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Nothing Quotes (267 quotes)


Nada me inspira más veneración y asombro que un anciano que sabe cambiar de opinión.
Nothing inspires more reverence and awe in me than an old man who knows how to change his mind.
In Pensamientos Escogidos (1924), 58.
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Nil posse creari de nihilo.
Nothing can be created from nothing.
In De Rerum Natura, Book 1, lines 156-157. Title is translated as On the Nature of Things.
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Nullius in Verba.
On no man’s word.
Motto of the Royal Society
Alternate translation: “nothing upon trust.” Based upon Horace: Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri (“not bound to swear by the words of any master”).
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Thomasina: Every week I plot your equations dot for dot, x’s against y’s in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
Septimus: We do.
Thomasina: Then why do your shapes describe only the shapes of manufacture?
Septimus: I do not know.
Thomasina: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Scene 3, 37.
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A creative force that either creates itself or arises from nothing, and which is a causa sui (its own cause), exactly resembles Baron Munchhausen, who drew himself out of the bog by taking hold of his own hair.
From Force and Matter: Or, Principles of the Natural Order of the Universe (15th ed. 1884), 10.
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A cucumber should be well sliced and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.
In James Boswell, ‎John Wilson Croker, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Including a Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1831), Vol. 2, 516.
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A government, at bottom, is nothing more than a gang of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men ... Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent. Indeed, it would not be far wrong to describe the best as the common enemy of all decent citizens.
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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 laboratory of natural history is a sanctuary where nothing profane should be tolerated. I feel less agony at improprieties in churches than in a scientific laboratory.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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A leg of mutton is better than nothing,
Nothing is better than Heaven,
Therefore a leg of mutton is better than Heaven.
Aphorism 21 in Notebook C (1772-1773), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 35.
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A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
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A man who writes a great deal and says little that is new writes himself into a daily declining reputation. When he wrote less he stood higher in people’s estimation, even though there was nothing in what he wrote. The reason is that then they still expected better things of him in the future, whereas now they can view the whole progression.
Aphorism 43 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 50.
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A poet is, after all, a sort of scientist, but engaged in a qualitative science in which nothing is measurable. He lives with data that cannot be numbered, and his experiments can be done only once. The information in a poem is, by definition, not reproducible. ... He becomes an equivalent of scientist, in the act of examining and sorting the things popping in [to his head], finding the marks of remote similarity, points of distant relationship, tiny irregularities that indicate that this one is really the same as that one over there only more important. Gauging the fit, he can meticulously place pieces of the universe together, in geometric configurations that are as beautiful and balanced as crystals.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1995), 107.
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A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: “... this principle”, says Reichenbach, “determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.” Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
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A scientist lives with all of reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it and eventually to love it.
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A scientist lives with all reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it, and eventually to love it.
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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A theory is scientific only if it can be disproved. But the moment you try to cover absolutely everything the chances are that you cover nothing.
From Assumption and Myth in Physical Theory (1967), 12.
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A “critic” is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased—he hates all creative people equally.
In Time Enough For Love (1973), 263. In Carl C. Gaither, Mathematically Speaking (1998), 347.
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Above all things expand the frontiers of science: without this the rest counts for nothing.
Aphorism 262 in Notebook J (1789-1793), as translated by R. J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 181.
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All knowledge is profitable; profitable in its ennobling effect on the character, in the pleasure it imparts in its acquisition, as well as in the power it gives over the operations of mind and of matter. All knowledge is useful; every part of this complex system of nature is connected with every other. Nothing is isolated. The discovery of to-day, which appears unconnected with any useful process, may, in the course of a few years, become the fruitful source of a thousand inventions.
In 'Report of the Secretary', Sixth Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1851 (1852), 10.
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All parts of the material universe are in constant motion and though some of the changes may appear to be cyclical, nothing ever exactly returns, so far as human experience extends, to precisely the same condition.
Address (Jul 1874) at the grave of Joseph Priestley, in Joseph Henry and Arthur P. Molella, et al. (eds.), A Scientist in American Life: Essays and Lectures of Joseph Henry (1980), 119.
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Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
In John Altson, Patti Rae Miliotis, What Happened to Grandpa? (2009).
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An equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God.
Quoted in Clifford A. Pickover, A Passion for Mathematics (2005), 1; but with no footnote to primary source.
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An evolution is a series of events that in itself as series is purely physical, — a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time. An egg develops into a chick; … a planet condenses from the fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wondrous a place. Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each instant containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next. … But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama. Now you shall seem to have seen, in phenomenal form, a story.
In The Spirit of Modern Philosophy: An Essay in the Form of Lectures (1892), 425.
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An expert is a man who understands everything, and nothing else.
Speech, London (16 Dec 1970), 'Israel's International Relations in an Era of Peace', (1979), 22.
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And I do not take my medicines from the apothecaries; their shops are but foul sculleries, from which comes nothing but foul broths. As for you, you defend your kingdom with belly-crawling and flattery. How long do you think this will last? ... let me tell you this: every little hair on my neck knows more than you and all your scribes, and my shoebuckles are more learned than your Galen and Avicenna, and my beard has more experience than all your high colleges.
'Credo', in J. Jacobi (ed.), Paracelsus: Selected Writings (1951), 80.
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Anton Chekhov wrote that ‘one must not put a loaded rifle on stage if no one is thinking of firing it.’ Good drama requires spare and purposive action, sensible linking of potential causes with realized effects. Life is much messier; nothing happens most of the time. Millions of Americans (many hotheaded) own rifles (many loaded), but the great majority, thank God, do not go off most of the time. We spend most of real life waiting for Godot, not charging once more unto the breach.
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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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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.”
From poem, 'In Memoriam A.H.H.' written between 1833-50, and first published anonymously in 1850. Collected in Poetical Works of Alfred Tennyson (1860), Vol.2, 64.
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As for the excellent little wretches who grow up in what they are taught, with never a scruple or a query, ... they signify nothing in the intellectual life of the race.
'Poet at the Breakfast-Table', The Atlantic Monthly (Oct 1872), 429.
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As physicists have arranged an extensive series of effects under the general term of Heat, so they have named another series Light, and a third they have called Electricity. We find ... that all these principles are capable of being produced through the medium of living bodies, for nearly all animals have the power of evolving heat; many insects, moreover, can voluntarily emit light; and the property of producing electricity is well evinced in the terrible shock of the electric eel, as well as in that of some other creatures. We are indeed in the habit of talking of the Electric fluid, or the Galvanic fluid, but this in reality is nothing but a licence of expression suitable to our finite and material notions.
In the Third Edition of Elements of Electro-Metallurgy: or The Art of Working in Metals by the Galvanic Fluid (1851), 1.
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Astronomy, as the science of cyclical motions, has nothing in common with Geology. But look at Astronomy where she has an analogy with Geology; consider our knowledge of the heavens as a palaetiological science;—as the study of a past condition, from which the present is derived by causes acting in time. Is there no evidence of a beginning, or of a progress?
In History of the Inductive Sciences (1857), Vol. 3, 516.
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At first, the sea, the earth, and the heaven, which covers all things, were the only face of nature throughout the whole universe, which men have named Chaos; a rude and undigested mass, and nothing more than an inert weight, and the discordant atoms of things not harmonizing, heaped together in the same spot.
Describing the creation of the universe from chaos, at the beginning of Book I of Metamorphoses, lines 5-9. As translated by Henry T. Riley, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Vol I: Books I-VII (1858), 1-2. Riley footnoted: “A rude and undigested mass.—Ver. 7. This is very similar to the words of the Scriptures, ‘And the earth was without form and void,’ Genesis, ch. i. ver. 2.”
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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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Before the seas and lands had been created, before the sky that covers everything, Nature displayed a single aspect only throughout the cosmos; Chaos was its name, a shapeless, unwrought mass of inert bulk and nothing more, with the discordant seeds of disconnected elements all heaped together in anarchic disarray.
Describing the creation of the universe from chaos, at the beginning of Book I of Metamorphoses, lines 5-9. As translated in Charles Martin (trans.), Metamorphoses (2004), 15.
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Behold a universe so immense that I am lost in it. I no longer know where I am. I am just nothing at all. Our world is terrifying in its insignificance.
In Etretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes (Conversations with a Lady on the Plurality of Worlds) (1686) as cited in Edward Harrison, Cosmology: The Science of the Universe (2000), 162.
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Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving in words evidence of the fact.
(Mary Ann Evans, English Novelist)
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But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It speaks, and yet says nothing.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2.
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Can any thoughtful person admit for a moment that, in a society so constituted that these overwhelming contrasts of luxury and privation are looked upon as necessities, and are treated by the Legislature as matters with which it has practically nothing do, there is the smallest probability that we can deal successfully with such tremendous social problems as those which involve the marriage tie and the family relation as a means of promoting the physical and moral advancement of the race? What a mockery to still further whiten the sepulchre of society, in which is hidden ‘all manner of corruption,’ with schemes for the moral and physical advancement of the race!
In 'Human Selection', Fortnightly Review (1890),48, 330.
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Can we separate object and subject? Myself is nothing but a part of my body, my body is nothing but a part of my food, my food is nothing but a part of the earth, the earth is nothing but a part of the solar system.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), lii.
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Commitment becomes hysterical when those who have nothing to give advocate generosity, and those who have nothing to give up preach renunciation.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 31.
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Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact–which creationists have mastered. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent’s position. They are good at that. I don’t think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!
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Distinguisht Link in Being's endless Chain!
Midway from Nothing to the Deity!
The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality (1742), Night I, l. 73-4, ed. Stephen Cornford (1989), 39.
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Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing. (1760)
In Robert Allan Weinberg, The Biology of Cancer (2006), 726. (Note: Webmaster has not yet found this quote, in this wording, in a major quotation reference book. If you know a primary print source, or correction, please contact Webmaster.)
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Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.
Lao Tzu
TaoTe Ching. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 183
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Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
In his dialogue 'The Critic As Artist', collected in Intentions (1904), 101.
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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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Experience teaches nothing without theory.
In On the Management of Statistical Techniques for Quality and Productivity (1981), 86.
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Facts are ventriloquists’ dummies. Sitting on a wise man’s knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom; elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense, or indulge in sheer diabolism.
Spoken by the character Bruno Rontini in Time Must Have A Stop (1944), 301. In Carl C. Gaither, Statistically Speaking (1996), 98.
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Failure is so much more interesting because you learn from it. That’s what we should be teaching children at school, that being successful the first time, there’s nothing in it. There’s no interest, you learn nothing actually.
Interview with Carole Cadwalladr, The Observer (9 May 2014).
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For it is a good remedy sometimes to apply nothing at all.
Hippocrates wrote this concerning “both to the ear and to many other cases.” In 'On the Articulations', Part 40 (400 BC), as translated by Francis Adams, The Genuine Works of Hippocrates (1886), Vol. 2, 113. Also often seen quoted more briefly as “To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.”
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For myself, I found that I was fitted for nothing so well as for the study of Truth; as having a mind nimble and versatile enough to catch the resemblances of things (which is the chief point) , and at the same time steady enough to fix and distinguish their subtler differences; as being gifted by nature with desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to reconsider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and as being a man that neither affects what is new nor admires what is old, and that hates every kind of imposture. So I thought my nature had a kind of familiarity and relationship with Truth.
From 'Progress of philosophical speculations. Preface to intended treatise De Interpretatione Naturæ (1603), in Francis Bacon and James Spedding (ed.), Works of Francis Bacon (1868), Vol. 3, 85.
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For to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
Hamlet (1601), II, ii.
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Frost is but slender weeks away,
Tonight the sunset glow will stay,
Swing to the north and burn up higher
And Northern Lights wall earth with fire.
Nothing is lost yet, nothing broken,
And yet the cold blue word is spoken:
Say goodbye to the sun.
The days of love and leaves are done.
Apples by Ocean (1950), 10.
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Gentlemen, now you will see that now you see nothing. And why you see nothing you will see presently.
Quoted in R. Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 164.
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He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilisation should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
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How many wells of science there are in whose depths there is nothing but clear water!
In Bluettes et Boutardes. Translated in Conceits and Caprices (1869), 13.
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However far modern science and technics have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.
Technics and Civilization (1934), 435.
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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.
Cours d'Economie Politique (1896-7), Vol. 2, 397.
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I am born into an environment–I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither–all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out about it as much as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge; it is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surroundings of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth.
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I am not insensible to natural beauty, but my emotional joys center on the improbable yet sometimes wondrous works of that tiny and accidental evolutionary twig called Homo sapiens. And I find, among these works, nothing more noble than the history of our struggle to understand nature—a majestic entity of such vast spatial and temporal scope that she cannot care much for a little mammalian afterthought with a curious evolutionary invention, even if that invention has, for the first time in so me four billion years of life on earth, produced recursion as a creature reflects back upon its own production and evolution. Thus, I love nature primarily for the puzzles and intellectual delights that she offers to the first organ capable of such curious contemplation.
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I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.
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I am only a physicist with nothing material to show for my labours. I have never even seen the ionosphere, although I have worked on the subject for thirty years. That does show how lucky people can be. If there had been no ionosphere I would not have been standing here this morning.
Response to receiving an honour from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. As quoted in New Scientist (22 Nov 1956), 33.
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I am particularly fond of (Emmanuel Mendes da Costa’s) Natural History of Fossils because treatise, more than any other work written in English, records a short episode expressing one of the grand false starts in the history of natural science–and nothing can be quite so informative and instructive as a juicy mistake.
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I am quite aware that we have just now lightheartedly expelled in imagination many excellent men who are largely, perhaps chiefly, responsible for the buildings of the temple of science; and in many cases our angel would find it a pretty ticklish job to decide. But of one thing I feel sure: if the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have come to be, any more than a forest can grow which consists of nothing but creepers. For these people any sphere of human activity will do, if it comes to a point; whether they become engineers, officers, tradesmen, or scientists depends on circumstances.
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I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
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I believe in an immortal soul. science has proved that nothing disintegrates into nothingness. Life and soul, therefore, cannot disintegrate into nothingness, and so are immortal.
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I have here only made a nosegay of culled flowers, and have brought nothing of my own but the thread that tied them together.
In William Hazlitt (ed.), The Works of Michael de Montaigne: His Essays, Letters, and Journey Through Germany and Italy (1849), 515. Alternate translation: “I have gathered a posy [posie] of other men's flowers and nothing but the thread which binds them is my own,” as epigraph to article 'A Country Walk With the Poets', The Victoria Magazine (May 1874), 23, 1. No citations given. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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I have nothing to offer except a way of looking at things.
(1986)
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I know no such thing as genius,—genius is nothing but labor and diligence.
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 106.
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I say it is impossible that so sensible a people [citizens of Paris], under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing.
[Describing the energy-saving benefit of adopting daylight saving time. (1784)]
'An Economical Project', The Life and Miscellaneous Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1839), 58. A translation of this letter appeared in one of the Paris daily papers about 1784. He estimated, during six months, a saving of over 64 million pound weight of candles, worth over 96 million livres tournois.
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I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel.
In 'Good-bye to Forty-eighth Street', The New Yorker (1957), 33, 163. After visiting a state fair.
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I've found out so much about electricity that I've reached the point where I understand nothing and can explain nothing.
[Describing his experiments with the Leyden jar.]
Letter to Réamur (20 Jan 1746), in AS. Proc. verb., LXV (1746), 6. Cited in J. L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries: a Study of Early Modern Physics (1979), 314.
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If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in the country.
Quoted as “He had a strong belief” in Journal of Plantation Crops (2002), 30-33, 72. Also in Combating Hunger and Achieving Food Security (2016), 86, ending with wording “in our country”, referring to India.
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If conservation of natural resources goes wrong, nothing else will go right.
Quoted in India Today (Apr 2008), 33, No 16, 130.
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If farm ecology and economics go wrong, nothing else will go right in agriculture.
In 'Science and Shaping the Future of Rice', collected in Pramod K. Aggarwal et al. (eds.), 2006 International Rice Congress: Science, Technology, and Trade for Peace and Prosperity (2007), 5.
