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

Planet Quotes (356 quotes)

...the life of the planet began the long, slow process of modulating and regulating the physical conditions of the planet. The oxygen in today's atmosphere is almost entirely the result of photosynthetic living, which had its start with the appearance of blue-green algae among the microorganisms.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 74.
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...the scientific cast of mind examines the world critically, as if many alternative worlds might exist, as if other things might be here which are not. Then we are forced to ask why what we see is present and not something else. Why are the Sun and moon and the planets spheres? Why not pyramids, or cubes, or dodecahedra? Why not irregular, jumbly shapes? Why so symmetrical, worlds? If you spend any time spinning hypotheses, checking to see whether they make sense, whether they conform to what else we know. Thinking of tests you can pose to substantiate or deflate hypotheses, you will find yourself doing science.
…...
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Copernicus, who rightly did condemn
This eldest systeme, form’d a wiser scheme;
In which he leaves the Sun at Rest, and rolls
The Orb Terrestial on its proper Poles;
Which makes the Night and Day by this Career,
And by its slow and crooked Course the Year.
The famous Dane, who oft the Modern guides,
To Earth and Sun their Provinces divides:
The Earth's Rotation makes the Night and Day,
The Sun revolving through th'Eccliptic Way
Effects the various seasons of the Year,
Which in their Turn for happy Ends appear.
This Scheme or that, which pleases best, embrace,
Still we the Fountain of their Motion trace.
Kepler asserts these Wonders may be done
By the Magnetic Vertue of the Sun,
Which he, to gain his End, thinks fit to place
Full in the Center of that mighty Space,
Which does the Spheres, where Planets roll, include,
And leaves him with Attractive Force endu'd.
The Sun, thus seated, by Mechanic Laws,
The Earth, and every distant Planet draws;
By which Attraction all the Planets found
Within his reach, are turn'd in Ether round.
In Creation: A Philosophical Poem in Seven Books (1712), book 2, l. 430-53, p.78-9.
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Dilbert: And we know mass creates gravity because more dense planets have more gravity.
Dogbert: How do we know which planets are more dense?
Dilbert:They have more gravity.
Dogbert: That's circular reasoning.
Dilbert: I prefer to think of it as having no loose ends.
Dilbert cartoon strip (1 Mar 1999).
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Discovery always carries an honorific connotation. It is the stamp of approval on a finding of lasting value. Many laws and theories have come and gone in the history of science, but they are not spoken of as discoveries. Kepler is said to have discovered the laws of planetary motion named after him, but no the many other 'laws' which he formulated. ... Theories are especially precarious, as this century profoundly testifies. World views can and do often change. Despite these difficulties, it is still true that to count as a discovery a finding must be of at least relatively permanent value, as shown by its inclusion in the generally accepted body of scientific knowledge.
Discovery in the Physical Sciences (1969). In Rodney P. Carlisle, Scientific American Inventions and Discoveries (2004), 179.
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[Of the Laputans:] They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve about Mars, whereof the innermost is distant from the centre of the primary planet exactly three of his diameters, and the outermost five; the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty one and a half.
Gulliver's Travels (1726, Penguin ed. 1967), Part III, Chap. 3, 213.
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[Pechblende] einer eigenthümlichen, selbstständigen metallischen Substanz bestehe. Es fallen folglich auch deren bisherige Benennungen, als: Ресhblende Eisenpecherz, hinweg, welche nun durch einen neuen ausschliessend bezeichnenden Namen zu ersetzen sind. Ich habe dazu den Namen: Uranerz (Uranium) erwählt; zu einigem Andenken, dass die chemische Ausfindung dieses neuen Metallkörpers in die Epoche der astronomischen. Entdeckung des Planeten Uranus gefallen sei.
[Pitchblende] consists of a peculiar, distinct, metallic substance. Therefore its former denominations, pitch-blende, pitch-iron-ore, &c. are no longer applicable, and must be supplied by another more appropriate name.—I have chosen that of uranite, (Uranium), as a kind of memorial, that the chemical discovery of this new metal happened in the period of the astronomical discovery of the new planet Uranus.
In original German edition, Beiträge Zur Chemischen Kenntniss Der Mineralkörper (1797), Vol. 2, 215. English edition, translator not named, Analytical Essays Towards Promoting the Chemical Knowledge of Mineral Substances (1801), 491. The new planet was discovered on 13 Mar 1781 by William Herschel, who originally named it Georgium Sidus (George's Star) to honour King George III.
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A bewildering assortment of (mostly microscopic) life-forms has been found thriving in what were once thought to be uninhabitable regions of our planet. These hardy creatures have turned up in deep, hot underground rocks, around scalding volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, in the desiccated, super-cold Dry Valleys of Antarctica, in places of high acid, alkaline, and salt content, and below many meters of polar ice. ... Some deep-dwelling, heat-loving microbes, genetic studies suggest, are among the oldest species known, hinting that not only can life thrive indefinitely in what appear to us totally alien environments, it may actually originate in such places.
In Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology (2002), xi.
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A comet is sublimated fire assimilated to the nature of one of the seven planets.
As quoted in Alistair Cameron Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science, 1100-1700 (1953), 90.
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A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jellyfish and a saurian,
And caves where the cavemen dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod—
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.
'Each in his Own Tongue', in Kansas in Literature: Part One, Poetry (1900), 83.
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A million years is a short time—the shortest worth messing with for most problems. You begin tuning your mind to a time scale that is the planet’s time scale. For me, it is almost unconscious now and is a kind of companionship with the earth.
In Basin and Range (1981), 134.
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A monument to Newton! a monument to Shakespeare! Look up to Heaven—look into the Human Heart. Till the planets and the passions–the affections and the fixed stars are extinguished—their names cannot die.
In 'Noctes Ambrosianae: XXV' (Jun 1830), The Works of Professor Wilson of the University of Edinburgh: Noctes Ambrosianae (1865), Vol. 3, 55.
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A person is smart. People are dumb ... Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
Anonymous
Character Agent K in movie Men in Black(1997), screen story and screenplay by Ed Solomon. Quoted in George Aichele, Culture, Entertainment and the Bible (2000), 26. In a footnote, from the post-movie novel by Steve Perry, Men in Black (1997), 66, is added, 'Yeah. A hundred years from now, whoever is here will probably pee themselves laughing at what we believe.'
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A rock or stone is not a subject that, of itself, may interest a philosopher to study; but, when he comes to see the necessity of those hard bodies, in the constitution of this earth, or for the permanency of the land on which we dwell, and when he finds that there are means wisely provided for the renovation of this necessary decaying part, as well as that of every other, he then, with pleasure, contemplates this manifestation of design, and thus connects the mineral system of this earth with that by which the heavenly bodies are made to move perpetually in their orbits.
Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and l1lustrations, Vol. 1 (1795), 276.
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A slave world is not worth preserving. Better be lifeless like the cold moon, or primitively vegetal like desolate Mars, than be a planet populated by social robots.
From speech (Oct 1947), 'Peace or Pieces: or Who Amends the Golden Rule'. As reprinted in Henry Goddard Leach (ed.), The American-Scandinavian Review (1950), 37-38, 34. As quoted in 'Dr. Harlow Shapley Dies at 86; Dean of American Astronomers', New York Times (21 Oct 1972), 69.
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A time will come when men will stretch out their eyes. They should see planets like our Earth.
Inaugural Lecture as Professor of Astronomy, Gresham College. In Stephen Webb, If the Universe is Teeming With Aliens—Where is Everybody? (2002), 150.
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A time will come when science will transform [our bodies] by means which we cannot conjecture... And then, the earth being small, mankind will migrate into space, and will cross the airless Saharas which separate planet from planet, and sun from sun. The earth will become a Holy Land which will be visited by pilgrims from all quarters of the universe.
…...
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Accordingly the primordial state of things which I picture is an even distribution of protons and electrons, extremely diffuse and filling all (spherical) space, remaining nearly balanced for an exceedingly long time until its inherent instability prevails. We shall see later that the density of this distribution can be calculated; it was about one proton and electron per litre. There is no hurry for anything to begin to happen. But at last small irregular tendencies accumulate, and evolution gets under way. The first stage is the formation of condensations ultimately to become the galaxies; this, as we have seen, started off an expansion, which then automatically increased in speed until it is now manifested to us in the recession of the spiral nebulae.
As the matter drew closer together in the condensations, the various evolutionary processes followed—evolution of stars, evolution of the more complex elements, evolution of planets and life.
The Expanding Universe (1933), 56-57.
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Accountants and second-rate business school jargon are in the ascendant. Costs, which rise rapidly, and are easily ascertained and comprehensible, now weigh more heavily in the scales than the unquantifiable and unpredictable values and future material progress. Perhaps science will only regain its lost primacy as peoples and government begin to recognize that sound scientific work is the only secure basis for the construction of policies to ensure the survival of Mankind without irreversible damage to Planet Earth.
In New Scientist, March 3, 1990.
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After a duration of a thousand years, the power of astrology broke down when, with Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, the progress of astronomy overthrew the false hypothesis upon which the entire structure rested, namely the geocentric system of the universe. The fact that the earth revolves in space intervened to upset the complicated play of planetary influences, and the silent stars, related to the unfathomable depths of the sky, no longer made their prophetic voices audible to mankind. Celestial mechanics and spectrum analysis finally robbed them of their mysterious prestige.
Franz Cumont, translated by J.B. Baker, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (1912, 2007), 6.
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After I had addressed myself to this very difficult and almost insoluble problem, the suggestion at length came to me how it could be solved with fewer and much simpler constructions than were formerly used, if some assumptions (which are called axioms) were granted me. They follow in this order.
There is no one center of all the celestial circles or spheres.
The center of the earth is not the center of the universe, but only of gravity and of the lunar sphere.
All the spheres revolve about the sun as their mid-point, and therefore the sun is the center of the universe.
The ratio of the earth's distance from the sun to the height of the firmament is so much smaller than the ratio of the earth's radius to its distance from the sun that the distance from the earth to the sun is imperceptible in comparison with the height of the firmament.
Whatever motion appears in the firmament arises not from any motion of the firmament, but from the earth's motion. The earth together with its circumjacent elements performs a complete rotation on its fixed poles in a daily motion, while the firmament and highest heaven abide unchanged.
What appears to us as motions of the sun arise not from its motion but from the motion of the earth and our sphere, with which we revolve about the sun like any other planet. The earth has, then, more than one motion.
The apparent retrograde and direct motion of the planets arises not from their motion but from the earth's. The motion of the earth alone, therefore, suffices to explain so many apparent inequalities in the heavens.
'The Commentariolus', in Three Copernican Treatises (c.1510), trans. E. Rosen (1939), 58-9.
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After the planet becomes theirs, many millions of years will have to pass before a beetle particularly loved by God, at the end of its calculations will find written on a sheet of paper in letters of fire that energy is equal to the mass multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. The new kings of the world will live tranquilly for a long time, confining themselves to devouring each other and being parasites among each other on a cottage industry scale.
'Beetles' Other People’s Trades (1985, trans. 1989).
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Against filling the Heavens with fluid Mediums, unless they be exceeding rare, a great Objection arises from the regular and very lasting Motions of the Planets and Comets in all manner of Courses through the Heavens.
From Opticks: Or, A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light (1718), 339.
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All change is relative. The universe is expanding relatively to our common material standards; our material standards are shrinking relatively to the size of the universe. The theory of the “expanding universe” might also be called the theory of the “shrinking atom”. …
:Let us then take the whole universe as our standard of constancy, and adopt the view of a cosmic being whose body is composed of intergalactic spaces and swells as they swell. Or rather we must now say it keeps the same size, for he will not admit that it is he who has changed. Watching us for a few thousand million years, he sees us shrinking; atoms, animals, planets, even the galaxies, all shrink alike; only the intergalactic spaces remain the same. The earth spirals round the sun in an ever-decreasing orbit. It would be absurd to treat its changing revolution as a constant unit of time. The cosmic being will naturally relate his units of length and time so that the velocity of light remains constant. Our years will then decrease in geometrical progression in the cosmic scale of time. On that scale man’s life is becoming briefer; his threescore years and ten are an ever-decreasing allowance. Owing to the property of geometrical progressions an infinite number of our years will add up to a finite cosmic time; so that what we should call the end of eternity is an ordinary finite date in the cosmic calendar. But on that date the universe has expanded to infinity in our reckoning, and we have shrunk to nothing in the reckoning of the cosmic being.
