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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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...the question undoubtedly is, or soon will be, not whether or no we shall employ notation in chemistry, but whether we shall use a bad and incongruous, or a consistent and regular notation.
'On the Employment of Notation in Chemistry', Journal of the Royal Institution (1838), 1, 438. Cited in Timothy L. Alborn, 'Negotiating Notation: Chemical Symbols and British Society, 1831-1835', Annals of Science (1989), 46, 437.
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Bei solchen chemischen Untersuchungen, die man zersetzende oder zergliedernde nennt, kommt es zunächst darauf an, zu ermitteln, mit welchen Stoffen man es zu thun hat, oder um chemisch zu reden, welche Stoffe in einem bestimmten Gemenge oder Gemisch enthalten sind. Hierzu bedient man sich sogenannter gegenwirkender Mittel, d. h. Stoffe, die bestimmte Eigenschaften und Eigenthümlichkeiten besitzen und die man aus Ueberlieferung oder eigner Erfahrung genau kennt, so daß die Veränderungen, welche sie bewirken oder erleiden, gleichsam die Sprache sind, mit der sie reden und dadurch dem Forscher anzeigen, daß der und der bestimmte Stoff in der fraglichen Mischung enthalten sei.
In the case of chemical investigations known as decompositions or analyses, it is first important to determine exactly what ingredients you are dealing with, or chemically speaking, what substances are contained in a given mixture or composite. For this purpose we use reagents, i.e., substances that possess certain properties and characteristics, which we well know from references or personal experience, such that the changes which they bring about or undergo, so to say the language that they speak thereby inform the researcher that this or that specific substance is present in the mixture in question.
From Zur Farben-Chemie Musterbilder für Freunde des Schönen und zum Gebrauch für Zeichner, Maler, Verzierer und Zeugdrucker [On Colour Chemistry...] (1850), Introduction. Translation tweaked by Webmaster from version in Herbert and W. Roesky and Klaud Möckel, translated from the original German by T.N. Mitchell and W.E. Russey, Chemical Curiosities: Spectacular Experiments and Inspired Quotes (1996), 1.
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Eine brennendste Zeitfrage allerdings! Es brennt in allen Ecken und Enden der ethnologischen Welt, brennt hell, lichterloh, in vollster Brunst, es brennt ringsum, Gross Feuer! und Niemand regt eine Hand.
A most burning question of time, though. It burns in every nook and cranny of the ethnological world, burning, bright, brightly, in the fullest blaze, and it burns all around, huge fire! and no one lifts a hand.
[Expressing his desperation over the loss of the cultural memory of ethnic traditions as so many cultures were no longer living in isolation.]
From Das Besẗandige in den Menschenrassen und die Spielweite ihrer Veränderlichkeit (1868), 180, footnote. Approximate translation by Webmaster using Google Translate.
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Every teacher certainly should know something of non-euclidean geometry. Thus, it forms one of the few parts of mathematics which, at least in scattered catch-words, is talked about in wide circles, so that any teacher may be asked about it at any moment. ... Imagine a teacher of physics who is unable to say anything about Röntgen rays, or about radium. A teacher of mathematics who could give no answer to questions about non-euclidean geometry would not make a better impression.
On the other hand, I should like to advise emphatically against bringing non-euclidean into regular school instruction (i.e., beyond occasional suggestions, upon inquiry by interested pupils), as enthusiasts are always recommending. Let us be satisfied if the preceding advice is followed and if the pupils learn to really understand euclidean geometry. After all, it is in order for the teacher to know a little more than the average pupil.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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Prudens interrogatio quasi dimidium sapientiae.
A prudent question is, as it were, one half of wisdom.
In Henry Thomas Riley, Dictionary of Latin Quotations, Proverbs, Maxims, and Mottos (1866), 349.
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Prudens quaestio dimidium scientiae.
Half of science is putting forth the right questions.
In Jon R. Stone, The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), 92.
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Question: A hollow indiarubber ball full of air is suspended on one arm of a balance and weighed in air. The whole is then covered by the receiver of an air pump. Explain what will happen as the air in the receiver is exhausted.
Answer: The ball would expand and entirely fill the vessell, driving out all before it. The balance being of greater density than the rest would be the last to go, but in the end its inertia would be overcome and all would be expelled, and there would be a perfect vacuum. The ball would then burst, but you would not be aware of the fact on account of the loudness of a sound varying with the density of the place in which it is generated, and not on that in which it is heard.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 181, Question 21. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: Account for the delicate shades of colour sometimes seen on the inside of an oyster shell. State and explain the appearance presented when a beam of light falls upon a sheet of glass on which very fine equi-distant parallel lines have been scratched very close to one another.
Answer: The delicate shades are due to putrefaction; the colours always show best when the oyster has been a bad one. Hence they are considered a defect and are called chromatic aberration.
The scratches on the glass will arrange themselves in rings round the light, as any one may see at night in a tram car.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 182, Question 27. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: Explain how to determine the time of vibration of a given tuning-fork, and state what apparatus you would require for the purpose.
Answer: For this determination I should require an accurate watch beating seconds, and a sensitive ear. I mount the fork on a suitable stand, and then, as the second hand of my watch passes the figure 60 on the dial, I draw the bow neatly across one of its prongs. I wait. I listen intently. The throbbing air particles are receiving the pulsations; the beating prongs are giving up their original force; and slowly yet surely the sound dies away. Still I can hear it, but faintly and with close attention; and now only by pressing the bones of my head against its prongs. Finally the last trace disappears. I look at the time and leave the room, having determined the time of vibration of the common “pitch” fork. This process deteriorates the fork considerably, hence a different operation must be performed on a fork which is only lent.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 176-7, Question 4. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: Explain why pipes burst in cold weather.
Answer: People who have not studied acoustics think that Thor bursts the pipes, but we know that is nothing of the kind for Professor Tyndall has burst the mythologies and has taught us that it is the natural behaviour of water (and bismuth) without which all fish would die and the earth be held in an iron grip. (1881)
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1881), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 186-7, Question 10. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.) Webmaster notes that “fish would die” may refer to being taught that water's greatest density is at 4°C, and sinks below a frozen surface, so bodies of water can remain liquid underneath, to the benefit of the fish. The student was likely taught that bismuth, like water, expands when it freezes.
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Question: Explain why, in order to cook food by boiling, at the top of a high mountain, you must employ a different method from that used at the sea level.
Answer: It is easy to cook food at the sea level by boiling it, but once you get above the sea level the only plan is to fry it in its own fat. It is, in fact, impossible to boil water above the sea level by any amount of heat. A different method, therefore, would have to be employed to boil food at the top of a high mountain, but what that method is has not yet been discovered. The future may reveal it to a daring experimentalist.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 178-9, Question 11. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: How would you disprove, experimentally, the assertion that white light passing through a piece of coloured glass acquires colour from the glass? What is it that really happens?
Answer: To disprove the assertion (so repeatedly made) that “white light passing through a piece of coloured glass acquires colour from the glass,” I would ask the gentleman to observe that the glass has just as much colour after the light has gone through it as it had before. That is what would really happen.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 178, Question 8. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: If you walk on a dry path between two walls a few feet apart, you hear a musical note or “ring” at each footstep. Whence comes this?
Answer: This is similar to phosphorescent paint. Once any sound gets between two parallel reflectors or walls, it bounds from one to the other and never stops for a long time. Hence it is persistent, and when you walk between the walls you hear the sounds made by those who walked there before you. By following a muffin man down the passage within a short time you can hear most distinctly a musical note, or, as it is more properly termed in the question, a “ring” at every (other) step.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 175-6, Question 2. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: If you were to pour a pound of molten lead and a pound of molten iron, each at the temperature of its melting point, upon two blocks of ice, which would melt the most ice, and why?
Answer: This question relates to diathermancy. Iron is said to be a diathermanous body (from dia, through, and thermo, I heat), meaning that it gets heated through and through, and accordingly contains a large quantity of real heat. Lead is said to be an athermanous body (from a, privative, and thermo, I heat), meaning that it gets heated secretly or in a latent manner. Hence the answer to this question depends on which will get the best of it, the real heat of the iron or the latent heat of the lead. Probably the iron will smite furthest into the ice, as molten iron is white and glowing, while melted lead is dull.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 180-1, Question 14. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: On freezing water in a glass tube, the tube sometimes breaks. Why is this? An iceberg floats with 1,000,000 tons of ice above the water line. About how many tons are below the water line?
Answer: The water breaks the tube because of capallarity. The iceberg floats on the top because it is lighter, hence no tons are below the water line. Another reason is that an iceberg cannot exceed 1,000,000 tons in weight: hence if this much is above water, none is below. Ice is exceptional to all other bodies except bismuth. All other bodies have 1090 feet below the surface and 2 feet extra for every degree centigrade. If it were not for this, all fish would die, and the earth be held in an iron grip.
P.S.—When I say 1090 feet, I mean 1090 feet per second.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 179-80, Question 13. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: Show how the hypothenuse face of a right-angled prism may be used as a reflector. What connection is there between the refractive index of a medium and the angle at which an emergent ray is totally reflected?
Answer: Any face of any prism may be used as a reflector. The con nexion between the refractive index of a medium and the angle at which an emergent ray does not emerge but is totally reflected is remarkable and not generally known.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 182-3, Question 29. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: State the relations existing between the pressure, temperature, and density of a given gas. How is it proved that when a gas expands its temperature is diminished?
Answer: Now the answer to the first part of this question is, that the square root of the pressure increases, the square root of the density decreases, and the absolute temperature remains about the same; but as to the last part of the question about a gas expanding when its temperature is diminished, I expect I am intended to say I don't believe a word of it, for a bladder in front of a fire expands, but its temperature is not at all diminished.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 175, Question 1. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: State what are the conditions favourable for the formation of dew. Describe an instrument for determining the dew point, and the method of using it.
Answer: This is easily proved from question 1. A body of gas as it ascends expands, cools, and deposits moisture; so if you walk up a hill the body of gas inside you expands, gives its heat to you, and deposits its moisture in the form of dew or common sweat. Hence these are the favourable conditions; and moreover it explains why you get warm by ascending a hill, in opposition to the well-known law of the Conservation of Energy.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 179, Question 12. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: What is the difference between a “real” and a “virtual” image? Give a drawing showing the formation of one of each kind.
Answer: You see a real image every morning when you shave. You do not see virtual images at all. The only people who see virtual images are those people who are not quite right, like Mrs. A. Virtual images are things which don't exist. I can't give you a reliable drawing of a virtual image, because I never saw one.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 177-8, Question 6. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: What is the reason that the hammers which strike the strings of a pianoforte are made not to strike the middle of the strings? Why are the bass strings loaded with coils of wire?
Answer: Because the tint of the clang would be bad. Because to jockey them heavily.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 176, Question 3. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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Question: Why do the inhabitants of cold climates eat fat? How would you find experimentally the relative quantities of heat given off when equal weights of sulphur, phosphorus, and carbon are thoroughly burned?
Answer: An inhabitant of cold climates (called Frigid Zoans) eats fat principally because he can't get no lean, also because he wants to rise is temperature. But if equal weights of sulphur phosphorus and carbon are burned in his neighbourhood he will give off eating quite so much. The relative quantities of eat given off will depend upon how much sulphur etc. is burnt and how near it is burned to him. If I knew these facts it would be an easy sum to find the answer.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 183, Question 32. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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A contradiction (between science and religion) is out of the question. What follows from science are, again and again, clear indications of God’s activity which can be so strongly perceived that Kepler dared to say (for us it seems daring, not for him) that he could ‘almost touch God with his hand in the Universe.’
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A good scientist is a person in whom the childhood quality of perennial curiosity lingers on. Once he gets an answer, he has other questions.
Widely circulated without citation, for example, in Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans III and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (1991), 471. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 121
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A man who sets out to justify his existence and his activities has to distinguish two different questions. The first is whether the work which he does is worth doing; and the second is why he does it (whatever its value may be).
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 66.
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A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
First sentences in When Prophecy Fails (1956), 3.
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A plain, reasonable working man supposes, in the old way which is also the common-sense way, that if there are people who spend their lives in study, whom he feeds and keeps while they think for him—then no doubt these men are engaged in studying things men need to know; and he expects of science that it will solve for him the questions on which his welfare, and that of all men, depends. He expects science to tell him how he ought to live: how to treat his family, his neighbours and the men of other tribes, how to restrain his passions, what to believe in and what not to believe in, and much else. And what does our science say to him on these matters?
It triumphantly tells him: how many million miles it is from the earth to the sun; at what rate light travels through space; how many million vibrations of ether per second are caused by light, and how many vibrations of air by sound; it tells of the chemical components of the Milky Way, of a new element—helium—of micro-organisms and their excrements, of the points on the hand at which electricity collects, of X rays, and similar things.
