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Who said: “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index D > Category: Distance

Distance Quotes (76 quotes)

...With these developments we have every reason to anticipate that in a time not very distant most telegraph messages across the oceans will be transmitted without cables. For short distances we need a “wireless” telephone, which requires no expert operat
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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Qu. 31. Have not the small Particles of Bodies certain Powers, Virtues or Forces, by which they act at a distance, not only upon the Rays of Light for reflecting, refracting and reflecting them, but also upon one another for producing a great part of the Phænomena of Nature?
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 350.
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A game is on, at the other end of this infinite distance, and heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason you cannot leave either; according to reason you cannot leave either undone... Yes, but wager you must; there is no option, you have embarked on it. So which will you have. Come. Since you must choose, let us see what concerns you least. You have two things to lose: truth and good, and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness. And your nature has two things to shun: error and misery. Your reason does not suffer by your choosing one more than the other, for you must choose. That is one point cleared. But your happiness? Let us weigh gain and loss in calling heads that God is. Reckon these two chances: if you win, you win all; if you lose, you lose naught. Then do not hesitate, wager that He is.
Pensées (1670), Section I, aphorism 223. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal's Pensées (1950), 117-119.
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A poet is, after all, a sort of scientist, but engaged in a qualitative science in which nothing is measurable. He lives with data that cannot be numbered, and his experiments can be done only once. The information in a poem is, by definition, not reproducible. ... He becomes an equivalent of scientist, in the act of examining and sorting the things popping in [to his head], finding the marks of remote similarity, points of distant relationship, tiny irregularities that indicate that this one is really the same as that one over there only more important. Gauging the fit, he can meticulously place pieces of the universe together, in geometric configurations that are as beautiful and balanced as crystals.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1995), 107.
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Any opinion as to the form in which the energy of gravitation exists in space is of great importance, and whoever can make his opinion probable will have, made an enormous stride in physical speculation. The apparent universality of gravitation, and the equality of its effects on matter of all kinds are most remarkable facts, hitherto without exception; but they are purely experimental facts, liable to be corrected by a single observed exception. We cannot conceive of matter with negative inertia or mass; but we see no way of accounting for the proportionality of gravitation to mass by any legitimate method of demonstration. If we can see the tails of comets fly off in the direction opposed to the sun with an accelerated velocity, and if we believe these tails to be matter and not optical illusions or mere tracks of vibrating disturbance, then we must admit a force in that direction, and we may establish that it is caused by the sun if it always depends upon his position and distance.
Letter to William Huggins (13 Oct 1868). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 451-2.
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Before the promulgation of the periodic law the chemical elements were mere fragmentary incidental facts in nature; there was no special reason to expect the discovery of new elements, and the new ones which were discovered from time to time appeared to be possessed of quite novel properties. The law of periodicity first enabled us to perceive undiscovered elements at a distance which formerly were inaccessible to chemical vision, and long ere they were discovered new elements appeared before our eyes possessed of a number of well-defined properties.
In Faraday Lecture, delivered before the Fellows of the Chemical Society in the Theatre of the Royal Institution (4 Jun 1889), printed in Professor Mendeléeff, 'The Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements', Transactions of the Chemical Society (1889), 55, 648.
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But in the heavens we discover by their light, and by their light alone, stars so distant from each other that no material thing can ever have passed from one to another; and yet this light, which is to us the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds, tells us also that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds as those which we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule, therefore, throughout the universe, bears impressed on it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the double royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac ... the exact quantity of each molecule to all others of same kind gives it, as Sir John Herschel has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article and precludes the idea of its being external and self-existent.
'Molecules', 1873. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 375-6.
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By such deductions the law of gravitation is rendered probable, that every particle attracts every other particle with a force which varies inversely as the square of the distance. The law thus suggested is assumed to be universally true.
In Isaac Newton and Percival Frost (ed.) Newton's Principia: Sections I, II, III (1863), 217.
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Can imagination picture what the future of this invention is to be! … We may talk by light to any visible distance without any conducting wire.
Letter to his father (26 Feb 1880), describing his photophone research. Transcript with Bell Papers, Library of Congress.
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Children are told that an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and he was led to state the law of gravity. This, of course, is pure foolishness. What Newton discovered was that any two particles in the universe attract each other with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is not learned from a falling apple, but by observing quantities of data and developing a mathematical theory that can be verified by additional data. Data gathered by Galileo on falling bodies and by Johannes Kepler on motions of the planets were invaluable aids to Newton. Unfortunately, such false impressions about science are not universally outgrown like the Santa Claus myth, and some people who don’t study much science go to their graves thinking that the human race took until the mid-seventeenth century to notice that objects fall.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 127.