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If we lived on a planet where nothing ever changed, there would be little to do. There would be nothing to figure out. There would be no impetus for science. And if we lived in an unpredictable world, where things changed in random or very complex ways, we would not be able to figure things out. But we live in an in-between universe, where things change, but according to patterns, rules, or as we call them, laws of nature. If I throw a stick up in the air, it always falls down. If the sun sets in the west, it always rises again the next morning in the east. And so it becomes possible to figure things out. We can do science, and with it we can improve our lives.
Cosmos (1980, 1985), 32.
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If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.
Widely quoted without citation. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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If you find nothing, you are never to come begging at our door again.
To paleontologist Richard Leakey, regarding funding of Richard’s first dig in Kenya. As quoted in Sonia Mary Cole, Leakey's Luck: The Life of Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey, 1903-1972 (1975), 297.
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If, then, there must be something eternal, let us see what sort of Being it must be. And to that it is very obvious to Reason, that it must necessarily be a cogitative Being. For it is as impossible to conceive that ever bare incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter...
In Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690, 1801), Book 4, Chap. 10, Sec. 10, 114.
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In modern thought, (if not in fact)
Nothing is that doesn't act, So that is reckoned wisdom which
Describes the scratch but not the itch.
Anonymous
Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man? (2nd Ed.,1964), 25.
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In Nature nothing can be lost, nothing wasted, nothing thrown away, there is no such thing as rubbish.
In While Following the Plough (1947), 63.
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In nature, nothing exists alone.
In Silent Spring (1962), 51.
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In psychoanalytic treatment nothing happens but an exchange of words between the patient and the physician.
From a series of 28 lectures for laymen, Part One, 'The Psychology of Errors'. Lecture 1, 'Introduction' collected in Sigmund Freud and G. Stanley Hall (trans.), A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1920), 3.
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In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the haughtiest and most mendacious minute of ‘world history’—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die. ... There have been eternities when [human intellect] did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened.
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In the matter of physics, the first lessons should contain nothing but what is experimental and interesting to see. A pretty experiment is in itself often more valuable than twenty formulae extracted from our minds.
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Included in this ‘almost nothing,’ as a kind of geological afterthought of the last few million years, is the first development of self-conscious intelligence on this planet–an odd and unpredictable invention of a little twig on the mammalian evolutionary bush. Any definition of this uniqueness, embedded as it is in our possession of language, must involve our ability to frame the world as stories and to transmit these tales to others. If our propensity to grasps nature as story has distorted our perceptions, I shall accept this limit of mentality upon knowledge, for we receive in trade both the joys of literature and the core of our being.
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It has often been said that, to make discoveries, one must be ignorant. This opinion, mistaken in itself, nevertheless conceals a truth. It means that it is better to know nothing than to keep in mind fixed ideas based on theories whose confirmation we constantly seek, neglecting meanwhile everything that fails to agree with them.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 37.
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It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing than to believe what is wrong.
In Letter (19 Jul 1788) to James Madison. Collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Memoirs, Correspondence, and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 2, 223.
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It is difficult even to attach a precise meaning to the term “scientific truth.” So different is the meaning of the word “truth” according to whether we are dealing with a fact of experience, a mathematical proposition or a scientific theory. “Religious truth” conveys nothing clear to me at all.
From 'Scientific Truth' in Essays in Science (1934, 2004), 11.
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It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor. There may even be a certain antagonism between love of humanity and love of neighbor; a low capacity for getting along with those near us often goes hand in hand with a high receptivity to the idea of the brotherhood of men. About a hundred years ago a Russian landowner by the name of Petrashevsky recorded a remarkable conclusion: “Finding nothing worthy of my attachment either among women or among men, I have vowed myself to the service of mankind.” He became a follower of Fourier, and installed a phalanstery on his estate. The end of the experiment was sad, but what one might perhaps have expected: the peasants—Petrashevsky’s neighbors-burned the phalanstery.
In 'Brotherhood', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 91.
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It is exciting to think that it costs nothing to create a new particle,…
In Lectures on Gravitation: 1962-62, quoted by John Preskill and Kip S. Thorne, 'Foreword to Feynman Lectures on Gravitation' (15 May 1995). The authors of the Foreword explain: “Because the total energy of the universe could really be zero, … matter creation is possible because the rest energy of the matter is actually canceled by its gravitational potential energy.”
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It is like the man who became short-sighted and refused to wear glasses, saying there was nothing wrong with him, but that the trouble was that the recent papers were so badly printed.
In Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff (1972), 98.
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It may be said “In research, if you know what you are doing, then you shouldn't be doing it.” In a sense, if the answer turns out to be exactly what you expected, then you have learned nothing new, although you may have had your confidence increased somewhat.
In Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers (1973), 704.
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It often seems to me as if History was like a child’s box of letters, with which we can spell any word we please. We have only to pick out such letters as we want, arrange them as we like, and say nothing about those which do not suit our purpose.
Lecture delivered to the Royal Institution (5 Feb 1864), 'On the Science of History'. Collected in Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain with Abstracts of the Discourses (1866), Vol. 4, 180.
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It’s among the intelligentsia … that we often find the glib compulsion to explain everything and to understand nothing.
The Rape of the Mind World 56
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Knock, And He’ll open the door
Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.
Rumi
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 164
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Kriegman says … “Think binary. When matter meets antimatter, both vanish, into pure energy. But both existed; I mean, there was a condition we’ll call ‘existence.’ Think of one and minus one. Together they add up to zero, nothing, nada, niente, right? Picture them together, then picture them separating—peeling apart. … Now you have something, you have two somethings, where once you had nothing.”
In Roger's Version (1986), 304.
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Let the artist have just enough to eat, and the tools of this trade: ask nothing of him. Materially make the life of the artist sufficiently miserable to be unattractive, and no-one will take to art save those in whom the divine daemon is absolute.
In Art (1958), 172.
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Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 21
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Look wise, say nothing, and grunt. Speech was given to conceal thought.
William Bennett Bean (ed.), Sir William Osler: Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings and Writings, No. 267 (1950), 126.
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Magnetism, galvanism, electricity, are “one form of many names.” Without magnetism we should never have discovered America; to which we are indebted for nothing but evil; diseases in the worst forms that can afflict humanity, and slavery in the worst form in which slavery can exist. The Old World had the sugar-cane and the cotton-plant, though it did not so misuse them.
Written for fictional character, the Rev. Dr. Opimian, in Gryll Grange (1861), collected in Sir Henry Cole (ed.) The Works of Thomas Love Peacock(1875), Vol. 2, 382. [Hans Øersted discovered electromagnetism in 1820. Presumably the next reference to magnetism refers to a compass needle for navigation. —Webmaster]
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Man is the highest product of his own history. The discoverer finds nothing so grand or tall as himself, nothing so valuable to him. The greatest star is at the small end of the telescope, the star that is looking, not looked after nor looked at.
In Theodore Parker and Rufus Leighton (ed.), Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man: Selected from Notes of Unpublished Sermons (1865), 70.
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Man is uncanny, yet nothing
uncannier than man bestirs itself, rising up beyond him.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated from a French translation. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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Many the wonders but nothing walks stranger than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff (1954) in David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (eds.)The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles (1957), Vol. 2, 170.
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Many things cause terror and wonder, yet nothing
is more terrifying and wonderful than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by M. Blake Tyrrell and Larry J. Bennett. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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Measure, time and number are nothing but modes of thought or rather of imagination.
Letter to Ludvicus Meyer (20 Apr 1663), in Correspondence of Spinoza (2003), 118.
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Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth more than ruin more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
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Men, accustomed to think of men as possessing sex attributes and other things besides, are accustomed to think of women as having sex, and nothing else.
In “Common Sense” Applied to Woman Suffrage (1894), 180.
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Money lost—nothing lost, Health lost—little lost, Spirit lost—everything lost.
In The Story of the Winged-S: The Autobiography of Igor I. Sikorsky (2011).
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Most Mens Learning is nothing but History duly taken up. If I quote Thomas Aquinas for some Tenet, and believe it, because the School-Men say so, that is but History. Few men make themselves Masters of the things they write or speak.
In John Selden, Richard Milward (ed.), 'Learning', Table-Talk of John Selden (1689, 1856), 85.
