. I stooped and read its years to them (127 at nine and a half feet), but they heard me as the wind that once sighed through its branches. They still surmised that it might be two hundred years old, but they never stooped to read the inscription. Truly they love darkness rather than light. One said it was probably one hundred and fifty, for he had heard somebody say that for fifty years the elm grew, for fifty it stood still, and for fifty it was dying. (Wonder what portion of his career he stood still!) Truly all men are not men of science. They dwell within an integument of prejudice thicker than the bark of the cork-tree, but it is valuable chiefly to stop bottles with. Tied to their buoyant prejudices, they keep themselves afloat when honest swimmers sink.
(26 Jan 1856). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: VIII: November 1, 1855-August 15, 1856 (1906), 145-146.
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Minorities are the stars of the firmament; majorities, the darkness in which they float.
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No branches of historical inquiry have suffered more from fanciful speculation than those which relate to the origin and attributes of the races of mankind. The differentiation of these races began in prehistoric darkness, and the more obscure a subject is, so much the more fascinating. Hypotheses are tempting, because though it may be impossible to verify them, it is, in the paucity of data, almost equally impossible to refute them.
Creighton Lecture delivered before the University of London on 22 Feb 1915. Race Sentiment as a Factor in History (1915), 3.
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One of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural, and it was a lesson that my father passed on to me, that knowledge liberates mankind from superstition. We can live our lives without the constant fear that we have offended this or that deity who must be placated by incantation or sacrifice, or that we are at the mercy of devils or the Fates. With increasing knowledge, the intellectual darkness that surrounds us is illuminated and we learn more of the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
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One only passes from the darkness of ignorance to the enlightenment of science if one re-reads with ever-increasing love the works of the ancients. Let the dogs bark, let the pigs grunt! I will nonetheless be a disciple of the ancients. All my care will be for them and the dawn will see me studying them.
In Le Goff, Les Intellectuels ou moyen age (1957), 14
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One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.
In The Sense of Wonder (1956), as condensed in Reader’s Digest (1986), 129, 174.
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Open up a few corpses: you will dissipate at once the darkness that observation alone could not dissipate.
Anatomie générale appliquée à la physiologie à la médecine (1801), avant-propos, xic.
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People are like stained glass windows: they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.
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Science has blown to atoms, as she can rend and rive in the rocks themselves; but in those rocks she has found, and read aloud, the great stone book which is the history of the earth, even when darkness sat upon the face of the deep. Along their craggy sides she has traced the footprints of birds and beasts, whose shapes were never seen by man. From within them she has brought the bones, and pieced together the skeletons, of monsters that would have crushed the noted dragons of the fables at a blow.
Book review of Robert Hunt, Poetry of Science (1848), in the London Examiner (1848). Although uncredited in print, biographers identified his authorship from his original handwritten work. Collected in Charles Dickens and Frederic George Kitton (ed.) Old Lamps for New Ones: And Other Sketches and Essays (1897), 87.
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Science has “explained” nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.
Along the Road: Notes and Essays of a Tourist (1928), 108.
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Science is a game—but a game with reality, a game with sharpened knives … If a man cuts a picture carefully into 1000 pieces, you solve the puzzle when you reassemble the pieces into a picture; in the success or failure, both your intelligences compete. In the presentation of a scientific problem, the other player is the good Lord. He has not only set the problem but also has devised the rules of the game—but they are not completely known, half of them are left for you to discover or to deduce. The experiment is the tempered blade which you wield with success against the spirits of darkness—or which defeats you shamefully. The uncertainty is how many of the rules God himself has permanently ordained, and how many apparently are caused by your own mental inertia, while the solution generally becomes possible only through freedom from its limitations.
Quoted in Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989), 348.
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Science … is perpetually advancing. It is like a torch in the sombre forest of mystery. Man enlarges every day the circle of light which spreads round him, but at the same time, and in virtue of his very advance, he finds himself confronting, at an increasing number of points, the darkness of the Unknown.
In Einstein and the Universe; A Popular Exposition of the Famous Theory (1922), xvi.