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Consider now the Milky Way. Here also we see an innumerable dust, only the grains of this dust are no longer atoms but stars; these grains also move with great velocities, they act at a distance one upon another, but this action is so slight at great distances that their trajectories are rectilineal; nevertheless, from time to time, two of them may come near enough together to be deviated from their course, like a comet that passed too close to Jupiter. In a word, in the eyes of a giant, to whom our Suns were what our atoms are to us, the Milky Way would only look like a bubble of gas.
Science and Method (1908), trans. Francis Maitland (1914), 254-5.
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Curves that have no tangents are the rule. … Those who hear of curves without tangents, or of functions without derivatives, often think at first that Nature presents no such complications. … The contrary however is true. … Consider, for instance, one of the white flakes that are obtained by salting a solution of soap. At a distance its contour may appear sharply defined, but as we draw nearer its sharpness disappears. The eye can no longer draw a tangent at any point. … The use of a magnifying glass or microscope leaves us just as uncertain, for fresh irregularities appear every time we increase the magnification. … An essential characteristic of our flake … is that we suspect … that any scale involves details that absolutely prohibit the fixing of a tangent.
(1906). As quoted “in free translation” in Benoit B. Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), 7.
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Does it not seem as if Algebra had attained to the dignity of a fine art, in which the workman has a free hand to develop his conceptions, as in a musical theme or a subject for a painting? It has reached a point where every properly developed algebraical composition, like a skillful landscape, is expected to suggest the notion of an infinite distance lying beyond the limits of the canvas.
In 'Lectures on the Theory of Reciprocants', Lecture XXI, American Journal of Mathematics (Jul 1886), 9, No. 3, 136.
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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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Everything is determined … by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust—we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.
In interview, George Sylvester Viereck, 'What Life Means to Einstein', The Saturday Evening Post (26 Oct 1929), 117.
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First, [Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation] is mathematical in its expression…. Second, it is not exact; Einstein had to modify it…. There is always an edge of mystery, always a place where we have some fiddling around to do yet…. But the most impressive fact is that gravity is simple…. It is simple, and therefore it is beautiful…. Finally, comes the universality of the gravitational law and the fact that it extends over such enormous distances…
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 33.
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For terrestrial vertebrates, the climate in the usual meteorological sense of the term would appear to be a reasonable approximation of the conditions of temperature, humidity, radiation, and air movement in which terrestrial vertebrates live. But, in fact, it would be difficult to find any other lay assumption about ecology and natural history which has less general validity. … Most vertebrates are much smaller than man and his domestic animals, and the universe of these small creatures is one of cracks and crevices, holes in logs, dense underbrush, tunnels, and nests—a world where distances are measured in yards rather than miles and where the difference between sunshine and shadow may be the difference between life and death. Actually, climate in the usual sense of the term is little more than a crude index to the physical conditions in which most terrestrial animals live.
From 'Interaction of physiology and behavior under natural conditions', collected in R.I. Bowman (ed.), The Galapagos (1966), 40.
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Four circles to the kissing come,
The smaller are the benter.
The bend is just the inverse of
The distance from the centre.
Though their intrigue left Euclid dumb
There’s now no need for rule of thumb.
Since zero bend’s a dead straight line
And concave bends have minus sign,
The sum of squares of all four bends
Is half the square of their sum.
In poem, 'The Kiss Precise', Nature (20 Jun 1936), 137, 1021, as quoted, cited, explained and illustrated in Martin Gardner, The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Problems (2001), 139-141.
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From our home on the Earth, we look out into the distances and strive to imagine the sort of world into which we were born. Today, we have reached far into space. Our immediate neighborhood we know rather intimately. But with increasing distance our knowledge fades … The search will continue. The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and will not be suppressed.
In 'From Our Home On The Earth', The Land (1946), 5, 145. As cited on the webpage of the Edwin Powell Hubble Papers.
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His mind illumined the Past and the Future and wrought greatly for the present. By his genius distant lands converse and men sail unafraid upon the deep.
Epitaph
Inscription on the tomb of Reginald and Helen Fessenden in Bermuda. In Frederick Seitz, The Cosmic Inventor: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (1866-1932) (1999), 61, being Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Held at Philadelphia For Promoting Useful Knowledge, Vol. 86, Pt. 6.
