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... in real life mistakes are likely to be irrevocable. Computer simulation, however, makes it economically practical to make mistakes on purpose. If you are astute, therefore, you can learn much more than they cost. Furthermore, if you are at all discreet, no one but you need ever know you made a mistake.
With co-author John Osborn, in Natural Automata and Useful Simulations edited by H. H. Pattee et al. (1966).
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… the truth is that the knowledge of external nature and of the sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, is not the great or the frequent business of the human mind. Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we wish to be useful or pleasing, the first requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are virtues, and excellencies, of all times and of all places; we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. Physical knowledge is of such rare emergence, that one man may know another half his life without being able to estimate his skill in hydrostatics or astronomy; but his moral and prudential character immediately appears.
In Lives of the Poets (1779-81).
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...for the animals, which we resemble and which would be our equals if we did not have reason, do not reflect upon the actions or the passions of their external or internal senses, and do not know what is color, odor or sound, or if there is any differences between these objects, to which they are moved rather than moving themselves there. This comes about by the force of the impression that the different objects make on their organs and on their senses, for they cannot discern if it is more appropriate to go and drink or eat or do something else, and they do not eat or drink or do anything else except when the presence of objects or the animal imagination [l'imagination brutalle], necessitates them and transports them to their objects, without their knowing what they do, whether good or bad; which would happen to us just as to them if we were destitute of reason, for they have no enlightenment except what they must have to take their nourishment and to serve us for the uses to which God has destined them.
[Arguing the uniqueness of man by regarding animals to be merely automatons.].
Les Préludes de l'Harmonie Universelle (1634), 135-139. In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 318.
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...the scientific cast of mind examines the world critically, as if many alternative worlds might exist, as if other things might be here which are not. Then we are forced to ask why what we see is present and not something else. Why are the Sun and moon and the planets spheres? Why not pyramids, or cubes, or dodecahedra? Why not irregular, jumbly shapes? Why so symmetrical, worlds? If you spend any time spinning hypotheses, checking to see whether they make sense, whether they conform to what else we know. Thinking of tests you can pose to substantiate or deflate hypotheses, you will find yourself doing science.
…...
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...to invent is to discover that we know not, and not to recover or resummon that which we already know.
The Second Book of Francis Bacon of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning (1605). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 209
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’Tis evident, that as common Air when reduc’d to half Its wonted extent, obtained near about twice as forcible a Spring as it had before; so this thus- comprest Air being further thrust into half this narrow room, obtained thereby a Spring about as strong again as that It last had, and consequently four times as strong as that of the common Air. And there is no cause to doubt, that If we had been here furnisht with a greater quantity of Quicksilver and a very long Tube, we might by a further compression of the included Air have made It counter-balance “the pressure” of a far taller and heavier Cylinder of Mercury. For no man perhaps yet knows how near to an infinite compression the Air may be capable of, If the compressing force be competently increast.
A Defense of the Doctrine Touching the Spring and Weight of the Air (1662), 62.
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“Bitzer,” said Thomas Gradgrind. “Your definition of a horse.”
“Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth; namely, twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the Spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.” Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
“Now girl number twenty,” said Mr. Gradgrind. “You know what a horse is.”
Spoken by fictional character Thomas Gringrind in his schoolroom with pupil Bitzer, Hard Times, published in Household Words (1 Apr 1854), Vol. 36, 3.
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“Can you do Addition?” the White Queen said. “What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?”
“I don't know,” said Alice. “I lost count.”
“She can’t do Addition,” the Red Queen interrupted.
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871, 1897), 189.
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“Daddy,” she says, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
Steadfastly, even desperately, we have been refusing to commit ourselves. But our questioner is insistent. The truth alone will satisfy her. Nothing less. At long last we gather up courage and issue our solemn pronouncement on the subject: “Yes!”
So it is here.
“Daddy, is it a wave or a particle?”
“Yes.”
“Daddy, is the electron here or is it there?”
“Yes.”
“Daddy, do scientists really know what they are talking about?”
“Yes!”
The Strange Story of the Quantum (1947), 156-7.
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“Endow scientific research and we shall know the truth, when and where it is possible to ascertain it;” but the counterblast is at hand: “To endow research is merely to encourage the research for endowment; the true man of science will not be held back by poverty, and if science is of use to us, it will pay for itself.” Such are but a few samples of the conflict of opinion which we find raging around us.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 5.
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“Exobiology” … that peculiar science has no known subject matter.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of Its Significance for Man (Rev. Ed., 1967), 10, footnote.
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“I should have more faith,” he said; “I ought to know by this time that when a fact appears opposed to a long train of deductions it invariably proves to be capable of bearing some other interpretation.”
Spoken by character, Sherlock Holmes, in A Study in Scarlet (1887), in Works of Arthur Conan Doyle (1902), Vol. 11, 106.
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“Scientific people,” proceeded the Time Traveler, after the pause required for the proper assimilation of this, “know very well that Time is only a kind of Space.”
In The Time Machine (1898), 6.
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“You know that it is quite preposterous of you to chase rainbows,” said the sane person to the poet.
“Yet it would be rather beautiful if I did one day manage to catch one,” mused the poet.
'Dreams' in Little Stings (1907, 1908), 59.
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(1) I have told you more than I know about osteoporosis. (2) What I have told you is subject to change without notice. (3) I hope I raised more questions than I have given answers. (4) In any case, as usual, a lot more work is necessary.
Conclusion of one of his papers.
In Barry G. Firkin, Judith A. Whitworth, Dictionary of Medical Eponyms (1996), 5.
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[Vestiges begins] from principles which are at variance with all sober inductive truth. The sober facts of geology shuffled, so as to play a rogue’s game; phrenology (that sinkhole of human folly and prating coxcombry); spontaneous generation; transmutation of species; and I know not what; all to be swallowed, without tasting and trying, like so much horse-physic!! Gross credulity and rank infidelity joined in unlawful marriage, and breeding a deformed progeny of unnatural conclusions!
Letter to Charles Lyell (9 Apr 1845). In John Willis Clark and Thomas McKenny Hughes (eds.), The Life and Letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (1890), Vol. 2, 83.
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[1665-09-14] ...my finding that although the Bill [total of dead] in general is abated, yet the City within the walls is encreasd and likely to continue so (and is close to our house there) - my meeting dead corps's of the plague, carried to be buried close to me at noonday through the City in Fanchurch-street - to see a person sick of the sores carried close by me by Grace-church in a hackney-coach - my finding the Angell tavern at the lower end of Tower-hill shut up; and more then that, the alehouse at the Tower-stairs; and more then that, that the person was then dying of the plague when I was last there, a little while ago at night, to write a short letter there, and I overheard the mistress of the house sadly saying to her husband somebody was very ill, but did not think it was of the plague - to hear that poor Payne my waterman hath buried a child and is dying himself - to hear that a labourer I sent but the other day to Dagenhams to know how they did there is dead of the plague and that one of my own watermen, that carried me daily, fell sick as soon as he had landed me on Friday morning last, when I had been all night upon the water ... is now dead of the plague - to hear ... that Mr Sidny Mountagu is sick of a desperate fever at my Lady Carteret's at Scott's hall - to hear that Mr. Lewes hath another daughter sick - and lastly, that both my servants, W Hewers and Tom Edwards, have lost their fathers, both in St. Sepulcher's parish, of the plague this week - doth put me into great apprehensions of melancholy, and with good reason. But I put off the thoughts of sadness as much as I can, and the rather to keep my wife in good heart and family also.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (14 Sep 1665)
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[1665-12-31] Thus ends this year ... It is true we have gone through great melancholy because of the great plague, and I put to great charges by it, by keeping my family long at Woolwich, and myself and another part of my family, my clerks, at my charge at Greenwich ... But now the plague is abated almost to nothing ... But many of such as I know very well, dead. Yet to our great joy, the town fills apace, and shops begin to open again. Pray God continue the plague's decrease - for that keeps the Court away from the place of business, and so all goes to wrack as to public matters, they at this distance not thinking of it.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (31 Dec 1665)
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[A] quality of an inventor is imagination, because invention is a leap of the imagination from what is known to what has never been before.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 187.
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[A]s you know, scientific education is fabulously neglected … This is an evil that is inherited, passed on from generation to generation. The majority of educated persons are not interested in science, and are not aware that scientific knowledge forms part of the idealistic background of human life. Many believe—in their complete ignorance of what science really is—that it has mainly the ancillary task of inventing new machinery, or helping to invent it, for improving our conditions of life. They are prepared to leave this task to the specialists, as they leave the repairing of their pipes to the plumber. If persons with this outlook decide upon the curriculum of our children, the result is necessarily such as I have just described it.
Opening remarks of the second of four public lectures for the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at University College, Dublin (Feb 1950), The Practical Achievements of Science Tending to Obliterate its True Import', collected in Science and Humanism: Physics in Our Time (1951). Reprinted in 'Nature and the Greeks' and 'Science and Humanism' (1996), 113.
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[About any invention] (1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal; (2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it; (3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
In News Review section, Sunday Times (29 Aug 1999).
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[As a youth, fiddling in my home laboratory] I discovered a formula for the frequency of a resonant circuit which was 2π x sqrt(LC) where L is the inductance and C the capacitance of the circuit. And there was π, and where was the circle? … I still don’t quite know where that circle is, where that π comes from.
From address to the National Science Teachers’ Association convention (Apr 1966), 'What Is Science?', collected in Richard Phillips Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins (ed.), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (1999, 2005), 177.
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[At the end of the story, its main character, Tom] is now a great man of science, and can plan railroads, and steam-engines, and electric telegraphs, and rifled guns, and so forth; and knows everything about everything, except why a hen's egg don't turn into a crocodile, and two or three other little things that no one will know till the coming of the Cocqcigrues.
The Water-babies (1886), 368-9.
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[Boundless curiosity.] That’s what being alive is about. I mean, it’s the fun of it all, making sense of it, understanding it. There’s a great pleasure in knowing why trees shed their leaves in winter. Everybody knows they do, but why? If you lose that, then you’ve lost pleasure.
From interview with Sophie Elmhirst, 'I Think the BBC Has Strayed From the Straight and Narrow', New Statesman (10 Jan 2011), 140, No. 5035, 32.
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[Certain students] suppose that because science has penetrated the structure of the atom it can solve all the problems of the universe. ... They are known in every ... college as the most insufferable, cocksure know-it-alls. If you want to talk to them about poetry, they are likely to reply that the "emotive response" to poetry is only a conditioned reflex .... If they go on to be professional scientists, their sharp corners are rubbed down, but they undergo no fundamental change. They most decidedly are not set apart from the others by their intellectual integrity and faith, and their patient humility in front of the facts of nature.... They are uneducated, in the fullest sense of the word, and they certainly are no advertisement for the claims of science teachers.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 18-19.
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[Decimal currency is desirable because] by that means all calculations of interest, exchange, insurance, and the like are rendered much more simple and accurate, and, of course, more within the power of the great mass of people. Whenever such things require much labor, time, and reflection, the greater number who do not know, are made the dupes of the lesser number who do.
Letter to Congress (15 Jan 1782). 'Coinage Scheme Proposed by Robert Morris, Superintendent of Finance', from MS. letters and reports of the Superintendent of Finance, No, 137, Vol. 1, 289-300. Reprinted as Appendix, in Executive Documents, Senate of the U.S., Third Session of the Forty-Fifth Congress, 1878-79 (1879), 430.
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[Describing a freshman seminar titled “How the Tabby Cat Got Her Stripes or The Silence of the Genes”:] The big idea we start with is: “How is the genome interpreted, and how are stable decisions that affect gene expression inherited from one cell to the next? This is one of the most competitive areas of molecular biology at the moment, and the students are reading papers that in some instances were published this past year. As a consequence, one of the most common answers I have to give to their questions is, “We just don't know.”
As quoted by Kitta MacPherson in 'Exploring Epigenetics: President Shirley Tilghman in the Classroom,' Princeton University Undergraduate Admission web page accessed 14 Oct 2013.
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[Experimental Physicist] Phys. I know that it is often a help to represent pressure and volume as height and width on paper; and so geometry may have applications to the theory of gases. But is it not going rather far to say that geometry can deal directly with these things and is not necessarily concerned with lengths in space?
[Mathematician] Math. No. Geometry is nowadays largely analytical, so that in form as well as in effect, it deals with variables of an unknown nature. …It is literally true that I do not want to know the significance of the variables x, y, z, t that I am discussing. …
Phys. Yours is a strange subject. You told us at the beginning that you are not concerned as to whether your propositions are true, and now you tell us you do not even care to know what you are talking about.
Math. That is an excellent description of Pure Mathematics, which has already been given by an eminent mathematician [Bertrand Russell].
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 14.
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[F. Werner, while a student in Princeton,] came to me and expressed his bewilderment with the fact that we make a rather narrow selection when choosing the data on which we test our theories. “How do we know that, if we made a theory which focuses its attention on phenomena we disregard and disregards some of the phenomena now commanding our attention, that we could not build another theory which has little in common with the present one but which, nevertheless, explains just as many phenomena as the present theory?” It has to be admitted that we have no definite evidence that there is no such theory.
In 'The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,' Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics (Feb 1960), 13, No. 1 (February 1960). Collected in Eugene Paul Wigner, A.S. Wightman (ed.), Jagdish Mehra (ed.), The Collected Works of Eugene Paul Wigner (1955), Vol. 6, 535.
