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Nothing Quotes (363 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 candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
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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.
In 'Preface on Doctors', The Doctor's Dilemma (1909, 1911), lxxxv.
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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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Although the whole of this life were said to be nothing but a dream and the physical world nothing but a phantasm, I should call this dream or phantasm real enough, if, using reason well, we were never deceived by it.
Epigraph, without citation, in J.R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics (1956), 1832.
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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 for the persistence of a student of this university in urging upon me his desire to study with me the modern algebra I should never have been led into this investigation; and the new facts and principles which I have discovered in regard to it (important facts, I believe), would, so far as I am concerned, have remained still hidden in the womb of time. In vain I represented to this inquisitive student that he would do better to take up some other subject lying less off the beaten track of study, such as the higher parts of the calculus or elliptic functions, or the theory of substitutions, or I wot not what besides. He stuck with perfect respectfulness, but with invincible pertinacity, to his point. He would have the new algebra (Heaven knows where he had heard about it, for it is almost unknown in this continent), that or nothing. I was obliged to yield, and what was the consequence? In trying to throw light upon an obscure explanation in our text-book, my brain took fire, I plunged with re-quickened zeal into a subject which I had for years abandoned, and found food for thoughts which have engaged my attention for a considerable time past, and will probably occupy all my powers of contemplation advantageously for several months to come.
In Johns Hopkins Commemoration Day Address, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 3, 76.
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But 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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Computers may soon replace many people who work with their minds, but nothing yet can replace that finest physical tool of all, the human hand.
In Best of Sydney J. Harris (1976), 82.
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Conterminous with space and coeval with time is the kingdom of Mathematics; within this range her dominion is supreme; otherwise than according to her order nothing can exist; in contradiction to her laws nothing takes place. On her mysterious scroll is to be found written for those who can read it that which has been, that which is, and that which is to come.
From Presidential Address (Aug 1878) to the British Association, Dublin, published in the Report of the 48th Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1878), 31.
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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, and Immortality (1742, 1750), Night 1, 5.
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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
Tao Te 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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Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.
Poem, 'Euclid Alone Has Looked on Beauty Bare", collected in Wallace Warner Douglas and Hallett Darius Smith (eds.), The Critical Reader: Poems, Stories, Essays (1949), 110.
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Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
…...
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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 nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.
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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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Half the joy of life is in little things taken on the run… but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open that nothing worth our while shall escape us. That nothing worth our while shall escape us. And everything is worth its while if we only grasp it and its significance.
Found quoted without source in The American Journal of Clinical Medicine (1907), 14, 150, and several other publications of that time period. Webmaster invites help pinpointing the primary text.
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He that leaves nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.
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He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
In Ebony (1984), 40, 140.
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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 can you shorten the subject? That stern struggle with the multiplication table, for many people not yet ended in victory, how can you make it less? Square root, as obdurate as a hardwood stump in a pasture nothing but years of effort can extract it. You can’t hurry the process. Or pass from arithmetic to algebra; you can’t shoulder your way past quadratic equations or ripple through the binomial theorem. Instead, the other way; your feet are impeded in the tangled growth, your pace slackens, you sink and fall somewhere near the binomial theorem with the calculus in sight on the horizon. So died, for each of us, still bravely fighting, our mathematical training; except for a set of people called “mathematicians”—born so, like crooks.
In Too Much College: Or, Education Eating up Life, with Kindred Essays in Education and Humour (1939), 8.
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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 nothing more than a single narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits.