“But I don't want any of those things,” says a plain and reasonable man—“I want to know how to live.”
In 'Modern Science', Essays and Letters (1903), 221-222.
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A principle of induction would be a statement with the help of which we could put inductive inferences into a logically acceptable form. In the eyes of the upholders of inductive logic, a principle of induction is of supreme importance for scientific method: “... this principle”, says Reichenbach, “determines the truth of scientific theories. To eliminate it from science would mean nothing less than to deprive science of the power to decide the truth or falsity of its theories. Without it, clearly, science would no longer have the right to distinguish its theories from the fanciful and arbitrary creations of the poet’s mind.” Now this principle of induction cannot be a purely logical truth like a tautology or an analytic statement. Indeed, if there were such a thing as a purely logical principle of induction, there would be no problem of induction; for in this case, all inductive inferences would have to be regarded as purely logical or tautological transformations, just like inferences in inductive logic. Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how we can justify its acceptance on rational grounds.
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A research laboratory jealous of its reputation has to develop less formal, more intimate ways of forming a corporate judgment of the work its people do. The best laboratories in university departments are well known for their searching, mutual questioning.
In Editorial, 'Is Science Really a Pack of Lies', Nature (1983), 303, 1257. As quoted and cited in Bradley P. Fuhrman, Jerry J. Zimmerman, Pediatric Critical Care (2011).
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A very sincere and serious freshman student came to my office with a question that had clearly been troubling him deeply. He said to me, ‘I am a devout Christian and have never had any reason to doubt evolution, an idea that seems both exciting and well documented. But my roommate, a proselytizing evangelical, has been insisting with enormous vigor that I cannot be both a real Christian and an evolutionist. So tell me, can a person believe both in God and in evolution?’ Again, I gulped hard, did my intellectual duty, a nd reassured him that evolution was both true and entirely compatible with Christian belief –a position that I hold sincerely, but still an odd situation for a Jewish agnostic.
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A wonderful exhilaration comes from holding in the mind the deepest questions we can ask. Such questions animate all scientists. Many students of science were first attracted to the field as children by popular accounts of important unsolved problems. They have been waiting ever since to begin working on a mystery. [With co-author Arthur Zajonc]
In George Greenstein and Arthur Zajonc, The Quantum Challenge: Modern Research on the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (2006), xii.
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According to the Boshongo people of central Africa, in the beginning, there was only darkness, water, and the great god Bumba. One day Bumba, in pain from a stomach ache, vomited up the sun. The sun dried up some of the water, leaving land. Still in pain, Bumba vomited up the moon, the stars, and then some animals. The leopard, the crocodile, the turtle, and finally, man. This creation myth, like many others, tries to answer the questions we all ask. Why are we here? Where did we come from?
Lecture (1987), 'The Origin of the Universe', collected in Black Holes And Baby Universes And Other Essays (1993), 99.
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All children are curious and I wonder by what process this trait becomes developed in some and suppressed in others. I suspect again that schools and colleges help in the suppression insofar as they meet curiosity by giving the answers, rather than by some method that leads from narrower questions to broader questions. It is hard to satisfy the curiosity of a child, and even harder to satisfy the curiosity of a scientist, and methods that meet curiosity with satisfaction are thus not apt to foster the development of the child into the scientist. I don't advocate turning all children into professional scientists, although I think there would be advantages if all adults retained something of the questioning attitude, if their curiosity were less easily satisfied by dogma, of whatever variety.
The Nature of Natural History (1950, 1990), 256-257.
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All interesting issues in natural history are questions of relative frequency, not single examples. Everything happens once amidst the richness of nature. But when an unanticipated phenomenon occurs again and again–finally turning into an expectation–then theories are overturned.
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All Nature bristles with the marks of interrogation—among the grass and the petals of flowers, amidst the feathers of birds and the hairs of mammals, on mountain and moorland, in sea and sky-everywhere. It is one of the joys of life to discover those marks of interrogation, these unsolved and half-solved problems and try to answer their questions.
In Riddles of Science (1932), 5.
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All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.
From website for PBS program, Stephen Hawking's Universe (1997).
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Although few expressions are more commonly used in writing about science than “science revolution,” there is a continuing debate as to the propriety of applying the concept and term “revolution” to scientific change. There is, furthermore, a wide difference of opinion as to what may constitute a revolution. And although almost all historians would agree that a genuine alteration of an exceptionally radical nature (the Scientific Revolution) occurred in the sciences at some time between the late fifteenth (or early sixteenth) century and the end of the seventeenth century, the question of exactly when this revolution occurred arouses as much scholarly disagreement as the cognate question of precisely what it was.
The Newtonian Revolution (1980), 3.
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An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is the recording of Nature's answer.
'The Meaning and Limits of Exact Science', Science (30 Sep 1949), 110, No. 2857, 325. Advance reprinting of chapter from book Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography (1949), 110.
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An experiment is never a failure solely because it fails to achieve predicted results. An experiment is a failure only when it also fails adequately to test the hypothesis in question, when the data it produces don’t prove anything one way or another.
In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values (1974), 102.
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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.
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Animals are such agreeable friends; they ask no questions, pass no criticisms.
(Mary Ann Evans, English Novelist)
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Are the atoms of the dextroacid (tartaric) grouped in the spirals of a right-hand helix or situated at the angles of an irregular tetrahedron, or arranged in such or such particular unsymmetrical fashion? We are unable to reply to these questions. But there can be no reason for doubting that the grouping of the atoms has an unsymmetrical arrangement with a non-superimposable image. It is not less certain that the atoms of the laevo-acid realize precisely an unsymmetrical arrangement of the inverse of the above.
Leçons de Chemie (1860), 25.
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Are we using science in ways that it wasn't intended to, in which case we should be a little careful, or are we using faith in ways that faith wasn't really designed for? There are certain questions that are better answered by one approach than the other, and if you start mixing that up, then you end up in … conflict.
From video of interview with Huffington post reporter at the 2014 Davos Annual Meeting, World Economic Forum (25 Jan 2014). On web page 'Dr. Francis Collins: “There Is An Uneasiness” About Evolution'
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As a doctor, as a man of science, I can tell you there is no such thing as curses Everything just happens as a question of probability. The statistical likelihood of a specific event.
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As I show you this liquid, I too could tell you, 'I took my drop of water from the immensity of creation, and I took it filled with that fecund jelly, that is, to use the language of science, full of the elements needed for the development of lower creatures. And then I waited, and I observed, and I asked questions of it, and I asked it to repeat the original act of creation for me; what a sight it would be! But it is silent! It has been silent for several years, ever since I began these experiments. Yes! And it is because I have kept away from it, and am keeping away from it to this moment, the only thing that it has not been given to man to produce, I have kept away from it the germs that are floating in the air, I have kept away from it life, for life is the germ, and the germ is life.'
Quoted in Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur, trans. Elborg Forster (1994), 169.
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As our technology evolves, we will have the capacity to reach new, ever-increasing depths. The question is: What kind of technology, in the end, do we want to deploy in the far reaches of the ocean? Tools of science, ecology and documentation, or the destructive tools of heavy industry? Some parts of our oceans, like the rich and mysterious recesses of our Atlantic submarine canyons and seamounts, are so stunning and sensitive they deserve to be protected from destructive activities.
In 'Ocean Oases: Protecting Canyons & Seamounts of the Atlantic Coast', The Huffington Post (8 Jun 2011).
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As soon as questions of will or decision or reason or choice of action arise, human science is at a loss.
From a British television interview (30 Mar 1978) quoted in The Listener (6 Apr 1978). In Alfred J. Kolatch, Great Jewish Quotations (1996), 87.
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As, no matter what cunning system of checks we devise, we must in the end trust some one whom we do not check, but to whom we give unreserved confidence, so there is a point at which the understanding and mental processes must be taken as understood without further question or definition in words. And I should say that this point should be fixed pretty early in the discussion.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 220-221.
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As, pricked out with less and greater lights, between the poles of the universe, the Milky Way so gleameth white as to set very sages questioning.
In The Paradiso of Dante Alighieri (1899, 1904), 175.
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Ask a scientist a very profound question on his science, and he will be silent. Ask a religious person a very simple question on his religion, and he will be frenzied.
Quotations: Superultramodern Science and Philosophy (2005).
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At this very minute, with almost absolute certainty, radio waves sent forth by other intelligent civilizations are falling on the earth. A telescope can be built that, pointed in the right place, and tuned to the right frequency, could discover these waves. Someday, from somewhere out among the stars, will come the answers to many of the oldest, most important, and most exciting questions mankind has asked.
In Intelligent Life in Space (1962), 111.
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Because intelligence is our own most distinctive feature, we may incline to ascribe superior intelligence to the basic primate plan, or to the basic plan of the mammals in general, but this point requires some careful consideration. There is no question at all that most mammals of today are more intelligent than most reptiles of today. I am not going to try to define intelligence or to argue with those who deny thought or consciousness to any animal except man. It seems both common and scientific sense to admit that ability to learn, modification of action according to the situation, and other observable elements of behavior in animals reflect their degrees of intelligence and permit us, if only roughly, to compare these degrees. In spite of all difficulties and all the qualifications with which the expert (quite properly) hedges his conclusions, it also seems sensible to conclude that by and large an animal is likely to be more intelligent if it has a larger brain at a given body size and especially if its brain shows greater development of those areas and structures best developed in our own brains. After all, we know we are intelligent, even though we wish we were more so.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 78.
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Before an experiment can be performed, it must be planned—the question to nature must be formulated before being posed. Before the result of a measurement can be used, it must be interpreted—nature's answer must be understood properly. These two tasks are those of the theorist, who finds himself always more and more dependent on the tools of abstract mathematics. Of course, this does not mean that the experimenter does not also engage in theoretical deliberations. The foremost classical example of a major achievement produced by such a division of labor is the creation of spectrum analysis by the joint efforts of Robert Bunsen, the experimenter, and Gustav Kirchoff, the theorist. Since then, spectrum analysis has been continually developing and bearing ever richer fruit.
'The Meaning and Limits of Exact Science', Science (30 Sep 1949), 110, No. 2857, 325. Advance reprinting of chapter from book Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography (1949), 110.
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Behold the mighty dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his power and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains—
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason 'A priori'
As well as 'A posteriori'.
No problem bothered him a bit
He made both head and tail of it.
So wise was he, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled just a spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong
It passed a few ideas along.
If something slipped his forward mind
'Twas rescued by the one behind.
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgment to revoke.
Thus he could think without congestion
Upon both sides of every question.
Oh, gaze upon this model beast
Defunct ten million years at least.
'The Dinosaur: A Poem' (1912). In E. H. Colbert (ed.), The Dinosaur Book (1951), 78.
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But beyond the bright searchlights of science,
Out of sight of the windows of sense,
Old riddles still bid us defiance,
Old questions of Why and of Whence.
from Recent Development of Physical Science (p. 10)
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But psychoanalysis has taught that the dead—a dead parent, for example—can be more alive for us, more powerful, more scary, than the living. It is the question of ghosts.
Quoted in 'Jacques Derrida,' by Mitchell Stephens, New York Times Magazine (January 23, 1994).
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But when we face the great questions about gravitation Does it require time? Is it polar to the 'outside of the universe' or to anything? Has it any reference to electricity? or does it stand on the very foundation of matter–mass or inertia? then we feel the need of tests, whether they be comets or nebulae or laboratory experiments or bold questions as to the truth of received opinions.
Letter to Michael Faraday, 9 Nov 1857. In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 1846-1862, 551-2.
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By asking questions and quickly reading some books, [Melvin Calvin] felt comfortable in many fields of endeavor.
Co-author with Andrew A. Benson, 'Melvin Calvin', Biographical Memoirs of the US National Academy of Science.
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Considered as a mere question of physics, (and keeping all moral considerations entirely out of sight,) the appearance of man is a geological phenomenon of vast importance, indirectly modifying the whole surface of the earth, breaking in upon any supposition of zoological continuity, and utterly unaccounted for by what we have any right to call the laws of nature.
'Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831', Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 306.
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Darwin grasped the philosophical bleakness with his characteristic courage. He argued that hope and morality cannot, and should not, be passively read in the construction of nature. Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not ‘discovered’ in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us–questions about the factual state of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. If we grant nature the independence of her own domain–her answers unframed in human terms–then we can grasp her exquisite beauty in a free and humble way. For then we become liberated to approach nature without the burden of an inappropriate and impossible quest for moral messages to assuage our hopes and fears. We can pay our proper respect to nature’s independence and read her own ways as beauty or inspiration in our different terms.