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[Freud's] great strength, though sometimes also his weakness, was the quite extraordinary respect he had for the singular fact... When he got hold of a simple but significant fact he would feel, and know, that it was an example of something general or universal, and the idea of collecting statistics on the matter was quite alien to him.
The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1953), Vol 1, 96-7.
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[Helmholtz] is not a philosopher in the exclusive sense, as Kant, Hegel, Mansel are philosophers, but one who prosecutes physics and physiology, and acquires therein not only skill in developing any desideratum, but wisdom to know what are the desiderata, e.g., he was one of the first, and is one of the most active, preachers of the doctrine that since all kinds of energy are convertible, the first aim of science at this time. should be to ascertain in what way particular forms of energy can be converted into each other, and what are the equivalent quantities of the two forms of energy.
Letter to Lewis Campbell (21 Apr 1862). In P.M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 711.
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[I] grew up as a disciple of science. I know its fascination. I have felt the godlike power man derives from his machines.
Quoted in 'Antiseptic Christianity', book review of Lindbergh, Of Flight and Life in Time magazine, (6 Sep 1948).
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[I]magine you want to know the sex of your unborn child. There are several approaches. You could, for example, do what the late film star ... Cary Grant did before he was an actor: In a carnival or fair or consulting room, you suspend a watch or a plumb bob above the abdomen of the expectant mother; if it swings left-right it's a boy, and if it swings forward-back it's a girl. The method works one time in two. Of course he was out of there before the baby was born, so he never heard from customers who complained he got it wrong. ... But if you really want to know, then you go to amniocentesis, or to sonograms; and there your chance of being right is 99 out of 100. ... If you really want to know, you go to science.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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[In childhood, to overcome fear, the] need took me back again and again to a sycamore tree rising from the earth at the edge of a ravine. It was a big, old tree that had grown out over the ravine, so that when you climbed it, you looked straight down fifty feet or more. Every time I climbed that tree, I forced myself to climb to the last possible safe limb and then look down. Every time I did it, I told myself I’d never do it again. But I kept going back because it scared me and I had to know I could overcome that.
In John Glenn and Nick Taylor, John Glenn: A Memoir (2000), 16.
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[In my early youth, walking with my father,] “See that bird?” he says. “It’s a Spencer’s warbler.” (I knew he didn’t know the real name.) “Well, in Italian, it’s a Chutto Lapittida. In Portuguese, it’s a Bom da Peida. In Chinese, it’s a Chung-long-tah, and in Japanese, it’s a Katano Tekeda. You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts.” (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.)
In 'The Making of a Scientist', What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character (2001), 13-14.
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[In the beginning, before creation] There was neither Aught nor Naught, no air nor sky beyond. …
[There was only]
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.
Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
No gods had yet been born—who then can e’er the truth disclose?
In Rigveda. In John Robson, Hinduism and Its Relations to Christianity (1893), 17.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. … On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller’s works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
In Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[Learning is] the actual process of broadening yourself, of knowing there’s a little extra facet of the universe you know about and can think about and can understand. It seems to me that when it’s time to die, and that will come to all of us, there’ll be a certain pleasure in thinking that you had utilized your life well, that you had learned as much as you could, gathered in as much as possible of the universe, and enjoyed it. I mean, there’s only this universe and only this one lifetime to try to grasp it. And, while it is inconceivable that anyone can grasp more than a tiny portion of it, at least do that much. What a tragedy to just pass through and get nothing out of it.
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 139.
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[Mathematics] is that [subject] which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.
In 'The Scientific Aspects of Positivism', Fortnightly Review (1898) in Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews, (1872), 169.
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[May Morris (Joan Davis):] You know, I crossed the goldenrod with poison ivy once. What do you think I got? Hay fever and the seven-year itch.
From movie Josette (1938). Writer, James Edward Grant, from play by Paul Frank and Georg Fraser. In Larry Langman and Paul Gold, Comedy Quotes from the Movies (2001), 289. The phrase “seven-year itch” dates back to at least 1845, and was used as a film title in 1955.
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[Newton wrote to Halley … that he would not give Hooke any credit] That, alas, is vanity. You find it in so many scientists. You know, it has always hurt me to think that Galileo did not acknowledge the work of Kepler.
In I. Bernard Cohen, 'An Interview with Einstein', in Anthony Philip French (ed.), Einstein: A Centenary Volume (1979), 41. Cited in Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way (2003), 94-95.
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[O]ur long-term security is threatened by a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism: human-induced climate change. … The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a “weapon of mass destruction.” Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries. It can strike anywhere, in any form…
London Guardian (28 Jul 2003)
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[On the future of Chemistry:] Chemistry is not the preservation hall of old jazz that it sometimes looks like. We cannot know what may happen tomorrow. Someone may oxidize mercury (II), francium (I), or radium (II). A mineral in Nova Scotia may contain an unsaturated quark per 1020 nucleons. (This is still 6000 per gram.) We may pick up an extraterrestrial edition of Chemical Abstracts. The universe may be a 4-dimensional soap bubble in an 11-dimensional space as some supersymmetry theorists argued in May of 1983. Who knows?
In George B. Kaufmann, 'Interview with Jannik Bjerrum and Christian Klixbull Jørgensen', Journal of Chemical Education (1985), 62, No. 11, 1005.
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[On why are numbers beautiful?] It’s like asking why is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is.
As quoted in Paul Hoffman, The Man who Loves Only Numbers (1998), 44.
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[Our work on the structure of DNA] was fairly fast, but you know, we were lucky. One must remember, it was based on the X-ray work done here in London started off by Morris Wilkins and carried on by Rosalind Franklin, and we wouldn’t have got to the stage of at least having a molecular model, if it hadn't been for their work.
Quoted and cited from BBC radio (1999) in transcript of Australian ABC radio program PM (30 Jul 2004) on the ABC website.
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[Pure mathematics is] good to give chills in the spine to a certain number of people, me included. I don’t know what else it is good for, and I don’t care. But … like von Neumann said, one never knows whether someone is going to find another use for it.
In The Beauty of Doing Mathematics: Three Public Dialogues (1985), 49.
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[Regarding evolution believers:] Their business is not with the possible, but the actual—not with a world which might be, but with a world that is. This they explore with a courage not unmixed with reverence, and according to methods which, like the quality of a tree, are tested by their fruits. They have but one desire—to know the truth. They have but one fear—to believe a lie.
'Scientific Use of the Imagination', Discourse Delivered Before the British Association at Liverpool, (16 Sep 1870). Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews (1892), Vol. 2, 134.
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[Richard Feynman] believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish upon our ability to know but as the essence of knowing. The alternative to uncertainty is authority, against which science has fought for centuries.
In Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 371-372.
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[The famous attack of Sir William Hamilton on the tendency of mathematical studies] affords the most express evidence of those fatal lacunae in the circle of his knowledge, which unfitted him for taking a comprehensive or even an accurate view of the processes of the human mind in the establishment of truth. If there is any pre-requisite which all must see to be indispensable in one who attempts to give laws to the human intellect, it is a thorough acquaintance with the modes by which human intellect has proceeded, in the case where, by universal acknowledgment, grounded on subsequent direct verification, it has succeeded in ascertaining the greatest number of important and recondite truths. This requisite Sir W. Hamilton had not, in any tolerable degree, fulfilled. Even of pure mathematics he apparently knew little but the rudiments. Of mathematics as applied to investigating the laws of physical nature; of the mode in which the properties of number, extension, and figure, are made instrumental to the ascertainment of truths other than arithmetical or geometrical—it is too much to say that he had even a superficial knowledge: there is not a line in his works which shows him to have had any knowledge at all.
In Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1878), 607.
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[The tools that Newton gave us] entered the marrow of what we know without knowing how we know it.
From Isaac Newton (2003), 188.
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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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[To identify ancient sites] The primary requirement is a human skeleton or artifacts that are clearly the work of humans. Next, this evidence must lie in situ within undisturbed geological deposits. The artifacts should be directly associated with stratigraphy. Finally, the minimum age of the site must be determined by a direct link with fossils of known age or with material that has been reliably dated.
As quoted in Sharman Apt Russell, When the Land Was Young: Reflections on American Archaeology (2001), 22.
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[To Margaret Ruxton] Too many men have often seen
Their talents underrated;
But Davy knows that his have been
Duly Appreeciated.
Mrs Apreece, a rich widow, married Davy in 1812.
Quoted in T. E. Thorpe, Humphry Davy, Poet and Philosopher (1896), 165.
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[Using a hand calculator and writing things down longhand] I was able to solve this problem because I don’t have a computer. I know what I am doing every step, and the steps go slowly enough that I can think.
As quoted in Charles Petit, 'The Curious Quester', The San Francisco Chronicle. Reprinted in The Courier-Journal (3 Mar 1991), Magazine, 33.
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[While in school, before university,] I, like almost all chemists I know, was also attracted by the smells and bangs that endowed chemistry with that slight but charismatic element of danger which is now banned from the classroom. I agree with those of us who feel that the wimpish chemistry training that schools are now forced to adopt is one possible reason that chemistry is no longer attracting as many talented and adventurous youngsters as it once did. If the decline in hands-on science education is not redressed, I doubt that we shall survive the 21st century.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 191.
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The Redwoods

Here, sown by the Creator's hand,
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand;
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now—their splendor gone;
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our day,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal;

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, oh traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.
In The Record: Volumes 60-61 (1938), 39.
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“Ye, sire,” I seide,
“By so no man were greved,
Alle the sciences under sonne,
And alle sotile craftes,
Ich wolde ich knewe and kouthe
Kyndely in myn harte.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, “so long as no one minds. All science under the sun, and all subtle arts. Were it possible, I would know and hold naturally within my heart!”
In William Langland and B. Thomas Wright (ed.) The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman (1842), 297. Modern translation by Terrence Tiller in Piers Plowman (1981, 1999), 157.
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[Et peut-être la posterité me saura gré de lui avoir fait connaître que les Anciens n’ont pas tout su.]
And perhaps, posterity will thank me for having shown that the ancients did not know everything.
'Relation of New Discoveries in the Science of Numbers', in Letter (Aug 1659) to Pierre de Carcavi, an amateur mathematician, collected in OEuvres de Fermat: Correspondance (1894), 436. Translation, used as an epigraph, in D.M. Burton, Elementary Number Theory (1976, 1989), 107.
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[In refutation of evolution] You know what, evolution is a myth. … Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?
From interview on TV show, Politically Incorrect (15 Oct 1998).
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[Interviewer: If the building you are in now started to shake and you knew an earthquake was occurring, what would you do?]
I would walk - not run - to the nearest seismograph.
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
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[Question: What do you think was the most important physics idea to emerge this year?]
We won't know for a few years.
Interview with Deborah Solomon, 'The Science of Second-Guessing', in New York Times Magazine (12 Dec 2004), 37.
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[When questioned on his longevity] First of all, I selected my ancestors very wisely. ... They were long-lived, healthy people. Then, as a chemist, I know how to eat, how to exercise, keep my blood circulating. ... I don't worry. I don't get angry at people. I don't worry about things I can't help. I do what I can to make the world a better place to live, but I don't complain if things aren't right. As a scientist I take the world as I find it.
[About celebrating his 77th birthday by swimming a half mile in 22 minutes] I used swim fins and webbed gloves because a man of intelligence should apply his power efficiently, not just churn the water.
As quoted in obituary by Wallace Turner, 'Joel Hildebrand, 101', New York Times (3 May 1983), D27.
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Ce grand ouvrage, toujours plus merveilleux à mesure qu’il est plus connu, nous donne une si grande idée de son ouvrier, que nous en sentons notre esprit accablé d’admiration et de respect.
[The Universe] This great work, always more amazing in proportion as it is better known, raises in us so grand an idea of its Maker, that we find our mind overwhelmed with feelings of wonder and adoration.
Original French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed.) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 119-120.
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Ce que nous connaissons est peu de chose; ce que nous ignorons est immense.
What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense.
Commonly said to be his last words. However, different true last words are stated by Augustus De Morgan.
Quoted in Augustus De Morgan, Budget of Paradoxes (1915), Vol. 2, 3.
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Connaître, découvrir, communiquer—telle est, au fond, notre honorable destinée.
To get to know, to discover, to publish—this is the destiny of a scientist.
From 'De L’Utiliteé des Pensions', Œuvres complètes de François Arago (1855), Vol. 3, 621. Translation as given in Alan L. MacKay in A Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977), 10.
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Der bis zur Vorrede, die ihn abweist, gelangte Leser hat das Buch für baares Geld gekauft und frägt, was ihn schadlos hält? – Meine letzte Zuflucht ist jetzt, ihn zu erinnern, daß er ein Buch, auch ohne es gerade zu lesen, doch auf mancherlei Art zu benutzen weiß. Es kann, so gut wie viele andere, eine Lücke seiner Bibliothek ausfüllen, wo es sich, sauber gebunden, gewiß gut ausnehmen wird. Oder auch er kann es seiner gelehrten Freundin auf die Toilette, oder den Theetisch legen. Oder endlich er kann ja, was gewiß das Beste von Allem ist und ich besonders rathe, es recensiren.
The reader who has got as far as the preface and is put off by that, has paid money for the book, and wants to know how he is to be compensated. My last refuge now is to remind him that he knows of various ways of using a book without precisely reading it. It can, like many another, fill a gap in his library, where, neatly bound, it is sure to look well. Or he can lay it on the dressing-table or tea-table of his learned lady friend. Or finally he can review it; this is assuredly the best course of all, and the one I specially advise.
In Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xv-xvi. As translated by E.F.J. Payne in The World as Will and Representation (1958, 1969), Vol. 1, xvii. In the preface, Schopenhauer is joking that some readers of his book may find his work does not interest them.
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Dilbert: And we know mass creates gravity because more dense planets have more gravity.
Dogbert: How do we know which planets are more dense?
Dilbert:They have more gravity.
Dogbert: That's circular reasoning.
Dilbert: I prefer to think of it as having no loose ends.
Dilbert cartoon strip (1 Mar 1999).
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Ein Fachmann ist ein Mann, der einige der gröbsten Fehler kennt, die man in dem betreffenden Fach machen kann, und der sie deshalb zu vermeiden versteht.
An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.
From the original German, “Ein Fachmann ist ein Mann, der einige der gröbsten Fehler kennt, die man in dem betreffenden Fach machen kann, und der sie deshalb zu vermeiden versteht”, in Der Teil und das Ganze: Gespräche im Umkreis der Atomphysik (The Part and the Whole: Conversations in the Atomic Physics) (1969, 2001), 247. Excerpt in magazine article, 'Kein Chaos, aus dem nicht wieder Ordnung würde,' Die Zeit (22 August 1969), 34. English version in Werner Heisenberg and Arnold J. Pomerans (trans.), Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations (1971), 210.
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Error of confounding cause and effect.—There is no more dangerous error than confounding consequence with cause: I call it the intrinsic depravity of reason. … I take an example: everybody knows the book of the celebrated Comaro, in which he recommends his spare diet as a recipe for a long and happy life,—for a virtuous life also. Few books have been read so much… I believe hardly any book … has caused so much harm, has shortened so many lives, as this well-meant curiosity. The source of this mischief is in confounding consequence with cause. The candid Italian saw in his diet the cause of his long life, while the prerequisite to long life, the extraordinary slowness of the metabolic process, small consumption, was the cause of his spare diet. He was not at liberty to eat little or much; his frugality—was not of “free will;” he became sick when he ate more.
From 'The Four Great Errors', The Twilight of the Idols (1888), collected in Thomas Common (trans.), The Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (1896), Vol. 11, 139.
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Every teacher certainly should know something of non-euclidean geometry. Thus, it forms one of the few parts of mathematics which, at least in scattered catch-words, is talked about in wide circles, so that any teacher may be asked about it at any moment. … Imagine a teacher of physics who is unable to say anything about Röntgen rays, or about radium. A teacher of mathematics who could give no answer to questions about non-euclidean geometry would not make a better impression.
On the other hand, I should like to advise emphatically against bringing non-euclidean into regular school instruction (i.e., beyond occasional suggestions, upon inquiry by interested pupils), as enthusiasts are always recommending. Let us be satisfied if the preceding advice is followed and if the pupils learn to really understand euclidean geometry. After all, it is in order for the teacher to know a little more than the average pupil.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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Gnothi seauton.
Know thyself.
Anonymous
From The Temple of Apollo at Delphi; Pausanias 10.24.1; Juvenal 11.27.
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Ich weiss viel. Ich weiss zu viel. Ich bin ein Quantengreis
I know a great deal. I know too much. I am a quantum ancient.
As quoted by Isidor Rabi in interview with Jeremy Bernstein for article, 'Physicist' The New Yorker (1970). Collected in Jeremy Bernstein, 'Rabi: The Modern Age', Experiencing Science (1978), 102. Both the original German and the translation come from Rabi.
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Il maestro di color che sanno.
The master of those who know.
Of Aristotle.
InDivina Commedia 'Inferno' canto 4, line 80.
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In a 1852 letter, Nightingale records the opinion of a young surgeon:
The account he gives of nurses beats everything that even I know of. This young prophet says that they are all drunkards, without exception, Sisters and all, and that there are but two whom the surgeon can trust to give the patients their medicines.
Letter to Miss H. Bonham Carter (8 Jan 1852), quoted in Edward Tyas Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale (1914), Vol. 1, 116.
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In primis, hominis est propria VERI inquisitio atque investigato. Itaque cum sumus negotiis necessariis, curisque vacui, tum avemus aliquid videre, audire, ac dicere, cognitionemque rerum, aut occultarum aut admirabilium, ad benè beatéque vivendum necessariam ducimus; —ex quo intelligitur, quod VERUM, simplex, sincerumque sit, id esse naturæ hominis aptissimum. Huic veri videndi cupiditati adjuncta est appetitio quædam principatûs, ut nemini parere animus benè a naturâ informatus velit, nisi præcipienti, aut docenti, aut utilitatis causâ justè et legitimè imperanti: ex quo animi magnitudo existit, et humanarum rerum contemtio.
Before all other things, man is distinguished by his pursuit and investigation of TRUTH. And hence, when free from needful business and cares, we delight to see, to hear, and to communicate, and consider a knowledge of many admirable and abstruse things necessary to the good conduct and happiness of our lives: whence it is clear that whatsoever is TRUE, simple, and direct, the same is most congenial to our nature as men. Closely allied with this earnest longing to see and know the truth, is a kind of dignified and princely sentiment which forbids a mind, naturally well constituted, to submit its faculties to any but those who announce it in precept or in doctrine, or to yield obedience to any orders but such as are at once just, lawful, and founded on utility. From this source spring greatness of mind and contempt of worldly advantages and troubles.
In De Officiis, Book 1. Sect. 13. As given in epigraph to John Frederick William Herschel, A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830), viii.
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Interviewer: Is there any science that’s not wrapped in politics?
Seitz: Oh, there are some things. The disappearance of the frog—as you know, the frog is dying worldwide. … I don’t think that has had any political repercussions other than the fact that that is happening.
Interview transcript on PBS Frontline website (24 Apr 2007). Seitz was a leading skeptic, dismissive of climate change.
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Je suis médecin. Je tiens boutique de mensonges. Je soulage, je console. Peut-on consoler et soulager sans mentir? … Les femmes et les médecins savent seuls combien le mensonge est nécessaire et bienfaisant aux hommes.
I am a physician. I keep a drug-shop of lies. I give relief, consolation. Can one console and relieve without lying? … Only women and doctors know how necessary and how helpful lies are to men.
From the fictional Dr. Trublet in Histoire Comique (1900), 171-172. As translated in Lewis P. Shanks, Anatole France (1919), 165.
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L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’univers entier s’arme pour l’écraser; une vapeur, une goutte d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’univers l’écraserait, l’homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu’il sait qu’il meurt et l’avantage que l’univers a sur lui; l’univers n'en sait rien.
Man is a reed, the feeblest thing in nature. But a reed that can think. The whole universe need not fly to arms to kill him ; for a little heat or a drop of water can slay a man. But, even then, man would be nobler than his destroyer, for he would know he died, while the whole universe would know nothing of its victory.
Pensées. As given and translated in Hugh Percy Jones (ed.), Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations (1908), 292.
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L’oeuvre de Pasteur est admirable; elle montre son génie, mais it faut avoir vécu dans son intimité pour connaître toute la bonté de son coeur.
The work of Pasteur is admirable; it shows his genius, but it must have been experienced intimately to know all the goodness of his heart.
Epigraph in René Vallery-Radot, La Vie de Pasteur (1900), title page. English by Google translation, tweaked by Webmaster. Pierre Paul Émile Roux had indeed known Pasteur well, as one of his closest collaborators.
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Les hommes ne sont pas faits pour savoir; les hommes ne sont pas faits pour comprendre … et nos illusions croissent avec nos connaissances.
Men are not created to know, men are not created to understand … and our illusions increase with our knowledge.
From the fictional Dr. Trublet in Histoire Comique (1900), 212. As translated in Lewis P. Shanks, Anatole France (1919), 165. Shanks comments that Anatole France was writing, not as “an idealist of science, but as a skeptic content to accept truths merely pragmatic. … Trublet has lost faith in absolute truth.”
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Non possunt oculi naturam noscere rerum
The eyes cannot know the nature of things.
In De Rerum Natura (c. 55 B.C.), Book 4, line 385. Translated by Rev. John Selby Watson, On the Nature of Things (1851).
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Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout. Car il est bien plus beau de savoir quelque chose de tout que de savoir rout d'une chose; cette universalité est la plus belle. Si on pouvait avoir les deux, encore mieux.
Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything, For it is far better to know something about everything than to know all about one thing.
Pensées. Quoted in Nigel Rees, Brewer's Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (2006), 249.
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Question: Explain why pipes burst in cold weather.
Answer: People who have not studied acoustics think that Thor bursts the pipes, but we know that is nothing of the kind for Professor Tyndall has burst the mythologies and has taught us that it is the natural behaviour of water (and bismuth) without which all fish would die and the earth be held in an iron grip. (1881)
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1881), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 186-7, Question 10. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.) Webmaster notes that “fish would die” may refer to being taught that water's greatest density is at 4°C, and sinks below a frozen surface, so bodies of water can remain liquid underneath, to the benefit of the fish. The student was likely taught that bismuth, like water, expands when it freezes.
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Sapere aude.
Dare to be wise.
[Alternate: Dare to know.]
Horace
Epistles bk. 1, no. 2, 1. 40. In Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough (1926), 264-5.
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Scio: tu coactus tua voluntate es.
I know it; you are constrained by your inclination.
Terence
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 383.
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Socrates: Shall we set down astronomy among the objects of study? Glaucon: I think so, to know something about the seasons, the months and the years is of use for military purposes, as well as for agriculture and for navigation. Socrates: It amuses me to see how afraid you are, lest the common herd of people should accuse you of recommending useless studies.
As quoted by Plato. In Richard Garnett, Léon Vallée, Alois Brandl (eds.), The Universal Anthology: A Collection of the Best Literature (1899), Vol. 4, 111.
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Tanquam ex ungue leonem.
One knows the lion by his claw.
Latin phrase as given in Charles Boussat, A General History of Mathematics: From the Earliest Times to the Middle of the Eighteenth Century (1803), 334. Reportedly said in 1697, after reading an anonymous solution, that he realized to be the work of Isaac Newton, by its sheer power and imagination. (The Brachistochrone curve problem was to find the shape of a slide down which a frictionless puck would slide in the least amount of time by gravity.)
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The Annotated Alice, of course, does tie in with math, because Lewis Carroll was, as you know, a professional mathematician. So it wasn’t really too far afield from recreational math, because the two books are filled with all kinds of mathematical jokes. I was lucky there in that I really didn’t have anything new to say in The Annotated Alice because I just looked over the literature and pulled together everything in the form of footnotes. But it was a lucky idea because that’s been the best seller of all my books.
In Anthony Barcellos, 'A Conversation with Martin Gardner', The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal (Sep 1979), 10, No. 4, 241.
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Thomasina: Every week I plot your equations dot for dot, x’s against y’s in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
Septimus: We do.
Thomasina: Then why do your shapes describe only the shapes of manufacture?
Septimus: I do not know.
Thomasina: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Scene 3, 37.
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Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiss nichts von seiner eigenen
He who is ignorant of foreign languages knows not his own.
Original German in Über Kunst und Alterthum (1821), 30. Quoted, in translation, in Samuel Arthur Bent, Short Sayings of Great Men: With Historical and Explanatory Notes (1882). Also seen as, “He who knows but one language knows none.”
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Wir mussen wissen. Wir werden wissen.
We must know. We will know.
Engraved on his tombstone in Göttingen. Lecture at Konigsberg, 1930. Gesammelte Abhandlungen, Vol. 3, 387, trans. Ivor Grattan-Guinness.
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CLAUDIO: Death is a fearful thing.
ISABELLA: And shamed life a hateful.
CLAUDIO: Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprisioned in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worst than worst
Of those lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling—'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisionment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
Measure for Measure (1604), III, i.
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QUEEN: Thou know’st ’tis common—all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.
Hamlet (1601), I, ii.
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~~[Attributed]~~ I have had my results for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them.
Quoted, without primary source citation, in Agnes Arber, The Mind and the Eye: A Study of the Biologist’s Standpoint (1954, 1964), 47. Arber footnotes finding the quote also in Leonard Nelson and T.K. Brown (trans.), Socratic Method and Critical Philosophy (1949, 1965), 89; W.I.B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950, 1957), 149. Notably, Arber states being “unable to trace this dictum to its original source.” With benefit of Google, Webmaster also has, yet, no success, either. In German, guessed as, “Meine Lösungen habe ich schon lange, ich weiß nur noch nicht, wie ich zu ihnen gelangel!” Webmaster found the quote in a 1968 German book, and “Meine Resultate habe ich schon lange, ich weiß nur nicht, wie ich zu ihnen gelangen kann” (1958). All of these leave a century of apparent silence before them. Can you help?
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~~[Dubious]~~ To Thales the primary question was not what do we know, but how do we know it.
Aristotle
So far, Webmaster cannot find any primary source. The statement is enclosed in quotation marks and introduced as “Aristotle observed," in The Classical World (1958), 122. However, John Burnet, in Early Greek Philosophy (1892), 41, writes “If Thales ever wrote anything, it soon was lost…. Aristotle professes to know something about the views of Thales; but he … himself simply gives them for what they are worth.” Burnet continues on page 43, “We are, perhaps, justified in holding that the greatness of Thales consisted just in this, that he was the first to ask, not what was the original form of matter, but what is the primary form of matter now.” Note that Burnet expresses this narrative form without attributing anything to Aristotle with quotation marks, and furthermore the latter statement seems to contradict the subject quote. Contact Webmaster if you can help source the subject quote.
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~~[Need source]~~ All theoretical chemistry is really physics; and all theoretical chemists know it.
