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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index P > Category: Path

Path Quotes (144 quotes)

The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest.
Address (1918) for Max Planck's 60th birthday, at Physical Society, Berlin, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934), 4.
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... [I]nfectious disease is merely a disagreeable instance of a widely prevalent tendency of all living creatures to save themselves the bother of building, by their own efforts, the things they require. Whenever they find it possible to take advantage of the constructive labors of others, this is the path of least resistance. The plant does the work with its roots and its green leaves. The cow eats the plant. Man eats both of them; and bacteria (or investment bankers) eat the man. ...
Rats, Lice and History (1935).
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Question: If you walk on a dry path between two walls a few feet apart, you hear a musical note or “ring” at each footstep. Whence comes this?
Answer: This is similar to phosphorescent paint. Once any sound gets between two parallel reflectors or walls, it bounds from one to the other and never stops for a long time. Hence it is persistent, and when you walk between the walls you hear the sounds made by those who walked there before you. By following a muffin man down the passage within a short time you can hear most distinctly a musical note, or, as it is more properly termed in the question, a “ring” at every (other) step.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 175-6, Question 2. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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The Charms of Statistics.—It is difficult to understand why statisticians commonly limit their inquiries to Averages, and do not revel in more comprehensive views. Their souls seem as dull to the charm of variety as that of the native of one of our flat English counties, whose retrospect of Switzerland was that, if its mountains could be thrown into its lakes, two nuisances would be got rid of at once. An Average is but a solitary fact, whereas if a single other fact be added to it, an entire Normal Scheme, which nearly corresponds to the observed one, starts potentially into existence. Some people hate the very name of statistics, but I find them full of beauty and interest. Whenever they are not brutalised, but delicately handled by the higher methods, and are warily interpreted, their power of dealing with complicated phenomena is extraordinary. They are the only tools by which an opening can be cut through the formidable thicket of difficulties that bars the path of those who pursue the Science of man.
Natural Inheritance (1889), 62-3.
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A body of work such as Pasteur’s is inconceivable in our time: no man would be given a chance to create a whole science. Nowadays a path is scarcely opened up when the crowd begins to pour in.
Pensées d’un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), Chap. 6.
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A closer look at the course followed by developing theory reveals for a start that it is by no means as continuous as one might expect, but full of breaks and at least apparently not along the shortest logical path. Certain methods often afforded the most handsome results only the other day, and many might well have thought that the development of science to infinity would consist in no more than their constant application. Instead, on the contrary, they suddenly reveal themselves as exhausted and the attempt is made to find other quite disparate methods. In that event there may develop a struggle between the followers of the old methods and those of the newer ones. The former's point of view will be termed by their opponents as out-dated and outworn, while its holders in turn belittle the innovators as corrupters of true classical science.
In 'On the Development of the Methods of Theoretical Physics in Recent Times', Populäre Schriften, Essay 14. Address (22 Sep 1899) to the Meeting of Natural Scientists at Munich. Collected in Brian McGuinness (ed.), Ludwig Boltzmann: Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, Selected Writings (1974), 79.
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A huge net is being dragged across the sea floor, destroying everything in its path. Ahead of it bloom undersea forests and their hundreds and thousands of living creatures, both plant and animal; behind it is a desert. The net is pulled to the surface and most of the dead and dying life forms in it are thrown out. A few marketable species are retained. [Trawling] is like taking a front-end loader and scraping up your entire front garden and shredding it, keeping a few pebbles, and dumping the rest of it down the drain.
In Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008), 191.
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Sigmund Freud quote: A layman will no doubt find it hard to understand how pathological disorders of the body and mind can be el
A layman will no doubt find it hard to understand how pathological disorders of the body and mind can be eliminated by 'mere' words. He will feel that he is being asked to believe in magic. And he will not be so very wrong, for the words which we use in our everyday speech are nothing other than watered-down magic. But we shall have to follow a roundabout path in order to explain how science sets about restoring to words a part at least of their former magical power.
Psychical (or Mental) Treatment (1905), In James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (1953), Vol. 7, 283.
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A mathematical problem should be difficult in order to entice us, yet not completely inaccessible, lest it mock at our efforts. It should be to us a guide post on the mazy paths to hidden truths, and ultimately a reminder of our pleasure in the successful solution.
In Mathematical Problems', Bulletin American Mathematical Society, 8, 438.
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A theory can be proved by experiment; but no path leads from experiment to the birth of a theory.
As quoted in Antonina Vallentin, Einstein: A Biography (1954), 105. The author, a close friend of Einstein’s family, cites the quote only as “which he has recently made public.”
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All of us Hellenes tell lies … about those great Gods, the Sun and the Moon… . We say that they, and diverse other stars, do not keep the same path, and we call them planets or wanderers. … Each of them moves in the same path-not in many paths, but in one only, which is circular, and the varieties are only apparent.
Plato
In Plato and B. Jowett (trans.), The Dialogues of Plato: Laws (3rd ed., 1892), Vol. 5, 204-205.
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All the human culture, all the results of art, science and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word 'man.' He is the Prometheus of mankind from whose shining brow the divine spark of genius has sprung at all times, forever kindling anew that fire of knowledge which illuminated the night of silent mysteries and thus caused man to climb the path to mastery over the other beings of the earth ... It was he who laid the foundations and erected the walls of every great structure in human culture.
Mein Kampf (1925-26), American Edition (1943), 290. In William Lawrence Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1990), 86-87.
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And from this such small difference of eight minutes [of arc] it is clear why Ptolemy, since he was working with bisection [of the linear eccentricity], accepted a fixed equant point… . For Ptolemy set out that he actually did not get below ten minutes [of arc], that is a sixth of a degree, in making observations. To us, on whom Divine benevolence has bestowed the most diligent of observers, Tycho Brahe, from whose observations this eight-minute error of Ptolemy’s in regard to Mars is deduced, it is fitting that we accept with grateful minds this gift from God, and both acknowledge and build upon it. So let us work upon it so as to at last track down the real form of celestial motions (these arguments giving support to our belief that the assumptions are incorrect). This is the path I shall, in my own way, strike out in what follows. For if I thought the eight minutes in [ecliptic] longitude were unimportant, I could make a sufficient correction (by bisecting the [linear] eccentricity) to the hypothesis found in Chapter 16. Now, because they could not be disregarded, these eight minutes alone will lead us along a path to the reform of the whole of Astronomy, and they are the matter for a great part of this work.
Astronomia Nova, New Astronomy (1609), ch. 19, 113-4, Johannes Kepler Gesammelte Werke (1937-), Vol. 3, 177-8.
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Aristotle’s opinion … that comets were nothing else than sublunary vapors or airy meteors … prevailed so far amongst the Greeks, that this sublimest part of astronomy lay altogether neglected; since none could think it worthwhile to observe, and to give an account of the wandering and uncertain paths of vapours floating in the Ether.
Attributed.
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Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
In Juz Griffiths, Disneyland Paris - The Family Guide (2007), opening page.
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As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
From The Art of Living, Day by Day 91972), 77. Frequently misattributed to Henry David Thoreau.
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As long as algebra and geometry proceeded along separate paths, their advance was slow and their applications limited. But when these sciences joined company, they drew from each other fresh vitality and thenceforward marched on at a rapid pace toward perfection.
In Leçons Élémentaires sur la Mathematiques, Leçon cinquième. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 81.
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As regards authority I so proceed. Boetius says in the second prologue to his Arithmetic, “If an inquirer lacks the four parts of mathematics, he has very little ability to discover truth.” And again, “Without this theory no one can have a correct insight into truth.” And he says also, “I warn the man who spurns these paths of knowledge that he cannot philosophize correctly.” And Again, “It is clear that whosoever passes these by, has lost the knowledge of all learning.”