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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 believe that the useful methods of mathematics are easily to be learned by quite young persons, just as languages are easily learned in youth. What a wondrous philosophy and history underlie the use of almost every word in every language—yet the child learns to use the word unconsciously. No doubt when such a word was first invented it was studied over and lectured upon, just as one might lecture now upon the idea of a rate, or the use of Cartesian co-ordinates, and we may depend upon it that children of the future will use the idea of the calculus, and use squared paper as readily as they now cipher. … When Egyptian and Chaldean philosophers spent years in difficult calculations, which would now be thought easy by young children, doubtless they had the same notions of the depth of their knowledge that Sir William Thomson might now have of his. How is it, then, that Thomson gained his immense knowledge in the time taken by a Chaldean philosopher to acquire a simple knowledge of arithmetic? The reason is plain. Thomson, when a child, was taught in a few years more than all that was known three thousand years ago of the properties of numbers. When it is found essential to a boy’s future that machinery should be given to his brain, it is given to him; he is taught to use it, and his bright memory makes the use of it a second nature to him; but it is not till after-life that he makes a close investigation of what there actually is in his brain which has enabled him to do so much. It is taken because the child has much faith. In after years he will accept nothing without careful consideration. The machinery given to the brain of children is getting more and more complicated as time goes on; but there is really no reason why it should not be taken in as early, and used as readily, as were the axioms of childish education in ancient Chaldea.
In Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 14.
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I have before mentioned mathematics, wherein algebra gives new helps and views to the understanding. If I propose these it is not to make every man a thorough mathematician or deep algebraist; but yet I think the study of them is of infinite use even to grown men; first by experimentally convincing them, that to make anyone reason well, it is not enough to have parts wherewith he is satisfied, and that serve him well enough in his ordinary course. A man in those studies will see, that however good he may think his understanding, yet in many things, and those very visible, it may fail him. This would take off that presumption that most men have of themselves in this part; and they would not be so apt to think their minds wanted no helps to enlarge them, that there could be nothing added to the acuteness and penetration of their understanding.
In The Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 7.
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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 waited for Rob and, linking arms, we took our final steps together onto the rooftop of the world. It was 8.15 am on 24 May 2004; there was nowhere higher on the planet that we could go, the world lay at our feet. Holding each other tightly, we tried to absorb where we were. To be standing here, together, exactly three years since Rob’s cancer treatment, was nothing short of a miracle. Standing on top of Everest was more than just climbing a mountain - it was a gift of life. With Pemba and Nawang we crowded together, wrapping our arms around each other. They had been more than Sherpas, they had been our guardian angels.
Jo Gambi
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I wanted certainty in the kind of way in which people want religious faith. I thought that certainty is more likely to be found in mathematics than elsewhere. But I discovered that many mathematical demonstrations, which my teachers expected me to accept, were full of fallacies, and that, if certainty were indeed discoverable in mathematics, it would be in a new field of mathematics, with more solid foundations than those that had hitherto been thought secure. But as the work proceeded, I was continually reminded of the fable about the elephant and the tortoise. Having constructed an elephant upon which the mathematical world could rest, I found the elephant tottering, and proceeded to construct a tortoise to keep the elephant from falling. But the tortoise was no more secure than the elephant, and after some twenty years of very arduous toil, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing more that I could do in the way of making mathematical knowledge indubitable.
In 'Reflections on my Eightieth Birthday', Portraits from Memory (1956), 54.
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I would think I knew nothing in physics if I could say only how things could be but, without demonstrating that they can’t be otherwise.
From the original French, “Pour la Physique, ie croyrois n’y rien sçauoir, si ie ne sçauois que dire comment les choses peuuent estre, sans demonstrer qu’elles ne peuuent estre autrement,” in letter (11 Mar 1640) to Père Marin Mersenne, collected in Lettres de Mr Descartes (1659), Vol. 2, 213. As translated by John Cottingham, et al., (trans.), in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes: Volume 3, The Correspondence (1991), 145.
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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 a child left school at ten, knowing nothing of detailed information, but knowing the pleasure that comes from agreeable music, from reading, from making things, from finding things out, it would be better off than a man who left university at twenty-two, full of facts but without any desire to enquire further into such dry domains.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 9.
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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 there were some deep principle that drove organic systems towards living systems, the operation of the principle should easily be demonstrable in a test tube in half a morning. Needless to say, no such demonstration has ever been given. Nothing happens when organic materials are subjected to the usual prescription of showers of electrical sparks or drenched in ultraviolet light, except the eventual production of a tarry sludge.
