Kaleidoscope Quotes (5 quotes)
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.
Science usually advances by a succession of small steps, through a fog in which even the most keen-sighted explorer can seldom see more than a few paces ahead. Occasionally the fog lifts, an eminence is gained, and a wider stretch of territory can be surveyed—sometimes with startling results. A whole science may then seem to undergo a kaleidoscopic rearrangement, fragments of knowledge sometimes being found to fit together in a hitherto unsuspected manner. Sometimes the shock of readjustment may spread to other sciences; sometimes it may divert the whole current of human thought.
The Patent-Office Commissioner knows that all machines in use have been invented and re-invented over and over; that the mariner’s compass, the boat, the pendulum, glass, movable types, the kaleidoscope, the railway, the power-loom, etc., have been many times found and lost, from Egypt, China and Pompeii down; and if we have arts which Rome wanted, so also Rome had arts which we have lost; that the invention of yesterday of making wood indestructible by means of vapor of coal-oil or paraffine was suggested by the Egyptian method which has preserved its mummy-cases four thousand years.
This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us. Today, humankind has the science and technology to destroy itself or to provide prosperity to all. Yet science can’t make that choice for us. Only the moral power of a world acting as a community can.
We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds.