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Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Law Quotes (894 quotes)
Laws Quotes


The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest.
Address (1918) for Max Planck's 60th birthday, at Physical Society, Berlin, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934), 4.
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'Causation' has been popularly used to express the condition of association, when applied to natural phenomena. There is no philosophical basis for giving it a wider meaning than partial or absolute association. In no case has it been proved that there is an inherent necessity in the laws of nature. Causation is correlation... [P]erfect correlation, when based upon sufficient experience, is causation in the scientific sense.
'Correlation, Causation and Wright's Theory of "Path Coefficients"', Genetics (7 May 1922), 7, 259-61.
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(1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
(2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
(3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
'The Three Laws of Robotics', in I, Robot (1950), Frontispiece.
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...reality is a system, completely ordered and fully intelligible, with which thought in its advance is more and more identifying itself. We may look at the growth of knowledge … as an attempt by our mind to return to union with things as they are in their ordered wholeness…. and if we take this view, our notion of truth is marked out for us. Truth is the approximation of thought to reality … Its measure is the distance thought has travelled … toward that intelligible system … The degree of truth of a particular proposition is to be judged in the first instance by its coherence with experience as a whole, ultimately by its coherence with that further whole, all comprehensive and fully articulated, in which thought can come to rest.
The Nature of Thought (1939), Vol II, 264. Quoted in Erhard Scheibe and Brigitte Falkenburg (ed), Between Rationalism and Empiricism: Selected Papers in the Philosophy of Physics (2001), 233
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1. The First Law of Ecology: Everything is connected to everything else.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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2. The Second Law of Ecology: Everything must go somewhere.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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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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4. The Fourth Law of Ecology: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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Clarke's First Law - Corollary: When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion—the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
'Asimov's Corollary', Fantasy & Science Fiction (Feb 1977). In collection Quasar, Quasar, Burning Bright (1978), 231.
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Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
'Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination'. In the collection. Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 14.
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Clarke's Law of Evolution: It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
M. S. Thambirajah, Psychological Basis of Psychiatry (2005), 33.
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Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 21.
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Clarke's Third Law:. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
In Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1982), 36, footnote.
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Copernicus, who rightly did condemn
This eldest systeme, form’d a wiser scheme;
In which he leaves the Sun at Rest, and rolls
The Orb Terrestial on its proper Poles;
Which makes the Night and Day by this Career,
And by its slow and crooked Course the Year.
The famous Dane, who oft the Modern guides,
To Earth and Sun their Provinces divides:
The Earth's Rotation makes the Night and Day,
The Sun revolving through th'Eccliptic Way
Effects the various seasons of the Year,
Which in their Turn for happy Ends appear.
This Scheme or that, which pleases best, embrace,
Still we the Fountain of their Motion trace.
Kepler asserts these Wonders may be done
By the Magnetic Vertue of the Sun,
Which he, to gain his End, thinks fit to place
Full in the Center of that mighty Space,
Which does the Spheres, where Planets roll, include,
And leaves him with Attractive Force endu'd.
The Sun, thus seated, by Mechanic Laws,
The Earth, and every distant Planet draws;
By which Attraction all the Planets found
Within his reach, are turn'd in Ether round.
In Creation: A Philosophical Poem in Seven Books (1712), book 2, l. 430-53, p.78-9.
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Dass die bis jetzt unzerlegten chemischen Elemente absolut unzerlegbare Stoffe seien, ist gegenwärtig mindestens sehr unwahrscheinlich. Vielmehr scheint es, dass die Atome der Elemente nicht die letzten, sondern nur die näheren Bestandtheile der Molekeln sowohl der Elemente wie der Verbindungen bilden, die Molekeln oder Molecule als Massentheile erster, die Atome als solche zweiter Ordnung anzusehen sind, die ihrerseits wiederum aus Massentheilchen einer dritten höheren Ordnung bestehen werden.
That the as yet undivided chemical elements are absolutely irreducible substances, is currently at least very unlikely. Rather it seems, that the atoms of elements are not the final, but only the immediate constituents of the molecules of both the elements and the compounds—the Molekeln or molecule as foremost division of matter, the atoms being considered as second order, in turn consisting of matter particles of a third higher order.
[Speculating in 1870, on the existence of subatomic particles, in opening remark of the paper by which he became established as co-discoverer of the Periodic Law.]
'Die Natur der chemischen Elemente als Function ihrer Atomgewichte' ('The Nature of the Chemical Elements as a Function of their Atomic Weight'), Annalen der Chemie (1870), supp. b, 354. Original German paper reprinted in Lothar Meyer and Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev, Das natürliche System der chemischen Elemente: Abhandlungen (1895), 9. Translation by Webmaster, with punctuation faithful to the original, except a comma was changed to a dash to improve readability.
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Den förslags-mening: att olika element förenade med ett lika antal atomer af ett eller flere andra gemensamma element … och att likheten i krystallformen bestämmes helt och hållet af antalet af atomer, och icke af elementens.
[Mitscherlich Law of Isomerism] The same number of atoms combined in the same way produces the same crystalline form, and the same crystalline form is independent of the chemical nature of the atoms, and is determined only by their number and relative position.
Original Swedish from 'Om Förhållandet emellan chemiska sammansättningen och krystallformen hos Arseniksyrade och Phosphorsyrade Salter', Kungl. Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar (1821), 4. In English as expressed later by James F.W. Johnston, 'Report on the Recent Progress and present State of Chemical Science', to Annual Meeting at Oxford (1832), collected in Report of the First and Second Meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1833), 422. A Google raw translation of the Swedish is: “The present proposal-sense: that various elements associated with an equal number of atoms of one or several other common elements … and that the similarity in: crystal shape is determined entirely by the number of atoms, and not by the elements.”
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Die Natur hates sich nicht angelegen sein lassen, uns die Auffindung ihrer Gesetze bequem zu machen.
Nature did not deem it her business to make the discovery of her laws easy for us.
English translation as in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, (1987), Vol. 5, 202. Also seen translated elsewhere as “Nature has not made it a priority for us to discover its laws,” or “Nature did not care to comfort us with the discovery of its laws.” Original German in letter from Prague to Erwin Freundlich (1 Sep 1911). Freundlich was an assistant at the Royal Observatory of Prussia in Berlin wishing to investigate the bending of starlight by the gravitational field of Jupiter, but Einstein pointed out it was not massive enough for a detectable effect. Einstein in the letter also lamented “If only we had an orderly planet larger than Jupiter!”
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Discovery always carries an honorific connotation. It is the stamp of approval on a finding of lasting value. Many laws and theories have come and gone in the history of science, but they are not spoken of as discoveries. Kepler is said to have discovered the laws of planetary motion named after him, but no the many other 'laws' which he formulated. ... Theories are especially precarious, as this century profoundly testifies. World views can and do often change. Despite these difficulties, it is still true that to count as a discovery a finding must be of at least relatively permanent value, as shown by its inclusion in the generally accepted body of scientific knowledge.
Discovery in the Physical Sciences (1969). In Rodney P. Carlisle, Scientific American Inventions and Discoveries (2004), 179.
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Epitaph of John Hunter
The Royal College of Surgeons of England have placed this tablet over the grave of Hunter, to record their admiration of his genius as a gifted interpreter of the Divine Power and Wisdom at work in the Laws of Organic Life, and their grateful veneration for his services to mankind as the Founder of Scientific Surgery.
Epitaph
Memorial brass in the floor of north aisle of Westminster Abbey, placed when Hunter's remains were reinterred there (28 Mar 1859). In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1972), Vol. 6, 568.
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I believe in logic, the sequence of cause and effect, and in science its only begotten son our law, which was conceived by the ancient Greeks, thrived under Isaac Newton, suffered under Albert Einstein…
That fragment of a 'creed for materialism' which a friend in college had once shown him rose through Donald's confused mind.
Stand on Zanzibar (1969)
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La chaleur pénètre, comme la gravité, toutes les substances de l’univers, ses rayons occupent toutes les parties de l’espace. Le but de notre ouvrage est d’exposer les lois mathématiques que suit cet élément. Cette théorie formera désormais une des branches les plus importantes de la physique générale.
Heat, like gravity, penetrates every substance of the universe, its rays occupy all parts of space. The object of our work is to set forth the mathematical laws which this element obeys. The theory of heat will hereafter form one of the most important branches of general physics.
From 'Discours Préliminaire' to Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), i, translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 1.
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La neciessità è maestra e tutrice della natura; La neciessità è tema e inventrice della natura e freno e regola eterna.
Necessity is the mistress and guide of nature. Necessity is the theme and the inventress, the eternal curb and law of nature.
S. K. M. III. 49a. As translated by Jean Paul Richter, in 'Philosophical Maxims', The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci: Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts (1883), Vol. 2, 285, Maxim 1135.
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Les causes primordiales ne nous sont point connues; mais elles sont assujetties à des lois simples et constantes, que l’on peut découvrir par l’observation, et dont l’étude est l’objet de la philosophie naturelle.
Primary causes are unknown to us; but are subject to simple and constant laws, which may be discovered by observation, the study of them being the object of natural philosophy.
Opening statement from 'Discours Préliminaire' to Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), i, translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 1.
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Les faits scientifiques, et à fortiori, les lois sont l’œuvre artificielle du savant ; la science ne peut donc rien nous apprendre de la vérité, elle ne peut nous servir que de règle d’action.
The facts of science and, à fortiori, its laws are the artificial work of the scientist; science therefore can teach us nothing of the truth; it can only serve us as rule of action.
In La Valeur de la Science (1904), 214, translated by George Bruce Halsted, in The Value of Science (1907), 112.
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On peut braver les lois humaines, mais non résister aux lois naturelles.
One can defy human laws, but cannot resist natural laws.
Original French in Les Voyages Extraordinaires par Jules Verne: Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers (1870), 359. (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea). Translation by Webmaster. The context is that Captain Nemo is describing how the submarine Nautilus had been trapped as a melting iceberg flipping to find a new equilibrium. Nemo regarded the accident as caused by “a caprice of nature, not from the ignorance of man.”
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Parkinson's First Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Parkinson's Law or the Pursuit of Progress1 (1958), 4.
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Parkinson's Second Law: Expenditure rises to meet income.
The Law and the Profits (1960), 3.
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Parkinson's Third Law: Expansion means complexity, and complexity decay.
In Laws and Outlaws (1962), 168.
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Qu'une goutee de vin tombe dans un verre d'eau; quelle que soit la loi du movement interne du liquide, nous verrons bientôt se colorer d'une teinte rose uniforme et à partir de ce moment on aura beau agiter le vase, le vin et l'eau ne partaîtront plus pouvoir se séparer. Tout cela, Maxwell et Boltzmann l'ont expliqué, mais celui qui l'a vu plus nettement, dans un livre trop peu lu parce qu'il est difficile à lire, c'est Gibbs dans ses principes de la Mécanique Statistique.
Let a drop of wine fall into a glass of water; whatever be the law that governs the internal movement of the liquid, we will soon see it tint itself uniformly pink and from th at moment on, however we may agitate the vessel, it appears that the wine and water can separate no more. All this, Maxwell and Boltzmann have explained, but the one who saw it in the cleanest way, in a book that is too little read because it is difficult to read, is Gibbs, in his Principles of Statistical Mechanics.
La valeur de la science. In Anton Bovier, Statistical Mechanics of Disordered Systems (2006), 3.
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Question: State what are the conditions favourable for the formation of dew. Describe an instrument for determining the dew point, and the method of using it.