Webmaster, so far, has been unable to find a primary source that adds the ending clause. (Can you help?) But Feynman certainly several times stated the idea in the opening clause. See, for example, the quote, “The theory of quantum mechanics … supplied the theory behind chemistry. So, fundamental theoretical chemistry is really physics.” on the Richard Feynman Quotes page on this website.
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~~[No known source from Adams]~~ If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
No primary source seems to exist to attribute this quote to Adams. A documented source found on the quoteinvestigator website is from Dolly Parton, in 1997. See the quote that begins, “If your actions create a legacy…”, on the Dolly Parton Quotes page of this website.
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~~[No source found]~~ There’s no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about.
Webmaster has looked for, but so far has been unable to find, a primary source with this wording. Please help if you can. Meanwhile it is included here to note its status.
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~~[Orphan ?]~~ Reason is the slow and tortuous method by which those who do not know the truth discover it.
Webmaster presently believes this is an orphan quote, best attributed to Anonymous. It seem to be unsupported when attributed to Blaise Pascal, for example, as quoted, without citation, in Morris Kline, 'Ancients versus Moderns, A New Battle of the Books', The Mathematics Teacher (Oct 1958), 51, No. 6, 423. Also later published, without citation, in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times (1972), 296. Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for this as a quote by Pascal - not in English, not in French, and not in any earlier books. This is suspicious. (Can you help?) Furthermore, this sentence is also often seen in more recent books and online quotes pages as a first sentence, followed by a second sentence, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.” The second sentence is a known Pascal quote verified in original French texts. However, Webmaster has not yet found, in any original French text, any instance of these two sentences together. Thus, putting them together more definitely appears to be a misquote. Can you help? [It is included on the Blaise Pascal page to link it with this cautionary note. —Webmaster]
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~~[source unidentified]~~ You know we all became mathematicians for the same reason: we were lazy.
(1949). Widely seen across the web, but as yet Webmaster has not been able to find the primary source. Can you help?
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~~[Unverified]~~ To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.
Seen spreading across the web, only in recent years. As yet, Webmaster cannot identify a trustworthy primary source, is therefore presently skeptical, and meanwhile labels the quote as unverified.
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3. The Third Law of Ecology: Nature knows best.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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A biologist, if he wishes to know how many toes a cat has, does not "frame the hypothesis that the number of feline digital extremities is 4, or 5, or 6," he simply looks at a cat and counts. A social scientist prefers the more long-winded expression every time, because it gives an entirely spurious impression of scientificness to what he is doing.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 151.
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A celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness.
In The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961), 57.
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A cell has a history; its structure is inherited, it grows, divides, and, as in the embryo of higher animals, the products of division differentiate on complex lines. Living cells, moreover, transmit all that is involved in their complex heredity. I am far from maintaining that these fundamental properties may not depend upon organisation at levels above any chemical level; to understand them may even call for different methods of thought; I do not pretend to know. But if there be a hierarchy of levels we must recognise each one, and the physical and chemical level which, I would again say, may be the level of self-maintenance, must always have a place in any ultimate complete description.
'Some Aspects of Biochemistry', The Irish Journal of Medical Science (1932), 79, 346.
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A chemical compound once formed would persist for ever, if no alteration took place in surrounding conditions. But to the student of Life the aspect of nature is reversed. Here, incessant, and, so far as we know, spontaneous change is the rule, rest the exception—the anomaly to be accounted for. Living things have no inertia and tend to no equilibrium.
From Address (22 Jul 1854) delivered at St. Martin’s Hall, published as a pamphlet (1854), 7, and collected in 'Educational Value of Natural History Sciences', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 75.
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A chemist who does not know mathematics is seriously handicapped.
Quoted in Albert Rosenfeld, Langmuir: The Man and the Scientist (1962), 293.
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A discovery in science, or a new theory, even when it appears most unitary and most all-embracing, deals with some immediate element of novelty or paradox within the framework of far vaster, unanalysed, unarticulated reserves of knowledge, experience, faith, and presupposition. Our progress is narrow; it takes a vast world unchallenged and for granted. This is one reason why, however great the novelty or scope of new discovery, we neither can, nor need, rebuild the house of the mind very rapidly. This is one reason why science, for all its revolutions, is conservative. This is why we will have to accept the fact that no one of us really will ever know very much. This is why we shall have to find comfort in the fact that, taken together, we know more and more.
Science and the Common Understanding (1954), 53-4.
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A discussion between Haldane and a friend began to take a predictable turn. The friend said with a sigh, “It’s no use going on. I know what you will say next, and I know what you will do next.” The distinguished scientist promptly sat down on the floor, turned two back somersaults, and returned to his seat. “There,” he said with a smile. “That’s to prove that you’re not always right.”
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 253.
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A good teacher must know the rules; a good pupil, the exceptions.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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A good title should aim at making what follows as far as possible superfluous to those who know anything of the subject.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 229.
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A great surgeon performs operations for stone by a single method; later he makes a statistical summary of deaths and recoveries, and he concludes from these statistics that the mortality law for this operation is two out of five. Well, I say that this ratio means literally nothing scientifically and gives us no certainty in performing the next operation; for we do not know whether the next case will be among the recoveries or the deaths. What really should be done, instead of gathering facts empirically, is to study them more accurately, each in its special determinism. We must study cases of death with great care and try to discover in them the cause of mortal accidents so as to master the cause and avoid the accidents.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 137-138. (Note that Bernard overlooks how the statistical method can be useful: a surgeon announcing a mortality rate of 40% invites comparison. A surgeon with worse outcomes should adopt this method. If a surgeon has a better results, that method should be adopted.)
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A historical fact is rather like the flamingo that Alice in Wonderland tried to use as a croquet mallet. As soon as she got its neck nicely straightened out and was ready to hit the ball, it would turn and look at her with a puzzled expression, and any biographer knows that what is called a “fact” has a way of doing the same.
From 'Getting at the Truth', The Saturday Review (19 Sep 1953), 36, No. 38, 11. Excerpted in Meta Riley Emberger and Marian Ross Hall, Scientific Writing (1955), 399.
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A hundred years ago … an engineer, Herbert Spencer, was willing to expound every aspect of life, with an effect on his admiring readers which has not worn off today.
Things do not happen quite in this way nowadays. This, we are told, is an age of specialists. The pursuit of knowledge has become a profession. The time when a man could master several sciences is past. He must now, they say, put all his efforts into one subject. And presumably, he must get all his ideas from this one subject. The world, to be sure, needs men who will follow such a rule with enthusiasm. It needs the greatest numbers of the ablest technicians. But apart from them it also needs men who will converse and think and even work in more than one science and know how to combine or connect them. Such men, I believe, are still to be found today. They are still as glad to exchange ideas as they have been in the past. But we cannot say that our way of life is well-fitted to help them. Why is this?
In 'The Unification of Biology', New Scientist (11 Jan 1962), 13, No. 269, 72.
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Cyril Dean Darlington quote: began his story with the history of pigeons and ended it with the breeding of primroses
A hundred years ago the study of life was often pursued, and also presented to the public, in a highly unified way. Darwin, as everyone knows, in addressing the world at large began his story with the history of pigeons and ended it with the breeding of primroses, having made excursions on the way into the origins of coral reefs and of the races of Man.
In 'The Unification of Biology', New Scientist (11 Jan 1962), 13, No. 269, 72.
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A hundred years ago, Auguste Compte, … a great philosopher, said that humans will never be able to visit the stars, that we will never know what stars are made out of, that that's the one thing that science will never ever understand, because they're so far away. And then, just a few years later, scientists took starlight, ran it through a prism, looked at the rainbow coming from the starlight, and said: “Hydrogen!” Just a few years after this very rational, very reasonable, very scientific prediction was made, that we'll never know what stars are made of.
Quoted in Nina L. Diamond, Voices of Truth (2000), 332.
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A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful, and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so.
From Address (1954) to Princeton Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Sciences and in Society', published in A.H. Taub (ed.), John von Neumann: Collected Works (1963), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted and cited in Rosemary Schmalz,Out of the Mouths of Mathematicians: A Quotation Book for Philomaths (1993), 123.
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A little learning is a dangerous thing;—not if you know how little it is.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lxvi.
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A little science is something that they must have. I should like my nephews to know what air is, and water; why we breathe, and why wood burns; the nutritive elements essential to plant life, and the constituents of the soil. And it is no vague and imperfect knowledge from hearsay I would have them gain of these fundamental truths, on which depend agriculture and the industrial arts and our health itself; I would have them know these things thoroughly from their own observation and experience. Books here are insufficient, and can serve merely as aids to scientific experiment.
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A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height, spots a man down below and asks,“Excuse me, can you help me? I promised to return the balloon to its owner, but I don’t know where I am.”
The man below says: “You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 350 feet above mean sea level and 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees west longitude.”
“You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist.
“I am,” replies the man.“How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.”
The man below says, “You must be a manager.”
“I am,” replies the balloonist,“but how did you know?”
“Well,” says the engineer,“you don’t know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem.The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault.”
Anonymous
In Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 199.
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A man who is all theory is like “a rudderless ship on a shoreless sea.” … Theories and speculations may be indulged in with safety only as long as they are based on facts that we can go back to at all times and know that we are on solid ground.
In Nature's Miracles: Familiar Talks on Science (1899), Vol. 1, Introduction, vii.
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A man who speaks out honestly and fearlessly that which he knows, and that which he believes, will always enlist the good will and the respect, however much he may fail in winning the assent, of his fellow men.
Reflection #295, Thomas Henry Huxley and Henrietta A. Huxley (ed.), Aphorisms and Reflections from the Works of T.H. Huxley (1907).
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A metaphysician is one who, when you remark that twice two makes four, demands to know what you mean by twice, what by two, what by makes, and what by four. For asking such questions metaphysicians are supported in oriental luxury in the universities, and respected as educated and intelligent men.
A previously unpublished epigram, added in A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 13-14.
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A moment’s consideration of this case shows what a really great advance in the theory and practise of breeding has been obtained through the discovery of Mendel’s law. What a puzzle this case would have presented to the biologist ten years ago! Agouti crossed with chocolate gives in the second filial generation (not in the first) four varieties, viz., agouti, chocolate, black and cinnamon. We could only have shaken our heads and looked wise (or skeptical).
Then we had no explanation to offer for such occurrences other than the “instability of color characters under domestication,” the “effects of inbreeding,” “maternal impressions.” Serious consideration would have been given to the proximity of cages containing both black and cinnamon-agouti mice.
Now we have a simple, rational explanation, which anyone can put to the test. We are able to predict the production of new varieties, and to produce them.
We must not, of course, in our exuberance, conclude that the powers of the hybridizer know no limits. The result under consideration consists, after all, only in the making of new combinations of unit characters, but it is much to know that these units exist and that all conceivable combinations of them are ordinarily capable of production. This valuable knowledge we owe to the discoverer and to the rediscoverers of Mendel’s law.
'New Colour Variety of the Guinea Pig', Science, 1908, 28, 250-252.
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A paranoid man is a man who knows a little about what’s going on.
…...
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A peacetime draft is the most un-American thing I know.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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A person is smart. People are dumb ... Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
Anonymous
Character Agent K in movie Men in Black(1997), screen story and screenplay by Ed Solomon. Quoted in George Aichele, Culture, Entertainment and the Bible (2000), 26. In a footnote, from the post-movie novel by Steve Perry, Men in Black (1997), 66, is added, 'Yeah. A hundred years from now, whoever is here will probably pee themselves laughing at what we believe.'
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A physician is someone who knows everything and does nothing.
A surgeon is someone who does everything and knows nothing.
A psychiatrist is someone who knows nothing and does nothing.
A pathologist is someone who knows everything and does everything too late.
Anonymous
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A physician’s subject of study is necessarily the patient, and his first field for observation is the hospital. But if clinical observation teaches him to know the form and course of diseases, it cannot suffice to make him understand their nature; to this end he must penetrate into the body to find which of the internal parts are injured in their functions. That is why dissection of cadavers and microscopic study of diseases were soon added to clinical observation. But to-day these various methods no longer suffice; we must push investigation further and, in analyzing the elementary phenomena of organic bodies, must compare normal with abnormal states. We showed elsewhere how incapable is anatomy alone to take account of vital phenenoma, and we saw that we must add study of all physico-chemical conditions which contribute necessary elements to normal or pathological manifestations of life. This simple suggestion already makes us feel that the laboratory of a physiologist-physician must be the most complicated of all laboratories, because he has to experiment with phenomena of life which are the most complex of all natural phenomena.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 140-141.
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A physicist learns more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about nothing; whereas a philosopher learns less and less about more and more, until he knows nothing about everything.
Anonymous
Saying.
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A plain, reasonable working man supposes, in the old way which is also the common-sense way, that if there are people who spend their lives in study, whom he feeds and keeps while they think for him—then no doubt these men are engaged in studying things men need to know; and he expects of science that it will solve for him the questions on which his welfare, and that of all men, depends. He expects science to tell him how he ought to live: how to treat his family, his neighbours and the men of other tribes, how to restrain his passions, what to believe in and what not to believe in, and much else. And what does our science say to him on these matters?
It triumphantly tells him: how many million miles it is from the earth to the sun; at what rate light travels through space; how many million vibrations of ether per second are caused by light, and how many vibrations of air by sound; it tells of the chemical components of the Milky Way, of a new element—helium—of micro-organisms and their excrements, of the points on the hand at which electricity collects, of X rays, and similar things.
