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Who said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index F > Category: Flat

Flat Quotes (33 quotes)

Dilbert: You joined the “Flat Earth Society?”
Dogbert: I believe the earth must be flat. There is no good evidence to support the so-called “round earth theory.”
Dilbert: I think Christopher Columbus would disagree.
Dogbert: How convenient that your best witness is dead.
Dilbert comic strip (9 Oct 1989).
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The Charms of Statistics.—It is difficult to understand why statisticians commonly limit their inquiries to Averages, and do not revel in more comprehensive views. Their souls seem as dull to the charm of variety as that of the native of one of our flat English counties, whose retrospect of Switzerland was that, if its mountains could be thrown into its lakes, two nuisances would be got rid of at once. An Average is but a solitary fact, whereas if a single other fact be added to it, an entire Normal Scheme, which nearly corresponds to the observed one, starts potentially into existence. Some people hate the very name of statistics, but I find them full of beauty and interest. Whenever they are not brutalised, but delicately handled by the higher methods, and are warily interpreted, their power of dealing with complicated phenomena is extraordinary. They are the only tools by which an opening can be cut through the formidable thicket of difficulties that bars the path of those who pursue the Science of man.
Natural Inheritance (1889), 62-3.
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A person is smart. People are dumb ... Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
Anonymous
Character Agent K in movie Men in Black(1997), screen story and screenplay by Ed Solomon. Quoted in George Aichele, Culture, Entertainment and the Bible (2000), 26. In a footnote, from the post-movie novel by Steve Perry, Men in Black (1997), 66, is added, 'Yeah. A hundred years from now, whoever is here will probably pee themselves laughing at what we believe.'
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Anaximenes and Anaxagoras and Democritus say that its [the earth’s] flatness is responsible for it staying still: for it does not cut the air beneath but covers it like a lid, which flat bodies evidently do: for they are hard to move even for the winds, on account of their resistance.
Aristotle
Aristotle, On the Heavens, 294b, 13. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M.Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 153.
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Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow,
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head; and thou all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o'th' world,
Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once
That makes ingrateful man.
King Lear (1605-61, III, ii.
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Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.
As quoted in Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action (1939, 1949), 31. Hayakawa clearly specified the quote was “recently defined by Stuart Chase”. Some later sources incorrectly attribute to Hayakawa alone. Others even attribute to Einstein.
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Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future. If she was going to do role playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave it beautiful breasts.
Interview (1977), as quoted in Kenneth C. Davis, Don't Know Much About History (2009), 435.
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Evolution is an obstacle course not a freeway; the correct analogue for long-term success is a distant punt receiver evading legions of would-be tacklers in an oddly zigzagged path toward a goal, not a horse thundering down the flat.
…...
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First they told us the world was flat. Then they told us it was round. Now they are telling us it isn’t even there.
…...
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Four college students taking a class together, had done so well through the semester, and each had an “A”. They were so confident, the weekend before finals, they went out partying with friends. Consequently, on Monday, they overslept and missed the final. They explained to the professor that they had gone to a remote mountain cabin for the weekend to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The professor kindly agreed they could make up the final the following day. When they arrived the next morning, he placed them each in separate rooms, handed each one a test booklet, and told them to begin. The the first problem was simple, worth 5 points. Turning the page they found the next question, written: “(For 95 points): Which tire?”
Anonymous
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He [a student] liked to look at the … remains of queer animals: funny little skulls and bones and disjointed skeletons of strange monsters that must have been remarkable when they were alive … [he] wondered if the long one with the flat, triangular head used to crawl, or hop, or what.
In 'The Great Paste-pot Handicap' Maroon Tales: University of Chicago Stories (1910), 289. Note: the fictional student is in the University of Chicago’s Walker Museum.
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How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them. A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.
…...
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I went to the trash pile at Tuskegee Institute and started my laboratory with bottles, old fruit jars and any other thing I found I could use. ... [The early efforts were] worked out almost wholly on top of my flat topped writing desk and with teacups, glasses, bottles and reagents I made myself.