Answer: This is easily proved from question 1. A body of gas as it ascends expands, cools, and deposits moisture; so if you walk up a hill the body of gas inside you expands, gives its heat to you, and deposits its moisture in the form of dew or common sweat. Hence these are the favourable conditions; and moreover it explains why you get warm by ascending a hill, in opposition to the well-known law of the Conservation of Energy.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 179, Question 12. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Une même expression, dont les géomètres avaient considéré les propriétés abstraites, … représente'aussi le mouvement de la lumière dans l’atmosphère, quelle détermine les lois de la diffusion de la chaleur dans la matière solide, et quelle entre dans toutes les questions principales de la théorie des probabilités.
The same expression whose abstract properties geometers had considered … represents as well the motion of light in the atmosphere, as it determines the laws of diffusion of heat in solid matter, and enters into all the chief problems of the theory of probability.
From Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur (1822), translated by Alexander Freeman in The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878), 7.
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Usus quem penes arbitrium est et jus norma loquendi.
Usage, in which lies the decision, the law, and the norm of speech.
Horace
From 'Epistola ad Pisones', known as 'De Arte Poetica', lines 71-72. The Works of Horace (1893), 304. Another translation gives, “If usage wills, within whose power are the laws and rules of speech.” A looser interpretation explains, “Words, like other human things, have their day, and pass and change.” A related comment would be, “Use is the tyrant of languages.” In context, Horace is meaning the usage of refined, cultured, educated class in their writings and speech as masters of the language.
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A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements, but not with a corresponding degree of strength, though it is deficient only in the power of maintaining equilibrium. We may therefore say that such an instrument constructed by man is lacking in nothing except the life of the bird, and this life must needs be supplied from that of man.
'Of the Bird's Movement' from Codice Atlantico 161 r.a., in Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, trans. E. MacCurdy (1906), Vol. 1, 153.
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A casual glance at crystals may lead to the idea that they were pure sports of nature, but this is simply an elegant way of declaring one's ignorance. With a thoughtful examination of them, we discover laws of arrangement. With the help of these, calculation portrays and links up the observed results. How variable and at the same time how precise and regular are these laws! How simple they are ordinarily, without losing anything of their significance! The theory which has served to develop these laws is based entirely on a fact, whose existence has hitherto been vaguely discerned rather than demonstrated. This fact is that in all minerals which belong to the same species, these little solids, which are the crystal elements and which I call their integrant molecules, have an invariable form, in which the faces lie in the direction of the natural fracture surfaces corresponding to the mechanical division of the crystals. Their angles and dimensions are derived from calculations combined with observation.
Traité de mineralogie ... Publié par le conseil des mines (1801), Vol. 1, xiii-iv, trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
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A celebrated author and divine has written to me that “he has gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe that He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.”
In Origin of Species (1860), 417.
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A complete theory of evolution must acknowledge a balance between ‘external’ forces of environment imposing selection for local adaptation and ‘internal’ forces representing constraints of inheritance and development. Vavilov placed too much emphasis on internal constraints and downgraded the power of selection. But Western Darwinians have erred equally in practically ignoring (while acknowledging in theory) the limits placed on selection by structure and development–what Vavilov and the older biologists would have called ‘laws of form.’
…...
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A few days afterwards, I went to him [the same actuary referred to in another quote] and very gravely told him that I had discovered the law of human mortality in the Carlisle Table, of which he thought very highly. I told him that the law was involved in this circumstance. Take the table of the expectation of life, choose any age, take its expectation and make the nearest integer a new age, do the same with that, and so on; begin at what age you like, you are sure to end at the place where the age past is equal, or most nearly equal, to the expectation to come. “You don’t mean that this always happens?”—“Try it.” He did try, again and again; and found it as I said. “This is, indeed, a curious thing; this is a discovery!” I might have sent him about trumpeting the law of life: but I contented myself with informing him that the same thing would happen with any table whatsoever in which the first column goes up and the second goes down.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 172.
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A few days ago, a Master of Arts, who is still a young man, and therefore the recipient of a modern education, stated to me that until he had reached the age of twenty he had never been taught anything whatever regarding natural phenomena, or natural law. Twelve years of his life previously had been spent exclusively amongst the ancients. The case, I regret to say, is typical. Now we cannot, without prejudice to humanity, separate the present from the past.
'On the Study of Physics', From a Lecture delivered in the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the Spring of 1854. Fragments of Science for Unscientific People: A Series of Detached Essays, Lectures, and Reviews (1892), Vol. 1, 284-5.
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A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jellyfish and a saurian,
And caves where the cavemen dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod—
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.
'Each in his Own Tongue', in Kansas in Literature: Part One, Poetry (1900), 83.
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A function to each organ, and each organ to its own function, is the law of all organization.
Social Statics: Or, The Conditions Essential to Human Happiness Specified, and the First of them Developed (1851), 274.
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A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?
The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959), 14-5.
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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 Law of Nature, (Lex Naturalis) is a Precept, or general Rule, found out by Reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved
Leviathan, ch. 14 (1651).
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A man would have to be an idiot to write a book of laws for an apple tree telling it to bear apples and not thorns, seeing that the apple-tree will do it naturally and far better than any laws or teaching can prescribe.
On Secular Authority (1523). In Harro Höpfl (ed.), Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority (1991), 9.
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A mind exclusively bent upon the idea of utility necessarily narrows the range of the imagination. For it is the imagination which pictures to the inner eye of the investigator the indefinitely extending sphere of the possible,—that region of hypothesis and explanation, of underlying cause and controlling law. The area of suggestion and experiment is thus pushed beyond the actual field of vision.
In 'The Paradox of Research', The North American Review (Sep 1908), 188, No. 634, 425.
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A mind which has once imbibed a taste for scientific enquiry, and has learnt the habit of applying its principles readily to the cases which occur, has within itself an inexhaustable source of pure and exciting contemplations:— One would think that Shakespeare had such a mind in view when he describes a contemplative man as finding
    “Tongues in trees—books in running brooks—
    Sermons in stones—and good in everything.”
Accustomed to trace the operations of general causes and the exemplification of general laws, in circumstances where the uninformed and uninquiring eye, perceives neither novelty nor beauty, he walks in the midst of wonders; every object which falls in his way elucidates some principle, affords some instruction and impresses him with a sense of harmony and order. Nor is it a mere passive pleasure which is thus communicated. A thousand questions are continually arising in his mind, a thousand objects of enquiry presenting themselves, which keep his faculties in constant exercise, and his thoughts perpetually on the wing, so that lassitude is excluded from his life, and that craving after artificial excitement and dissipation of the mind, which leads so many into frivolous, unworthy, and destructive pursuits, is altogether eradicated from his bosom.
In Dionysius Lardner (ed.), Cabinet Cyclopaedia, Vol 1, Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1831), 14-15.
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A Miracle is a Violation of the Laws of Nature; and as a firm and unalterable Experience has established these Laws, the Proof against a Miracle, from the very Nature of the Fact, is as entire as any Argument from Experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all Men must die; that Lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the Air; that Fire consumes Wood, and is extinguished by Water; unless it be, that these Events are found agreeable to the Laws of Nature, and there is required a Violation of these Laws, or in other Words, a Miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteem'd a Miracle, if it ever happen in the common Course of Nature... There must, therefore, be a uniform Experience against every miraculous Event, otherwise the Event would not merit that Appellation. And as a uniform Experience amounts to a Proof, there is here a direct and full Proof, from the Nature of the Fact, against the Existence of any Miracle; nor can such a Proof be destroy'd, or the Miracle render'd credible, but by an opposite Proof, which is superior.
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), 180-181.
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A modern branch of mathematics, having achieved the art of dealing with the infinitely small, can now yield solutions in other more complex problems of motion, which used to appear insoluble. This modern branch of mathematics, unknown to the ancients, when dealing with problems of motion, admits the conception of the infinitely small, and so conforms to the chief condition of motion (absolute continuity) and thereby corrects the inevitable error which the human mind cannot avoid when dealing with separate elements of motion instead of examining continuous motion. In seeking the laws of historical movement just the same thing happens. The movement of humanity, arising as it does from innumerable human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history. … Only by taking an infinitesimally small unit for observation (the differential of history, that is, the individual tendencies of man) and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history.
War and Peace (1869), Book 11, Chap. 1.
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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 natural law regulates the advance of science. Where only observation can be made, the growth of knowledge creeps; where laboratory experiments can be carried on, knowledge leaps forward.
[Attributed, probably incorrectly]
Seen in various places, but Webmaster has found none with a source citation, and doubts the authenticity, because none found with attribution to Faraday prior to 1950. The earliest example Webmaster found is in 1929, by Walter Morley Fletcher in his Norman Lockyer Lecture. He refers to it as a “truism,” without mention of Faraday. He says “law of our state of being” rather than “natural law.” See the Walter Morley Fletcher page for more details.
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A patent is property carried to the highest degree of abstraction—a right in rem to exclude, without a physical object or content.
Homes-Pollock Letters (1946), edited by Mark DeWolfe Howe, Vol. 1, 53. In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 802.
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A political law or a scientific truth may be perilous to the morals or the faith of individuals; but it cannot on this ground be resisted by the Church. … A discovery may be made in science which will shake the faith of thousands; yet religion cannot regret it or object to it. The difference in this respect between a true and a false religion is, that one judges all things by the standard of their truth, the other by the touchstone of its own interests. A false religion fears the progress of all truth; a true religion seeks and recognises truth wherever it can be found.
From 'Cardinal Wiseman and the Home and Foreign Review' (1862), collected in John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton Baron Acton, John Neville Figgis (ed.) and Reginald Vere Laurence (ed.), The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907), 449-450. The Darwinian controversy was at its height when this was written.
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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 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 surprising number [of novels] have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily—against which a law ought to be passed.
Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol. 1, 101.
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A taxonomy of abilities, like a taxonomy anywhere else in science, is apt to strike a certain type of impatient student as a gratuitous orgy of pedantry. Doubtless, compulsions to intellectual tidiness express themselves prematurely at times, and excessively at others, but a good descriptive taxonomy, as Darwin found in developing his theory, and as Newton found in the work of Kepler, is the mother of laws and theories.
From Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth and Action: Its Structure, Growth and Action (1987), 61.
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A theory of physics is not an explanation; it is a system of mathematical oppositions deduced from a small number of principles the aim of which is to represent as simply, as completely, and as exactly as possible, a group of experimental laws.
As quoted in Philipp Frank, Modern Science and its Philosophy (1949), 15, which cites Théorie Physique; Son Objet—Son Structure (1906), 24.
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A universe without law would be a universe without order, without the possibility of science, and the manifestations of an intelligent governor and creator.
Presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (22 Aug 1850),The Papers of Joseph Henry, Vol. 8, 99.
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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 vital phenomenon can only be regarded as explained if it has been proven that it appears as the result of the material components of living organisms interacting according to the laws which those same components follow in their interactions outside of living systems.
Gesammelte Schriften (1904), Vol. 3, 767. Trans. Paul F. Cranefield, 'The Organic Physics of 1847 and the Biophysics of Today', Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 1957, 12, 410.
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Above, far above the prejudices and passions of men soar the laws of nature. Eternal and immutable, they are the expression of the creative power they represent what is, what must be, what otherwise could not be. Man can come to understand the: he is incapable of changing them.
In Cours d’economie Politique (1896-97)
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According to the common law of nature, deficiency of power is supplied by duration of time.
'Geological Illustrations', Appendix to G. Cuvier, Essay on the Theory of the Earth, trans. R. Jameson (1827), 430.