We walk the stage of life, performers of a drama for the benefit of the cosmic spectator. As the scenes proceed he notices that the actors are growing smaller and the action quicker. When the last act opens the curtain rises on midget actors rushing through their parts at frantic speed. Smaller and smaller. Faster and faster. One last microscopic blurr of intense agitation. And then nothing.
In The Expanding Universe (1933) , 90-92.
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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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Almost all of the space program’s important advances in scientific knowledge have been accomplished by hundreds of robotic spacecraft in orbit about Earth and on missions to the distant planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Robotic exploration of the planets and their satellites as well as of comets and asteroids has truly revolutionized our knowledge of the solar system.
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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Alphonse of Castile is reported to have said that if he had had the making of the universe he would have done it much better. And I think so too. Instead of making a man go through the degradation of faculties and death, he should continually improve with age, and then be translated from this world to a superior planet, where he should begin life with the knowledge gained here, and so on. That would be to my mind, as an old man, a more satisfactory way of conducting affairs
Address, in 'Report to the Chemical Society's Jubilee', Nature (26 Mar 1891), 43, 493.
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Although the ocean’s surface seems at first to be completely homogeneous, after half a month we began to differentiate various seas and even different parts of oceans by their characteristic shades. We were astonished to discover that, during an flight, you have to learn anew not only to look, but also to see. At first the finest nuances of color elude you, but gradually your vision sharpens and your color perception becomes richer, and the planet spreads out before you with all its indescribable beauty.
…...
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Although we are mere sojourners on the surface of the planet, chained to a mere point in space, enduring but for a moment of time, the human mind is not only enabled to number worlds beyond the unassisted ken of mortal eye, but to trace the events of indefinite ages before the creation of our race, and is not even withheld from penetrating into the dark secrets of the ocean, or the interior of the solid globe; free, like the spirit which the poet described as animating the universe.
In Principles of Geology (1830).
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An evolution is a series of events that in itself as series is purely physical, — a set of necessary occurrences in the world of space and time. An egg develops into a chick; … a planet condenses from the fluid state, and develops the life that for millions of years makes it so wondrous a place. Look upon all these things descriptively, and you shall see nothing but matter moving instant after instant, each instant containing in its full description the necessity of passing over into the next. … But look at the whole appreciatively, historically, synthetically, as a musician listens to a symphony, as a spectator watches a drama. Now you shall seem to have seen, in phenomenal form, a story.
In The Spirit of Modern Philosophy: An Essay in the Form of Lectures (1892), 425.
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An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal.
Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.
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An extra-terrestrial philosopher, who had watched a single youth up to the age of twenty-one and had never come across any other human being, might conclude that it is the nature of human beings to grow continually taller and wiser in an indefinite progress towards perfection; and this generalization would be just as well founded as the generalization which evolutionists base upon the previous history of this planet.
Scientific Method in Philosophy (1914), 12.
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And for rejecting such a Medium, we have the Authority of those the oldest and most celebrated Philosophers of Greece and Phoenicia, who made a Vacuum, and Atoms, and the Gravity of Atoms, the first Principles of their Philosophy; tacitly attributing Gravity to some other Cause than dense Matter. Later Philosophers banish the Consideration of such a Cause out of natural Philosophy, feigning Hypotheses for explaining all things mechanically, and referring other Causes to Metaphysicks: Whereas the main Business of natural Philosophy is to argue from Phaenomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects, till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not mechanical; and not only to unfold the Mechanism of the World, but chiefly to resolve these and such like Questions. What is there in places almost empty of Matter, and whence is it that the Sun and Planets gravitate towards one another, without dense Matter between them? Whence is it that Nature doth nothing in vain; and whence arises all that Order and Beauty which we see in the World? ... does it not appear from phaenomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who in infinite space, as it were in his Sensory, sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself.
In Opticks, (1704, 2nd. Ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 28, 343-5. Newton’s reference to “Nature does nothing in vain” recalls the axiom from Aristotle, which may be seen as “Natura nihil agit frustra” in the Aristotle Quotes on this web site.
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And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.
Bible
(circa 725 B.C.)
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And if you want the exact moment in time, it was conceived mentally on 8th March in this year one thousand six hundred and eighteen, but submitted to calculation in an unlucky way, and therefore rejected as false, and finally returning on the 15th of May and adopting a new line of attack, stormed the darkness of my mind. So strong was the support from the combination of my labour of seventeen years on the observations of Brahe and the present study, which conspired together, that at first I believed I was dreaming, and assuming my conclusion among my basic premises. But it is absolutely certain and exact that the proportion between the periodic times of any two planets is precisely the sesquialterate proportion of their mean distances.
Harmonice Mundi, The Harmony of the World (1619), book V, ch. 3. Trans. E. J. Aiton, A. M. Duncan and J. V. Field (1997), 411.
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And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out;
The Sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confesse that this world’s spent,
When in the Planets, and the Firmament
They seeke so many new; and then see that this
Is crumbled out againe to his Atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all cohaerence gone;
All just supply, and all Relation;
Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinkes he hath got
To be a phoenix, and that then can bee
None of that kinde, of which he is, but hee.
An Anatomie of the World, I. 205-18. The Works of John Donne (Wordsworth edition 1994), 177.
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Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad—or an economist.
Expressing concern about ecosystems ruined by the arrival of man. As quoted by Philip Maughan, 'Sixty Years of Attenborough Through the Eyes of the New Statesman', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 34. The quote came from Attenborough writing in an April 2013 issue of the same periodical.
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As a scientist and geneticist I started to feel that science would probably soon reach the point where its interference into the life processes would be counterproductive if a properly designed governing policy was not implemented. A heavily overcrowded planet, ninety-five percent urbanized with nuclear energy as the main source of energy and with all aspects of life highly computerized, is not too pleasant a place for human life. The life of any individual soon will be predictable from birth to death. Medicine, able to cure almost everything, will make the load of accumulated defects too heavy in the next two or three centuries. The artificial prolongation of life, which looked like a very bright idea when I started research in aging about twenty-five years ago, has now lost its attractiveness for me. This is because I now know that the aging process is so multiform and complex that the real technology and chemistry of its prevention by artificial interference must be too complex and expensive. It would be the privilege of a few, not the method for the majority. I also was deeply concerned about the fact that most research is now either directly or indirectly related to military projects and objectives for power.
Quoted in 'Zhores A(leksandrovich) Medvedev', Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.
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As soon … as it was observed that the stars retained their relative places, that the times of their rising and setting varied with the seasons, that sun, moon, and planets moved among them in a plane, … then a new order of things began.… Science had begun, and the first triumph of it was the power of foretelling the future; eclipses were perceived to recur in cycles of nineteen years, and philosophers were able to say when an eclipse was to be looked for. The periods of the planets were determined. Theories were invented to account for their eccentricities; and, false as those theories might be, the position of the planets could be calculated with moderate certainty by them.
Lecture delivered to the Royal Institution (5 Feb 1864), 'On the Science of History'. Collected in Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain with Abstracts of the Discourses (1866), Vol. 4, 187.
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Astronomy is a cold, desert science, with all its pompous figures,—depends a little too much on the glass-grinder, too little on the mind. ’Tis of no use to show us more planets and systems. We know already what matter is, and more or less of it does not signify.
In 'Country Life', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), Vol. 12, 166.
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Astronomy is older than physics. In fact, it got physics started by showing the beautiful simplicity of the motion of the stars and planets, the understanding of which was the beginning of physics. But the most remarkable discovery in all of astronomy is that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth.
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6.
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Astronomy may be revolutionized more than any other field of science by observations from above the atmosphere. Study of the planets, the Sun, the stars, and the rarified matter in space should all be profoundly influenced by measurements from balloons, rockets, probes and satellites. ... In a new adventure of discovery no one can foretell what will be found, and it is probably safe to predict that the most important new discovery that will be made with flying telescopes will be quite unexpected and unforeseen. (1961)
Opening and closing of 'Flying Telescopes', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1961), Vol. 17, No. 5, 191 and 194.
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Astronomy teaches the correct use of the sun and the planets. These may be put on a frame of little sticks and turned round. This causes the tides. Those at the ends of the sticks are enormously far away. From time to time a diligent searching of the sticks reveals new planets. The orbit of the planet is the distance the stick goes round in going round. Astronomy is intensely interesting; it should be done at night, in a high tower at Spitzbergen. This is to avoid the astronomy being interrupted. A really good astronomer can tell when a comet is coming too near him by the warning buzz of the revolving sticks.
In Literary Lapses (1928), 128.
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At the planet’s very heart lies a solid rocky core, at least five times larger than Earth, seething with the appalling heat generated by the inexorable contraction of the stupendous mass of material pressing down to its centre. For more than four billion years Jupiter’s immense gravitational power has been squeezing the planet slowly, relentlessly, steadily, converting gravitational energy into heat, raising the temperature of that rocky core to thirty thousand degrees, spawning the heat flow that warms the planet from within. That hot, rocky core is the original protoplanet seed from the solar system’s primeval time, the nucleus around which those awesome layers of hydrogen and helium and ammonia, methane, sulphur compounds and water have wrapped themselves.
Ben Bova
Jupiter
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Bacon himself was very ignorant of all that had been done by mathematics; and, strange to say, he especially objected to astronomy being handed over to the mathematicians. Leverrier and Adams, calculating an unknown planet into a visible existence by enormous heaps of algebra, furnish the last comment of note on this specimen of the goodness of Bacon’s view… . Mathematics was beginning to be the great instrument of exact inquiry: Bacon threw the science aside, from ignorance, just at the time when his enormous sagacity, applied to knowledge, would have made him see the part it was to play. If Newton had taken Bacon for his master, not he, but somebody else, would have been Newton.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 53-54.
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Because of the way it came into existence, the solar system has only one-way traffic—like Piccadilly Circus. … If we want to make a model to scale, we must take a very tiny object, such as a pea, to represent the sun. On the same scale the nine planets will be small seeds, grains of sand and specks of dust. Even so, Piccadilly Circus is only just big enough to contain the orbit of Pluto. … The whole of Piccadilly Circus was needed to represent the space of the solar system, but a child can carry the whole substance of the model in its hand. All the rest is empty space.
In The Stars in Their Courses (1931, 1954), 49-50 & 89.
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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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Before I flew I was already aware of how small and vulnerable our planet is; but only when I saw it from space, in all its ineffable beauty and fragility, did I realize that humankind’s most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations.
In Jack Hassard and Julie Weisberg , Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project (1999), 40.
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Believe me, this planet has put up with much worse than us. It’s been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, solar flares, sun-spots, magnetic storms, pole reversals, planetary floods, worldwide fires, tidal waves, wind and water erosion, cosmic rays, ice ages, and hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets, asteroids, and meteors. And people think a few plastic bags and aluminum cans are going to make a difference?
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 97.
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Between this body [the earth] and the heavens there are suspended, in this aerial spirit, seven stars, separated by determinate spaces, which, on account of their motion, we call wandering.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 19-20.
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Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. ... There is not a piece of science, but its flank may be turned to-morrow.
From 'Circles', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 308.
