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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Describe

Describe Quotes (56 quotes)

Thomasina: Every week I plot your equations dot for dot, x’s against y’s in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
Septimus: We do.
Thomasina: Then why do your shapes describe only the shapes of manufacture?
Septimus: I do not know.
Thomasina: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Scene 3, 37.
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Toutes les fois que dans une équation finale on trouve deux quantités inconnues, on a un lieu, l'extrémité de l'une d’elles décrivant une ligne droite ou courbe. La ligne droite est simple et unique dans son genre; les espèces des courbes sont en nombre indéfini, cercle, parabole, hyperbole, ellipse, etc.
Whenever two unknown magnitudes appear in a final equation, we have a locus, the extremity of one of the unknown magnitudes describing a straight line or a curve. The straight line is simple and unique; the classes of curves are indefinitely many,—circle, parabola, hyperbola, ellipse, etc.
Introduction aux Lieux Plans et Solides (1679) collected in OEuvres de Fermat (1896), Vol. 3, 85. Introduction to Plane and Solid Loci, as translated by Joseph Seidlin in David E. Smith(ed.)A Source Book in Mathematics (1959), 389. Alternate translation using Google Translate: “Whenever in a final equation there are two unknown quantities, there is a locus, the end of one of them describing a straight line or curve. The line is simple and unique in its kind, species curves are indefinite in number,—circle, parabola, hyperbola, ellipse, etc.”
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[Answering question whether he was tired of life:] Tired! Not so long as there is an undescribed intestinal worm, or the riddle of a fossil bone, or a rhizopod new to me.
Related about Joseph Leidy by Dr. Weir Mitchell, as stated in Richard A. Gregory, Discovery: Or, The Spirit and Service of Science (1916), 17.
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A government, at bottom, is nothing more than a gang of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men ... Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent. Indeed, it would not be far wrong to describe the best as the common enemy of all decent citizens.
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A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.
Anonymous
Widely found in varied accounts, so is most likely proverbial. Seen misattributed (?) to George Bernard Shaw, but Webmaster has not yet found a primary source as verification.
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A neurotic person can be most simply described as someone who, while he was growing up, learned ways of behaving that are self-defeating in his society.
In Margaret Mead and Rhoda Bubendey Métraux (ed.), Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views (1979), 216.
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A “pacifist male” is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described “pacifists” are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 258.
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And ye who wish to represent by words the form of man and all the aspects of his membrification, get away from that idea. For the more minutely you describe, the more you will confuse the mind of the reader and the more you will prevent him from a knowledge of the thing described. And so it is necessary to draw and describe.
From Notebooks (AnA, 14v; Cf. QII, 1), as translated by J. Playfair McMurrich, in Leonardo da Vinci the Anatomist (1930), 76, (Institution Publication 411, Carnegie Institution of Washington).
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As he [Clifford] spoke he appeared not to be working out a question, but simply telling what he saw. Without any diagram or symbolic aid he described the geometrical conditions on which the solution depended, and they seemed to stand out visibly in space. There were no longer consequences to be deduced, but real and evident facts which only required to be seen. … So whole and complete was his vision that for the time the only strange thing was that anybody should fail to see it in the same way. When one endeavored to call it up again, and not till then, it became clear that the magic of genius had been at work, and that the common sight had been raised to that higher perception by the power that makes and transforms ideas, the conquering and masterful quality of the human mind which Goethe called in one word das Dämonische.
In Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays by William Kingdon Clifford(1879), Vol. 1, Introduction, 4-5.
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Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
In Drinkers of Infinity: Essays, 1955-1967 (1969), 235.
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Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.
In Notes Toward a Definition of Culture (1948, 2014), 26.
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Euclidean mathematics assumes the completeness and invariability of mathematical forms; these forms it describes with appropriate accuracy and enumerates their inherent and related properties with perfect clearness, order, and completeness, that is, Euclidean mathematics operates on forms after the manner that anatomy operates on the dead body and its members. On the other hand, the mathematics of variable magnitudes—function theory or analysis—considers mathematical forms in their genesis. By writing the equation of the parabola, we express its law of generation, the law according to which the variable point moves. The path, produced before the eyes of the student by a point moving in accordance to this law, is the parabola.