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De Morgan was explaining to an actuary what was the chance that a certain proportion of some group of people would at the end of a given time be alive; and quoted the actuarial formula, involving p [pi], which, in answer to a question, he explained stood for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. His acquaintance, who had so far listened to the explanation with interest, interrupted him and exclaimed, 'My dear friend, that must be a delusion, what can a circle have to do with the number of people alive at a given time?'
Mathematical Recreations and Problems (1896), 180; See also De Morgan's Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 172.
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Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact–which creationists have mastered. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent’s position. They are good at that. I don’t think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!
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Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, given rise to considerable dispute and, indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer. What complicates the solution, however, is the fact that while most people readily agree on what is meant by ‘science,’ they are likely to differ on the meaning of ‘religion.’
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During the last two centuries and a half, physical knowledge has been gradually made to rest upon a basis which it had not before. It has become mathematical. The question now is, not whether this or that hypothesis is better or worse to the pure thought, but whether it accords with observed phenomena in those consequences which can be shown necessarily to follow from it, if it be true
In Augustus De Morgan and Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (ed.), A Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 2.
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Education must be subversive if it is to be meaningful. By this I mean that it must challenge all the things we take for granted, examine all accepted assumptions, tamper with every sacred cow, and instil a desire to question and doubt.
As quoted, without citation, in Ronald William Clark, The Life of Bertrand Russell (1976), 423.
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Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
A Brief History of Time (1998), 190.
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Eventually the process of aging, which is unlikely to be simple, should be understandable. Hopefully some of its processes can be slowed down or avoided. In fact, in the next century, we shall have to tackle the question of the preferred form of death.
(1986).
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Every one who has seriously investigated a novel question, who has really interrogated Nature with a view to a distinct answer, will bear me out in saying that it requires intense and sustained effort of imagination.
In The Principles of Success in Literature (1901), 66.
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Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation but as a question.
[A caution he gives his students, to be wary of dogmatism.]
In Bill Becker, 'Pioneer of the Atom', New York Times Sunday Magazine (20 Oct 1957), 52.
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Experimentation is the least arrogant method of gaining knowledge. The experimenter humbly asks a question of nature.
[Unverified. Please contact Webmaster if you can identify the primary source.]
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Extrasensory perception is a scientifically inept term. By suggesting that forms of human perception exist beyond the senses, it prejudges the question.
In Margaret Mead and Rhoda Bubendey Métraux (ed.), Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views (1979), 220.
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Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise.
In 'The Future of Data Analysis', Annals of Mathematical Statistics (1962), 33, No. 1, 13-14.
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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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Food is the burning question in animal society, and the whole structure and activities of the community are dependent upon questions of food-supply.
(1960)
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For every complex question there is a simple answer–and it's wrong.
Anonymous
Although often seen attributed to H.L. Mencken, webmaster has not found found a primary source, and no authoritative quote collection containing it. If you have a primary source, please contact webmaster, who meanwhile lists this quote as only being author unknown.
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For scholars and laymen alike it is not philosophy but active experience in mathematics itself that can alone answer the question: What is mathematics?
As co-author with Herbert Robbins, in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (1941, 1996), xiii.
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For those of us who make only a brief study of chemistry, the benefits to be expected are of an indirect nature. Increased capacity for enjoyment, a livelier interest in the world in which we live, a more intelligent attitude toward the great questions of the day—these are the by-products of a well-balanced education, including chemistry in its proper relation to other studies.
In 'Introduction', General Chemistry: An Elementary Survey Emphasizing Industrial Applications of Fundamental Principles (1923), 4.
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From time immemorial, the infinite has stirred men's emotions more than any other question. Hardly any other idea has stimulated the mind so fruitfully. Yet, no other concept needs clarification more than it does.
In address (4 Jun 1925), at a congress of the Westphalian Mathematical Society in Munster, in honor of Karl Weierstrass. First published in Mathematische Annalen (1926), 95, 161-190. Translated by Erna Putnam and Gerald J. Massey as 'On the Infinite', collected in Paul Benacerraf (ed.) Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected Readings (1983), 185. Compare another translation elsewhere on this page, beginning, “The Infinite!…”.
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Genius knows where the questions are hidden
City Aphorisms, Fourth Selection (1987).
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Geometrical axioms are neither synthetic a priori conclusions nor experimental facts. They are conventions: our choice, amongst all possible conventions, is guided by experimental facts; but it remains free, and is only limited by the necessity of avoiding all contradiction. ... In other words, axioms of geometry are only definitions in disguise.
That being so what ought one to think of this question: Is the Euclidean Geometry true?
The question is nonsense. One might as well ask whether the metric system is true and the old measures false; whether Cartesian co-ordinates are true and polar co-ordinates false.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 110.
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Get rid of every pound of material you can do without; put to yourself the question, ‘What business has this to be there?’
As quoted in Joseph Wickham Roe, English and American Tool Builders (1916), 49.
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Gödel proved that the world of pure mathematics is inexhaustible; no finite set of axioms and rules of inference can ever encompass the whole of mathematics; given any finite set of axioms, we can find meaningful mathematical questions which the axioms leave unanswered. I hope that an analogous Situation exists in the physical world. If my view of the future is correct, it means that the world of physics and astronomy is also inexhaustible; no matter how far we go into the future, there will always be new things happening, new information coming in, new worlds to explore, a constantly expanding domain of life, consciousness, and memory.
From Lecture 1, 'Philosophy', in a series of four James Arthur Lectures, 'Lectures on Time and its Mysteries' at New York University (Autumn 1978). Printed in 'Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe', Reviews of Modern Physics (Jul 1979), 51, 449.
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Here I shall present, without using Analysis [mathematics], the principles and general results of the Théorie, applying them to the most important questions of life, which are indeed, for the most part, only problems in probability. One may even say, strictly speaking, that almost all our knowledge is only probable; and in the small number of things that we are able to know with certainty, in the mathematical sciences themselves, the principal means of arriving at the truth—induction and analogy—are based on probabilities, so that the whole system of human knowledge is tied up with the theory set out in this essay.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 1.
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His genius was in asking the right questions and seeing explanations that did not readily occur to others. He loved and lived science and was an inspiration to all who came in contact with him.
Co-author with Marilyn Taylor and Robert E. Connick, obituary, 'Melvin Calvin', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (Dec 2000), 144, No. 4, 457.
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Human spirituality is to seek an answer to the question: “how can you make sense out of a world which does not seem to be intrinsically reasonable?”
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 44
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I am born into an environment–I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither–all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out about it as much as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge; it is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surroundings of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth.
…...
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I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
…...
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I believe that certain erroneous developments in particle theory ... are caused by a misconception by some physicists that it is possible to avoid philosophical arguments altogether. Starting with poor philosophy, they pose the wrong questions. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that good physics has at times been spoiled by poor philosophy.
…...
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I believe the best test of a model is how well can the modeller answer the questions, ‘What do you know now that you did not know before?’ and ‘How can you find out if it is true?’
In Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul (1995), 177.
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I cannot answer your question, because I have not yet read that chapter in the textbook myself, but if you will come to me tomorrow I shall then have read it, and may be able to answer you.
In reply to a student’s question after a lecture. As given in quotation marks in T. Brailsford Robertson, The Spirit of Research (1931), Vol. 1, 161. Note: Robertson worked in Loeb’s lab, and may be giving a recollection in his own words, rather than a verbatim quote.
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I conclude that, while it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.
Religion and Science (1935), 243.
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I grew up in love with science, asking the same questions all children ask as they try to codify the world to find out what makes it work. “Who is the smartest person in the world?” and “Where is the tallest mountain in the world?” turned into questions like, “How big is the universe?” and “What is it that makes us alive?”
In Introduction to Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), xix.
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I have been asked whether I would agree that the tragedy of the scientist is that he is able to bring about great advances in our knowledge, which mankind may then proceed to use for purposes of destruction. My answer is that this is not the tragedy of the scientist; it is the tragedy of mankind.
S. R. Weart and G. W. Sallard (eds.), Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts (1978), 229.
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I have lived much of my life among molecules. They are good company. I tell my students to try to know molecules, so well that when they have some question involving molecules, they can ask themselves, What would I do if I were that molecule? I tell them, Try to feel like a molecule; and if you work hard, who knows? Some day you may get to feel like a big molecule!
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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I have often had cause to feel that my hands are cleverer than my head. That is a crude way of characterizing the dialectics of experimentation. When it is going well, it is like a quiet conversation with Nature. One asks a question and gets an answer, then one asks the next question and gets the next answer. An experiment is a device to make Nature speak intelligibly. After that, one only has to listen.
Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1967). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: (1999), Vol. 4 (1963-197), 292.
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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 know few significant questions of public policy which can safely be confided to computers. In the end, the hard decisions inescapably involve imponderables of intuition, prudence, and judgment.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
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I never really paused for a moment to question the idea that the progressive spiritualization of matter—so clearly demonstrated to me by Paleontology—could be anything other, or anything less, than an irreversible process. By its gravitational nature, the Universe, I saw, was falling—falling forwards—in the direction of spirit as upon its stable form. In other words, Matter was not ultra-materialized as I would at first have believed, but was instead metamorphosed in Psyche.
In The Heart of Matter (1978), 27.
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I ought to say that one of our first joint researches, so far as publication was concerned, had the peculiar effect of freeing me forever from the wiles of college football, and if that is a defect, make the most of it! Dr. Noyes and I conceived an idea on sodium aluminate solutions on the morning of the day of a Princeton-Harvard game (as I recall it) that we had planned to attend. It looked as though a few days' work on freezing-point determinations and electrical conductivities would answer the question. We could not wait, so we gave up the game and stayed in the laboratory. Our experiments were successful. I think that this was the last game I have ever cared about seeing. I mention this as a warning, because this immunity might attack anyone. I find that I still complainingly wonder at the present position of football in American education.
Address upon receiving the Perkin Medal Award, 'The Big Things in Chemistry', The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Feb 1921), 13, No. 2, 162-163.
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I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’
In 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence', Mind (1950), 59, 433.
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I remember discussions with Bohr which went through many hours till very late at night and ended almost in despair; and when at the end of the discussion I went alone for a walk in the neighboring park I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature possibly be as absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?
In Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958, 1962), 42.
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I should like to call the number of atom groups, with which an elementary atom coordinates … to form a complex radical, the coordination number of the atom in question … We must differentiate between valence number and coordination number. The valence number indicates the maximum number of monovalent atoms which can be bound directly to the atom in question without the participation of other elementary atoms … Perhaps this concept [of coordination number] is destined to serve as a basis for the theory of the constitution of inorganic compounds, just as valence theory formed the basis for the constitutional theory of carbon compounds.
In 'Beitrag zur Konstitution anorganischer Verbindungen', Zeitschrift fur anorganische Chemie, (1893), 3, 267-330. Translated in George G. Kauffman (ed.), Classics in Coordination Chemistry: Part I: The Selected Papers of Alfred Werner (1968), 84-87.
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I thank you for your Expt on the Hedge Hog; but why do you ask me such a question, by way of solving it. I think your solution is just; but why think, why not try the Expt.
[Often seen, without context, briefly as: But why think, why not try the experiment?']
Letter to Edward Jenner (2 Aug 1775). In A. J. Harding Rains (ed.), Letters From the Past: From John Hunter to Edward Jenner (1976), 9.
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I then began to study arithmetical questions without any great apparent result, and without suspecting that they could have the least connexion with my previous researches. Disgusted at my want of success, I went away to spend a few days at the seaside, and thought of entirely different things. One day, as I was walking on the cliff, the idea came to me, again with the same characteristics of conciseness, suddenness, and immediate certainty, that arithmetical transformations of indefinite ternary quadratic forms are identical with those of non-Euclidian geometry.
Science and Method (1908), trans. Francis Maitland (1914), 53-4.
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I thought existing zoo programmes were really not doing animals justice. They all looked like oddities, like bizarre stage things, when, really, in their own environment, they are wonderful answers to very complex questions.
Explaining his motivation for his earliest groundbreaking Zoo Quest nature TV series featuring on location filming. From interview with Alice Roberts, 'Attenborough: My Life on Earth', The Biologist (Aug 2015), 62, No. 4, 15.
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I would picture myself as a virus, or as a cancer cell, for example, and try to sense what it would be like to be either. I would also imagine myself as the immune system, and I would try to reconstruct what I would do as an immune system engaged in combating a virus or cancer cell. When I had played through a series of such scenarios on a particular problem and had acquired new insights, I would design laboratory experiments accordingly… Based upon the results of the experiment, I would then know what question to ask next… When I observed phenomena in the laboratory that I did not understand, I would also ask questions as if interrogating myself: “Why would I do that if I were a virus or a cancer cell, or the immune system?” Before long, this internal dialogue became second nature to me; I found that my mind worked this way all the time.