Opus Majus [1266-1268], Part IV, distinction I, chapter I, trans. R. B. Burke, The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon (1928), Vol. I, 117.
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At quite uncertain times and places,
The atoms left their heavenly path,
And by fortuitous embraces,
Engendered all that being hath.
And though they seem to cling together,
And form 'associations' here,
Yet, soon or late, they burst their tether,
And through the depths of space career.
From 'Molecular Evolution', Nature, 8, 1873. In Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 637.
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At the moment I am occupied by an investigation with Kirchoff which does not allow us to sleep. Kirchoff has made a totally unexpected discovery, inasmuch as he has found out the cause for the dark lines in the solar spectrum and can produce these lines artificially intensified both in the solar spectrum and in the continuous spectrum of a flame, their position being identical with that of Fraunhofer’s lines. Hence the path is opened for the determination of the chemical composition of the Sun and the fixed stars.
Letter to H.E. Roscoe (Nov 1859). In The Life and Experiences of Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe (1906), 71.
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At the moment I am occupied by an investigation with Kirchoff which does not allow us to sleep. Kirchoff has made a totally unexpected discovery, inasmuch as he has found out the cause for the dark lines in the solar spectrum and can produce these lines artificially intensified both in the solar spectrum and in the continuous spectrum of a flame, their position being identical with that of Fraunhofer’s lines. Hence the path is opened for the determination of the chemical composition of the Sun and the fixed stars.
Letter to H.E. Roscoe (Nov 1859). In The Life and Experiences of Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe (1906), 81.
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Because the region of the Celestial World is of so great and such incredible magnitude as aforesaid, and since in what has gone before it was at least generally demonstrated that this comet continued within the limits of the space of the Aether, it seems that the complete explanation of the whole matter is not given unless we are also informed within narrower limits in what part of the widest Aether, and next to which orbs of the Planets [the comet] traces its path, and by what course it accomplishes this.
De Mundi Aetherei Recentioribus Phaenomenis (On Recent Phenomena in the Aetherial World) (1588). Quoted in M. Boas Hall, The Scientific Renaissance 1450-1630 (1962), 115.
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Between two truths of the real domain, the easiest and shortest path quite often passes through the complex domain.
From the French, “…entre deux vérités du domaine réel, le chemin le plus facile et le plus court passe bien souvent par le domaine complexe,” in Notice sur les Travaux Scientifiques (1900), 2. Widely seen incorrectly attributed to Hadamard, who quoted it himself as from an unnamed source, and paraphrased thus, “It has been written that the shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain,” in Jacques Hadamard, An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (1945), 123. Now often seen misattributed to Hadamard in a shorter paraphrase, for example as, “The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain,” in Craig Smorynski, 'The Need for Abstraction', The College Mathematics Journal (Jan 1985), 16, No. 1, 11. For a longer discussion of the Painlevé source, see homepage.math.uiowa.edu/~jorgen/hadamardquotesource.html, which is the source for the English translation in the subject quote.
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Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.
From Essays on Education. In Alfred Whitney Griswold, 1906-1963: In Memoriam (1964), 24.
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But it will be found... that one universal law prevails in all these phenomena. Where two portions of the same light arrive in the eye by different routes, either exactly or very nearly in the same direction, the appearance or disappearance of various colours is determined by the greater or less difference in the lengths of the paths.
Lecture XIV. 'Of Physical Optics'. In A Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy (1802), 112-4.
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Conquest has explored more than ever curiosity has done; and the path for science has been commonly opened by the sword.
In 'Island of Ceylon', Edinburgh Review (1803) collected in The Works of the Rev. Sydney Smith (1840), 350.
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Decades spent in contact with science and its vehicles have directed my mind and senses to areas beyond their reach. I now see scientific accomplishments as a path, not an end; a path leading to and disappearing in mystery. Science, in fact, forms many paths branching from the trunk of human progress; and on every periphery they end in the miraculous. Following these paths far enough, one must eventually conclude that science itself is a miracle—like the awareness of man arising from and then disappearing in the apparent nothingness of space. Rather than nullifying religion and proving that “God is dead,” science enhances spiritual values by revealing the magnitudes and minitudes—from cosmos to atom—through which man extends and of which he is composed.
A Letter From Lindbergh', Life (4 Jul 1969), 60B. In Eugene C. Gerhart, Quote it Completely! (1998), 409.
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Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Anonymous
In Richard Alan Krieger, Civilization's Quotations: Life's Ideal (2002), 6. Although this source, and a number of others, attribute the quote to Ralph Waldo Emerson, none that the webmaster found have a citation, and a number of other sources treat it as anonymous. Thus, the webmaster references Emerson with doubt. If you know a definitive primary print source, please contact the webmaster.
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Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
…...
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Euclidean mathematics assumes the completeness and invariability of mathematical forms; these forms it describes with appropriate accuracy and enumerates their inherent and related properties with perfect clearness, order, and completeness, that is, Euclidean mathematics operates on forms after the manner that anatomy operates on the dead body and its members. On the other hand, the mathematics of variable magnitudes—function theory or analysis—considers mathematical forms in their genesis. By writing the equation of the parabola, we express its law of generation, the law according to which the variable point moves. The path, produced before the eyes of the student by a point moving in accordance to this law, is the parabola.
If, then, Euclidean mathematics treats space and number forms after the manner in which anatomy treats the dead body, modern mathematics deals, as it were, with the living body, with growing and changing forms, and thus furnishes an insight, not only into nature as she is and appears, but also into nature as she generates and creates,—reveals her transition steps and in so doing creates a mind for and understanding of the laws of becoming. Thus modern mathematics bears the same relation to Euclidean mathematics that physiology or biology … bears to anatomy.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 38. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 112-113.
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Every progress that a church makes in the construction of its dogmas leads to a further taming of the free spirit; every new dogma … narrows the circle of free thought. … Science, on the other hand, liberates with every step of its development, it opens up new paths to thought … In other words, it allows the individual to be truly free.
Translated from the original German, “Jeder Fortschritt, den eine Kirche in dem Aufbau ihrer Dogmen macht, führt zu einer weiter gehenden Bändigung des freien Geistes; jedes neue Dogma … verengt den Kreis des freien Denkens. … Die Naturwissenschaft umgekehrt befreit mit jedem Schritte ihrer Entwicklung, sie eröffnet dem Gedanken neue Bahnen … Sie gestattet, mit anderen Worten, dem Einzelnen in vollem Masse wahr zu sein.” In Speech to the 24th meeting of the German Naturalists and Physicians at Rostock 'Ueber die Aufgaben der Naturwissenschaften in dem neuen nationalen Leben Deutschlands', (On the tasks of the natural sciences in the new national life of Germany), published in Chemisches Zentralblatt (11 Oct 1871), No. 41, 654-655. English version by Webmaster using Google translate.
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Every time a significant discovery is being made one sets in motion a tremendous activity in laboratories and industrial enterprises throughout the world. It is like the ant who suddenly finds food and walks back to the anthill while sending out material called food attracting substance. The other ants follow the path immediately in order to benefit from the finding and continue to do so as long as the supply is rich.
Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1982). In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1982 (1983)
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Evolution is a blind giant who rolls a snowball down a hill. The ball is made of flakes—circumstances. They contribute to the mass without knowing it. They adhere without intention, and without foreseeing what is to result. When they see the result they marvel at the monster ball and wonder how the contriving of it came to be originally thought out and planned. Whereas there was no such planning, there was only a law: the ball once started, all the circumstances that happened to lie in its path would help to build it, in spite of themselves.
'The Secret History of Eddypus', in Mark Twain and David Ketterer (ed.), Tales of Wonder (2003), 222-23.
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Evolution is an obstacle course not a freeway; the correct analogue for long-term success is a distant punt receiver evading legions of would-be tacklers in an oddly zigzagged path toward a goal, not a horse thundering down the flat.