If, then, Euclidean mathematics treats space and number forms after the manner in which anatomy treats the dead body, modern mathematics deals, as it were, with the living body, with growing and changing forms, and thus furnishes an insight, not only into nature as she is and appears, but also into nature as she generates and creates,—reveals her transition steps and in so doing creates a mind for and understanding of the laws of becoming. Thus modern mathematics bears the same relation to Euclidean mathematics that physiology or biology … bears to anatomy.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 38. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 112-113.
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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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Former arbiters of taste must have felt (as so many apostles of ‘traditional values’ and other highminded tags for restriction and conformity do today) that maintaining the social order required a concept of unalloyed heroism. Human beings so designated as role models had to embody all virtues of the paragon–which meant, of course, that they could not be described in their truly human and ineluctably faulted form.
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His spiritual insights were in three major areas: First, he has inspired mankind to see the world anew as the ultimate reality. Second, he perceived and described the physical universe itself as immanently divine. And finally, he challenged us to accept the ultimate demands of modern science which assign humanity no real or ultimate importance in the universe while also aspiring us to lives of spiritual celebration attuned to the awe, beauty and wonder about us.
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I can understand your aversion to the use of the term ‘religion’ to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza ... I have not found a better expression than ‘religious’ for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason.
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I think that the two things that almost any astronaut would describe [as most fun about being in space] are the weightlessness and the view of Earth. Weightlessness is just a lot of fun!
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
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If they would, for Example, praise the Beauty of a Woman, or any other Animal, they describe it by Rhombs, Circles, Parallelograms, Ellipses, and other geometrical terms …
In 'A Voyage to Laputa', Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World by Captain Lemuel Gulliver (1726), Vol 2, Part 3, 26. (Gulliver’s Travels)
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If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.
Widely quoted, without citation. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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In every case the awakening touch has been the mathematical spirit, the attempt to count, to measure, or to calculate. What to the poet or the seer may appear to be the very death of all his poetry and all his visions—the cold touch of the calculating mind,—this has proved to be the spell by which knowledge has been born, by which new sciences have been created, and hundreds of definite problems put before the minds and into the hands of diligent students. It is the geometrical figure, the dry algebraical formula, which transforms the vague reasoning of the philosopher into a tangible and manageable conception; which represents, though it does not fully describe, which corresponds to, though it does not explain, the things and processes of nature: this clothes the fruitful, but otherwise indefinite, ideas in such a form that the strict logical methods of thought can be applied, that the human mind can in its inner chamber evolve a train of reasoning the result of which corresponds to the phenomena of the outer world.
In A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1896), Vol. 1, 314.
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It is hard to describe the exact route to scientific achievement, but a good scientist doesn’t get lost as he travels it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 290.
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It is not so long since, during one of the meetings of the Association, one of the leading English newspapers briefly described a sitting of this Section in the words, “Saturday morning was devoted to pure mathematics, and so there was nothing of any general interest:” still, such toleration is better than undisguised and ill-informed hostility.
In Report of the 67th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
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It is quite possible that mathematics was invented in the ancient Middle East to keep track of tax receipts and grain stores. How odd that out of this should come a subtle scientific language that can effectively describe and predict the most arcane aspects of the Universe.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 265.
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It would be possible to describe absolutely everything scientifically, but it would make no sense. It would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
Attributed to Einstein by Frau Born. Paraphrased words as given in Ronald William Clark, Einstein (1984), 243.
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It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it’s like.
As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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Man is a part of nature, not something contrasted with nature. His thoughts and his bodily movements follow the same laws that describe the motions of stars and atoms.
Opening of What I Believe (1925), 1.
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Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning.
In Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1959, 1962), 81.
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No language which lends itself to visualizability can describe the quantum jumps.
Max Born
As quoted in epigraph, without citation, in Nick Herbert, '“And Then A Miracle Occurs”: The Quantum Measurement Problem', Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics (1985), Chap 8, 131.
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Pure mathematics and physics are becoming ever more closely connected, though their methods remain different. One may describe the situation by saying that the mathematician plays a game in which he himself invents the rules while the while the physicist plays a game in which the rules are provided by Nature, but as time goes on it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which Nature has chosen. … Possibly, the two subjects will ultimately unify, every branch of pure mathematics then having its physical application, its importance in physics being proportional to its interest in mathematics.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 124.
