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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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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Instant

Instant Quotes (45 quotes)

But how shall we this union well expresse?
Naught tyes the soule: her subtiltie is such
She moves the bodie, which she doth possesse.
Yet no part toucheth, but by Vertue's touch.
Then dwels she not therein as in a tent;
Nor as a pilot in his Ship doth sit;
Nor as the spider in his web is pent;
Nor as the Waxe retaines the print in it;
Nor as a Vessell water doth containe;
Nor as one Liquor in another shed;
Nor as the heate dath in the fire remaine;
Nor as a voice throughout the ayre is spred;
But as the faire and cheerfull morning light,
Doth here, and there, her silver beames impart,
And in an instant doth her selfe unite
To the transparent Aire, in all, and part:
Still resting whole, when blowes the Aire devide;
Abiding pure, when th' Aire is most corrupted;
Throughout the Aire her beames dispersing wide,
And when the Aire is tost, not interrupted:
So doth the piercing Soule the body fill;
Being all in all, and all in part diffus'd;
Indivisible, incorruptible still,
Not forc't, encountred, troubled or confus'd.
And as the Sunne above the light doth bring,
Tough we behold it in the Aire below;
So from th'eternall light the Soule doth spring,
Though in the Bodie she her powers do show.
From 'Nosce Teipsum' (1599), in Claire Howard (ed.), The Poems of Sir John Davies (1941), 151-2.
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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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An evolution is a series of events that in itself as series is purely physical, — a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time. An egg develops into a chick; … a planet condenses from the fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wondrous a place. Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each instant containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next. … But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama. Now you shall seem to have seen, in phenomenal form, a story.
In The Spirit of Modern Philosophy: An Essay in the Form of Lectures (1892), 425.
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And we daily in our experiments electrise bodies plus or minus, as we think proper. [These terms we may use till your Philosophers give us better.] To electrise plus or minus, no more needs to be known than this, that the parts of the Tube or Sphere, that are rubb’d, do, in the Instant of Friction, attract the Electrical Fire, and therefore take it from the Thin rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the Friction upon them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received, to any Body that has less.
Letter 25 May 1747. Quoted in I. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton: An Enquiry into Speculative Newtonian Experimental Science and Franklin’s Work in Electricity as an Example Thereof (1956), 439.
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At a given instant everything the surgeon knows suddenly becomes important to the solution of the problem. You can't do it an hour later, or tomorrow. Nor can you go to the library and look it up.
Quoted in 'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963)
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At length being at Clapham where there is, on the common, a large pond which, I observed to be one day very rough with the wind, I fetched out a cruet of oil and dropt a little of it on the water. I saw it spread itself with surprising swiftness upon the surface; but the effect of smoothing the waves was not produced; for I had applied it first on the leeward side of the pond, where the waves were largest, and the wind drove my oil back upon the shore. I then went to the windward side, where they began to form; and there the oil, though not more than a tea-spoonful, produced an instant calm over a space several yards square, which spread amazingly, and extended itself gradually till it reached the leeside, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking-glass.
[Experiment to test an observation made at sea in 1757, when he had seen the wake of a ship smoothed, explained by the captain as presumably due to cooks emptying greasy water in to the sea through the scuppers.]
Letter, extract in 'Of the still of Waves by Means of Oil The Gentleman's Magazine (1775), Vol. 45, 82.
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Chemists have made of phlogiston a vague principle which is not at all rigorously defined, and which, in consequence, adapts itself to all explanations in which it is wished it shall enter; sometimes it is free fire, sometimes it is fire combined with the earthy element; sometimes it passes through the pores of vessels, sometimes they are impenetrable to it; it explains both the causticity and non-causticity, transparency and opacity, colours and absence of colours. It is a veritable Proteus which changes its form every instant. It is time to conduct chemistry to a more rigorous mode of reasoning ... to distinguish fact and observation from what is systematic and hypothetical.
'Réflexions sur le phlogistique', Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, 1783, 505-38. Reprinted in Oeuvres de Lavoisier (1864), Vol. 2, 640, trans. M. P. Crosland.