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I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude.
…...
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I cannot judge my work while I am doing it. I have to do as painters do, stand back and view it from a distance, but not too great a distance. How great? Guess.
Quoted without citation in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 291. Webmaster has tried without success to locate a primary source. Can you help?
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I cannot seriously believe in it [quantum theory] because the theory cannot be reconciled with the idea that physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance [spukhafte Fernwirkungen].
Letter to Max Born (3 Mar 1947). In Born-Einstein Letters (1971), 158.
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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 think that the event which, more than anything else, led me to the search for ways of making more powerful radio telescopes, was the recognition, in 1952, that the intense source in the constellation of Cygnus was a distant galaxy—1000 million light years away. This discovery showed that some galaxies were capable of producing radio emission about a million times more intense than that from our own Galaxy or the Andromeda nebula, and the mechanisms responsible were quite unknown. ... [T]he possibilities were so exciting even in 1952 that my colleagues and I set about the task of designing instruments capable of extending the observations to weaker and weaker sources, and of exploring their internal structure.
From Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1974). In Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures, Physics 1971-1980 (1992), 187.
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If the atoms in [a] decimetre cube of lead were all put into a chain side by side the same distance apart as they are in the normal lead, the strings of atoms so formed would reach over six million million miles.
In Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Atomic Theory', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 99.
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If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.
In 'If', Rewards and Fairies (1910), 182.
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In 1684 Dr Halley came to visit him at Cambridge, after they had been some time together, the Dr asked him what he thought the Curve would be that would be described by the Planets supposing the force of attraction towards the Sun to be reciprocal to the square of their distance from it. Sr Isaac replied immediately that it would be an Ellipsis, the Doctor struck with joy & amazement asked him how he knew it, why saith he I have calculated it, whereupon Dr Halley asked him for his calculation without any farther delay. Sr Isaac looked among his papers but could not find it, but he promised him to renew it, & then to send it him.
[Recollecting Newton's account of the meeting after which Halley prompted Newton to write The Principia. When asking Newton this question, Halley was aware, without revealing it to Newton that Robert Hooke had made this hypothesis of plantary motion a decade earlier.]
Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 403.
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In the distance tower still higher peaks which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects, and deepen the feeling whose truth is emphasized by every advance in science: that “Great are the Works of the Lord.”
From Inaugural Address to the Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Winnipeg. Collected in 'The British Association at Winnipeg',Nature (26 Aug 1909), 81. No. 2078, 257.
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It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages, than to know the age of the rocks; it is better for one to know that he is close to the Heavenly Father, than to know how far the stars in the heavens are apart.
In chapter, 'The Origin of Man', In His Image (1922), 93.
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It is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian should be ignorant of the force and number of the elements—the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and the natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out. … It is enough for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly … is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God.
In Marcus Dods (ed.), J.F. Shaw (trans.), The Enchiridion of Augustine, Chap. 9, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo: A new translation (1873), Vol. 9, 180-181. The physici are natural philosophers.
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It is the individual only who is timeless. Societies, cultures, and civilizations - past and present - are often incomprehensible to outsiders, but the individual’s hunger, anxieties, dreams, and preoccupations have remained unchanged through the millennia. Thus, we are up against the paradox that the individual who is more complex, unpredictable, and mysterious than any communal entity is the one nearest to our understanding; so near that even the interval of millennia cannot weaken our feeling of kinshiIf in some manner the voice of an individual reaches us from the remotest distance of time, it is a timeless voice speaking about ourselves.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 97.
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Just as the spectroscope opened up a new astronomy by enabling the astronomer to determine some of the constituents of which distant stars are composed, so the seismograph, recording the unfelt motion of distant earthquakes, enables us to see into the earth and determine its nature with as great a certainty, up to a certain point, as if we could drive a tunnel through it and take samples of the matter passed through.
'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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Kepler’s suggestion of gravitation with the inverse distance, and Bouillaud’s proposed substitution of the inverse square of the distance, are things which Newton knew better than his modern readers. I have discovered two anagrams on his name, which are quite conclusive: the notion of gravitation was not new; but Newton went on.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 82.
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.
In The Time Machine (1898), 144.