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My picture of the world is drawn in perspective and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are all as small as three-penny bits. I don't really believe in astronomy, except as a complicated description of part of the course of human and possibly animal sensation. I apply my perspective not merely to space but also to time. In time the world will cool and everything will die; but that is a long time off still and its present value at compound discount is almost nothing.
From a paper read to the Apostles, a Cambridge discussion society (1925). In 'The Foundations of Mathematics' (1925), collected in Frank Plumpton Ramsey and D. H. Mellor (ed.), Philosophical Papers (1990), Epilogue, 249. Citation to the paper, in Nils-Eric Sahlin, The Philosophy of F.P. Ramsey (1990), 225.
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Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.
In Isaac Newton and Andrew Motte (trans.), The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1803), Vol. 2, 160. Newton's comment on his Rules of Reasoning Philosophy, Rule 1.
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Nature never “fails.” Nature complies with its own laws. Nature is the law. When Man lacks understanding of Nature’s laws and a Man-contrived structure buckles unexpectedly, it does not fail. It only demonstrates that Man did not understand Nature’s laws and behaviors. Nothing failed. Man’s knowledge or estimating was inadequate.
In "How Little I Know", in Saturday Review (12 Nov 1966), 152. Excerpted in Buckminster Fuller and Answar Dil, Humans in Universe (1983), 31.
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Nature! … She tosses her creatures out of nothingness, and tells them not whence they came, nor whither they go. It is their business to run, she knows the road.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 9.
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Nature! … The one thing she seems to aim at is Individuality; yet she cares nothing for individuals.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 9.
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Nirvana is a state of pure blissful knowledge ... It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two ‘I’s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents–their Karma. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further ... when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.
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No engineer can go upon a new work and not find something peculiar, that will demand his careful reflection, and the deliberate consideration of any advice that he may receive; and nothing so fully reveals his incapacity as a pretentious assumption of knowledge, claiming to understand everything.
In Railway Property: A Treatise on the Construction and Management of Railways (1866), 247.
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No one thinks of concealing the truth from a cardiac patient: there is nothing shameful about a heart attack. Cancer patients are lied to, not just because the disease is (or is thought to be) a death sentence, but because it is felt to be obscene—in the original meaning of that word: ill-omened, abominable, repugnant to the senses.
In Illness as a Metaphor (1978), 8,
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No video, no photographs, no verbal descriptions, no lectures can provide the enchantment that a few minutes out-of-doors can: watch a spider construct a web; observe a caterpillar systematically ravaging the edge of a leaf; close your eyes, cup your hands behind your ears, and listen to aspen leaves rustle or a stream muse about its pools and eddies. Nothing can replace plucking a cluster of pine needles and rolling them in your fingers to feel how they’re put together, or discovering that “sedges have edges and grasses are round,” The firsthand, right-and-left-brain experience of being in the out-of-doors involves all the senses including some we’ve forgotten about, like smelling water a mile away. No teacher, no student, can help but sense and absorb the larger ecological rhythms at work here, and the intertwining of intricate, varied and complex strands that characterize a rich, healthy natural world.
Into the Field: A Guide to Locally Focused Teaching
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Nothing can be believed unless it is first understood; and that for any one to preach to others that which either he has not understood nor they have understood is absurd.
From Historia Calamitatum, Chap. 9. As translated in Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, 'The Word Amen' reprinted from The Independent in Friends' Intelligencer (1872), Vol. 28, 575.
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Nothing can be unworthy of being investigated by man, which was thought worthy of being created by God.
In 'Report of the Secretary', Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1852 (1853), 15.
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Nothing cools so fast as undue enthusiasm. Water that has boiled freezes sooner than any other.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-Book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 171.
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Nothing could be more obvious than that the earth is stable and unmoving, and that we are in the center of the universe. Modern Western science takes its beginning from the denial of this common sense axiom.
In The Discoverers (2011), 294.
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Nothing got him angrier than when people implied he was paranoid. It made him feel persecuted.
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Nothing I then learned [in high school] had any bearing at all on the big and real questions. Who am I? What am I doing here? What is the world? What is my relationship to it?
This View of Life: the World of an Evolutionist (1964), 37.
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Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.
The Education of Henry Adams (1907, 1918), 379.
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Nothing in physics seems so hopeful to as the idea that it is possible for a theory to have a high degree of symmetry was hidden from us in everyday life. The physicist's task is to find this deeper symmetry.
In American Scientist (1977) (as cited in The Atlantic (1984), 254, 81.) As an epigraph in Crystal and Dragon: The Cosmic Dance of Symmetry and Chaos in Nature, Art and Consciousness (1993), 139.
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Nothing in the entire universe ever perishes, believe me, but things vary, and adopt a new form. The phrase “being born” is used for beginning to be something different from what one was before, while “dying” means ceasing to be the same. Though this thing may pass into that, and that into this, yet the sums of things remains unchanged.
Ovid
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Nothing in the whole system of nature is isolated or unimportant. The fall of a leaf and the motion of a planet are governed by the same laws. … It is in the study of objects considered trivial and unworthy of notice by the casual observer that genius finds the most important and interesting phenomena. It was in the investigation of the varying colors of the soap-bubble that Newton detected the remarkable fact of the fits of easy reflection and easy refraction presented by a ray of light in its passage through space, and upon which he established the fundamental principle of the present generalization of the undulatory theory of light. … The microscopic organization of animals and plants is replete with the highest instruction; and, surely, in the language of one of the fathers of modern physical science, “nothing can be unworthy of being investigated by man which was thought worthy of being created by GOD.”
In 'Report of the Secretary', Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1852 (1853), 15.
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Nothing in this world is to be feared ... only understood.
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Nothing is accidental in the universe— this is one of my Laws of Physics—except the entire universe itself, which is Pure Accident, pure divinity.
In ‘The Summing Up: Meredith Dawe’, Do What You Will, (1970). As cited in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 946.
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Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.
Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu.
Original Latin in Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate, q. 2 a. 3 arg. 19. Also seen translated as “There is nothing in the mind that has not been previously in the senses.” In plain language, it means that the knowledge (or understanding) of outward objects “is conveyed to the mind through the senses,” as given in William Sullivan and George Barrell Emerson, The Political Class Book: Intended to Instruct the Higher Classes in Schools (1831), 9.
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Nothing is indifferent, nothing is powerless in the universe; an atom might destroy everything, an atom might save everything!
In Aurélia ou Le Rêve et la vie (1855).
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Nothing is less predictable than the development of an active scientific field.
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
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Nothing is lost and nothing is created in the operations of art as those of nature.
Pasteur Vallery-Radot (ed.), Correspondance de Pasteur 1840-1895 (1940), Vol. 1, 326. Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 90.
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Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life.
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Nothing is really small; whoever is open to the deep penetration of nature knows this.
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know; nor any people so confident as those who entertain us with fabulous stories, such as your alchemists, judicial astrologers, fortune-tellers, and physicians.
In Charles Cotton (trans.), Essays of Michael Seigneur de Montaigne: In Three Books (1693), Vol. 1, 339.
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Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature.
Laboratory notebook (19 Mar 1850), while musing on the possible relation of gravity to electricy. In Michael Faraday and Bence Jones (ed.), The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870), 253
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Nothing is useless for the man of sense; he turns everything to account.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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Nothing leads the scientist so astray as a premature truth.
Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), 89.
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Nothing retains less of desire in art, in science, than this will to industry, booty, possession.
Mad Love (1937) translated by Mary Ann Caws (1988), 25.
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Nothing shocks me. I’m a scientist.
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Nothing succeeds like address
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 185.
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Nothing that you do in science is guaranteed to result in benefits for mankind. Any discovery, I believe, is morally neutral and it can be turned either to constructive ends or destructive ends. That’s not the fault of science.
Quoted by Jeremy Pearce in 'Arthur Galston, Agent Orange Researcher, Is Dead at 88', New York Times (23 Jun 2008), B6.
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Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.
In Mostly Harmless (1992), 1.
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Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
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Nothing without understanding would ever be more beauteous than with understanding.
Plato
From 'Timaeus', St. III, 30b, in A E Taylor, Plato: Timaeus and Critias (2013), 27.
