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Formula Quotes (44 quotes)

A large number of areas of the brain are involved when viewing equations, but when one looks at a formula rated as beautiful it activates the emotional brain—the medial orbito-frontal cortex—like looking at a great painting or listening to a piece of music. … Neuroscience can’t tell you what beauty is, but if you find it beautiful the medial orbito-frontal cortex is likely to be involved; you can find beauty in anything.
As quoted in James Gallagher, 'Mathematics: Why The Brain Sees Maths As Beauty,' BBC News (13 Feb 2014), on bbc.co.uk web site.
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Characteristically skeptical of the idea that living things would faithfully follow mathematical formulas, [Robert Harper] seized upon factors in corn which seemed to blend in the hybrid—rather than be represented by plus or minus signs, and put several seasons into throwing doubt upon the concept of immutable hypothetical units of inheritance concocted to account for selected results.
In 'Robert Almer Harper', National Academy Biographical Memoirs (1948), 25, 233-234.
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De Morgan was explaining to an actuary what was the chance that a certain proportion of some group of people would at the end of a given time be alive; and quoted the actuarial formula, involving p [pi], which, in answer to a question, he explained stood for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. His acquaintance, who had so far listened to the explanation with interest, interrupted him and exclaimed, 'My dear friend, that must be a delusion, what can a circle have to do with the number of people alive at a given time?'
Mathematical Recreations and Problems (1896), 180; See also De Morgan's Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 172.
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e√-π-1= 0
A special case of a formula published by Euler in his Introductio ad analysin infinitorum (1748), Vol. 1. However, he did not print it, either there or elsewhere. An early printing, maybe the first, is due to J. F. Français in Annales des mathematique pures et appliquées 1813-1814, 4, 66. The formula was also highlighted by the American mathematician Benjamin Peirce around 1840. But its rise to 'fame' remains obscure.

Gentlemen and ladies, this is ordinary alcohol, sometimes called ethanol; it is found in all fermented beverages. As you well know, it is considered by many to be poisonous, a belief in which I do not concur. If we subtract from it one CH2-group we arrive at this colorless liquid, which you see in this bottle. It is sometimes called methanol or wood alcohol. It is certainly more toxic than the ethanol we have just seen. Its formula is CH3OH. If, from this, we subtract the CH2-group, we arrive at a third colorless liquid, the final member of this homologous series. This compound is hydrogen hydroxide, best known as water. It is the most poisonous of all.
In Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 189.
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I am afraid I shall have to give up my trade; I am far too inert to keep up with organic chemistry, it is becoming too much for me, though I may boast of having contributed something to its development. The modern system of formulae is to me quite repulsive.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (21 May 1862), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), footnote, 225.
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I am particularly concerned to determine the probability of causes and results, as exhibited in events that occur in large numbers, and to investigate the laws according to which that probability approaches a limit in proportion to the repetition of events. That investigation deserves the attention of mathematicians because of the analysis required. It is primarily there that the approximation of formulas that are functions of large numbers has its most important applications. The investigation will benefit observers in identifying the mean to be chosen among the results of their observations and the probability of the errors still to be apprehended. Lastly, the investigation is one that deserves the attention of philosophers in showing how in the final analysis there is a regularity underlying the very things that seem to us to pertain entirely to chance, and in unveiling the hidden but constant causes on which that regularity depends. It is on the regularity of the main outcomes of events taken in large numbers that various institutions depend, such as annuities, tontines, and insurance policies. Questions about those subjects, as well as about inoculation with vaccine and decisions of electoral assemblies, present no further difficulty in the light of my theory. I limit myself here to resolving the most general of them, but the importance of these concerns in civil life, the moral considerations that complicate them, and the voluminous data that they presuppose require a separate work.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), Introduction.
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I do not believe that a moral philosophy can ever be founded on a scientific basis. … The valuation of life and all its nobler expressions can only come out of the soul’s yearning toward its own destiny. Every attempt to reduce ethics to scientific formulas must fail. Of that I am perfectly convinced.
