Puzzling Quotes (8 quotes)
Historically [chemistry] arose from a constellation of interests: the empirically based technologies of early metallurgists, brewers, dyers, tanners, calciners and pharmacists; the speculative Greek philosphers' concern whether brute matter was invariant or transformable; the alchemists' real or symbolic attempts to achieve the transmutation of base metals into gold; and the iatrochemists' interst in the chemistry and pathology of animal and human functions. Partly because of the sheer complexity of chemical phenomena, the absence of criteria and standards of purity, and uncertainty over the definition of elements ... but above all because of the lack of a concept of the gaseous state of matter, chemistry remained a rambling, puzzling and chaotic area of natural philosophy until the middle of the eighteenth century.
In 1975, ... [speaking with Shiing Shen Chern], I told him I had finally learned ... the beauty of fiber-bundle theory and the profound Chern-Weil theorem. I said I found it amazing that gauge fields are exactly connections on fiber bundles, which the mathematicians developed without reference to the physical world. I added, “this is both thrilling and puzzling, since you mathematicians dreamed up these concepts out of nowhere.” He immediately protested: “No, no. These concepts were not dreamed up. They were natural and real.”
Ohm (a distinguished mathematician, be it noted) brought into order a host of puzzling facts connecting electromotive force and electric current in conductors, which all previous electricians had only succeeded in loosely binding together qualitatively under some rather vague statements. Even as late as 20 years ago, “quantity” and “tension” were much used by men who did not fully appreciate Ohm's law. (Is it not rather remarkable that some of Germany's best men of genius should have been, perhaps, unfairly treated? Ohm; Mayer; Reis; even von Helmholtz has mentioned the difficulty he had in getting recognised. But perhaps it is the same all the world over.)
Organic Chemistry has become a vast rubbish heap of puzzling and bewildering compounds.
The test of a theory is its ability to cope with all the relevant phenomena, not its a priori 'reasonableness'. The latter would have proved a poor guide in the development of science, which often makes progress by its encounter with the totally unexpected and initially extremely puzzling.
The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth—never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
We have really, that I know of, no philosophical basis for high and low. Moreover, the vegetable kingdom does not culminate, as the animal kingdom does. It is not a kingdom, but a common-wealth; a democracy, and therefore puzzling and unaccountable from the former point of view.
— Asa Gray
Wherever possible, scientists experiment. Which experiments suggest themselves often depends on which theories currently prevail. Scientists are intent of testing those theories to the breaking point. They do not trust what is intuitively obvious. That the Earth is flat was once obvious. That heavy bodies fall faster than light ones was once obvious. That bloodsucking leeches cure most diseases was once obvious. That some people are naturally and by divine decree slaves was once obvious. That there is such a place as the center of the Universe, and that the Earth sits in that exalted spot was once obvious. That there is an absolute standard of rest was once obvious. The truth may be puzzling or counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held beliefs. Experiment is how we get a handle on it.