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Gravitation Quotes (27 quotes)
Gravitational Quotes

Un jour, en l'année 1666, Newton, retiré à la campagne, et voyant tomber des fruits d’un arbre, à ce que m'a conté sa nièce, (Mme Conduit) se laissa aller à une méditation profonde sur la cause qui entraîne ainsi tous les corps dans une ligne qui, si elle était prolongée, passerait à peu près par le centre de la Terre.
One day in the year 1666 Newton had gone to the country, and seeing the fall of an apple, [as his niece (Mme Conduit) told me,] let himself be led into a deep meditation on the cause which thus draws every object along a line whose extension would pass almost through the center of the Earth.
Original French from Éléments de Philosophie de Newton, Part 1, Chap. 3, in Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire (1785), Vol. 31, 175. Translation as given in an epigraph in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorn and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 47. An alternate translation is: “One day in the year 1666, Newton went into the country, and seeing fruit fall from a tree (as his niece, Madame Conduit, has informed me), entered into a profound train of thought as to the causes which could lead to such a drawing together or attraction.” As given in Robert Chambers (ed.), The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar (1888), Vol. 2, 757. (Note: Voltaire originally published his Éléments in 1738, but Webmaster could not find the above quote in it.)
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A Frenchman who arrives in London, will find Philosophy, like every Thing else, very much chang’d there. He had left the World a plenum, and he now finds it a vacuum. At Paris the Universe is seen, compos’d of Vortices of subtile Matter; but nothing like it is seen in London. In France, ‘tis the Pressure of the Moon that causes the Tides; but in England ‘tis the Sea that gravitates towards the Moon; so what when you think that the Moon should make it flood with us, those Gentlemen fancy it should be Ebb, which, very unluckily, cannot be prov’d. For to be able to do this, ‘tis necessary the Moon and the Tides should have been enquir’d into, at the very instant of the Creation.
Letter XIV. 'On DesCartes and Sir Isaac Newton', in Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733), 109-110.
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Adapting from the earlier book Gravitation, I wrote, “Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve.” In other words, a bit of matter (or mass, or energy) moves in accordance with the dictates of the curved spacetime where it is located. … At the same time, that bit of mass or energy is itself contributing to the curvature of spacetime everywhere.
With co-author Kenneth William Ford Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics (1998, 2010), 235. Adapted from his earlier book, co-authored with Charles W. Misner and Kip S. Thorne, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 5, in which one of the ideas in Einstein’s geometric theory of gravity was summarized as, “Space acts on matter, telling it how to move. In turn, matter reacts back on space, telling it how to curve”.
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As Herschel ruminated long ago, particles moving in mutual gravitational interaction are, as we human investigators see it forever solving differential equations which, if written out in full, might circle the earth.
In Forbidden Knowledge: And Other Essays on the Philosophy of Cognition (2012), 55.John Herschel. Rescher was not quoting, but restating from John Herschel, 'On Atoms', Familiar Lectures on Scientific Subjects (1867, 1872), 458. (Previously published in Fortnightly Review)
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Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do, but gravitation cannot be held responsible for it.
Scribbled by Einstein on a letter received during a visit to England (1933) from a man who suggested that gravity meant that as the world rotated people were sometimes upside down, horizontal, or at 'left angles' and that perhaps, this disorientation explained why people do foolish things like falling in love.
In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann (editors.), Einstein: The Human Side (1981), 56.
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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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Gravitation is demonstrable by leaving a body unsupported.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xlix.
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GRAVITATION, n. The tendency of all bodies to approach one another with a strength proportioned to the quantity of matter they contain—the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength of their tendency to approach one another. This is a lovely and edifying illustration of how science, having made A the proof of B, makes B the proof of A.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  123.
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I do not see any reason to assume that the heuristic significance of the principle of general relativity is restricted to gravitation and that the rest of physics can be dealt with separately on the basis of special relativity, with the hope that later on the whole may be fitted consistently into a general relativistic scheme. I do not think that such an attitude, although historically understandable, can be objectively justified. The comparative smallness of what we know today as gravitational effects is not a conclusive reason for ignoring the principle of general relativity in theoretical investigations of a fundamental character. In other words, I do not believe that it is justifiable to ask: What would physics look like without gravitation?
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I esteem his understanding and subtlety highly, but I consider that they have been put to ill use in the greater part of his work, where the author studies things of little use or when he builds on the improbable principle of attraction.
Writing about Newton's Principia. Huygens had some time earlier indicated he did not believe the theory of universal gravitation, saying it 'appears to me absurd.'
Quoted in Archana Srinivasan, Great Inventors (2007), 37.