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Accordingly, we find Euler and D'Alembert devoting their talent and their patience to the establishment of the laws of rotation of the solid bodies. Lagrange has incorporated his own analysis of the problem with his general treatment of mechanics, and since his time M. Poinsôt has brought the subject under the power of a more searching analysis than that of the calculus, in which ideas take the place of symbols, and intelligent propositions supersede equations.
J. C. Maxwell on Louis Poinsôt (1777-1859) in 'On a Dynamical Top' (1857). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 1, 248.
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Aesthetic considerations are a matter of luxury and indulgence rather than of necessity.
A New Jersey Court decision confirming an existing billboard to be exempted from retrospective application of a city ordinance restricting billboard location. From 'City of Passaic v. Paterson Bill Posting, Etc., Co. (Court of Errors and Appeals of New Jersey, November 20, 1905)', The New Jersey Law Journal (1906), 29, 244. The court wrote that the effect of the ordinance was to take private property without compensation, and could not be justified as an exercise of the police power because public safety was not unreasonably compromised by the billboard, and thus the ordinance exceeded necessity.
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After death, life reappears in a different form and with different laws. It is inscribed in the laws of the permanence of life on the surface of the earth and everything that has been a plant and an animal will be destroyed and transformed into a gaseous, volatile and mineral substance.
Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 110.
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After seeking in vain for the construction of a perpetual motion machine, the relations were investigated which must subsist between the forces of nature if such a machine is to be impossible; and this inverted question led to the discovery of the law of the conservation of energy, which, again, explained the impossibility of perpetual motion in the sense originally intended.
Opening of Lecture (1900), 'Mathematische Probleme' (Mathematical Problems), to the International Congress of Mathematicians, Paris. From the original German reprinted in David Hilbert: Gesammelte Abhandlungen (Collected Treatises, 1970), Vol. 3. For full citation, see the quote that begins, “This conviction of the solvability…”, on the David Hilbert Quotes page on this website.
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After the discovery of spectral analysis no one trained in physics could doubt the problem of the atom would be solved when physicists had learned to understand the language of spectra. So manifold was the enormous amount of material that has been accumulated in sixty years of spectroscopic research that it seemed at first beyond the possibility of disentanglement. An almost greater enlightenment has resulted from the seven years of Röntgen spectroscopy, inasmuch as it has attacked the problem of the atom at its very root, and illuminates the interior. What we are nowadays hearing of the language of spectra is a true 'music of the spheres' in order and harmony that becomes ever more perfect in spite of the manifold variety. The theory of spectral lines will bear the name of Bohr for all time. But yet another name will be permanently associated with it, that of Planck. All integral laws of spectral lines and of atomic theory spring originally from the quantum theory. It is the mysterious organon on which Nature plays her music of the spectra, and according to the rhythm of which she regulates the structure of the atoms and nuclei.
Atombau und Spektrallinien (1919), viii, Atomic Structure and Spectral Lines, trans. Henry L. Brose (1923), viii.
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All material Things seem to have been composed of the hard and solid Particles … variously associated with the first Creation by the Counsel of an intelligent Agent. For it became him who created them to set them in order: and if he did so, it is unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature.
From Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 377-378.
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All of our experience indicates that life can manifest itself only in a concrete form, and that it is bound to certain substantial loci. These loci are cells and cell formations. But we are far from seeking the last and highest level of understanding in the morphology of these loci of life. Anatomy does not exclude physiology, but physiology certainly presupposes anatomy. The phenomena that the physiologist investigates occur in special organs with quite characteristic anatomical arrangements; the various morphological parts disclosed by the anatomist are the bearers of properties or, if you will, of forces probed by the physiologist; when the physiologist has established a law, whether through physical or chemical investigation, the anatomist can still proudly state: This is the structure in which the law becomes manifest.
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 19, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 84.
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All palaetiological sciences, all speculations which attempt to ascend from the present to the remote past, by the chain of causation, do also, by an inevitable consequence, urge us to look for the beginning of the state of things which we thus contemplate; but in none of these cases have men been able, by the aid of science, to arrive at a beginning which is homogeneous with the known course of events. The first origin of language, of civilization, of law and government, cannot be clearly made out by reasoning and research; and just as little, we may expect, will a knowledge of the origin of the existing and extinct species of plants and animals, be the result of physiological and geological investigation.
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1837), Vol. 3, 581.
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All successful men have agreed to one thing,—they were causationists. They believed that things went not by luck, but by law; that there was not a weak or a cracked link in the chain that joins the first and last of things.
From 'Power', The Conduct of Life (1860), collected in The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1870), 343.
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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 effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws.
From the original French, “Tous les effets de la nature ne sont que résultats mathématiques d'un petit noinbre de lois immuables.”, in Oeuvres de Laplace, Vol. VII: Théorie des probabilités (1847), Introduction, cliv.
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All the events which occur upon the earth result from Law: even those actions which are entirely dependent on the caprices of the memory, or the impulse of the passions, are shown by statistics to be, when taken in the gross, entirely independent of the human will. As a single atom, man is an enigma; as a whole, he is a mathematical problem. As an individual, he is a free agent; as a species, the offspring of necessity.
In The Martyrdom of Man (1876), 185-186.
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All the mathematical sciences are founded on relations between physical laws and laws of numbers, so that the aim of exact science is to reduce the problems of nature to the determination of quantities by operations with numbers.
from Faraday's Lines of Force (1856)
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All the modern higher mathematics is based on a calculus of operations, on laws of thought. All mathematics, from the first, was so in reality; but the evolvers of the modern higher calculus have known that it is so. Therefore elementary teachers who, at the present day, persist in thinking about algebra and arithmetic as dealing with laws of number, and about geometry as dealing with laws of surface and solid content, are doing the best that in them lies to put their pupils on the wrong track for reaching in the future any true understanding of the higher algebras. Algebras deal not with laws of number, but with such laws of the human thinking machinery as have been discovered in the course of investigations on numbers. Plane geometry deals with such laws of thought as were discovered by men intent on finding out how to measure surface; and solid geometry with such additional laws of thought as were discovered when men began to extend geometry into three dimensions.
In Lectures on the Logic of Arithmetic (1903), Preface, 18-19.
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Although a physical law may never admit of a perfectly abrupt change, there is no limit to the approach which it may make to abruptness.
In The Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1874), Vols. 1-2, 273.
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Although a science fair can seem like a big “pain” it can help you understand important scientific principles, such as Newton’s First Law of Inertia, which states: “A body at rest will remain at rest until 8:45 p.m. the night before the science fair project is due, at which point the body will come rushing to the body’s parents, who are already in their pajamas, and shout, “I JUST REMEMBERED THE SCIENCE FAIR IS TOMORROW AND WE GOTTA GO TO THE STORE RIGHT NOW!”
'Science: It’s Just Not Fair', Miami Herald (22 Mar 1998)
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Americans have always believed that—within the law—all kinds of people should be allowed to take the initiative in all kinds of activities. And out of that pluralism has come virtually all of our creativity. Freedom is real only to the extent that there are diverse alternatives.
Speech to the Council on Foundations (16 May 1979). In 'Infinite Variety: The Nonprofit Sector', Grant's Magazine (1979), Vol. 2-3, 17.
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Amid all the revolutions of the globe, the economy of Nature has been uniform, ... and her laws are the only things that have resisted the general movement. The rivers and the rocks, the seas and the continents, have been changed in all their parts; but the laws which direct those changes, and the rules to which they are subject, have remained invariably the same.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) collected in The Works of John Playfair (1822), Vol. 1, 415
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An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.
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An experiment is an observation that can be repeated, isolated and varied. The more frequently you can repeat an observation, the more likely are you to see clearly what is there and to describe accurately what you have seen. The more strictly you can isolate an observation, the easier does your task of observation become, and the less danger is there of your being led astray by irrelevant circumstances, or of placing emphasis on the wrong point. The more widely you can vary an observation, the more clearly will the uniformity of experience stand out, and the better is your chance of discovering laws.
In A Text-Book of Psychology (1909), 20.
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An irrefutable proof that such single-celled primaeval animals really existed as the direct ancestors of Man, is furnished according to the fundamental law of biogeny by the fact that the human egg is nothing more than a simple cell.
Natürlche Schöpfungsgeschichte, trans. E. R. Lankester, The History of Creation (1892), Vol. 2, 381.
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And as for other men, who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out into the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard! This contributed to the passing of the Pure Food Act of 1906.
The Jungle (1906), 117.
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And what a science Natural History will be, when we are in our graves, when all the laws of change are thought one of the most important parts of Natural History.
From Letter (1856) to J.D. Hooker, collected in in Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 439. [Darwin was contemplating natural history as the synthesis of evolution (change) and forces of the environment.]
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André Weil suggested that there is a logarithmic law at work: first-rate people attract other first-rate people, but second-rate people tend to hire third-raters, and third-rate people hire fifth-raters. If a dean or a president is genuinely interested in building and maintaining a high-quality university (and some of them are), then he must not grant complete self-determination to a second-rate department; he must, instead, use his administrative powers to intervene and set things right. That’s one of the proper functions of deans and presidents, and pity the poor university in which a large proportion of both the faculty and the administration are second-raters; it is doomed to diverge to minus infinity.
In I Want to be a Mathematician: an Automathography (1985), 123.
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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 experiment may be regarded as forming an individual of a 'population' of experiments which might be performed under the same conditions. A series of experiments is a sample drawn from this population.
Now any series of experiments is only of value in so far as it enables us to form a judgment as to the statistical constants of the population to which the experiments belong. In a great number of cases the question finally turns on the value of a mean, either directly, or as the mean difference between the two qualities.
If the number of experiments be very large, we may have precise information as to the value of the mean, but if our sample be small, we have two sources of uncertainty:— (I) owing to the 'error of random sampling' the mean of our series of experiments deviates more or less widely from the mean of the population, and (2) the sample is not sufficiently large to determine what is the law of distribution of individuals.
'The Probable Error of a Mean', Biometrika, 1908, 6, 1.
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Anyone who thinks we can continue to have world wars but make them nice polite affairs by outlawing this weapon or that should meditate upon the outlawing of the cross-bow by Papal authority. Setting up the machinery for international law and order must surely precede disarmament. The Wild West did not abandon its shooting irons till after sheriffs and courts were established.
Speech, American Library Assiciation Conference (3 Jul 1947), as quoted by Lawrence E. Davies in 'Army's Atomic Bid Viewed in Making', New York Times (4 Jul 1947), 11.
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Archimedes said Eureka,
Cos in English he weren't too aversed in,
when he discovered that the volume of a body in the bath,
is equal to the stuff it is immersed in,
That is the law of displacement,
Thats why ships don't sink,
Its a shame he weren't around in 1912,
The Titanic would have made him think.
From lyrics of song Sod’s Law.
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Architecture is of all the arts the one nearest to a science, for every architectural design is at its inception dominated by scientific considerations. The inexorable laws of gravitation and of statics must be obeyed by even the most imaginative artist in building.
Anonymous
In 'The Message of Greek Architecture', The Chautauquan (Apr 1906), 43, 110.
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Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life; ...
'So careful of the type', but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go' ...
Man, her last work, who seemed so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who rolled the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho’ Nature red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed...
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), Cantos 56-57. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 176.
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Art is an expression of the world order and is, therefore, orderly, organic, subject to mathematical law, and susceptible to mathematical analysis.
In 'The Theosophic View of the Art of Architecture', The Beautiful Necessity, Seven Essays on Theosophy and Architecture (2nd ed., 1922), Preface to the Second Edition, 11.