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Science, which now offers us a golden age with one hand, offers at the same time with the other the doom of all that we have built up inch by inch since the Stone Age and the dawn of any human annals. My faith is in the high progressive destiny of man. I do not believe we are to be flung back into abysmal darkness by those fiercesome discoveries which human genius has made. Let us make sure that they are servants, but not our masters.
In The Wit & Wisdom of Winston Churchill by James C. Humes (1994).
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See with what entire freedom the whaleman takes his handful of lamps—often but old bottles and vials, though. ... He burns, too, the purest of oil. ... It is sweet as early grass butter in April. He goes and hunts for his oil, so as to be sure of its freshness and genuineness, even as the traveler on the prairie hunts up his own supper of game.
[Describing the whale oil lamps that provided copious illumination for the whalemen throughout their ship, which contrasts with the darkness endured by sailors on merchant ships.]
In Moby-Dick (1851, 1892), 401.
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That the main results of the astronomer’s work are not so immediately practical does not detract from their value. They are, I venture to think, the more to be prized on that account. Astronomy has profoundly influenced the thought of the race. In fact, it has been the keystone in the arch of the sciences under which we have marched out from the darkness of the fifteenth and preceding centuries to the comparative light of to-day.
In 'The Nature of the Astronomer’s Work', North American Review (Jun 1908), 187, No. 631, 915.
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The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors. … In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket, and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the Earth. These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring idealism, we will miss them all the more. … The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.
Address to the Nation on the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, from the Cabinet Room (1 Feb 2003). In William J. Federer, A Treasury of Presidential Quotations (2004), 437.
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The days of my youth extend backward to the dark ages, for I was born when the rush-light, the tallow-dip or the solitary blaze of the hearth were common means of indoor lighting, and an infrequent glass bowl, raised 8 or 10 feet on a wooden post, and containing a cup full of evil-smelling train-oil with a crude cotton wick stuck in it, served to make the darkness visible out of doors. In the chambers of the great, the wax candle or, exceptionally, a multiplicity of them, relieved the gloom on state occasions, but as a rule, the common people, wanting the inducement of indoor brightness such as we enjoy, went to bed soon after sunset.
Reminiscence written by Swan “in his old age”, as quoted in Kenneth Raydon Swan, Sir Joseph Swan (1946), 1-2.
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The greater is the circle of light, the greater is the boundary of the darkness by which it is confined. But, notwithstanding this, the more light get, the more thankful we ought to be, for by this means we have the greater range for satisfactory contemplation. time the bounds of light will be still farther extended; and from the infinity of the divine nature, and the divine works, we may promise ourselves an endless progress in our investigation them: a prospect truly sublime and glorious.
Experiments and Observations with a Continuation of the Observations on Air (1781), Vol. 2, ix.
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The light and heat of the universe comes from the sun, and its cold and darkness from the withdrawal of the sun.
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The most striking impression was that of an overwhelming bright light. I had seen under similar conditions the explosion of a large amount—100 tons—of normal explosives in the April test, and I was flabbergasted by the new spectacle. We saw the whole sky flash with unbelievable brightness in spite of the very dark glasses we wore. Our eyes were accommodated to darkness, and thus even if the sudden light had been only normal daylight it would have appeared to us much brighter than usual, but we know from measurements that the flash of the bomb was many times brighter than the sun. In a fraction of a second, at our distance, one received enough light to produce a sunburn. I was near Fermi at the time of the explosion, but I do not remember what we said, if anything. I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 147.
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The problem for a writer of a text-book has come now, in fact, to be this—to write a book so neatly trimmed and compacted that no coach, on looking through it, can mark a single passage which the candidate for a minimum pass can safely omit. Some of these text-books I have seen, where the scientific matter has been, like the lady’s waist in the nursery song, compressed “so gent and sma’,” that the thickness barely, if at all, surpasses what is devoted to the publisher’s advertisements. We shall return, I verily believe, to the Compendium of Martianus Capella. The result of all this is that science, in the hands of specialists, soars higher and higher into the light of day, while educators and the educated are left more and more to wander in primeval darkness.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science (1885), Nature, 32, 448. [Martianus Capella, who flourished c.410-320, wrote a compendium of the seven liberal arts. —Webmaster]
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The progress of science requires more than new data; it needs novel frameworks and contexts. And where do these fundamentally new views of the world arise? They are not simply discovered by pure observation; they require new modes of thought. And where can we find them, if old modes do not even include the right metaphors? The nature of true genius must lie in the elusive capacity to construct these new modes from apparent darkness. The basic chanciness and unpredictability of science must also reside in the inherent difficulty of such a task.