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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 you were going to risk all that, not just risk the hardship and the pain but risk your life. Put everything on line for a dream, for something that’s worth nothing, that can’t be proved to anybody. You just have the transient moment on a summit and when you come back down to the valley it goes. It is actually a completely illogical thing to do. It is not justifiable by any rational terms. That’s probably why you do it.
The Beckoning Silence
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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 anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
From the French, “Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n'y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n'y a plus rien à retrancher,” in Terre des Hommes (1939). As translated by Lewis Galantière, in Wind, Sand, and Stars (1939), 66.
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In biology, nothing is clear, everything is too complicated, everything is a mess, and just when you think you understand something, you peel off a layer and find deeper complications beneath. Nature is anything but simple.
The Hot Zone
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In mathematics, which is but a mirror of the society in which it thrives or suffers, the pre-Athenian period is one of colorful men and important discoveries. Sparta, like most militaristic states before and after it, produced nothing. Athens, and the allied Ionians, produced a number of works by philosophers and mathematicians; some good, some controversial, some grossly overrated.
In A History of Pi (1970), 34.
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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 nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.
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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 some sense, there’s nothing as impractical as astronomy. You could take away the whole astronomical universe, and most people wouldn’t know the difference—except for the sun and maybe the moon.
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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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 admitted by all that a finished or even a competent reasoner is not the work of nature alone; the experience of every day makes it evident that education develops faculties which would otherwise never have manifested their existence. It is, therefore, as necessary to learn to reason before we can expect to be able to reason, as it is to learn to swim or fence, in order to attain either of those arts. Now, something must be reasoned upon, it matters not much what it is, provided it can be reasoned upon with certainty. The properties of mind or matter, or the study of languages, mathematics, or natural history, may be chosen for this purpose. Now of all these, it is desirable to choose the one which admits of the reasoning being verified, that is, in which we can find out by other means, such as measurement and ocular demonstration of all sorts, whether the results are true or not. When the guiding property of the loadstone was first ascertained, and it was necessary to learn how to use this new discovery, and to find out how far it might be relied on, it would have been thought advisable to make many passages between ports that were well known before attempting a voyage of discovery. So it is with our reasoning faculties: it is desirable that their powers should be exerted upon objects of such a nature, that we can tell by other means whether the results which we obtain are true or false, and this before it is safe to trust entirely to reason. Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, on the following grounds:
1. Every term is distinctly explained, and has but one meaning, and it is rarely that two words are employed to mean the same thing.
2. The first principles are self-evident, and, though derived from observation, do not require more of it than has been made by children in general.
3. The demonstration is strictly logical, taking nothing for granted except self-evident first principles, resting nothing upon probability, and entirely independent of authority and opinion.
4. When the conclusion is obtained by reasoning, its truth or falsehood can be ascertained, in geometry by actual measurement, in algebra by common arithmetical calculation. This gives confidence, and is absolutely necessary, if, as was said before, reason is not to be the instructor, but the pupil.
5. There are no words whose meanings are so much alike that the ideas which they stand for may be confounded. Between the meaning of terms there is no distinction, except a total distinction, and all adjectives and adverbs expressing difference of degrees are avoided.
In On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1898), chap. 1.
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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 from this absolute indifference and tranquility of the mind, that mathematical speculations derive some of their most considerable advantages; because there is nothing to interest the imagination; because the judgment sits free and unbiased to examine the point. All proportions, every arrangement of quantity, is alike to the understanding, because the same truths result to it from all; from greater from lesser, from equality and inequality.
In On the Sublime and Beautiful, Part 3, sect. 2.
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It is like the difference between a specialist and a philosopher. A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until at last he knows everything about nothing. A philosopher is someone who knows less and less about more and more until at last he knows nothing about everything. Physics is now too philosophical. In my work I would like to reverse the process, and to try to limit the things to be found out and to make some modest discoveries which may later be useful.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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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 would be rash to say that nothing remains for discovery or improvement even in elementary mathematics, but it may be safely asserted that the ground has been so long and so thoroughly explored as to hold out little hope of profitable return for a casual adventurer.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 73.
