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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Hear Quotes (33 quotes)

All versions written for nonscientists speak of fused males as the curious tale of the anglerfish–just as we so often hear about the monkey swinging through the trees, or the worm burrowing through soil. But if nature teaches us any lesson, it loudly proclaims life’s diversity. There ain’t no such abstraction as the clam, the fly, or the anglerfish. Ceratioid anglerfishes come in nearly 100 species, and each has its own peculiarity.
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As soon as I hear the phrase “everybody knows,” I start to wonder. I start asking, “Does everybody know this? And how do they know it?”
As quoted in interview about earthquake predictions for magazine article in Joshua Fischman, 'Falling Into the Gap', Discover (Oct 1992), 13, No. 10, 58. The article writer appears to be quoting, but throughout the article has used no double quote marks. The article is also online.
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At a distance in the meadow I hear still, at long intervals, the hurried commencement of the bobolink s strain, the bird just dashing into song, which is as suddenly checked, as it were, by the warder of the seasons, and the strain is left incomplete forever. Like human beings they are inspired to sing only for a short season.
(29 Jun 1851). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: II: 1850-September 15, 1851 (1906), 275.
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Bias has to be taught. If you hear your parents downgrading women or people of different backgrounds, why, you are going to do that.
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But come, hear my words, for truly learning causes the mind to grow. For as I said before in declaring the ends of my words … at one time there grew to be the one alone out of many, and at another time it separated so that there were many out of the one; fire and water and earth and boundless height of air, and baneful Strife apart from these, balancing each of them, and Love among them, their equal in length and breadth.
From The Fragments, Bk. 1, line 74. In Arthur Fairbanks (ed., trans.), Quotations from The First Philosophers of Greece (1898), 167-168.
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I have occasionally had the exquisite thrill of putting my finger on a little capsule of truth, and heard it give the faint squeak of mortality under my pressure.
Letter to Stanley Hart White (Jan 1929), collected in The Letters of E.B. White (1976, 1989), 85.
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I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
The Serpent. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 121
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I heard there the nightingale in all its perfection: and I do not hesitate to pronounce that in America it would be deemed a bird of the third rank only, our mocking-bird and fox-coloured thrush being unquestionably superior to it.
Letter (21 Jun 1785) to Mrs. John (Abigail) Adams. Collected in Paul Leicester Ford (ed.), The Writings of Thomas Jefferson: 1784-1787 (1894), 63.
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I sometimes hear preachers speak of the sad condition of men who live without God in the world, but a scientist who lives without God in the world seems to me worse off than ordinary men.
As quoted in E.P. Whipple, 'Recollections of Agassiz', in Henry Mills Alden (ed.), Harper's New Monthly Magazine (June 1879), 59, 103.
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Imperceptibly a change had been wrought in me until I no longer felt alone in a strange, silent country. I had learned to hear the echoes of a time when every living thing upon this land and even the varied overshadowing skies had its voice, a voice that was attentively heard and devoutly heeded by the ancient people of America. Henceforth, to me the plants, the trees, the clouds and all things had become vocal with human hopes, fears and supplications.
From Preface, Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs (1915), v.
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In our popular discussions, unwise ideas must have a hearing as well as wise ones, dangerous ideas as well as safe.
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Living with my Indian friends I found I was a stranger in my native land. As time went on, the outward aspect of nature remained the same, but change was wrought in me. I learned to hear the echoes of a time when every living thing even the sky had a voice. That voice devoutly heard by the ancient people of America I desired to make audible to others.
On the plaque over her cremated remains in the patio of the Art Museum at Sante Fe. Edited by William Henry Homes from the preface she wrote in her last book, a small collection of Indian Games and Dances (1915). As stated in concluding pages of Joan T. Mark, A Stranger in Her Native Land: Alice Fletcher and the American Indians (1988), 354-355.
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People are usually surprised to discover that I hate the phrase “constitutional rights.” I hate the phrase because it is terribly misleading. Most of the people who say it or hear it have the impression that the Constitution “grants” them their rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strictly speaking it is the Bill of Rights that enumerates our rights, but none of our founding documents bestow anything on you at all [...] The government can burn the Constitution and shred the Bill of Rights, but those actions wouldn’t have the slightest effect on the rights you’ve always had.
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Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”
In 'Ten Lessons I Wish I Had Been Taught', Indiscrete Thoughts (2008), 202.
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The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me purely factitious, fabricated on the one hand by short-sighted religious people, who confound theology with religion; and on the other by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension.
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The doctor listens in with a stethoscope and hears sounds of a warpath Indian drum.
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The ecologist cannot remain a voice crying in the wilderness—if he is to be heard and understood.
In M.W. Holdgate and M.J. Woodman (eds.) The Breakdown and Restoration of Ecosystems: Proceedings of the Conference (2012), 478. This is part of a final Conclusions. Hildgate as editor summarized the remarks of Talbot and Nicholson.
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The ten most important two-letter words in the English language: “if it is to be, it is up to me.” …
[Remember] the African parable of the sparrow who while flying through the sky heard a clap of thunder. He fell to the ground with his two little legs sticking up.
An eagle flying nearby saw the sparrow and asked “Hey, man, what’s happening?”