In Anatomy of Reality: Merging of Intuition and Reason (1983), 7, footnote b, as quoted and cited in Roger Frantz, Two Minds: Intuition and Analysis in the History of Economic Thought (2006), 7.
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I, however, believe that for the ripening of experience the light of an intelligent theory is required. People are amused by the witticism that the man with a theory forces from nature that answer to his question which he wishes to have but nature never answers unless she is questioned, or to speak more accurately, she is always talking to us and with a thousand tongues but we only catch the answer to our own question.
Quoted in Major Greenwood, Epidemiology Historical and Experimental. The Herter Lectures for 1931 (1932), 13.
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If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it—the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.
In 'The Ethics of Belief', Contemporary Review (Jan 1877), collected in Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays: By the Late William Kingdon Clifford, F.R.S. (1886), 346.
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If a mathematician wishes to disparage the work of one of his colleagues, say, A, the most effective method he finds for doing this is to ask where the results can be applied. The hard pressed man, with his back against the wall, finally unearths the researches of another mathematician B as the locus of the application of his own results. If next B is plagued with a similar question, he will refer to another mathematician C. After a few steps of this kind we find ourselves referred back to the researches of A, and in this way the chain closes.
From final remarks in 'The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of Semantics' (1944), collected in Leonard Linsky (ed.), Semantics and the Philosophy of Language: A Collection of Readings (1952), 41.
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If I make a decision it is a possession. I take pride in it, I tend to defend it and not listen to those who question it. If I make sense, then this is more dynamic, and I listen and I can change it. A decision is something you polish. Sensemaking is a direction for the next period.
Personal communication (13 Jun 1995). In Karl E. Weick, 'The Experience of Theorizing: Sensemaking as Topic and Resource'. Quoted in Ken G. Smith (ed.) and Michael A. Hitt (ed), Great Minds in Management: the Theory of Process Development (2005), 398. Weick writes that Gleason explains how leadership needs 'sensemaking rather than decision making.' As a highly skilled wildland firefighter he would make sense of an unfolding fire, giving directives that are open to revision at any time, so they can be self-correcting, responsive, with a transparent rationale. By contrast, decision making eats up valuable time with polishing the decision to get it 'right' and defending it, and also encourages blind spots.
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If I were to awaken after having slept for a thousand years, my first question would be: Has the Riemann hypothesis been proven?
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If the question were, “What ought to be the next objective in science?” my answer would be the teaching of science to the young, so that when the whole population grew up there would be a far more general background of common sense, based on a knowledge of the real meaning of the scientific method of discovering truth.
Marion Savin Selections from the Scientific Correspondence of Elihu Thomson (1971), v.
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If we want an answer from nature, we must put our questions in acts, not words, and the acts may take us to curious places. Some questions were answered in the laboratory, others in mines, others in a hospital where a surgeon pushed tubes in my arteries to get blood samples, others on top of Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains, or in a diving dress on the bottom of the sea. That is one of the things I like about scientific research. You never know where it will take you next.
From essay 'Some Adventures of a Biologist', as quoted in Ruth Moore, Man, Time, And Fossils (1953), 174.
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If you ask me whether science has solved, or is likely to solve, the problem of this universe, I must shake my head in doubt. We have been talking of matter and force; but whence came matter, and whence came force? You remember the first Napoleon’s question, when the savans who accompanied him to Egypt discussed in his presence the problem of the universe, and solved it to their apparent satisfaction. He looked aloft to the starry heavens, and said—“It is all very well, gentlemen, but who made all these!” That question still remains unanswered, and science makes no attempt to answer it.
Lecture 'On Matter and Force', to nearly 3,000 working men, at the Dundee Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Sep 1867), reported in 'Dundee Meeting, 1867', Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science (Nov 1867)
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If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.
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Ignorant people raise questions which were answered by the wise thousands of years ago.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 187.
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Imagine that … the world is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. … If we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules…. However, we might not be able to understand why a particular move is made in the game, merely because it is too complicated and our minds are limited…. We must limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game.
If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world.
In 'Basic Physics', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964, 2013), Vol. 1, 2-1.
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In 399 B.C. Socrates was accused of introducing new gods and questioning accepted gods. He was sentenced to death by a jury of 500 of his peers. His philosophy did not pass peer review.
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In a sense [for the Copenhagen Interpretation], the observer picks what happens. One of the unsolved questions is whether the observer’s mind or will somehow determines the choice, or whether it is simply a case of sticking in a thumb and pulling out a plum at random.
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In all disciplines in which there is systematic knowledge of things with principles, causes, or elements, it arises from a grasp of those: we think we have knowledge of a thing when we have found its primary causes and principles, and followed it back to its elements. Clearly, then, systematic knowledge of nature must start with an attempt to settle questions about principles.
Aristotle
In Physics Book 1, Chap 1, as translated in J.L. Ackrill, A New Aristotle Reader (1988), 81.
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In answer to the question, “Was the development of the atomic bomb by the United States necessary?” I reply unequivocally, “Yes.” To the question, “Is atomic energy a force for good or for evil?” I can only say, “As mankind wills it.”
Final statements in And Now It Can Be Told: The Story Of The Manhattan Project (1962), 415.
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In experimenting on the arc, my aim was not so much to add to the large number of isolated facts that had already been discovered, as to form some idea of the bearing of these upon one another, and thus to arrive at a clear conception of what takes place in each part of the arc and carbons at every moment. The attempt to correlate all the known phenomena, and to bind them together into one consistent whole, led to the deduction of new facts, which, when duly tested by experiment, became parts of the growing body, and, themselves, opened up fresh questions, to be answered in their turn by experiment.
In The Electric Arc (1902), Preface, iii. Ayrton described the growth of her published work on the electric arc, from a series of articles in The Electrician in 1895-6, to the full book, which “has attained to its present proportions almost with the growth of an organic body.”
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In my personal view, a failure to discover unimagined objects and answer unasked questions, once HST functions properly, would indicate a lack of imagination in stocking the Universe on the part of the Deity.
In Hubble Space Telescope flaw: hearing before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, second session, July 13, 1990 (1990), 105.
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In my youth I often asked what could be the use and necessity of smelting by putting powdered charcoal at the bottom of the furnace. Nobody could give me any other reason except that the metal and especially lead, could bury itself in the charcoal and so be protected against the action of the bellows which would calcine or dissipate it. Nevertheless it is evident that this does not answer the question. I accordingly examined the operation of a metallurgical furnace and how it was used. In assaying some litharge [lead oxide], I noticed each time a little charcoal fell into the crucible, I always obtained a bit of lead … I do not think up to the present time foundry-men ever surmised that in the operation of founding with charcoal there was something [phlogiston] which became corporeally united with the metal.
Traité de Soufre (1766), 64. French translation published 1766, first published in German in 1718.
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In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.
(1632). Attributed by F. Arago.
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In science, each of us knows that what he has accomplished will be antiquated in ten, twenty, fifty years. That is the fate to which science is subjected; it is the very meaning of scientific work, to which it is devoted in a quite specific sense, as compared with other spheres of culture for which in general the same holds. Every scientific “fulfilment” raises new “questions”; it asks to be “surpassed” and outdated. Whoever wishes to serve science has to resign himself to this fact. Scientific works certainly can last as “gratifications” because of their artistic quality, or they may remain important as a means of training. Yet they will be surpassed scientifically—let that be repeated—for it is our common fate and, more our common goal. We cannot work without hoping that others will advance further than we have. In principle, this progress goes on ad infinitum.
Max Weber
In 'Wissenschart als Berur', Gessammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre (1922), 524-525. Originally a Speech at Munich University. Translated as 'Science as a Vocation', reprinted in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright-Mills (eds.), Max Weber (1974), 138.
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In the course of the last century science has become so dizzy with its successes, that it has forgotten to ask the pertinent questions - or refused to ask them under the pretext that they are meaningless, and in any case not the scientists concern.
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In the modern world, science and society often interact in a perverse way. We live in a technological society, and technology causes political problems. The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know.” The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities. So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.
Frederick S. Pardee Distinguished Lecture (Oct 2005), Boston University. Collected in 'Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society', A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (2007), 43-44.
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In the search for truth there are certain questions that are not important. Of what material is the universe constructed? Is the universe eternal? Are there limits or not to the universe? ... If a man were to postpone his search and practice for Enlightenment until such questions were solved, he would die before he found the path.
Budha
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Increasingly, our leaders must deal with dangers that threaten the entire world, where an understanding of those dangers and the possible solutions depends on a good grasp of science. The ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, questions of diet and heredity. All require scientific literacy. Can Americans choose the proper leaders and support the proper programs if they themselves are scientifically illiterate? The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?
In Los Angeles Times (31 Mar 1989).
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Indeed, while Nature is wonderfully inventive of new structures, her conservatism in holding on to old ones is still more remarkable. In the ascending line of development she tries an experiment once exceedingly thorough, and then the question is solved for all time. For she always takes time enough to try the experiment exhaustively. It took ages to find how to build a spinal column or brain, but when the experiment was finished she had reason to be, and was, satisfied.
In The Whence and Whither of Man; a Brief History of his Origin and Development through Conformity to Environment; being the Morse Lectures of 1895. (1896), 173. The Morse lectureship was founded by Prof. Samuel F.B. Morse in 1865 at Union Theological Seminary, the lectures to deal with “the relation of the Bible to any of the sciences.”
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It is a peculiar feature in the fortune of principles of such high elementary generality and simplicity as characterise the laws of motion, that when they are once firmly established, or supposed to be so, men turn with weariness and impatience from all questionings of the grounds and nature of their authority. We often feel disposed to believe that truths so clear and comprehensive are necessary conditions, rather than empirical attributes of their subjects: that they are legible by their own axiomatic light, like the first truths of geometry, rather than discovered by the blind gropings of experience.
In An Introduction to Dynamics (1832), x.
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It is admitted, on all hands, that the Scriptures are not intended to resolve physical questions, or to explain matters in no way related to the morality of human actions; and if, in consequence of this principle, a considerable latitude of interpretation were not allowed, we should continue at this moment to believe, that the earth is flat; that the sun moves round the earth; and that the circumference of a circle is no more than three times its diameter.
In The Works of John Playfair: Vol. 1: Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1822), 137.
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It is better to stir up a question without deciding it than to decide it without stirring it up.
In Pensées and Letters of Joseph Joubert (1928), 74.
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It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.
The Ascent of Man (1973), 360.
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It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.
[Replying to query about his religious views]
Letter to a Dutch student (2 Apr 1873), in Charles Darwin and Sir Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1896), 276.
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It is impossible to devise an experiment without a preconceived idea; devising an experiment, we said, is putting a question; we never conceive a question without an idea which invites an answer. I consider it, therefore, an absolute principle that experiments must always be devised in view of a preconceived idea, no matter if the idea be not very clear nor very well defined.
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865, translation 1927, 1957), 23.
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It is not enough to say that we cannot know or judge because all the information is not in. The process of gathering knowledge does not lead to knowing. A child's world spreads only a little beyond his understanding while that of a great scientist thrusts outward immeasurably. An answer is invariably the parent of a great family of new questions. So we draw worlds and fit them like tracings against the world about us, and crumple them when we find they do not fit and draw new ones.
In John Steinbeck and Edward Flanders Ricketts, Sea of Cortez: a Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), 165-66.
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It is not of the essence of mathematics to be conversant with the ideas of number and quantity. Whether as a general habit of mind it would be desirable to apply symbolic processes to moral argument, is another question.
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 12.
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It is not only by the questions we have answered that progress may be measured, but also by those we are still asking. The passionate controversies of one era are viewed as sterile preoccupations by another, for knowledge alters what we seek as well as what we find.
In Freda Adler and Herbert Marcus Adler, Sisters in Crime (1975), 31.
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It is perhaps difficult for a modern student of Physics to realize the basic taboo of the past period (before 1956) … it was unthinkable that anyone would question the validity of symmetries under “space inversion,” “charge conjugation” and “time reversal.” It would have been almost sacrilegious to do experiments to test such unholy thoughts.
In paper presented to the International Conference on the History of Original Ideas and Basic Discoveries, Erice, Sicily (27 Jul-4 Aug 1994), 'Parity Violation' collected in Harvey B. Newman, Thomas Ypsilantis History of Original Ideas and Basic Discoveries in Particle Physics (1996), 381.