…...
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Experimental physicists … walk a narrow path with pitfalls on either side. If we spend all our time developing equipment, we risk the appellation of “plumber,” and if we merely use the tools developed by others, we risk the censure of our peers for being parasitic.
In Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1968), 'Recent Developments in Particle Physics', collected in Nobel Lectures: Physics 1963-1970 (1972), 241.
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False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often long endure; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, as every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.
The Descent of Man (1871), Vol. 2, 385.
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Felling a tree was possibly the original deed of appropriation of the natural earth by early mankind in Europe. Thousands of years ago,… man lifted a heavy flint tool and struck at the base of a tree. He may have wanted the tree for shelter and fuel, or possibly to make a bridge over a river or a path through a bog…. [E]ventually the tree crashed to the floor, and the first act in the slow possession of the land by its people was complete.
In The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees: The Ash in Human Culture and History (2015), Chap. 1.
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For some months the astronomer Halley and other friends of Newton had been discussing the problem in the following precise form: what is the path of a body attracted by a force directed toward a fixed point, the force varying in intensity as the inverse of the distance? Newton answered instantly, “An ellipse.” “How do you know?” he was asked. “Why, I have calculated it.” Thus originated the imperishable Principia, which Newton later wrote out for Halley. It contained a complete treatise on motion.
In The Handmaiden of the Sciences (1937), 37.
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For there are two modes of acquiring knowledge, namely, by reasoning and experience. Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion, but does not make the conclusion certain, nor does it remove doubt so that the mind may rest on the intuition of truth, unless the mind discovers it by the path of experience; since many have the arguments relating to what can be known, but because they lack experience they neglect the arguments, and neither avoid what is harmful nor follow what is good. For if a man who has never seen fire should prove by adequate reasoning that fire burns and injures things and destroys them, his mind would not be satisfied thereby, nor would he avoid fire, until he placed his hand or some combustible substance in the fire, so that he might prove by experience that which reasoning taught. But when he has had actual experience of combustion his mind is made certain and rests in the full light of truth. Therefore reasoning does not suffice, but experience does.
Opus Majus [1266-1268], Part VI, chapter I, trans. R. B. Burke, The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon (1928), Vol. 2, 583.
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Geometry may sometimes appear to take the lead of analysis, but in fact precedes it only as a servant goes before his master to clear the path and light him on his way. The interval between the two is as wide as between empiricism and science, as between the understanding and the reason, or as between the finite and the infinite.
From 'Astronomical Prolusions', Philosophical Magazine (Jan 1866), 31, No. 206, 54, collected in Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester (1908), Vol. 2, 521.
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Getting out of the comfortable path, that's what exploration is all about.
Interview (22 May 1997). On Academy of Achievement website.
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He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.
The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
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Here lies Sir Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a vigour of mind almost supernatural, first demonstrated, the motions and Figures of the Planets, the Paths of the comets, and the Tides of the Oceans ... Let Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of Nature.
Epitaph
Inscribed on the tomb of Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.
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I am mindful that scientific achievement is rooted in the past, is cultivated to full stature by many contemporaries and flourishes only in favorable environment. No individual is alone responsible for a single stepping stone along the path of progress, and where the path is smooth progress is most rapid. In my own work this has been particularly true.
Nobel Prize banquet speech (29 Feb 1940)
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I came to realize that exaggerated concern about what others are doing can be foolish. It can paralyze effort, and stifle a good idea. One finds that in the history of science almost every problem has been worked out by someone else. This should not discourage anyone from pursuing his own path.
From Theodore von Karman and Lee Edson (ed.), The Wind and Beyond: Theodore von Karman, Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Science (1967).
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I can see him [Sylvester] now, with his white beard and few locks of gray hair, his forehead wrinkled o’er with thoughts, writing rapidly his figures and formulae on the board, sometimes explaining as he wrote, while we, his listeners, caught the reflected sounds from the board. But stop, something is not right, he pauses, his hand goes to his forehead to help his thought, he goes over the work again, emphasizes the leading points, and finally discovers his difficulty. Perhaps it is some error in his figures, perhaps an oversight in the reasoning. Sometimes, however, the difficulty is not elucidated, and then there is not much to the rest of the lecture. But at the next lecture we would hear of some new discovery that was the outcome of that difficulty, and of some article for the Journal, which he had begun. If a text-book had been taken up at the beginning, with the intention of following it, that text-book was most likely doomed to oblivion for the rest of the term, or until the class had been made listeners to every new thought and principle that had sprung from the laboratory of his mind, in consequence of that first difficulty. Other difficulties would soon appear, so that no text-book could last more than half of the term. In this way his class listened to almost all of the work that subsequently appeared in the Journal. It seemed to be the quality of his mind that he must adhere to one subject. He would think about it, talk about it to his class, and finally write about it for the Journal. The merest accident might start him, but once started, every moment, every thought was given to it, and, as much as possible, he read what others had done in the same direction; but this last seemed to be his real point; he could not read without finding difficulties in the way of understanding the author. Thus, often his own work reproduced what had been done by others, and he did not find it out until too late.
A notable example of this is in his theory of cyclotomic functions, which he had reproduced in several foreign journals, only to find that he had been greatly anticipated by foreign authors. It was manifest, one of the critics said, that the learned professor had not read Rummer’s elementary results in the theory of ideal primes. Yet Professor Smith’s report on the theory of numbers, which contained a full synopsis of Kummer’s theory, was Professor Sylvester’s constant companion.
This weakness of Professor Sylvester, in not being able to read what others had done, is perhaps a concomitant of his peculiar genius. Other minds could pass over little difficulties and not be troubled by them, and so go on to a final understanding of the results of the author. But not so with him. A difficulty, however small, worried him, and he was sure to have difficulties until the subject had been worked over in his own way, to correspond with his own mode of thought. To read the work of others, meant therefore to him an almost independent development of it. Like the man whose pleasure in life is to pioneer the way for society into the forests, his rugged mind could derive satisfaction only in hewing out its own paths; and only when his efforts brought him into the uncleared fields of mathematics did he find his place in the Universe.
In Florian Cajori, Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 266-267.
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I decided that life rationally considered seemed pointless and futile, but it is still interesting in a variety of ways, including the study of science. So why not carry on, following the path of scientific hedonism? Besides, I did not have the courage for the more rational procedure of suicide.
Life of a Scientist (1989), 24.
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I have been able to solve a few problems of mathematical physics on which the greatest mathematicians since Euler have struggled in vain … But the pride I might have held in my conclusions was perceptibly lessened by the fact that I knew that the solution of these problems had almost always come to me as the gradual generalization of favorable examples, by a series of fortunate conjectures, after many errors. I am fain to compare myself with a wanderer on the mountains who, not knowing the path, climbs slowly and painfully upwards and often has to retrace his steps because he can go no further—then, whether by taking thought or from luck, discovers a new track that leads him on a little till at length when he reaches the summit he finds to his shame that there is a royal road by which he might have ascended, had he only the wits to find the right approach to it. In my works, I naturally said nothing about my mistake to the reader, but only described the made track by which he may now reach the same heights without difficulty.
(1891) As quoted in translation in Leo Koenigsberger and Frances A. Welby (trans.), Hermann von Helmholtz (1906), 180-181.
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I have been so electrically occupied of late that I feel as if hungry for a little chemistry: but then the conviction crosses my mind that these things hang together under one law & that the more haste we make onwards each in his own path the sooner we shall arrive, and meet each other, at that state of knowledge of natural causes from which all varieties of effects may be understood & enjoyed.
Letter to Eilhard Mitscherlich, 24 Jan 1838. In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1993), Vol. 2, 488.
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Srinivasa Ramanujan quote: I have not trodden through a conventional university course, but I am striking out a new path for mys
I have not trodden through a conventional university course, but I am striking out a new path for myself. I have made a special investigation of divergent series in general and the results I get are termed by the local mathematicians as “startling.”