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But that which will excite the greatest astonishment by far, and which indeed especially moved me to call the attention of all astronomers and philosophers, is this: namely, that I have observed four planets, neither known nor observed by any one of the astronomers before my time, which have their orbits round a certain bright star [Jupiter], one of those previously known, like Venus or Mercury round the sun, and are sometimes in front of it, sometimes behind it, though they never depart from it beyond certain limits. All of which facts were discovered and observed a few days ago by the help of a telescope devised by me, through God’s grace first enlightening my mind.
In pamphlet, The Sidereal Messenger (1610), reprinted in The Sidereal Messenger of Galileo Galilei: And a Part of the Preface to the Preface to Kepler's Dioptrics Containing the Original Account of Galileo's Astronomical Discoveries (1880), 9.
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But what exceeds all wonders, I have discovered four new planets and observed their proper and particular motions, different among themselves and from the motions of all the other stars; and these new planets move about another very large star [Jupiter] like Venus and Mercury, and perchance the other known planets, move about the Sun. As soon as this tract, which I shall send to all the philosophers and mathematicians as an announcement, is finished, I shall send a copy to the Most Serene Grand Duke, together with an excellent spyglass, so that he can verify all these truths.
Letter to the Tuscan Court, 30 Jan 1610. Quoted in Albert van Heiden (ed.), Siderius Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger (1989), 18.
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Chemical analysis and synthesis go no farther than to the separation of particles one from another, and to their reunion. No new creation or destruction of matter is within the reach of chemical agency. We might as well attempt to introduce a new planet into the solar system, or to annihilate one already in existence, as to create or destroy a particle of hydrogen.
A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808), Vol. 1, 212.
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Children are told that an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and he was led to state the law of gravity. This, of course, is pure foolishness. What Newton discovered was that any two particles in the universe attract each other with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is not learned from a falling apple, but by observing quantities of data and developing a mathematical theory that can be verified by additional data. Data gathered by Galileo on falling bodies and by Johannes Kepler on motions of the planets were invaluable aids to Newton. Unfortunately, such false impressions about science are not universally outgrown like the Santa Claus myth, and some people who don’t study much science go to their graves thinking that the human race took until the mid-seventeenth century to notice that objects fall.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 127.
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Coming to the question of life being found on other planets, Professor Haldane apologized for discoursing, as a mere biologist, on a subject on which we had been expecting a lecture by a physicist [J. D. Bernal]. He mentioned three hypotheses:
(a) That life had a supernatural origin,
(b) That it originated from inorganic materials, and (c) That life is a constituent of the Universe and can only arise from pre-existing life. The first hypothesis, he said, should be taken seriously, and he would proceed to do so. From the fact that there are 400,000 species of beetle on this planet, but only 8,000 species of mammals, he concluded that the Creator, if he exists, has a special preference for beetles, and so we might be more likely to meet them than any other type of animal on a planet which would support life.
In Mark Williamson, 'Haldane’s Special Preference', The Linnean, 1992, 8, 14.
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Damn the Solar System. Bad light; planets too distant; pestered with comets; feeble contrivance; could make a better myself.
Attributed.
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Do all the stars have systems of planets?
Movie character
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Each of the major sciences has contributed an essential ingredient in our long retreat from an initial belief in our own cosmic importance. Astronomy defined our home as a small planet tucked away in one corner of an average galaxy among millions; biology took away our status as paragons created in the image of God; geology gave us the immensity of time and taught us how little of it our own species has occupied.
…...
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Ecologically speaking, a spilt tanker load is like sticking a safety pin into an elephant’s foot. The planet barely notices. After the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska the oil company spent billions tidying up the coastline, but it was a waste of money because the waves were cleaning up faster than Exxon could. Environmentalists can never accept the planet’s ability to self-heal.
'Seat Leon Cupra SR1, in The Times (22 Dec 2002)
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Even if only one in a hundred of the ten billion suitable planets has actually got life well under way, there would be more than 100 million such planets. No, it is presumptuous to think that we are alone.
In The View From a Distant Star: Man's Future in the Universe (1964), 64.
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Eventually man has to get there [Mars] because we will never be satisfied with unmanned exploration.
In 'Interview: Cyril Ponnamperuma', Space World (1989), 5, 25.
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Ever since celestial mechanics in the skillful hands of Leverrier and Adams led to the world-amazed discovery of Neptune, a belief has existed begotten of that success that still other planets lay beyond, only waiting to be found.
…...
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Every creature alive on the earth today represents an unbroken line of life that stretches back to the first primitive organism to appear on this planet; and that is about three billion years.
In talk, 'Origin of Death' (1970).
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Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, (25 Sep 1961). On U.S. Department of State website.
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Everybody likes to hear about a man laying down his life for his country, but nobody wants to hear about a country giving her shirt for her planet.
In 'The Wild Flag', The New Yorker (9 Sep 1944), 35. Quote collected in In the Words of E.B. White: Quotations from America’s Most Companionable of Writers (2011), 150.
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Faced with the challenge of an endless universe, Man will be forced to mature further, just as the Neanderthal—faced with an entire planet—had no choice but to grow away from the tradition of savagery.
That Moon Plaque: Comments by Science Fiction Writers (1969)
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Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against a bastion and citadel of the stars.
Cosmos
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FAUSTUS: How many heavens or spheres are there?
MEPHASTOPHILIS: Nine: the seven planets, the firmament, and the empyreal heaven.
FAUSTUS: But is there not coelum igneum, et crystallinum?
MEPH.: No Faustus, they be but fables.
FAUSTUS: Resolve me then in this one question: Why are not conjunctions, oppositions, aspects, eclipses all at one time, but in some years we have more, in some less?
MEPH.: Per inaequalem motum respectu totius.
FAUSTUS: Well, I am answered. Now tell me who made the world.
MEPH.: I will not.
FAUSTUS: Sweet Mephastophilis, tell me.
MEPH.: Move me not, Faustus.
FAUSTUS: Villain, have I not bound thee to tell me any thing?
MEPH.: Ay, that is not against our kingdom.
This is. Thou are damn'd, think thou of hell.
FAUSTUS: Think, Faustus, upon God that made the world!
MEPH.: Remember this.
Doctor Faustus: A 1604-Version Edition, edited by Michael Keefer (1991), Act II, Scene iii, lines 60-77, 43-4.
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Finally, from what we now know about the cosmos, to think that all this was created for just one species among the tens of millions of species who live on one planet circling one of a couple of hundred billion stars that are located in one galaxy among hundreds of billions of galaxies, all of which are in one universe among perhaps an infinite number of universes all nestled within a grand cosmic multiverse, is provincially insular and anthropocentrically blinkered. Which is more likely? That the universe was designed just for us, or that we see the universe as having been designed just for us?
…...
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Fires from beneath, and meteors from above,
Portentous, unexampled, unexplain'd,
Have kindled beacons in the skies; and th' old
And crazy earth has had her shaking fits
More frequent, and foregone her usual rest.
Is it a time to wrangle, when the props
And pillars of our planet seem to fail,
And nature, with a dim and sickly eye,
To wait the close of all?
Alluding the meteors of 17 Aug 1883.
'The Time-Piece,' Task, Book ii, lines 58-66. In William Cowper, Henry Francis Cary, The Poetical Works of William Cowper (1863), 52-53.
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Firm support has been found for the assertion that electricity occurs at thousands of points where we at most conjectured that it was present. Innumerable electrical particles oscillate in every flame and light source. We can in fact assume that every heat source is filled with electrons which will continue to oscillate ceaselessly and indefinitely. All these electrons leave their impression on the emitted rays. We can hope that experimental study of the radiation phenomena, which are exposed to various influences, but in particular to the effect of magnetism, will provide us with useful data concerning a new field, that of atomistic astronomy, as Lodge called it, populated with atoms and electrons instead of planets and worlds.
'Light Radiation in a Magnetic Field', Nobel Lecture, 2 May 1903. In Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1967), 40.
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For many planet hunters, though, the ultimate goal is still greater (or actually, smaller) prey: terrestrial planets, like Earth, circling a star like the Sun. Astronomers already know that three such planets orbit at least one pulsar. But planet hunters will not rest until they are in sight of a small blue world, warm and wet, in whose azure skies and upon whose wind-whipped oceans shines a bright yellow star like our own.
…...
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For nature is a perpetuall circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, and solids out of fluids, fixed things out of volatile, & volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, & gross out of subtile, Some things to ascend & make the upper terrestriall juices, Rivers and the Atmosphere; & by consequence others to descend for a Requitall to the former. And as the Earth, so perhaps may the Sun imbibe this spirit copiously to conserve his Shineing, & keep the Planets from recedeing further from him. And they that will, may also suppose, that this Spirit affords or carryes with it thither the solary fewell & materiall Principle of Light; And that the vast aethereall Spaces between us, & the stars are for a sufficient repository for this food of the Sunn and Planets.
Letter to Oldenburg (7 Dec 1675). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 366.
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Forests … are in fact the world’s air-conditioning system—the very lungs of the planet—and help to store the largest body of freshwater on the planet … essential to produce food for our planet’s growing population. The rainforests of the world also provide the livelihoods of more than a billion of the poorest people on this Earth… In simple terms, the rainforests, which encircle the world, are our very life-support system—and we are on the verge of switching it off.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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Four elements, Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, also provide an example of the astonishing togetherness of our universe. They make up the “organic” molecules that constitute living organisms on a planet, and the nuclei of these same elements interact to generate the light of its star. Then the organisms on the planet come to depend wholly on that starlight, as they must if life is to persist. So it is that all life on the Earth runs on sunlight. [Referring to photosynthesis]
In lecture, 'Life and Mind in the Universe', versions of which George Wald delivered throughout the 1980s. On the website of his son, Elijah Wald, who states it was the last of his father's major lectures.
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From an entertainment point of view, the Solar System has been a bust. None of the planets turns out to have any real-estate potential, and most of them are probably even useless for filming Dune sequels.
From essay 'First Person Secular: Blocking the Gates to Heaven', Mother Jones Magazine (Jun 1986), 48. Collected in The Worst Years of our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1995), 267.
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From the infinitely great down to the infinitely small, all things are subject to [the laws of nature]. The sun and the planets follow the laws discovered by Newton and Laplace, just as the atoms in their combinations follow the laws of chemistry, as living creatures follow the laws of biology. It is only the imperfections of the human mind which multiply the divisions of the sciences, separating astronomy from physics or chemistry, the natural sciences from the social sciences. In essence, science is one. It is none other than the truth.
In Cours d’Economie Politique (1896-97).
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From the rocket we can see the huge sphere of the planet in one or another phase of the Moon. We can see how the sphere rotates, and how within a few hours it shows all its sides successively ... and we shall observe various points on the surface of the Earth for several minutes and from different sides very closely. This picture is so majestic, attractive and infinitely varied that I wish with all my soul that you and I could see it. (1911)
As translated in William E. Burrows, The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth (2007), 147. From Tsiolkovsky's 'The Investigation of Universal Space by Means of Reactive Devices', translated in K.E. Tsiolkovsky, Works on Rocket Technology (NASA, NASATT F-243, n.d.), 76-77.
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Geology is the science which investigates the successive changes that have taken place in the organic and inorganic kingdoms of nature; it enquires into the causes of these changes, and the influence which they have exerted in modifying the surface and external structure of our planet.
Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 1.
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Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the Sun.
In An Essay on Man (1736), Epistle II, lines 19-22, 10.
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Go, wondrous creature, mount where science guides.
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old Time, and regulate the sun;
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule,
Then drop into thyself and be a fool.
Quoted in James Wood Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 125.
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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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Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.
Plaque left on the moon, 20 Jul 1969.
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How bright and beautiful a comet is as it flies past our planet—provided it does fly past it.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 47.
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How can a man sit down and quietly pare his nails, while the earth goes gyrating ahead amid such a din of sphere music, whirling him along about her axis some twenty-four thousand miles between sun and sun, but mainly in a circle some two millions of miles actual progress? And then such a hurly-burly on the surface …. Can man do less than get up and shake himself?
(6 Mar 1838). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: I: 1837-1846 (1906), 35.