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Magnitude may be compared to the power output in kilowatts of a [radio] broadcasting station; local intensity, on the Mercalli or similar scale, is then comparable to the signal strength noted on a receiver at a given locality. Intensity, like signal strength, will generally fall off with distance from the source; it will also depend on local conditions at the point of observation, and to some extent on the conditions along the path from source to that point.
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
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Now do you not see that the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It counsels and corrects all the arts of mankind... it is the prince of mathematics, and the sciences founded on it are absolutely certain. It has measured the distances and sizes of the stars it has discovered the elements and their location... it has given birth to architecture and to perspective and to the divine art of painting.
…...
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On the day of Cromwell’s death, when Newton was sixteen, a great storm raged all over England. He used to say, in his old age, that on that day he made his first purely scientific experiment. To ascertain the force of the wind, he first jumped with the wind and then against it; and, by comparing these distances with the extent of his own jump on a calm day, he was enabled to compute the force of the storm. When the wind blew thereafter, he used to say it was so many feet strong.
In 'Sir Isaac Newton', People’s Book of Biography: Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries (1868), 248.
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One point at which our magicians attempt their sleight-of-hand is when they slide quickly from the Hubble, redshift-distance relation to redshift-velocity of expansion. There are now five or six whole classes of objects that violate this absolutely basic assumption. It really gives away the game to realize how observations of these crucial objects have been banned from the telescope and how their discussion has met with desperate attempts at suppression.
In 'Letters: Wrangling Over the Bang', Science News (27 Jul 1991), 140, No. 4, 51. Also quoted in Roy C. Martin, Astronomy on Trial: A Devastating and Complete Repudiation of the Big Bang Fiasco (1999), Appendix I, 217.
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Our knowledge of stars and interstellar matter must be based primarily on the electromagnetic radiation which reaches us. Nature has thoughtfully provided us with a universe in which radiant energy of almost all wave lengths travels in straight lines over enormous distances with usually rather negligible absorption.
In 'Flying Telescopes', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1961), Vol. 17, No. 5, 191.
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Pauling was shocked by the freedom with which the X-ray crystallographers of the time, including particularly Astbury, played with the intimate chemical structure of their models. They seemed to think that if the atoms were arranged in the right order and about the right distance apart, that was all that mattered, that no further restrictions need to be put on them.
Quoted by John Law in 'The Case of X-ray Protein Crystallography', collected in Gerard Lemaine (ed.), Perspectives on the Emergence of Scientific Disciplines, 1976, 140.
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Science and knowledge are subject, in their extension and increase, to laws quite opposite to those which regulate the material world. Unlike the forces of molecular attraction, which cease at sensible distances; or that of gravity, which decreases rapidly with the increasing distance from the point of its origin; the farther we advance from the origin of our knowledge, the larger it becomes, and the greater power it bestows upon its cultivators, to add new fields to its dominions.
In 'Future Prospects', On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1st ed., 1832), chap. 32, 277-278.
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Science boasts of the distance of its stars; of the terrific remoteness of the things of which it has to speak. But poetry and religion always insist upon the proximity, the almost menacing closeness of the things with which they are concerned. Always the Kingdom of Heaven is “At Hand.”
'A Glimpse of My Country', The Daily News. Collected in Tremendous Trifles (1920), 277.
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Scripture and Nature agree in this, that all things were covered with water; how and when this aspect began, and how long it lasted, Nature says not, Scripture relates. That there was a watery fluid, however, at a time when animals and plants were not yet to be found, and that the fluid covered all things, is proved by the strata of the higher mountains, free from all heterogeneous material. And the form of these strata bears witness to the presence of a fluid, while the substance bears witness to the absence of heterogeneous bodies. But the similarity of matter and form in the strata of mountains which are different and distant from each other, proves that the fluid was universal.
The Prodromus of Nicolaus Steno's Dissertation Concerning a Solid Body enclosed by Process of Nature within a Solid (1669), trans. J. G. Winter (1916), 263-4.
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So far as modern science is concerned, we have to abandon completely the idea that by going into the realm of the small we shall reach the ultimate foundations of the universe. I believe we can abandon this idea without any regret. The universe is infinite in all directions, not only above us in the large but also below us in the small. If we start from our human scale of existence and explore the content of the universe further and further, we finally arrive, both in the large and in the small, at misty distances where first our senses and then even our concepts fail us.
To the German Society of Scientists and Physicists, Braunschweig, Germany (Sep 1896). As quoted in Anton Z. Capri, Quips, Quotes, and Quanta: An Anecdotal History of Physics (2011), 20. Wiechert was reporting his measurement of the mass of the moving particles in a cathode ray beam (electrons).