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As an antiquary of a new order, I have been obliged to learn the art of deciphering and restoring these remains, of discovering and bringing together, in their primitive arrangement, the scattered and mutilated fragments of which they are composed, of reproducing in all their original proportions and characters, the animals to which these fragments formerly belonged, and then of comparing them with those animals which still live on the surface of the earth; an art which is almost unknown, and which presupposes, what had scarcely been obtained before, an acquaintance with those laws which regulate the coexistence of the forms by which the different parts of organized being are distinguished.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 1-2.
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As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Sidelights on Relativity (1920), 28.
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As regards the co-ordination of all ordinary properties of matter, Rutherford’s model of the atom puts before us a task reminiscent of the old dream of philosophers: to reduce the interpretation of the laws of nature to the consideration of pure numbers.
In Faraday Lecture (1930), Journal of the Chemical Society (Feb 1932), 349. As quoted and cited in Chen Ning Yang, Elementary Particles (1961), 7.
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As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there.
Commenting on Clarke's own three laws.
Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), footnote, 21.
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Ask a follower of Bacon what [science] the new philosophy, as it was called in the time of Charles the Second, has effected for mankind, and his answer is ready; “It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has extinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, to cross the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first-fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests, which has never attained, which is never perfect. Its law is progress. A point which yesterday was invisible is its goal to-day, and will be its starting-point to-morrow.”
From essay (Jul 1837) on 'Francis Bacon' in Edinburgh Review. In Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay and Lady Trevelyan (ed.) The Works of Lord Macaulay Complete (1871), Vol. 6, 222.
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Ask a scientist what he conceives the scientific method to be, and he will adopt an expression that is at once solemn and shifty eyed: solemn because he feels he ought to declare an opinion; shifty eyed because he is wondering how to conceal the fact that he has no opinion to declare. If taunted he would probably mumble something about “Induction” and “Establishing the Laws of Nature”, but if anyone working in a laboratory professed to be trying to establish the Laws of Nature by induction, we should think he was overdue for leave.
From a Jayne Lecture (1968), 'Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought', printed in Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society (1969), Vol. 75. Lecture republished as Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (2009), 11. Also included in Peter Medawar, Pluto’s Republic (1984), 80.
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Astronomy has not only taught us that there are laws, but that from these laws there is no escape, that with them there is no possible compromise.
In Henri Poincaré and George Bruce Halsted (trans.), The Value of Science: Essential Writings of Henri Poincare (1907), 86.
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At every major step physics has required, and frequently stimulated, the introduction of new mathematical tools and concepts. Our present understanding of the laws of physics, with their extreme precision and universality, is only possible in mathematical terms.
In Book Review 'Pulling the Strings,' of Lawrence Krauss's Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Lure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond in Nature (22 Dec 2005), 438, 1081.
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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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Augustine's Law XVI: Software is like entropy. It is difficult to grasp, weighs nothing, and obeys the second law of thermodynamics; i.e. it always increases.
In Augustine's Laws (1997), 114.
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Bahn's Law of Rocketry: Amateurs talk Propulsion, Professionals Talk Insurance.
Pat Bahn
Contributed by author.
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Before the promulgation of the periodic law the chemical elements were mere fragmentary incidental facts in nature; there was no special reason to expect the discovery of new elements, and the new ones which were discovered from time to time appeared to be possessed of quite novel properties. The law of periodicity first enabled us to perceive undiscovered elements at a distance which formerly were inaccessible to chemical vision, and long ere they were discovered new elements appeared before our eyes possessed of a number of well-defined properties.
In Faraday Lecture, delivered before the Fellows of the Chemical Society in the Theatre of the Royal Institution (4 Jun 1889), printed in Professor Mendeléeff, 'The Periodic Law of the Chemical Elements', Transactions of the Chemical Society (1889), 55, 648.
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Beneath multiple specific and individual distinctions, beneath innumerable and incessant transformations, at the bottom of the circular evolution without beginning or end, there hides a law, a unique nature participated in by all beings, in which this common participation produces a ground of common harmony.
A.W. Grabau, Stratigraphy of China (1928), title page.
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Benford's Law of Controversy: Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.
In novel, Timescape (1992), no page numbering. The reference in the orginal text uses the past tense.
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Biology occupies a position among the sciences both marginal and central. Marginal because, the living world, constituting only a tiny and very “special” part of the universe, it does not seem likely that the study of living beings will ever uncover general laws applicable outside the biosphere. But if the ultimate aim of the whole of science is indeed, as I believe, to clarify man's relationship to the universe, then biology must be accorded a central position, since of all the disciplines it is the one that endeavours to go most directly to the heart of the problems that must be resolved before that of “human nature” can even be framed in other than metaphysical terms.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), xi.
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Borel makes the amusing supposition of a million monkeys allowed to play upon the keys of a million typewriters. What is the chance that this wanton activity should reproduce exactly all of the volumes which are contained in the library of the British Museum? It certainly is not a large chance, but it may be roughly calculated, and proves in fact to be considerably larger than the chance that a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen will separate into the two pure constituents. After we have learned to estimate such minute chances, and after we have overcome our fear of numbers which are very much larger or very much smaller than those ordinarily employed, we might proceed to calculate the chance of still more extraordinary occurrences, and even have the boldness to regard the living cell as a result of random arrangement and rearrangement of its atoms. However, we cannot but feel that this would be carrying extrapolation too far. This feeling is due not merely to a recognition of the enormous complexity of living tissue but to the conviction that the whole trend of life, the whole process of building up more and more diverse and complex structures, which we call evolution, is the very opposite of that which we might expect from the laws of chance.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 158-9.
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Bressler’s Law: There is no crisis to which academics will not respond with a conference.
As quoted in William Reville, 'The Science of Writing a Good Joke', The Irish Times (5 Jun 2000).
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But I canna change the laws of physics, Captain!
Scotty
chief engineer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, to Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek.
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But I think that in the repeated and almost entire changes of organic types in the successive formations of the earth—in the absence of mammalia in the older, and their very rare appearance (and then in forms entirely. unknown to us) in the newer secondary groups—in the diffusion of warm-blooded quadrupeds (frequently of unknown genera) through the older tertiary systems—in their great abundance (and frequently of known genera) in the upper portions of the same series—and, lastly, in the recent appearance of man on the surface of the earth (now universally admitted—in one word, from all these facts combined, we have a series of proofs the most emphatic and convincing,—that the existing order of nature is not the last of an uninterrupted succession of mere physical events derived from laws now in daily operation: but on the contrary, that the approach to the present system of things has been gradual, and that there has been a progressive development of organic structure subservient to the purposes of life.
'Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831', Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 305-6.
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But it is just this characteristic of simplicity in the laws of nature hitherto discovered which it would be fallacious to generalize, for it is obvious that simplicity has been a part cause of their discovery, and can, therefore, give no ground for the supposition that other undiscovered laws are equally simple.
From Herbert Spencer lecture delivered at Oxford (1914) 'On Scientific Method in Philosophy', collected in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1919), 102.
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But it will be found... that one universal law prevails in all these phenomena. Where two portions of the same light arrive in the eye by different routes, either exactly or very nearly in the same direction, the appearance or disappearance of various colours is determined by the greater or less difference in the lengths of the paths.
Lecture XIV. 'Of Physical Optics'. In A Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy (1802), 112-4.
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But nature is remarkably obstinate against purely logical operations; she likes not schoolmasters nor scholastic procedures. As though she took a particular satisfaction in mocking at our intelligence, she very often shows us the phantom of an apparently general law, represented by scattered fragments, which are entirely inconsistent. Logic asks for the union of these fragments; the resolute dogmatist, therefore, does not hesitate to go straight on to supply, by logical conclusions, the fragments he wants, and to flatter himself that he has mastered nature by his victorious intelligence.
'On the Principles of Animal Morphology', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2 Apr 1888), 15, 289. Original as Letter to Mr John Murray, communicated to the Society by Professor Sir William Turner. Page given as in collected volume published 1889.
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But the real glory of science is that we can find a way of thinking such that the law is evident.
The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1965), Vol. 1, 26-3. In Carver A. Mead, Collective Electrodynamics: Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism (2002), 1.
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But with regard to the material world, we can at least go so far as this;—we can perceive that events are brought about, not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular ease, but by the establishment of general laws.
In Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (1833), 356. Charles Darwin placed this quote on the title page of his On the Origin of Species, identified as from Whewell's 'Bridgewater Treatise'.
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But, on the other hand, every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.
Letter (24 Jan 1936). Quoted in Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981), 33.
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By explanation the scientist understands nothing except the reduction to the least and simplest basic laws possible, beyond which he cannot go, but must plainly demand them; from them however he deduces the phenomena absolutely completely as necessary.
From his memoir 'Erdmagnetismus und Magnetometer' in Collected Works (1877), Vol. 5, 315-316. Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 411.
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By firm immutable immortal laws Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,
Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife
Organic forms, and kindled into life;
How Love and Sympathy with potent charm
Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;
Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,
And bind Society in golden chains.
From 'Production of Life', The Temple of Nature; or, The Origin of Society: A Poem, with Philosophical Notes (1803), 3, Canto I, lines 1-8.
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By its very nature the uterus is a field for growing the seeds, that is to say the ova, sown upon it. Here the eggs are fostered, and here the parts of the living [fetus], when they have further unfolded, become manifest and are made strong. Yet although it has been cast off by the mother and sown, the egg is weak and powerless and so requires the energy of the semen of the male to initiate growth. Hence in accordance with the laws of Nature, and like the other orders of living things, women produce eggs which, when received into the chamber of the uterus and fecundated by the semen of the male, unfold into a new life.
'On the Developmental Process', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 2, 861.
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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 science, then, I understand the consideration of all subjects, whether of a pure or mixed nature, capable of being reduced to measurement and calculation. All things comprehended under the categories of space, time and number properly belong to our investigations; and all phenomena capable of being brought under the semblance of a law are legitimate objects of our inquiries.
In Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1833), xxviii.
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By such deductions the law of gravitation is rendered probable, that every particle attracts every other particle with a force which varies inversely as the square of the distance. The law thus suggested is assumed to be universally true.
In Isaac Newton and Percival Frost (ed.) Newton's Principia: Sections I, II, III (1863), 217.
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By the 18th century science had been so successful in laying bare the laws of nature that many thought there was nothing left to discover. Immutable laws prescribed the motion of every particle in the universe, exactly and forever: the task of the scientist was to elucidate the implications of those laws for any particular phenomenon of interest. Chaos gave way to a clockwork world. But the world moved on ...Today even our clocks are not made of clockwork. ... With the advent of quantum mechanics, the clockwork world has become a lottery. Fundamental events, such as the decay of a radioactive atom, are held to be determined by chance, not law.
Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos (2002). xi.
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Cell and tissue, shell and bone, leaf and flower, are so many portions of matter, and it is in obedience to the laws of physics that their particles have been moved, moulded and confirmed. They are no exception to the rule that God always geometrizes. Their problems of form are in the first instance mathematical problems, their problems of growth are essentially physical problems, and the morphologist is, ipso facto, a student of physical science.
On Growth and Form (1917), 7-8.
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Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
…...
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Chaos was the law of nature; order was the dream of man.
From his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams (1907, 1918), 451.
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Chemistry is like a majestic skyscraper. The concrete secure foundation of chemistry consists of countless experimentally observed facts. The theories, principles and laws developed from these observations are like an elevator which runs from the bottom to the top of the edifice.
Ernest R. Toon and George L. Ellis (eds.), Foundations of Chemistry (1968), 1.
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Chemistry is the study of the effects of heat and mixture, with a view of discovering their general and subordinate laws, and of improving the useful arts.
This is an editor’s shorter restatement of the definition given by Black in the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 11, footnote. For the definitions as given by Black, see elsewhere on this web page.