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How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders. I am reminded of the Isaac Asimov story “Nightfall,” about the planet where the stars were visible only once in a thousand years. So awesome was the sight that it drove men mad. We who can see the stars every night glance up casually at the cosmos and then quickly down again, searching for a Dairy Queen.
…...
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Humans everywhere share the same goals when the context is large enough. And the study of the Cosmos provides the largest possible context … . If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another … . If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth.
Cosmos
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I always dreamed that man was a stranger on this planet.
As quoted in Jon, Michael and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 167, citing “in conversation with Bill Smollers.”
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I always feel like our descendants—they're going to be upset with us for wrecking the planet anyway—but they're really going to be mad that we didn't even bother to take a good picture. [On the importance of thorough research of even a little ant species.]
Quoted from NPR radio interview, also published on NPR web page by Christopher Joyce, Morning Edition (1 Aug 2013).
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I am entitled to say, if I like, that awareness exists in all the individual creatures on the planet—worms, sea urchins, gnats, whales, subhuman primates, superprimate humans, the lot. I can say this because we do not know what we are talking about: consciousness is so much a total mystery for our own species that we cannot begin to guess about its existence in others.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 223.
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I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.
…...
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I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.
From Speech (11 Dec 1959) at Washington, D.C., 'Disarmament', printed in President John F. Kennedy, A Grand and Global Alliance (1968), 1.
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I do not profess to be able thus to account for all the [planetary] motions at the same time; but I shall show that each by itself is well explained by its proper hypothesis.
Ptolemy
(c. 100 AD). From introduction to 'Hypotheses', translated into French by Abbé N. Halma, Hypothèses et époques des planètes de Cl. Ptolémée et Hypotyposes de Proclus Diadochus (1820), 41-42. As quoted, in English, in John Louis Emil Dreyer History of the Planetary Systems from Thales to Kepler (1906), 201. In French, “Je ne prétends pas pouvoir ainsi rendre raison de tous ces mouvemens à la fois; mais je veux montrer que chacun à part s'explique très-bien par son hypothèse propre.”
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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York … a city neighborhood that included houses, lampposts, walls, and bushes. But with an early bedtime in the winter, I could look out my window and see the stars, and the stars were not like anything else in my neighborhood. [At age 5] I didn’t know what they were.
[At age 9] my mother … said to me, “You have a library card now, and you know how to read. Take the streetcar to the library and get a book on stars.” … I stepped up to the big librarian and asked for a book on stars. … I sat down and found out the answer, which was something really stunning.
I found out that the stars are glowing balls of gas. I also found out that the Sun is a star but really close and that the stars are all suns except really far away I didn’t know any physics or mathematics at that time, but I could imagine how far you’d have to move the Sun away from us till it was only as bright as a star. It was in that library, reading that book, that the scale of the universe opened up to me. There was something beautiful about it.
At that young age, I already knew that I’d be very happy if I could devote my life to finding out more about the stars and the planets that go around them. And it’s been my great good fortune to do just that.
Quoted in interview with Jack Rightmyer, in 'Stars in His Eyes', Highlights For Children (1 Jan 1997). Ages as given in Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), x.
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I had rather be Mercury, the smallest among seven [planets], revolving round the sun, than the first among five [moons] revolving round Saturn.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 166:23.
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I have no doubt that the fundamental problem the planet faces is the enormous increase in the human population. You see it overrunning everywhere. Places that were very remote when I went there 50 years ago are now overrun.
From interview with Michael Bond, 'It’s a Wonderful Life', New Scientist (14 Dec 2002), 176, No. 2373, 48.
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I have, also, a good deal of respect for the job they [physicists] did in the first months after Hiroshima. The world desperately needed information on this new problem in the daily life of the planet, and the physicists, after a slow start, did a good job of giving it to them. It hasn’t come out with a fraction of the efficiency that the teachers might have wished, but it was infinitely more effective than anyone would have dared expect.
In 'A Newsman Looks at Physicists', Physics Today (May 1948), 1, No. 1, 15.
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I hope that in 50 years we will know the answer to this challenging question: are the laws of physics unique and was our big bang the only one? … According to some speculations the number of distinct varieties of space—each the arena for a universe with its own laws—could exceed the total number of atoms in all the galaxies we see. … So do we live in the aftermath of one big bang among many, just as our solar system is merely one of many planetary systems in our galaxy? (2006)
In 'Martin Rees Forecasts the Future', New Scientist (18 Nov 2006), No. 2578.
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I shall explain a System of the World differing in many particulars from any yet known, answering in all things to the common Rules of Mechanical Motions: This depends upon three Suppositions. First, That all Cœlestial Bodies whatsoever, have an attraction or gravitating power towards their own Centers, whereby they attract not only their own parts, and keep them from flying from them, as we may observe the Earth to do, but that they do also attract all the other Cœlestial bodies that are within the sphere of their activity; and consequently that not only the Sun and Moon have an influence upon the body and motion the Earth, and the Earth upon them, but that Mercury also Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter by their attractive powers, have a considerable influence upon its motion in the same manner the corresponding attractive power of the Earth hath a considerable influence upon every one of their motions also. The second supposition is this, That all bodies whatsoever that are put into a direct and simple motion, will continue to move forward in a streight line, till they are by some other effectual powers deflected and bent into a Motion, describing a Circle, Ellipse, or some other more compounded Curve Line. The third supposition is, That these attractive powers are so much the more powerful in operating, by how much the nearer the body wrought upon is to their own Centers. Now what these several degrees are I have not yet experimentally verified; but it is a notion, which if fully prosecuted as it ought to be, will mightily assist the Astronomer to reduce all the Cœlestial Motions to a certain rule, which I doubt will never be done true without it. He that understands the nature of the Circular Pendulum and Circular Motion, will easily understand the whole ground of this Principle, and will know where to find direction in Nature for the true stating thereof. This I only hint at present to such as have ability and opportunity of prosecuting this Inquiry, and are not wanting of Industry for observing and calculating, wishing heartily such may be found, having myself many other things in hand which I would first compleat and therefore cannot so well attend it. But this I durst promise the Undertaker, that he will find all the Great Motions of the World to be influenced by this Principle, and that the true understanding thereof will be the true perfection of Astronomy.
An Attempt to Prove the Motion of the Earth from Observations (1674), 27-8. Based on a Cutlerian Lecture delivered by Hooke at the Royal Society four years earlier.
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I shuddered when I saw a crimson flame through the porthole instead of the usual starry sky at the night horizon of the planet. Vast pillars of light were bursting into the sky, melting into it, and flooding over with all the colors of the rainbow. An area of red luminescence merged smoothly into the black of the cosmos. The intense and dynamic changes in the colors and forms of the pillars and garlands made me think of visual music. Finally, we saw that we had entered directly into the aurora borealis.
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I tell my students, with a feeling of pride that I hope they will share, that the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that make up ninety-nine per cent of our living substance were cooked in the deep interiors of earlier generations of dying stars. Gathered up from the ends of the universe, over billions of years, eventually they came to form, in part, the substance of our sun, its planets, and ourselves. Three billion years ago, life arose upon the earth. It is the only life in the solar system.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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I think every child born on this planet up to the age of about four or five is fascinated by the natural world. If they aren’t it’s because we deprive them of the opportunity. Over half the world’s population is urbanised and the thought that some children may grow up not looking at a pond or knowing how plants grow is a terrible thing. If you lose that delight and joy and intoxication, you’ve lost something hugely precious.
From interview with Alice Roberts, 'Attenborough: My Life on Earth', The Biologist (Aug 2015), 62, No. 4, 14.
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I think it would be a very rash presumption to think that nowhere else in the cosmos has nature repeated the strange experiment which she has performed on earth—that the whole purpose of creation has been staked on this one planet alone. It is probable that dotted through the cosmos there are other suns which provide the energy for life to attendant planets. It is apparent, however, that planets with just the right conditions of temperature, oxygen, water and atmosphere necessary for life are found rarely.
But uncommon as a habitable planet may be, non-terrestrial life exists, has existed and will continue to exist. In the absence of information, we can only surmise that the chance that it surpasses our own is as good as that it falls below our level.
As quoted by H. Gordon Garbedian in 'Ten Great Riddles That Call For Solution by Scientists', New York Times (5 Oct 1930), XX4. Garbedian gave no citation to a source for Shapley’s words. However, part of this quote is very similar to that of Sir Arthur Eddington: “It would indeed be rash to assume that nowhere else has Nature repeated the strange experiment which she has performed on the earth,” from 'Man’s Place in the Universe', Harper’s Magazine (Oct 1928), 157 573.
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I think of the ocean as the blue heart of the planet. Well, how much of your heart do you want to protect?
From narration to the short, hand-drawn animated film for World Ocean’s Day 2013, Ideas For Change.
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I think there probably is life, maybe primitive life, in outer space. There might be very primitive life in our solar system—single-cell animals, that sort of thing. We may know the answer to that in five or ten years. There is very likely to be life in other solar systems, in planets around other stars. But we won’t know about that for a long time.
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
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I waited for Rob and, linking arms, we took our final steps together onto the rooftop of the world. It was 8.15 am on 24 May 2004; there was nowhere higher on the planet that we could go, the world lay at our feet. Holding each other tightly, we tried to absorb where we were. To be standing here, together, exactly three years since Rob’s cancer treatment, was nothing short of a miracle. Standing on top of Everest was more than just climbing a mountain - it was a gift of life. With Pemba and Nawang we crowded together, wrapping our arms around each other. They had been more than Sherpas, they had been our guardian angels.
Jo Gambi
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I will not now discuss the Controversie betwixt some of the Modern Atomists, and the Cartesians; the former of whom think, that betwixt the Earth and the Stars, and betwixt these themselves there are vast Tracts of Space that are empty, save where the beams of Light do pass through them; and the later of whom tell us, that the Intervals betwixt the Stars and Planets (among which the Earth may perhaps be reckon'd) are perfectly fill'd, but by a Matter far subtiler than our Air, which some call Celestial, and others Æther. I shall not, I say, engage in this controversie, but thus much seems evident, That If there be such a Celestial Matter, it must ' make up far the Greatest part of the Universe known to us. For the Interstellar part of the world (If I may so stile it) bears so very great a proportion to the Globes, and their Atmospheres too, (If other Stars have any as well as the Earth,) that It Is almost incomparably Greater in respect of them, than all our Atmosphere is in respect of the Clouds, not to make the comparison between the Sea and the Fishes that swim in it.
A Continuation of New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring and Weight of the Air, and their Effects (1669), 127.
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I wish, my dear Kepler, that we could have a good laugh together at the extraordinary stupidity of the mob. What do you think of the foremost philosophers of this University? In spite of my oft-repeated efforts and invitations, they have refused, with the obstinacy of a glutted adder, to look at the planets or the Moon or my glass [telescope].
Opere ed Nas. X, 423. As cited in Alan Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 99. Galileo wished others to use his telescope to see for themselves the moons of Jupiter which he had himself first seen in Jan 1610. If you have a primary source for this letter giving the date it was written, please contact Webmaster.
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I would like to start by emphasizing the importance of surfaces. It is at a surface where many of our most interesting and useful phenomena occur. We live for example on the surface of a planet. It is at a surface where the catalysis of chemical reactions occur. It is essentially at a surface of a plant that sunlight is converted to a sugar. In electronics, most if not all active circuit elements involve non-equilibrium phenomena occurring at surfaces. Much of biology is concerned with reactions at a surface.
'Surface properties of semiconductors', Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1956). In Nobel Lectures, Physics 1942-1962 (1967), 377.
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I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.