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I never really paused for a moment to question the idea that the progressive spiritualization of matter—so clearly demonstrated to me by Paleontology—could be anything other, or anything less, than an irreversible process. By its gravitational nature, the Universe, I saw, was falling—falling forwards—in the direction of spirit as upon its stable form. In other words, Matter was not ultra-materialized as I would at first have believed, but was instead metamorphosed in Psyche.
In The Heart of Matter (1978), 27.
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I shall explain a System of the World differing in many particulars from any yet known, answering in all things to the common Rules of Mechanical Motions: This depends upon three Suppositions. First, That all Cœlestial Bodies whatsoever, have an attraction or gravitating power towards their own Centers, whereby they attract not only their own parts, and keep them from flying from them, as we may observe the Earth to do, but that they do also attract all the other Cœlestial bodies that are within the sphere of their activity; and consequently that not only the Sun and Moon have an influence upon the body and motion the Earth, and the Earth upon them, but that Mercury also Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter by their attractive powers, have a considerable influence upon its motion in the same manner the corresponding attractive power of the Earth hath a considerable influence upon every one of their motions also. The second supposition is this, That all bodies whatsoever that are put into a direct and simple motion, will continue to move forward in a streight line, till they are by some other effectual powers deflected and bent into a Motion, describing a Circle, Ellipse, or some other more compounded Curve Line. The third supposition is, That these attractive powers are so much the more powerful in operating, by how much the nearer the body wrought upon is to their own Centers. Now what these several degrees are I have not yet experimentally verified; but it is a notion, which if fully prosecuted as it ought to be, will mightily assist the Astronomer to reduce all the Cœlestial Motions to a certain rule, which I doubt will never be done true without it. He that understands the nature of the Circular Pendulum and Circular Motion, will easily understand the whole ground of this Principle, and will know where to find direction in Nature for the true stating thereof. This I only hint at present to such as have ability and opportunity of prosecuting this Inquiry, and are not wanting of Industry for observing and calculating, wishing heartily such may be found, having myself many other things in hand which I would first compleat and therefore cannot so well attend it. But this I durst promise the Undertaker, that he will find all the Great Motions of the World to be influenced by this Principle, and that the true understanding thereof will be the true perfection of Astronomy.
An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth from Observations (1674), 27-8. Based on a Cutlerian Lecture delivered by Hooke at the Royal Society four years earlier.
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Mr Hooke sent, in his next letter [to Sir Isaac Newton] the whole of his Hypothesis, scil that the gravitation was reciprocall to the square of the distance: ... This is the greatest Discovery in Nature that ever was since the World's Creation. It was never so much as hinted by any man before. I wish he had writt plainer, and afforded a little more paper.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 166-7.
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My position is perfectly definite. Gravitation, motion, heat, light, electricity and chemical action are one and the same object in various forms of manifestation.
Annalen der Chemie und der Pharmacie (1842). Trans. A. S. Eve and C. H. Creasey, The Life and Work of John Tyndall (1945), 94.
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My view, the skeptical one, holds that we may be as far away from an understanding of elementary particles as Newton's successors were from quantum mechanics. Like them, we have two tremendous tasks ahead of us. One is to study and explore the mathematics of the existing theories. The existing quantum field-theories may or may not be correct, but they certainly conceal mathematical depths which will take the genius of an Euler or a Hamilton to plumb. Our second task is to press on with the exploration of the wide range of physical phenomena of which the existing theories take no account. This means pressing on with experiments in the fashionable area of particle physics. Outstanding among the areas of physics which have been left out of recent theories of elementary particles are gravitation and cosmology
In Scientific American (Sep 1958). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 years ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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Of all the conceptions of the human mind from unicorns to gargoyles to the hydrogen bomb perhaps the most fantastic is the black hole: a hole in space with a definite edge over which anything can fall and nothing can escape; a hole with a gravitational field so strong that even light is caught and held in its grip; a hole that curves space and warps time.
In Cosmology + I: Readings from Scientific American (1977), 63.
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Some of Feynman’s ideas about cosmology have a modern ring. A good example is his attitude toward the origin of matter. The idea of continuous matter creation in the steady state cosmology does not seriously offend him (and he notes … that the big bang cosmology has a problem just as bad, to explain where all the matter came from in the beginning). … He emphasizes that the total energy of the universe could really be zero, and that matter creation is possible because the rest energy of the matter is actually canceled by its gravitational potential energy. “It is exciting to think that it costs nothing to create a new particle, …”
In John Preskill and Kip S. Thorne, 'Foreword to Feynman Lectures on Gravitation' (15 May 1995). Feynman delivered his lectures in 1962–63.