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Cheops’ Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259. Note: Cheops built the Great Pyramid at Giza. Of course, exceptions do exist, for example, the Empire State Building was built speedily, and under budget.
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Children are told that an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and he was led to state the law of gravity. This, of course, is pure foolishness. What Newton discovered was that any two particles in the universe attract each other with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is not learned from a falling apple, but by observing quantities of data and developing a mathematical theory that can be verified by additional data. Data gathered by Galileo on falling bodies and by Johannes Kepler on motions of the planets were invaluable aids to Newton. Unfortunately, such false impressions about science are not universally outgrown like the Santa Claus myth, and some people who don’t study much science go to their graves thinking that the human race took until the mid-seventeenth century to notice that objects fall.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 127.
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Combining in our survey then, the whole range of deposits from the most recent to the most ancient group, how striking a succession do they present:– so various yet so uniform–so vast yet so connected. In thus tracing back to the most remote periods in the physical history of our continents, one system of operations, as the means by which many complex formations have been successively produced, the mind becomes impressed with the singleness of nature's laws; and in this respect, at least, geology is hardly inferior in simplicity to astronomy.
The Silurian System (1839), 574.
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Compare ... the various quantities of the same element contained in the molecule of the free substance and in those of all its different compounds and you will not be able to escape the following law: The different quantities of the same element contained in different molecules are all whole multiples of one and the same quantity, which always being entire, has the right to be called an atom.
Sketch of a Course of Chemical Philosophy (1858), Alembic Club Reprint (1910), 11.
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Compounds of gaseous substances with each other are always formed in very simple ratios, so that representing one of the terms by unity, the other is 1, 2, or at most 3 ... The apparent contraction of volume suffered by gas on combination is also very simply related to the volume of one of them.
Mémoires de la Société d' Arcueil, 1809, 2, 233-4. Trans. Foundations of the Molecular Theory, Alembic Club Reprint, no. 4 (1950), 24.
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Connected by innumerable ties with abstract science, Physiology is yet in the most intimate relation with humanity; and by teaching us that law and order, and a definite scheme of development, regulate even the strangest and wildest manifestations of individual life, she prepares the student to look for a goal even amidst the erratic wanderings of mankind, and to believe that history offers something more than an entertaining chaos—a journal of a toilsome, tragi-comic march nowither.
In 'Educational Value of Natural History Sciences', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 97.
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Conscientious and careful physicians allocate causes of disease to natural laws, while the ablest scientists go back to medicine for their first principles.
Aristotle
Attributed.
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Conservation and rural-life policies are really two sides of the same policy; and down at the bottom this policy rests upon the fundamental law that neither man nor nation can prosper unless, in dealing with the present, thought is steadily given for the future.
'Rural Life' (originally published in The Outlook, 27 Aug 1910). In The Works of Theodore Roosevelt. Vol. 16: American Problems (1926), 146.
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Considered as a mere question of physics, (and keeping all moral considerations entirely out of sight,) the appearance of man is a geological phenomenon of vast importance, indirectly modifying the whole surface of the earth, breaking in upon any supposition of zoological continuity, and utterly unaccounted for by what we have any right to call the laws of nature.
'Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831', Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 306.
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Contingency is rich and fascinating; it embodies an exquisite tension between the power of individuals to modify history and the intelligible limits set by laws of nature. The details of individual and species’s lives are not mere frills, without power to shape the large-scale course of events, but particulars that can alter entire futures, profoundly and forever.
…...
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Coterminous with space and coeval with time is the kingdom of Mathematics; within this range her dominion is supreme; otherwise than according to her order nothing can exist; in contradiction to her laws nothing takes place. On her mysterious scroll is to be found written for those who can read it that which has been, that which is, and that which is to come.
From Presidential Address (Aug 1878) to the British Association, Dublin, published in the Report of the 48th Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1878), 31.
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Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the “Mona Lisa” painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam, whether it takes ultimate shape in a law of physics or a law of the land, a poem or a policy, a sonata or a mechanical computer.
Baccalaureate address (9 Jun 1957), Yale University. In In the University Tradition (1957), 156.
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Deaths, births, and marriages, considering how much they are separately dependent on the freedom of the human will, should seem to be subject to no law according to which any calculation could be made beforehand of their amount; and yet the yearly registers of these events in great countries prove that they go on with as much conformity to the laws of nature as the oscillations of the weather.
'Idea of a Universal history on a Cosmo-Political Plan' (1784). As translated by Thomas De Quinsey in The London Magazine (Oct 1824), 10, 385. Reprinted in 1859 by De Quincey in Vol. 8 of his Collective Edition of his writings.
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Debunking bad science should be constant obligation of the science community, even if it takes time away from serious research or seems to be a losing battle. One takes comfort from the fact there is no Gresham’s laws in science. In the long run, good science drives out bad.
In preamble to 'Part III: Pseudoscience', The Night Is Large: Collected Essays 1938-1995 (1996), 171.
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Disease is not something personal and special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws as apply to the living body at all times, from the first moment until death.
In Ian F. McNeely, Medicine on a Grand Scale: Rudolf Virchow, Liberalism, and the Public Health (2002), 26.
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Doubly galling was the fact that at the same time my roommate was taking a history course … filled with excitement over a class discussion. … I was busy with Ampere’s law. We never had any fascinating class discussions about this law. No one, teacher or student, ever asked me what I thought about it.
In Understanding the Universe: An Inquiry Approach to Astronomy and the Nature of Scientific Research (2013), ix.
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Doubtless the reasoning faculty, the mind, is the leading and characteristic attribute of the human race. By the exercise of this, man arrives at the properties of the natural bodies. This is science, properly and emphatically so called. It is the science of pure mathematics; and in the high branches of this science lies the truly sublime of human acquisition. If any attainment deserves that epithet, it is the knowledge, which, from the mensuration of the minutest dust of the balance, proceeds on the rising scale of material bodies, everywhere weighing, everywhere measuring, everywhere detecting and explaining the laws of force and motion, penetrating into the secret principles which hold the universe of God together, and balancing worlds against worlds, and system against system. When we seek to accompany those who pursue studies at once so high, so vast, and so exact; when we arrive at the discoveries of Newton, which pour in day on the works of God, as if a second fiat had gone forth from his own mouth; when, further, we attempt to follow those who set out where Newton paused, making his goal their starting-place, and, proceeding with demonstration upon demonstration, and discovery upon discovery, bring new worlds and new systems of worlds within the limits of the known universe, failing to learn all only because all is infinite; however we may say of man, in admiration of his physical structure, that “in form and moving he is express and admirable,” it is here, and here without irreverence, we may exclaim, “In apprehension how like a god!” The study of the pure mathematics will of course not be extensively pursued in an institution, which, like this [Boston Mechanics’ Institute], has a direct practical tendency and aim. But it is still to be remembered, that pure mathematics lie at the foundation of mechanical philosophy, and that it is ignorance only which can speak or think of that sublime science as useless research or barren speculation.
In Works (1872), Vol. 1, 180.
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During the half-century that has elapsed since the enunciation of the cell-theory by Schleiden and Schwann, in 1838-39, it has became ever more clearly apparent that the key to all ultimate biological problems must, in the last analysis, be sought in the cell. It was the cell-theory that first brought the structure of plants and animals under one point of view by revealing their common plan of organization. It was through the cell-theory that Kolliker and Remak opened the way to an understanding of the nature of embryological development, and the law of genetic continuity lying at the basis of inheritance. It was the cell-­theory again which, in the hands of Virchaw and Max Schultze, inaugurated a new era in the history of physiology and pathology, by showing that all the various functions of the body, in health and in disease, are but the outward expression of cell­-activities. And at a still later day it was through the cell-theory that Hertwig, Fol, Van Beneden, and Strasburger solved the long-standing riddle of the fertilization of the egg, and the mechanism of hereditary transmission. No other biological generalization, save only the theory of organic evolution, has brought so many apparently diverse phenomena under a common point of view or has accomplished more far the unification of knowledge. The cell-theory must therefore be placed beside the evolution-theory as one of the foundation stones of modern biology.
In The Cell in Development and Inheritance (1896), 1.
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During the time of the Deluge, whilst the Water was out upon, and covered the Terrestrial Globe, … all Fossils whatever that had before obtained any Solidity, were totally dissolved, and their constituent Corpuscles all disjoyned, their Cohesion perfectly ceasing … [A]nd, to be short, all Bodies whatsoever that were either upon the Earth, or that constituted the Mass of it, if not quite down to the Abyss, yet at least to the greatest depth we ever dig: I say all these were assumed up promiscuously into the Water, and sustained in it, in such a manner that the Water, and Bodies in it, together made up one common confused Mass. That at length all the Mass that was thus borne up in the Water, was again precipitated and subsided towards the bottom. That this subsidence happened generally, and as near as possibly could be expected in so great a Confusion, according to the laws of Gravity.
In An Essay Toward A Natural History of the Earth (1695), 74-75.
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Each juggler should be trained in the ignorance of the laws of physics.
Unkempt Thoughts (1962), 66.
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Each science and law is … prospective and fruitful. Astronomy is not yet astronomy, whilst it only counts the stars in the sky. It must come nearer, and be related to men and their life.
From Notes to 'Progress of Culture' in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1904), Vol. 8, 409.
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Ecology has not yet explicitly developed the kind of cohesive, simplifying generalizations exemplified by, say, the laws of physics. Nevertheless there are a number of generalizations that are already evident in what we now know about the ecosphere and that can be organized into a kind of informal set of laws of ecology.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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Education in my family was not merely emphasized, it was our raison d'être. Virtually all of our aunts and uncles had Ph.D.s in science or engineering, and it was taken for granted that the next generation of Chu's were to follow the family tradition. When the dust had settled, my two brothers and four cousins collected three MDs, four Ph.D.s and a law degree. I could manage only a single advanced degree.
Autobiography in Gösta Ekspong (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1996-2000 (2002), 115.
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Effects vary with the conditions which bring them to pass, but laws do not vary. Physiological and pathological states are ruled by the same forces; they differ only because of the special conditions under which the vital laws manifest themselves.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957),10.
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Einstein, twenty-six years old, only three years away from crude privation, still a patent examiner, published in the Annalen der Physik in 1905 five papers on entirely different subjects. Three of them were among the greatest in the history of physics. One, very simple, gave the quantum explanation of the photoelectric effect—it was this work for which, sixteen years later, he was awarded the Nobel prize. Another dealt with the phenomenon of Brownian motion, the apparently erratic movement of tiny particles suspended in a liquid: Einstein showed that these movements satisfied a clear statistical law. This was like a conjuring trick, easy when explained: before it, decent scientists could still doubt the concrete existence of atoms and molecules: this paper was as near to a direct proof of their concreteness as a theoretician could give. The third paper was the special eory of relativity, which quietly amalgamated space, time, and matter into one fundamental unity. This last paper contains no references and quotes no authority. All of them are written in a style unlike any other theoretical physicist's. They contain very little mathematics. There is a good deal of verbal commentary. The conclusions, the bizarre conclusions, emerge as though with the greatest of ease: the reasoning is unbreakable. It looks as though he had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done.
Variety of Men (1966), 100-1.
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Electricity is often called wonderful, beautiful; but it is so only in common with the other forces of nature. The beauty of electricity or of any other force is not that the power is mysterious, and unexpected, touching every sense at unawares in turn, but that it is under law, and that the taught intellect can even govern it largely. The human mind is placed above, and not beneath it, and it is in such a point of view that the mental education afforded by science is rendered super-eminent in dignity, in practical application and utility; for by enabling the mind to apply the natural power through law, it conveys the gifts of God to man.