'Jack London Credo' quoted, without citing a source, in Irving Shepard (ed.), Jack London’s Tales of Adventure (1956), Introduction, vii. (Irving Shepard was London's literary executor.) This sentiment, expressed two months before his death, was quoted by journalist Ernest J. Hopkins in the San Francisco Bulletin (2 Dec 1916), Pt. 2, 1. No direct source in London's writings has been found, though he wrote “I would rather be ashes than dust&rdquo. as an inscription in an autograph book. Biographer Clarice Stasz cautions that although Hopkins had visited the ranch just weeks before London's death, the journalist's quote (as was not uncommon in his time) is not necessarily reliable, or may be his own invention. See this comment in 'Apocrypha' appended to Jack London, The Call Of The Wild (eBookEden.com).
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If I’d been born in space, I would desire to visit the beautiful Earth more than to visit space. It’s a wonderful planet.
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If the average man in the street were asked to name the benefits derived from sunshine, he would probably say “light and warmth” and there he would stop. But, if we analyse the matter a little more deeply, we will soon realize that sunshine is the one great source of all forms of life and activity on this old planet of ours. … [M]athematics underlies present-day civilization in much the same far-reaching manner as sunshine underlies all forms of life, and that we unconsciously share the benefits conferred by the mathematical achievements of the race just as we unconsciously enjoy the blessings of the sunshine.
From Address (25 Feb 1928) to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Boston. Abstract published in 'Mathematics and Sunshine', The Mathematics Teacher (May 1928), 21, No. 5, 245.
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If the earth’s population continues to double every 50 years (as it is now doing) then by 2550 A.D. it will have increased 3,000-fold. … by 2800 A.D., it would reach 630,000 billion! Our planet would have standing room only, for there would be only two-and-a-half square feet per person on the entire land surface, including Greenland and Antarctica. In fact, if the human species could be imagined as continuing to multiply further at the same rate, by 4200 A.D. the total mass of human tissue would be equal to the mass of the earth.
In The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science: The Biological Sciences (1960), 117. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 237.
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If the resident zoologist of Galaxy X had visited the earth 5 million years ago while making his inventory of inhabited planets in the universe, he would surely have corrected his earlier report that apes showed more promise than Old World monkeys and noted that monkeys had overcome an original disadvantage to gain domination among primates. (He will confirm this statement after his visit next year–but also add a footnote that one species from the ape bush has enjoyed an unusual and unexpected flowering, thus demanding closer monitoring.)
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If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.
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If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in Water.
From essay 'The Flow of the River', collected in The Immense Journey: An Imaginative Naturalist Explores the Mysteries of Man and Nature (1957, 1959), 15. The author is commenting on a rain pond on a flat roof seen from his office window, commenting on its “spatter of green algae” and a submarining water beetle representing how life can spring from even this puddle of water.
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If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self interest.
From speech (3 Oct 1977) announcing he was donating his papers to Ohio State University. As quoted on the OSU website.
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If we are still here to witness the destruction of our planet some five billion years or more hence ..., then we will have achieved something so unprecedented in the history of life that we should be willing to sing our swan song with joy.
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If we can possibly avoid wrecking this little planet of ours, we will, But—there must be risks! There must be. In experimental work there always are!
The First Men in the Moon (1901), 39.
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If we ever establish contact with intelligent aliens living on a planet around a distant star … They would be made of similar atoms to us. They could trace their origins back to the big bang 13.7 billion years ago, and they would share with us the universe's future. However, the surest common culture would be mathematics.
In 'Take Me to Your Mathematician', New Scientist (14 Feb 2009), 201, No. 2695.
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If we imagine an observer to approach our planet from outer space, and, pushing aside the belts of red-brown clouds which obscure our atmosphere, to gaze for a whole day on the surface of the earth as it rotates beneath him, the feature, beyond all others most likely to arrest his attention would be the wedge-like outlines of the continents as they narrow away to the South.
The Face of the Earth (1904), Vol. 1, 1.
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If we lived on a planet where nothing ever changed, there would be little to do. There would be nothing to figure out. There would be no impetus for science. And if we lived in an unpredictable world, where things changed in random or very complex ways, we would not be able to figure things out. But we live in an in-between universe, where things change, but according to patterns, rules, or as we call them, laws of nature. If I throw a stick up in the air, it always falls down. If the sun sets in the west, it always rises again the next morning in the east. And so it becomes possible to figure things out. We can do science, and with it we can improve our lives.
Cosmos (1980, 1985), 32.
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If, again with the light of science, we trace forward into the future the condition of our globe, we are compelled to admit that it cannot always remain in its present condition; that in time, the store of potential energy which now exists in the sun and in the bodies of celestial space which may fall into it will be dissipated in radiant heat, and consequently the earth, from being the theatre of life, intelligence, of moral emotions, must become a barren waste.
Address (Jul 1874) at the grave of Joseph Priestley, in Joseph Henry and Arthur P. Molella, et al. (eds.), A Scientist in American Life: Essays and Lectures of Joseph Henry (1980), 120.
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In 1684 Dr Halley came to visit him at Cambridge, after they had been some time together, the Dr asked him what he thought the Curve would be that would be described by the Planets supposing the force of attraction towards the Sun to be reciprocal to the square of their distance from it. Sr Isaac replied immediately that it would be an Ellipsis, the Doctor struck with joy & amazement asked him how he knew it, why saith he I have calculated it, whereupon Dr Halley asked him for his calculation without any farther delay. Sr Isaac looked among his papers but could not find it, but he promised him to renew it, & then to send it him.
[Recollecting Newton's account of the meeting after which Halley prompted Newton to write The Principia. When asking Newton this question, Halley was aware, without revealing it to Newton that Robert Hooke had made this hypothesis of plantary motion a decade earlier.]
Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 403.
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In space there are countless constellations, suns and planets; we see only the suns because they give light; the planets remain invisible, for they are small and dark. There are also numberless earths circling around their suns, no worse and no less than this globe of ours. For no reasonable mind can assume that heavenly bodies that may be far more magnificent than ours would not bear upon them creatures similar or even superior to those upon our human earth.
As quoted in Dave Goldberg, The Universe in the Rearview Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality (2013), 74.
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In the beginning of the year 1665 I found the Method of approximating series & the Rule for reducing any dignity of any Bionomial into such a series. The same year in May I found the method of Tangents of Gregory & Slusius, & in November had the direct method of fluxions & the next year in January had the Theory of Colours & in May following I had entrance into ye inverse method of fluxions. And the same year I began to think of gravity extending to ye orb of the Moon & (having found out how to estimate the force with wch [a] globe revolving within a sphere presses the surface of the sphere) from Keplers rule of the periodic times of the Planets being in sesquialterate proportion of their distances from the center of their Orbs, I deduced that the forces wch keep the Planets in their Orbs must [be] reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about wch they revolve: & thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth, & found them answer pretty nearly. All this was in the two plague years of 1665-1666. For in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention & minded Mathematicks & Philosophy more then than at any time since.
Quoted in Richard Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (1980), 143.
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In the celestial spaces above the Earth’s atmosphere; in which spaces, where there is no air to resist their motions, all bodies will move with the greatest freedom; and the Planets and Comets will constantly pursue their revolutions in orbits … by the mere laws of gravity.
In 'General Scholium' from The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1729), Vol. 2, Book 3, 388.
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In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.
Commencement Address at American University, Washington, D.C. (Jun 1963). In Steven Cohen, Understanding Environmental Policy (2006), Preface, xi. Also on web site of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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In the index to the six hundred odd pages of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History, abridged version, the names of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes and Newton do not occur yet their cosmic quest destroyed the medieval vision of an immutable social order in a walled-in universe and transformed the European landscape, society, culture, habits and general outlook, as thoroughly as if a new species had arisen on this planet.
In The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), Preface, 13.
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In the index to the six hundred odd pages of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History, abridged version, the names of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes and Newton do not occur … yet their cosmic quest destroyed the mediaeval vision of an immutable social order in a walled-in universe and transformed the European landscape, society, culture, habits and general outlook, as thoroughly as if a new species had arisen on this planet.
First lines of 'Preface', in The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 13.
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In the next twenty centuries … humanity may begin to understand its most baffling mystery—where are we going? The earth is, in fact, traveling many thousands of miles per hour in the direction of the constellation Hercules—to some unknown destination in the cosmos. Man must understand his universe in order to understand his destiny. Mystery, however, is a very necessary ingredient in our lives. Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis for man’s desire to understand. Who knows what mysteries will be solved in our lifetime, and what new riddles will become the challenge of the new generation? Science has not mastered prophesy. We predict too much for the next year yet far too little for the next ten. Responding to challenges is one of democracy’s great strengths. Our successes in space can be used in the next decade in the solution of many of our planet’s problems.
In a speech to a Joint Meeting of the Two Houses of Congress to Receive the Apollo 11 Astronauts (16 Sep 1969), in the Congressional Record.
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In the streets of a modern city the night sky is invisible; in rural districts, we move in cars with bright headlights. We have blotted out the heavens, and only a few scientists remain aware of stars and planets, meteorites and comets.
In 'On Comets', collected in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), 224.
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In theory, whole islands of antimatter could be floating in the universe, cut off from matter by the empty void of space. If a large chunk of antimatter fell to Earth, the planet would be vaporized in a blinding flash of energy.
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In this age of space flight, when we use the modern tools of science to advance into new regions of human activity, the Bible ... this grandiose, stirring history of the gradual revelation and unfolding of the moral law ... remains in every way an up-to-date book. Our knowledge and use of the laws of nature that enable us to fly to the Moon also enable us to destroy our home planet with the atom bomb. Science itself does not address the question whether we should use the power at our disposal for good or for evil. The guidelines of what we ought to do are furnished in the moral law of God. It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn again that we may be on God's side.
Quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings (1993), 42.
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In this lecture I would like to conclude with … some characteristics [of] gravity … The most impressive fact is that gravity is simple. It is simple to state the principles completely and not have left any vagueness for anybody to change the ideas of the law. It is simple, and therefore it is beautiful. It is simple in its pattern. I do not mean it is simple in its action—the motions of the various planets and the perturbations of one on the other can be quite complicated to work out, and to follow how all those stars in a globular cluster move is quite beyond our ability. It is complicated in its actions, but the basic pattern or the system beneath the whole thing is simple. This is common to all our laws; they all turn out to be simple things, although complex in their actual actions.
In 'The Law of Gravitation, as Example of Physical Law', the first of his Messenger Lectures (1964), Cornell University. Collected in The Character of Physical Law (1967), 33-34.
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Included in this ‘almost nothing,’ as a kind of geological afterthought of the last few million years, is the first development of self-conscious intelligence on this planet–an odd and unpredictable invention of a little twig on the mammalian evolutionary bush. Any definition of this uniqueness, embedded as it is in our possession of language, must involve our ability to frame the world as stories and to transmit these tales to others. If our propensity to grasps nature as story has distorted our perceptions, I shall accept this limit of mentality upon knowledge, for we receive in trade both the joys of literature and the core of our being.
…...
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Individual dolphins and whales are to be given the legal rights of human individuals. … Research into communication with cetaceans is no longer simply a scientific pursuit…. We must learn their needs, their ethics, their philosophy, to find out who we are on this planet, in this galaxy.
In The Rights of Cetaceans under Human Laws (1978), 138. This shows Lilly’s enthusiasm, but is definitely an over-reach. Edward O. Wilson bluntly rejects it. See the quote beginning “Lilly's writing differs…” on the Edward Wilson Quotation page on this website.
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Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence.
The Selfish Gene (1976), 1.
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It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil—which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.
'Viewpoint' Interview (with Bill Stout) for Los Angeles KNXT television station (1 May 1959), printed in Michelle Feynman (ed.) Perfectly Reasonable Deviations (from the Beaten Track) (2006), Appendix I, 426. Also quoted in James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 372. Gleick adds that KNXT “felt obliged to suppress” the interview. It was not broadcast until after Feynman, asked to redo the interview, wrote back with a letter objecting to “a direct censorship of the expression of my views.”