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Endowed with two qualities, which seemed incompatible with each other, a volcanic imagination and a pertinacity of intellect which the most tedious numerical calculations could not daunt, Kepler conjectured that the movements of the celestial bodies must be connected together by simple laws, or, to use his own expression, by harmonic laws. These laws he undertook to discover. A thousand fruitless attempts, errors of calculation inseparable from a colossal undertaking, did not prevent him a single instant from advancing resolutely toward the goal of which he imagined he had obtained a glimpse. Twenty-two years were employed by him in this investigation, and still he was not weary of it! What, in reality, are twenty-two years of labor to him who is about to become the legislator of worlds; who shall inscribe his name in ineffaceable characters upon the frontispiece of an immortal code; who shall be able to exclaim in dithyrambic language, and without incurring the reproach of anyone, “The die is cast; I have written my book; it will be read either in the present age or by posterity, it matters not which; it may well await a reader, since God has waited six thousand years for an interpreter of his words.”
In 'Eulogy on Laplace', in Smithsonian Report for the year 1874 (1875), 131-132.
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Every breath you draw, every accelerated beat of your heart in the emotional periods of your oratory depend upon highly elaborated physical and chemical reactions and mechanisms which nature has been building up through a million centuries. If one of these mechanisms, which you owe entirely to your animal ancestry, were to be stopped for a single instant, you would fall lifeless on the stage. Not only this, but some of your highest ideals of human fellowship and comradeship were not created in a moment, but represent the work of ages.
Quoted in Closing Address by Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, president of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, at the Memorial Service for Osborn at St. Bartholomew's Church, N.Y. (18 Dec 1935). In 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 133-34. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
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Every instant she commences an immense journey, and every instant she has reached her goal.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 10.
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Fifty years after we undertook to make the first synthetic polarizers we find them the essential layer in digital liquid-crystal. And thirty four years after we undertook to make the first instant camera and film, our kind of photography has become ubiquitous.
Letter to shareholders (1978). In Alan R. Earls and Nasrin Rohani, Polaroid (2005), 21.
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Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings which compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.
Introduction to Oeuvres vol. VII, Theorie Analytique de Probabilites (1812-1820). As translated by Frederick Wilson Truscott and Frederick Lincoln Emory in A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902), 4. [LaPlace is here expressing his belief in causal determinism.] From the original French, “Une intelligence qui, pour un instant donné, connaîtrait toutes les forces dont la nature est animée, et la situation respective des êtres qui la composent, si d’ailleurs elle était assez vaste pour soumettre ces données a l’analyse, embrasserait dans la même formula les mouvements des plus grand corps de l’univers et ceux du plus léger atome: rien ne serait incertain pour elle, et l’avenir comme le passé serait présent à ses yeux.”
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Hubble's observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 8-9.
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I assume that each organism which the Creator educed was stamped with an indelible specific character, which made it what it was, and distinguished it from everything else, however near or like. I assume that such character has been, and is, indelible and immutable; that the characters which distinguish species now, were as definite at the first instant of their creation as now and are as distinct now as they were then. If any choose to maintain... that species were gradually bought to their present maturity from humbler forms... he is welcome to his hypothesis, but I have nothing to do with it.
Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (1857), 111.
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I take it that a monograph of this sort belongs to the ephemera literature of science. The studied care which is warranted in the treatment of the more slowly moving branches of science would be out of place here. Rather with the pen of a journalist we must attempt to record a momentary phase of current thought, which may at any instant change with kaleidoscopic abruptness.
Valence and the Structure of Atoms and Molecules (1923), Preface.
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If, then, the motion of every particle of matter in the universe were precisely reversed at any instant, the course of nature would be simply reversed for ever after. The bursting bubble of foam at the foot of a waterfall would reunite and descend into the water; the thermal motions would reconcentrate their energy, and throw the mass up the fall in drops re-forming into a close column of ascending water. Heat which had been generated by the friction of solids and dissipated by conduction, and radiation, and radiation with absorption, would come again to the place of contact, and throw the moving body back against the force to which it had previously yielded. Boulders would recover from the mud materials required to rebuild them into their previous jagged forms, and would become reunited to the mountain peak from which they had formerly broken away. And if also the materialistic hypothesis of life were true, living creatures would grow backwards, with conscious knowledge of the future but no memory of the past, and would become again unborn.