First letter to G.H. Hardy (16 Jan 1913). In Collected Papers of Srinivasa Ramanujan (1927), xxiii. Hardy notes he did “seem to remember his telling me that his friends had given him some assistance” in writing the letter because Ramanujan's “knowledge of English, at that stage of his life, could scarcely have been sufficient.”
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I hear one day the word “mountain,” and I ask someone “what is a mountain? I have never seen one.”
I join others in discussions of mountains.
One day I see in a book a picture of a mountain.
And I decide I must climb one.
I travel to a place where there is a mountain.
At the base of the mountain I see there are lots of paths to climb.
I start on a path that leads to the top of the mountain.
I see that the higher I climb, the more the paths join together.
After much climbing the many paths join into one.
I climb till I am almost exhausted but I force myself and continue to climb.
Finally I reach the top and far above me there are stars.
I look far down and the village twinkles far below.
It would be easy to go back down there but it is so beautiful up here.
I am just below the stars.
…...
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I want to argue that the ‘sudden’ appearance of species in the fossil record and our failure to note subsequent evolutionary change within them is the proper prediction of evolutionary theory as we understand it ... Evolutionary ‘sequences’ are not rungs on a ladder, but our retrospective reconstruction of a circuitous path running like a labyrinth, branch to branch, from the base of the bush to a lineage now surviving at its top.
…...
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If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbour, tho' he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
Attributed to Emerson by Sarah S. B. Yule, in her book Borrowings (compiled 1889, published 1893). Mrs Yule was quoted in The Docket (Feb 1912), that she wrote this in her notebook of memorable statements during an Emerson address. The Docket thus disproved Elbert Hubbard's claim to its authorship.
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If my efforts have led to greater success than usual, this is due, I believe, to the fact that during my wanderings in the field of medicine, I have strayed onto paths where the gold was still lying by the wayside. It takes a little luck to be able to distinguish gold from dross, but that is all.
'Robert Koch', Journal of Outdoor Life (1908), 5, 164-9.
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If we had nothing but pecuniary rewards and worldly honours to look to, our profession would not be one to be desired. But in its practice you will find it to be attended with peculiar privileges, second to none in intense interest and pure pleasures. It is our proud office to tend the fleshly tabernacle of the immortal spirit, and our path, rightly followed, will be guided by unfettered truth and love unfeigned. In the pursuit of this noble and holy calling I wish you all God-speed.
Conclusion of Graduation Address, University of Edinburgh (1876). In John Vaughan, 'Lord Lister', The Living Age (1918), 297, 361.
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In Melvin Calvin’s office there were four photographs: Michael Polanyi, Joel Hildebrand, Gilbert N. Lewis, and Ernest O. Lawrence. These scientists were his mentors: Polanyi for introducing him to the chemistry of phthalocyanine; Hildebrand for bringing him to Berkeley; Lewis, perhaps his most influential teacher; and Lawrence, who provided him the opportunity to work with the new scientific tool of radioactive carbon, which enabled the search for the path of carbon in photosynthesis to be successful.
Co-author with Marilyn Taylor and Robert E. Connick, obituary, 'Melvin Calvin', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (Dec 2000), 144, No. 4, 454.
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In the search for truth there are certain questions that are not important. Of what material is the universe constructed? Is the universe eternal? Are there limits or not to the universe? ... If a man were to postpone his search and practice for Enlightenment until such questions were solved, he would die before he found the path.
Budha
…...
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It behooves us always to remember that in physics it has taken great men to discover simple things. They are very great names indeed which we couple with the explanation of the path of a stone, the droop of a chain, the tints of a bubble, the shadows of a cup.
In On Growth and Form (1917).
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It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and more intricate questions or more simple and lucid explanations [than those given by Archimedes]. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearance, easy and unlaboured results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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It is slower, but better, to creep along the downward path that to leap over the cliff.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 144.
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It is the middle of the night when a glittering theatre of light suddenly appears in front of the Dhaka. Where, moments before there was only darkness, suddenly there are hundreds of columns of light. The sound of helicopters and car horns carry across to the ship on the breeze. There is the scent of rain after it has evaporated from warm streets. This is unmistakably Singapore, the small city-state at the most southern point of the Asiatic mainland. Singapore was built as a centre for world trade by the British over 250 years ago, and today, Singapore has the largest container harbour in the world. This is where the axes of world trade cross paths: from the Far East to Europe, from the Far East to Southeast Asia/the East, and from the Far East to Australia. Everything runs like clockwork here. Within five hours the Dhaka has been unloaded.
Made on Earth
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It must happen that in some cases the author is not understood, or is very imperfectly understood; and the question is what is to be done. After giving a reasonable amount of attention to the passage, let the student pass on, reserving the obscurity for future efforts. … The natural tendency of solitary students, I believe, is not to hurry away prematurely from a hard passage, but to hang far too long over it; the just pride that does not like to acknowledge defeat, and the strong will that cannot endure to be thwarted, both urge to a continuance of effort even when success seems hopeless. It is only by experience we gain the conviction that when the mind is thoroughly fatigued it has neither the power to continue with advantage its course in .an assigned direction, nor elasticity to strike out a new path; but that, on the other hand, after being withdrawn for a time from the pursuit, it may return and gain the desired end.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 68.
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Like water, be gentle and strong. Be gentle enough to follow the natural paths of the earth, and strong enough to rise up and reshape the world.
…...
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Looking back … over the long and labyrinthine path which finally led to the discovery [of the quantum theory], I am vividly reminded of Goethe’s saying that men will always be making mistakes as long as they are striving after something.
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Magnitude may be compared to the power output in kilowatts of a [radio] broadcasting station; local intensity, on the Mercalli or similar scale, is then comparable to the signal strength noted on a receiver at a given locality. Intensity, like signal strength, will generally fall off with distance from the source; it will also depend on local conditions at the point of observation, and to some extent on the conditions along the path from source to that point.
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
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Mathematicians assume the right to choose, within the limits of logical contradiction, what path they please in reaching their results.
In A Letter to American Teachers of History (1910), Introduction, v.
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Mathematics, from the earliest times to which the history of human reason can reach, has followed, among that wonderful people of the Greeks, the safe way of science. But it must not be supposed that it was as easy for mathematics as for logic, in which reason is concerned with itself alone, to find, or rather to make for itself that royal road. I believe, on the contrary, that there was a long period of tentative work (chiefly still among the Egyptians), and that the change is to be ascribed to a revolution, produced by the happy thought of a single man, whose experiments pointed unmistakably to the path that had to be followed, and opened and traced out for the most distant times the safe way of a science. The history of that intellectual revolution, which was far more important than the passage round the celebrated Cape of Good Hope, and the name of its fortunate author, have not been preserved to us. … A new light flashed on the first man who demonstrated the properties of the isosceles triangle (whether his name was Thales or any other name), for he found that he had not to investigate what he saw in the figure, or the mere concepts of that figure, and thus to learn its properties; but that he had to produce (by construction) what he had himself, according to concepts a priori, placed into that figure and represented in it, so that, in order to know anything with certainty a priori, he must not attribute to that figure anything beyond what necessarily follows from what he has himself placed into it, in accordance with the concept.
In Critique of Pure Reason, Preface to the Second Edition, (1900), 690.
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Men of Science. If they are worthy of the name they are indeed about God's path and about his bed and spying out all his ways.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 219.
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Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau!
Mock on, mock on: 'Tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.
The atoms of Democritus
And Newton's particles of light
Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.
Notebook Drafts (c. 1804). In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 481.
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Most people regard scientists as explorers … Imagine a handful of people shipwrecked on a strange island and setting out to explore it. One of them cuts a solitary path through the jungle, going on and on until he is exhausted or lost or both. He eventually returns to his companions, and they listen to him with goggling eyes as he describes what he saw; what he fell into, and what bit him. After a rest he demands more supplies and sets off again to explore the unknown. Many of his companions will be doing the same, each choosing his own direction and pursuing his pioneering path.
In The Development of Design (1981), 1.
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MOUSE, n. An animal which strews its path with fainting women.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  224.
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My life as a surgeon-scientist, combining humanity and science, has been fantastically rewarding. In our daily patients we witness human nature in the raw–fear, despair, courage, understanding, hope, resignation, heroism. If alert, we can detect new problems to solve, new paths to investigate.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 565.
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My view of the matter, for what it is worth, is that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. My view may be expressed by saying that every discovery contains an “irrational element,” or “a creative intuition,” in Bergson's sense. In a similar way Einstein speaks of the “search for those highly universal laws … from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path.” he says, “leading to these … laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love (Einfühlung) of the objects of experience.”
In The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Logik Der Forschung (1959, 2002), 8.
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Nature is nowhere accustomed more openly to display her secret mysteries than in cases where she shows tracings of her workings apart from the beaten paths; nor is there any better way to advance the proper practice of medicine than to give our minds to the discovery of the usual law of nature, by careful investigation of cases of rarer forms of disease.
Letter IX, to John Vlackveld (24 Apr 1657), in The Circulation of the Blood (2006), 200.
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Nature, the parent of all things, designed the human backbone to be like a keel or foundation. It is because we have a backbone that we can walk upright and stand erect. But this was not the only purpose for which Nature provided it; here, as elsewhere, she displayed great skill in turning the construction of a single member to a variety of different uses.
It Provides a Path for the Spinal Marrow, Yet is Flexible.
Firstly, she bored a hole through the posterior region of the bodies of all the vertebrae, thus fashioning a suitable pathway for the spinal marrow which would descend through them.
Secondly, she did not make the backbone out of one single bone with no joints. Such a unified construction would have afforded greater stability and a safer seat for the spinal marrow since, not having joints, the column could not have suffered dislocations, displacements, or distortions. If the Creator of the world had paid such attention to resistance to injury and had subordinated the value and importance of all other aims in the fabric of parts of the body to this one, he would certainly have made a single backbone with no joints, as when someone constructing an animal of wood or stone forms the backbone of one single and continuous component. Even if man were destined only to bend and straighten his back, it would not have been appropriate to construct the whole from one single bone. And in fact, since it was necessary that man, by virtue of his backbone, be able to perform a great variety of movements, it was better that it be constructed from many bones, even though as a result of this it was rendered more liable to injury.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, 57-58, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in 'Nature’s Skill in Creating a Backbone to Hold Us Erect', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), 138.
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Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.
As quoted in various 21st century books, each time cited only as from the The Philosophy of Education (1906), with no page number. For example, in John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (2000), 61. Note: Webmaster is suspicious of the attribution of this quote. The Library of Congress lists no such title by Harris in 1906. The LOC does catalog this title by Harris for 1893, which is a 9-page pamphlet printing the text of a series of five lectures. These lectures do not contain this quote. William Torrey Harris was editor of the International Education Series of books, of which Vol. 1 was the translation by Anna Callender Bracket of The Philosophy of Education by Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz (2nd ed. rev. 1886). The translation was previously published in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (1872, -73, -74), Vols vi-viii. Webmaster does not find the quote in that book, either. Webmaster has so far been unable to verify this quote, in these words, or even find the quote in any 19th or 20th century publication (which causes more suspicion). If you have access to the primary source for this quote, please contact Webmaster.
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No path leads from a knowledge of that which is to that which should be.
'The Goal' lecture at Princeton University (1939), quoted in Philipp Frank and George Rosen, Einstein (2002), 287.
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Nor ever yet
The melting rainbow's vernal-tinctur'd hues
To me have shone so pleasing, as when first
the hand of science pointed out the path
In which the sun-beams gleaming from the west
Fall on the watery cloud.
The Pleasures of Imagination (1818), 50.
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Not every one of our desires can be immediately gratified. We’ve got to learn to wait patiently for our dreams to come true, especially on the path we’ve chosen. But while we wait, we need to prepare symbolically a place for our hopes and dreams.
…...
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Our advice is that every man should remain in the path he has struck out for himself, and refuse to be overawed by authority, hampered by prevalent opinion, or carried away by fashion.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 188-189.
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Over very long time scales, when the perturbing influences of both Jupiter and Saturn are taken into account, the seemingly regular orbits of asteroids that stray into the Kirkwood gaps turn chaotic. For millions of years … such an orbit seems predictable. Then the path grows increasingly eccentric until it begins to cross the orbit of Mars and then the Earth. Collisions or close encounters with those planets are inevitable.
In article 'Tales of Chaos: Tumbling Moons and Unstable Asteroids", New York Times (20 Jan 1987), C3.
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Perhaps the earliest memories I have are of being a stubborn, determined child. Through the years my mother has told me that it was fortunate that I chose to do acceptable things, for if I had chosen otherwise no one could have deflected me from my path. ... The Chairman of the Physics Department, looking at this record, could only say 'That A- confirms that women do not do well at laboratory work'. But I was no longer a stubborn, determined child, but rather a stubborn, determined graduate student. The hard work and subtle discrimination were of no moment.
Autobiography, Nobel Foundation
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Preconceived ideas are like searchlights which illumine the path of experimenter and serve him as a guide to interrogate nature. They become a danger only if he transforms them into fixed ideas – this is why I should like to see these profound words inscribed on the threshold of all the temples of science: “The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.”
Speech (8 Jul 1876), to the French Academy of Medicine. As translated in René J. Dubos, Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1950, 1986), 376. Date of speech identified in Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), 502.
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Rachel Carson. Her very name evokes the beatific luminosity of the canonized. Yet Carson was not a saint, but better, a prophet—that rare soul who diverts our attention into the path of the oncoming truth.
In his Foreward to Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1950, 2003), xvi.
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Reason must approach nature with the view, indeed, of receiving information from it, not, however, in the character of a pupil, who listens to all that his master chooses to tell him, but in that of a judge, who compels the witnesses to reply to those questions which he himself thinks fit to propose. To this single idea must the revolution be ascribed, by which, after groping in the dark for so many centuries, natural science was at length conducted into the path of certain progress.
Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn (1855), Preface to the Second Edition, xxvii.
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Scientists, therefore, are responsible for their research, not only intellectually but also morally. This responsibility has become an important issue in many of today's sciences, but especially so in physics, in which the results of quantum mechanics and relativity theory have opened up two very different paths for physicists to pursue. They may lead us—to put it in extreme terms—to the Buddha or to the Bomb, and it is up to each of us to decide which path to take.
In The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture (1983), 87.
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So, Fabricius, I already have this: that the most true path of the planet [Mars] is an ellipse, which Dürer also calls an oval, or certainly so close to an ellipse that the difference is insensible.
Letter to David Fabricius (11 Oct 1605). Johannes Kepler Gesammelte Werke (1937- ), Vol. 15, letter 358, l. 390-92, p. 249.
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So-called extraordinary events always split into two extremes naturalists who have not witnessed them: those who believe blindly and those who do not believe at all. The latter have always in mind the story of the golden goose; if the facts lie slightly beyond the limits of their knowledge, they relegate them immediately to fables. The former have a secret taste for marvels because they seem to expand Nature; they use their imagination with pleasure to find explanations. To remain doubtful is given to naturalists who keep a middle path between the two extremes. They calmly examine facts; they refer to logic for help; they discuss probabilities; they do not scoff at anything, not even errors, because they serve at least the history of the human mind; finally, they report rather than judge; they rarely decide unless they have good evidence.
