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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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Finding Quotes (30 quotes)

Question: Why do the inhabitants of cold climates eat fat? How would you find experimentally the relative quantities of heat given off when equal weights of sulphur, phosphorus, and carbon are thoroughly burned?
Answer: An inhabitant of cold climates (called Frigid Zoans) eats fat principally because he can't get no lean, also because he wants to rise is temperature. But if equal weights of sulphur phosphorus and carbon are burned in his neighbourhood he will give off eating quite so much. The relative quantities of eat given off will depend upon how much sulphur etc. is burnt and how near it is burned to him. If I knew these facts it would be an easy sum to find the answer.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 183, Question 32. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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A lot of scientific papers do deal with matters of atheoretical fact ... for example, whenever somebody finds a new “world's largest dinosaur,” which has only slightly more scientific relevance than shooting the record moose. In short, not everything that gets published in scientific journals bears the distinctive hallmarks of science.
In 'Paleoanthropology: Science or Mythical Charter?', Journal of Anthropological Research (Summer 2002), 58, No. 2, 186.
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About 85 per cent of my “thinking” time was spent getting into a position to think, to make a decision, to learn something I needed to know. Much more time went into finding or obtaining information than into digesting it. Hours went into the plotting of graphs... When the graphs were finished, the relations were obvious at once, but the plotting had to be done in order to make them so.
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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All the remedies for all the types of conflicts are alike in that they begin by finding the facts rather than by starting a fight.
As quoted, M.Guy Mellon in Presidential Address, Purdue University. Printed in Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science (1943), 52, 12.
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As physicists have arranged an extensive series of effects under the general term of Heat, so they have named another series Light, and a third they have called Electricity. We find ... that all these principles are capable of being produced through the medium of living bodies, for nearly all animals have the power of evolving heat; many insects, moreover, can voluntarily emit light; and the property of producing electricity is well evinced in the terrible shock of the electric eel, as well as in that of some other creatures. We are indeed in the habit of talking of the Electric fluid, or the Galvanic fluid, but this in reality is nothing but a licence of expression suitable to our finite and material notions.
In the Third Edition of Elements of Electro-Metallurgy: or The Art of Working in Metals by the Galvanic Fluid (1851), 1.
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Beware of finding what you're looking for.
A favorite aphorism he often used.
Though widely seen attributed as a caution Hamming often used, webmaster has found no evidence that he originated the saying. If you know a primary source, please contact webmaster.
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If Louis Pasteur were to come out of his grave because he heard that the cure for cancer still had not been found, NIH would tell him, “Of course we'll give you assistance. Now write up exactly what you will be doing during the three years of your grant.” Pasteur would say, “Thank you very much,” and would go back to his grave. Why? Because research means going into the unknown. If you know what you are going to do in science, then you are stupid! This is like telling Michelangelo or Renoir that he must tell you in advance how many reds and how many blues he will buy, and exactly how he will put those colors together.
Interview for Saturday Evening Post (Jan/Feb 1981), 30.
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If you want to find out anything from the theoretical physicists about the methods they use, I advise you to stick closely to one principle: don't listen to their words, fix your attention on their deeds. To him who is a discoverer in this field the products of his imagination appear so necessary and natural that he regards them, and would like to have them regarded by others, not as creations of thought but as given realities.
From 'On the Method of Theoretical Physics', in Essays in Science (1934, 2004), 12.
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In a sense, of course, probability theory in the form of the simple laws of chance is the key to the analysis of warfare;… My own experience of actual operational research work, has however, shown that its is generally possible to avoid using anything more sophisticated. … In fact the wise operational research worker attempts to concentrate his efforts in finding results which are so obvious as not to need elaborate statistical methods to demonstrate their truth. In this sense advanced probability theory is something one has to know about in order to avoid having to use it.
In 'Operations Research', Physics Today (Nov 1951), 19. As cited by Maurice W. Kirby and Jonathan Rosenhead, 'Patrick Blackett (1897)' in Arjang A. Assad (ed.) and Saul I. Gass (ed.),Profiles in Operations Research: Pioneers and Innovators (2011), 25.