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It is a strange fact, characteristic of the incomplete state of our present knowledge, that totally opposing conclusions are drawn about prehistoric conditions on our planet, depending on whether the problem is approached from the biological or the geophysical viewpoint.
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 5.
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It is important to realize that life on this planet has spent about three-quarters of its existence in single-celled form, and even today the majority of organisms still exist as single cells. The evolutionary pressure to become complex is evidently not very great.
and Robert Shapiro
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It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Concluding remarks in final chapter, The Origin of Species (1859), 490. In the second edition, Darwin changed “breathed” to “breathed by the Creator”.
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It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.
In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980, 2005), 142-143. Slightly revised from 'Fit the Fifth', The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts (1985), 102. The show was recorded for the BBC on 21 Feb 1978.
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It is no small comfort when I reflect that we should not so much marvel at the vast and almost infinite breadth of the most distant heavens but much more at the smallness of us manikins and the smallness of this our tiny ball of earth and also of all the planets.
From Letter to Johann Herwart (1598), as quoted in Murray Roston, Milton and the Baroque (1980), 17.
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It is notorious that the same discovery is frequently made simultaneously and quite independently, by different persons. Thus, to speak of only a few cases in late years, the discoveries of photography, of electric telegraphy, and of the planet Neptune through theoretical calculations, have all their rival claimants. It would seem, that discoveries are usually made when the time is ripe for them—that is to say, when the ideas from which they naturally flow are fermenting in the minds of many men.
Hereditary Genius (1869), 192.
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It is of priceless value to the human race to know that the sun will supply the needs of the earth, as to light and heat, for millions of years; that the stars are not lanterns hung out at night, but are suns like our own; and that numbers of them probably have planets revolving around them, perhaps in many cases with inhabitants adapted to the conditions existing there. In a sentence, the main purpose of the science is to learn the truth about the stellar universe; to increase human knowledge concerning our surroundings, and to widen the limits of intellectual life.
In 'The Nature of the Astronomer’s Work', North American Review (Jun 1908), 187, No. 631, 915.
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It is profitable nevertheless to permit ourselves to talk about 'meaningless' terms in the narrow sense if the preconditions to which all profitable operations are subject are so intuitive and so universally accepted as to form an almost unconscious part of the background of the public using the term. Physicists of the present day do constitute a homogenous public of this character; it is in the air that certain sorts of operation are valueless for achieving certain sorts of result. If one wants to know how many planets there are one counts them but does not ask a philosopher what is the perfect number.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950), 6.
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It may be true, that as Francis Thompson noted, ‘Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star’, but in computing the motion of stars and planets, the effects of flowers do not loom large. It is the disregarding of the effect of flowers on stars that allows progress in astronomy. Appropriate abstraction is critical to progress in science.
…...
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It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
…...
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It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man!
In The Creation of the Universe (1952), 139.
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It was not just the Church that resisted the heliocentrism of Copernicus. Many prominent figures, in the decades following the 1543 publication of De Revolutionibus, regarded the Copernican model of the universe as a mathematical artifice which, though it yielded astronomical predictions of superior accuracy, could not be considered a true representation of physical reality: 'If Nicolaus Copernicus, the distinguished and incomparable master, in this work had not been deprived of exquisite and faultless instruments, he would have left us this science far more well-established. For he, if anybody, was outstanding and had the most perfect understanding of the geometrical and arithmetical requisites for building up this discipline. Nor was he in any respect inferior to Ptolemy; on the contrary, he surpassed him greatly in certain fields, particularly as far as the device of fitness and compendious harmony in hypotheses is concerned. And his apparently absurd opinion that the Earth revolves does not obstruct this estimate, because a circular motion designed to go on uniformly about another point than the very center of the circle, as actually found in the Ptolemaic hypotheses of all the planets except that of the Sun, offends against the very basic principles of our discipline in a far more absurd and intolerable way than does the attributing to the Earth one motion or another which, being a natural motion, turns out to be imperceptible. There does not at all arise from this assumption so many unsuitable consequences as most people think.'
from Letter to Christopher Rothman, 20 Jan 1587
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It was Plato, according to Sosigenes, who set this as a problem for those concerned with these things, through what suppositions of uniform and ordered movements the appearances concerning the movements of the wandering heavenly bodies could be preserved.
Plato
Simplicius, On Aristotle's On the Heavens, 488.21. Trans. R. W. Sharples.
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It [space travel] will free man from his remaining chains, the chains of gravity which still tie him to this planet. It will open to him the gates of heaven.
Attributed.
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I’m addicted to the entire planet. I don’t want to leave it. I want to get down into it. I want to say hello. On the beach, I could have stopped all day long and looked at those damned shells, looked for all the messages that come not in bottles but in shells...
In Encounters with the Archdruid (1971), 144.
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I’m just a speck, standing on this big planet. … The Earth is orbiting the Sun, and the Sun is a huge star. And our star may be a big deal to us, but, my friends, our star is just another speck. … It’s not really in downtown Milky Way, it’s way out on the side. … I'm a speck, living on a speck, orbiting a speck in the middle of specklessness. But … I have this brain … to think about all of this. To think about the vast emptiness of space. I can reason that I'm a speck on a speck in the middle of specklessness. And that’s cool. That’s worthy of respect.
Bill Nye
From narration to PBS TV program, 'Astrobiology', The Eyes of Nye (2005), Ep. 1, Introduction before titles. Also seen quoted as: “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.”
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I’ve come to appreciate the planet we live on. It’s a small ball in a large universe. It’s a very fragile ball but also very beautiful. You don’t recognize that until you see it from a little farther off.
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John Muir, Earth-planet, Universe.
John Muir
Name and address, as inscribed on the inside cover of the notebook Muir recording his Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (Sep 1867). In John Muir and William Frederick Badé (Ed.), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), ix.
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Judged superficially, a progressive saturation of the germ plasm of a species with mutant genes a majority of which are deleterious in their effects is a destructive process, a sort of deterioration of the genotype which threatens the very existence of the species and can finally lead only to its extinction. The eugenical Jeremiahs keep constantly before our eyes the nightmare of human populations accumulating recessive genes that produce pathological effects when homozygous. These prophets of doom seem to be unaware of the fact that wild species in the state of nature fare in this respect no better than man does with all the artificality of his surroundings, and yet life has not come to an end on this planet. The eschatological cries proclaiming the failure of natural selection to operate in human populations have more to do with political beliefs than with scientific findings.
Genetics and Origin of Species (1937), 126.
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Judging from our experience upon this planet, such a history, that begins with elementary particles, leads perhaps inevitably toward a strange and moving end: a creature that knows, a science-making animal, that turns back upon the process that generated him and attempts to understand it. Without his like, the universe could be, but not be known, and this is a poor thing. Surely this is a great part of our dignity as men, that we can know, and that through us matter can know itself; that beginning with protons and electrons, out of the womb of time and the vastnesses of space, we can begin to understand; that organized as in us, the hydrogen, the carbon, the nitrogen, the oxygen, those 16-21 elements, the water, the sunlight—all having become us, can begin to understand what they are, and how they came to be.
In 'The Origins of Life', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (1964), 52, 609-110.
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Jupiter is the largest of all the solar system’s planets, more than ten times bigger and three hundred times as massive as Earth. Jupiter is so immense it could swallow all the other planets easily. Its Great Red Spot, a storm that has raged for centuries, is itself wider than Earth. And the Spot is merely one feature visible among the innumerable vortexes and streams of Jupiter’s frenetically racing cloud tops. Yet Jupiter is composed mainly of the lightest elements, hydrogen and helium, more like a star than a planet. All that size and mass, yet Jupiter spins on its axis in less than ten hours, so fast that the planet is clearly not spherical: Its poles are noticeably flattened. Jupiter looks like a big, colorfully striped beach ball that’s squashed down as if some invisible child were sitting on it. Spinning that fast, Jupiter’s deep, deep atmosphere is swirled into bands and ribbons of multihued clouds: pale yellow, saffron orange, white, tawny yellow-brown, dark brown, bluish, pink and red. Titanic winds push the clouds across the face of Jupiter at hundreds of kilometers per hour.
Ben Bova
Jupiter
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Kepler’s laws, although not rigidly true, are sufficiently near to the truth to have led to the discovery of the law of attraction of the bodies of the solar system. The deviation from complete accuracy is due to the facts, that the planets are not of inappreciable mass, that, in consequence, they disturb each other's orbits about the Sun, and, by their action on the Sun itself, cause the periodic time of each to be shorter than if the Sun were a fixed body, in the subduplicate ratio of the mass of the Sun to the sum of the masses of the Sun and Planet; these errors are appreciable although very small, since the mass of the largest of the planets, Jupiter, is less than 1/1000th of the Sun's mass.
In Isaac Newton and Percival Frost (ed.) Newton’s Principia: Sections I, II, III (1863), 216.
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Kepler’s principal goal was to explain the relationship between the existence of five planets (and their motions) and the five regular solids. It is customary to sneer at Kepler for this. … It is instructive to compare this with the current attempts to “explain” the zoology of elementary particles in terms of irreducible representations of Lie groups.
In Celestial Mechanics (1969), Vol. 1, 95.
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Knowledge and wonder are the dyad of our worthy lives as intellectual beings. Voyager did wonders for our knowledge, but performed just as mightily in the service of wonder–and the two elements are complementary, not independent or opposed. The thought fills me with awe–a mechanical contraption that could fit in the back of a pickup truck, traveling through space for twelve years, dodging around four giant bodies and their associated moons, and finally sending exquisite photos across more than four light-hours of space from the farthest planet in our solar system.
…...
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Knox was engaged in a theological discussion with scientist John Scott Haldane. “In a universe containing millions of planets,” reasoned Haldane, “is it not inevitable that life should appear on at least one of them?”
“Sir,” replied Knox, “if Scotland Yard found a body in your cabin trunk, would you tell them: ‘There are millions of trunks in the world; surely one of them must contain a body?’ I think they would still want to know who put it there.”
Quoted in Clifton Fadiman and André Bernard (eds.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 324. See also Richard Hazelett and Dean Turner, Benevolent Living (1990), 49, citing John J. McAleer
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Laplace considers astronomy a science of observation, because we can only observe the movements of the planets; we cannot reach them, indeed, to alter their course and to experiment with them. “On earth,” said Laplace, “we make phenomena vary by experiments; in the sky, we carefully define all the phenomena presented to us by celestial motion.” Certain physicians call medicine a science of observations, because they wrongly think that experimentation is inapplicable to it.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 18. A footnote cites Laplace, Système du monde, Chap. 2.
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Life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.
Anonymous
In Lily Splane, Quantum Consciousness (2004), 307
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Life is girt all round with a zodiac of sciences, the contributions of men who have perished to add their point of light to our sky. ... These road-makers on every hand enrich us. We must extend the area of life and multiply our relations. We are as much gainers by finding a property in the old earth as by acquiring a new planet.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 247:34.
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Life is not a miracle. It is a natural phenomenon, and can be expected to appear whenever there is a planet whose conditions duplicate those of the earth.
[Stating his belief that planets supporting life cannot be rare.]
Lecture at New York Academy of Medicine. Quoted in article, 'Life Begins,' Time (24 Nov 1952).
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Looking down on this great metropolis, the ingenuity with which we continue to reshape our planet is very striking. It’s also sobering. It reminds me of just how easy it is for us to lose our connection with the natural world. Yet it is on this connection that the future of both humanity and the natural world will depend.
From BBC TV series Planet Earth II, while at London from the top of a skyscraper. As quoted in interview with Joe Shute, 'David Attenborough at 90: ‘I think about my mortality every day’', The Telegraph (29 Oct 2016).
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Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty—but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That’s where life is; that’s where all the good stuff is.
Observation as payload specialist on the Challenger Eight space shuttle mission. As quoted in Kevin W. Kelley (ed.), The Home Planet (1988), 8.