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Now, at Suiattle Pass, Brower was still talking about butterflies. He said he had raised them from time to time and had often watched them emerge from the chrysalis—first a crack in the case, then a feeler, and in an hour a butterfly. He said he had felt that he wanted to help, to speed them through the long and awkward procedure; and he had once tried. The butterflies came out with extended abdomens, and their wings were balled together like miniature clenched fists. Nothing happened. They sat there until they died. ‘I have never gotten over that,’ he said. ‘That kind of information is all over in the country, but it’s not in town.”
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Nuclear weapons offer us nothing but a balance of terror, and a balance of terror is still terror.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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Of all the conceptions of the human mind from unicorns to gargoyles to the hydrogen bomb perhaps the most fantastic is the black hole: a hole in space with a definite edge over which anything can fall and nothing can escape; a hole with a gravitational field so strong that even light is caught and held in its grip; a hole that curves space and warps time.
In Cosmology + I: Readings from Scientific American (1977), 63.
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On principle, there is nothing new in the postulate that in the end exact science should aim at nothing more than the description of what can really be observed. The question is only whether from now on we shall have to refrain from tying description to a clear hypothesis about the real nature of the world. There are many who wish to pronounce such abdication even today. But I believe that this means making things a little too easy for oneself.
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Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.
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One of my friends, reading the title of these lectures [The Whence and Whither of Man] said: “Of man's origin you know nothing, of his future you know less.”
From the Introduction to The Whence and Whither of Man; a Brief History of his Origin and Development through Conformity to Environment; being the Morse Lectures of 1895. (1896), ix. The Morse lectureship was founded by Prof. Samuel F.B. Morse in 1865 at Union Theological Seminary, the lectures to deal with “the relation of the Bible to any of the sciences.”
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One of the petty ideas of philosophers is to elaborate a classification, a hierarchy of sciences. They all try it, and they are generally so fond of their favorite scheme that they are prone to attach an absurd importance to it. We must not let ourselves be misled by this. Classifications are always artificial; none more than this, however. There is nothing of value to get out of a classification of science; it dissembles more beauty and order than it can possibly reveal.
In 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.
Socrates
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Only the applied scientist sets out to find a “useful” pot of gold. The pure scientist sets out to find nothing. Anything. Everything. The applied scientist is a prospector. The pure scientist is an explorer.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 181.
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Part of the charm in solving a differential equation is in the feeling that we are getting something for nothing. So little information appears to go into the solution that there is a sense of surprise over the extensive results that are derived.
Co-author with Jules Alphonse Larrivee, Mathematics and Computers (1957), 40.
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People are usually surprised to discover that I hate the phrase “constitutional rights.” I hate the phrase because it is terribly misleading. Most of the people who say it or hear it have the impression that the Constitution “grants” them their rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Strictly speaking it is the Bill of Rights that enumerates our rights, but none of our founding documents bestow anything on you at all [...] The government can burn the Constitution and shred the Bill of Rights, but those actions wouldn’t have the slightest effect on the rights you’ve always had.
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Philosophers of science constantly discuss theories and representation of reality, but say almost nothing about experiment, technology, or the use of knowledge to alter the world. This is odd, because ‘experimental method’ used to be just another name for scientific method.... I hope [to] initiate a Back-to-Bacon movement, in which we attend more seriously to experimental science. Experimentation has a life of its own.
Representing and Intervening, p. 149f (1983). Announcing the author's intention to stress 'intervening' as an essential component of science.
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Physio-philosophy has to show how, and in accordance indeed with what laws, the Material took its origin; and, therefore, how something derived its existence from nothing. It has to portray the first periods of the world's development from nothing; how the elements and heavenly bodies originated; in what method by self-evolution into higher and manifold forms, they separated into minerals, became finally organic, and in Man attained self-consciousness.
In Lorenz Oken, trans. by Alfred Tulk, Elements of Physiophilosophy (1847), 1.
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Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination—stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern—of which I am a part. … What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the “why?” It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6, footnote.
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Population stabilization policies are a must for sustainable food, health, and livelihood security in many developing countries. If population policies go wrong, nothing else will have a chance to succeed.
In 'Malthus and Mendel: Children for Happiness', Politics and the Life Sciences (Sep 1997), 16, No. 2, 221.
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Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of “touching” a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.
From 'Charles II', Twelve Types (1906), 98.
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Rules of Thumb
Thumb’s First Postulate: It is better to use a crude approximation and know the truth, plus or minus 10 percent, than demand an exact solution and know nothing at all.
Thumb’s Second Postulate: An easily understood, workable falsehood is more useful than a complex incomprehensible truth.
Anonymous
In Arthur Bloch, The Complete Murphy's Law: A Definitive Collection (1991), 126.
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Science derives its conclusions by the laws of logic from our sense perceptions, Thus it does not deal with the real world, of which we know nothing, but with the world as it appears to our senses. … All our sense perceptions are limited by and attached to the conceptions of time and space. … Modern physics has come to the same conclusion in the relativity theory, that absolute space and absolute time have no existence, but, time and space exist only as far as things or events fill them, that is, are forms of sense perception.
In 'Religion and Modern Science', The Christian Register (16 Nov 1922), 101, 1089. The article is introduced as “the substance of an address to the Laymen’s League in All Soul’s Church (5 Nov 1922).
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Science has but one fashion—to lose nothing once gained.
In chapter 'Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Poet of the Old School', Poets of America (1885), 275. Also in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (Feb 1885), 29, New Series Vol. 7, No. 4, 503.
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Science has found that nothing can disappear without a trace. Nature does not know extinction. All it knows is transformation.
In This Week Magazine (24 Jan 1960), 2. As quoted in Martin A. Recio, From the Threshold of Heaven (2008), 102.
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Science has “explained” nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.
Along the Road: Notes and Essays of a Tourist (1928), 108.
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Science is the flower of the altruism of the ages, by which nothing that lives “liveth for itself alone.” The recognition of facts and laws is the province of science.
From Presidential Address (5 Dec 1896) to the Biological Society of Washington, 'The Malarial Parasite and Other Pathogenic Protozoa', Popular Science Monthly (Mar 1897), 642.
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Science is the only truth and it is the great lie. It knows nothing, and people think it knows everything. It is misrepresented. People think that science is electricity, automobilism, and dirigible balloons. It is something very different. It is life devouring itself. It is the sensibility transformed into intelligence. It is the need to know stifling the need to live. It is the genius of knowledge vivisecting the vital genius.
repr. In Selected Writings, ed. and trans. by Glen S. Burne (1966). 'Art and Science,' Promenades Philosophiques (1905-1909).
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Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.
[Answer to question: You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?]
'Stephen Hawking: "There is no heaven; it's a fairy story"', interview in newspaper The Guardian (15 May 2011).
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Science when well digested is nothing but good sense and reason.
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Science, ships, policies, cities, factories, are not nothing,
Like a grand procession to music of distant bugles pouring, triumphantly moving, and grander heaving in sight,
They stand for realities—all is as it should be.
In poem, 'As I Walk These Broad Majestic Days', Leaves of Grass (1892), 379.
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See, thro' this air, this ocean, and this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high progressive life may go!
Around, how wide! how deep extend below!
Vast chain of being, which from God began,
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect! what no eye can see,
No glass can reach! from Infinite to thee,
From thee to Nothing—On superior pow'rs
Were we to press, inferior might on ours:
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd:
From Nature's chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle I. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 513.
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Since men are really interested in nothing but their own opinions, every one who puts forward an opinion looks about him right and left for means of strengthening himself and others in it.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 193.
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Sir Isaac Newton and Dr. Bentley met accidentally in London, and on Sir Isaac’s inquiring what philosophical pursuits were carrying on at Cambridge, the doctor replied—None—for when you go a hunting Sir Isaac, you kill all the game; you have left us nothing to pursue.—Not so, said the philosopher, you may start a variety of game in every bush if you will but take the trouble to beat for it.
From Richard Watson, Chemical Essays (1786, 1806), Vol. 4, 257-258. No citation given, so—assuming it is more or less authentic—Webmaster offers this outright guess. Watson was the source of another anecdote about Newton (see “I find more sure marks…”). Thus, one might by pure speculation wonder if this quote was passed along in the same way. Was this another anecdote relayed to Watson by his former teacher, Dr. Robert Smith (Master of Trinity House), who might have been told this by Newton himself? Perhaps we’ll never know, but if you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Lord Byron Quote: Newton declared himself “like a youth Picking up shells by the great ocean—Truth.”