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In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to shew the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be enquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there.
Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802), 1-2.
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In its earliest development knowledge is self-sown. Impressions force themselves upon men’s senses whether they will or not, and often against their will. The amount of interest in which these impressions awaken is determined by the coarser pains and pleasures which they carry in their train or by mere curiosity; and reason deals with the materials supplied to it as far as that interest carries it, and no further. Such common knowledge is rather brought than sought; and such ratiocination is little more than the working of a blind intellectual instinct. It is only when the mind passes beyond this condition that it begins to evolve science. When simple curiosity passes into the love of knowledge as such, and the gratification of the æsthetic sense of the beauty of completeness and accuracy seems more desirable that the easy indolence of ignorance; when the finding out of the causes of things becomes a source of joy, and he is accounted happy who is successful in the search, common knowledge passes into what our forefathers called natural history, whence there is but a step to that which used to be termed natural philosophy, and now passes by the name of physical science.
In this final state of knowledge the phenomena of nature are regarded as one continuous series of causes and effects; and the ultimate object of science is to trace out that series, from the term which is nearest to us, to that which is at the farthest limit accessible to our means of investigation.
The course of nature as it is, as it has been, and as it will be, is the object of scientific inquiry; whatever lies beyond, above, or below this is outside science. But the philosopher need not despair at the limitation on his field of labor; in relation to the human mind Nature is boundless; and, though nowhere inaccessible, she is everywhere unfathomable.
The Crayfish: an Introduction to the Study of Zoölogy (1880), 2-3. Excerpted in Popular Science (Apr 1880), 16, 789-790.
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It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.
In Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1974, 1986), 73.
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Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.
In Emerson’s Complete Works: Volume 1, Nature, Addresses and Lectures (1855, 1889), 13-14.
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One of the principal obstacles to the rapid diffusion of a new idea lies in the difficulty of finding suitable expression to convey its essential point to other minds. Words may have to be strained into a new sense, and scientific controversies constantly resolve themselves into differences about the meaning of words. On the other hand, a happy nomenclature has sometimes been more powerful than rigorous logic in allowing a new train of thought to be quickly and generally accepted.
Opening Address to the Annual Meeting of the British Association by Prof. Arthur Schuster, in Nature (4 Aug 1892), 46, 325.
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Richard P. Feynman quote: One of the ways of stopping science would be only to do experiments in the region where you know the l
One of the ways of stopping science would be only to do experiments in the region where you know the law. … In other words we are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 158.
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Only when he has published his ideas and findings has the scientist made his contribution, and only when he has thus made it part of the public domain of scholarship can he truly lay claim to it as his own. For his claim resides only in the recognition accorded by peers in the social system of science through reference to his work.
In The Sociology of Science: An Episodic Memoir (1977), 47. As quoted and cited in David A. Kronick, The Literature of the Life Sciences: Reading, Writing, Research (1985), 89. This has been summarized as a paradox “the more freely the scientist gives his intellectual property away, the more securely it becomes his property” by Mengxiong Liu, in 'The Complexity of Citation Practice: A Review of Citation Studies', The Journal of Documentation (1993), 49, No. 4, 372.
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That's all right, but you still haven't found out what makes the bath water gargle when you pull the plug out.
[Remark to a scientist who was showing him around the National Physical Laboratory.]
Quoted in Laura Ward, Foolish Words: The Most Stupid Words Ever Spoken (2003), 30.
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The art of doing mathematics consists in finding that special case which contains all the germs of generality.
Attributed, perhaps apocryphal. As given in Felix E. Browder, Norbert Wiener (1966), 65.
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The essence of modernity is that progress no longer waits on genius; instead we have learned to put our faith in the organized efforts of ordinary men. Science is as old as the race, but the effective organization of science is new. Ancient science, like placer mining, was a pursuit of solitary prospectors. Nuggets of truth were found, but the total wealth of knowledge increased slowly. Modern man began to transform this world when he began to mine the hidden veins of knowledge systematically.
In School and Society (1930), 31, 581.