“But I don't want any of those things,” says a plain and reasonable man—“I want to know how to live.”
In 'Modern Science', Essays and Letters (1903), 221-222.
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A practical botanist will distinguish, at the first glance, the plant of different quarters of the globe, and yet will be at a loss to tell by what mark he detects them. There is, I know not what look—sinister, dry, obscure, in African plants; superb and elevated in the Asiatic; smooth and cheerful in the American; stunted and indurated in the Alpine.
Quoted in William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 3, 355-356, citing ‘Philosophia Botanica’ (1751), 171.
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A professor … may be to produce a perfect mathematical work of art, having every axiom stated, every conclusion drawn with flawless logic, the whole syllabus covered. This sounds excellent, but in practice the result is often that the class does not have the faintest idea of what is going on. … The framework is lacking; students do not know where the subject fits in, and this has a paralyzing effect on the mind.
In A Concrete Approach to Abstract Algebra (1959), 1-2.
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A reference to the two sorts of doctors is also found in the Republic: “Now you know that when patients do not require medicine, but have only to be put under a regimen, the inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of a man.”
Osler is referring to Plato’s Dialogues, iii, 153. In Address (1893) to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Historical Club, 'Physic and Physicians as Depicted in Plato', collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 70.
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A scientist has to be neutral in his search for the truth, but he cannot be neutral as to the use of that truth when found. If you know more than other people, you have more responsibility, rather than less.
Attributed as a quote, without citation, in J. Robert Moskin, Morality in America (1966), 61. Please contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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A scientist lives with all of reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it and eventually to love it.
…...
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A scientist lives with all reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it, and eventually to love it.
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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A scientist reads many books in his lifetime, and knows he still has a lot to learn. A religious man barely reads one book, and thinks he knows everything.
Anonymous
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A scientist should be the happiest of men. Not that science isn't serious; but as everyone knows, being serious is one way of being happy, just as being gay is one way of being unhappy.
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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A scientist who would know the laws of nature must sit passively before nature. He may not dictate to nature its laws, nor may he impose his own intelligence upon nature; rather, the more passive he is before nature, the more nature will reveal its secrets.
In The World's First Love (1952, 2010), 107.
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A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
In recent years, this has been widely quoted and cited as an (ancient?) Greek proverb. Seen, for example in, Violence on Television: Hearings Before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance (1994), 340. Webmaster however has so far found no example of this wording in, say, 19th century quotation collections. Which leaves the authenticity of the citation in question. Variations exist (for example “The beginning of wisdom comes when a person plants trees, the shade under which they know they will never sit.” (1993) or “Thoughtless men might ask why an old man plants a tree when he may never hope to sit in its shade” (1954).) However, the general sentiment has indeed existed for a long time. For example, “He that plants Trees, loves others besides himself,” collected in Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs (1731), 91, No. 2248.
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A strict materialist believes that everything depends on the motion of matter. He knows the form of the laws of motion though he does not know all their consequences when applied to systems of unknown complexity.
Now one thing in which the materialist (fortified with dynamical knowledge) believes is that if every motion great & small were accurately reversed, and the world left to itself again, everything would happen backwards the fresh water would collect out of the sea and run up the rivers and finally fly up to the clouds in drops which would extract heat from the air and evaporate and afterwards in condensing would shoot out rays of light to the sun and so on. Of course all living things would regrede from the grave to the cradle and we should have a memory of the future but not of the past.
The reason why we do not expect anything of this kind to take place at any time is our experience of irreversible processes, all of one kind, and this leads to the doctrine of a beginning & an end instead of cyclical progression for ever.
Letter to Mark Pattison (7 Apr 1868). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 360-1.
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A topologist is one who doesn’t know the difference between a doughnut and a coffee cup.
In General Topology (1955), 88, footnote.
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A troubling question for those of us committed to the widest application of intelligence in the study and solution of the problems of men is whether a general understanding of the social sciences will be possible much longer. Many significant areas of these disciplines have already been removed by the advances of the past two decades beyond the reach of anyone who does not know mathematics; and the man of letters is increasingly finding, to his dismay, that the study of mankind proper is passing from his hands to those of technicians and specialists. The aesthetic effect is admittedly bad: we have given up the belletristic “essay on man” for the barbarisms of a technical vocabulary, or at best the forbidding elegance of mathematical syntax.
Opening paragraph of 'The Study of Man: Sociology Learns the Language of Mathematics' in Commentary (1 Sep 1952). Reprinted in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 2, 1294.
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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children. [Misattributed?]
Probably not an authentic quote by Audubon. For example, attributed without citation, in Guy Dauncey and Patrick Mazza, Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (2001), 211. Compare with how Wendell Berry quotes the idea in 1971, “I am speaking of the life of a man who knows the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” (See elsewhere on this site). So far, Webmaster has found no instance of the quote contemporary with Audubon. If you know a primary print source exists, please contact webmaster.
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A very small cause which escapes our notice determines a considerable effect that we cannot fail to see, and then we say that the effect is due to chance. If we knew exactly the laws of nature and the situation of the universe at the initial moment, we could predict exactly the situation of that same universe at a succeeding moment.
In 'Chance', Science et Méthode (1908). Quoted in Richard Kautz, Chaos: The Science of Predictable Random Motion (2011), 167 as translated in Science and Method by F. Maitland (1918).
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A Vulgar Mechanick can practice what he has been taught or seen done, but if he is in an error he knows not how to find it out and correct it, and if you put him out of his road, he is at a stand; Whereas he that is able to reason nimbly and judiciously about figure, force and motion, is never at rest till he gets over every rub.
Letter (25 May 1694) to Nathaniel Hawes. In J. Edleston (ed.), Correspondence of Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Cotes (1850), 284.
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A week or so after I learned that I was to receive the Miller Award, our president, Marty Morton, phoned and asked me if I would utter a few words of scientific wisdom as a part of the ceremony. Unfortunately for me, and perhaps for you, I agreed to do so. In retrospect I fear that my response was a serious error, because I do not feel wise. I do not know whether to attribute my response to foolhardiness, to conceit, to an inordinate susceptibility to flattery, to stupidity, or to some combination of these unfortunate attributes all of which I have been told are recognizable in my personality. Personally, I tend to favor stupidity, because that is a condition over which I have little control.
Bartholomew, April 1993, unpublished remarks when receiving the Miller Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society.
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A wise system of education will at least teach us how little man yet knows, how much he has still to learn.
The Pleasures of Life (Appleton, 1887), 132, or (2007), 73.
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A writer must be as objective as a chemist: he must abandon the subjective line; he must know that dung-heaps play a very reasonable part in a landscape, and that the evil passions are as inherent in life as good ones.
Letter to M. V. Kiselev (14 Jan 1887). In L. S. Friedland (ed.), Anton Chekhov: Letters on the Short Story (1967).
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About 85 per cent of my “thinking” time was spent getting into a position to think, to make a decision, to learn something I needed to know. Much more time went into finding or obtaining information than into digesting it. Hours went into the plotting of graphs... When the graphs were finished, the relations were obvious at once, but the plotting had to be done in order to make them so.
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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Absolute space, that is to say, the mark to which it would be necessary to refer the earth to know whether it really moves, has no objective existence…. The two propositions: “The earth turns round” and “it is more convenient to suppose the earth turns round” have the same meaning; there is nothing more in the one than in the other.
From La Science et l’Hypothèse (1908), 141, as translated by George Bruce Halsted in Science and Hypothesis (1905), 85-86. From the original French, “L’espace absolu, c’est-à-dire le repère auquel il faudrait rapporter la terre pour savoir si réellement elle tourne, n’a aucune existence objective. … Ces deux propositions: ‘la terre tourne’, et: ‘il est plus commode de supposer que la terre tourne’, ont un seul et même sens; il n’y a rien de plus dans l’une que dans l’autre.”
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Abstruse mathematical researches … are … often abused for having no obvious physical application. The fact is that the most useful parts of science have been investigated for the sake of truth, and not for their usefulness. A new branch of mathematics, which has sprung up in the last twenty years, was denounced by the Astronomer Royal before the University of Cambridge as doomed to be forgotten, on account of its uselessness. Now it turns out that the reason why we cannot go further in our investigations of molecular action is that we do not know enough of this branch of mathematics.
In 'Conditions of Mental Development', Lectures and Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 115.
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According to astronomers, next week Wednesday will occur twice. They say such a thing happens only once every 60,000 years and although they don’t know why it occurs, they’re glad they have an extra day to figure it out.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 105.
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According to the conclusion of Dr. Hutton, and of many other geologists, our continents are of definite antiquity, they have been peopled we know not how, and mankind are wholly unacquainted with their origin. According to my conclusions drawn from the same source, that of facts, our continents are of such small antiquity, that the memory of the revolution which gave them birth must still be preserved among men; and thus we are led to seek in the book of Genesis the record of the history of the human race from its origin. Can any object of importance superior to this be found throughout the circle of natural science?
An Elementary Treatise on Geology (1809), 82.
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Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one.
In 'December: Pines above the Snow', A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There (1949, 1987), 81.
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Adam, the first man, didn’t know anything about the nucleus but Dr. George Gamow, visiting professor from George Washington University, pretends he does. He says for example that the nucleus is 0.00000000000003 feet in diameter. Nobody believes it, but that doesn't make any difference to him.
He also says that the nuclear energy contained in a pound of lithium is enough to run the United States Navy for a period of three years. But to get this energy you would have to heat a mixture of lithium and hydrogen up to 50,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit. If one has a little stove of this temperature installed at Stanford, it would burn everything alive within a radius of 10,000 miles and broil all the fish in the Pacific Ocean.
If you could go as fast as nuclear particles generally do, it wouldn’t take you more than one ten-thousandth of a second to go to Miller's where you could meet Gamow and get more details.
'Gamow interviews Gamow' Stanford Daily, 25 Jun 1936. In Helge Kragh, Cosmology and Controversy: The Historica1 Development of Two Theories of the Universe (1996), 90.
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Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.
…...
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After Gibbs, one the most distinguished [American scientists] was Langley, of the Smithsonian. … He had the physicist’s heinous fault of professing to know nothing between flashes of intense perception. … Rigidly denying himself the amusement of philosophy, which consists chiefly in suggesting unintelligible answers to insoluble problems, and liked to wander past them in a courteous temper, even bowing to them distantly as though recognizing their existence, while doubting their respectability.
The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography? (1918), 377.
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After that, I thought about what a proposition generally needs in order to be true and certain because, since I had just found one that I knew was such, I thought I should also know what this certainty consists in. Having noticed that there is nothing at all in the proposition “I think, therefore I am” [cogito ergo sum] which convinces me that I speak the truth, apart from the fact that I see very clearly that one has to exist in order to think, I judged that I could adopt as a general rule that those things we conceive very clearly and distinctly are all true. The only outstanding difficulty is in recognizing which ones we conceive distinctly.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 4, 25.
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Aging is an inevitable process. I surely wouldn't want to grow younger. The older you become, the more you know; your bank account of knowledge is much richer.
Found in several quote books, but without citation, for example, in Tom Crisp, The Book of Bill: Choice Words Memorable Men (2009), 220. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that for which he has no grounds for professing to believe.
In Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1913), Vol. 3, 98, footnote 2.
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Alexander the king of the Macedonians, began like a wretch to learn geometry, that he might know how little the earth was, whereof he had possessed very little. Thus, I say, like a wretch for this, because he was to understand that he did bear a false surname. For who can be great in so small a thing? Those things that were delivered were subtile, and to be learned by diligent attention: not which that mad man could perceive, who sent his thoughts beyond the ocean sea. Teach me, saith he, easy things. To whom his master said: These things be the same, and alike difficult unto all. Think thou that the nature of things saith this. These things whereof thou complainest, they are the same unto all: more easy things can be given unto none; but whosoever will, shall make those things more easy unto himself. How? With uprightness of mind.
In Thomas Lodge (trans.), 'Epistle 91', The Workes of Lucius Annaeus Seneca: Both Morrall and Naturall (1614), 383. Also in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica (1914), 135.
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All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
The Blind Watchmaker (1986), 5.
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All men by nature desire to know.
Aristotle
Metaphysics, 980a, 21. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 2, 1552.
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All of modern physics is governed by that magnificent and thoroughly confusing discipline called quantum mechanics ... It has survived all tests and there is no reason to believe that there is any flaw in it.... We all know how to use it and how to apply it to problems; and so we have learned to live with the fact that nobody can understand it.
…...
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All of us are interested in our roots. Generally this interest is latent in youth, and grows with age. Until I reached fifty I thought that history of science was a refuge for old scientists whose creative juices had dried up. Now of course I know that I was wrong! As we grow older, we become more interested in the past, in family history, local history, etc. Astronomy is, or was when I started in it, almost a family.
In Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy (2002), Vol. 3, 206.
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All our knowledge derived from observation … is knowledge gotten at first hand. Hereby we see and know things as they are, or as they appear to us; we take the impressions of them on our minds from the original objects themselves which give a clearer and stronger conception of things.
In Interesting Anecdotes, Memoirs, Allegories, Essays, and Poetical Fragments (1793), Vols 3-4, Vol 4, 72.
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All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than the animals that know nothing. A day will come when science will turn upon its error and no longer hesitate to shorten our woes. A day will come when it will dare and act with certainty; when life, grown wiser, will depart silently at its hour, knowing that it has reached its term.
Our Eternity, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (1913), 24.
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All science is full of statements where you put your best face on your ignorance, where you say: … we know awfully little about this, but more or less irrespective of the stuff we don’t know about, we can make certain useful deductions.
From Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967), 11.
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All sorts of computer errors are now turning up. You'd be surprised to know the number of doctors who claim they are treating pregnant men.
Anonymous
Official of the Quebec Health Insurance Board, on Use of Computers in Quebec Province's Comprehensive Medical-care system. F. 19, 4:5. In Barbara Bennett and Linda Amster, Who Said What (and When, and Where, and How) in 1971: December-June, 1971 (1972), Vol. 1, 38. (Later sources cite Isaac Asimov.)
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All that Anatomie can doe is only to shew us the gross and sensible parts of the body, or the vapid and dead juices all which, after the most diligent search, will be noe more able to direct a physician how to cure a disease than how to make a man; for to remedy the defects of a part whose organicall constitution and that texture whereby it operates, he cannot possibly know, is alike hard, as to make a part which he knows not how is made. Now it is certaine and beyond controversy that nature performs all her operations on the body by parts so minute and insensible that I thinke noe body will ever hope or pretend, even by the assistance of glasses or any other intervention, to come to a sight of them, and to tell us what organicall texture or what kinde offerment (for whether it be done by one or both of these ways is yet a question and like to be soe always notwithstanding all the endeavours of the most accurate dissections) separate any part of the juices in any of the viscera, or tell us of what liquors the particles of these juices are, or if this could be donne (which it is never like to be) would it at all contribute to the cure of the diseases of those very parts which we so perfectly knew.
'Anatomie' (1668). Quoted in Kenneth Dewhurst (ed.), Dr. Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689): His Life and Original Writings (1966), 85-6.
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All that can be said upon the number and nature of elements is, in my opinion, confined to discussions entirely of a metaphysical nature. The subject only furnishes us with indefinite problems, which may be solved in a thousand different ways, not one of which, in all probability, is consistent with nature. I shall therefore only add upon this subject, that if, by the term elements, we mean to express those simple and indivisible atoms of which matter is composed, it is extremely probable we know nothing at all about them; but, if we apply the term elements, or principles of bodies, to express our idea of the last point which analysis is capable of reaching, we must admit, as elements, all the substances into which we are capable, by any means, to reduce bodies by decomposition.
Elements of Chemistry (1790), trans. R. Kerr, Preface, xxiv.
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All the different classes of beings which taken together make up the universe are, in the ideas of God who knows distinctly their essential gradations, only so many ordinates of a single curve so closely united that it would be impossible to place others between any two of them, since that would imply disorder and imperfection. Thus men are linked with the animals, these with the plants and these with the fossils which in turn merge with those bodies which our senses and our imagination represent to us as absolutely inanimate. And, since the law of continuity requires that when the essential attributes of one being approximate those of another all the properties of the one must likewise gradually approximate those of the other, it is necessary that all the orders of natural beings form but a single chain, in which the various classes, like so many rings, are so closely linked one to another that it is impossible for the senses or the imagination to determine precisely the point at which one ends and the next begins?all the species which, so to say, lie near the borderlands being equivocal, at endowed with characters which might equally well be assigned to either of the neighboring species. Thus there is nothing monstrous in the existence zoophytes, or plant-animals, as Budaeus calls them; on the contrary, it is wholly in keeping with the order of nature that they should exist. And so great is the force of the principle of continuity, to my thinking, that not only should I not be surprised to hear that such beings had been discovered?creatures which in some of their properties, such as nutrition or reproduction, might pass equally well for animals or for plants, and which thus overturn the current laws based upon the supposition of a perfect and absolute separation of the different orders of coexistent beings which fill the universe;?not only, I say, should I not be surprised to hear that they had been discovered, but, in fact, I am convinced that there must be such creatures, and that natural history will perhaps some day become acquainted with them, when it has further studied that infinity of living things whose small size conceals them for ordinary observation and which are hidden in the bowels of the earth and the depth of the sea.
Lettre Prétendue de M. De Leibnitz, à M. Hermann dont M. Koenig a Cité le Fragment (1753), cxi-cxii, trans. in A. O. Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (1936), 144-5.
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All the fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me no closer to answer the question, “What are light quanta?” Of course today every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself.
(1951). Quoted in Raymond W. Lam, Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond (1998), 1.
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All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.
In Pensées (1670), Section 4, No. 2. As translated in Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', No. 139, collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 52. Also seen translated as, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” From the original French, “Tout le malheur des hommes vient d’une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos, dans une chambre,” in Ernest Havet (ed.), Pensées de Pascal (1892), 152.
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All things are hidden, obscure and debatable if the cause of the phenomena is unknown, but everything is clear if its cause be known.
In Louis Pasteur and Harold Clarence Ernst (trans), The Germ Theory and Its Application to Medicine and Surgery, Chap. 2. Reprinted in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics: Scientific Papers: Physiology, Medicine, Surgery, Geology (1897, 1910), Vol. 38, 384. Cited as read before French Academy of Science (20 Apr 1878), published in Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences, 84, 1037-43.
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All war is murder, robbery, trickery, and no nation ever escaped losses of men, prosperity and virility. War knows no victor.
From his last public address in Palo Alto, California (30 July 1928), as quoted in 'David Starr Jordan Dies at Age of 80', New York Times (20 Sep 1931), N6.
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All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it’s pretty damn complicated in the first place.
In Mostly Harmless (1992), 195.
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Almost every reality you “know” at any given second is a mere ghost held in memory.
In 'Reality is a Shared Hallucination', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 72.
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Although I have several agents who know the Niam-Niam country, I did not dare to make anything of their unreliable statements before I could orient myself. These Nubians are unpredictable to a high degree, they have a very poor memory for names and practically no human idea of the points of the compass; the agents of the merchants of Khartoum who are entrusted with such great journeys are to the last man absolute liars, braggarts and habitual fibbers.
In August Petermann, Petermann’s Geographische Mittheilungen (1870), 20. As quoted and cited in Kathrin Fritsch, '"You Have Everything Confused And Mixed Up…!" Georg Schweinfurth, Knowledge And Cartography Of Africa In The 19th Century', History in Africa (2009), 36, 93-94. Fritsch comments how at that point in his travels, thus far, Schweinfurth “did not appear to understand their geographical orientation and with his European prejudice he chose to view all Nubians as braggarts and liars.
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Although this may seem a paradox, all exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in infering that he is an inexact man. Every careful measurement in science is always given with the probable error ... every observer admits that he is likely wrong, and knows about how much wrong he is likely to be.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 42.
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Although we know nothing of what an atom is, yet we cannot resist forming some idea of a small particle, which represents it to the mind ... there is an immensity of facts which justify us in believing that the atoms of matter are in some way endowed or associated with electrical powers, to which they owe their most striking qualities, and amongst them their mutual chemical affinity.
[Summarizing his investigations in electrolysis.]
Experimental Researches in Electricity (1839), section 852. Cited in Laurie M. Brown, Abraham Pais, Brian Pippard, Twentieth Century Physics (1995), Vol. 1, 51.
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An article in Bioscience in November 1987 by Julie Ann Miller claimed the cortex was a “quarter-meter square.” That is napkin-sized, about ten inches by ten inches. Scientific American magazine in September 1992 upped the ante considerably with an estimate of 1½ square meters; that’s a square of brain forty inches on each side, getting close to the card-table estimate. A psychologist at the University of Toronto figured it would cover the floor of his living room (I haven’t seen his living room), but the prize winning estimate so far is from the British magazine New Scientist’s poster of the brain published in 1993 which claimed that the cerebral cortex, if flattened out, would cover a tennis court. How can there be such disagreement? How can so many experts not know how big the cortex is? I don’t know, but I’m on the hunt for an expert who will say the cortex, when fully spread out, will cover a football field. A Canadian football field.
In The Burning House: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain (1994, 1995), 11.
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An engineer [is] one of those people who make things work without even understanding how they function. … Today I would add: one of those people who are unable to make anything work, but think they know why it doesn’t function!
In 'Sundays in a Quantum Engineer’s Life', collected in Reinhold A. Bertlmann, A. Zeilinger (eds.),Quantum (Un)speakables: From Bell to Quantum Information (2002), 199.
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An essential [of an inventor] is a logical mind that sees analogies. No! No! not mathematical. No man of a mathematical habit of mind ever invented anything that amounted to much. He hasn’t the imagination to do it. He sticks too close to the rules, and to the things he is mathematically sure he knows, to create anything new.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 187.
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Analogy is a wonderful, useful and most important form of thinking, and biology is saturated with it. Nothing is worse than a horrible mass of undigested facts, and facts are indigestible unless there is some rhyme or reason to them. The physicist, with his facts, seeks reason; the biologist seeks something very much like rhyme, and rhyme is a kind of analogy.... This analogizing, this fine sweeping ability to see likenesses in the midst of differences is the great glory of biology, but biologists don't know it.... They have always been so fascinated and overawed by the superior prestige of exact physical science that they feel they have to imitate it.... In its central content, biology is not accurate thinking, but accurate observation and imaginative thinking, with great sweeping generalizations.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 98-100.
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And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness”' as by a boundary; not by something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle itself is a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself-do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?—This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!
The Will to Power (Notes written 1883-1888), book 4, no. 1067. Trans. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale and ed. W. Kaufmann (1968), 549-50.
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And from true lordship it follows that the true God is living, intelligent, and powerful; from the other perfections, that he is supreme, or supremely perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, he endures from eternity to eternity; and he is present from infinity to infinity; he rules all things, and he knows all things that happen or can happen.
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), General Scholium, 941.
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And I do not take my medicines from the apothecaries; their shops are but foul sculleries, from which comes nothing but foul broths. As for you, you defend your kingdom with belly-crawling and flattery. How long do you think this will last? ... let me tell you this: every little hair on my neck knows more than you and all your scribes, and my shoebuckles are more learned than your Galen and Avicenna, and my beard has more experience than all your high colleges.
'Credo', in J. Jacobi (ed.), Paracelsus: Selected Writings (1951), 80.
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And Lady Luck remains tantalizingly in the shadows, pulling some of evolution's strings—but nobody knows how many.
'Weird Wonders', Scientific American, June 1992, 14.
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And men ought to know that from nothing else but thence [from the brain] come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and hat are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory... And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us... All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy... In these ways I am of the opinion that the brain exercises the greatest power in the man. This is the interpreter to us of those things which emanate from the air, when it [the brain] happens to be in a sound state.
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 344-5.
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And there are absolutely no judgments (or rules) in Mechanics which do not also pertain to Physics, of which Mechanics is a part or type: and it is as natural for a clock, composed of wheels of a certain kind, to indicate the hours, as for a tree, grown from a certain kind of seed, to produce the corresponding fruit. Accordingly, just as when those who are accustomed to considering automata know the use of some machine and see some of its parts, they easily conjecture from this how the other parts which they do not see are made: so, from the perceptible effects and parts of natural bodies, I have attempted to investigate the nature of their causes and of their imperceptible parts.
Principles of Philosophy (1644), trans. V. R. and R. P. Miller (1983), 285-6.
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Anthropology has reached that point of development where the careful investigation of facts shakes our firm belief in the far-reaching theories that have been built up. The complexity of each phenomenon dawns on our minds, and makes us desirous of proceeding more cautiously. Heretofore we have seen the features common to all human thought. Now we begin to see their differences. We recognize that these are no less important than their similarities, and the value of detailed studies becomes apparent. Our aim has not changed, but our method must change. We are still searching for the laws that govern the growth of human culture, of human thought; but we recognize the fact that before we seek for what is common to all culture, we must analyze each culture by careful and exact methods, as the geologist analyzes the succession and order of deposits, as the biologist examines the forms of living matter. We see that the growth of human culture manifests itself in the growth of each special culture. Thus we have come to understand that before we can build up the theory of the growth of all human culture, we must know the growth of cultures that we find here and there among the most primitive tribes of the Arctic, of the deserts of Australia, and of the impenetrable forests of South America; and the progress of the civilization of antiquity and of our own times. We must, so far as we can, reconstruct the actual history of mankind, before we can hope to discover the laws underlying that history.
The Jesup North Pacific Expedition: Memoir of the American Museum of Natural History (1898), Vol. 1, 4.
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Any chemist reading this book can see, in some detail, how I have spent most of my mature life. They can become familiar with the quality of my mind and imagination. They can make judgements about my research abilities. They can tell how well I have documented my claims of experimental results. Any scientist can redo my experiments to see if they still work—and this has happened! I know of no other field in which contributions to world culture are so clearly on exhibit, so cumulative, and so subject to verification.
From Design to Discovery (1990), 119-20.
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Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
…...
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Any one who has studied the history of science knows that almost every great step therein has been made by the “anticipation of Nature,” that is, by the invention of hypotheses, which, though verifiable, often had very little foundation to start with; and, not unfrequently, in spite of a long career of usefulness, turned out to be wholly erroneous in the long run.
In 'The Progress of Science 1837-1887' (1887), Collected Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 62.
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Any urine that turns black is so extremely malignant that I do not know anyone who has micturated black urine and survived.
As quoted in Robert Taylor, White Coat Tales: Medicine's Heroes, Heritage, and Misadventures (2010), 125.