In 'Science and God: A Dialogue', Forum and Century (June 1930), 83, 374. Einstein’s dialogue was with James Murphy and J.W.N. Sullivan. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 230. The book introduces this quote as Einstein’s reply when Murphy asked, in the authors’ words, “how far he thought modern science might be able to go toward establishing practical ideals of life on the ruins of religious ideals.”
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I feel like a white granular mass of amorphous crystals—my formula appears to be isomeric with Spasmotoxin. My aurochloride precipitates into beautiful prismatic needles. My Platinochloride develops octohedron crystals,—with fine blue florescence. My physiological action is not indifferent. One millionth of a grain injected under the skin of a frog produced instantaneous death accompanied by an orange blossom odor. The heart stopped in systole. A base—L3H9NG4—offers analogous reaction to phosmotinigstic acid.
In letter to George M. Gould (1889), collected in Elizabeth Bisland The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn (1922), Vol. 14, 89.
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I have always felt that I understood a phenomenon only to the extent that I could visualise it. Much of the charm organic chemical research has for me derives from structural formulae. When reading chemical journals, I look for formulae first.
From Design to Discovery (1990), 122.
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I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.
From Lecture 7, (7 Oct 1884), in Baltimore Lectures on Molecular Dynamics and the Wave Theory of Light (1904), 76.
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I trust ... I have succeeded in convincing you that modern chemistry is not, as it has so long appeared, an ever-growing accumulation of isolated facts, as impossible for a single intellect to co-ordinate as for a single memory to grasp.
The intricate formulae that hang upon these walls, and the boundless variety of phenomena they illustrate, are beginning to be for us as a labyrinth once impassable, but to which we have at length discovered the clue. A sense of mastery and power succeeds in our minds to the sort of weary despair with which we at first contemplated their formidable array. For now, by the aid of a few general principles, we find ourselves able to unravel the complexities of these formulae, to marshal the compounds which they represent in orderly series; nay, even to multiply their numbers at our will, and in a great measure to forecast their nature ere we have called them into existence. It is the great movement of modern chemistry that we have thus, for an hour, seen passing before us. It is a movement as of light spreading itself over a waste of obscurity, as of law diffusing order throughout a wilderness of confusion, and there is surely in its contemplation something of the pleasure which attends the spectacle of a beautiful daybreak, something of the grandeur belonging to the conception of a world created out of chaos.
Concluding remark for paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
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I want to put in something about Bernoulli’s numbers, in one of my Notes, as an example of how the implicit function may be worked out by the engine, without having been worked out by human head & hands first. Give me the necessary data & formulae.
Lovelace Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, 42, folio 12 (6 Feb 1841). As quoted and cited in Dorothy Stein (ed.), 'This First Child of Mine', Ada: A Life and a Legacy (1985), 106-107.
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I was an impostor, the worthy associate of a brigand, &c., &c., and all this for an atom of chlorine put in the place of an atom of hydrogen, for the simple correction of a chemical formula!
Chemical Method (1855), 203.
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I was just going to say, when I was interrupted, that one of the many ways of classifying minds is under the heads of arithmetical and algebraical intellects. All economical and practical wisdom is an extension or variation of the following arithmetical formula: 2+2=4. Every philosophical proposition has the more general character of the expression a+b=c. We are mere operatives, empirics, and egotists, until we learn to think in letters instead of figures.
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1858), 1.
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If you could stop every atom in its position and direction, and if your mind could comprehend all the actions thus suspended, then if you were really, really good at algebra you could write the formula for all the future; and although nobody can be so clever as to do it, the formula must exist just as if one could.
Spoken by Thomasina in Arcadia (1993), Act I, Scene 1, 13.
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Individual events. Events beyond law. Events so numerous and so uncoordinated that, flaunting their freedom from formula, they yet fabricate firm form.