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Science is the language of the temporal world; love is that of the spiritual world. Man, indeed, describes more than he explains; while the angelic spirit sees and understands. Science saddens man; love enraptures the angel; science is still seeking; love has found.
The Works of Honoré de Balzac (1896), Vol. 19, 80.
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Scientific realism is the doctrine that science describes the real world: that the world actually is as science takes it to be, and that its furnishings are as science envisages them to be It is quite clear that it is not… ”
In Priceless Knowledge?: Natural Science in Economic Perspective (1996), 159-160.
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Sooner or later in every talk, [David] Brower describes the creation of the world. He invites his listeners to consider the six days of Genesis as a figure of speech for what has in fact been 4 billion years. On this scale, one day equals something like six hundred and sixty-six million years, and thus, all day Monday and until Tuesday noon, creation was busy getting the world going. Life began Tuesday noon, and the beautiful organic wholeness of it developed over the next four days. At 4 p.m. Saturday, the big reptiles came on. At three minutes before midnight on the last day, man appeared. At one-fourth of a second before midnight Christ arrived. At one-fortieth of a second before midnight, the Industrial Revolution began. We are surrounded with people who think that what we have been doing for that one-fortieth of a second can go on indefinitely. They are considered normal, but they are stark. raving mad.
In Encounters with the Archdruid (1971), 79-80.
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That’s the whole problem with science. You’ve got a bunch of empiricists trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder.
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The concepts of ‘soul’ or ‘life’ do not occur in atomic physics, and they could not, even indirectly, be derived as complicated consequences of some natural law. Their existence certainly does not indicate the presence of any fundamental substance other than energy, but it shows only the action of other kinds of forms which we cannot match with the mathematical forms of modern atomic physics ... If we want to describe living or mental processes, we shall have to broaden these structures. It may be that we shall have to introduce yet other concepts.
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The eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the whole universe.
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The flights of the imagination which occur to the pure mathematician are in general so much better described in his formulas than in words, that it is not remarkable to find the subject treated by outsiders as something essentially cold and uninteresting— … the only successful attempt to invest mathematical reasoning with a halo of glory—that made in this section by Prof. Sylvester—is known to a comparative few, …
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science (1871), Nature Vol. 4, 271,
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The language of the street is always strong. What can describe the folly and emptiness of scolding like the word jawing?
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The main duty of the historian of mathematics, as well as his fondest privilege, is to explain the humanity of mathematics, to illustrate its greatness, beauty and dignity, and to describe how the incessant efforts and accumulated genius of many generations have built up that magnificent monument, the object of our most legitimate pride as men, and of our wonder, humility and thankfulness, as individuals.
In The Study of the History of Mathematics (1936), 28.
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The man who classifies facts of any kind whatever, who sees their mutual relation and describes their sequence, is applying the scientific method and is a man of science.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
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The mathematically formulated laws of quantum theory show clearly that our ordinary intuitive concepts cannot be unambiguously applied to the smallest particles. All the words or concepts we use to describe ordinary physical objects, such as position, velocity, color, size, and so on, become indefinite and problematic if we try to use them of elementary particles.
In Across the Frontiers (1974), 114.
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The Moon is a white strange world, great, white, soft-seeming globe in the night sky, and what she actually communicates to me across space I shall never fully know. But the Moon that pulls the tides, and the Moon that controls the menstrual periods of women, and the Moon that touches the lunatics, she is not the mere dead lump of the astronomist.... When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness.
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The role of biology today, like the role of every other science, is simply to describe, and when it explains it does not mean that it arrives at finality; it only means that some descriptions are so charged with significance that they expose the relationship of cause and effect.
As quoted in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 37. Webmaster so far has not found the primary source (can you help?)
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The scientist … must always be prepared to deal with the unknown. It is an essential part of science that you should be able to describe matters in a way where you can say something without knowing everything.
From Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967), 10.
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The universe is made of particles and fields about which nothing can be said except to describe their mathematical structures. In a sense, the entire universe is made of mathematics. If the particles and fields are not made of mathematical structure, then please tell me what you think they are made of!