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Anybody who looks at living organisms knows perfectly well that they can produce other organisms like themselves. This is their normal function, they wouldn’t exist if they didn’t do this, and it’s not plausible that this is the reason why they abound in the world. In other words, living organisms are very complicated aggregations of elementary parts, and by any reasonable theory of probability or thermodynamics highly improbable. That they should occur in the world at all is a miracle of the first magnitude; the only thing which removes, or mitigates, this miracle is that they reproduce themselves. Therefore, if by any peculiar accident there should ever be one of them, from there on the rules of probability do not apply, and there will be many of them, at least if the milieu is reasonable. But a reasonable milieu is already a thermodynamically much less improbable thing. So, the operations of probability somehow leave a loophole at this point, and it is by the process of self-reproduction that they are pierced.
From lecture series on self-replicating machines at the University of Illinois, Lecture 5 (Dec 1949), 'Re-evaluation of the Problems of Complicated Automata—Problems of Hierarchy and Evolution', Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (1966).
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Anyone who has had actual contact with the making of the inventions that built the radio art knows that these inventions have been the product of experiment and work based on physical reasoning, rather than on the mathematicians' calculations and formulae. Precisely the opposite impression is obtained from many of our present day text books and publications.
Attributed.
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Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world; knowing they’re going to light the bottom, and doesn’t get a little worried, does not fully understand the situation.
Response to question whether he was worried about embarking on the first space shuttle flight. As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.
In 'The New Education', The Basilian Teacher (1967), 11, No. 2, 68, as quoted and cited in Matteo Ciastellardi and Emanuela Patti (eds.), Article by Robert K. Logan, 'McLuhan Misunderstood: Setting the Record Straight, Section 8, 'McLuhan’s One Liners Clarified', International Journal of McLuhan Studies: Understanding Media, Today. McLuhan in the Era of Convergence Culture (2011). Logan explains this quote as: “What McLuhan was saying was simply that in the electric age of information overload in which there are so many distractions one has to keep students entertained to hold their attention so as to educate them or turned around; students educate themselves by entertaining themselves. … The proof of this assertion is that the most effective teachers and professors are the ones that are the most entertaining, i.e. most able to hold the attention of their students.”
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Anyone who writes about science must know about science, which cuts down competition considerably.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 262.
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Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been.
…...
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ARCHIMEDES. On hearing his name, shout “Eureka!” Or else: “Give me a fulcrum and I will move the world”. There is also Archimedes’ screw, but you are not expected to know what that is.
The Dictionary of Accepted Ideas (1881), trans. Jaques Barzun (1968), 15.
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Ardent desire for knowledge, in fact, is the one motive attracting and supporting investigators in their efforts; and just this knowledge, really grasped and yet always flying before them, becomes at once their sole torment and their sole happiness. Those who do not know the torment of the unknown cannot have the joy of discovery which is certainly the liveliest that the mind of man can ever feel.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1927, 1957), 221-222, as translated by Henry Copley Greene. From the original French by Claude Bernard: “Le désir ardent de la connaissance est l’unique mobile qui attire et soutient l’investigateur dans ses efforts; et c’est précisément cette connaissance qu’il saisit réellement et qui fuit cependant toujours devant lui, qui devient à la fois son seul tourment et son seul bonheur. Celui qui ne connaît pas les tourments de l’inconnu doit ignorer les joies de la découverte qui sont certainement les plus vives que l’esprit de l’homme puisse jamais ressentir.” (1865), 388. A Google translation gives: “The ardent desire for knowledge is the only motive which attracts and sustains the inquirer in his efforts; and it is precisely this knowledge which he really grasps and which nevertheless always flees before him, which becomes at the same time his only torment and his only happiness. He who does not know the torments of the unknown must ignore the joys of discovery which are certainly the most vivid that the mind of man can ever experience.”
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Arithmetic tells you how many you lose or win if you know how many you had before you lost or won.
From 'Arithmetic', Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960), 115.
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Armed with all the powers, enjoying all the wealth they owe to science, our societies are still trying to practice and to teach systems of values already destroyed at the roots by that very science. Man knows at last that he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the universe, whence which he has emerged by chance. His duty, like his fate, is written nowhere.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 171.
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Art includes everything that stimulates the desire to live; science, everything that sharpens the desire to know. Art, even the most disinterested, the most disembodied, is the auxiliary of life.
Rémy de Gourmont and Glenn Stephen Burne (ed.), Selected Writings (1966), 170.
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As a scientist and geneticist I started to feel that science would probably soon reach the point where its interference into the life processes would be counterproductive if a properly designed governing policy was not implemented. A heavily overcrowded planet, ninety-five percent urbanized with nuclear energy as the main source of energy and with all aspects of life highly computerized, is not too pleasant a place for human life. The life of any individual soon will be predictable from birth to death. Medicine, able to cure almost everything, will make the load of accumulated defects too heavy in the next two or three centuries. The artificial prolongation of life, which looked like a very bright idea when I started research in aging about twenty-five years ago, has now lost its attractiveness for me. This is because I now know that the aging process is so multiform and complex that the real technology and chemistry of its prevention by artificial interference must be too complex and expensive. It would be the privilege of a few, not the method for the majority. I also was deeply concerned about the fact that most research is now either directly or indirectly related to military projects and objectives for power.
Quoted in 'Zhores A(leksandrovich) Medvedev', Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.
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As a scientist, I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect.
In The God Delusion (2007), 321. As cited in John C. Weaver and John David Weaver, Christianity and Science (1973, 1984), 22.
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As far as we know in the universe, man is unique. He happens to represent the highest form of organization of matter and energy that has ever appeared.
In The Meaning of Evolution (Rev.Ed. 1967), 345.
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As followers of natural science we know nothing of any relation between thoughts and the brain, except as a gross correlation in time and space.
Man on his Nature (1942), 290.
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As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.
Letter to an interested layman (13 Feb 1934). In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Albert Einstein: The Human Side: New Glipses From His Archives (1981), 18.
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As for what I have done as a poet, I take no pride in whatever. Excellent poets have lived at the same time with me, poets more excellent lived before me, and others will come after me. But that in my country I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colors—of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here have a consciousness of superiority to many.
Wed 18 Feb 1829. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorhead and trans. J. Oxenford, (1971), 302.
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As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the other day, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read, as part of his duty, the words, 'If the dead rise not again, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all that well best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to the source from whence it came, the cause of a great happiness, still retaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and will spring from that cause, I am to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovel in bestiality? Why, the very apes know better, and if you shoot their young, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in a gorge.
Letter to Charles Kingsley (23 Sep 1860). In L. Huxley, The Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1903), Vol. 1, 318.
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As Love is too young to know what conscience is, so Truth and Genius are too old to know what definition is.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 221.
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As pure truth is the polar star of our science [mathematics], so it is the great advantage of our science over others that it awakens more easily the love of truth in our pupils. … If Hegel justly said, “Whoever does not know the works of the ancients, has lived without knowing beauty,” Schellbach responds with equal right, “Who does not know mathematics, and the results of recent scientific investigation, dies without knowing truth.”
Max Simon
From Didaktik und Methodik des Rechnens und der Mathematik (1908), 37. As quoted and translated in J.W.A. Young, Teaching of Mathematics in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1907), 44. From the original German, “Wenn Hegel mit Recht sagt: ‘Wer die Werke der Alten nicht kennt, der hat gelebt, ohne die Schönheit gekannt zu haben’, so erwidert Schellbach mit nicht minderem Recht: ‘Wer die Math. und die Resultate der neueren Naturforschung nicht gekannt hat, der stirbt, ohne die Wahrheit zu kennen.’”
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As science, of necessity, becomes more involved with itself, so also, of necessity, it becomes more international. I am impressed to know that of the 670 members of this Academy [National Academy of Sciences], 163 were born in other lands.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
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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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As to how far in advance of the first flight the man should know he’s going. I’m not in agreement with the argument that says word should be delayed until the last possible moment to save the pilot from developing a bad case of the jitters. If we don’t have the confidence to keep from getting clutched at that time, we have no business going at all. If I’m the guy going, I’ll be glad to get the dope as soon as possible. As for keeping this a big secret from us and having us all suited up and then saying to one man “you go” and stuffing him in and putting the lid on that thing and away he goes, well, we’re all big boys now.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38. In fact, he was the first to fly in Earth orbit on 20 Feb 1962, though Alan Shepard was picked for the earlier first suborbital flight.
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Astronomy is a cold, desert science, with all its pompous figures,—depends a little too much on the glass-grinder, too little on the mind. ’Tis of no use to show us more planets and systems. We know already what matter is, and more or less of it does not signify.
In 'Country Life', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), Vol. 12, 166.
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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 least I know I’m bewildered about the really fundamental and important facts of the universe.
Equal Rites (1987)
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At night I would return home, set out a lamp before me, and devote myself to reading and writing. Whenever sleep overcame me or I became conscious of weakening, I would turn aside to drink a cup of wine, so that my strength would return to me. Then I would return to reading. And whenever sleep seized me I would see those very problems in my dream; and many questions became clear to me in my sleep. I continued in this until all of the sciences were deeply rooted within me and I understood them as is humanly possible. Everything which I knew at the time is just as I know it now; I have not added anything to it to this day. Thus I mastered the logical, natural, and mathematical sciences, and I had now reached the science.
Avicenna
W. E. Gohhnan, The Life of Ibn Sina: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation (1974), 29-31.
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At the outset do not be worried about this big question—Truth. It is a very simple matter if each one of you starts with the desire to get as much as possible. No human being is constituted to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and even the best of men must be content with fragments, with partial glimpses, never the full fruition. In this unsatisfied quest the attitude of mind, the desire, the thirst—a thirst that from the soul must arise!—the fervent longing, are the be-all and the end-all.
'The Student Life' (1905). In G. L. Keynes (ed.), Selected Writings of Sir William Osler (1951), 172.
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At the sea shore you pick up a pebble, fashioned after a law of nature, in the exact form that best resists pressure, and worn as smooth as glass. It is so perfect that you take it as a keepsake. But could you know its history from the time when a rough fragment of rock fell from the overhanging cliff into the sea, to be taken possession of by the under currents, and dragged from one ocean to another, perhaps around the world, for a hundred years, until in reduced and perfect form it was cast upon the beach as you find it, you would have a fit illustration of what many principles, now in familiar use, have endured, thus tried, tortured and fashioned during the ages.
From Address (1 Aug 1875), 'The Growth of Principles' at Saratoga. Collected in William L. Snyder (ed.), Great Speeches by Great Lawyers: A Collection of Arguments and Speeches (1901), 246.
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Bacteria represent the world’s greatest success story. They are today and have always been the modal organisms on earth; they cannot be nuked to oblivion and will outlive us all. This time is their time, not the ‘age of mammals’ as our textbooks chauvinistically proclaim. But their price for such success is permanent relegation to a microworld, and they cannot know the joy and pain of consciousness. We live in a universe of trade-offs; complexity and persistence do not work well as partners.
…...
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Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.
Attributed.
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Because intelligence is our own most distinctive feature, we may incline to ascribe superior intelligence to the basic primate plan, or to the basic plan of the mammals in general, but this point requires some careful consideration. There is no question at all that most mammals of today are more intelligent than most reptiles of today. I am not going to try to define intelligence or to argue with those who deny thought or consciousness to any animal except man. It seems both common and scientific sense to admit that ability to learn, modification of action according to the situation, and other observable elements of behavior in animals reflect their degrees of intelligence and permit us, if only roughly, to compare these degrees. In spite of all difficulties and all the qualifications with which the expert (quite properly) hedges his conclusions, it also seems sensible to conclude that by and large an animal is likely to be more intelligent if it has a larger brain at a given body size and especially if its brain shows greater development of those areas and structures best developed in our own brains. After all, we know we are intelligent, even though we wish we were more so.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 78.
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Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.
From 'Mending Wall', in North of Boston (1914). Collected in Robert Frost and Thomas Fasano (ed.), Selected Early Poems of Robert Frost (2008), 52. Note: This passage may be the source which John F. Kennedy had in mind when he wrote in his personal notebook, "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up." (see John F. Kennedy quotes on this site). The words in that terse paraphrase are those of Kennedy, and are neither those of Frost, or, as often attributed, G.K. Chesterton (q.v).
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Before you tell the ‘truth’ to the patient, be sure you know the ‘truth’ and that the patient wants to hear it.
Chinese proverb.
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Behold a universe so immense that I am lost in it. I no longer know where I am. I am just nothing at all. Our world is terrifying in its insignificance.
In Etretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes (Conversations with a Lady on the Plurality of Worlds) (1686) as cited in Edward Harrison, Cosmology: The Science of the Universe (2000), 162.
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Being a fish out of water is tough, but that’s how you evolve. I think that’s scientifically accurate—I don’t know, I had a liberal arts education.
From Commencement Speech (22 May 2017) at Grinnell College, Iowa. As quoted in Jeff Charis-Carlson, 'Comedian Kumail Nanjiani offers advice for Grinnell grads, takes on Steve King', Des Moines Register (22 May 2017).
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Besides accustoming the student to demand, complete proof, and to know when he has not obtained it, mathematical studies are of immense benefit to his education by habituating him to precision. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of mathematical discipline, that the mathematician is never satisfied with à peu près. He requires the exact truth. Hardly any of the non-mathematical sciences, except chemistry, has this advantage. One of the commonest modes of loose thought, and sources of error both in opinion and in practice, is to overlook the importance of quantities. Mathematicians and chemists are taught by the whole course of their studies, that the most fundamental difference of quality depends on some very slight difference in proportional quantity; and that from the qualities of the influencing elements, without careful attention to their quantities, false expectation would constantly be formed as to the very nature and essential character of the result produced.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 611. [The French phrase, à peu près means “approximately”. —Webmaster]
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Beyond lonely Pluto, dark and shadowless, lies the glittering realm of interstellar space, the silent ocean that rolls on and on, past stars and galaxies alike, to the ends of the Universe. What do men know of this vast infinity, this shoreless ocean? Is it hostile or friendly–or merely indifferent?
