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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Inquire

Inquire Quotes (23 quotes)

After what has been premised, I think we may lay down the following Conclusions. First, It is plain Philosophers amuse themselves in vain, when they inquire for any natural efficient Cause, distinct from a Mind or Spirit. Secondly, Considering the whole Creation is the Workmanship of a wise and good Agent, it should seem to become Philosophers, to employ their Thoughts (contrary to what some hold) about the final Causes of Things: And I must confess, I see no reason, why pointing out the various Ends, to which natural Things are adapted and for which they were originally with unspeakable Wisdom contrived, should not be thought one good way of accounting for them, and altogether worthy a Philosopher.
A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge [first published 1710], (1734), 126-7.
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All possible truth is practical. To ask whether our conception of chair or table corresponds to the real chair or table apart from the uses to which they may be put, is as utterly meaningless and vain as to inquire whether a musical tone is red or yellow. No other conceivable relation than this between ideas and things can exist. The unknowable is what I cannot react upon. The active part of our nature is not only an essential part of cognition itself, but it always has a voice in determining what shall be believed and what rejected.
The Muscular Perception of Space (1878), 446.
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Eratosthenes declares that it is no longer necessary to inquire as to the cause of the overflow of the Nile, since we know definitely that men have come to the sources of the Nile and have observed the rains there.
Proclus on Plato Timaeus, Vol. 1, 121.8-11 (Diehl). Quoted in Morris R. Cohen and I. E. Drabkin, A Sourcebook in Greek Science (1948), 383.
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First, as concerns the success of teaching mathematics. No instruction in the high schools is as difficult as that of mathematics, since the large majority of students are at first decidedly disinclined to be harnessed into the rigid framework of logical conclusions. The interest of young people is won much more easily, if sense-objects are made the starting point and the transition to abstract formulation is brought about gradually. For this reason it is psychologically quite correct to follow this course.
Not less to be recommended is this course if we inquire into the essential purpose of mathematical instruction. Formerly it was too exclusively held that this purpose is to sharpen the understanding. Surely another important end is to implant in the student the conviction that correct thinking based on true premises secures mastery over the outer world. To accomplish this the outer world must receive its share of attention from the very beginning.
Doubtless this is true but there is a danger which needs pointing out. It is as in the case of language teaching where the modern tendency is to secure in addition to grammar also an understanding of the authors. The danger lies in grammar being completely set aside leaving the subject without its indispensable solid basis. Just so in Teaching of Mathematics it is possible to accumulate interesting applications to such an extent as to stunt the essential logical development. This should in no wise be permitted, for thus the kernel of the whole matter is lost. Therefore: We do want throughout a quickening of mathematical instruction by the introduction of applications, but we do not want that the pendulum, which in former decades may have inclined too much toward the abstract side, should now swing to the other extreme; we would rather pursue the proper middle course.
In Ueber den Mathematischen Unterricht an den hoheren Schulen; Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 11, 131.
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First, by what means it is that a Plant, or any Part of it, comes to Grow, a Seed to put forth a Root and Trunk... How the Aliment by which a Plant is fed, is duly prepared in its several Parts ... How not only their Sizes, but also their Shapes are so exceedingly various ... Then to inquire, What should be the reason of their various Motions; that the Root should descend; that its descent should sometimes be perpendicular, sometimes more level: That the Trunk doth ascend, and that the ascent thereof, as to the space of Time wherein it is made, is of different measures... Further, what may be the Causes as of the Seasons of their Growth; so of the Periods of their Lives; some being Annual, others Biennial, others Perennial ... what manner the Seed is prepared, formed and fitted for Propagation.
'An Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants', in The Anatomy of Plants With an Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants and Several Other Lectures Read Before the Royal Society (1682), 3-4.