Notes for a Friday Discourse at the Royal Institution (1858).
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Endowed with two qualities, which seemed incompatible with each other, a volcanic imagination and a pertinacity of intellect which the most tedious numerical calculations could not daunt, Kepler conjectured that the movements of the celestial bodies must be connected together by simple laws, or, to use his own expression, by harmonic laws. These laws he undertook to discover. A thousand fruitless attempts, errors of calculation inseparable from a colossal undertaking, did not prevent him a single instant from advancing resolutely toward the goal of which he imagined he had obtained a glimpse. Twenty-two years were employed by him in this investigation, and still he was not weary of it! What, in reality, are twenty-two years of labor to him who is about to become the legislator of worlds; who shall inscribe his name in ineffaceable characters upon the frontispiece of an immortal code; who shall be able to exclaim in dithyrambic language, and without incurring the reproach of anyone, “The die is cast; I have written my book; it will be read either in the present age or by posterity, it matters not which; it may well await a reader, since God has waited six thousand years for an interpreter of his words.”
In 'Eulogy on Laplace', in Smithsonian Report for the year 1874 (1875), 131-132.
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Engineering is an activity other than purely manual and physical work which brings about the utilization of the materials and laws of nature for the good of humanity.
1929
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Engineering is the practice of safe and economic application of the scientific laws governing the forces and materials of nature by means of organization, design and construction, for the general benefit of mankind.
1920
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Ethnologists regard man as the primitive element of tribes, races, and peoples. The anthropologist looks at him as a member of the fauna of the globe, belonging to a zoölogical classification, and subject to the same laws as the rest of the animal kingdom. To study him from the last point of view only would be to lose sight of some of his most interesting and practical relations; but to be confined to the ethnologist’s views is to set aside the scientific rule which requires us to proceed from the simple to the compound, from the known to the unknown, from the material and organic fact to the functional phenomenon.
'Paul Broca and the French School of Anthropology'. Lecture delivered in the National Museum, Washington, D.C., 15 April 1882, by Dr. Robert Fletcher. In The Saturday Lectures (1882), 118.
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Euclidean mathematics assumes the completeness and invariability of mathematical forms; these forms it describes with appropriate accuracy and enumerates their inherent and related properties with perfect clearness, order, and completeness, that is, Euclidean mathematics operates on forms after the manner that anatomy operates on the dead body and its members. On the other hand, the mathematics of variable magnitudes—function theory or analysis—considers mathematical forms in their genesis. By writing the equation of the parabola, we express its law of generation, the law according to which the variable point moves. The path, produced before the eyes of the student by a point moving in accordance to this law, is the parabola.
If, then, Euclidean mathematics treats space and number forms after the manner in which anatomy treats the dead body, modern mathematics deals, as it were, with the living body, with growing and changing forms, and thus furnishes an insight, not only into nature as she is and appears, but also into nature as she generates and creates,—reveals her transition steps and in so doing creates a mind for and understanding of the laws of becoming. Thus modern mathematics bears the same relation to Euclidean mathematics that physiology or biology … bears to anatomy.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 38. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 112-113.
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Even one well-made observation will be enough in many cases, just as one well-constructed experiment often suffices for the establishment of a law.
The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), 8th edition, trans. Sarah A. Solovay and John M. Mueller, ed. George E. G. Catlin (1938,1964 edition), 80.
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Every complete set of chromosomes contains the full code; so there are, as a rule, two copies of the latter in the fertilized egg cell, which forms the earliest stage of the future individual. In calling the structure of the chromosome fibres a code-script we mean that the all-penetrating mind, once conceived by Laplace, to which every causal connection lay immediately open, could tell from their structure whether the egg would develop, under suitable conditions, into a black cock or into a speckled hen, into a fly or a maize plant, a rhododendron, a beetle, a mouse or a woman. To which we may add, that the appearances of the egg cells are very often remarkably similar; and even when they are not, as in the case of the comparatively gigantic eggs of birds and reptiles, the difference is not so much in the relevant structures as in the nutritive material which in these cases is added for obvious reasons.
But the term code-script is, of course, too narrow. The chromosome structures are at the same time instrumental in bringing about the development they foreshadow. They are law-code and executive power?or, to use another simile, they are architect's plan and builder’s craft-in one.
In What is Life? : The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell (1944), 20-21.
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Every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God.
…...
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Every phenomenon, however trifling it be, has a cause, and a mind infinitely powerful, and infinitely well-informed concerning the laws of nature could have foreseen it from the beginning of the ages. If a being with such a mind existed, we could play no game of chance with him; we should always lose.
Science and Method (1908), trans. Francis Maitland (1914), 65.
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Every species of plant is a law unto itself.
'The Individualistic Concept of the Plant Association', Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 1926, 53, 26.
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Everybody firmly believes in it [Nomal Law of Errors] because the mathematicians imagine it is a fact of observation, and observers that it is a theory of mathematics.
…...
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Everybody now wants to discover universal laws which will explain the structure and behavior of the nucleus of the atom. But actually our knowledge of the elementary particles that make up the nucleus is tiny. The situation calls for more modesty. We should first try to discover more about these elementary particles and about their laws. Then it will be the time for the major synthesis of what we really know, and the formulation of the universal law.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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Everyone believes in the law of errors, the experimenters because they think it is a mathematical theorem, and the mathematicians because they think it is an experimental fact.
Remark to Henri Poincaré about the Gaussian curve. From the original French, “Les expérimentateurs s’imaginent que c’est un théorème de mathématique, et les mathématiciens d’être un fait expérimental”, in Henri Poincaré, Calcul des Probabilités (1896), 149. Poincaré introduces it as, “me disait un jour M. Lippmann” (Mr. Lippman told me one day). Quote above as translated in F. Downton, 'Review: Nonparametric Methods in Statistics', The Mathematical Gazette (Feb 1959), 43, No. 343, 67.
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Everything in nature goes by law, and not by luck.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 94:25.
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Everything is made of atoms ... Everything that animals do, atoms do. ... There is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics.
In The Feynman Lectures (1963), 8.
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Everywhere in nature we seek some certainty, but all this is nothing more than an arrangement of the dark feeling of our own. All the mathematical laws that we find in Nature are always suspicious to me, despite their beauty. They give me no pleasure. They are merely expedients. Everything is not true at close range.
From the original German, in Physikalische und Mathematische Schriften (1806), Vol. 4, 145, “Wir suchen in der Natur überall eine gewisse Bestimmtheit, aber das Alles ist weiter nichts, als Anordnung des dunkeln Gefühls unserer eigenen. Alle mathematischen Gesetze, die wir in der Natur finden, sind mir trotz ihrer Schönheit immer verdächtig. Sie Freuen mich nicht. Sie sind bloss Hülfsmittel. In der Nähe ist Alles nicht wahr.” English version by Webmaster using Google translate.
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Evolution in the biosphere is therefore a necessarily irreversible process defining a direction in time; a direction which is the same as that enjoined by the law of increasing entropy, that is to say, the second law of thermodynamics. This is far more than a mere comparison: the second law is founded upon considerations identical to those which establish the irreversibility of evolution. Indeed, it is legitimate to view the irreversibility of evolution as an expression of the second law in the biosphere.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 123.
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Evolution is a blind giant who rolls a snowball down a hill. The ball is made of flakes—circumstances. They contribute to the mass without knowing it. They adhere without intention, and without foreseeing what is to result. When they see the result they marvel at the monster ball and wonder how the contriving of it came to be originally thought out and planned. Whereas there was no such planning, there was only a law: the ball once started, all the circumstances that happened to lie in its path would help to build it, in spite of themselves.
'The Secret History of Eddypus', in Mark Twain and David Ketterer (ed.), Tales of Wonder (2003), 222-23.
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Evolution is the law of policies: Darwin said it, Socrates endorsed it, Cuvier proved it and established it for all time in his paper on 'The Survival of the Fittest.' These are illustrious names, this is a mighty doctrine: nothing can ever remove it from its firm base, nothing dissolve it, but evolution.
'Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes', Which Was the Dream? (1967), Chap. 8. In Mark Twain and Brian Collins (ed.), When in Doubt, Tell the Truth: and Other Quotations from Mark Twain (1996), 47.
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Experiments may be of two kinds: experiments of simple fact, and experiments of quantity. ...[In the latter] the conditions will ... vary, not in quality, but quantity, and the effect will also vary in quantity, so that the result of quantitative induction is also to arrive at some mathematical expression involving the quantity of each condition, and expressing the quantity of the result. In other words, we wish to know what function the effect is of its conditions. We shall find that it is one thing to obtain the numerical results, and quite another thing to detect the law obeyed by those results, the latter being an operation of an inverse and tentative character.
Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method (1874, 1892), 439.
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First Law
In every animal which has not passed the limit of its development, a more frequent and continuous use of any organ gradually strengthens, develops and enlarges that organ, and gives it a power proportional to the length of time it has been so used; while the permanent disuse of any organ imperceptibly weakens and deteriorates it, and progressively diminishes its functional capacity, until it finally disappears.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 235, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 113.
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First, [Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation] is mathematical in its expression…. Second, it is not exact; Einstein had to modify it…. There is always an edge of mystery, always a place where we have some fiddling around to do yet…. But the most impressive fact is that gravity is simple…. It is simple, and therefore it is beautiful…. Finally, comes the universality of the gravitational law and the fact that it extends over such enormous distances…
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 33.
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For a modern ruler the laws of conservation and transformation of energy, when the vivifing stream takes its source, the ways it wends its course in nature, and how, under wisdom and knowledge, it may be intertwined with human destiny, instead of careering headlong to the ocean, are a study at least as pregnant with consequences to life as any lesson taught by the long unscientific history of man.
Science and Life (1920), 5.
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For a while he [Charles S. Mellen] trampled with impunity on laws human and divine but, as he was obsessed with the delusion that two and two makes five, he fell, at last a victim to the relentless rules of humble Arithmetic.
Remember, O stranger: “Arithmetic is the first of the sciences and the mother of safety.”
In a private letter (29 Sep 1911) to Norman Hapgood, editor of Harper’s Weekly, referenced in Hapgood’s editorial, 'Arithmetic', which was quoted in Hapgood’s Preface to Louis Brandeis, Other People’s Money and How The Bankers Use It (1914), xli. Brandeis was describing Mellen, president of the New Haven Railroad, whom he correctly predicted would resign in the face of reduced dividends caused by his bad financial management. The embedded quote, “Arithmetic…”, is footnoted in Louis D. Brandeis, Letters of Louis D. Brandeis: Volume II, 1907-1912: People's Attorney (1971), 501, citing its source as from a novel by Victor Cherbuliez, Samuel Brohl and Partner (probably 1881 edition), which LDB had transcribed “into his literary notebook at an early age.”
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For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible! Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have, any hold on him. A God who rewards and punishes is for him unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for the movements which it makes. Science, in consequence, has been accused of undermining morals—but wrongly. The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.
From 'Religion and Science', The New York Times Magazine, (9 Nov 1930), 1. Article in full, reprinted in Edward H. Cotton (ed.), Has Science Discovered God? A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931), 101. The wording differs significantly from the version collected in 'Religion And Science', Ideas And Opinions (1954), 39, giving its source as: “Written expressly for the New York Times Magazine. Appeared there November 9, 1930 (pp. 1-4). The German text was published in the Berliner Tageblatt, November 11, 1930.” This variant form of the quote from the book begins, “The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation….” and is also on the Albert Einstein Quotes page on this website. As for why the difference, Webmaster speculates the book form editor perhaps used a revised translation from Einstein’s German article.