…...
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Biological diversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it. Life in a local site struck down by a passing storm springs back quickly: opportunistic species rush in to fill the spaces. They entrain the succession that circles back to something resembling the original state of the environment.
In 'Storm Over the Amazon', The Diversity of Life (1992), 15.
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Biology as a discipline would benefit enormously if we could bring together the scientists working at the opposite ends of the biological spectrum. Students of organisms who know natural history have abundant questions to offer the students of molecules and cells. And molecular and cellular biologists with their armory of techniques and special insights have much to offer students of organisms and ecology.
In 'The role of natural history in contemporary biology', BioScience (1986), 36, 328-329.
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Bohr’s standpoint, that a space-time description is impossible, I reject a limine. Physics does not consist only of atomic research, science does not consist only of physics, and life does not consist only of science. The aim of atomic research is to fit our empirical knowledge concerning it into our other thinking. All of this other thinking, so far as it concerns the outer world, is active in space and time. If it cannot be fitted into space and time, then it fails in its whole aim and one does not know what purpose it really serves.
Letter to Willy Wien (25 Aug 1926). Quoted in Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1989), 226.
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Bridges would not be safer if only people who knew the proper definition of a real number were allowed to design them.
In 'Topological Theory of Defects', Review of Modern Physics (Jul 1979), 51, No. 3. 591–648. This is seen widely on the web (? mis-)attributed to H.L. Mencken, for which Webmaster has so far been unable to find any validation whatsoever.
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Business should be like religion and science; it should know neither love nor hate.
Geoffrey Keynes and Brian Hill (eds.), Samuel Butler’s Notebooks (1951), 144.
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But as Geographers use to place Seas upon that place of the Globe which they know not: so chronologers, who are near of kin to them, use to blot out ages past, which they know not. They drown those Countries which they know not: These with cruel pen kill the times they heard not of, and deny which they know not.
Prae-Adamitae (1655), trans. Men Before Adam (1656), 164, published anonymously.
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But does Man have any “right” to spread through the universe? Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics, you name it, is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is, not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The Universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any “right” to expand through it.
In Starship Troopers (1959), 186.
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But for the persistence of a student of this university in urging upon me his desire to study with me the modern algebra I should never have been led into this investigation; and the new facts and principles which I have discovered in regard to it (important facts, I believe), would, so far as I am concerned, have remained still hidden in the womb of time. In vain I represented to this inquisitive student that he would do better to take up some other subject lying less off the beaten track of study, such as the higher parts of the calculus or elliptic functions, or the theory of substitutions, or I wot not what besides. He stuck with perfect respectfulness, but with invincible pertinacity, to his point. He would have the new algebra (Heaven knows where he had heard about it, for it is almost unknown in this continent), that or nothing. I was obliged to yield, and what was the consequence? In trying to throw light upon an obscure explanation in our text-book, my brain took fire, I plunged with re-quickened zeal into a subject which I had for years abandoned, and found food for thoughts which have engaged my attention for a considerable time past, and will probably occupy all my powers of contemplation advantageously for several months to come.
In Johns Hopkins Commemoration Day Address, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 3, 76.
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But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
…...
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But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is, so far as I can tell. It doesn’t frighten me.
In Richard Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins (ed.), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman (1999), 25, last sentence of Chap. 1. The chapter, with the same title as the book, is an edited transcript of an interview with Feynman made for the BBC television program Horizon (1981).
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But nothing is more estimable than a physician who, having studied nature from his youth, knows the properties of the human body, the diseases which assail it, the remedies which will benefit it, exercises his art with caution, and pays equal attention to the rich and the poor.
A Philosophical Dictionary: from the French? (2nd Ed.,1824), Vol. 5, 239-240.
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But psychology is a more tricky field, in which even outstanding authorities have been known to run in circles, ‘describing things which everyone knows in language which no one understands.’
From The Scientific Analysis of Personality (1965), 18.
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But that which will excite the greatest astonishment by far, and which indeed especially moved me to call the attention of all astronomers and philosophers, is this: namely, that I have observed four planets, neither known nor observed by any one of the astronomers before my time, which have their orbits round a certain bright star [Jupiter], one of those previously known, like Venus or Mercury round the sun, and are sometimes in front of it, sometimes behind it, though they never depart from it beyond certain limits. All of which facts were discovered and observed a few days ago by the help of a telescope devised by me, through God’s grace first enlightening my mind.
In pamphlet, The Sidereal Messenger (1610), reprinted in The Sidereal Messenger of Galileo Galilei: And a Part of the Preface to the Preface to Kepler's Dioptrics Containing the Original Account of Galileo's Astronomical Discoveries (1880), 9.
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But the idea of science and systematic knowledge is wanting to our whole instruction alike, and not only to that of our business class ... In nothing do England and the Continent at the present moment more strikingly differ than in the prominence which is now given to the idea of science there, and the neglect in which this idea still lies here; a neglect so great that we hardly even know the use of the word science in its strict sense, and only employ it in a secondary and incorrect sense.
Schools and Universities on the Continent (1868),278-9.
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But the nature of our civilized minds is so detached from the senses, even in the vulgar, by abstractions corresponding to all the abstract terms our languages abound in, and so refined by the art of writing, and as it were spiritualized by the use of numbers, because even the vulgar know how to count and reckon, that it is naturally beyond our power to form the vast image of this mistress called ‘Sympathetic Nature.’
The New Science, bk. 2, para. 378 (1744, trans. 1984).
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But, further, no animal can live upon a mixture of pure protein, fat and carbohydrate, and even when the necessary inorganic material is carefully supplied, the animal still cannot flourish. The animal body is adjusted to live either upon plant tissues or the tissues of other animals, and these contain countless substances other than the proteins, carbohydrates and fats... In diseases such as rickets, and particularly in scurvy, we have had for long years knowledge of a dietetic factor; but though we know how to benefit these conditions empirically, the real errors in the diet are to this day quite obscure. They are, however, certainly of the kind which comprises these minimal qualitative factors that I am considering.
'The Analyst and the Medical Man', The Analyst (1906), 31, 395-6.
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By profession a biologist, [Thomas Henry Huxley] covered in fact the whole field of the exact sciences, and then bulged through its four fences. Absolutely nothing was uninteresting to him. His curiosity ranged from music to theology and from philosophy to history. He didn't simply know something about everything; he knew a great deal about everything.
'Thomas Henry Huxley.' In the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925). Reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy: A New Selection from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (2006), 157.
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By research in pure science I mean research made without any idea of application to industrial matters but solely with the view of extending our knowledge of the Laws of Nature. I will give just one example of the ‘utility’ of this kind of research, one that has been brought into great prominence by the War—I mean the use of X-rays in surgery. Now, not to speak of what is beyond money value, the saving of pain, or, it may be, the life of the wounded, and of bitter grief to those who loved them, the benefit which the state has derived from the restoration of so many to life and limb, able to render services which would otherwise have been lost, is almost incalculable. Now, how was this method discovered? It was not the result of a research in applied science starting to find an improved method of locating bullet wounds. This might have led to improved probes, but we cannot imagine it leading to the discovery of X-rays. No, this method is due to an investigation in pure science, made with the object of discovering what is the nature of Electricity. The experiments which led to this discovery seemed to be as remote from ‘humanistic interest’ —to use a much misappropriated word—as anything that could well be imagined. The apparatus consisted of glass vessels from which the last drops of air had been sucked, and which emitted a weird greenish light when stimulated by formidable looking instruments called induction coils. Near by, perhaps, were great coils of wire and iron built up into electro-magnets. I know well the impression it made on the average spectator, for I have been occupied in experiments of this kind nearly all my life, notwithstanding the advice, given in perfect good faith, by non-scientific visitors to the laboratory, to put that aside and spend my time on something useful.
In Speech made on behalf of a delegation from the Conjoint Board of Scientific Studies in 1916 to Lord Crewe, then Lord President of the Council. In George Paget Thomson, J. J. Thomson and the Cavendish Laboratory in His Day (1965), 167-8.
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By the worldly standards of public life, all scholars in their work are of course oddly virtuous. They do not make wild claims, they do not cheat, they do not try to persuade at any cost, they appeal neither to prejudice nor to authority, they are often frank about their ignorance, their disputes are fairly decorous, they do not confuse what is being argued with race, politics, sex or age, they listen patiently to the young and to the old who both know everything. These are the general virtues of scholarship, and they are peculiarly the virtues of science.
In Science and Human Values (1956).
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By the year 2070 we cannot say, or it would be imbecile to do so, that any man alive could understand Shakespearean experience better than Shakespeare, whereas any decent eighteen-year-old student of physics will know more physics than Newton.
'The Case of Leavis and the Serious Case’, Times Literary Supplement (9 Jul 1970), 737-740. Collected in Public Affairs (1971), 95.
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Can we actually “know” the universe? My God, it’s hard enough finding your way around in Chinatown.
In Getting Even (1971).
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Cauchy is mad, and there is no way of being on good terms with him, although at present he is the only man who knows how mathematics should be treated. What he does is excellent, but very confused…
In Oeuvres (1826), Vol. 2, 259. As quoted and cited in Ernst Hairer and Gerhard Wanner Analysis by Its History (2008), 188. From the original French, “Cauchy est fou, et avec lui il n’y a pas moyen de s’entendre, bien que pour le moment il soit celui qui sait comment les mathématiques doivent être traitées. Ce qu’il fait est excellent, mais très brouillé….”
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Changes That Have Occurred in the Globe: When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain progressing into a plain; that is to say, an immense boulder separating from this mountain and covering the fields; an entire castle broken into pieces over the ground; a river swallowed up which then bursts out from its abyss; clear marks of a vast amount of water having once flooded regions now inhabited, and a hundred vestiges of other transformations, then we are much more willing to believe that great changes altered the face of the earth, than a Parisian lady who knows only that the place where her house was built was once a cultivated field. However, a lady from Naples who has seen the buried ruins of Herculaneum, is much less subject to the bias which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it is today.
From article 'Changements arrivées dans le globe', in Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), collected in Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire (1878), Vol. 2, 427-428. Translated by Ian Ellis, from the original French: “Changements arrivées dans le globe: Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.”
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Chemists show us that strange property, catalysis, which enables a substance while unaffected itself to incite to union elements around it. So a host, or hostess, who may know but little of those concerned, may, as a social switchboard, bring together the halves of pairs of scissors, men who become life-long friends, men and women who marry and are happy husbands and wives.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 179.
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Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were standing on the bridge across the Hao River. Chuang Tzu said, “Look how the minnows are shooting to and fro! How joyful they are!”
“You are not a fish,” said Hui Tzu. “How can you know that the fishes are joyful?”
“You are not I,” answered Chuang Tzu, “How can you know I do not know about the joy of fishes? ... I know it from my own joy of the water.”
An ancient Chinese story
As related in ‘Evolution of the Mind’, Scientific American (Jun 1957). Cited in Jo Carr, Beyond Fact: Nonfiction for Children and Young People (1982), 64.
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Circumstantial evidence can be overwhelming. We have never seen an atom, but we nevertheless know that it must exist.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 31.
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Classification is now a pejorative statement. You know, these classifiers look like “dumb fools.” I’m a classifier. But I’d like to use a word that includes more than what people consider is encompassed by classification. It is more than that, and it’s something which can be called phenomenology.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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Climate change threatens every corner of our country, every sector of our economy and the health and future of every child. We are already seeing its impacts and we know the poorest and most vulnerable people in the United States and around the world will suffer most of all.
In Hillary Clinton, 'Hillary Clinton: America Must Lead at Paris Climate Talks', Time (29 Nov 2015).
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Common sense, (which, in truth, is very uncommon) is the best sense I know of: abide by it; it will counsel you best.
From Letter (27 Sep 1748, O.S.) to his son, collected in Letters Written by Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his son, Philip Stanhope (1777), Vol. 2, 65.
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Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter?
Movie
Europa Report (2013)
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Computers and rocket ships are examples of invention, not of understanding. … All that is needed to build machines is the knowledge that when one thing happens, another thing happens as a result. It’s an accumulation of simple patterns. A dog can learn patterns. There is no “why” in those examples. We don’t understand why electricity travels. We don’t know why light travels at a constant speed forever. All we can do is observe and record patterns.
In God's Debris: A Thought Experiment (2004), 22.
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Conformity-enforcing packs of vicious children and adults gradually shape the social complexes we know as religion, science, corporations, ethnic groups, and even nations. The tools of our cohesion include ridicule, rejection, snobbery, self-righteousness, assault, torture, and death by stoning, lethal injection, or the noose. A collective brain may sound warm and fuzzily New Age, but one force lashing it together is abuse.
In 'The Conformity Police', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 89.
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Consider the plight of a scientist of my age. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1940. In the 41 years since then the amount of biological information has increased 16 fold; during these 4 decades my capacity to absorb new information has declined at an accelerating rate and now is at least 50% less than when I was a graduate student. If one defines ignorance as the ratio of what is available to be known to what is known, there seems no alternative to the conclusion that my ignorance is at least 25 times as extensive as it was when I got my bachelor’s degree. Although I am sure that my unfortunate condition comes as no surprise to my students and younger colleagues, I personally find it somewhat depressing. My depression is tempered, however, by the fact that all biologists, young or old, developing or senescing, face the same melancholy situation because of an interlocking set of circumstances.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 228.
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