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Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve.
With co-author Kenneth William Ford Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics (1998, 2010), 235. Adapted from his earlier book, co-authored with Charles W. Misner and Kip S. Thorne, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 5, in which one of the ideas in Einstein’s geometric theory of gravity was summarized as, “Space acts on matter, telling it how to move. In turn, matter reacts back on space, telling it how to curve”.
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The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.
From 'The Evolution of Chastity' (Feb 1934), as translated by René Hague in Toward the Future (1975), 86-87.
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The generalized theory of relativity has furnished still more remarkable results. This considers not only uniform but also accelerated motion. In particular, it is based on the impossibility of distinguishing an acceleration from the gravitation or other force which produces it. Three consequences of the theory may be mentioned of which two have been confirmed while the third is still on trial: (1) It gives a correct explanation of the residual motion of forty-three seconds of arc per century of the perihelion of Mercury. (2) It predicts the deviation which a ray of light from a star should experience on passing near a large gravitating body, the sun, namely, 1".7. On Newton's corpuscular theory this should be only half as great. As a result of the measurements of the photographs of the eclipse of 1921 the number found was much nearer to the prediction of Einstein, and was inversely proportional to the distance from the center of the sun, in further confirmation of the theory. (3) The theory predicts a displacement of the solar spectral lines, and it seems that this prediction is also verified.
Studies in Optics (1927), 160-1.
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The man who proportions the several parts of a mill, uses the same scientific principles [mechanics], as if he had the power of constructing an universe; but as he cannot give to matter that invisible agency, by which all the component parts of the immense machine of the universe have influence upon each other, and set in motional unison together without any apparent contact, and to which man has given the name of attraction, gravitation, and repulsion, he supplies the place of that agency by the humble imitation of teeth and cogs. All the parts of man’s microcosm must visibly touch.
In The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology (27 Jan O.S. 1794), 42-43.
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The nature of the atoms, and the forces called into play in their chemical union; the interactions between these atoms and the non-differentiated ether as manifested in the phenomena of light and electricity; the structures of the molecules and molecular systems of which the atoms are the units; the explanation of cohesion, elasticity, and gravitation—all these will be marshaled into a single compact and consistent body of scientific knowledge.
In Light Waves and Their Uses? (1902), 163.
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The other book you may have heard of and perhaps read, but it is not one perusal which will enable any man to appreciate it. I have read it through five or six times, each time with increasing admiration. It will live as long as the ‘Principia’ of Newton. It shows that nature is, as I before remarked to you, a study that yields to none in grandeur and immensity. The cycles of astronomy or even the periods of geology will alone enable us to appreciate the vast depths of time we have to contemplate in the endeavour to understand the slow growth of life upon the earth. The most intricate effects of the law of gravitation, the mutual disturbances of all the bodies of the solar system, are simplicity itself compared with the intricate relations and complicated struggle which have determined what forms of life shall exist and in what proportions. Mr. Darwin has given the world a new science, and his name should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modem times. The force of admiration can no further go!!!
Letter to George Silk (1 Sep 1860), in My Life (1905), Vol. I, 372-373.
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The theory that gravitational attraction is inversely proportional to the square of the distance leads by remorseless logic to the conclusion that the path of a planet should be an ellipse .... It is this logical thinking that is the real meat of the physical sciences. The social scientist keeps the skin and throws away the meat.... His theorems no more follow from his postulates than the hunches of a horse player follow logically from the latest racing news. The result is guesswork clad in long flowing robes of gobbledygook.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 149-50.
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Time ends. That is the lesson of the “big bang”. It is also the lesson of the black hole, closer at hand and more immediate object of study. The black hole is a completely collapsed object. It is mass without matter. The Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland faded away leaving behind only its grin. A star that falls into an already existing black hole, or that collapses to make a new black hole, fades away. Of the star, of its matter and of its sunspots and solar prominences, all trace disappears. There remains behind only gravitational attraction, the attraction of disembodied mass.
In 'The Lesson of the Black Hole', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1981), 125, 25.
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You tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this world to me with an image. I realize that you have been reduced to poetry. … So that science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art.
In Albert Camus and Justin O’Brien (trans.), 'An Absurd Reasoning', The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (1955), 15.
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[Henry Cavendish] fixed the weight of the earth; he established the proportions of the constituents of the air; he occupied himself with the quantitative study of the laws of heat; and lastly, he demonstrated the nature of water and determined its volumetric composition. Earth, air, fire, and water—each and all came within the range of his observations.
Essays in Historical Chemistry (1894), 86.
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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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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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