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It is rigid dogma that destroys truth; and, please notice, my emphasis is not on the dogma, but on the rigidity. When men say of any question, “This is all there is to be known or said of the subject; investigation ends here,” that is death. It may be that the mischief comes not from the thinker but for the use made of his thinking by late-comers. Aristotle, for example, gave us our scientific technique … yet his logical propositions, his instruction in sound reasoning which was bequeathed to Europe, are valid only within the limited framework of formal logic, and, as used in Europe, they stultified the minds of whole generations of mediaeval Schoolmen. Aristotle invented science, but destroyed philosophy.
Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, as recorded by Lucien Price (1954, 2001), 165.
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It is so hard for an evolutionary biologist to write about extinction caused by human stupidity ... Let me then float an unconventional plea, the inverse of the usual argument ... The extinction of Partula is unfair to Partula. That is the conventional argument, and I do not challenge its primacy. But we need a humanistic ecology as well, both for the practical reason that people will always touch people more than snails do or can, and for the moral reason that humans are legitimately the measure of all ethical questions–for these are our issues, not nature’s.
…...
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It is structure that we look for whenever we try to understand anything. All science is built upon this search; we investigate how the cell is built of reticular material, cytoplasm, chromosomes; how crystals aggregate; how atoms are fastened together; how electrons constitute a chemical bond between atoms. We like to understand, and to explain, observed facts in terms of structure. A chemist who understands why a diamond has certain properties, or why nylon or hemoglobin have other properties, because of the different ways their atoms are arranged, may ask questions that a geologist would not think of formulating, unless he had been similarly trained in this way of thinking about the world.
‘The Place of Chemistry In the Integration of the Sciences’, Main Currents in Modern Thought (1950), 7, 110.
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It is the constant attempt in this country [Canada] to make fundamental science responsive to the marketplace. Because technology needs science, it is tempting to require that scientific projects be justified in terms of the worth of the technology they can be expected to generate. The effect of applying this criterion is, however, to restrict science to developed fields where the links to technology are most evident. By continually looking for a short-term payoff we disqualify the sort of science that … attempts to answer fundamental questions, and, having answered them, suggests fundamentally new approaches in the realm of applications.
'A Scientist and the World He Lives In', Speech to the Empire Club of Canada (27 Nov 1986) in C. Frank Turner and Tim Dickson (eds.), The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1986-1987 (1987), 149-161.
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It is true that Fourier had the opinion that the principal end of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher as he is should have known that the unique end of science is the honor of the human mind and that from this point of view a question of [the theory of] number is as important as a question of the system of the world.
From letter to Legendre, translation as given in F.R. Moulton, 'The Influence of Astronomy on Mathematics', Science (10 Mar 1911), N.S. Vol. 33, No. 845, 359.
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It means you can try to answer questions you thought the universe was going to have to do without.
On supercomputers, NY Times 3 Jul 84
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It was a great step in science when men became convinced that, in order to understand the nature of things, they must begin by asking, not whether a thing is good or bad, noxious or beneficial, but of what kind it is? And how much is there of it? Quality and Quantity were then first recognised as the primary features to be observed in scientific inquiry.
'Address to the Mathematical and Physical Sections of the British Association, Liverpool, 15 Sep 1870', The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890 edition, reprint 2003), Vol. 2, 217.
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It will be possible, through the detailed determination of amino-acid sequences of hemoglobin molecules and of other molecules too, to obtain much information about the course of the evolutionary process, and to illuminate the question of the origin of species.
'Molecular Disease and Evolution'. Typescript of the Rudolph Virchow Lecture (5 Nov 1962). Quoted in T. Hager, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling (1997), 541.
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It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.
…...
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It's important to always bear in mind that life occurs in historical time. Everyone in every culture lives in some sort of historical time, though it might not be perceived in the same way an outside observer sees it. It's an interesting question, “When is now?” “Now” can be drawn from some point like this hour, this day, this month, this lifetime, or this generation. “Now” can also have occurred centuries ago; things like unfair treaties, the Trail of Tears, and the Black Hawk War, for instance, remain part of the “Now” from which many Native Americans view their place in time today. Human beings respond today to people and events that actually occurred hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Ethnohistorians have played a major role in showing how now is a social concept of time, and that time is part of all social life. I can only hope that their work will further the understanding that the study of social life is a study of change over time.
From Robert S. Grumet, 'An Interview with Anthony F. C. Wallace', Ethnohistory (Winter 1998), 45, No. 1, 127.
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It’s the Heisenberg principle. Me asking the question changes the answer.
On caution collecting opinions from advisors to refine decision-making. As quoted in Michael Lewis, 'Obama’s Way', Vanity Fair (Oct 2012).
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Let us dismiss the question, “Have you proven that your model is valid?” with a quick NO. Then let us take up the more rewarding and far more challenging question: “Have you proven that your model is useful for learning more… ” [Co-author]
In J.B. Mankin, R.V. O’Neill, H.H. Shugart and B.W. Rust, 'The Importance of Validation in Ecosystem Analysis', in: G.S. Innis (ed.), New Directions in the Analysis of Ecological Systems (1977), Part I, 69.
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Life is a thin narrowness of taken-for-granted, a plank over a canyon in a fog. There is something under our feet, the taken-for-granted. A table is a table, food is food, we are we—because we don’t question these things. And science is the enemy because it is the questioner. Faith saves our souls alive by giving us a universe of the taken-for-granted.
From a 1923 journal entry. As quoted in The Ghost in the Little House, ch. 7, by William V. Holtz (1993).
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Logic is not concerned with human behavior in the same sense that physiology, psychology, and social sciences are concerned with it. These sciences formulate laws or universal statements which have as their subject matter human activities as processes in time. Logic, on the contrary, is concerned with relations between factual sentences (or thoughts). If logic ever discusses the truth of factual sentences it does so only conditionally, somewhat as follows: if such-and-such a sentence is true, then such-and-such another sentence is true. Logic itself does not decide whether the first sentence is true, but surrenders that question to one or the other of the empirical sciences.
Logic (1937). In The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics (1967), 44.
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Man does not limit himself to seeing; he thinks and insists on learning the meaning of phenomena whose existence has been revealed to him by observation. So he reasons, compares facts, puts questions to them, and by the answers which he extracts, tests one by another. This sort of control, by means of reasoning and facts, is what constitutes experiment, properly speaking; and it is the only process that we have for teaching ourselves about the nature of things outside us.
In Claude Bernard and Henry Copley Greene (trans.), An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1927, 1957), 5.
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Many times every day I think of taking off in that missile. I’ve tried a thousand times to visualize that moment, to anticipate how I’ll feel if I’m first, which I very much want to be. But whether I go first or go later. I approach it now with some awe, and I’m sure I’ll approach it with even more awe on my day. In spite of the fact that I will he very busy getting set and keeping tabs on all the instruments, there’s no question that I’ll need—and will have—all my confidence.
As he wrote in an article for Life (14 Sep 1959), 38.
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Measurement has too often been the leitmotif of many investigations rather than the experimental examination of hypotheses. Mounds of data are collected, which are statistically decorous and methodologically unimpeachable, but conclusions are often trivial and rarely useful in decision making. This results from an overly rigorous control of an insignificant variable and a widespread deficiency in the framing of pertinent questions. Investigators seem to have settled for what is measurable instead of measuring what they would really like to know.
'Patient Care—Mystical Research or Researchable Mystique/', Clinical Research (1964), 12, no. 4, 422.
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Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.
In Eleonora (1850). Collected on The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1859), Vol. 1, 446.
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Men of science, fit to teach, hardly exist. There is no demand for such men. The sciences make up life; they are important to life. The highly educated man fails to understand the simplest things of science, and has no peculiar aptitude for grasping them. I find the grown-up mind coming back to me with the same questions over and over again.
Giving Evidence (18 Nov 1862) to the Public Schools Commission. As quoted in John L. Lewis, 125 Years: The Physical Society & The Institute of Physics (1999), 168.
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Metaphysical ghosts cannot be killed, because they cannot be touched; but they may be dispelled by dispelling the twilight in which shadows and solidities are easily confounded. The Vital Principle is an entity of this ghostly kind; and although the daylight has dissipated it, and positive Biology is no longer vexed with its visitations, it nevertheless reappears in another shape in the shadowy region of mystery which surrounds biological and all other questions.
The History of Philosophy from Thales to Comte (1867), lxxxiv.
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Methods of fishing are becoming more and more efficient, but the whole fishing industry is based on the exploitation of a wild population. This is almost a prehistoric concept on land, but it has never been questioned at sea.
Men, Machines, and Sacred Cows
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Much of the work we do as scientists involves filling in the details about matters that are basically understood already, or applying standard techniques to new specific cases. But occasionally there is a question that offers an opportunity for a really major discovery.
In Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Crater of Doom (1997), 42.
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My entire life consisted of musings, calculations, practical works and trials. Many questions remain unanswered; many works are incomplete or unpublished. The most important things still lie ahead.
As quoted in Air & Space Smithsonian (2002), 17, 69.
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My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference - asking good questions - made me become a scientist.
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Natural historians tend to avoid tendentious preaching in this philosophical mode (although I often fall victim to such temptations in these essays). Our favored style of doubting is empirical: if I wish to question your proposed generality, I w ill search for a counterexample in flesh and blood. Such counterexamples exist in abundance, for the form a staple in a standard genre of writing in natural history–the ‘wonderment of oddity’ or ‘strange ways of the beaver’ tradition.
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No more harmful nonsense exists than the common supposition that deepest insight into great questions about the meaning of life or the structure of reality emerges most readily when a free, undisciplined, and uncluttered (read, rather, ignorant and uneducated) mind soars above mere earthly knowledge and concern.
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No physiologist who calmly considers the question in connection with the general truths of his science, can long resist the conviction that different parts of the cerebrum subserve different kinds of mental action. Localization of function is the law of all organization whatever: separateness of duty is universally accompanied with separateness of structure: and it would be marvellous were an exception to exist in the cerebral hemispheres.
The Principles of Psychology (1855), 607.
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No question is so difficult as that to which the answer is obvious.
Anonymous
Saying.
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No question is so difficult to answer as that which the answer is obvious.
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Nobody in the world of policy appears to be asking what is best for society, wild fish or farmed fish. And what sort of farmed fish, anyway? Were this question to be asked, and answered honestly, we might find that our interests lay in prioritizing wild fish and making their ecosystems more productive by leaving them alone enough of the time.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat (2008), 313.
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Nonmathematical people sometimes ask me, “You know math, huh? Tell me something I’ve always wondered, What is infinity divided by infinity?” I can only reply, “The words you just uttered do not make sense. That was not a mathematical sentence. You spoke of ‘infinity’ as if it were a number. It’s not. You may as well ask, 'What is truth divided by beauty?’ I have no clue. I only know how to divide numbers. ‘Infinity,’ ‘truth,’ ‘beauty’—those are not numbers.”
From Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics (2003), 16.
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Nothing I then learned [in high school] had any bearing at all on the big and real questions. Who am I? What am I doing here? What is the world? What is my relationship to it?
This View of Life: the World of an Evolutionist (1964), 37.
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Now, I must tell you of a strange experience which bore fruit in my later life. ... We had a cold [snap] drier that ever observed before. People walking in the snow left a luminous trail behind them and a snowball thrown against an obstacle gave a flare of light like a loaf of sugar hit with a knife. [As I stroked] MaÄŤak's back, [it became] a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks. ... My father ... remarked, this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see on the trees in a storm. My mother seemed alarmed. Stop playing with the cat, she said, he might start a fire. I was thinking abstractly. Is nature a cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded. ...
I cannot exaggerate the effect of this marvelous sight on my childish imagination. Day after day I asked myself what is electricity and found no answer. Eighty years have gone by since and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it.
Letter to Miss Pola Fotitch, 'A Story of Youth Told by Age' (1939). In John Ratzlaff, editor, Tesla Said (1984), 283-84. Cited in Marc J. Seifer, Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla (1998), 5.
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On my tests I used to always give as my first question, define chemistry, because I thought every student should know what they were taking. I do this quite often.
In address, to the Economic Club of Detroit (14 Jan 1990), 'Where Do We Go From Here?' on the massiechairs.com website.
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On my tests, I [had] … what I called a “two and fifty question.” Two points if they got it right; 50 points off if they missed it.
Now this isn’t as unfair as it seems because much of life is that way. You can do right all your life and nobody says anything. But you go out and make one little mistake and everybody censures you.
In address, to the Economic Club of Detroit (14 Jan 1990), 'Where Do We Go From Here?' on the massiechairs.com website.
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On principle, there is nothing new in the postulate that in the end exact science should aim at nothing more than the description of what can really be observed. The question is only whether from now on we shall have to refrain from tying description to a clear hypothesis about the real nature of the world. There are many who wish to pronounce such abdication even today. But I believe that this means making things a little too easy for oneself.