Manuscript fragment, no date, Box 1, George Washington Carver Papers. Cited in Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol (1982), 130.
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If the universe is measurably curved today, cosmologists must accept the miraculous fact that this is so for the first time in the 1010-year history of the universe; if it had been measurably non-flat at much earlier times, it would be much more obviously curved today than it is. This line of reasoning suggests that the observable universe is essentially exactly flat: that it contains precisely the critical density of mass.
(1986). As quoted in Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations.
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In like manner, the loadstone has from nature its two poles, a northern and a southern; fixed, definite points in the stone, which are the primary termini of the movements and effects, and the limits and regulators of the several actions and properties. It is to be understood, however, that not from a mathematical point does the force of the stone emanate, but from the parts themselves; and all these parts in the whole—while they belong to the whole—the nearer they are to the poles of the stone the stronger virtues do they acquire and pour out on other bodies. These poles look toward the poles of the earth, and move toward them, and are subject to them. The magnetic poles may be found in very loadstone, whether strong and powerful (male, as the term was in antiquity) or faint, weak, and female; whether its shape is due to design or to chance, and whether it be long, or flat, or four-square, or three-cornered or polished; whether it be rough, broken-off, or unpolished: the loadstone ever has and ever shows its poles.
On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies and on the Great Magnet the Earth: A New Physiology, Demonstrated with many Arguments and Experiments (1600), trans. P. Fleury Mottelay (1893), 23.
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In the hierarchy of the major poetic substances, it [plastic] figures as a disgraced material, lost between the effusiveness of rubber and the flat hardness of metal.
'Plastic', in Mythologies (1957), trans. Annette Lavers (1972), 98.
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In the human body the central point is naturally the navel. For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom.
Vitruvius
Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of a man with outstretched limbs inscribed in a circle is thus called the Vitruvian Man (c. 1490). In De Architectura, Book 3, Chap 1, Sec. 3. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 73.
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In the morning, we carry the world like Atlas; at noon, we stoop and bend beneath it; and at night, it crushes us flat to the ground.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 13.
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It is admitted, on all hands, that the Scriptures are not intended to resolve physical questions, or to explain matters in no way related to the morality of human actions; and if, in consequence of this principle, a considerable latitude of interpretation were not allowed, we should continue at this moment to believe, that the earth is flat; that the sun moves round the earth; and that the circumference of a circle is no more than three times its diameter.
In The Works of John Playfair: Vol. 1: Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1822), 137.
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It was on the 25th November 1740 that I cut the first polyp. I put the two parts in a flat glass, which only contained water to the height of four to five lignes. It was thus easy for me to observe these portions of the polyp with a fairly powerful lens.
I shall indicate farther on the precautions I took in making my experiments on these cut polyps and the technique I adopted to cut them. It will suffice to say here that I cut the polyp concerned transversely, a little nearer the anterior than the posterior end. The first part was thus a little shorter than the second.
The instant that I cut the polyp, the two parts contracted so that at first they only appeared like two little grains of green matter at the bottom of the glass in which I put them—for green, as I have already said, is the colour of the first polyps that I possessed. The two parts expanded on the same day on which I separated them. They were very easy to distinguish from one another. The first had its anterior end adorned with the fine threads that serve the polyp as legs and arms, which the second had none.
The extensions of the first part was not the only sign of life that it gave on the same day that it was separated from the other. I saw it move its arms; and the next day, the first time I came to observe it, I found that it had changed its position; and shortly afterwards I saw it take a step. The second part was extended as on the previous day and in the same place. I shook the glass a little to see if it were still alive. This movement made it contract, from which I judged that it was alive. Shortly afterwards it extended again. On the following days I .’ saw the same thing.
Mémoires, pour servir à l'histoire d'un genre de polyps d'eau douce à bras en forme de cornes (1744), 7-16. Trans. John R. Baker, in Abraham Trembley of Geneva: Scientist and Philosopher 1710-1784 (1952), 31.
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One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.