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So numerous are the objects which meet our view in the heavens, that we cannot imagine a point of space where some light would not strike the eye;—innumerable stars, thousands of double and multiple systems, clusters in one blaze with their tens of thousands of stars, and the nebulae amazing us by the strangeness of their forms and the incomprehensibility of their nature, till at last, from the limit of our senses, even these thin and airy phantoms vanish in the distance.
On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1858), 420.
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Suppose that you are in love with a lady on Neptune and that she returns the sentiment. It will be some consolation for the melancholy separation if you can say to yourself at some possibly pre-arranged moment, “She is thinking of me now.” Unfortunately a difficulty has arisen because we have had to abolish Now. There is no absolute Now, but only the various relative Nows, differing according to their reckoning of different observers and covering the whole neutral wedge which at the distance of Neptune is about eight hours thick. She will have to think of you continuously for eight hours on end in order to circumvent the ambiguity “Now.”
In The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 49.
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The blue distance, the mysterious Heavens, the example of birds and insects flying everywhere, are always beckoning Humanity to rise into the air.
In The Successes of Air Balloons in the 19th Century (1901), 1.
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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 evening was calm, the calmest we had known above the North Col. The smooth, outward dipping slabs glowed in the fast setting sun and, at an immense distance beneath, clouds concealed the valleys and lesser peaks. There was nothing to obstruct the tremendous prospect. Seen from Everest, great peaks that dominate the climber as he toils along the East Rongbuk Glacier, and up the slopes of the North Col, show like insignificant ripples at the base of a great ocean roller. Even the North Peak was but a stepping-stone to quick-footed vision.
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The exaggerated politeness touches on pride, because it keeps people at a distance.
From the original French, “La politesse exagérée touche à l’orgueil, parce qu’elle tient les gens à distance,” in Actes de l'Académie Nationale des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Bordeaux (1872), 479. Translation by Webmaster using Google translate.
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The explorations of space end on a note of uncertainty. And necessarily so. … We know our immediate neighborhood rather intimately. With increasing distance our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted, need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation.
From conclusion of The Silliman Memorial Lectures Series delivered at Yale University (Fall 1935). Collected in The Realm of the Nebulae: The Silliman Memorial Lectures Series (1936), 201-202.
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The great object of all knowledge is to enlarge and purify the soul, to fill the mind with noble contemplations, to furnish a refined pleasure, and to lead our feeble reason from the works of nature up to its great Author and Sustainer. Considering this as the ultimate end of science, no branch of it can surely claim precedence of Astronomy. No other science furnishes such a palpable embodiment of the abstractions which lie at the foundation of our intellectual system; the great ideas of time, and space, and extension, and magnitude, and number, and motion, and power. How grand the conception of the ages on ages required for several of the secular equations of the solar system; of distances from which the light of a fixed star would not reach us in twenty millions of years, of magnitudes compared with which the earth is but a foot-ball; of starry hosts—suns like our own—numberless as the sands on the shore; of worlds and systems shooting through the infinite spaces.
Oration at Inauguration of the Dudley Astronomical Observatory, Albany (28 Jul 1856). Text published as The Uses of Astronomy (1856), 36.
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The land! That is where our roots are. There is the basis of our physical life. The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity. From the land comes everything that supports life, everything we use for the service of physical life. The land has not collapsed or shrunk in either extent or productivity. It is there waiting to honor all the labor we are willing to invest in it, and able to tide us across any dislocation of economic conditions.
Advice during the Great Depression, placed in an advertisement, 'Henry Ford on Self-Help', Literary Digest (29 Jun 1932), 113, No. 12, 29, and various other magazines.
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The mountains too, at a distance, appear airy masses and smooth, but seen near at hand they are rough.
Diogenes Laertius, trans. Charles Duke Yonge, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (1901), 411.
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The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what it was in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence that at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective position, motions, and general affects of all these entities at any time in the past or future. Physical astronomy, the branch of knowledge that does the greatest honor to the human mind, gives us an idea, albeit imperfect, of what such an intelligence would be. The simplicity of the law by which the celestial bodies move, and the relations of their masses and distances, permit analysis to follow their motions up to a certain point; and in order to determine the state of the system of these great bodies in past or future centuries, it suffices for the mathematician that their position and their velocity be given by observation for any moment in time. Man owes that advantage to the power of the instrument he employs, and to the small number of relations that it embraces in its calculations. But ignorance of the different causes involved in the production of events, as well as their complexity, taken together with the imperfection of analysis, prevents our reaching the same certainty about the vast majority of phenomena. Thus there are things that are uncertain for us, things more or less probable, and we seek to compensate for the impossibility of knowing them by determining their different degrees of likelihood. So it was that we owe to the weakness of the human mind one of the most delicate and ingenious of mathematical theories, the science of chance or probability.