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Looking through the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet swimming in the field. It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with transverse stripes, and slightly flattened from the perfect round. But so little it was, so silvery warm—a pin’s-head of light! It was as if it quivered, but really this was the telescope vibrating with the activity of the clockwork that kept the planet in view.
As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to advance and recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired. Forty millions of miles it was from us—more than forty millions of miles of void. Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.
The War of the Worlds (1898), editted by Frank D. McConnell (1977), 128.
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Man must at all costs overcome the Earth’s gravity and have, in reserve, the space at least of the Solar System. All kinds of danger wait for him on the Earth… We are talking of disaster that can destroy the whole of mankind or a large part of it… For instance, a cloud of bolides [meteors] or a small planet a few dozen kilometers in diameter could fall on the Earth, with such an impact that the solid, liquid or gaseous blast produced by it could wipe off the face of the Earth all traces of man and his buildings. The rise of temperature accompanying it could alone scorch or kill all living beings… We are further compelled to take up the struggle against gravity, and for the utilization of celestial space and all its wealth, because of the overpopulation of our planet. Numerous other terrible dangers await mankind on the Earth, all of which suggest that man should look for a way into the Cosmos. We have said a great deal about the advantages of migration into space, but not all can be said or even imagined.
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Man, so far as natural science by itself is able to teach us, is no longer the final cause of the universe, the heaven-descended heir of all the ages. His very existence is an accident, his story a brief and discreditable episode in the life of one of the meanest of the planets. Of the combination of causes which first converted a piece or pieces of unorganised jelly into the living progenitors of humanity, science indeed, as yet, knows nothing.
In 'The Religion of Humanity', Essays and Addresses by the Right Hon. Arthur J. Balfour (1893), 307.
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Mankind lies groaning, half-crushed beneath the weight of its own progress. Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make just the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on their refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods.
The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, trans. by R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton (1935), 275.
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Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
…...
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Mars tugs at the human imagination like no other planet. With a force mightier than gravity, it attracts the eye to its shimmering red presence in the clear night sky. It is like a glowing ember in a field of ethereal lights, projecting energy and promise. It inspires visions of an approachable world. The mind vaults to thoughts of what might have been (if Mars were a litter closer to the warming Sun) and of what could be (if humans were one day to plant colonies there). Mysterious Mars, alluring Mars, fourth planet from the Sun: so far away and yet, on a cosmic scale, so very near.
…...
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Mathematics associates new mental images with ... physical abstractions; these images are almost tangible to the trained mind but are far removed from those that are given directly by life and physical experience. For example, a mathematician represents the motion of planets of the solar system by a flow line of an incompressible fluid in a 54-dimensional phase space, whose volume is given by the Liouville measure
Mathematics and Physics (1981), Foreward. Reprinted in Mathematics as Metaphor: Selected Essays of Yuri I. Manin (2007), 90.
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May we attribute to the color of the herbage and plants, which no doubt clothe the plains of Mars, the characteristic hue of that planet, which is noticeable by the naked eye, and which led the ancients to personify it as a warrior?
In 'Mars, by the Latest Observations', Popular Science (Dec 1873), 4, 190.
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Music and language are both uniquely human activities; they set us apart from the other creatures of this planet.
In 'Music and Language: A New Look at an Old Analogy', Music Educators Journal (Mar 1972), 58, No. 7, 60.
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My grandfather pioneered exploration of what he called “our water planet,” then my father sought to understand the human connection, and now, as part of the third generation, I’m dedicated to not only raising awareness but also to empowering people to take action.
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My only wish would be to have ten more lives to live on this planet. If that were possible, I’d spend one lifetime each in embryology, genetics, physics, astronomy and geology. The other lifetimes would be as a pianist, backwoodsman, tennis player, or writer for the National Geographic. … I’d like to keep open the option for another lifetime as a surgeon-scientist.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 557.
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My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.
…...
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Nature will be reported. Everything in nature is engaged in writing its own history; the planet and the pebble are attended by their shadows, the rolling rock leaves its furrows on the mountain-side, the river its channel in the soil; the animal, its bones in the stratum; the fern and leaf, their modest epitaph in the coal.
In The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1847, 1872), Vol. 2, 141.
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New sources of power … will surely be discovered. Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy we use today. The coal a man can get in a day can easily do five hundred times as much work as himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still. If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine and form helium, they would suffice to drive a thousand-horsepower engine for a whole year. If the electrons, those tiny planets of the atomic systems, were induced to combine with the nuclei in hydrogen, the horsepower would be 120 times greater still. There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, or it may be the detonator to cause the dynamite to explode. The scientists are looking for this.
[In his last major speech to the House of Commons on 1 Mar 1955, Churchill quoted from his original printed article, nearly 25 years earlier.]
'Fifty Years Hence'. Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57:3, 395.
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Newton supposed that the case of the planet was similar to that of [a ball spun around on the end of an elastic string]; that it was always pulled in the direction of the sun, and that this attraction or pulling of the sun produced the revolution of the planet, in the same way that the traction or pulling of the elastic string produces the revolution of the ball. What there is between the sun and the planet that makes each of them pull the other, Newton did not know; nobody knows to this day; and all we are now able to assert positively is that the known motion of the planet is precisely what would be produced if it were fastened to the sun by an elastic string, having a certain law of elasticity. Now observe the nature of this discovery, the greatest in its consequences that has ever yet been made in physical science:—
I. It begins with an hypothesis, by supposing that there is an analogy between the motion of a planet and the motion of a ball at the end of a string.
II. Science becomes independent of the hypothesis, for we merely use it to investigate the properties of the motion, and do not trouble ourselves further about the cause of it.
'On Some of the Conditions of Mental Development,' a discourse delivered at the Royal Institution, 6 Mar 1868, in Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays, by the Late William Kingdon Clifford (1886), 56.
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Night after night, among the gabled roofs,
Climbing and creeping through a world unknown
Save to the roosting stork, he learned to find
The constellations, Cassiopeia’s throne,
The Plough still pointing to the Polar Star,
The movements of the planets, hours and hours,
And wondered at the mystery of it all.
In 'Tycho Brahe', The Torch-Bearers: Watchers of the Sky (1922), Vol. 1, 40.
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No creature is too bulky or formidable for man's destructive energies—none too minute and insignificant for his keen detection and skill of capture. It was ordained from the beginning that we should be the masters and subduers of all inferior animals. Let us remember, however, that we ourselves, like the creatures we slay, subjugate, and modify, are the results of the same Almighty creative will—temporary sojourners here, and co-tenants with the worm and the whale of one small planet. In the exercise, therefore, of those superior powers that have been intrusted to us, let us ever bear in mind that our responsibilities are heightened in proportion.
Lecture to the London Society of Arts, 'The Raw Materials of the Animal Kingdom', collected in Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851' (1852), 131.
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No one, it has been said, will ever look at the Moon in the same way again. More significantly can one say that no one will ever look at the earth in the same way. Man had to free himself from earth to perceive both its diminutive place in a solar system and its inestimable value as a life-fostering planet. As earthmen, we may have taken another step into adulthood. We can see our planet earth with detachment, with tenderness, with some shame and pity, but at last also with love.
In Earth Shine (1969). As quoted and cited in Joseph J. Kerski, Interpreting Our World: 100 Discoveries That Revolutionized Geography (2016), 93.
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Nothing in the whole system of nature is isolated or unimportant. The fall of a leaf and the motion of a planet are governed by the same laws. … It is in the study of objects considered trivial and unworthy of notice by the casual observer that genius finds the most important and interesting phenomena. It was in the investigation of the varying colors of the soap-bubble that Newton detected the remarkable fact of the fits of easy reflection and easy refraction presented by a ray of light in its passage through space, and upon which he established the fundamental principle of the present generalization of the undulatory theory of light. … The microscopic organization of animals and plants is replete with the highest instruction; and, surely, in the language of one of the fathers of modern physical science, “nothing can be unworthy of being investigated by man which was thought worthy of being created by GOD.”
In 'Report of the Secretary', Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1852 (1853), 15.
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Nuclear energy and foreign policy cannot coexist on the planet. The more deep the secret, the greater the determination of every nation to discover and exploit it. Nuclear energy insists on global government, on law, on order, and on the willingness of the community to take the responsibility for the acts of the individual. And to what end? Why, for liberty, first of blessings. Soldier, we await you, and if the
In 'The Talk of the Town', The New Yorker (18 Aug 1945), 13.
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Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found?
'The Will to Believe' (1896). In The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897), 14.
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Oh! That the Chemist’s magic art
Could crystallize this sacred treasure!…
That very law which moulds a tear,
And bids it trickle from its source;
That law preserves the earth a sphere,
And guides the planets in their course.
Referring to the Law of Gravitation. From Poem, 'On a Tear' (c.1813-15), in Samuel Rogers et al., The Poetical Works of Rogers, Campbell, J. Montombery, Lamb, and Kirke White (1836), 101.
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Oh, my dear Kepler, how I wish that we could have one hearty laugh together. Here, at Padua, is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and planets through my glass, [telescope] which he pertinaciously refuses to do. Why are you not here? what shouts of laughter we should have at this glorious folly! and to hear the professor of philosophy at Pisa laboring before the grand duke with logical arguments, as if with magical incantations, to charm the new planets out of the sky.
From Letter to Johannes Kepler. As translated in John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Life of Galileo Galilei: With Illustrations of the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy (1832), 92-93.
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On a perfect planet such as might be acceptable to a physicist, one might predict that from its origin the diversity of life would grow exponentially until the carrying capacity, however defined, was reached. The fossil record on Earth, however, tells a very different story.
In 'The Evolution of Diversity in AAncient Ecosystems: a Review', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (28 Feb 1998), 353, No. 1366, 327.
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On coming down the stairs at dinner Tris [Trismegistus = Frankland] who walked before me seemed impressed by a mechanical impulse which impelled him along the corridor with a fervid velocity. On reaching the stair bottom I discovered the cause of the attraction. Miss Edmondson, like a pure planet, had checked his gravitating tendencies and lo! He stood radiant with smiles dropping joysparkes from his eyes as he clasped her hand. His countenance became a transparency through which the full proportions of his soul shone manifest; his blood tingled from his eyebrows to his finger ends, and wealthy with rich emotions his face became the avenue of what he felt.
Journals of John Tyndall, 18 Jan 1848. Royal Institution Archives.
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On our planet, all objects are subject to continual and inevitable changes which arise from the essential order of things. These changes take place at a variable rate according to the nature, condition, or situation of the objects involved, but are nevertheless accomplished within a certain period of time. Time is insignificant and never a difficulty for Nature. It is always at her disposal and represents an unlimited power with which she accomplishes her greatest and smallest tasks.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 61.
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Once I got into space, I was feeling very comfortable in the universe. I felt like I had a right to be anywhere in this universe, that I belonged here as much as any speck of stardust, any comet, any planet
As quoted in 'Then & Now: Dr. Mae Jemison' (19 Jun 2005) on CNN web site.
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One of the grandest generalizations formulated by modern biological science is that of the continuity of life; the protoplasmic activity within each living body now on earth has continued without cessation from the remote beginnings of life on our planet, and from that period until the present no single organism has ever arisen save in the form of a bit of living protoplasm detached from a pre-existing portion; the eternal flame of life once kindled upon this earth has passed from organism to organism, and is still, going on existing and propagating, incarnated within the myriad animal and plant forms of everyday life.
In History of the Human Body (1919), 1.
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One orbit, with a radius of 42,000 kilometers, has a period of exactly 24 hours. A body in such an orbit, if its plane coincided with that of the Earth’s equator, would revolve with the Earth and would thus be stationary above the same spot on the planet. It would remain fixed in the sky of a whole hemisphere ... [to] provide coverage to half the globe, and for a world service three would be required, though more could be readily utilized. (1945) [Predidicting geosynchronous communication satellites]
In 'Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Coverage?', Wireless World (Oct 1945). Quoted and cited in Arthur C. Clarke, Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998, 22.