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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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Just a rock, a dome of snow, the deep blue sky, and a hunk of orange-painted metal from which a shredded American flag cracked in the wind. Nothing more. Except two tiny figures walking together those last few feet to the top of the Earth.
…...
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Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire sports the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.
…...
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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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Leibnitz believed he saw the image of creation in his binary arithmetic in which he employed only two characters, unity and zero. Since God may be represented by unity, and nothing by zero, he imagined that the Supreme Being might have drawn all things from nothing, just as in the binary arithmetic all numbers are expressed by unity with zero. This idea was so pleasing to Leibnitz, that he communicated it to the Jesuit Grimaldi, President of the Mathematical Board of China, with the hope that this emblem of the creation might convert to Christianity the reigning emperor who was particularly attached to the sciences.
In 'Essai Philosophique sur les Probabiliés', Oeuvres (1896), t. 7, 119.
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Let no one say that I have said nothing new; the arrangement of the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball, but one of us places it better.
In Pensées (1670), Section 7, No. 9. From Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 14. From the French, “Qu’on ne dise pas que je n’ai rien dit de nouveau: la disposition des matières est nouvelle. Quand on joue à la paume, c’est une même balle dont on joue l’un et l’autre; mais l’un la place mieux,” in Oeuvres Complètes de Blaise Pascal (1864), Vol. 1, 287.
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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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Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that He is.
In Pensées (1670), Section 10. From Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 85. Also seen translated as, “…consider the two possibilities…”. From the French, “Pesons le gain et la perte, en prenant croix, que Dieu est. Estimons ces deux cas: si vous gagnez, vous gagnez tout; si vous perdez, vous ne perdez rien. Gagez donc qu’il est, sans hésiter,” in Oeuvres Complètes de Blaise Pascal (1864), Vol. 1, 304.
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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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Man, so far as natural science by itself is able to teach us, is no longer the final cause of the universe, the heaven-descended heir of all the ages. His very existence is an accident, his story a brief and discreditable episode in the life of one of the meanest of the planets. Of the combination of causes which first converted a piece or pieces of unorganised jelly into the living progenitors of humanity, science indeed, as yet, knows nothing.
In 'The Religion of Humanity', Essays and Addresses by the Right Hon. Arthur J. Balfour (1893), 307.
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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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Mathematical proofs, like diamonds, are hard and clear, and will be touched with nothing but strict reasoning.
In 'Mr Locke’s Reply to the Bishop of Worcester’s Answer to his Second Letter', collected in The Works of John Locke (1824), Vol. 3, 428.
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Mathematicians boast of their exacting achievements, but in reality they are absorbed in mental acrobatics and contribute nothing to society.
From Complete Works on Japan’s Philosophical Thought (1956). As quoted and cited in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 185.
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Mathematics has the completely false reputation of yielding infallible conclusions. Its infallibility is nothing but identity. Two times two is not four, but it is just two times two, and that is what we call four for short. But four is nothing new at all. And thus it goes on and on in its conclusions, except that in the higher formulas the identity fades out of sight.
As quoted in Richard von Mises, 'Mathematical Postulates and Human Understanding', collected in J.R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 3, 1754.
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Mathematics, like dialectics, is an organ of the inner higher sense; in its execution it is an art like eloquence. Both alike care nothing for the content, to both nothing is of value but the form. It is immaterial to mathematics whether it computes pennies or guineas, to rhetoric whether it defends truth or error.
In Wilhelm Meislers Wanderjahre, Zweites Buch
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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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Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.
…...
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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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Mr. Cayley, of whom it may be so truly said, whether the matter he takes in hand be great or small, "nihil tetigit quod non ornavit," …
In Philosophic Transactions of the Royal Society (1864), 17, 605. [“Nihil tetigit quod non ornavit” translates as “He touched nothing without embellishing it”. —Webmaster]
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Mssr. Fermat—what have you done?
