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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index G > Category: Guillotine

Guillotine Quotes (5 quotes)

GUILLOTINE, n. A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  124.
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In the social equation, the value of a single life is nil; in the cosmic equation, it is infinite… Not only communism, but any political movement which implicitly relies on purely utilitarian ethics, must become a victim to the same fatal error. It is a fallacy as naοve as a mathematical teaser, and yet its consequences lead straight to Goya’s Disasters, to the reign of the guillotine, the torture chambers of the Inquisition, or the cellars of the Lubianka.
In 'The Invisible Writing', Arrow in the Blue: An Autobiography (1952), Vol. 2, 357.
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Neutrinos, they are very small
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed—you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.
In poem 'Cosmic Gall', The New Yorker (17 Dec 1960). Collected in Telephone Poles and Other Poems (1964), 5. Note: In fact, about 1014 neutrinos from the Sun and 103 neutrinos in cosmic rays pass through our bodies each second. Neutrinos are now known to have a very small amount of mass, and they do interact (through the weak force).
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The skein of human continuity must often become this tenuous across the centuries (hanging by a thread, in the old cliche’), but the circle remains unbroken if I can touch the ink of Lavoisier’s own name, written by his own hand. A candle of light, nurtured by the oxygen of his greatest discovery, never burns out if we cherish the intellectual heritage of such unfractured filiation across the ages. We may also wish to contemplate the genuine physical thread of nucleic acid that ties each of us to the common bacterial ancestor of all living creatures, born on Lavoisier’s ancienne terre more than 3.5 billion years ago– and never since disrupted, not for one moment, not for one generation. Such a legacy must be worth preserving from all the guillotines of our folly.
…...
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We speak of it [astrology] as an extinct science; yet let but an eclipse of the sun happen, or a comet visit the evening sky, and in a moment we all believe in astrology. In vain do you tell the gazers on such spectacles that a solar eclipse is only the moon acting for the time as a candle-extinguisher to the sun, and give them bits of smoked glass to look through, and draw diagrams on the blackboard to explain it all. They listen composedly, and seem convinced, but in their secret hearts they are saying—“What though you can see it through a glass darkly, and draw it on a blackboard, does that show that it has no moral significance? You can draw a gallows or a guillotine, or write the Ten Commandments on a blackboard, but does that deprive them of meaning?” And so with the comet. No man will believe that the splendid stranger is hurrying through the sky solely on a momentous errand of his own. No! he is plainly signalling, with that flashing sword of his, something of importance to men,—something at all events that, if we could make it out, would be found of huge concern to us.
From 'Introductory Lecture on Technology for 1858-59', published as The Progress of the Telegraph (1859), 19-20.
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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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