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The first step in finding the solution to a problem often involves discovering a problem with the existing solution.
Anonymous
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The mathematicians have been very much absorbed with finding the general solution of algebraic equations, and several of them have tried to prove the impossibility of it. However, if I am not mistaken, they have not as yet succeeded. I therefore dare hope that the mathematicians will receive this memoir with good will, for its purpose is to fill this gap in the theory of algebraic equations.
Opening of Memoir on Algebraic Equations, Proving the Impossibility of a Solution of the General Equation of the Fifth Degree. The paper was originally published (1824) in French, as a pamphlet, in Oslo. Collected in Œuvres Complètes (1881), Vol. 1, 28. Translation by W.H. Langdon collected in David Eugene Smith, A Source Book in Mathematics (2012), 261. In this work, he showed why—despite two centuries of efforts by mathematicians—solving equations of the fifth degree would remain futile. The insights from this paper led to the modern theory of equations.
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The politician … is sometimes tempted to encroach on the normal territory of the scientific estate. Sometimes he interferes directly with the scientist’s pursuit of basic science; but he is more likely to interfere when the scientist proposes to publish findings that upset the established political or economic order, or when he joins with the engineering or medical profession in proposing to translate the findings of science into new policies. … Who decides when the apparent consensus of scientific opinion on the relation of cigarettes to lung cancer is great enough to justify governmental regulatory action, and of what kind? In such issues the problem is less often whether politics will presume to dictate to science than it is how much politics is to be influenced by the new findings of science.
In The Scientific Estate (1965), 201.
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The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.
In Monstrous Regiment (2004), 211.
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The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth—never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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There is a reward structure in science that is very interesting: Our highest honors go to those who disprove the findings of the most revered among us. So Einstein is revered not just because he made so many fundamental contributions to science, but because he found an imperfection in the fundamental contribution of Isaac Newton.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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These microscopic organisms form an entire world composed of species, families and varieties whose history, which has barely begun to be written, is already fertile in prospects and findings of the highest importance. The names of these organisms are very numerous and will have to be defined and in part discarded. The word microbe which has the advantage of being shorter and carrying a more general meaning, and of having been approved by my illustrious friend, M. Littré, the most competent linguist in France, is one we will adopt.
In paper read to the Académie de Medecine (Mar 1878). In Charles-Emile Sedillot, 'Influence de M. Pasteur sur les progres de la chirurgie' [Influence of Pasteur on the progress of surgery].
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To trace the series of these revolutions, to explain their causes, and thus to connect together all the indications of change that are found in the mineral kingdom, is the proper object of a THEORY OF THE EARTH.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 2.
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Train yourselves. Don't wait to be fed knowledge out of a book. Get out and seek it. Make explorations. Do your own research work. Train your hands and your mind. Become curious. Invent your own problems and solve them. You can see things going on all about you. Inquire into them. Seek out answers to your own questions. There are many phenomena going on in nature the explanation of which cannot be found in books. Find out why these phenomena take place. Information a boy gets by himself is enormously more valuable than that which is taught to him in school.
In 'Dr. Irving Langmuir', Boys' Life (Jul 1941), 12.
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We’re going to see public attitudes [on climate change] switch not in proportion to scientific findings or graphs, but in proportion to the stories they hear, the people they know whose lives have been touched by climate change or some environmental calamity. That’s what really changed public opinion.
From interview with Mark Tercek, 'Q&A With Ramez Naam: Dialogues on the Environment', Huffington Post (1 Jul 2013).
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[Shawn Lawrence Otto describes the damaging] strategy used to undermine science in the interest of those industries where science has pointed out the dangers of their products to individuals and human life in general … [It was] used a generation ago by the tobacco industry… First they manufacture uncertainty by raising doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence. Then they launder information by using seemingly independent front organizations to promote their desired message and thereby confuse the public. And finally they recruit unscrupulous scientific spokespeople to misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings and cherry-pick facts in an attempt to persuade the media and the public that there is still serious debate among scientists on the issue at hand.
In 'Science Is Politics', Huffington Post (28 May 2014).
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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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