'Frontiers of Time', cited in At Home in the Universe (1994), 283. Quoted in James Gleick, Genius: the Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1993), 93.
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It is in the name of Moses that Bellarmin thunderstrikes Galileo; and this great vulgarizer of the great seeker Copernicus, Galileo, the old man of truth, the magian of the heavens, was reduced to repeating on his knees word for word after the inquisitor this formula of shame: “Corde sincera et fide non ficta abjuro maledico et detestor supradictos errores et hereses.” Falsehood put an ass's hood on science.
[With a sincere heart, and of faith unfeigned, I deny by oath, condemn and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies.]
In Victor Hugo and Lorenzo O'Rourke (trans.) Victor Hugo's Intellectual Autobiography: (Postscriptum de ma vie) (1907), 313.
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It is strange that we know so little about the properties of numbers. They are our handiwork, yet they baffle us; we can fathom only a few of their intricacies. Having defined their attributes and prescribed their behavior, we are hard pressed to perceive the implications of our formulas.
'The Mysteries of Arithmetic: Commentary', The World of Mathematics (2000), Vol. 1, 497.
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M.D.—Make Do.— Quaint idea! … Work for the handicapped … who is handicapped, your patients, or you? Both. Helping the survival of the unfit.… With more to come. What in the world was the solution. Where to find a formula for head and heart too?
Quoted in M.C. Winternitz, 'Alan Gregg, Physician', Science (20 Dec 1957), 1279.
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Marxism is sociobiology without biology … Although Marxism was formulated as the enemy of ignorance and superstition, to the extent that it has become dogmatic it has faltered in that commitment and is now mortally threatened by the discoveries of human sociobiology.
In On Human Nature (1978), 191.
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Mathematics may be compared to a mill of exquisite workmanship, which grinds you stuff of any degree of fineness; but, nevertheless, what you get out depends upon what you put in; and as the grandest mill in the world will not extract wheat-flour from peascods, so pages of formulae will not get a definite result out of loose data.
'Geological Reform' (1869). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 8, 333.
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Mathematics, a creation of the mind, so accurately fits the outside world. … [There is a] fantastic amount of uniformity in the universe. The formulas of physics are compressed descriptions of nature's weird repetitions. The accuracy of those formulas, coupled with nature’s tireless ability to keep doing everything the same way, gives them their incredible power.
In book review, 'Adventures Of a Mathematician: The Man Who Invented the H-Bomb', New York Times (9 May 1976), 201. The book is a biography of Stanislaw Ulam, and this is Gardner’s description of one of Ulam’s reflections on nature and mathematics.
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My colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands [and I] are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature?
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
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My theory of electrical forces is that they are called into play in insulating media by slight electric displacements, which put certain small portions of the medium into a state of distortion which, being resisted by the elasticity of the medium, produces an electromotive force ... I suppose the elasticity of the sphere to react on the electrical matter surrounding it, and press it downwards.
From the determination by Kohlrausch and Weber of the numerical relation between the statical and magnetic effects of electricity, I have determined the elasticity of the medium in air, and assuming that it is the same with the luminiferous ether I have determined the velocity of propagation of transverse vibrations.
The result is
193088 miles per second
(deduced from electrical & magnetic experiments).
Fizeau has determined the velocity of light
= 193118 miles per second
by direct experiment.
This coincidence is not merely numerical. I worked out the formulae in the country, before seeing Webers [sic] number, which is in millimetres, and I think we have now strong reason to believe, whether my theory is a fact or not, that the luminiferous and the electromagnetic medium are one.
Letter to Michael Faraday (19 Oct 1861). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 1846-1862, 684-6.