Your simple conjecture has everyone
Churning out proofs,
Which are nothing but goofs!
Could it be that your statement’s an erudite spoof?
A marginal hoax
That you’ve played on us folks?
But then you’re really not known for your practical jokes.
Or is it then true
That you knew what to do
When n was an integer greater than two?
Oh then why can’t we find
That same proof…are we blind?
You must be reproved, for I’m losing my mind.
In 'Fermat's Last Theorem', Mathematics Magazine (Apr 1986), 59, No. 2, 76.
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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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Neither in the subjective nor in the objective world can we find a criterion for the reality of the number concept, because the first contains no such concept, and the second contains nothing that is free from the concept. How then can we arrive at a criterion? Not by evidence, for the dice of evidence are loaded. Not by logic, for logic has no existence independent of mathematics: it is only one phase of this multiplied necessity that we call mathematics.
How then shall mathematical concepts be judged? They shall not be judged. Mathematics is the supreme arbiter. From its decisions there is no appeal. We cannot change the rules of the game, we cannot ascertain whether the game is fair. We can only study the player at his game; not, however, with the detached attitude of a bystander, for we are watching our own minds at play.
In Number: The Language of Science; a Critical Survey Written for the Cultured Non-Mathematician (1937), 244-245.
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Newton could not admit that there was any difference between him and other men, except in the possession of such habits as … perseverance and vigilance. When he was asked how he made his discoveries, he answered, “by always thinking about them;” and at another time he declared that if he had done anything, it was due to nothing but industry and patient thought: “I keep the subject of my inquiry constantly before me, and wait till the first dawning opens gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
In History of the Inductive Sciences, Bk. 7, chap, 1, sect. 5.
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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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Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid. — Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar
Epigraph to Chap. 5, In More Tramps Abroad (1897), Vol. 1, 40. Also published under the title Following the Equator (1897).
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Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
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Nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus, which he declined to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration; the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write, that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is, that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honoured them with signal favours.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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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 inside an edgeless universe.
Toba Beta
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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 great was ever achieved without enthusiasm
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Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the unity of the Deity as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and mathematical science which have been by slow degrees vouchsafed to man, and are still granted in these latter times by the Differential Calculus, now superseded by the Higher Algebra, all of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient Mind from eternity.
Martha Somerville (ed.) Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville (1874), 140-141.
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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.
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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 easy to the unwilling.
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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 applicable to life than mathematical reasoning. A proposition in mathematics is decidedly false or true. Everywhere else the true is mingled with the false.
Quoted, without citation, in David Eugene Smith, The Teaching of Elementary Mathematics (1904), 170.
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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 humbling than to look with a strong magnifying glass at an insect so tiny that the naked eye sees only the barest speck and to discover that nevertheless it is sculpted and articulated and striped with the same care and imagination as a zebra. Apparently it does not occur to nature whether or not a creature is within our range of vision, and the suspicion arises that even the zebra was not designed for our benefit.
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Nothing is more important than to see the sources of invention which are, in my opinion more interesting than the inventions themselves.
Epigraph, without citation, in R.P. Watkins, Computer Problem Solving (1980). Webmaster has not yet been able to find a primary source. Can you help?
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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 more symptomatic of the enervation, of the decompression of the Western imagination, than our incapacity to respond to the landings on the Moon. Not a single great poem, picture, metaphor has come of this breathtaking act, of Prometheus’ rescue of Icarus or of Phaeton in flight towards the stars.
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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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Numbers have neither substance, nor meaning, nor qualities. They are nothing but marks, and all that is in them we have put into them by the simple rule of straight succession.
In 'Mathematics and the Laws of Nature', The Armchair Science Reader (1959), 301.
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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 earth there is nothing great but man… in man there is nothing great but mind.
In 'Appendix', Lectures on Metaphysics and Logic (1860), Vol. 2, 261. Attributed in a Latin form to Favorinus in Pico di Mirandola (1463–94) Disputationes Adversus Astrologiam Divinatricem.
