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Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index P > Category: Photon

Photon Quotes (10 quotes)

All the fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me no closer to answer the question, “What are light quanta?” Of course today every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself.
(1951). Quoted in Raymond W. Lam, Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond (1998), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Light (246)  |  Thought (374)

E=hf.
Formula describing the energy of a photon, in quantum theory, E=Energy, h=Planck’s constant, f=frequency of light.
Science quotes on:  |  Energy (185)  |  Formula (51)  |  Physics (301)  |  Quantum Theory (55)

Neutrinos, they are very small
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids down a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And, scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed—you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.
In poem 'Cosmic Gall', The New Yorker (17 Dec 1960). Collected in Telephone Poles and Other Poems (1964), 5. Note: In fact, about 1014 neutrinos from the Sun and 103 neutrinos in cosmic rays pass through our bodies each second. Neutrinos are now known to have a very small amount of mass, and they do interact (through the weak force).
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Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world.
Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans.), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. He calls this his first “literary dream”. It came to him at Auschwitz.
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Philosophers have said that if the same circumstances don't always produce the same results, predictions are impossible and science will collapse. Here is a circumstance—identical photons are always coming down in the same direction to the piece of glass—that produces different results. We cannot predict whether a given photon will arrive at A or B. All we can predict is that out of 100 photons that come down, an average of 4 will be reflected by the front surface. Does this mean that physics, a science of great exactitude, has been reduced to calculating only the probability of an event, and not predicting exactly what will happen? Yes. That's a retreat, but that's the way it is: Nature permits us to calculate only probabilities. Yet science has not collapsed.
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), 19.
Science quotes on:  |  Prediction (67)  |  Probability (83)

The photons which constitute a ray of light behave like intelligent human beings: out of all possible curves they always select the one which will take them most quickly to their goal.
In Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968), 186.
Science quotes on:  |  Behavior (49)  |  Curve (16)  |  Goal (81)  |  Human Being (54)  |  Light (246)  |  Ray (32)  |  Select (5)

There is one simplification at least. Electrons behave ... in exactly the same way as photons; they are both screwy, but in exactly in the same way...
'Probability abd Uncertainty—the Quantum Mechanical View of Nature', the sixth of his Messenger Lectures (1964), Cornell University. Collected in The Character of Physical Law (1967), 128.
Science quotes on:  |  Behave (13)  |  Both (52)  |  Electron (66)  |  Simplification (12)

This very important property of rods, and indeed also of each kind of cone, this limitation of output to a single dimension of change, may be called the Principle of Univariance and stated thus: “The output of a receptor depends upon its quantum catch, but not upon what quanta are caught.” … Young's theory of colour vision may now be stated in terms of cone pigments. “There are three classes of cone each containing a different visual pigment. The output of each cone is univariant, depending simply upon the quantum catch of its pigment. Our sensation of colour depends upon the ratios of these three cone outputs.”
Principle of Univariance, concerning color vision, as stated in Lecture to a meeting of the Physiological Society at Chelsea College, London (17 Apr 1970), and reported in 'Pigments and Signals in Colour Vision', The Journal of Physiology (1972), 220 No. 3, 4P.
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Walking home at night, I shine my flashlight up at the sky. I send billions of ... photons toward space. What is their destination? A tiny fraction will be absorbed by the air. An even smaller fraction will be intercepted by the surface of planets and stars. The vast majority ... will plod on forever. After some thousands of years they will leave our galaxy; after some millions of years they will leave our supercluster. They will wander through an even emptier, even colder realm. The universe is transparent in the direction of the future.
Atoms of Silence
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When we make the photon meet a tourmaline crystal, we are subjecting it to an observation. We are observing whether it is polarised parallel or perpendicular to the optic axis. The effect of making the observation is to force the photon entirely into the state of perpendicular polarisation. It has to make a sudden jump from being partly in each of these two states to being entirely in one or other of them. Which of the two states it will jump into cannot be predicted, but is governed only by probability laws. If it jumps into the perpendicular state it passes through the crystal and appears on the other side preserving this state of polarisation.
The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930).
Science quotes on:  |  Quantum Mechanics (31)


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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