Background of ocean and rocky outcrop with kelp on sandy shore in foreground, at Channel Islands NMS, California. , Photo by Claire Fackler, NOAA (source)
Socrates said, our only knowledge was
“To know that nothing could be known;” a pleasant
Science enough, which levels to an ass
Each Man of Wisdom, future, past, or present.
Newton, (that Proverb of the Mind,) alas!
Declared, with all his grand discoveries recent,
That he himself felt only “like a youth
Picking up shells by the great Ocean—Truth.”
From poem, 'Don Juan,' (1822), canto 7, verse V. In Lord Byron, Don Juan: Cantos VI, VII and VIII (1823), 67.
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Some of Feynman’s ideas about cosmology have a modern ring. A good example is his attitude toward the origin of matter. The idea of continuous matter creation in the steady state cosmology does not seriously offend him (and he notes … that the big bang cosmology has a problem just as bad, to explain where all the matter came from in the beginning). … He emphasizes that the total energy of the universe could really be zero, and that matter creation is possible because the rest energy of the matter is actually canceled by its gravitational potential energy. “It is exciting to think that it costs nothing to create a new particle, …”
In John Preskill and Kip S. Thorne, 'Foreword to Feynman Lectures on Gravitation' (15 May 1995). Feynman delivered his lectures in 1962–63.
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Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.
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Strong, deeply rooted desire is the starting point of all achievement. Just as the electron is the last unit of matter discernible to the scientist. DESIRE is the seed of all achievement; the starting place, back of which there is nothing, or at least there is nothing of which we have any knowledge.
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Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints.
Motto
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The acquirements of science may be termed the armour of the mind; but that armour would be worse than useless, that cost us all we had, and left us nothing to defend.
In Lacon, Or, Many Things in a Few Words: Addressed to Those who Think (1820), Vol. 1, 121.
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The attitude of the intellectual community toward America is shaped not by the creative few but by the many who for one reason or another cannot transmute their dissatisfaction into a creative impulse, and cannot acquire a sense of uniqueness and of growth by developing and expressing their capacities and talents. There is nothing in contemporary America that can cure or alleviate their chronic frustration. They want power, lordship, and opportunities for imposing action. Even if we should banish poverty from the land, lift up the Negro to true equality, withdraw from Vietnam, and give half of the national income as foreign aid, they will still see America as an air-conditioned nightmare unfit for them to live in.
In 'Some Thoughts on the Present', The Temper of Our Time (1967), 107.
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The Big Bang theory says nothing about what banged, why it banged, or what happened before it banged.
Alan Guth
As quoted in Neil Swidey, 'Alan Guth: What Made the Big Bang Bang', Boston Globe (2 May 2014).
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The difference between science and Congress is that in science facts mean everything and the illusions mean nothing. And in politics, it's just the opposite.
Anonymous
Seen attributed on the NPR website to perhaps congressman Rush Holt (Verification pending). Also seen recalled by NPR's Ira Flatow as: “I think it was Rush Holt who was quoted when he got into Congress, his saying, when I was a scientist, facts meant everything and illusions meant nothing. When I became a politician, illusions meant everything and facts meant nothing.” From program transcript for Science Friday (11 May 2012).
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The Europeans and the Americans are not throwing $10 billion down this gigantic tube for nothing. We're exploring the very forefront of physics and cosmology with the Large Hadron Collider because we want to have a window on creation, we want to recreate a tiny piece of Genesis to unlock some of the greatest secrets of the universe.
Quoted by Alexander G. Higgins (AP), in 'Particle Collider: Black Hole or Crucial Machine', The Journal Gazette (7 Aug 2009).
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The fact which interests us most is the life of the naturalist. The purest science is still biographical. Nothing will dignify and elevate science while it is sundered so wholly from the moral life of its devotee.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1873), 383.
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The facts, gentlemen, and nothing but the facts, for careful eyes are narrowly watching.
In Fact and Fancy (1962), 11.
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The generality of men are so accustomed to judge of things by their senses that, because the air is indivisible, they ascribe but little to it, and think it but one remove from nothing.
In Mary Elvira Weeks, The Discovery of the Elements (1934), 29, citing Boyle, 'Memoirs for a General History of the Air', in Shaw's Abridgment of Boyle's works (1725), Vol. 3, 61, and Ramsay, The Gases of the Atmosphere (1915), 10.
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The human soul is like a bird that is born in a cage. Nothing can deprive it of its natural longings, or obliterate the mysterious remembrance of its heritage.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 6
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The indescribable pleasure—which pales the rest of life's joys—is abundant compensation for the investigator who endures the painful and persevering analytical work that precedes the appearance of the new truth, like the pain of childbirth. It is true to say that nothing for the scientific scholar is comparable to the things that he has discovered. Indeed, it would be difficult to find an investigator willing to exchange the paternity of a scientific conquest for all the gold on earth. And if there are some who look to science as a way of acquiring gold instead of applause from the learned, and the personal satisfaction associated with the very act of discovery, they have chosen the wrong profession.
From Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), 50.
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The instinct of brutes and insects can be the effect of nothing else than the wisdom and skill of a powerful ever-living agent.
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 379.
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The law of conservation of energy tells us we can't get something for nothing, but we refuse to believe it.
In Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 75.
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The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball. They know that overstaying the festivities—that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future—will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There’s a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.
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The methods of science aren’t foolproof, but they are indefinitely perfectible. Just as important: there is a tradition of criticism that enforces improvement whenever and wherever flaws are discovered. The methods of science, like everything else under the sun, are themselves objects of scientific scrutiny, as method becomes methodology, the analysis of methods. Methodology in turn falls under the gaze of epistemology, the investigation of investigation itself—nothing is off limits to scientific questioning. The irony is that these fruits of scientific reflection, showing us the ineliminable smudges of imperfection, are sometimes used by those who are suspicious of science as their grounds for denying it a privileged status in the truth-seeking department—as if the institutions and practices they see competing with it were no worse off in these regards. But where are the examples of religious orthodoxy being simply abandoned in the face of irresistible evidence? Again and again in science, yesterday’s heresies have become today’s new orthodoxies. No religion exhibits that pattern in its history.
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The moral principle inherent in evolution, that nothing can be gained in this world without an effort; the ethical principle inherent in evolution is that only the best has the right to survive; the spiritual principle in evolution is the evidence of beauty, of order, and of design in the daily myriad of miracles to which we owe our existence.
'Evolution and Religion', New York Times (5 Mar 1922), 91.
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The more intelligence mankind bestows upon technology, the less knowledge a child is required to learn. If this pattern is never changed, the generation of the future may become reduced to nothing more than lifeless drones born for nothing except pushing buttons on a machine that lives the lives of their masters.
Devin Dye
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The Nihilists do not believe in nothing; they only believe in nothing that does not commend itself to themselves; that is, they will not allow that anything may be beyond their comprehension. As their comprehension is not great their creed is, after all, very nearly nihil.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 216.
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The northern ocean is beautiful, ... and beautiful the delicate intricacy of the snowflake before it melts and perishes, but such beauties are as nothing to him who delights in numbers, spurning alike the wild irrationality of life and baffling complexity of nature’s laws.
In Kandelman's Krim: A Realistic Fantasy (1957), 101.
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The observer is never entirely replaced by instruments; for if he were, he could obviously obtain no knowledge whatsoever ... They must be read! The observer’s senses have to step in eventuality. The most careful record, when not inspected, tells us nothing.
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The only certainty is that nothing is certain.
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 169.
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The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working. One is tempted to stop and listen to it. The only thing is to turn away and go on working. Work. There is nothing else.
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The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this.
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The psychoanalysis of individual human beings, however, teaches us with quite special insistence that the god of each of them is formed in the likeness of his father, that his personal relation to God depends on his relation to his father in the flesh and oscillates and changes along with that relation, and that at bottom God is nothing other than an exalted father.
(Originally published 1913). Totem and Taboo, vol. 13, pt. 4, sct. 6, Complete Works, Standard Edition, eds. James Strachey and Anna Freud (1953).