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Once you have learned how to ask relevant and appropriate questions, you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know.
[Co-author with Charles Weingartner.]
Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1971), 23.
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One of the earliest questions asked by an intelligent child is: “What is this made of?” “What is that made of?” And the answer is generally more or less satisfactory. For example, if the question relates to butter, the reply may be, “From cream.” It may be explained, besides, that when cream is beaten up, or churned, the butter separates, leaving skim-milk behind. But the question has not been answered. The child may ask, “Was the butter in the milk before it was churned? or has it been made out of the milk by the churning?” Possibly the person to whom the question is addressed may know that the milk contained the butter in the state of fine globules, and that the process of churning breaks up the globules, and causes them to stick together. The original question has not really been answered; and indeed it is not an easy one to reply to. Precisely such questions suggested themselves to the people of old, and they led to many speculations.
Opening paragraph of Modern Chemistry (1900, rev. 1907), 1.
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Only reason can convince us of those three fundamental truths without a recognition of which there can be no effective liberty: that what we believe is not necessarily true; that what we like is not necessarily good; and that all questions are open.
In Civilization: An Essay (1928), 125.
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Our confused wish finds expression in the confused question as to the nature of force and electricity. But the answer which we want is not really an answer to this question. It is not by finding out more and fresh relations and connections that it can be answered; but by removing the contradictions existing between those already known, and thus perhaps by reducing their number. When these painful contradictions are removed, the question as to the nature of force will not have been answered; but our minds, no longer vexed, will cease to ask illegitimate questions.
Principles of Mechanics (1899), 7-8.
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Our contemporary culture, primed by population growth and driven by technology, has created problems of environmental degradation that directly affect all of our senses: noise, odors and toxins which bring physical pain and suffering, and ugliness, barrenness, and homogeneity of experience which bring emotional and psychological suffering and emptiness. In short, we are jeopardizing our human qualities by pursuing technology as an end rather than a means. Too often we have failed to ask two necessary questions: First, what human purpose will a given technology or development serve? Second, what human and environmental effects will it have?
Report of the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution (7 Aug 1969). 'Environmental Quality: Summary and Discussion of Major Provisions', U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Legal Compilation, (Jan 1973), Water, Vol. 3, 1365. EPA website.
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Our mind, by virtue of a certain finite, limited capability, is by no means capable of putting a question to Nature that permits a continuous series of answers. The observations, the individual results of measurements, are the answers of Nature to our discontinuous questioning.
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Our scientific work in physics consists in asking questions about nature in the language that we possess and trying to get an answer from experiment by the means at our disposal. In this way quantum theory reminds us, as Bohr has put it, of the old wisdom that when searching for harmony in life one must never forget that in the drama of existence we are ourselves both players and spectators. It is understandable that in our scientific relation to nature our own activity becomes very important when we have to deal with parts of nature into which we can penetrate only by using the most elaborate tools.
The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory (1958). In Steve Adams, Frontiers (2000), 13.
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Perhaps a species that has accumulated ... tons of explosive per capita has already demonstrated its biological unfitness beyond any further question.
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Philosophy asks the simple question, What is it all about?
In 'Remarks: Analysis of Meaning', The Philosophical Review (Mar 1937), 46, No. 2, 178. Collected in Barbara MacKinnon, American Philosophy: A Historical Anthology (1985), 406.
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Physicist Isador Isaac Rabi, who won a Nobel Prize for inventing a technique that permitted scientists to probe the structure of atoms and molecules in the 1930s, attributed his success to the way his mother used to greet him when he came home from school each day. “Did you ask any good questions today, Isaac?” she would say.
Thomas J. Peters, Liberation Management: Necessary Disorganization for the Nanosecond Nineties (1992).
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Questions of personal priority, however interesting they may be to the persons concerned, sink into insignificance in the prospect of any gain of deeper insight into the secrets of nature.
As quoted in Silvanus Phillips Thompson, The Life of Lord Kelvin (1910), Vol. 2, 602.
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Radium could become very dangerous in criminal hands, and here the question can be raised whether mankind benefits from knowing the secrets of Nature…
Nobel Lecture (6 June 1905), 'Radioactive Substances, Especially Radium', collected in Stig Lundqvist (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1901-1921 (1998), 78. A longer version of this quote on this web page begins, “It can even be thought that…”
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Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them.
In Kurt Hanks and Jay A. Parry, Wake Up Your Creative Genius (1991), 79.
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Reason must approach nature with the view, indeed, of receiving information from it, not, however, in the character of a pupil, who listens to all that his master chooses to tell him, but in that of a judge, who compels the witnesses to reply to those questions which he himself thinks fit to propose. To this single idea must the revolution be ascribed, by which, after groping in the dark for so many centuries, natural science was at length conducted into the path of certain progress.
Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn (1855), Preface to the Second Edition, xxvii.
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Religion closes off the central questions of existence by attempting to dissuade us from further enquiry by asserting that we cannot ever hope to comprehend. We are, religion asserts, simply too puny.
Essay collected in John Cornwell (ed.), 'The Limitless Power of Science', Nature's Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision (1995), 125.
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Religion is the antithesis of science; science is competent to illuminate all the deep questions of existence, and does so in a manner that makes full use of, and respects the human intellect. I see neither need nor sign of any future reconciliation.
In 'Religion - The Antithesis to Science', Chemistry & Industry (Feb 1997).
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Religion, in contrast to science, deploys the repugnant view that the world is too big for our understanding. Science, in contrast to religion, opens up the great questions of being to rational discussion, to discussion with the prospect of resolution and elucidation.
Essay collected in John Cornwell (ed.), 'The Limitless Power of Science', Nature's Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision (1995), 125.
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Remember that all models are wrong; the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful. [Co-author with Norman R. Draper]
In George E.P. Box and Norman R. Draper, Empirical Model-Building and Response Surfaces (1987), 74.
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Science advances through tentative answers to a series of more and more subtle questions which reach deeper and deeper into the essence of natural phenomena.
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Science asks no questions about the ontological pedigree or a priori character of a theory, but is content to judge it by its performance; and it is thus that a knowledge of nature, having all the certainty which the senses are competent to inspire, has been attained—a knowledge which maintains a strict neutrality toward all philosophical systems and concerns itself not with the genesis or a priori grounds of ideas.
Originally published in North American Review (1865). 'The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer,' repr. In Philosophical Writings of Chauncey Wright (1963), p. 8.
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Science can have a purifying effect on religion, freeing it from beliefs of a pre-scientific age and helping us to a truer conception of God. At the same time, I am far from believing that science will ever give us the answers to all our questions.
Essay 'Science Will Never Give Us the Answers to All Our Questions', collected in Henry Margenau, and Roy Abraham Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos (1992), 65.
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Science goes from question to question; big questions, and little, tentative answers. The questions as they age grow ever broader, the answers are seen to be more limited.
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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Science has hitherto been proceeding without the guidance of any rational theory of logic, and has certainly made good progress. It is like a computer who is pursuing some method of arithmetical approximation. Even if he occasionally makes mistakes in his ciphering, yet if the process is a good one they will rectify themselves. But then he would approximate much more rapidly if he did not commit these errors; and in my opinion, the time has come when science ought to be provided with a logic. My theory satisfies me; I can see no flaw in it. According to that theory universality, necessity, exactitude, in the absolute sense of these words, are unattainable by us, and do not exist in nature. There is an ideal law to which nature approximates; but to express it would require an endless series of modifications, like the decimals expressing surd. Only when you have asked a question in so crude a shape that continuity is not involved, is a perfectly true answer attainable.
Letter to G. F. Becker, 11 June 1893. Merrill Collection, Library of Congress. Quoted in Nathan Reingold, Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (1966), 231-2.
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Science has penetrated the constitution of nature, and unrolled the mysterious pages of its history, and started again many, as yet, unanswered questions in respect to the mutual relations of matter and spirit, of nature and of God.
Fifteen Years in the Chapel of Yale College (1887), 241.
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Science is not about building a body of known “facts”. It is a method for asking awkward questions and subjecting them to a reality-check, thus avoiding the human tendency to believe whatever makes us feel good.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 90.
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Science is the organised attempt of mankind to discover how things work as causal systems. The scientific attitude of mind is an interest in such questions. It can be contrasted with other attitudes, which have different interests; for instance the magical, which attempts to make things work not as material systems but as immaterial forces which can be controlled by spells; or the religious, which is interested in the world as revealing the nature of God.
In The Scientific Attitude (1941), Foreword, 9.
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Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question 'How?' but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question 'Why?'
Columbia Forum (1969), in Voices in the Labyrinth: Nature, Man and Science (1977), 8.
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Science proceeds by successive answers to questions more and more subtle, coming nearer and nearer to the very essence of phenomena.
From Études sur la bičre, Chap 6, Sec. vi. As translated by René J. Dubos, quoted and cited in Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), 526.
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Science tries to answer the question: ‘How?’ How do cells act in the body? How do you design an airplane that will fly faster than sound? How is a molecule of insulin constructed? Religion, by contrast, tries to answer the question: ‘Why?’ Why was man created? Why ought I to tell the truth? Why must there be sorrow or pain or death? Science attempts to analyze how things and people and animals behave; it has no concern whether this behavior is good or bad, is purposeful or not. But religion is precisely the quest for such answers: whether an act is right or wrong, good or bad, and why.
Science and Imagination, ch. 4, Basic Books (1967).
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Scientists alone can establish the objectives of their research, but society, in extending support to science, must take account of its own needs. As a layman, I can suggest only with diffidence what some of the major tasks might be on your scientific agenda, but ... First, I would suggest the question of the conservation and development of our natural resources. In a recent speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, I proposed a world-wide program to protect land and water, forests and wildlife, to combat exhaustion and erosion, to stop the contamination of water and air by industrial as well as nuclear pollution, and to provide for the steady renewal and expansion of the natural bases of life.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest'. Online at The American Presidency Project.
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Scientists are supposed to make predictions, probably to prove they are human and can be as mistaken as anyone else. Long-range predictions are better to make because the audience to whom the prediction was made is no longer around to ask questions. The alternative... is to make conflicting predictions, so that one prediction may prove right.
'Fossils—The How and Why of Collecting and Storing', Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (1969), 82, 597.
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Scientists can only carry on with their work, addressing legitimate questions as they arise and challenging misinformation. … Scientists work to fill the gaps in human knowledge and to build a theory that can explain observations of the world. Climate sceptics revel in such gaps, sometimes long after they have been filled.
Editorial, Nature (28 Jul 2011), 475, 423-424.
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Scientists repeatedly return to established theories to test them in new ways, and tend towards testiness with those priests, religious or secular, who know the answers already—whatever the questions are.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 90.
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Several of my young acquaintances are in their graves who gave promise of making happy and useful citizens and there is no question whatever that cigarettes alone were the cause of their destruction. No boy living would commence the use of cigarettes if he knew what a useless, soulless, worthless thing they would make of him.
Quoted in Henry Ford, The Case Against the Little White Slaver (1914), Vol. 1, 20.
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Since 1849 I have studied incessantly, under all its aspects, a question which was already in my mind [since 1832. I confess that my scheme is still a mere dream, and I do not shut my eyes to the fact that so long as I alone believe it to be possible, it is virtually impossible. ... The scheme in question is the cutting of a canal through the Isthmus of Suez. This has been thought of from the earliest historical times, and for that very reason is looked upon as impracticable. Geographical dictionaries inform us indeed that the project would have been executed long ago but for insurmountable obstacles. [On his inspiration for the Suez Canal.]
Letter to M.S.A. Ruyssenaers, Consul-General for Holland in Egypt, from Paris (8 Jul 1852), seeking support. Collected in Ferdinand de Lesseps, The Suez Canal: Letters and Documents Descriptive of Its Rise and Progress in 1854-1856 (1876), 2.
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Take risks. Ask big questions. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; if you don't make mistakes, you're not reaching far enough.
In Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, MBARI's First Decade: A Retrospective (1997), 3, withoug citation. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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The answer to the Great Question of … Life, the Universe and Everything … is Forty-two
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), Chapter 27.
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The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
Epigraph, without source citation, in The Art & Science of Assessing General Education Outcomes: A Practical Guide (2005), 1.
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The bushels of rings taken from the fingers of the slain at the battle of Cannć, above two thousand years ago, are recorded; … but the bushels of corn produced in England at this day, or the number of the inhabitants of the country, are unknown, at the very time that we are debating that most important question, whether or not there is sufficient substance for those who live in the kingdom.
In The Statistical Breviary: Shewing, on a Principle Entirely New, the Resources of Every State and Kingdom in Europe (1801), 7-8.