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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 the hatch was opened, I turned the lock handle and bright rays of sunlight burst through it. I opened the hatch and dust from the station flew in like little sparklets, looking like tiny snowflakes on a frosty day. Space, like a giant vacuum cleaner, began to suck everything out. Flying out together with the dust were some little washers and nuts that dad got stuck somewhere; a pencil flew by.
My first impression when I opened the hatch was of a huge Earth and of the sense of unreality concerning everything that was going on. Space is very beautiful. There was the dark velvet of the sky, the blue halo of the Earth and fast-moving lakes, rivers, fields and clouds clusters. It was dead silence all around, nothing whatever to indicate the velocity of the flight… no wind whistling in your ears, no pressure on you. The panorama was very serene and majestic.
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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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Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.
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Our popular lecturers on physics present us with chains of deductions so highly polished that it is a luxury to let them slip from end to end through our fingers. But they leave nothing behind but a vague memory of the sensation they afforded.
Said by the fictional character Lydia in Cashel Byron’s Profession (1886, 1906), 88.
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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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Secondly, the study of mathematics would show them the necessity there is in reasoning, to separate all the distinct ideas, and to see the habitudes that all those concerned in the present inquiry have to one another, and to lay by those which relate not to the proposition in hand, and wholly to leave them out of the reckoning. This is that which, in other respects besides quantity is absolutely requisite to just reasoning, though in them it is not so easily observed and so carefully practised. In those parts of knowledge where it is thought demonstration has nothing to do, men reason as it were in a lump; and if upon a summary and confused view, or upon a partial consideration, they can raise the appearance of a probability, they usually rest content; especially if it be in a dispute where every little straw is laid hold on, and everything that can but be drawn in any way to give color to the argument is advanced with ostentation. But that mind is not in a posture to find truth that does not distinctly take all the parts asunder, and, omitting what is not at all to the point, draws a conclusion from the result of all the particulars which in any way influence it.
In Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 7.
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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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Some of the most important results (e.g. Cauchy’s theorem) are so surprising at first sight that nothing short of a proof can make them credible.
As co-author with Bertha Swirls Jeffreys, in Methods of Mathematical Physics (1946, 1999), v.
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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 average English author [of mathematical texts] leaves one under the impression that he has made a bargain with his reader to put before him the truth, the greater part of the truth, and nothing but the truth; and that if he has put the facts of his subject into his book, however difficult it may be to unearth them, he has fulfilled his contract with his reader. This is a very much mistaken view, because effective teaching requires a great deal more than a bare recitation of facts, even if these are duly set forth in logical order—as in English books they often are not. The probable difficulties which will occur to the student, the objections which the intelligent student will naturally and necessarily raise to some statement of fact or theory—these things our authors seldom or never notice, and yet a recognition and anticipation of them by the author would be often of priceless value to the student. Again, a touch of humour (strange as the contention may seem) in mathematical works is not only possible with perfect propriety, but very helpful; and I could give instances of this even from the pure mathematics of Salmon and the physics of Clerk Maxwell.
In Perry, Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 59-61.
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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 choice is: the Universe…or nothing.
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The dexterous management of terms and being able to fend and prove with them, I know has and does pass in the world for a great part of learning; but it is learning distinct from knowledge, for knowledge consists only in perceiving the habitudes and relations of ideas one to another, which is done without words; the intervention of sounds helps nothing to it. And hence we see that there is least use of distinction where there is most knowledge: I mean in mathematics, where men have determined ideas with known names to them; and so, there being no room for equivocations, there is no need of distinctions.
In Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 31.
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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 end of the ridge and the end of the world... then nothing but that clear, empty air. There was nowhere else to climb. I was standing on the top of the world.
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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 evening was calm, the calmest we had known above the North Col. The smooth, outward dipping slabs glowed in the fast setting sun and, at an immense distance beneath, clouds concealed the valleys and lesser peaks. There was nothing to obstruct the tremendous prospect. Seen from Everest, great peaks that dominate the climber as he toils along the East Rongbuk Glacier, and up the slopes of the North Col, show like insignificant ripples at the base of a great ocean roller. Even the North Peak was but a stepping-stone to quick-footed vision.