In 'The Kinetic Theory of the Dissipation of Energy', Nature (1874), 9, 442.
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In outer space you develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”
…...
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In structure these little animals were fashioned like a bell, and at the round opening they made such a stir, that the particles in the water thereabout were set in motion thereby. … And though I must have seen quite 20 of these little animals on their long tails alongside one another very gently moving, with outstretcht bodies and straitened-out tails; yet in an instant, as it were, they pulled their bodies and their tails together, and no sooner had they contracted their bodies and tails, than they began to stick their tails out again very leisurely, and stayed thus some time continuing their gentle motion: which sight I found mightily diverting.
[Describing the ciliate Vorticella.]
Letter to the Royal Society, London (25 Dec 1702). In Clifford Dobell (ed.), Anthony van Leewenhoek and his “Little Animals” (1932), 277.
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Is man a peculiar organism? Does he originate in a wholly different way from a dog, bird, frog, or fish? and does he thereby justify those who assert that he has no place in nature, and no real relationship with the lower world of animal life? Or does he develop from a similar embryo, and undergo the same slow and gradual progressive modifications? The answer is not for an instant doubtful, and has not been doubtful for the last thirty years. The mode of man’s origin and the earlier stages of his development are undoubtedly identical with those of the animals standing directly below him in the scale; without the slightest doubt, he stands in this respect nearer the ape than the ape does to the dog. (1863)
As quoted in Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.) as epigraph for Chap. 12, The History of Creation (1886), Vol. 1, 364.
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It is not only a decided preference for synthesis and a complete denial of general methods which characterizes the ancient mathematics as against our newer Science [modern mathematics]: besides this extemal formal difference there is another real, more deeply seated, contrast, which arises from the different attitudes which the two assumed relative to the use of the concept of variability. For while the ancients, on account of considerations which had been transmitted to them from the Philosophie school of the Eleatics, never employed the concept of motion, the spatial expression for variability, in their rigorous system, and made incidental use of it only in the treatment of phonoromically generated curves, modern geometry dates from the instant that Descartes left the purely algebraic treatment of equations and proceeded to investigate the variations which an algebraic expression undergoes when one of its variables assumes a continuous succession of values.
In 'Untersuchungen über die unendlich oft oszillierenden und unstetigen Functionen', Ostwald’s Klassiker der exacten Wissenschaften (1905), No. 153, 44-45. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 115. From the original German, “Nicht allein entschiedene Vorliebe für die Synthese und gänzliche Verleugnung allgemeiner Methoden charakterisiert die antike Mathematik gegenüber unserer neueren Wissenschaft; es gibt neben diesem mehr äußeren, formalen, noch einen tiefliegenden realen Gegensatz, welcher aus der verschiedenen Stellung entspringt, in welche sich beide zu der wissenschaftlichen Verwendung des Begriffes der Veränderlichkeit gesetzt haben. Denn während die Alten den Begriff der Bewegung, des räumlichen Ausdruckes der Veränderlichkeit, aus Bedenken, die aus der philosophischen Schule der Eleaten auf sie übergegangen waren, in ihrem strengen Systeme niemals und auch in der Behandlung phoronomisch erzeugter Kurven nur vorübergehend verwenden, so datiert die neuere Mathematik von dem Augenblicke, als Descartes von der rein algebraischen Behandlung der Gleichungen dazu fortschritt, die Größenveränderungen zu untersuchen, welche ein algebraischer Ausdruck erleidet, indem eine in ihm allgemein bezeichnete Größe eine stetige Folge von Werten durchläuft.”