In The Sense of Wonder (1956), as condensed in Reader’s Digest (1986), 129, 174.
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Our fathers thought the world was flat, and we think it is round, not because the earth has changed its shape, but because men have revised their thoughts.
The Homiletic Review, Vol. 83-84 (1922), Vol. 83, 208.
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Science is the art of the appropriate approximation. While the flat earth model is usually spoken of with derision it is still widely used. Flat maps, either in atlases or road maps, use the flat earth model as an approximation to the more complicated shape.
In 'On the Nature of Science', Physics in Canada (Jan/Feb 2007), 63, No. 1, 13.
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The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.
…...
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The claims of certain so-called scientific men as to 'science overthrowing religion' are as baseless as the fears of certain sincerely religious men on the same subject. The establishment of the doctrine of evolution in out time offers no more justification for upsetting religious beliefs than the discovery of the facts concerning the solar system a few centuries ago. Any faith sufficiently robust to stand the—surely very slight—strain of admitting that the world is not flat and does not move round the sun need have no apprehensions on the score of evolution, and the materialistic scientists who gleefully hail the discovery of the principle of evolution as establishing their dreary creed might with just as much propriety rest it upon the discovery of the principle of gravity.
'The Search for Truth in a Reverent Spirit', (originally published in The Outlook, 2 Dec 1911). In The Works of Theodore Roosevelt (1913), Vol. 26, 256.
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The earth is flat, being borne upon air, and similarly the sun, moon and the other heavenly bodies, which are all fiery, ride upon the air through their flatness.
Hippolytus, Refutation 1.7.4. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M.Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts (1983), p. 154.
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The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the Universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern “knowledge” is that it is wrong.
The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. “If I am the wisest man,” said Socrates, “it is because I alone know that I know nothing.” The implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.
Alas, none of this was new to me. (There is very little that is new to me; I wish my correspondents would realize this.) This particular theme was addressed to me a quarter of a century ago by John Campbell, who specialized in irritating me. He also told me that all theories are proven wrong in time.
My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
In The Relativity of Wrong (1989), 214.
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This long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.
A Tract on Monetary Reform (1923), 80.
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Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you ... For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.
…...
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What is the shape of space? Is it flat, or is it bent? Is it nicely laid out, or is it warped and shrunken? Is it finite, or is it infinite? Which of the following does space resemble more: (a) a sheet of paper, (b) an endless desert, (c) a soap bubble, (d) a doughnut, (e) an Escher drawing, (f) an ice cream cone, (g) the branches of a tree, or (h) a human body?
The Fourth Dimension: And How to Get There (1985), 91.
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When the inclination is not obvious, the mind meanders, or maunders, as a stream in a flat meadow.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 222.
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Wherever possible, scientists experiment. Which experiments suggest themselves often depends on which theories currently prevail. Scientists are intent of testing those theories to the breaking point. They do not trust what is intuitively obvious. That the Earth is flat was once obvious. That heavy bodies fall faster than light ones was once obvious. That bloodsucking leeches cure most diseases was once obvious. That some people are naturally and by divine decree slaves was once obvious. That there is such a place as the center of the Universe, and that the Earth sits in that exalted spot was once obvious. That there is an absolute standard of rest was once obvious. The truth may be puzzling or counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held beliefs. Experiment is how we get a handle on it.
In The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark (1995), 36.
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…The present revolution of scientific thought follows in natural sequence on the great revolutions at earlier epochs in the history of science. Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which explains the indeterminateness of the frame of space and time, crowns the work of Copernicus who first led us to give up our insistence on a geocentric outlook on nature; Einstein's general theory of relativity, which reveals the curvature or non-Euclidean geometry of space and time, carries forward the rudimentary thought of those earlier astronomers who first contemplated the possibility that their existence lay on something which was not flat. These earlier revolutions are still a source of perplexity in childhood, which we soon outgrow; and a time will come when Einstein’s amazing revelations have likewise sunk into the commonplaces of educated thought.
In The Theory of Relativity and its Influence on Scientific Thought (1922), 31-32
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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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