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For example, there are numbers of chemists who occupy themselves exclusively with the study of dyestuffs. They discover facts that are useful to scientific chemistry; but they do not rank as genuine scientific men. The genuine scientific chemist cares just as much to learn about erbium—the extreme rarity of which renders it commercially unimportant—as he does about iron. He is more eager to learn about erbium if the knowledge of it would do more to complete his conception of the Periodic Law, which expresses the mutual relations of the elements.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 20.
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For if there is any truth in the dynamical theory of gases the different molecules in a gas at uniform temperature are moving with very different velocities. Put such a gas into a vessel with two compartments [A and B] and make a small hole in the wall about the right size to let one molecule through. Provide a lid or stopper for this hole and appoint a doorkeeper, very intelligent and exceedingly quick, with microscopic eyes but still an essentially finite being.
Whenever he sees a molecule of great velocity coming against the door from A into B he is to let it through, but if the molecule happens to be going slow he is to keep the door shut. He is also to let slow molecules pass from B to A but not fast ones ... In this way the temperature of B may be raised and that of A lowered without any expenditure of work, but only by the intelligent action of a mere guiding agent (like a pointsman on a railway with perfectly acting switches who should send the express along one line and the goods along another).
I do not see why even intelligence might not be dispensed with and the thing be made self-acting.
Moral The 2nd law of Thermodynamics has the same degree of truth as the statement that if you throw a tumblerful of water into the sea you cannot get the same tumblerful of water out again.
Letter to John William Strutt (6 Dec 1870). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 582-3.
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For me, the idea of a creation is not conceivable without invoking the necessity of design. One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all.
In letter to California State board of Education (14 Sep 1972).
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For me, the study of these laws is inseparable from a love of Nature in all its manifestations. The beauty of the basic laws of natural science, as revealed in the study of particles and of the cosmos, is allied to the litheness of a merganser diving in a pure Swedish lake, or the grace of a dolphin leaving shining trails at night in the Gulf of California.
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1969), in Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.),Les Prix Nobel en 1969 (1970).
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For science, God is simplythe stream of tendency in which all things seek to fulfil the law of their being.
In Literature and Dogma: An Essay Towards a Better Apprehension of the Bible (1873), 41.
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For the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant executrix of God's commands. It is necessary for the Bible, in order to be accommodated to the understanding of every man, to speak many things which appear to differ from the absolute truth so far as the bare meaning of the words is concerned. But Nature, on the other hand, is inexorable and immutable; she never transgresses the laws imposed upon her, or cares a whit whether her abstruse reasons and methods of operation are understandable to men. For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words.
Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: Concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1615), trans. Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957), 182-3.
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For the philosopher, order is the entirety of repetitions manifested, in the form of types or of laws, by perceived objects. Order is an intelligible relation. For the biologist, order is a sequence in space and time. However, according to Plato, all things arise out of their opposites. Order was born of the original disorder, and the long evolution responsible for the present biological order necessarily had to engender disorder.
An organism is a molecular society, and biological order is a kind of social order. Social order is opposed to revolution, which is an abrupt change of order, and to anarchy, which is the absence of order.
I am presenting here today both revolution and anarchy, for which I am fortunately not the only one responsible. However, anarchy cannot survive and prosper except in an ordered society, and revolution becomes sooner or later the new order. Viruses have not failed to follow the general law. They are strict parasites which, born of disorder, have created a very remarkable new order to ensure their own perpetuation.
'Interaction Among Virus, Cell, and Organism', Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1965). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1963-1970 (1972), 174.
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For the religious, passivism [i.e., objects are obedient to the laws of nature] provides a clear role of God as the author of the laws of nature. If the laws of nature are God’s commands for an essentially passive world…, God also has the power to suspend the laws of nature, and so perform miracles.
In The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism (2002), 2.
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For the second law [of thermodynamics], I will burn at the stake.
Comment made to H. Montgomery during his time at Harwell. In D. Shoenberg's obituary of H. London, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1971), 17, 442.
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From a long view of the history of mankind—seen from, say, ten thousand years from now—there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade.
In The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), Vol. 2, page 1-11.
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From all we have learnt about the structure of living matter, we must be prepared to find it working in a manner that cannot be reduced to the ordinary laws of physics. And that not on the ground that there is any “new force” or what not, directing the behavior of the single atoms within a living organism, but because the construction is different from anything we have yet tested in the physical laboratory.
What is Life? (1956), 74.
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From the infinitely great down to the infinitely small, all things are subject to [the laws of nature]. The sun and the planets follow the laws discovered by Newton and Laplace, just as the atoms in their combinations follow the laws of chemistry, as living creatures follow the laws of biology. It is only the imperfections of the human mind which multiply the divisions of the sciences, separating astronomy from physics or chemistry, the natural sciences from the social sciences. In essence, science is one. It is none other than the truth.
In Cours d’Economie Politique (1896-97).
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From this fountain (the free will of God) it is those laws, which we call the laws of nature, have flowed, in which there appear many traces of the most wise contrivance, but not the least shadow of necessity. These therefore we must not seek from uncertain conjectures, but learn them from observations and experimental. He who is presumptuous enough to think that he can find the true principles of physics and the laws of natural things by the force alone of his own mind, and the internal light of his reason, must either suppose the world exists by necessity, and by the same necessity follows the law proposed; or if the order of Nature was established by the will of God, the [man] himself, a miserable reptile, can tell what was fittest to be done.
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Gases are distinguished from other forms of matter, not only by their power of indefinite expansion so as to fill any vessel, however large, and by the great effect heat has in dilating them, but by the uniformity and simplicity of the laws which regulate these changes.
Theory of Heat (1904), 31.
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Generation by male and female is a law common to animals and plants.
In Louis Ferdinand Compte de Marsilli, 'Preface', Histoire Physique de la Mer (1725), ix.
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Geneticists believe that anthropologists have decided what a race is. Ethnologists assume that their classifications embody principles which genetic science has proved correct. Politicians believe that their prejudices have the sanction of genetic laws and the findings of physical anthropology to sustain them.
'The Concept of Race.' In Genetic Principles in Medicine and Social Science (1931), 122.
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Genetics has enticed a great many explorers during the past two decades. They have labored with fruit-flies and guinea-pigs, with sweet peas and corn, with thousands of animals and plants in fact, and they have made heredity no longer a mystery but an exact science to be ranked close behind physics and chemistry in definiteness of conception. One is inclined to believe, however, that the unique magnetic attraction of genetics lies in the vision of potential good which it holds for mankind rather than a circumscribed interest in the hereditary mechanisms of the lowly species used as laboratory material. If man had been found to be sharply demarcated from the rest of the occupants of the world, so that his heritage of physical form, of physiological function, and of mental attributes came about in a superior manner setting him apart as lord of creation, interest in the genetics of the humbler organisms—if one admits the truth—would have flagged severely. Biologists would have turned their attention largely to the ways of human heredity, in spite of the fact that the difficulties encountered would have rendered progress slow and uncertain. Since this was not the case, since the laws ruling the inheritance of the denizens of the garden and the inmates of the stable were found to be applicable to prince and potentate as well, one could shut himself up in his laboratory and labor to his heart's content, feeling certain that any truth which it fell to his lot to discover had a real human interest, after all.
Mankind at the Crossroads (1923), v-vi.
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Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings which compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.
Introduction to Oeuvres vol. VII, Theorie Analytique de Probabilites (1812-1820). As translated by Frederick Wilson Truscott and Frederick Lincoln Emory in A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902), 4. [LaPlace is here expressing his belief in causal determinism.] From the original French, “Une intelligence qui, pour un instant donné, connaîtrait toutes les forces dont la nature est animée, et la situation respective des êtres qui la composent, si d’ailleurs elle était assez vaste pour soumettre ces données a l’analyse, embrasserait dans la même formula les mouvements des plus grand corps de l’univers et ceux du plus léger atome: rien ne serait incertain pour elle, et l’avenir comme le passé serait présent à ses yeux.”
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God may have written just a few laws and grown tired. We do not know whether we are in a tidy universe or an untidy one.
How the Laws of Physics Lie (1983), 49.
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God [could] vary the laws of Nature, and make worlds of several sorts in several parts of the universe.
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Good lawyers know that in many cases where the decisions are correct, the reasons that are given to sustain them may be entirely wrong. This is a thousand times more likely to be true in the practice of medicine than in that of the law, and hence the impropriety, not to say the folly, in spending your time in the discussion of medical belief and theories of cure that are more ingenious and seductive than they are profitable.
Introductory lecture (22 Sep 1885), Hahnemann Medical College, Chicago, printed in United States Medical Investigator (1885), 21, 526.
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Happily, facts have become so multiplied, that Geology is daily emerging from that state when an hypothesis, provided it were brilliant and ingenious, was sure of advocates and temporary success, when when it sinned against the laws of physics and the facts themselves.
In Geological Manual (1832), Preface, iv.
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Harvard Law: Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, humidity, and other variables, the organism will do as it damn well pleases.
Anonymous
The Coevolution Quarterly, Nos. 8-12 (1975), 138.
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Has Matter more than Motion? Has it Thought,
Judgment, and Genius? Is it deeply learn’d
In Mathematics? Has it fram’d such Laws,
Which, but to guess, a Newton made immortal?—
If so, how each sage Atom laughs at me,
Who think a Clod inferior to a Man!
The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742, 1750), Night 9, 279.
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Having discovered … by observation and comparison that certain objects agree in certain respects, we generalise the qualities in which they coincide,—that is, from a certain number of individual instances we infer a general law; we perform an act of Induction. This induction is erroneously viewed as analytic; it is purely a synthetic process.
In Lecture VI of his Biennial Course, by William Hamilton and Henry L. Mansel (ed.) and John Veitch (ed.), Metaphysics (1860), Vol. 1, 101.
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He has something demoniacal in him, who can discern a law, or couple two facts.
In 'Natural History of Massachusetts', The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (Jul 1842), 3, No. 1, 39-40. In 'Natural history of Massachusetts', The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (Jul 1842), 3, No. 1, 39-40.
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He is not a true man of science who does not bring some sympathy to his studies, and expect to learn something by behavior as well as by application. It is childish to rest in the discovery of mere coincidences, or of partial and extraneous laws.
In A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1862), 381.
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He who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is the benefactor of mankind, but he who obscurely worked to find the laws of such growth is the intellectual superior as well as the greater benefactor of mankind.
Presidential Address (28 Oct 1899) to the Physical Society of America Meeting, New York. Printed in American Journal of Science (Dec 1899). Reprinted in the The Johns Hopkins University Circular (Mar 1900), 19, No. 143, 17. Compare earlier remark by Jonathan Swift, beginning “whoever could make two ears of corn…” on the Jonathan Swift Quotes page of this website.
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He who studies it [Nature] has continually the exquisite pleasure of discerning or half discerning and divining laws; regularities glimmer through an appearance of confusion, analogies between phenomena of a different order suggest themselves and set the imagination in motion; the mind is haunted with the sense of a vast unity not yet discoverable or nameable. There is food for contemplation which never runs short; you are gazing at an object which is always growing clearer, and yet always, in the very act of growing clearer, presenting new mysteries.
From 'Natural History', Macmillan's Magazine (1875), 31, 366.
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Historical science is not worse, more restricted, or less capable of achieving firm conclusions because experiment, prediction, and subsumption under invariant laws of nature do not represent its usual working methods. The sciences of history use a different mode of explanation, rooted in the comparative and observational richness in our data. We cannot see a past event directly, but science is usually based on inference, not unvarnished observation (you don’t see electrons, gravity, or black holes either).