Quoted in Albert V. Carozzi, Histoire des sciences de la terre entre 1790 et 1815 vue à travers les documents inédités de la Societé de Physique et d'Histoire Naturelle de Genève, trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi. (1990), 175.
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Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1995), 129.
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Students who have attended my [medical] lectures may remember that I try not only to teach them what we know, but also to realise how little this is: in every direction we seem to travel but a very short way before we are brought to a stop; our eyes are opened to see that our path is beset with doubts, and that even our best-made knowledge comes but too soon to an end.
In Notes on the Composition of Scientific Papers (1904), 3.
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Technology and production can be great benefactors of man, but they are mindless instruments, and if undirected they careen along with a momentum of their own. In our country, they pulverize everything in their path—the landscape, the natural environment,
The Greening of America (1970).
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Tell me these things, Olympian Muses, tell
From the beginning, which first came to be?
Chaos was first of all, but next appeared
Broad-bosomed Earth, Sure standing-place for all
The gods who live on snowy Olympus' peak,
And misty Tartarus, in a recess
Of broad-pathed earth, and Love, most beautiful
Of all the deathless gods. He makes men weak,
He overpowers the clever mind, and tames
The spirit in the breasts of men and gods.
From Chaos came black Night and Erebos.
And Night in turn gave birth to Day and Space
Whom she conceived in love to Erebos.
And Earth bore starry Heaven, first, to be
An equal to herself, to cover her
All over, and to be a resting-place,
Always secure, for all the blessed gods.Theogony, I. 114-28.
Heslod
In Hesiod and Theognis, trans. Dorothea Wender (1973), 26-7.
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That the Anatomy of the Nerves yields more pleasant and profitable Speculations, than the Theory of any parts besides in the animated Body: for from hence the true and genuine Reasons are drawn of very many Actions and Passions that are wont to happen in our Body, which otherwise seem most difficult and unexplicable; and no less from this Fountain the hidden Causes of Diseases and their Symptoms, which commonly are ascribed to the Incantations of Witches, may be found out and clearly laid open. But as to our observations about the Nerves, from our following Discourse it will plainly appear, that I have not trod the paths or footsteps of others, nor repeated what hath been before told.
In Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves (1664), trans. Samuel Pordage (1681), reprinted in William Peindel (ed.), Thomas Willis: Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves (1965), Vol. 2, 125.
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The distributed architecture and its technique of packet switching were built around the problem of getting messages delivered despite blockages, holes and malfunctions. Imagine the poor censor faced with such a system. There is no central exchange to seize and hold; messages actively “seek out” alternative routes so that even if one path is blocked another may open up. Here is the civil libertarian’s dream.
As quoted in Richard Rogers, 'The Internet Treats Censorship as a Malfunction and Routes Around It? : A New Media Approach to the Study of State Internet Censorship', collected in Jussi Parikka and Tony D. Sampson (eds.), The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009), 243.
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The errors of a wise man are literally more instructive than the truths of a fool. The wise man travels in lofty, far-seeing regions; the fool in low-lying, high-fenced lanes; retracing the footsteps of the former, to discover where he diviated, whole provinces of the universe are laid open to us; in the path of the latter, granting even that he has not deviated at all, little is laid open to us but two wheel-ruts and two hedges.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 425:26.
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The first steps in the path of discovery, and the first approximate measures, are those which add most to the existing knowledge of mankind.
Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830), 167.
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The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
…...
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The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created-created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.
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The history of mathematics may be instructive as well as agreeable; it may not only remind us of what we have, but may also teach us to increase our store. Says De Morgan, “The early history of the mind of men with regards to mathematics leads us to point out our own errors; and in this respect it is well to pay attention to the history of mathematics.” It warns us against hasty conclusions; it points out the importance of a good notation upon the progress of the science; it discourages excessive specialization on the part of the investigator, by showing how apparently distinct branches have been found to possess unexpected connecting links; it saves the student from wasting time and energy upon problems which were, perhaps, solved long since; it discourages him from attacking an unsolved problem by the same method which has led other mathematicians to failure; it teaches that fortifications can be taken by other ways than by direct attack, that when repulsed from a direct assault it is well to reconnoiter and occupy the surrounding ground and to discover the secret paths by which the apparently unconquerable position can be taken.
In History of Mathematics (1897), 1-2.
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The interior parts of the earth and its internal depths are a region totally impervious to the eye of mortal man, and can least of all be approached by those ordinary paths of hypothesis adopted by naturalists and geologists. The region designed for the existence of man, and of every other creature endowed with organic life, as well as the sphere opened to the perception of man's senses, is confined to a limited space between the upper and lower parts of the earth, exceedingly small in proportion to the diameter, or even semi-diameter of the earth, and forming only the exterior surface, or outer skin, of the great body of the earth.
In Friedrich von Schlegel and James Burton Robertson (trans.), The Philosophy of History (1835), 20.
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The lame … in the path outstrip the swift who wander from it.
In Novum Organum, as collected and translated in The Works of Francis Bacon: Lord Chancellor of England (1831), 43.
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The majority of mathematical truths now possessed by us presuppose the intellectual toil of many centuries. A mathematician, therefore, who wishes today to acquire a thorough understanding of modern research in this department, must think over again in quickened tempo the mathematical labors of several centuries. This constant dependence of new truths on old ones stamps mathematics as a science of uncommon exclusiveness and renders it generally impossible to lay open to uninitiated readers a speedy path to the apprehension of the higher mathematical truths. For this reason, too, the theories and results of mathematics are rarely adapted for popular presentation … This same inaccessibility of mathematics, although it secures for it a lofty and aristocratic place among the sciences, also renders it odious to those who have never learned it, and who dread the great labor involved in acquiring an understanding of the questions of modern mathematics. Neither in the languages nor in the natural sciences are the investigations and results so closely interdependent as to make it impossible to acquaint the uninitiated student with single branches or with particular results of these sciences, without causing him to go through a long course of preliminary study.
In Mathematical Essays and Recreations (1898), 32.
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The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 246
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The path of a cosmonaut is not an easy, triumphant march to glory, as some people make it out to be. You have to put in a lot of work, a lot of sweat, and have to get to know the meaning not just of joy but also of grief, before being allowed in the spacecraft cabin.
In First Man in Space: The Life and Achievement of Yuri Gagarin: a Collection (1984), 104. Cited as written as a foreword of a book at the request of the author.
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The path of civilization is paved with tin cans.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Apr 1905), 20, No. 5, 160.
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The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
In Second Inaugural Address (21 Jan 2013) at the United States Capitol.
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The problem [with genetic research] is, we're just starting down this path, feeling our way in the dark. We have a small lantern in the form of a gene, but the lantern doesn't penetrate more than a couple of hundred feet. We don't know whether we're going to encounter chasms, rock walls or mountain ranges along the way. We don't even know how long the path is.
Quoted in J. Madeleine Nash, et al., 'Tracking Down Killer Genes', Time magazine (17 Sep 1990).
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The rate of extinction is now about 400 times that recorded through recent geological time and is accelerating rapidly. If we continue on this path, the reduction of diversity seems destined to approach that of the great natural catastrophes at the end of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras, in other words, the most extreme for 65 million years. And in at least one respect, this human-made hecatomb is worse than any time in the geological past. In the earlier mass extinctions… most of the plant diversity survived even though animal diversity was severely reduced. Now, for the first time ever, plant diversity too is declining sharply.
In 'Edward O. Wilson: The Biological Diversity Crisis: A Challenge to Science', Issues in Science and Technology (Fall 1985), 2, No. 1, 25.
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The result of all these experiments has given place to a new division of the parts of the human body, which I shall follow in this short essay, by distinguishing those which are susceptible of Irritability and Sensibility, from those which are not. But the theory, why some parts of the human body are endowed with these properties, while others are not, I shall not at all meddle with. For I am persuaded that the source of both lies concealed beyond the reach of the knife and microscope, beyond which I do not chuse to hazard many conjectures, as I have no desire of teaching what I am ignorant of myself. For the vanity of attempting to guide others in paths where we find ourselves in the dark, shews, in my humble opinion, the last degree of arrogance and ignorance.