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Not one of them [formulae] can be shown to have any existence, so that the formula of one of the simplest of organic bodies is confused by the introduction of unexplained symbols for imaginary differences in the mode of combination of its elements… It would be just as reasonable to describe an oak tree as composed of blocks and chips and shavings to which it may be reduced by the hatchet, as by Dr Kolbe’s formula to describe acetic acid as containing the products which may be obtained from it by destructive influences. A Kolbe botanist would say that half the chips are united with some of the blocks by the force parenthesis; the other half joined to this group in a different way, described by a buckle; shavings stuck on to these in a third manner, comma; and finally, a compound of shavings and blocks united together by a fourth force, juxtaposition, is joined to the main body by a fifth force, full stop.
'On Dr. Kolbe's Additive Formulae', Quarterly Journal of the Chemical Society (1855), 7, 133-4.
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Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.
In letter (1 May 1935), Letters to the Editor, 'The Late Emmy Noether: Professor Einstein Writes in Appreciation of a Fellow-Mathematician', New York Times (4 May 1935), 12.
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Round about the accredited and orderly facts of every science there ever floats a sort of dust-cloud of exceptional observations, of occurrences minute and irregular and seldom met with, which it always proves more easy to ignore than to attend to … Anyone will renovate his science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena, and when science is renewed, its new formulas often have more of the voice of the exceptions in them than of what were supposed to be the rules.
In 'The Hidden Self', Scribner’s Magazine (1890), Vol. 7, 361.
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Science is feasible when the variables are few and can be enumerated; when their combinations are distinct and clear. We are tending toward the condition of science and aspiring to do it. The artist works out his own formulas; the interest of science lies in the art of making science.
In Moralités (1932). Reprinted in J. Matthews (ed.), Collected Works (1970). As cited in Robert Andrews (ed.), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 810.
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Sex appeal is a matter of chemistry, but you don't have to be a chemist to find the formula.
Anonymous
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 128.
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The artist does not illustrate science; … [but] he frequently responds to the same interests that a scientist does, and expresses by a visual synthesis what the scientist converts into analytical formulae or experimental demonstrations.
'The Arts', in Charles Austin Beard, Whither Mankind: a Panorama of Modern Civilization (1928, 1971), 296.
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The experimental investigation by which Ampere established the law of the mechanical action between electric currents is one of the most brilliant achievements in science. The whole theory and experiment, seems as if it had leaped, full grown and full armed, from the brain of the 'Newton of Electricity'. It is perfect in form, and unassailable in accuracy, and it is summed up in a formula from which all the phenomena may be deduced, and which must always remain the cardinal formula of electro-dynamics.
A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism (1873), Vol. 2, 162.
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The mathematical take-over of physics has its dangers, as it could tempt us into realms of thought which embody mathematical perfection but might be far removed, or even alien to, physical reality. Even at these dizzying heights we must ponder the same deep questions that troubled both Plato and Immanuel Kant. What is reality? Does it lie in our mind, expressed by mathematical formulae, or is it “out there”.
In Book Review 'Pulling the Strings,' of Lawrence Krauss's Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Lure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond in Nature (22 Dec 2005), 438, 1081.
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There is always more in one of Ramanujan’s formulae than meets the eye, as anyone who sets to work to verify those which look the easiest will soon discover. In some the interest lies very deep, in others comparatively near the surface; but there is not one which is not curious and entertaining.
Commenting on the formulae in the letters sent by Ramanujan from India, prior to going to England. Footnote in obituary notice by G.H. Hardy in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society (2) (1921), 19, xl—lviii. The same notice was printed, with slight changes, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (A) (1921), 94, xiii—xxix. Reprinted in G.H. Hardy, P.V. Seshu Aiyar and B.M. Wilson (eds.) Collected Papers of Srinivasa Ramanujan (1927), xxi.
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There is great exhilaration in breaking one of these things. … Ramanujan gives no hints, no proof of his formulas, so everything you do you feel is your own.
[About verifying Ramanujan’s equations in a newly found manuscript.]
Quoted in John Noble Wilford, 'Mathematician's Final Equations Praised', New York Times (9 Jun 1981), C1.