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One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.
In The Sense of Wonder (1956), as condensed in Reader’s Digest (1986), 129, 174.
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Our exploration of the planets represents a triumph of imagination and will for the human race. The events of the last twenty years are perhaps too recent for us to adequately appreciate their proper historical significance.
We can, however, appraise the scientific significance of these voyages of exploration: They have been nothing less than revolutionary both in providing a new picture of the nature of the solar system, its likely origin and evolution, and in giving us a new perspective on our own planet Earth.
NASA
NASA Advisory Committee, report of Solar System Exploration Committee, Planetary Exploration Through Year 2000: A Core Program (1983).
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Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
…...
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Outside intelligences, exploring the solar system with true impartiality, would be quite likely to enter the sun in their records thus: Star X, spectral class G0, 4 planets plus debris.
Essay 16, 'By Jove!'. In View From a Height (1963), 227.
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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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Penguins are an indicator of the health of our watery planet, and if they are unable to survive, we had better take notice or we might find our own survival threatened.
In Penguins (1998), 160.
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Placed in a universe of constant change, on an isolated globe surrounded by distant celestial objects on all sides, subjected to influences of various kinds, it is a sublime occupation to measure the earth and weigh the planets, to predict their changes, and even to discover the materials of which they are composed; to investigate the causes of the tempest and volcano; to bring the lightning from the clouds; to submit it to experiment by which it shall reveal its character; and to estimate the size and weight of those invisible atoms which constitute the universe of things.
In Letter (3 Feb 1873) to the Committee of Arrangements, in Proceedings of the Farewell Banquet to Professor Tyndall (4 Feb 1873), 19. Reprinted as 'On the Importance of the Cultivation of Science', The Popular Science Monthly (1873), Vol. 2, 645.
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Saturated with that speculative spirit then pervading the Greek mind, he [Pythagoras] endeavoured to discover some principle of homogeneity in the universe. Before him, the philosophers of the Ionic school had sought it in the matter of things; Pythagoras looked for it in the structure of things. He observed the various numerical relations or analogies between numbers and the phenomena of the universe. Being convinced that it was in numbers and their relations that he was to find the foundation to true philosophy, he proceeded to trace the origin of all things to numbers. Thus he observed that musical strings of equal lengths stretched by weights having the proportion of 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, produced intervals which were an octave, a fifth and a fourth. Harmony, therefore, depends on musical proportion; it is nothing but a mysterious numerical relation. Where harmony is, there are numbers. Hence the order and beauty of the universe have their origin in numbers. There are seven intervals in the musical scale, and also seven planets crossing the heavens. The same numerical relations which underlie the former must underlie the latter. But where number is, there is harmony. Hence his spiritual ear discerned in the planetary motions a wonderful “Harmony of spheres.”
In History of Mathematics (1893), 67.
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Scientific development depends in part on a process of non-incremental or revolutionary change. Some revolutions are large, like those associated with the names of Copernicus, Newton, or Darwin, but most are much smaller, like the discovery of oxygen or the planet Uranus. The usual prelude to changes of this sort is, I believed, the awareness of anomaly, of an occurrence or set of occurrences that does not fit existing ways of ordering phenomena. The changes that result therefore require 'putting on a different kind of thinking-cap', one that renders the anomalous lawlike but that, in the process, also transforms the order exhibited by some other phenomena, previously unproblematic.
The Essential Tension (1977), xvii.
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Scientists still do not appear to understand sufficiently that all earth sciences must contribute evidence toward unveiling the state of our planet in earlier times, and that the truth of the matter can only be reached by combing all this evidence. ... It is only by combing the information furnished by all the earth sciences that we can hope to determine 'truth' here, that is to say, to find the picture that sets out all the known facts in the best arrangement and that therefore has the highest degree of probability. Further, we have to be prepared always for the possibility that each new discovery, no matter what science furnishes it, may modify the conclusions we draw.
The Origins of Continents and Oceans
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Scientists themselves readily admit that they do not fully understand the consequences of our many-faceted assault upon the interwoven fabric of atmosphere, water, land and life in all its biological diversity. But things could also turn out to be worse than the current scientific best guess. In military affairs, policy has long been based on the dictum that we should be prepared for the worst case. Why should it be so different when the security is that of the planet and our long-term future?
Speech, 'Global Security Lecture' at Cambridge University (28 Apr 1993).
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Seeing therefore the variety of Motion which we find in the World is always decreasing, there is a necessity of conserving and recruiting it by active Principles, such as are the cause of Gravity, by which Planets and Comets keep their Motions in their Orbs, and Bodies acquire great Motion in falling; and the cause of Fermentation, by which the Heart and Blood of Animals are kept in perpetual Motion and Heat; the inward Parts of the Earth are constantly warm'd, and in some places grow very hot; Bodies burn and shine, Mountains take fire, the Caverns of the Earth are blown up, and the Sun continues violently hot and lucid, and warms all things by his Light. For we meet with very little Motion in the World, besides what is owing to these active Principles.
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 375.
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Service to society is the rent we pay for living on this planet.
This quote is not original to Murray, who attributed it to "as someone put it" in his autobiography, Surgery of the Soul: Reflections on a Curious Career (2001, 2004), 212. An exhibit in Brigham Hospital’s library housing his Nobel Prize is framed with these words. As quoted in Associated Press obituary, for example in 'Joseph E Murray, transplant pioneer and Nobel prizewinner, dies at 93', The Guardian (27 Nov 2012).
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Shortly after electrons were discovered it was thought that atoms were like little solar systems, made up of a … nucleus and electrons, which went around in “orbits,” much like the planets … around the sun. If you think that’s the way atoms are, then you’re back in 1910.
In QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985, 2006), 84.
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Since as the Creation is, so is the Creator also magnified, we may conclude in consequence of an infinity, and an infinite all-active power, that as the visible creation is supposed to be full of siderial systems and planetary worlds, so on, in like similar manner, the endless Immensity is an unlimited plenum of creations not unlike the known Universe.… That this in all probability may be the real case, is in some degree made evident by the many cloudy spots, just perceivable by us, as far without our starry Regions, in which tho’ visibly luminous spaces, no one Star or particular constituent body can possibly be distinguished; those in all likelyhood may be external creation, bordering upon the known one, too remote for even our Telescopes to reach.
In The Universe and the Stars: Being an Original Theory on the Visible Creation, Founded on the Laws of Nature (1750, 1837), 143-144.
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Since nothing stands in the way of the movability of the earth, I believe we must now investigate whether it also has several motions, so that it can be considered one of the planets.
In De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (1543).
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Since [World War I] we have seen the atomic age, the computer age, the space age, and the bio-engineering age, each as epochal as the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. And all these have occurred in one generation. Man has stood on the moon and looked back on the earth, that small planet now reduced to a neighbourhood. But our material achievements have exceeded the managerial capacities of our human minds and institutions.
As quoted in Colin Bingham (ed.), Wit and Wisdom: A Public Affairs Miscellany (1982), 227.
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Sir,—The Planet [Neptune] whose position you marked out actually exists. On the day on which your letter reached me, I found a star of the eighth magnitude, which was not recorded in the excellent map designed by Dr. Bremiker, containing the twenty-first hour of the collection published by the Royal Academy of Berlin. The observation of the succeeding day showed it to be the Planet of which we were in quest.
Letter, from Berlin (25 Sep 1846). In John Pringle Nichol, The Planet Neptune: An Exposition and History (1848), 89. Galle thus confirmed the existence of the planet Neptune, found at the position predicted in a letter he had just received from Urbain Le Verrier.
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So then Gravity may put ye Planets into Motion, but without ye divine Power it could never put them into such a Circulating Motion as they have about ye Sun; & therefore, for this, as well as other Reasons, I am compelled to ascribe ye Frame of this Systeme to an intelligent agent.
Letter to Richard Bently (17 Jan 1693). 189.R.4.47, f. 5A, Trinity College Library, Cambridge.
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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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Sooner or later for good or ill, a united mankind, equipped with science and power, will probably turn its attention to the other planets, not only for economic exploitation, but also as possible homes for man... The goal for the solar system would seem to be that it should become an interplanetary community of very diverse worlds... each contributing to the common experience its characteristic view of the universe. Through the pooling of this wealth of experience, through this “commonwealth of worlds,” new levels of mental and spiritual development should become possible, levels at present quite inconceivable to man.
…...
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That the machine of Heaven is not a hard and impervious body full of various real spheres, as up to now has been believed by most people. It will be proved that it extends everywhere, most fluid and simple, and nowhere presents obstacles as was formerly held, the circuits of the Planets being wholly free and without the labour and whirling round of any real spheres at all, being divinely governed under a given law.
De Mundi Aetherei Recentioribus Phaenomenis (On Recent Phenomena in the Aetherial World) (1588). Quoted in M. Boas Hall, The Scientific Renaissance 1450-1630 (1962), 117.
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The Archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh, under divers such modifications, upon this planet, long prior to the existence of those animal species that actually exemplify it. To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic phaenomena may have been committed we as yet are ignorant. But if, without derogation of the Divine power, we may conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify them by the term 'Nature,' we learn from the past history of our globe that she has advanced with slow and stately steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of worlds, from the first embodiment of the Vertebrate idea under its old Ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in the glorious garb of the Human form.
On the Nature of Limbs (1849), 86.
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The biggest animal that has ever lived on our planet: a blue whale. … It’s far bigger than even the biggest dinosaur. Its tongue weighs as much as an elephant. Its heart is the size of a car. And some of its blood vessels are so wide that you could swim down them.
Narration from 'Introduction' of the BBC TV series The Blue Planet (2001), Ep. 1. Text accompanies 'Blue whale breach', video clip on BBC website.
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The biggest thrill of my life was finding out something that nobody in the world ever knew before. Another gratification is a recognition of the fact that you really do understand a lot of things that go on in the world that most people don’t—like planets moving around the sun.
In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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The book of Nature is the book of Fate. She turns the gigantic pages,—leaf after leaf,—never re-turning one. One leaf she lays down, a floor of granite; then a thousand ages, and a bed of slate; a thousand ages, and a measure of coal; a thousand ages, and a layer of marl and mud: vegetable forms appear; her first misshapen animals, zoophyte, trilobium, fish; then, saurians,—rude forms, in which she has only blocked her future statue, concealing under these unwieldy monsters the fine type of her coming king. The face of the planet cools and dries, the races meliorate, and man is born. But when a race has lived its term, it comes no more again.
From 'Fate', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume 6: The Conduct of Life (1860), 15. This paragraph is the prose version of his poem, 'Song of Nature'.
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The Builder of this Universe was wise,
He plann’d all souls, all systems, planets, particles:
The Plan He shap'd all Worlds and Æons by,
Was—Heavens!—was thy small Nine-and-thirty Articles!
In 'Practical-Devotional', Past and Present, Book 2, Chap 15, collected in On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), 101. Note: “Nine-and-thirty Articles” of the Church of England.
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The chemical compounds are comparable to a system of planets in that the atoms are held together by chemical affinity. They may be more or less numerous, simple or complex in composition, and in the constitution of the materials, they play the same role as Mars and Venus do in our planetary system, or the compound members such as our earth with its moon, or Jupiter with its satellites... If in such a system a particle is replaced by one of different character, the equilibrium can persist, and then the new compound will exhibit properties similar to those shown by the original substance.
Quoted in Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 55.
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The coastal zone may be the single most important portion of our planet. The loss of its biodiversity may have repercussions far be-yond our worst fears.
Biodiversity
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The discovery in 1846 of the planet Neptune was a dramatic and spectacular achievement of mathematical astronomy. The very existence of this new member of the solar system, and its exact location, were demonstrated with pencil and paper; there was left to observers only the routine task of pointing their telescopes at the spot the mathematicians had marked.
In J.R. Newman (ed.), 'Commentary on John Couch Adams', The World of Mathematics (1956), 820.
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