'A Treatise on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals' (Read 1752). Trans. 1755 and reprinted in Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 1936, 4(2), 657-8.
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The rigid career path of a professor at a modern university is that One Must Build the Big Research Group, recruit doctoral students more vigorously than the head football coach, bombard the federal agencies with grant applications more numerous than the pollen falling from the heavens in spring, and leave the paper writing and the research to the postdocs, research associates, and students who do all the bench work and all the computer programming. A professor is chained to his previous topics by his Big Group, his network of contacts built up laboriously over decades, and the impossibility of large funding except in areas where the grantee has grown the group from a corner of the building to an entire floor. The senior tenure-track faculty at a research university–the “silverbacks” in anthropological jargon–are bound by invisible chains stronger than the strongest steel to a narrow range of what the Prevailing Consensus agrees are Very Important Problems. The aspiring scientist is confronted with the reality that his mentors are all business managers.
In his Foreword to Cornelius Lanczos, Discourse on Fourier Series, ix-x.
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The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no in the endeavor of science. We do not know in advance who will discover fundamental insights.
In Cosmos (1985), 74.
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The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstruction in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought, so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.
…...
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The terminal path may, to distinguish it from internuncial common paths, be called the final common path. The motor nerve to a muscle is a collection of such final common paths.
'Correlation of Reflexes and the Principle of the Common Path', Report of the Seventy-Fourth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1904), 730.
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The theory that gravitational attraction is inversely proportional to the square of the distance leads by remorseless logic to the conclusion that the path of a planet should be an ellipse, … It is this logical thinking that is the real meat of the physical sciences. The social scientist keeps the skin and throws away the meat. … His theorems no more follow from his postulates than the hunches of a horse player follow logically from the latest racing news. The result is guesswork clad in long flowing robes of gobbledygook.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 149-150.
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There are no royal roads to knowledge, and we can only advance to new and important truths along the rugged path of experience, guided by cautious induction.
In 'Report of the Secretary', Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1856 (1857), 36.
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There are, and can be, but these two ways of seeking truth; the former, the anticipatory, is the one now in use; the latter is the true but yet untried path.
Cited as Aphorism 19 in book review 'A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy' in The Quarterly Review (Jul 1831), 45, No. 90, 399. This appears to be an abridged version of Aphorism 20 shown on this web page.
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There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.
Quoted in A'Lelia Bundles, On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker (2000). As cited in The Big Book of Business Quotations (2003), 2.
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There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.
Karl Marx
Preface to the French Edition, Das Capital (1872). In Karl Marx, Capital: The Process of Capitalist Production, translated from the 3rd German edition by S. Moore and E. Aveling (1967), 21.
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There is no short cut, nor “royal road” to the attainment of medical knowledge. The path which we have to pursue is long, difficult, and unsafe. In our progress, we must frequently take up our abode with death and corruption, we must adopt loathsome diseases for our familiar associates, or we shall never be acquainted with their nature and dispositions ; we must risk, nay, even injure our own health, in order to be able to preserve, or restore that of others.
Hunterian Oration (1819). Quoted in Clement Carlyon, Early Years and Late Reflections (1856), 110-111.
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There is one best path to the mountain crest; yet there are other paths, nearly as good. Let Youth be assured that the steeps of success have as many paths as there are stout-hearted climbers.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 173-174.
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There is probably no other science which presents such different appearances to one who cultivates it and to one who does not, as mathematics. To this person it is ancient, venerable, and complete; a body of dry, irrefutable, unambiguous reasoning. To the mathematician, on the other hand, his science is yet in the purple bloom of vigorous youth, everywhere stretching out after the “attainable but unattained” and full of the excitement of nascent thoughts; its logic is beset with ambiguities, and its analytic processes, like Bunyan’s road, have a quagmire on one side and a deep ditch on the other and branch off into innumerable by-paths that end in a wilderness.
In 'The Theory of Transformation Groups', (A review of Erster Abschnitt, Theorie der Transformationsgruppen (1888)), Bulletin New York Mathematical Society (1893), 2 (First series), 61.
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There may be some interest in one of my own discoveries in physics, entitled, “A Method of Approximating the Importance of a Given Physicist.” Briefly stated, after elimination of all differentials, the importance of a physicist can be measured by observation in the lobby of a building where the American Physical Society is in session. The importance of a given physicist varies inversely with his mean free path as he moves from the door of the meeting-room toward the street. His progress, of course, is marked by a series of scattering collisions with other physicists, during which he remains successively in the orbit of other individuals for a finite length of time. A good physicist has a mean free path of 3.6 ± 0.3 meters. The shortest m.f.p. measured in a series of observations between 1445 and 1947 was that of Oppenheimer (New York, 1946), the figure being 2.7 centimeters. I know. I was waiting for him on the street.
In 'A Newsman Looks at Physicists', Physics Today (May 1948), 1, No. 1, 33.
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There was no instant when a mist of plankton … was not swirling in the path of the beam [of the bathysphere].
As quoted by Rachel Carson in The Sea Around Us (1950, 2003), 62. Carson states that in his bathysphere descent, more than a quarter of a mile down, Beebe reported aggregations of living things “as thick as I have ever seen them.” At half a mile—the deepest descent of the bathysphere—Dr. Beebe recalled the mist of plankton.
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Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury. For as they have been successful in inducing belief, so they have been effective in quenching and stopping inquiry; and have done more harm by spoiling and putting an end to other men's efforts than good by their own. Those on the other hand who have taken a contrary course, and asserted that absolutely nothing can be known — whether it were from hatred of the ancient sophists, or from uncertainty and fluctuation of mind, or even from a kind of fullness of learning, that they fell upon this opinion — have certainly advanced reasons for it that are not to be despised; but yet they have neither started from true principles nor rested in the just conclusion, zeal and affectation having carried them much too far...
Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty. The evidence of the sense, helped and guarded by a certain process of correction, I retain. But the mental operation which follows the act of sense I for the most part reject; and instead of it I open and lay out a new and certain path for the mind to proceed in, starting directly from the simple sensuous perception.
Novum Organum (1620)
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Thus identified with astronomy, in proclaiming truths supposed to be hostile to Scripture, Geology has been denounced as the enemy of religion. The twin sisters of terrestrial and celestial physics have thus been joint-heirs of intolerance and persecution—unresisting victims in the crusade which ignorance and fanaticism are ever waging against science. When great truths are driven to make an appeal to reason, knowledge becomes criminal, and philosophers martyrs. Truth, however, like all moral powers, can neither be checked nor extinguished. When compressed, it but reacts the more. It crushes where it cannot expand—it burns where it is not allowed to shine. Human when originally divulged, it becomes divine when finally established. At first, the breath of a rage—at last it is the edict of a god. Endowed with such vital energy, astronomical truth has cut its way through the thick darkness of superstitious times, and, cheered by its conquests, Geology will find the same open path when it has triumphed over the less formidable obstacles of a civilized age.
More Worlds than One: The Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian (1854), 42.
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To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behaviour of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. And yet those with the courage to tread this path to real discovery are not only offered practically no guidance on how to do so, they are actively discouraged and have to set about it in secret, pretending meanwhile to be diligently engaged in the frantic diversions and to conform with the deadening personal opinions which are continually being thrust upon them.
In 'Appendix 1', The Laws of Form (1969), 110.
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To Descartes, the great philosopher of the 17th century, is due the undying credit of having removed the bann which until then rested upon geometry. The analytical geometry, as Descartes’ method was called, soon led to an abundance of new theorems and principles, which far transcended everything that ever could have been reached upon the path pursued by the ancients.