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The Excellence of Modern Geometry is in nothing more evident, than in those full and adequate Solutions it gives to Problems; representing all possible Cases in one view, and in one general Theorem many times comprehending whole Sciences; which deduced at length into Propositions, and demonstrated after the manner of the Ancients, might well become the subjects of large Treatises: For whatsoever Theorem solves the most complicated Problem of the kind, does with a due Reduction reach all the subordinate Cases.
In 'An Instance of the Excellence of Modern Algebra, etc', Philosophical Transactions, 1694, 960.
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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 fear of mathematics is a tradition handed down from days when the majority of teachers knew little about human nature and nothing at all about the nature of mathematics itself. What they did teach was an imitation.
in Mathematician’s Delight (1946), 12.
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The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, “What is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?” and my answer must at once be, “It is no use.” There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.
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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 greatest reward lies in making the discovery; recognition can add little or nothing to that.
As quoted, without citation, in Howard Whitley Eves, Mathematical Circles Squared (1972), 148.
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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 influence of the Mongols, who were Arabs without Aristotle and without algebra, contributed nothing on the level of proto-scientific concepts and interests.
As given in Efthymios Nicolaidis, Science and Eastern Orthodoxy: From the Greek Fathers to the Age of (2011), 140.
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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 last few meters up to the summit no longer seem so hard. On reaching the top, I sit down and let my legs dangle into space. I don’t have to climb anymore. I pull my camera from my rucksack and, in my down mittens, fumble a long time with the batteries before I have it working properly. Then I film Peter. Now, after the hours of torment, which indeed I didn’t recognize as torment, now, when the monotonous motion of plodding upwards is at an end, and I have nothing more to do than breathe, a great peace floods my whole being. I breathe like someone who has run the race of his life and knows that he may now rest forever. I keep looking all around, because the first time I didn’t see anything of the panorama I had expected from Everest, neither indeed did I notice how the wind was continually chasing snow across the summit. In my state of spiritual abstraction, I no longer belong to myself and to my eyesight. I am nothing more than a single, narrow, gasping lung, floating over the mists and the summits.
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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 Mathematician deals with two properties of objects only, number and extension, and all the inductions he wants have been formed and finished ages ago. He is now occupied with nothing but deduction and verification.
In 'On the Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences', Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews (1872), 87.
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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 Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.
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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 voyager is always man, his vessel nothing less than all the world.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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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 in which we live is a hopeless case. I myself prefer to abide in abstractions that have nothing to do with reality.
(Jan 1967). As quoted in Michele Emmer and ‎Doris Schattschneider, M.C. Escher’s Legacy: A Centennial Celebration (2007), 71.
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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 the world more peaceful than apple-leaves with an early moon.
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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 frightful than ignorance in action.
In 'Maximen und Reflexionen' (1826), Goethes Sprüche in Prosa: Maximen und Reflexionen (1908), 45. Translated using Google Translate from the original German, “Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine tätige Unwissenheit.”
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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 mysterious, as some have tried to maintain, about the applicability of mathematics. What we get by abstraction from something can be returned.
In Introduction to the Foundations of Mathematics (1952), 175.
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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 on earth, intended for innocent people, so horrible as a school. It is in some respects more cruel than a prison. In a prison for example, you are not forced to read books written by the warders and the governor.
In 'School', Misalliance: A Debate in One Sitting (1914, 1957), 24.
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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 nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.
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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', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 10.
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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 is still a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely geometrical and there is nothing behind the geometry.
In The Mathematical Magic Show (1977), 21.
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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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They were in orbit around the planet now, and its giant curving bulk loomed so huge that he could see nothing else, nothing but the bands and swirls of clouds that raced fiercely across Jupiter’s face. The clouds shifted and flowed before his eyes, spun into eddies the size of Asia, moved and throbbed and pulsed like living creatures. Lightning flashed down there, sudden explosions of light that flickered back and forth across the clouds, like signalling lamps.