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The chemical differences among various species and genera of animals and plants are certainly as significant for the history of their origins as the differences in form. If we could define clearly the differences in molecular constitution and functions of different kinds of organisms, there would be possible a more illuminating and deeper understanding of question of the evolutionary reactions of organisms than could ever be expected from morphological considerations.
'Uber das Vorkommen von Haemoglobin in den Muskeln der Mollusken und die Verbreitung desselben in den lebenden Organismen', Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere, 1871, 4, 318-9. Trans. Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 270.
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The child asks, “What is the moon, and why does it shine?” “What is this water and where does it run?” “What is this wind?” “What makes the waves of the sea?” “Where does this animal live, and what is the use of this plant?” And if not snubbed and stunted by being told not to ask foolish questions, there is no limit to the intellectual craving of a young child; nor any bounds to the slow, but solid, accretion of knowledge and development of the thinking faculty in this way. To all such questions, answers which are necessarily incomplete, though true as far as they go, may be given by any teacher whose ideas represent real knowledge and not mere book learning; and a panoramic view of Nature, accompanied by a strong infusion of the scientific habit of mind, may thus be placed within the reach of every child of nine or ten.
In 'Scientific Education', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 71. https://books.google.com/books?id=13cJAAAAIAAJ Thomas Henry Huxley - 1870
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The complexity of an object depends not on itself, but of the degree to which it is investigated, and the questions we ourselves raise in investigating it.
In The Unity of Science (1921), 141.
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The description of some of the experiments, which are communicated here, was completely worked out at my writing-table, before I had seen anything of the phenomena in question. After making the experiments on the following day, it was found that nothing in the description required to be altered. I do not mention this from feelings of pride, but in order to make clear the extraordinary ease and security with which the relations in question can be considered on the principles of Arrhenius' theory of free ions. Such facts speak more forcibly then any polemics for the value of this theory .
Philosophical Magazine (1891), 32, 156.
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The development of mathematics is largely a natural, not a purely logical one: mathematicians are continually answering questions suggested by astronomers or physicists; many essential mathematical theories are but the reflex outgrowth from physical puzzles.
In 'The Teaching of the History of Science', The Scientific Monthly (Sep 1918), 194.
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The difference between myth and science is the difference between divine inspiration of “unaided reason” (as Bertrand Russell put it) on the one hand and theories developed in observational contact with the real world on the other. It is the difference between the belief in prophets and critical thinking, between Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd–Tertullian) and De omnibus est dubitandum (Everything should be questioned–Descartes). To try to write a grand cosmical drama leads necessarily to myth. To try to let knowledge substitute ignorance in increasingly large regions of space and time is science.
In 'Cosmology: Myth or Science?' Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (1984), 5, 79-98.
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The fact that, with respect to size, the viruses overlapped with the organisms of the biologist at one extreme and with the molecules of the chemist at the other extreme only served to heighten the mystery regarding the nature of viruses. Then too, it became obvious that a sharp line dividing living from non-living things could not be drawn and this fact served to add fuel for discussion of the age-old question of “What is life?”
Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1946), 'The Isolation and Properties of Crystalline Tobacco Mosaic Virus', collected in Nobel Lectures in Chemistry (1999), 140.
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The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.
In Albert Einstein and Léopold Infeld, The Evolution of Physics: The Growth of Ideas from Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta (1938, 1966), 92.
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The fundamental characteristic of the scientific method is honesty. In dealing with any question, science asks no favors. ... I believe that constant use of the scientific method must in the end leave its impress upon him who uses it. ... A life spent in accordance with scientific teachings would be of a high order. It would practically conform to the teachings of the highest types of religion. The motives would be different, but so far as conduct is concerned the results would be practically identical.
Address as its retiring president, to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, St. Louis (28 Dec 1903). 'Scientific Investigation and Progress', Nature 928 Jan 1904), 69:1787, 309.
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The great question, whether man is of nature or above her.
Man and Nature, (1864), 549.
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The great question. … is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, our land, our water? Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of America.
State of the Union Address (22 Jan 1970).
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The greatest achievements in the science of this [twentieth] century are themselves the sources of more puzzlement than human beings have ever experienced. Indeed, it is likely that the twentieth century will be looked back at as the time when science provided the first close glimpse of the profundity of human ignorance. We have not reached solutions; we have only begun to discover how to ask questions.
In 'On Science and Certainty', Discover Magazine (Oct 1980).
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The hypothetical character of continual creation has been pointed out, but why is it more of a hypothesis to say that creation is taking place now than that it took place in the past? On the contrary, the hypothesis of continual creation is more fertile in that it answers more questions and yields more results, and results that are, at least in principle, observable. To push the entire question of creation into the past is to restrict science to a discussion of what happened after creation while forbidding it to examine creation itself. This is a counsel of despair to be taken only if everything else fails.
From Cosmology (), 152.
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The infinite! No other question has ever moved so profoundly the spirit of man; no other idea has so fruitfully stimulated his intellect; yet no other concept stands in greater need of clarification than that of the infinite.
Address in memory of Karl Weierstrass. As quoted in Journal of the University of Bombay (1933), 2, 201. Also in Tobias Dantzig, Number: The Language of Science (1937), 237. Also partially quoted as epigraph in in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 3, 1593. which dates the address as 1921. Another translation for perhaps the same address ('On the Infinite'), in honor of Weierstrass, dates it as 4 Jun 1925, in Paul Benacerraf (ed.) Philosophy of Mathematics (1983), 183. See this alternate version elsewhere on this page, beginning, “From time immemorial…”.
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The literature of science is filled with answers found when the question propounded had an entirely different direction and end.
In John Steinbeck and Edward Flanders Ricketts Sea of Cortez: a Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), 179.
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The main Business of Natural Philosophy is to argue from Phćnomena 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 to such like Questions.
From 'Query 31', Opticks (1704, 2nd ed., 1718), 344.
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The mathematical take-over of physics has its dangers, as it could tempt us into realms of thought which embody mathematical perfection but might be far removed, or even alien to, physical reality. Even at these dizzying heights we must ponder the same deep questions that troubled both Plato and Immanuel Kant. What is reality? Does it lie in our mind, expressed by mathematical formulae, or is it “out there”.
In Book Review 'Pulling the Strings,' of Lawrence Krauss's Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Lure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond in Nature (22 Dec 2005), 438, 1081.
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The Mathematics, I say, which effectually exercises, not vainly deludes or vexatiously torments studious Minds with obscure Subtilties, perplexed Difficulties, or contentious Disquisitions; which overcomes without Opposition, triumphs without Pomp, compels without Force, and rules absolutely without Loss of Liberty; which does not privately over-reach a weak Faith, but openly assaults an armed Reason, obtains a total Victory, and puts on inevitable Chains; whose Words are so many Oracles, and Works as many Miracles; which blabs out nothing rashly, nor designs anything from the Purpose, but plainly demonstrates and readily performs all Things within its Verge; which obtrudes no false Shadow of Science, but the very Science itself, the Mind firmly adhering to it, as soon as possessed of it, and can never after desert it of its own Accord, or be deprived of it by any Force of others: Lastly the Mathematics, which depends upon Principles clear to the Mind, and agreeable to Experience; which draws certain Conclusions, instructs by profitable Rules, unfolds pleasant Questions; and produces wonderful Effects; which is the fruitful Parent of, I had almost said all, Arts, the unshaken Foundation of Sciences, and the plentiful Fountain of Advantage to human Affairs.
Address to the University of Cambridge upon being elected Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (14 Mar 1664). In Mathematical Lectures (1734), xxviii.
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The meaning of human life and the destiny of man cannot be separable from the meaning and destiny of life in general. 'What is man?' is a special case of 'What is life?' Probably the human species is not intelligent enough to answer either question fully, but even such glimmerings as are within our powers must be precious to us. The extent to which we can hope to understand ourselves and to plan our future depends in some measure on our ability to read the riddles of the past. The present, for all its awesome importance to us who chance to dwell in it, is only a random point in the long flow of time. Terrestrial life is one and continuous in space and time. Any true comprehension of it requires the attempt to view it whole and not in the artificial limits of any one place or epoch. The processes of life can be adequately displayed only in the course of life throughout the long ages of its existence.
The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 9.
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The meaning of life is 'the ultimate questioner's vanity.'
Quotations: Superultramodern Science and Philosophy (2005).
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The methods of science aren’t foolproof, but they are indefinitely perfectible. Just as important: there is a tradition of criticism that enforces improvement whenever and wherever flaws are discovered. The methods of science, like everything else under the sun, are themselves objects of scientific scrutiny, as method becomes methodology, the analysis of methods. Methodology in turn falls under the gaze of epistemology, the investigation of investigation itself—nothing is off limits to scientific questioning. The irony is that these fruits of scientific reflection, showing us the ineliminable smudges of imperfection, are sometimes used by those who are suspicious of science as their grounds for denying it a privileged status in the truth-seeking department—as if the institutions and practices they see competing with it were no worse off in these regards. But where are the examples of religious orthodoxy being simply abandoned in the face of irresistible evidence? Again and again in science, yesterday’s heresies have become today’s new orthodoxies. No religion exhibits that pattern in its history.
…...
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The mind God is looking for in man is a doubting, questioning mind, not a dogmatic mind; dogmatic reasoning is wrong reasoning. Dogmatic reason ties a huge rock to a man’s foot and stops him forever from advancing.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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The mind of man has perplexed itself with many hard questions. Is space infinite, and in what sense? Is the material world infinite in extent, and are all places within that extent equally full of matter? Do atoms exist or is matter infinitely divisible?
The Theory of Molecules', lecture to the British Association at Bradford. In The Popular Science Monthly (1874) vol. 4, 277.
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The more I find life to be a great design, the more I suspect it to be singular in existence; the more I suspect it to be singular, the more I feel it to be specific and personal; the more I feel it to be personal, the more I think of it to be a mere question; And the more I think of it to be a question, the less I understand the questioner.
Quotations: Superultramodern Science and Philosophy (2005).
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The more I study the things of the mind the more mathematical I find them. In them as in mathematics it is a question of quantities; they must be treated with precision. I have never had more satisfaction than in proving this in the realms of art, politics and history.
Notes made after the completion of the third chapter of Vol. 3 of La Rivolution, 22 April 1883. In E. Sparvel-Bayly (trans.), Life and Letters of H. Taine (1902-1908), Vol. 3, 239.
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The most important discoveries will provide answers to questions that we do not yet know how to ask and will concern objects that we can not yet imagine.
In Hubble Space Telescope flaw: hearing before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, second session, July 13, 1990 (1990), 105.
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The mythology of science asserts that with many different scientists all asking their own questions and evaluating the answers independently, whatever personal bias creeps into their individual answers is cancelled out when the large picture is put together. This might conceivably be so if scientists were women and men from all sorts of different cultural and social backgrounds who came to science with very different ideologies and interests. But since, in fact, they have been predominantly university-trained white males from privileged social backgrounds, the bias has been narrow and the product often reveals more about the investigator than about the subject being researched.
'Have Only Men Evolved?' Women Look at Biology Looking At Women, eds. Ruth Hubbard, Mary Sue Henifin, and Barbara Fried (1979).
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The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow where only one grew before.
'Evolution of the Scientific Point of View', essay, collected in The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation and Other Essays (1919), 33.
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The purpose of models is not to fit the data but to sharpen the questions.
Delivered at the Eleventh R. A. Fisher Memorial Lecture, Royal Society (20 April 1983). In Carl C. Gaither and Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither, Statistically Speaking: a Dictionary of Quotations (1996), 140.
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The question grows more troubling with each passing year how much of what yesterday’s science fiction regarded as unspeakably dreadful has become today’s awardwinning research
…...
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The question is not whether “big is ugly,” “small is beautiful,” or technology is “appropriate.” It is whether technologists will be ready for the demanding, often frustrating task of working with critical laypeople to develop what is needed or whether th
Technology Review (Feb 1980).
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The question is not: How can we justify the unobstructed teaching of evolution in public schools? The question, of course, is: How can we not?
In online article, 'The Day That Botany Took on Bobby Jindal by Just Being Itself', Huffington Post (5 Aug 2013).
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The Question is what is The Question?
Is it all a Magic Show?
Is Reality an Illusion?
What is the framework of The Machine?
Darwin’s Puzzle: Natural Selection?
Where does Space-Time come from?
Is there any answer except that it comes from consciousness?
What is Out There?
T’is Ourselves?
Or, is IT all just a Magic Show?
Einstein told me:
“If you would learn, teach!”