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It is now necessary to indicate more definitely the reason why mathematics not only carries conviction in itself, but also transmits conviction to the objects to which it is applied. The reason is found, first of all, in the perfect precision with which the elementary mathematical concepts are determined; in this respect each science must look to its own salvation .... But this is not all. As soon as human thought attempts long chains of conclusions, or difficult matters generally, there arises not only the danger of error but also the suspicion of error, because since all details cannot be surveyed with clearness at the same instant one must in the end be satisfied with a belief that nothing has been overlooked from the beginning. Every one knows how much this is the case even in arithmetic, the most elementary use of mathematics. No one would imagine that the higher parts of mathematics fare better in this respect; on the contrary, in more complicated conclusions the uncertainty and suspicion of hidden errors increases in rapid progression. How does mathematics manage to rid itself of this inconvenience which attaches to it in the highest degree? By making proofs more rigorous? By giving new rules according to which the old rules shall be applied? Not in the least. A very great uncertainty continues to attach to the result of each single computation. But there are checks. In the realm of mathematics each point may be reached by a hundred different ways; and if each of a hundred ways leads to the same point, one may be sure that the right point has been reached. A calculation without a check is as good as none. Just so it is with every isolated proof in any speculative science whatever; the proof may be ever so ingenious, and ever so perfectly true and correct, it will still fail to convince permanently. He will therefore be much deceived, who, in metaphysics, or in psychology which depends on metaphysics, hopes to see his greatest care in the precise determination of the concepts and in the logical conclusions rewarded by conviction, much less by success in transmitting conviction to others. Not only must the conclusions support each other, without coercion or suspicion of subreption, but in all matters originating in experience, or judging concerning experience, the results of speculation must be verified by experience, not only superficially, but in countless special cases.
In Werke [Kehrbach] (1890), Bd. 5, 105. As quoted, cited and translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 19.
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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 is the destiny of wine to be drunk, and it is the destiny of glucose to be oxidized. But it was not oxidized immediately: its drinker kept it in his liver for more than a week, well curled up and tranquil, as a reserve aliment for a sudden effort; an effort that he was forced to make the following Sunday, pursuing a bolting horse. Farewell to the hexagonal structure: in the space of a few instants the skein was unwound and became glucose again, and this was dragged by the bloodstream all the way to a minute muscle fiber in the thigh, and here brutally split into two molecules of lactic acid, the grim harbinger of fatigue: only later, some minutes after, the panting of the lungs was able to supply the oxygen necessary to quietly oxidize the latter. So a new molecule of carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere, and a parcel of the energy that the sun had handed to the vine-shoot passed from the state of chemical energy to that of mechanical energy, and thereafter settled down in the slothful condition of heat, warming up imperceptibly the air moved by the running and the blood of the runner. 'Such is life,' although rarely is it described in this manner: an inserting itself, a drawing off to its advantage, a parasitizing of the downward course of energy, from its noble solar form to the degraded one of low-temperature heat. In this downward course, which leads to equilibrium and thus death, life draws a bend and nests in it.
The Periodic Table (1975), trans. Raymond Rosenthal (1984), 192-3.
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It is very remarkable that while the words Eternal, Eternity, Forever, are constantly in our mouths, and applied without hesitation, we yet experience considerable difficulty in contemplating any definite term which bears a very large proportion to the brief cycles of our petty chronicles. There are many minds that would not for an instant doubt the God of Nature to have existed from all Eternity, and would yet reject as preposterous the idea of going back a million of years in the History of His Works. Yet what is a million, or a million million, of solar revolutions to an Eternity?
Memoir on the Geology of Central France (1827), 165.
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It was on the 25th November 1740 that I cut the first polyp. I put the two parts in a flat glass, which only contained water to the height of four to five lignes. It was thus easy for me to observe these portions of the polyp with a fairly powerful lens.
I shall indicate farther on the precautions I took in making my experiments on these cut polyps and the technique I adopted to cut them. It will suffice to say here that I cut the polyp concerned transversely, a little nearer the anterior than the posterior end. The first part was thus a little shorter than the second.
The instant that I cut the polyp, the two parts contracted so that at first they only appeared like two little grains of green matter at the bottom of the glass in which I put them—for green, as I have already said, is the colour of the first polyps that I possessed. The two parts expanded on the same day on which I separated them. They were very easy to distinguish from one another. The first had its anterior end adorned with the fine threads that serve the polyp as legs and arms, which the second had none.