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It is a natural inquiry to ask—To what most nearly are these new phenomena [the newly-born science of radioactivity and the spontaneous disintegration of elements] correlated? Is it possible to give, by the help of an analogy to familiar phenomena, any correct idea of the nature of this new phenomenon “Radioactivity”? The answer may surprise those who hold to the adage that there is nothing new under the sun. Frankly, it is not possible, because in these latest developments science has broken fundamentally new ground, and has delved one distinct step further down into the foundations of knowledge.
In The Interpretation of Radium: Being the Substance of Six Free Popular Lectures Delivered at the University of Glasgow (1909, 1912), 2. The original lectures of early 1908, were greatly edited, rearranged and supplemented by the author for the book form.
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It is of interest to inquire what happens when the aviator’s speed… approximates to the velocity of light. Lengths in the direction of flight become smaller and smaller, until for the speed of light they shrink to zero. The aviator and the objects accompanying him shrink to two dimensions. We are saved the difficulty of imagining how the processes of life can go on in two dimensions, because nothing goes on. Time is arrested altogether. This is the description according to the terrestrial observer. The aviator himself detects nothing unusual; he does not perceive that he has stopped moving. He is merely waiting for the next instant to come before making the next movement; and the mere fact that time is arrested means that he does not perceive that the next instant is a long time coming.
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 26.
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It would be interesting to inquire how many times essential advances in science have first been made possible by the fact that the boundaries of special disciplines were not respected… Trespassing is one of the most successful techniques in science.
Dynamics in Psychology (1940), 115-116
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Life through many long periods has been manifested in a countless host of varying structures, all circumscribed by one general plan, each appointed to a definite place, and limited to an appointed duration. On the whole the earth has been thus more and more covered by the associated life of plants and animals, filling all habitable space with beings capable of enjoying their own existence or ministering to the enjoyment of others; till finally, after long preparation, a being was created capable of the wonderful power of measuring and weighing all the world of matter and space which surrounds him, of treasuring up the past history of all the forms of life, and considering his own relation to the whole. When he surveys this vast and co-ordinated system, and inquires into its history and origin, can he be at a loss to decide whether it be a work of Divine thought and wisdom, or the fortunate offspring of a few atoms of matter, warmed by the anima mundi, a spark of electricity, or an accidental ray of sunshine?
Life on the Earth: Its Origin and Succession (1860), 216-7.
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Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.”
From interview with Michael Amrine, 'The Real Problem is in the Hearts of Men', New York Times Magazine, (23 Jun 1946), 7. See more of the message from which Einstein quoted himself, see the longer quote that begins, “Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived…,” on the Albert Einstein Quotes page of this website.
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Physics inquires whether the world is eternal, or perpetual, or had a beginning and will have an end in time, or whether none of these alternatives is accurate.
In The Metalogicon of John of Salisbury: A Twelfth-Century Defense of the Verbal and Logical Arts of the Trivium, Book 2, Chap. 12, as translated by Daniel D. McGarry (1955, 2009), 103. The translator footnotes “eternal” as “without beginning or end” and “perpetual” as “having a beginning, but without end.” The context is describing “physics” as one of the three fields of philosophy (literally, faculties): natural, moral and rational—translated as Physics, Ethics, Logic.
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Psychology is a part of the science of life or biology. … As the physiologist inquires into the way in which the so-called “functions” of the body are performed, so the psychologist studies the so-called “faculties” of the mind.
In Hume (1879), 50.
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Study the hindrances, acquaint yourself with the causes which have led up to the disease. Don’t guess at them, but know them through and through if you can; and if you do not know them, know that you do not, and still inquire. “Cannot” is a word for the idle, the indifferent, the self-satisfied, but it is not admissible in science. “I do not know” is manly if it does not stop there, but to say “I cannot” is a judgment both entirely illogical, and in itself bad as favouring rest in ignorance.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lix.
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That a country, [England], eminently distinguished for its mechanical and manufacturing ingenuity, should be indifferent to the progress of inquiries which form the highest departments of that knowledge on whose more elementary truths its wealth and rank depend, is a fact which is well deserving the attention of those who shall inquire into the causes that influence the progress of nations.
Reflections on the Decline of Science in England and on Some of its Causes (1830), 1.