'Recherches, 1º, sur l'Intégration des Équations Différentielles aux Différences Finies, et sur leur Usage dans la Théorie des Hasards' (1773, published 1776). In Oeuvres complètes de Laplace, 14 Vols. (1843-1912), Vol. 8, 144-5, trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 26.
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The rich man, gasping for breath … feels at last the impotence of gold; that death which he dreaded at a distance as an enemy, he now hails when he is near, as a friend; a friend that alone can bring the peace his treasures cannot purchase, and remove the pain his physicians cannot cure.
In Lacon: Or Many Things in Few Words, Addressed to Those who Think (1832), 125. [Part of this quote (after the semicolon) is often seen attributed to Mortimer Collins, who was born in 1827. That date makes it clearly impossible for Collins to be the author of this quote, published in 1832 by Colton.]
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The sea is not all that responds to the moon. Twice a day the solid earth bobs up and down, as much as a foot. That kind of force and that kind of distance are more than enough to break hard rock. Wells will flow faster during lunar high tides.
Annals of the Former World
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The strongest affection and utmost zeal should, I think, promote the studies concerned with the most beautiful objects. This is the discipline that deals with the universe’s divine revolutions, the stars’ motions, sizes, distances, risings and settings . . . for what is more beautiful than heaven?
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The universe seems to me infinitely strange and foreign. At such a moment I gaze upon it with a mixture of anguish and euphoria; separate from the universe, as though placed at a certain distance outside it; I look and I see pictures, creatures that move in a kind of timeless time and spaceless space, emitting sounds that are a kind of language I no longer understand or ever register.
‘Interviews: Brief Notes for Radio’, Notes and Counter-Notes: Writings on the Theatre (1964), 136.
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The view of the Earth from the Moon fascinated me - a small disk, 240,000 miles away… Raging nationalistic interests, famines, wars, pestilence don’t show from that distance.
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The weight of any heavy body of known weight at a particular distance from the center of the world varies according to the variation of its distance therefrom: so that as often as it is removed from the center, it becomes heavier, and when brought near to it, is lighter. On this account, the relation of gravity to gravity is as the relation of distance to distance from the center.
From Book of the Balance of Wisdom. As cited in an epigraph in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravity (1973), 37.
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Thus far I have explained the phenomena of the heavens and of our sea by the force of gravity, but I have not yet assigned a cause to gravity. Indeed, this force arises from some cause that penetrates as far as the centers of the sun and planets without any diminution of its power to act, and that acts not in proportion to the quantity of the surfaces of the particles on which it acts (as mechanical causes are wont to do) but in proportion to the quantity of solid matter, and whose action is extended everywhere to immense distances, always decreasing as the squares of the distances.
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 943.
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To the east was our giant neighbor Makalu, unexplored and unclimbed, and even on top of Everest the mountaineering instinct was sufficient strong to cause me to spend some moments conjecturing as to whether a route up that mountain might not exist. Far away across the clouds the great bulk of Kangchenjunga loomed on the horizon. To the west, Cho Oyu, our old adversary from 1952, dominated the scene and we could see the great unexplored ranges of Nepal stretching off into the distance. The most important photograph, I felt, was a shot down the north ridge, showing the North Col and the old route that had been made famous by the struggles of those great climbers of the 1920s and 1930s. I had little hope of the results being particularly successful, as I had a lot of difficulty in holding the camera steady in my clumsy gloves, but I felt that they would at least serve as a record. After some ten minutes of this, I realized that I was becoming rather clumsy-fingered and slow-moving, so I quickly replaced my oxygen set and experience once more the stimulating effect of even a few liters of oxygen. Meanwhile, Tenzing had made a little hole in the snow and in it he placed small articles of food – a bar of chocolate, a packet of biscuits and a handful of lollies. Small offerings, indeed, but at least a token gifts to the gods that all devoted Buddhists believe have their home on this lofty summit. While we were together on the South Col two days before, Hunt had given me a small crucifix that he had asked me to take to the top. I, too, made a hole in the snow and placed the crucifix beside Tenzing’s gifts.