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Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979), 152.
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How dare we speak of the laws of chance? Is not chance the antithesis of all law?
At the beginning of Calcul des probabilités. Quoted in Henry Poincaré, 'Chance,' essay, in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), Vol. 2, 1380.
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How do we discover the individual laws of Physics, and what is their nature? It should be remarked, to begin with, that we have no right to assume that any physical law exists, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future. It is perfectly conceivable that one fine day Nature should cause an unexpected event to occur which would baffle us all; and if this were to happen we would be powerless to make any objection, even if the result would be that, in spite of our endeavors, we should fail to introduce order into the resulting confusion. In such an event, the only course open to science would be to declare itself bankrupt. For this reason, science is compelled to begin by the general assumption that a general rule of law dominates throughout Nature.
Max Planck, Walter Henry Johnston, The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics (1931), 58.
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How fortunate for civilization, that Beethoven, Michelangelo, Galileo and Faraday were not required by law to attend schools where their total personalities would have been operated upon to make them learn acceptable ways of participating as members of “the group.”
In speech, 'Education for Creativity in the Sciences', Conference at New York University, Washington Square. As quoted by Gene Currivan in 'I.Q. Tests Called Harmful to Pupil', New York Times (16 Jun 1963), 66.
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How strange it would be if the final theory were to be discovered in our lifetimes! The discovery of the final laws of nature will mark a discontinuity in human intellectual history, the sharpest that has occurred since the beginning of modern science in the seventeenth century. Can we now imagine what that would be like?
In Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), 235.
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However closely we may associate thought with the physical machinery of the brain, the connection is dropped as irrelevant as soon as we consider the fundamental property of thought—that it may be correct or incorrect. …that involves recognising a domain of the other type of law—laws which ought to be kept, but may be broken.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 57-58.
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However, all scientific statements and laws have one characteristic in common: they are “true or false” (adequate or inadequate). Roughly speaking, our reaction to them is “yes” or “no.” The scientific way of thinking has a further characteristic. The concepts which it uses to build up its coherent systems are not expressing emotions. For the scientist, there is only “being,” but no wishing, no valuing, no good, no evil; no goal. As long as we remain within the realm of science proper, we can never meet with a sentence of the type: “Thou shalt not lie.” There is something like a Puritan's restraint in the scientist who seeks truth: he keeps away from everything voluntaristic or emotional.
Essays in Physics (1950), 68.
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Hubble's observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 8-9.
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Human behaviour reveals uniformities which constitute natural laws. If these uniformities did not exist, then there would be neither social science nor political economy, and even the study of history would largely be useless. In effect, if the future actions of men having nothing in common with their past actions, our knowledge of them, although possibly satisfying our curiosity by way of an interesting story, would be entirely useless to us as a guide in life.
In Cours d’Economie Politique (1896-7), Vol. 2, 397.
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Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
The Wind from the Sun: Stories of the Space Age (1972), 8.
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I am particularly concerned to determine the probability of causes and results, as exhibited in events that occur in large numbers, and to investigate the laws according to which that probability approaches a limit in proportion to the repetition of events. That investigation deserves the attention of mathematicians because of the analysis required. It is primarily there that the approximation of formulas that are functions of large numbers has its most important applications. The investigation will benefit observers in identifying the mean to be chosen among the results of their observations and the probability of the errors still to be apprehended. Lastly, the investigation is one that deserves the attention of philosophers in showing how in the final analysis there is a regularity underlying the very things that seem to us to pertain entirely to chance, and in unveiling the hidden but constant causes on which that regularity depends. It is on the regularity of the main outcomes of events taken in large numbers that various institutions depend, such as annuities, tontines, and insurance policies. Questions about those subjects, as well as about inoculation with vaccine and decisions of electoral assemblies, present no further difficulty in the light of my theory. I limit myself here to resolving the most general of them, but the importance of these concerns in civil life, the moral considerations that complicate them, and the voluminous data that they presuppose require a separate work.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), Introduction.
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I believe that the present laws of physics are at least incomplete without a translation into terms of mental phenomena.
In 'Physics and the Explanation of Life', Foundations of Physics 1970, I, 35-45.
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I can conceive few human states more enviable than that of the man to whom, panting in the foul laboratory, or watching for his life under the tropic forest, Isis shall for a moment lift her sacred veil, and show him, once and for ever, the thing he dreamed not of; some law, or even mere hint of a law, explaining one fact; but explaining with it a thousand more, connecting them all with each other and with the mighty whole, till order and meaning shoots through some old Chaos of scattered observations.
Health and Education (1874), 289.
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I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.
Letter to Asa Gray (22 May 1860). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 236.
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I chucked the law for astronomy, and I knew that even if I were second-rate or third-rate, it was astronomy that mattered.
As quoted in Nicholas U. Mayall, Biographical Memoir, 'Edwin Powell Hubble: 1889—1953', Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (1970), Vol. 41, 179.
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I didn’t arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind.
…...
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I do hate sums. There is no greater mistake than to call arithmetic an exact science. There are permutations and aberrations discernible to minds entirely noble like mine; subtle variations which ordinary accountants fail to discover; hidden laws of number which it requires a mind like mine to perceive. For instance, if you add a sum from the bottom up, and then from the top down, the result is always different. Again if you multiply a number by another number before you have had your tea, and then again after, the product will be different. It is also remarkable that the Post-tea product is more likely to agree with other people’s calculations than the Pre-tea result.
Letter to Mrs Arthur Severn (Jul 1878), collected in The Letters of a Noble Woman (Mrs. La Touche of Harristown) (1908), 50. Also in 'Gleanings Far and Near', Mathematical Gazette (May 1924), 12, 95.
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I do not intend to go deeply into the question how far mathematical studies, as the representatives of conscious logical reasoning, should take a more important place in school education. But it is, in reality, one of the questions of the day. In proportion as the range of science extends, its system and organization must be improved, and it must inevitably come about that individual students will find themselves compelled to go through a stricter course of training than grammar is in a position to supply. What strikes me in my own experience with students who pass from our classical schools to scientific and medical studies, is first, a certain laxity in the application of strictly universal laws. The grammatical rules, in which they have been exercised, are for the most part followed by long lists of exceptions; accordingly they are not in the habit of relying implicitly on the certainty of a legitimate deduction from a strictly universal law. Secondly, I find them for the most part too much inclined to trust to authority, even in cases where they might form an independent judgment. In fact, in philological studies, inasmuch as it is seldom possible to take in the whole of the premises at a glance, and inasmuch as the decision of disputed questions often depends on an aesthetic feeling for beauty of expression, or for the genius of the language, attainable only by long training, it must often happen that the student is referred to authorities even by the best teachers. Both faults are traceable to certain indolence and vagueness of thought, the sad effects of which are not confined to subsequent scientific studies. But certainly the best remedy for both is to be found in mathematics, where there is absolute certainty in the reasoning, and no authority is recognized but that of one’s own intelligence.
In 'On the Relation of Natural Science to Science in general', Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects, translated by E. Atkinson (1900), 25-26.
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I do not like to see all the fine boys turning to the study of law, instead of to the study of science or technology. … Japan wants no more lawyers now; and I think the professions of literature and of teaching give small promise. What Japan needs are scientific men; and she will need more and more of them every year.
In letter to Masanobu Ōtani (1894), collected in Elizabeth Bisland The Writings of Lafcadio Hearn (1922), Vol. 14, 273.
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I do not see the possibility of comparison between his [H. G. Wells] work and mine. We do not proceed in the same manner. It occurs to me that his stories do not repose on a very scientific basis. ... I make use of physics. He invents. I go to the moon in a cannon-ball, discharged from a cannon. Here there is no invention. He goes to Mars in an airship, which he constructs of a metal which does not obey the law of gravitation. Ça c'est très joli ... but show me this metal. Let him produce it.
Quoted in R. H. Sherard, 'Jules Verne Re-Visited', T.P.'s Weekly (9 Oct 1903).
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I don’t know whether there is a finite set of basic laws of physics or whether there are infinite sets of structure like an infinite set of Chinese boxes. Will the electron turn out to have an interior structure? I wish I knew!
In Kendrick Frazier, 'A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner', Skeptical Inquirer (Mar/Apr 1998), 37.
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I don’t think there is one unique real universe. ... Even the laws of physics themselves may be somewhat observer dependent.
…...
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I have been so electrically occupied of late that I feel as if hungry for a little chemistry: but then the conviction crosses my mind that these things hang together under one law & that the more haste we make onwards each in his own path the sooner we shall arrive, and meet each other, at that state of knowledge of natural causes from which all varieties of effects may be understood & enjoyed.
Letter to Eilhard Mitscherlich, 24 Jan 1838. In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1993), Vol. 2, 488.
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I have heard by round about channel that Herschel says my book “is the law of higgledy-pigglety.”
Letter to C. Lyell, 10 December 1859. In F. Burkhardt and S. Smith (eds.), The Correspondence of Charles Darwin 1858-1859 (1991), Vol. 7, 423.
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I have no doubt that certain learned men, now that the novelty of the hypotheses in this work has been widely reported—for it establishes that the Earth moves, and indeed that the Sun is motionless in the middle of the universe—are extremely shocked, and think that the scholarly disciplines, rightly established once and for all, should not be upset. But if they are willing to judge the matter thoroughly, they will find that the author of this work has committed nothing which deserves censure. For it is proper for an astronomer to establish a record of the motions of the heavens with diligent and skilful observations, and then to think out and construct laws for them, or rather hypotheses, whatever their nature may be, since the true laws cannot be reached by the use of reason; and from those assumptions the motions can be correctly calculated, both for the future and for the past. Our author has shown himself outstandingly skilful in both these respects. Nor is it necessary that these hypotheses should be true, nor indeed even probable, but it is sufficient if they merely produce calculations which agree with the observations. … For it is clear enough that this subject is completely and simply ignorant of the laws which produce apparently irregular motions. And if it does work out any laws—as certainly it does work out very many—it does not do so in any way with the aim of persuading anyone that they are valid, but only to provide a correct basis for calculation. Since different hypotheses are sometimes available to explain one and the same motion (for instance eccentricity or an epicycle for the motion of the Sun) an astronomer will prefer to seize on the one which is easiest to grasp; a philosopher will perhaps look more for probability; but neither will grasp or convey anything certain, unless it has been divinely revealed to him. Let us therefore allow these new hypotheses also to become known beside the older, which are no more probable, especially since they are remarkable and easy; and let them bring with them the vast treasury of highly learned observations. And let no one expect from astronomy, as far as hypotheses are concerned, anything certain, since it cannot produce any such thing, in case if he seizes on things constructed for another other purpose as true, he departs from this discipline more foolish than he came to it.
Although this preface would have been assumed by contemporary readers to be written by Copernicus, it was unsigned. It is now believed to have been written and added at press time by Andreas Osiander (who was then overseeing the printing of the book). It suggests the earth’s motion as described was merely a mathematical device, and not to be taken as absolute reality. Text as given in 'To the Reader on the Hypotheses in this Work', Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), translated by ‎Alistair Matheson Duncan (1976), 22-3. By adding this preface, Osiander wished to stave off criticism by theologians. See also the Andreas Osiander Quotes page of this website.
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I have no other wish than a close fusion with nature, and I desire no other fate than to have worked and lived in harmony with her laws.
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I have presented principles of philosophy that are not, however, philosophical but strictly mathematical—that is, those on which the study of philosophy can be based. These principles are the laws and conditions of motions and of forces, which especially relate to philosophy.
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