Replied the sparrow, “The sky is falling down.”
Mocked the eagle, “And what are you going to do, hold it up with those two little legs of yours?”
Replied the sparrow, “One does what one can with what one has.”
In address, to the Economic Club of Detroit (14 Jan 1990), 'Where Do We Go From Here?' on the massiechairs.com website.
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The true man of science will know nature better by his finer organization; he will smell, taste, see, hear, feel, better than other men. His will be a deeper and finer experience.
In 'Natural history of Massachusetts', The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (Jul 1842), 3, No. 1, 40.
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The world is full of signals that we don’t perceive. Tiny creatures live in a different world of unfamiliar forces. Many animals of our scale greatly exceed our range of perception for sensations familiar to us ... What an imperceptive lot we are. Surrounded by so much, so fascinating and so real, that we do not see (hear, smell, touch, taste) in nature, yet so gullible and so seduced by claims for novel power that we mistake the tricks of mediocre magicians for glimpses of a psychic world beyond our ken. The paranormal may be a fantasy; it is certainly a haven for charlatans. But ‘parahuman’ powers of perception lie all about us in birds, bees, and bacteria.
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This shall be the test of innocence—if I can hear a taunt, and look out on this friendly moon, pacing the heavens in queenlike majesty, with the accustomed yearning.
In 'Sin Destroys the Perception of the Beautiful' (13 Nov 1837). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: I: 1837-1846 (1906), 9.
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To have heard without retaining does not make knowledge.
In 'Paradise', The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1308-1320), translated by Charles Eliot Norton (1902), Vol. 3, Canto 5, line 41-2, 36.
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We know enough to be sure that the scientific achievements of the next fifty years will be far greater, more rapid, and more surprising, than those we have already experienced. … Wireless telephones and television, following naturally upon the their present path of development, would enable their owner to connect up to any room similarly equipped and hear and take part in the conversation as well as if he put his head in through the window.
From 'Fifty Years Hence', Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57, No. 3, 394-396.
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We’re going to see public attitudes [on climate change] switch not in proportion to scientific findings or graphs, but in proportion to the stories they hear, the people they know whose lives have been touched by climate change or some environmental calamity. That’s what really changed public opinion.
From interview with Mark Tercek, 'Q&A With Ramez Naam: Dialogues on the Environment', Huffington Post (1 Jul 2013).
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When a man sees a phenomenon before him, his thoughts often range beyond it; when he hears it only talked about, he has no thoughts at all.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 188.
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When the principles of breeding and of inheritance are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining by an easy method whether or not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.
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When you say A[tomic] P[ower] is ‘here to stay’ you remind me that Chesterton said that whenever he heard that, he knew that whatever it referred to would soon be replaced, and thought pitifully shabby and old-fashioned. So-called ‘atomic’ power is rather bigger than anything he was thinking of (I have heard it of trams, gas-light, steam-trains). But it surely is clear that there will have to be some ‘abnegation’ in its use, a deliberate refusal to do some of the things it is possible to do with it, or nothing will stay!
From Letter draft to Joanna de Bortadano (Apr 1956). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 246, Letter No. 186.
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Who ever thought up the word “Mammogram?” Every time I hear it, I think I’m supposed to put my breast in an envelope and send it to someone.
Jan King
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Ye daring ones! Ye venturers and adventurers, and whoever of you have embarked with cunning sails on unexplored seas! Ye enjoyers of enigmas! Solve unto me the enigma that I then beheld, interpret for me the vision of the loneliest one. ... O my brethren, I heard a laughter which was no human laughter.
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You’re aware the boy failed my grade school math class, I take it? And not that many years later he’s teaching college. Now I ask you: Is that the sorriest indictment of the American educational system you ever heard? [pauses to light cigarette.] No aptitude at all for long division, but never mind. It’s him they ask to split the atom. How he talked his way into the Nobel prize is beyond me. But then, I suppose it’s like the man says, it’s not what you know...
Karl Arbeiter (former teacher of Albert Einstein)
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[It] is not the nature of things for any one man to make a sudden, violent discovery; science goes step by step and every man depends on the work of his predecessors. When you hear of a sudden unexpected discovery—a bolt from the blue—you can always be sure that it has grown up by the influence of one man or another, and it is the mutual influence which makes the enormous possibility of scientific advance. Scientists are not dependent on the ideas of a single man, but on the combined wisdom of thousands of men, all thinking of the same problem and each doing his little bit to add to the great structure of knowledge which is gradually being erected.
Concluding remark in Lecture ii (1936) on 'Forty Years of Physics', revised and prepared for publication by J.A. Ratcliffe, collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.), Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 73-74. Note that the words as prepared for publication may not be verbatim as spoken in the original lecture by the then late Lord Rutherford.
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[Like people] if you torture statistics long enough, they'll tell you anything you want to hear.
Anonymous
In Erica Beecher-Monas, Evaluating Scientific Evidence (2007), 63.
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[The toughest part of being in charge is] killing ideas that are great but poorly timed. And delivering tough feedback that’s difficult to hear but that I know will help people—and the team—in the long term.
In Issie Lapowsky, 'Scott Belsky', Inc. (Nov 2013), 140. Biography in Context,
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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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