Ben Bova
Jupiter
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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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Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.
Ayn Rand
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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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Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things - air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.
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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 are told that “Mathematics is that study which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.” I think no statement could have been made more opposite to the facts of the case; that mathematical analysis is constantly invoking the aid of new principles, new ideas, and new methods, not capable of being defined by any form of words, but springing direct from the inherent powers and activities of the human mind, and from continually renewed introspection of that inner world of thought of which the phenomena are as varied and require as close attention to discern as those of the outer physical world (to which the inner one in each individual man may, I think, be conceived to stand somewhat in the same relation of correspondence as a shadow to the object from which it is projected, or as the hollow palm of one hand to the closed fist which it grasps of the other), that it is unceasingly calling forth the faculties of observation and comparison, that one of its principal weapons is induction, that it has frequent recourse to experimental trial and verification, and that it affords a boundless scope for the exercise of the highest efforts of the imagination and invention.
In Presidential Address to British Association, Exeter British Association Report (1869), pp. 1-9, in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 654.
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We come now to the question: what is a priori certain or necessary, respectively in geometry (doctrine of space) or its foundations? Formerly we thought everything; nowadays we think nothing. Already the distance-concept is logically arbitrary; there need be no things that correspond to it, even approximately.
In article he wrote, 'Space-Time', for Encyclopaedia Britannica (14th ed., 1929), Vol. 21, 106.
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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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What is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything.
In Pensées (1670), Section 1, No. 1. As translated in Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', No. 72, collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 27. From the original French, “Qu’est-ce que l’homme dans la nature? Un néant à l’égard de l’infini, un tout à l’égard du néant, un milieu entre rien et tout,” in Ernest Havet (ed.), Pensées de Pascal (1892), 102-103.
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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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When you, my dear Father, see them, you will understand; at present I can say nothing except this: that out of nothing I have created a strange new universe. All that I have sent you previously is like a house of cards in comparison with a tower.
Referring to his creation of a non-euclidean geometry, in a letter (3 Nov 1823) to his father, Farkas Bolyai (in Hungarian). Quoted, as a translation, in Marvin J. Greenberg, Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometries: Development and History (1993), 163
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Why does the universe, as Hawking has recently phrased it, go to all the bother of existing? Why is there something rather than nothing? Things would be so much simpler if nothing, absolutely nothing, existed, not even a God.
In Introduction, The Night Is Large: Collected Essays 1938-1995 (1996), xvii.
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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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Would you have a man reason well, you must use him to it betimes; exercise his mind in observing the connection between ideas, and following them in train. Nothing does this better than mathematics, which therefore, I think should be taught to all who have the time and opportunity, not so much to make them mathematicians, as to make them reasonable creatures; for though we all call ourselves so, because we are born to it if we please, yet we may truly say that nature gives us but the seeds of it, and we are carried no farther than industry and application have carried us.
In Conduct of the Understanding, Sect. 6.
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You explain nothing, O poet, but thanks to you all things become explicable.
In La Ville (1890), Act 1.
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You have only to take in what you please and leave out what you please; to select your own conditions of time and place; to multiply and divide at discretion; and you can pay the National Debt in half an hour. Calculation is nothing but cookery.
(1849). Epigraph, without citation, in M.J. Moroney, Facts From Figures (1951), 334.
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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 treat world history as a mathematician does mathematics, in which nothing but laws and formulae exist, no reality, no good and evil, no time, no yesterday, no tomorrow, nothing but an eternal, shallow, mathematical present.
From Das Glasperlemspeil (1943) translated as The Glass Bead Game (1969, 1990), 168.
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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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[Mathematics] is that [subject] which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.
In 'The Scientific Aspects of Positivism', Fortnightly Review (1898) in Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews, (1872), 169.
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[On the first moon landing:] It means nothing to me. I have no opinion about it, and I don’t care.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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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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Euclid
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Winston Churchill
- 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 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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