Formidable Quotes (8 quotes)
A fear of intellectual inadequacy, of powerlessness before the tireless electronic wizards, has given rise to dozens of science-fiction fantasies of computer takeovers. ... Other scientists too are apprehensive. D. Raj Reddy, a computer scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University, fears that universally available microcomputers could turn into formidable weapons. Among other things, says Reddy, sophisticated computers in the wrong hands could begin subverting a society by tampering with people’s relationships with their own computers—instructing the other computers to cut off telephone, bank and other services, for example.
Astrophysicists have the formidable privilege of having the largest view of the Universe; particle detectors and large telescopes are today used to study distant stars, and throughout space and time, from the infinitely large to the infinitely small, the Universe never ceases to surprise us by revealing its structures little by little.
But it is precisely mathematics, and the pure science generally, from which the general educated public and independent students have been debarred, and into which they have only rarely attained more than a very meagre insight. The reason of this is twofold. In the first place, the ascendant and consecutive character of mathematical knowledge renders its results absolutely insusceptible of presentation to persons who are unacquainted with what has gone before, and so necessitates on the part of its devotees a thorough and patient exploration of the field from the very beginning, as distinguished from those sciences which may, so to speak, be begun at the end, and which are consequently cultivated with the greatest zeal. The second reason is that, partly through the exigencies of academic instruction, but mainly through the martinet traditions of antiquity and the influence of mediaeval logic-mongers, the great bulk of the elementary text-books of mathematics have unconsciously assumed a very repellant form,—something similar to what is termed in the theory of protective mimicry in biology “the terrifying form.” And it is mainly to this formidableness and touch-me-not character of exterior, concealing withal a harmless body, that the undue neglect of typical mathematical studies is to be attributed.
I can no more explain why I like “natural history” than why I like California canned peaches; nor why I do not care for that enormous brand of natural history which deals with invertebrates any more than why I do not care for brandied peaches. All I can say is that almost as soon as I began to read at all I began to like to read about the natural history of beasts and birds and the more formidable or interesting reptiles and fishes.
It is the function of notions in science to be useful, to be interesting, to be verifiable and to acquire value from anyone of these qualities. Scientific notions have little to gain as science from being forced into relation with that formidable abstraction, “general truth.”
Man, biologically considered, and whatever else he may be into the bargain, is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species.
No creature is too bulky or formidable for man's destructive energies—none too minute and insignificant for his keen detection and skill of capture. It was ordained from the beginning that we should be the masters and subduers of all inferior animals. Let us remember, however, that we ourselves, like the creatures we slay, subjugate, and modify, are the results of the same Almighty creative will—temporary sojourners here, and co-tenants with the worm and the whale of one small planet. In the exercise, therefore, of those superior powers that have been intrusted to us, let us ever bear in mind that our responsibilities are heightened in proportion.
Partly because of improved technology, partly because of the pressures of inflation, partly from causes few understand or agree about, prices have soared. A Spitfire cost £5000 in 1940. A Tornado Air Defence Fighter costs £14 million today. That is a lot of inflation! And even when all has been said about the greater effectiveness of the latter machine, so that far fewer are needed, there still remains a mighty problem. There tend to be limits to the extent to which numbers can be reduced by superior quality. A ship can only cover a certain amount of ocean, however sophisticated it may be; and the most formidable of tanks can’t do much beyond the limits of its commander’s sight. There is a minimum numerical requirement, and meeting it with equipment capable of taking on the enemy was already, in 1955, a source of worry.