The extensions of the first part was not the only sign of life that it gave on the same day that it was separated from the other. I saw it move its arms; and the next day, the first time I came to observe it, I found that it had changed its position; and shortly afterwards I saw it take a step. The second part was extended as on the previous day and in the same place. I shook the glass a little to see if it were still alive. This movement made it contract, from which I judged that it was alive. Shortly afterwards it extended again. On the following days I .’ saw the same thing.
Mémoires, pour servir à l'histoire d'un genre de polyps d'eau douce à bras en forme de cornes (1744), 7-16. Trans. John R. Baker, in Abraham Trembley of Geneva: Scientist and Philosopher 1710-1784 (1952), 31.
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It’s that moment, that brief epiphany when the universe opens up and shows us something, and in that instant we get just a sense of an order greater than Heaven and, as yet at least, beyond the grasp of Stephen Hawking.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 109
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Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity. By day, space is one with the earth and with man - it is his sun that is shining, his clouds that are floating past; at night, space is his no more. When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars - pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience.
…...
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My dynamite will sooner lead to peace than a thousand world conventions. As soon as men will find that in one instant, whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace.
As quoted, without citation, in Peter T. Davis and Craig R. McGuffin, Wireless Local Area Networks: Technology, Issues, and Strategies (1995), 159. Various sources since then have the quote with that wording. This shares the same sentiment - and may be an alternate translation - as Nobel’s quote given by Linus Pauling in his Nobel Acceptance Speech (see elsewhere on this page). Pauling in his speech said it was from a statement by Nobel in 1892, as reported by Bertha von Sutter. Webmaster has so far found no definitive print source for either version. Please contact Webmaster if you have.
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One more word on “designed laws” and “undesigned results.” - I see a bird which I want for food, take my gun and kill it, I do this designedly.—An innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of lightning. Do you believe (& I really should like to hear) that God designedly killed this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can’t and don’t.—If you believe so, do you believe that when a swallow snaps up a gnat that God designed that that particular swallow should snap up that particular gnat at that particular instant? I believe that the man and the gnat are in the same predicament. If the death of neither man nor gnat are designed, I see no good reason to believe that their first birth or production should be necessarily designed.
Letter to Asa Gray, 3 July 1860. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1860 (1993), Vol. 8, 275.
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One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world’s problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive - it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 38.
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Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world.
Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans.), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. He calls this his first “literary dream”. It came to him at Auschwitz.
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Quietly, like a night bird, floating, soaring, wingless.
We glide from shore to shore, curving and falling
but not quite touching;
Earth: a distant memory seen in an instant of repose,
crescent shaped, ethereal, beautiful,
I wonder which part is home, but I know it doesn’t matter . . .
the bond is there in my mind and memory;
Earth: a small, bubbly balloon hanging delicately
in the nothingness of space.
…...
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Some beliefs may be subject to such instant, brutal and unambiguous rejection. For example: no left-coiling periwinkle has ever been found among millions of snails examined. If I happen to find one during my walk on Nobska beach tomorrow morning, a century of well nurtured negative evidence will collapse in an instant.
'A Foot Soldier for Evolution', In Eight Little Piggies (1994), 452.
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Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what is in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence which at a given instant knew all the forces acting in nature and the position of every object in the universe—if endowed with a brain sufficiently vast to make all necessary calculations—could describe with a single formula the motions of the largest astronomical bodies and those of the smallest atoms. To such an intelligence, nothing would be uncertain; the future, like the past, would be an open book.
As quoted in The Fascination of Physics by Jacqueline D. Spears and Dean Zollman (1986). Alternate translation: “The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what is in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence which at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective positions, motions, and general effects of all these entities at any time in the past or future.” In Harry Woolf, The Analytic spirit: essays in the history of science in honor of Henry Guerlac (1981), 91, the author states that “the language Laplace used was obviously borrowed from Concdorset, though now the words were reshuffled to express a new idea.”