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The researches of many commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject, and it is probable that, if they continue, we shall soon know nothing at all about it.
In The Sciences, September-October 1989.
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The truth of Nature is a part of the truth of God; to him who does not search it out, darkness; to him who does, infinity.
From chapter 'That the Truth of Nature is not to be Discerned by the Uneducated Senses', Modern Painters (1st American Ed. from the 3rd London ed., 1855), Vol. 1, Part 2, Sec 1, Chap 2, 50. Originally published anonymously, identified on the title page only as “A Graduate of Oxford.”
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The vast spread
Of darkness
That speaks of mystery
The darkness that reveals
The beauty that lies beneath
In the form of glittering
Stars, a countless beauty
That seemed to conceal
A million stories
That can make the mankind
Take a new look at life
And the majestic moon
That silently looks at mankind
Wondering how its serenity
Was disturbed by the little steps
Of a man from the beautiful earth
Yet softly smiling back
And let the world sleep
In its magical glow
A glow that soothes
The world’s senses
And forget the pain of reality
…...
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Thus identified with astronomy, in proclaiming truths supposed to be hostile to Scripture, Geology has been denounced as the enemy of religion. The twin sisters of terrestrial and celestial physics have thus been joint-heirs of intolerance and persecution—unresisting victims in the crusade which ignorance and fanaticism are ever waging against science. When great truths are driven to make an appeal to reason, knowledge becomes criminal, and philosophers martyrs. Truth, however, like all moral powers, can neither be checked nor extinguished. When compressed, it but reacts the more. It crushes where it cannot expand—it burns where it is not allowed to shine. Human when originally divulged, it becomes divine when finally established. At first, the breath of a rage—at last it is the edict of a god. Endowed with such vital energy, astronomical truth has cut its way through the thick darkness of superstitious times, and, cheered by its conquests, Geology will find the same open path when it has triumphed over the less formidable obstacles of a civilized age.
More Worlds than One: The Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian (1854), 42.
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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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Very great charm of shadow and light is to be found in the faces of those who sit in the doors of dark houses. The eye of the spectator sees that part of the face which is in shadow lost in the darkness of the house, and that part of the face which is lit draws its brilliancy from the splendor of the sky. From this intensification of light and shade the face gains greatly in relief and beauty by showing the subtlest shadows in the light part and the subtlest lights in the dark part.
…...
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We … are profiting not only by the knowledge, but also by the ignorance, not only by the discoveries, but also by the errors of our forefathers; for the march of science, like that of time, has been progressing in the darkness, no less than in the light.
Reflection 490, in Lacon: Or Many Things in Few Words, Addressed to Those who Think (1832), 202.
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What I give form to in daylight is only one per cent of what I have seen in darkness.
As quoted, without citation, on the mcescher.com website.
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When we think how narrow and devious this path of nature is, how dimly we can trace it, for all our lamps of science, and how from the darkness which girds it round great and terrible possibilities loom ever shadowly upwards, it is a bold and a confident man who will put a limit to the strange by-oaths into which the human spirit may wander.
Lot No. 249 (1892)
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Yet in this my stars were not Mercury as morning star in the angle of the seventh house, in quartile with Mars, but they were Copernicus, they were Tycho Brahe, without whose books of observations everything which has now been brought by me into the brightest daylight would lie buried in darkness.
Harmonice Mundi, The Harmony of the World (1619), book IV, Epilogue on Sublunary Nature. Trans. E. J. Aiton, A. M. Duncan and J. V. Field (1997), 377.
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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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