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The external world of physics has … become a world of shadows. In removing our illusions we have removed the substance, for indeed we have seen that substance is one of the greatest of our illusions. Later perhaps we may inquire whether in our zeal to cut out all that is unreal we may not have used the knife too ruthlessly. Perhaps, indeed, reality is a child which cannot survive without its nurse illusion. But if so, that is of little concern to the scientist, who has good and sufficient reasons for pursuing his investigations in the world of shadows and is content to leave to the philosopher the determination of its exact status in regard to reality.
In Introduction to The Nature of the Physical World (1928), xiv.
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The human mind has a natural tendency to explore what has passed in distant ages in scenes with which it is familiar: hence the taste for National and Local Antiquities. Geology gratifies a larger taste of this kind; it inquires into what may appropriately be termed the Antiquities of the Globe itself, and collects and deciphers what may be considered as the monuments and medals of its remoter eras.
Vindiciae Geologicae (1820), 6.
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The more man inquires into the laws which regulate the material universe, the more he is convinced that all its varied forms arise from the action of a few simple principles. These principles themselves converge, with accelerating force, towards some still more comprehensive law to which all matter seems to be submitted. Simple as that law may possibly be, it must be remembered that it is only one amongst an infinite number of simple laws: that each of these laws has consequences at least as extensive as the existing one, and therefore that the Creator who selected the present law must have foreseen the consequences of all other laws.
In Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864), 402.
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The world probably being of much greater antiquity than physical science has thought to be possible, it is interesting and harmless to speculate whether man has shared with the world its more remote history. … Some of the beliefs and legends which have come down to us from antiquity are so universal and deep-rooted that we have are accustomed to consider them almost as old as the race itself. One is tempted to inquire how far the unsuspected aptness of some of these beliefs and sayings to the point of view so recently disclosed is the result of mere chance or coincidence, and how far it may be evidence of a wholly unknown and unsuspected ancient civilization of which all other relic has disappeared.
In 'The Elixir of Life', The Interpretation of Radium: Being the Substance of Six Free Popular Lectures Delivered at the University of Glasgow (1909, 1912), 248-250. The original lectures of early 1908, were greatly edited, rearranged and supplemented by the author for the book form.
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There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. ... Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.
Life (10 Oct 1949), 136.
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Train yourselves. Don’t wait to be fed knowledge out of a book. Get out and seek it. Make explorations. Do your own research work. Train your hands and your mind. Become curious. Invent your own problems and solve them. You can see things going on all about you. Inquire into them. Seek out answers to your own questions. There are many phenomena going on in nature the explanation of which cannot be found in books. Find out why these phenomena take place. Information a boy gets by himself is enormously more valuable than that which is taught to him in school.
In 'Dr. Irving Langmuir', Boys' Life (Jul 1941), 12.
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We’re inquiring into the deepest nature of our constitutions: How we inherit from each other. How we can change. How our minds think. How our will is related to our thoughts. How our thoughts are related to our molecules.
Newsweek 4 Jul 76
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What I chiefly admired, and thought altogether unaccountable, was the strong disposition I observed in them [the mathematicians of Laputa] towards news and politics; perpetually inquiring into public affairs; giving their judgments in matters of state; and passionately disputing every inch of party opinion. I have indeed observed the same disposition among most of the mathematicians I have known in Europe, although I could never discover the least analogy between the two sciences.
In Gulliver's Travels, Part 8, chap. 2.
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[Molecular biology] is concerned particularly with the forms of biological molecules and with the evolution, exploitation and ramification of these forms in the ascent to higher and higher levels of organisation. Molecular biology is predominantly three-dimensional and structural—which does not mean, however, that it is merely a refinement of morphology. It must at the same time inquire into genesis and function.
From Harvey lecture (1951). As cited by John Law in 'The Case of X-ray Protein Crystallography', collected in Gerard Lemaine (ed.), Perspectives on the Emergence of Scientific Disciplines, 1976, 141.
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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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