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Truth … and if mine eyes
Can bear its blaze, and trace its symmetries,
Measure its distance, and its advent wait,
I am no prophet—I but calculate.
From poem, 'The Prospects of the Future', collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 447.
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Unfortunately, the study of organic remains is beset with two evils, which, though of an opposite character, do not neutralize each other so much as at first sight might be anticipated: the one consisting of a strong desire to find similar organic remains in supposed equivalent deposits, even at great distances; the other being an equally strong inclination to discover new species, often as it would seem for the sole purpose of appending the apparently magical word nobis.
In Geological Manual (1832), Preface, iii.
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We are like the inhabitants of an isolated valley in New Guinea who communicate with societies in neighboring valleys (quite different societies, I might add) by runner and by drum. When asked how a very advanced society will communicate, they might guess by an extremely rapid runner or by an improbably large drum. They might not guess a technology beyond their ken. And yet, all the while, a vast international cable and radio traffic passes over them, around them, and through them... We will listen for the interstellar drums, but we will miss the interstellar cables. We are likely to receive our first messages from the drummers of the neighboring galactic valleys - from civilizations only somewhat in our future. The civilizations vastly more advanced than we, will be, for a long time, remote both in distance and in accessibility. At a future time of vigorous interstellar radio traffic, the very advanced civilizations may be, for us, still insubstantial legends.
…...
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We come now to the question: what is a priori certain or necessary, respectively in geometry (doctrine of space) or its foundations? Formerly we thought everything; nowadays we think nothing. Already the distance-concept is logically arbitrary; there need be no things that correspond to it, even approximately.
In article he wrote, 'Space-Time', for Encyclopaedia Britannica (14th ed., 1929), Vol. 21, 106.
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We may produce at will, from a sending station. an electrical effect in any particular region of the globe; we may determine the relative position or course of a moving object, such as a vessel at sea, the distance traversed by the same, or its speed.
'The Problem of Increasing Human Energy', The Century (Jun 1900), 211. Collected in The Century (1900), Vol. 60, 209.
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Were the succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would present us an uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the Galaxy—since there could be absolutely no point, in all that background, at which would not exist a star. The only mode, therefore, in which, under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the voids which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all.
'Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe' (1848). Collected in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1857), Vol. 2, 183.
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When autumn returns with its long anticipated holidays, and preparations are made for a scamper in some distant locality, hammer and notebook will not occupy much room in the portmanteau, and will certainly be found most entertaining company.
In The Story of a Boulder: or, Gleanings from the Note-book of a Field Geologist (1858), viii.
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When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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Without distance there is no dialogue between the two.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 153
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Years ago I used to worry about the degree to which I specialized. Vision is limited enough, yet I was not really working on vision, for I hardly made contact with visual sensations, except as signals, nor with the nervous pathways, nor the structure of the eye, except the retina. Actually my studies involved only the rods and cones of the retina, and in them only the visual pigments. A sadly limited peripheral business, fit for escapists. But it is as though this were a very narrow window through which at a distance, one can only see a crack of light. As one comes closer the view grows wider and wider, until finally looking through the same narrow window one is looking at the universe. It is like the pupil of the eye, an opening only two to three millimetres across in daylight, but yielding a wide angle of view, and manoeuvrable enough to be turned in all directions. I think this is always the way it goes in science, because science is all one. It hardly matters where one enters, provided one can come closer, and then one does not see less and less, but more and more, because one is not dealing with an opaque object, but with a window.
In Scientific American, 1960s, attributed.
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[The internet] ought to be like clay, rather than a sculpture that you observe from a distance.
From archive interview (Nov 1999) rebroadcast on PBS radio program Science Friday (14 Mar 2014).
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“In order to ascertain the height of the tree I must be in such a position that the top of the tree is exactly in a line with the top of a measuring-stick—or any straight object would do, such as an umbrella—which I shall secure in an upright position between my feet. Knowing then that the ratio that the height of the tree bears to the length of the measuring stick must equal the ratio that the distance from my eye to the base of the tree bears to my height, and knowing (or being able to find out) my height, the length of the measuring stick and the distance from my eye to the base of the tree, I can, therefore, calculate the height of the tree.”
“What is an umbrella?”
In Mr. Fortune’s Maggot (1927), 175.
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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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- 40 -
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