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There is nothing opposed in Biometry and Mendelism. Your husband [W.F.R. Weldon] and I worked that out at Peppards [on the Chilterns] and you will see it referred in the Biometrika memoir. The Mendelian formula leads up to the “ancestral law.” What we fought against was the slovenliness in applying Mendel's categories and asserting that such formulae apply in cases when they did not.
Letter to Mrs.Weldon (12 Apr 1907). Quoted in M. E. Magnello, 'Karl Pearson's Mathematization of Inheritance: From Ancestral Heredity to Mendelian Genetics (1895-1909)', Annals of Science (1998), 55, 89.
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There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
Address to the Mechanics Institute, 'An Address on the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton' (1835), excerpted in paper by Luis M. Laita, Luis de Ledesma, Eugenio Roanes-Lozano and Alberto Brunori, 'George Boole, a Forerunner of Symbolic Computation', collected in John A. Campbell and Eugenio Roanes-Lozano (eds.), Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation: International Conference AISC 2000 (2001), 3.
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They say that every formula halves the sales of a popular science book. This is rubbish–if it was true, then The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose would have sold one-eighth of a copy, whereas its actual sales were in the hundreds of thousands.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 23.
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We ought then to consider the present state of the universe as the effect of its previous state and as the cause of that which is to follow. An intelligence that, at a given instant, could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings that make it up, if moreover it were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, would encompass in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atoms. For such an intelligence nothing would be uncertain, and the future, like the past, would be open to its eyes.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 2.
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Who ... is not familiar with Maxwell's memoirs on his dynamical theory of gases? ... from one side enter the equations of state; from the other side, the equations of motion in a central field. Ever higher soars the chaos of formulae. Suddenly we hear, as from kettle drums, the four beats 'put n=5.' The evil spirit v vanishes; and ... that which had seemed insuperable has been overcome as if by a stroke of magic ... One result after another follows in quick succession till at last ... we arrive at the conditions for thermal equilibrium together with expressions for the transport coefficients.
In Michael Dudley Sturge , Statistical and Thermal Physics (2003), 343.
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You know the formula m over naught equals infinity, m being any positive number? [m/0 = ∞]. Well, why not reduce the equation to a simpler form by multiplying both sides by naught? In which case you have m equals infinity times naught [m = ∞ × 0]. That is to say, a positive number is the product of zero and infinity. Doesn't that demonstrate the creation of the Universe by an infinite power out of nothing? Doesn't it?
In Point Counter Point (1928), 162.
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You too can win Nobel Prizes. Study diligently. Respect DNA. Don't smoke. Don't drink. Avoid women and politics. That's my formula.
As given in David Pratt, 'What makes a Nobel laureate?', Los Angeles Times (9 Oct 2013). Cited as the response to telegram of congratulations from Caltech students (Oct 1958) in David Pratt, The Impossible Takes Longer: The 1,000 Wisest Things Ever Said by Nobel Prize Laureates (2007), 10 and 178.
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[As a youth, fiddling in my home laboratory] I discovered a formula for the frequency of a resonant circuit which was 2π x sqrt(LC) where L is the inductance and C the capacitance of the circuit. And there was π, and where was the circle? … I still don’t quite know where that circle is, where that π comes from.
From address to the National Science Teachers’ Association convention (Apr 1966), 'What Is Science?', collected in Richard Phillips Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins (ed.), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (1999, 2005), 177.
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[P]olitical and social and scientific values … should be correlated in some relation of movement that could be expressed in mathematics, nor did one care in the least that all the world said it could not be done, or that one knew not enough mathematics even to figure a formula beyond the schoolboy s=(1/2)gt2. If Kepler and Newton could take liberties with the sun and moon, an obscure person ... could take liberties with Congress, and venture to multiply its attraction into the square of its time. He had only to find a value, even infinitesimal, for its attraction.
The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography? (1918), 376.
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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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