In Die Entwickelung der Mathematik in den letzten Jahrhunderten (1884), 10.
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To me there never has been a higher source of earthly honour or distinction than that connected with advances in science. I have not possessed enough of the eagle in my character to make a direct flight to the loftiest altitudes in the social world; and I certainly never endeavored to reach those heights by using the creeping powers of the reptile, who, in ascending, generally chooses the dirtiest path, because it is the easiest.
In Maturin Murray Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1894), 459.
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To me there never has been a higher source of honour or distinction than that connected with advances in science. I have not possessed enough of the eagle in my character to make a direct flight to the loftiest altitudes in the social world; and I certainly never endeavored to reach those heights by using the creeping powers of the reptile, who in ascending, generally chooses the dirtiest path, because it is the easiest.
Consolations in Travel (1830), Dialogue 5, The Chemical Philosopher, 225.
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To me, spirituality means “no matter what.” One stays on the path, one commits to love, one does one’s work; one follows one’s dream...no matter what.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 20
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To pick a hole–say in the 2nd law of Ωcs, that if two things are in contact the hotter cannot take heat from the colder without external agency.
Now let A & B be two vessels divided by a diaphragm and let them contain elastic molecules in a state of agitation which strike each other and the sides. Let the number of particles be equal in A & B but let those in A have equal velocities, if oblique collisions occur between them their velocities will become unequal & I have shown that there will be velocities of all magnitudes in A and the same in B only the sum of the squares of the velocities is greater in A than in B.
When a molecule is reflected from the fixed diaphragm CD no work is lost or gained.
If the molecule instead of being reflected were allowed to go through a hole in CD no work would be lost or gained, only its energy would be transferred from the one vessel to the other.
Now conceive a finite being who knows the paths and velocities of all the molecules by simple inspection but who can do no work, except to open and close a hole in the diaphragm, by means of a slide without mass.
Let him first observe the molecules in A and when lie sees one coming the square of whose velocity is less than the mean sq. vel. of the molecules in B let him open a hole & let it go into B. Next let him watch for a molecule in B the square of whose velocity is greater than the mean sq. vel. in A and when it comes to the hole let him draw and slide & let it go into A, keeping the slide shut for all other molecules.
Then the number of molecules in A & B are the same as at first but the energy in A is increased and that in B diminished that is the hot system has got hotter and the cold colder & yet no work has been done, only the intelligence of a very observant and neat fingered being has been employed. Or in short if heat is the motion of finite portions of matter and if we can apply tools to such portions of matter so as to deal with them separately then we can take advantage of the different motion of different portions to restore a uniformly hot system to unequal temperatures or to motions of large masses. Only we can't, not being clever enough.
Letter to Peter Guthrie Tait (11 Dec 1867). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 331-2.
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Tonight, the moon came out, it was nearly full.
Way down here on earth, I could feel it’s pull.
The weight of gravity or just the lure of life,
Made me want to leave my only home tonight.
I’m just wondering how we know where we belong
Is it in the arc of the moon, leaving shadows on the lawn
In the path of fireflies and a single bird at dawn
Singing in between here and gone
…...
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We do not live in a time when knowledge can be extended along a pathway smooth and free from obstacles, as at the time of the discovery of the infinitesimal calculus, and in a measure also when in the development of projective geometry obstacles were suddenly removed which, having hemmed progress for a long time, permitted a stream of investigators to pour in upon virgin soil. There is no longer any browsing along the beaten paths; and into the primeval forest only those may venture who are equipped with the sharpest tools.
In 'Mathematisches und wissenschaftliches Denken', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 11, 55. In Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 91.
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We know enough to be sure that the scientific achievements of the next fifty years will be far greater, more rapid, and more surprising, than those we have already experienced. … Wireless telephones and television, following naturally upon the their present path of development, would enable their owner to connect up to any room similarly equipped and hear and take part in the conversation as well as if he put his head in through the window.
From 'Fifty Years Hence', Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57, No. 3, 394-396.
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We receive it as a fact, that some minds are so constituted as absolutely to require for their nurture the severe logic of the abstract sciences; that rigorous sequence of ideas which leads from the premises to the conclusion, by a path, arduous and narrow, it may be, and which the youthful reason may find it hard to mount, but where it cannot stray; and on which, if it move at all, it must move onward and upward… . Even for intellects of a different character, whose natural aptitude is for moral evidence and those relations of ideas which are perceived and appreciated by taste, the study of the exact sciences may be recommended as the best protection against the errors into which they are most likely to fall. Although the study of language is in many respects no mean exercise in logic, yet it must be admitted that an eminently practical mind is hardly to be formed without mathematical training.
In Orations and Speeches (1870), Vol. 8, 510.
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When we think how narrow and devious this path of nature is, how dimly we can trace it, for all our lamps of science, and how from the darkness which girds it round great and terrible possibilities loom ever shadowly upwards, it is a bold and a confident man who will put a limit to the strange by-oaths into which the human spirit may wander.
Lot No. 249 (1892)
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Whenever a textbook is written of real educational worth, you may be quite certain that some reviewer will say that it will be difficult to teach from it. Of course it will be difficult to teach from it. It it were easy, the book ought to be burned; for it cannot be educational. In education as elsewhere, the broad primrose path leads to a nasty place. This evil path is represented by a book or a set of lectures which will practically enable the student to learn by heart all the questions likely to be asked at the next external examination.
In 'The Aims of Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 6-7.
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While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.
…...
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Who then can calculate the path of the molecule? how do we know that the creations of worlds are not determined by the fall of grains of sand?
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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Who, by vigor of mind almost divine, the motions and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, and the tides of the seas, his mathematics first demonstrated.
English translation of the epitaph inscribed in Latin on the monument beside his grave in Westminster Abbey. Seen, for example as epigraph, without citation, in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972), 342. The original Latin is, “Qui, animi vi prope divinâ, Planetarum Motus, Figuras, Cometarum semitas, Oceanique Aestus, Suâ Mathesi facem praeferente Primus demonstravit:” as given in Le journal des sçavans, pour l'année MDCCXXXI (Jul 1731), 438. The words “his mathematics” are missing from most quotes of this epitaph, but have been added by Webmaster for the Latin words “Suâ Mathesi” which are present in the verbatim epitaph.
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Your life is your spiritual path. It’s what’s right in front of you. You can’t live anyone else’s life. The task is to live yours and stop trying to copy one you think looks better.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 245
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[Benjamin Peirce's] lectures were not easy to follow. They were never carefully prepared. The work with which he rapidly covered the blackboard was very illegible, marred with frequent erasures, and not infrequent mistakes (he worked too fast for accuracy). He was always ready to digress from the straight path and explore some sidetrack that had suddenly attracted his attention, but which was likely to have led nowhere when the college bell announced the close of the hour and we filed out, leaving him abstractedly staring at his work, still with chalk and eraser in his hands, entirely oblivious of his departing class.
Writing as a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a former student of Peirce, in 'Benjamin Peirce: II. Reminiscences', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 6.
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[When thinking about the new relativity and quantum theories] I have felt a homesickness for the paths of physical science where there are more or less discernible handrails to keep us from the worst morasses of foolishness.
The Nature Of The Physical World (1928), 343.
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~~[Misattributed]~~ The shortest path between two truths in the real domain passes through the complex domain.
In fact, this quote is a paraphras from Paul Painlevé.
Widely seen incorrectly attributed to Hadamard, and without primary source citation. However, Hadamard did not originate the quote, as shown by his own introductory phrase of, “It has been written that the shortest and best way between two truths of the real domain often passes through the imaginary one,” in An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (1945), 123. The quote in fact originates from Paul Painlevé, Notice sur les travaux scientifiques (1900), 2. See the Paul Painlevé Quotes page on this website.
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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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