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The steam-engine I call fire-demon and great; but it is nothing to the invention of fire.
From Chartism, collected in James Wood (ed.) The Carlyle Reader (1894), 74.
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The strongest arguments prove nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Experimental science is the queen of sciences and the goal of all speculation.
Opus Tertium. Translation as stated in Popular Science (Aug 1901), 337.
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The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1987), 247.
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The utmost extent of man’s knowledge, is to know that he knows nothing.
In Interesting Anecdotes, Memoirs, Allegories, Essays, and Poetical Fragments (1793), Vols 3-4, Vol. 3, 226.
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The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.
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The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
Widely quoted, but without citation, for example in Eve Herold, George Daley, Stem Cell Wars (2007), 79. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Theoretical and experimental physicists are now studying nothing at all—the vacuum. But that nothingness contains all of being.
The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature (1982), 279.
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Theory is a window into the world. Theory leads to prediction. Without prediction, experience and examples teach nothing.
In The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education (1993), 103.
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There are hosts of men, of the profoundest thought, who find nothing in the disclosures of science to shake their faith in the eternal virtues of reason and religion.
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There are many strange and wonderful things, but nothing more strangely wonderful than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by Ian Johnson. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
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There are two kinds of biologists, those who are looking to see if there is one thing that can be understood and those who keep saying it is very complicated and that nothing can be understood. ... You must study the simplest system you think has the properties you are interested in.
As quoted, without source, by John R. Platt in 'Science, Strong Inference', Science (16 Oct 1964), 146, No. 3642, 349.
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There is no more potent antidote to the corroding influence of mammon than the presence in the community of a body of men devoted to science, living for investigation and caring nothing for the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
In address at the University of Minnesota, "Teacher and Student" (1892) collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 29.
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There is no one central problem in philosophy, but countless little problems. Philosophy is like trying to open a safe with a combination lock: each little adjustment of the dials seems to achieve nothing, only when everything is in place does the door open.
From conversation with Rush Rhees (1930) as given by Rush Rhees in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections (1981), 96.
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There is nothing besides a spiritual world...
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 13
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There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
Hamlet (1601), II, ii.
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There is nothing frightening about an eternal dreamless sleep. Surely it is better than eternal torment in Hell and eternal boredom in Heaven.
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There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.
repr. In The Works of H.G. Wells, vol. 9 (1925). A Modern Utopia, ch. 3, sct. 8 (1905).
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There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.
In The Blue Lion, and Other Essays (1923), 29.
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There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. It is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you.
In Jean Baudrillard and Chris Turner (trans.), America (1989), 50.
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There is nothing more odious than the majority; it consists of a few powerful men to lead the way; of accommodating rascals and submissive weaklings; and of a mass of men who trot after them, without in the least knowing their own mind.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 197.
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There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.
Webmaster has searched for a primary print source without success. Walter Isaacson likewise found no direct evidence, as he reports in Einstein (2007), 575. However, these sentences are re-quoted in a variety of books and other sources (often citing them as a remark reportedly made by Kelvin in an Address at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1900). Although the quote appears noteworthy, it is not included in the major biographical work, the two volumes by Silvanus P. Thomson, The Life of Lord Kelvin (1976). The quote is included here so that this caveat should be read with it.
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There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness.
First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union (8 Jan 1790).
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There is nothing which Nature so clearly reveals, and upon which science so strongly insists, as the universal reign of law, absolute, universal, invariable law... Not one jot or tittle of the laws of Nature are unfulfilled. I do not believe it is possible to state this fact too strongly... Everything happens according to law, and, since law is the expression of Divine will, everything happens according to Divine will, i.e. is in some sense ordained, decreed.
Lecture 18, 'Predestination and Free-Will', Religion and Science: A Series of Sunday Lectures (1874), 278.
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There is only one subject matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Instead of this single unity, we offer children—Algebra, from which nothing follows; Geometry, from which nothing follows; Science, from which nothing follows; History, from which nothing follows; a Couple of Languages, never mastered; and lastly, most dreary of all, Literature, represented by plays of Shakespeare, with philological notes and short analyses of plot and character to be in substance committed to memory.
In The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 18.
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There is probably nothing more sublime than discontent transmuted into a work of art, a scientific discovery, and so on.
In Working and Thinking on the Waterfront: A Journal, June 1958-May 1959 (1969), 65.
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There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.
The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), canto 123. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 194.
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There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art or great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.
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There’s nothing between you and oblivion except a pressure suit, and you just can't afford to get out there and get in a big rush and tangle yourself up where nobody can help you. … The biggest thing I've learned from the people that have gone in the past, you simply have to take your time, and you can’t exhaust yourself.
In AP feed newspaper articles, for example, in the Bridgewater, NJ, The Courier-News (7 Sep 1966), 8. First and last phrases quoted in John Barbour, Footprints on the Moon (1969), 110.
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Things which we see are not by themselves what we see ... It remains completely unknown to us what the objects may be by themselves and apart from the receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner of perceiving them.
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This new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.
Explaining the value of building Fermilab’s first accelerator in testimony to Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (17 Apr 1969).
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Though human ingenuity may make various inventions which, by the help of various machines answering the same end, it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting, and nothing is superfluous, and she needs no counterpoise when she makes limbs proper for motion in the bodies of animals.
W. An. IV. 184a (7). Translated by Jean Paul Richter, in 'Physiology', The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci: Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts (1883), Vol. 2, 126, selection 837.
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To a new truth there is nothing more hurtful than an old error.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 192.
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To appreciate a work of art we need bring with us nothing but a sense of form and colour and a knowledge of three-dimensional space.
In Art (1913), 27.
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To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats- we know it not.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 39.
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To Nature nothing can be added; from Nature nothing can be taken away; the sum of her energies is constant, and the utmost man can do in the pursuit of physical truth, or in the applications of physical knowledge, is to shift the constituents of the never-varying total. The law of conservation rigidly excludes both creation and annihilation. Waves may change to ripples, and ripples to waves; magnitude may be substituted for number, and number for magnitude; asteroids may aggregate to suns, suns may resolve themselves into florae and faunae, and floras and faunas melt in air: the flux of power is eternally the same. It rolls in music through the ages, and all terrestrial energy—the manifestations of life as well as the display of phenomena—are but the modulations of its rhythm.
Conclusion of Heat Considered as a Mode of Motion: Being a Course of Twelve Lectures Delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in the Season of 1862 (1863), 449.
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To say that mind is a product or function of protoplasm, or of its molecular changes, is to use words to which we can attach no clear conception. You cannot have, in the whole, what does not exist in any of the parts; and those who argue thus should put forth a definite conception of matter, with clearly enunciated properties, and show, that the necessary result of a certain complex arrangement of the elements or atoms of that matter, will be the production of self-consciousness. There is no escape from this dilemma—either all matter is conscious, or consciousness is something distinct from matter, and in the latter case, its presence in material forms is a proof of the existence of conscious beings, outside of, and independent of, what we term matter. The foregoing considerations lead us to the very important conclusion, that matter is essentially force, and nothing but force; that matter, as popularly understood, does not exist, and is, in fact, philosophically inconceivable. When we touch matter, we only really experience sensations of resistance, implying repulsive force; and no other sense can give us such apparently solid proofs of the reality of matter, as touch does. This conclusion, if kept constantly present in the mind, will be found to have a most important bearing on almost every high scientific and philosophical problem, and especially on such as relate to our own conscious existence.
In 'The Limits of Natural Selection as Applied to Man', last chapter of Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (1870), 365-366.
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Tobacco, in its various forms, is one of the most mischievous of all drugs. There is perhaps no other drug which injures the body in so many ways and so universally as does tobacco. Some drugs offer a small degree of compensation for the evil effects which they produce; but tobacco has not a single redeeming feature and gives nothing in return.
In Tobaccoism: or, How Tobacco Kills (1922), Preface, 7.