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The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what it was in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence that at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective position, motions, and general affects of all these entities at any time in the past or future. Physical astronomy, the branch of knowledge that does the greatest honor to the human mind, gives us an idea, albeit imperfect, of what such an intelligence would be. The simplicity of the law by which the celestial bodies move, and the relations of their masses and distances, permit analysis to follow their motions up to a certain point; and in order to determine the state of the system of these great bodies in past or future centuries, it suffices for the mathematician that their position and their velocity be given by observation for any moment in time. Man owes that advantage to the power of the instrument he employs, and to the small number of relations that it embraces in its calculations. But ignorance of the different causes involved in the production of events, as well as their complexity, taken together with the imperfection of analysis, prevents our reaching the same certainty about the vast majority of phenomena. Thus there are things that are uncertain for us, things more or less probable, and we seek to compensate for the impossibility of knowing them by determining their different degrees of likelihood. So it was that we owe to the weakness of the human mind one of the most delicate and ingenious of mathematical theories, the science of chance or probability.
'Recherches, 1º, sur l'Intégration des Équations Différentielles aux Différences Finies, et sur leur Usage dans la Théorie des Hasards' (1773, published 1776). In Oeuvres complètes de Laplace, 14 Vols. (1843-1912), Vol. 8, 144-5, trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 26.
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The stream of thought flows on but most of its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion. Of some, no memory survives the instant of their passage. Of others, it is confined to a few moments, hours or days. Others, again, leave vestiges which are indestructible, and by means of which they may be recalled as long as life endures.
…...
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There is no nature at an instant.
In The Concept of Nature (1920), 61. Whitehead repeats this in Nature and Life (1934, 2012), 48, intriduced with: “Since there are no instants, conceived as simple primary entities,…”.
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There was no instant when a mist of plankton … was not swirling in the path of the beam [of the bathysphere].
As quoted by Rachel Carson in The Sea Around Us (1950, 2003), 62. Carson states that in his bathysphere descent, more than a quarter of a mile down, Beebe reported aggregations of living things “as thick as I have ever seen them.” At half a mile—the deepest descent of the bathysphere—Dr. Beebe recalled the mist of plankton.
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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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We took on things which people might think would take a year or two. They weren't particularly hard. What was hard was believing they weren't hard.
[Recalling high-pressure, short-deadline problem solving leading up to planned release date of Polaroid instant color film.]
Quoted in Alix Kerr, 'What It Took: Intuition, Goo,' Life (25 Jan 1963), 54, No. 4, 86.
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When the greatest of American logicians, speaking of the powers that constitute the born geometrician, had named Conception, Imagination, and Generalization, he paused. Thereupon from one of the audience there came the challenge, “What of reason?” The instant response, not less just than brilliant, was: “Ratiocination—that is but the smooth pavement on which the chariot rolls.”
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 31.
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Why can't I see the picture right away?
Remark made at age 3 years old after having just been photographed by her father, Edwin Land. Subsequently, he took a solitary walk while vacationing in Sante Fe (1943) and in that time originated the basic idea for the Polaroid instant camera. As quoted in 'Colossus of the Camera', New York Times (5 Aug 1982).
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With respect to those who may ask why Nature does not produce new beings? We may enquire of them in turn, upon what foundation they suppose this fact? What it is that authorizes them to believe this sterility in Nature? Know they if, in the various combinations which she is every instant forming, Nature be not occupied in producing new beings, without the cognizance of these observers? Who has informed them that this Nature is not actually assembling, in her immense elaboratory, the elements suitable to bring to light, generations entirely new, that will have nothing in common with those of the species at present existing? What absurdity then, or what want of just inference would there be, to imagine that the man, the horse, the fish, the bird will be no more? Are these animals so indispensably requisite to Nature, that without them she cannot continue her eternal course? Does not all change around us? Do we not ourselves change? ... Nature contains no one constant form.
The System of Nature (1770), trans. Samuel Wilkinson (1820), Vol. 1, 94-95.
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[Coleridge] selected an instance of what was called the sublime, in DARWIN, who imagined the creation of the universe to have taken place in a moment, by the explosion of a mass of matter in the womb, or centre of space. In one and the same instant of time, suns and planets shot into systems in every direction, and filled and spangled the illimitable void! He asserted this to be an intolerable degradation -referring, as it were, all the beauty and harmony of nature to something like the bursting of a barrel of gunpowder! that spit its combustible materials into a pock-freckled creation!
Report from Lectures (1812). In (1987), Vol. 5, 1, R. A. Foakes (ed.), 401.
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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 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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