As quoted in Kendrick Frazier, 'A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner', Skeptical Inquirer (Mar/Apr 1998), 22, No. 2, 39.
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The way we have to describe Nature is generally incomprehensible to us.
In 'Electrons and Their Interactions', QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), Chap. 3, 77.
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There are no better terms available to describe the difference between the approach of the natural and the social sciences than to call the former ‘objective’ and the latter ‘subjective.’ ... While for the natural scientist the contrast between objective facts and subjective opinions is a simple one, the distinction cannot as readily be applied to the object of the social sciences. The reason for this is that the object, the ‘facts’ of the social sciences are also opinions—not opinions of the student of the social phenomena, of course, but opinions of those whose actions produce the object of the social scientist.
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There is nothing so mysterious as a fact clearly described.
Anonymous
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Thus, remarkably, we do not know the true number of species on earth even to the nearest order of magnitude. My own guess, based on the described fauna and flora and many discussions with entomologists and other specialists, is that the absolute number falls somewhere between five and thirty million.
Conservation for the 21st Century
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Visible from Earth orbit … tropical rain forests of equatorial regions are huge expanses of monotonous, mottled dark green. During the day they are frequently covered with enormous thunderstorms that extend for hundreds of miles. The view has an air of fantasy about it, and you grope for words to describe what you see. My personal reaction was one of feeling humble, awed, and privileged to be witness to such a scene.
In How Do You Go To The Bathroom In Space?: All the Answers to All the Questions You Have About Living in Space (1999), 107.
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We all know, from what we experience with and within ourselves, that our conscious acts spring from our desires and our fears. Intuition tells us that that is true also of our fellows and of the higher animals. We all try to escape pain and death, while we seek what is pleasant. We are all ruled in what we do by impulses; and these impulses are so organized that our actions in general serve for our self preservation and that of the race. Hunger, love, pain, fear are some of those inner forces which rule the individual’s instinct for self preservation. At the same time, as social beings, we are moved in the relations with our fellow beings by such feelings as sympathy, pride, hate, need for power, pity, and so on. All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions. All such action would cease if those powerful elemental forces were to cease stirring within us. Though our conduct seems so very different from that of the higher animals, the primary instincts are much alike in them and in us. The most evident difference springs from the important part which is played in man by a relatively strong power of imagination and by the capacity to think, aided as it is by language and other symbolical devices. Thought is the organizing factor in man, intersected between the causal primary instincts and the resulting actions. In that way imagination and intelligence enter into our existence in the part of servants of the primary instincts. But their intervention makes our acts to serve ever less merely the immediate claims of our instincts.
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We are recorders and reporters of the facts—not judges of the behavior we describe.
Recalled on his death 25 Aug 56
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We love to discover in the cosmos the geometrical forms that exist in the depths of our consciousness. The exactitude of the proportions of our monuments and the precision of our machines express a fundamental character of our mind. Geometry does not exist in the earthly world. It has originated in ourselves. The methods of nature are never so precise as those of man. We do not find in the universe the clearness and accuracy of our thought. We attempt, therefore, to abstract from the complexity of phenomena some simple systems whose components bear to one another certain relations susceptible of being described mathematically.
In Man the Unknown (1935), 8.
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When we find facts within our knowledge exhibited by some new method, or even, it may be, described in a foreign language, they receive a peculiar charm of novelty and wear a fresh air.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 186.
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While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.
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You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.
When asked to describe radio
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[An outsider views a scientist] as a type of unscrupulous opportunist: he appears as a realist, insofar as he seeks to describe the world independent of the act of perception; as idealist insofar as he looks upon the concepts and theories as the free inventions of the human spirit (not logically derivable from that which is empirically given); as positivist insofar as he considers his concepts and theories justified only to the extent to which they furnish a logical representation of relations among sense experiences. He may even appear as Platonist or Pythagorean insofar as he considers the viewpoint of logical simplicity as an indispensable and effective tool of his research.
In 'Reply to Critcisms', Paul Arthur Schilpp (ed.), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1949, 1959), Vol. 2, 684.
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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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Winston Churchill
- 80 -
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Bible
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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 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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