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Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea, and hypothesis—which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism—especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested—and you're not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science. A judicious mix is what we need.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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True Agnosticism will not forget that existence, motion, and law-abiding operation in nature are more stupendous miracles than any recounted by the mythologies, and that there may be things, not only in the heavens and earth, but beyond the intelligible universe, which “are not dreamt of in our philosophy.” The theological “gnosis” would have us believe that the world is a conjurer’s house; the anti-theological “gnosis” talks as if it were a “dirt-pie,” made by the two blind children, Law and Force. Agnosticism simply says that we know nothing of what may be behind phenomena.
In Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley (1913), Vol. 3, 98, footnote 3.
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We do not inhabit a perfected world where natural selection ruthlessly scrutinizes all organic structures and then molds them for optimal utility. Organisms inherit a body form and a style of embryonic development; these impose constraint s upon future change and adaptation. In many cases, evolutionary pathways reflect inherited patterns more than current environmental demands. These inheritances constrain, but they also provide opportunity. A potentially minor genetic change ... entails a host of complex, nonadaptive consequences ... What ‘play’ would evolution have if each structure were built for a restricted purpose and could be used for nothing else? How could humans learn to write if our brain had not evolved for hunting, social cohesion, or whatever, and could not transcend the adaptive boundaries of its original purpose?
…...
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We fall from womb to tomb, from one blackness and toward another, remembering little of the one and knowing nothing of the other… except through faith.
Danse Macabre. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 14
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We have not known a single great scientist who could not discourse freely and interestingly with a child. Can it be that haters of clarity have nothing to say, have observed nothing, have no clear picture of even their own fields?
In John Steinbeck and Edward Flanders Ricketts, Sea of Cortez: a Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), 73.
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We often observe in lawyers, who as Quicquid agunt homines is the matter of law suits, are sometimes obliged to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or science, of which they understood nothing till their brief was delivered, and appear to be much masters of it.
In The Life of Samuel Johnson (1820), Vol. 1, 218. The Latin phrase translates as “what people do.”
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We see not only thought as participating in evolution as an anomaly or as an epiphenomenon; but evolution as so reducible to and identifiable with a progress towards thought that the movement of our souls expresses and measures the very stages of progress of evolution itself. Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 221. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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What a master a man would be in his own subject if he taught nothing useless!
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 196.
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What is called science today consists of a haphazard heap of information, united by nothing, often utterly unnecessary, and not only failing to present one unquestionable truth, but as often as not containing the grossest errors, today put forward as truths, and tomorrow overthrown.
In Leo Tolstoy and Charles R. Joy (ed.), Lyof Tolstoy: An Anthology (1958), 34.
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When everything moves at the same time, nothing moves in appearance.
Quand tout se remue également, rien ne se remue en apparence.
From Pensées Art. vi, 27. In Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 237.
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When I was in college studying science, I found the experience fundamentally unsatisfying. I was continually oppressed by the feeling that my only role was to “shut up and learn.” I felt there was nothing I could say to my instructors that they would find interesting. … As I sat in the science lecture hall, I was utterly silent. That’s not a good state to be in when you are 19 years old.
In Understanding the Universe: An Inquiry Approach to Astronomy and the Nature of Scientific Research (2013), ix.
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When you say A[tomic] P[ower] is ‘here to stay’ you remind me that Chesterton said that whenever he heard that, he knew that whatever it referred to would soon be replaced, and thought pitifully shabby and old-fashioned. So-called ‘atomic’ power is rather bigger than anything he was thinking of (I have heard it of trams, gas-light, steam-trains). But it surely is clear that there will have to be some ‘abnegation’ in its use, a deliberate refusal to do some of the things it is possible to do with it, or nothing will stay!
From Letter draft to Joanna de Bortadano (Apr 1956). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 246, Letter No. 186.
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Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me I know of nothing else but miracles…
“Miracles”. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 21
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Wit must grow like Fingers. If it be taken from others, ’tis like Plums stuck upon black Thorns; there they are for a while, but they come to nothing.
In John Selden, Richard Milward (ed.), 'Wit', Table-Talk of John Selden (1689), 60.
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You know the formula m over naught equals infinity, m being any positive number? [m/0 = ∞]. Well, why not reduce the equation to a simpler form by multiplying both sides by naught? In which case you have m equals infinity times naught [m = ∞ × 0]. That is to say, a positive number is the product of zero and infinity. Doesn't that demonstrate the creation of the Universe by an infinite power out of nothing? Doesn't it?
In Point Counter Point (1928), 162.
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You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, Not when you have nothing more to add, But when you have nothing more to take away.
…...
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Young people, especially young women, often ask me for advice. Here it is, valeat quantum. Do not undertake a scientific career in quest of fame or money. There are easier and better ways to reach them. Undertake it only if nothing else will satisfy you; for nothing else is probably what you will receive.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 227.
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[At the funeral of Kettering’s researcher, Thomas Midgley, Jr., the minister intoned “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Afterwards Kettering commented:] It struck me then that in Midgley’s case it would have seemed so appropriate to have added, “But we can leave a lot behind for the good of the world.”
As quoted in book review, T.A. Boyd, 'Charles F. Kettering: Prophet of Progress', Science (30 Jan 1959), 256.
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[In my early youth, walking with my father,] “See that bird?” he says. “It’s a Spencer’s warbler.” (I knew he didn’t know the real name.) “Well, in Italian, it’s a Chutto Lapittida. In Portuguese, it’s a Bom da Peida. In Chinese, it’s a Chung-long-tah, and in Japanese, it’s a Katano Tekeda. You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing—that’s what counts.” (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.)
In 'The Making of a Scientist', What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character (2001), 13-14.
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[On why are numbers beautiful?] It’s like asking why is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is.
As quoted in Paul Hoffman, The Man who Loves Only Numbers (1998), 44.
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[Scientists] have learned to respect nothing but evidence, and to believe that their highest duty lies in submitting to it however it may jar against their inclinations.
From Man’s Place in Nature (1894), 109
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“On earth there is nothing great but man; and in man there is nothing great but mind.”
A favorite quote by Phavorinus which Hamilton used as a motto posted in his classroom.
As translated from a reported quote by Phavorinus. Hamilton showed his fondness for this motto by having it painted in gold letters on a green board posted on his classroom wall, behind the chair. However, he did not originate it. He made this clear during a lecture, when he stated, “‘On earth’ says a forgotten philosopher, ‘there is nothing great but man; and in man there is nothing great but mind.’” This was in Lecture II, 'Philosophy—Its Absolute Utility (B) Objective' (1836), part of Hamilton's Biennial Course while Chair of Logic and Mathematics, University of Edinburgh. The lectures were collected and annotated by editors ‎Henry L. Mansel and John Veitch, in Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1858, 6th ed. 1877), 24. The epigraph following the title page of this book also reads, “On earth, there is nothing great but man, and in man there is nothing great but Mind.” Since the collection was published posthumously, Webmaster speculates this was the choice of the editors, as Hamilton's motto. In the book, a footnote to the quote identifies the philosopher as “Phavorinus, quoted by Joannes Picus Mirandulanus, In Astrologiam, lib. iii p.351*, Basil, ed.” This information was found by an editor in Hamilton’s Commonplace-Book or fragmentary papers. An editor’s own addition to the footnote gives “For notice of Phavorinus, see Vossius, De Hist. Grœc, lib. ii c. 10.” Thus, although this quote is widely seen attributed to Sir William Hamilton, and although he may have been very fond of repeating it, his own notes reveal the original author was the ancient philosopher, Phavorinus. In the Latin written in Basil's work, Mirandula stated that Phavorinus said “Nihil magnum in terra praeter hominem, nihil magnum in homine praeter mentem & animum.” A footnote points this out in Lester Frank Ward, Pure Sociology: A Treatise on the Origin and Spontaneous Development of Society (1921), 496. *Ward corrects the page number to 529, not 351, and notes the passage also occurs in an earlier 1498 edition.
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“Try another Subtraction sum. Take a bone from a dog: what remains?” [asked the Red Queen]
Alice considered. “The bone wouldn't remain, of course, if I took it—and the dog wouldn’t remain; it would come to bite me—and I’m sure I shouldn’t remain!”
“Then you think nothing would remain?” said the Red Queen.
“I think that’s the answer.”
“Wrong, as usual,” said the Red Queen, “the dog's temper would remain.”
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871, 1897), 190-191.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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