Speaking at the American Physical Society, Philadelphia (Apr 2003). As quoted and cited in Jack Sarfatti, 'Wheeler's World: It From Bit?', collected in Frank H. Columbus and Volodymyr Krasnoholovets (eds.), Developments in Quantum Physics (2004), 42.
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The question now at issue, whether the living species are connected with the extinct by a common bond of descent, will best be cleared up by devoting ourselves to the study of the actual state of the living world, and to those monuments of the past in which the relics of the animate creation of former ages are best preserved and least mutilated by the hand of time.
The Antiquity of Man (1863), 470.
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The question of questions for mankind—the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other—is the ascertainment of the place which Man occupies in nature and of his relations to the universe of things.
'On the Relations of Man to the Lower Animals' (1863). In Collected Essays (1894). Vol. 7, 77.
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The question of relevance comes before that of truth, because to ask whether a statement is true or false presupposes that it is relevant (so that to try to assert the truth or falsity of an irrelevant statement is a form of confusion)...
From Wholeness and the Implicate Order (1980, 2002), 42.
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The question of the origin of the hypothesis belongs to a domain in which no very general rules can be given; experiment, analogy and constructive intuition play their part here. But once the correct hypothesis is formulated, the principle of mathematical induction is often sufficient to provide the proof.
As co-author with Herbert Robbins, in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (1941, 1996), 15.
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The question of whether Machines Can Think ... is about as relevant as the question of whether Submarines Can Swim.
…...
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The question whether atoms exist or not... belongs rather to metaphysics. In chemistry we have only to decide whether the assumption of atoms is an hypothesis adapted to the explanation of chemical phenomena... whether a further development of the atomic hypothesis promises to advance our knowledge of the mechanism of chemical phenomena... I rather expect that we shall some day find, for what we now call atoms, a mathematico-mechanical explanation, which will render an account of atomic weight, of atomicity, and of numerous other properties of the so-called atoms.
Laboratory (1867), 1, 303.
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The questions we ask are "What?" and "How?" What are the facts and how are they related? If sometimes, in a moment of absent-mindedness or idle diversion, we ask the question "Why?" the answer escapes us.
In The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers (1932, 2003), 16
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The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do.
Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969), 288.
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The really important questions in human life are hardly touched upon by psychologists. Do liars come to believe their own lies? Is pleasure the same as happiness? Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved, or not to be able to love?
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 137.
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The scientific method … is nothing but the exclusion of subjective opinions as far as possible, by the devising of experiments where observation can give objective answers, yes or no, to questions whether events are causally connected.
In Science and the Humanities: The Rickman Godlee Lecture Delivered At University College London 25 October 1956 (1956), 12.
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The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.
The Raw and the Cooked: Mythologiques (1990), 7.
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The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.
Le Cru et le cuit, 1964
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The scientist, by the very nature of his commitment, creates more and more questions, never fewer. Indeed the measure of our intellectual maturity, one philosopher suggests, is our capacity to feel less and less satisfied with our answers to better problems.
Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality (1955), 67.
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The secret of science is to ask the right question, and it is the choice of problem more than anything else that marks the man of genius in the scientific world.
As quoted in the Inaugural Sir Henry Tizard Memorial Lecture at Westminster School (21 Feb 1963) by Sir George Thomson 'Research in Theory and Practice'. As cited Ray Corrigan, Digital Decision Making: Back to the Future (2007), 142.
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The spectacular thing about Johnny [von Neumann] was not his power as a mathematician, which was great, or his insight and his clarity, but his rapidity; he was very, very fast. And like the modern computer, which no longer bothers to retrieve the logarithm of 11 from its memory (but, instead, computes the logarithm of 11 each time it is needed), Johnny didn't bother to remember things. He computed them. You asked him a question, and if he didn't know the answer, he thought for three seconds and would produce and answer.
From interview with Donald J. Albers. In John H. Ewing and Frederick W. Gehring, Paul Halmos Celebrating 50 Years of Mathematics (1991), 9.
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The stories of Whitney’s love for experimenting are legion. At one time he received a letter asking if insects could live in a vacuum. Whitney took the letter to one of the members of his staff and asked the man if he cared to run an experiment on the subject. The man replied that there was no point in it, since it was well established that life could not exist without a supply of oxygen. Whitney, who was an inveterate student of wild life, replied that on his farm he had seen turtles bury themselves in mud each fall, and, although the mud was covered with ice and snow for months, emerge again in the spring. The man exclaimed, “Oh, you mean hibernation!” Whitney answered, “I don't know what I mean, but I want to know if bugs can live in a vacuum.”
He proceeded down the hall and broached the subject to another member of the staff. Faced with the same lack of enthusiasm for pursuing the matter further, Whitney tried another illustration. “I've been told that you can freeze a goldfish solidly in a cake of ice, where he certainly can't get much oxygen, and can keep him there for a month or two. But if you thaw him out carefully he seems none the worse for his experience.” The second scientist replied, “Oh, you mean suspended animation.” Whitney once again explained that his interest was not in the terms but in finding an answer to the question.
Finally Whitney returned to his own laboratory and set to work. He placed a fly and a cockroach in a bell jar and removed the air. The two insects promptly keeled over. After approximately two hours, however, when he gradually admitted air again, the cockroach waved its feelers and staggered to its feet. Before long, both the cockroach and the fly were back in action.
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357-358.
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The story is told of Lord Kelvin, a famous Scotch physicist of the last century, that after he had given a lecture on atoms and molecules, one of his students came to him with the question, “Professor, what is your idea of the structure of the atom.”
“What,” said Kelvin, “The structure of the atom? Why, don’t you know, the very word ‘atom’ means the thing that can’t be cut. How then can it have a structure?”
“That,” remarked the facetious young man, “shows the disadvantage of knowing Greek.”
As described in 'Assault on Atoms' (Read 23 Apr 1931 at Symposium—The Changing World) Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1931), 70, No. 3, 219.
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The suppression of crime is not entirely a legal question. It is a problem for the physician, the economist and the lawyer. We, as physicians, should encourage the criminologist by lending to him the surgeon, the internist and all of the rest of the resources of medicine, just as we have done in the case of the flea man, the fly man, the mosquito man, the bed-bug man and all the other ologists.
From paper read at the Section on State Medicine and Public Hygiene of the State Medical Association of Texas at El Paso (11 May 1922), 'The Use Of Scopolamine In Criminology', published in Texas State Journal of Medicine (Sep 1922). Reprinted in The American Journal of Police Science (Jul-Aug 1931), 2, No. 4, 328.
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The teacher can seldom afford to miss the questions: What is the unknown? What are the data? What is the condition? The student should consider the principal parts of the problem attentively, repeatedly, and from various sides.
In How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), 77
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The Unexpected stalks a farm in big boots like a vagrant bent on havoc. Not every farmer is an inventor, but the good ones have the seeds of invention within them. Economy and efficiency move their relentless tinkering and yet the real motive often seems to be aesthetic. The mind that first designed a cutter bar is not far different from a mind that can take the intractable steel of an outsized sickle blade and make it hum in the end. The question is how to reduce the simplicity that constitutes a problem (“It's simple; it's broke.”) to the greater simplicity that constitutes a solution.
In Making Hay (2003), 33-34.
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The University is a Mecca to which students come with something less than perfect faith. It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.
From The Ascent of Man (1973,2011), 275.
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The useless search of philosophers for a cause of the universe is a regressus in infinitum (a stepping backwards into the infinite) and resembles climbing up an endless ladder, the recurring question as to the cause of the cause rendering the attainment of a final goal impossible.
From Force and Matter: Or, Principles of the Natural Order of the Universe (15th ed. 1884), 10.
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The whole question of imagination in science is often misunderstood by people in other disciplines. ... They overlook the fact that whatever we are allowed to imagine in science must be consistent with everything else we know.
In The Feynman Lectures in Physics (1964), Vol. 2, Lecture 20, p.20-10. As quoted by James Gleick in Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 324.
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The worst primary school scolding I ever received was for ridiculing a classmate who asked, ‘What’s an atom?’ To my third grader’s mind, the question betrayed a level of ignorance more befitting a preschooler, but the teacher disagreed and banned me from recess for a week. I had forgotten the incident until a few years ago, while sitting in on a quantum mechanics class taught by a Nobel Prizewinning physicist. Midway through a brutally abstract lecture on the hydrogen atom, a plucky sophomore raised his hand and asked the very same question. To the astonishment of all, our speaker fell silent. He stared out the window for what seemed like an eternity before answering, ‘I don’t know.’
'The Secret Life of Atoms'. Discover (Jun 2007), 28:6, 52.
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The young genius early exults in the contemplation of power and beauty. During Scott’s childhood, a frightful thunder-storm raged at Edinburgh, which made his brothers and the domestics huddle together in one room, shivering with fear at every peal. Young Walter was found lying on his back in the garden, the rain pitilessly pelting his face, while he, almost convulsed with delight, shouted, at every flash, “bonnie! bonnie!” Schiller was found by his father, on a similar occasion, perched upon a tree, and, on being harshly questioned as to his object, whimpered out that he wanted to see where the thunder came from.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 204. A variation of the anecdote about Walter Scott is given in George Gilfillan (ed.), 'Memoir of Sir Walter Scott', The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott: With memoir and critical dissertation (1857), viii. The anecdote about Schiller is of dubious authenticity, according to Charles Follen (ed.), The Life of Friedrich Schiller: Comprehending an Examination of His Works (1837), 7
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There are all kinds of interesting questions that come from a knowledge of science, which only adds to the excitement and mystery and awe of a flower.
From interview by BBC TV in episode 'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out', Horizon (1981). Collected in Richard P. Feynman, 'The Making of a Scientist', What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character (2001), 11.
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There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.
Quoted, without citation, in Frank Crane, American Magazine (May 1923), 95, 41.
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There are still psychologists who, in a basic misunderstanding, think that gestalt theory tends to underestimate the role of past experience. Gestalt theory tries to differentiate between and-summative aggregates, on the one hand, and gestalten, structures, on the other, both in sub-wholes and in the total field, and to develop appropriate scientific tools for investigating the latter. It opposes the dogmatic application to all cases of what is adequate only for piecemeal aggregates. The question is whether an approach in piecemeal terms, through blind connections, is or is not adequate to interpret actual thought processes and the role of the past experience as well. Past experience has to be considered thoroughly, but it is ambiguous in itself; so long as it is taken in piecemeal, blind terms it is not the magic key to solve all problems.
In Productive Thinking (1959), 65.
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There is no area of the world that should not be investigated by scientists. There will always remain some questions that have not been answered. In general, these are the questions that have not yet been posed.
As quoted in J. Robert Moskin, Morality in America, 70-71. Otherwise unconfirmed in this form. Please contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. ... Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.
Life (10 Oct 1949), 136.
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There was a time when we wanted to be told what an electron is. The question was never answered. No familiar conceptions can be woven around the electron; it belongs to the waiting list.
The Nature Of The Physical World (1928), 290.
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There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
Address to the Mechanics Institute, 'An Address on the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton' (1835), excerpted in paper by Luis M. Laita, Luis de Ledesma, Eugenio Roanes-Lozano and Alberto Brunori, 'George Boole, a Forerunner of Symbolic Computation', collected in John A. Campbell and Eugenio Roanes-Lozano (eds.), Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation: International Conference AISC 2000 (2001), 3.
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There's no question in my mind that the capability of [the space shuttle] to put 65,000 pounds in low earth orbit—to put payloads up there cheaper than we've been able to do it before, not having to throw away the booster—will absolutely revolutionize the way we do business here on earth in ways that we just can't imagine. It will help develop science and technology. With the space shuttle—when we get it operational—we'll be able to do in 5 or 10 years what it would take us 20 to 30 years to do otherwise in science and technology development.
Interview for U.S. News & World Report (13 Apr 1981), 56.
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There’s Nature and she’s going to come out the way She is. So therefore when we go to investigate we shouldn’t predecide what it is we’re looking for only to find out more about it. Now you ask: “Why do you try to find out more about it?” If you began your investigation to get an answer to some deep philosophical question, you may be wrong. It may be that you can’t get an answer to that particular question just by finding out more about the character of Nature. But that’s not my interest in science; my interest in science is to simply find out about the world and the more I find out the better it is, I like to find out...
…...
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This theme of mutually invisible life at widely differing scales bears an important implication for the ‘culture wars’ that supposedly now envelop our universities and our intellectual discourse in general ... One side of this false dichotomy features the postmodern relativists who argue that all culturally bound modes of perception must be equally valid, and that no factual truth therefore exists. The other side includes the benighted, old-fashioned realists who insist that flies truly have two wings, and that Shakespeare really did mean what he thought he was saying. The principle of scaling provides a resolution for the false parts of this silly dichotomy. Facts are facts and cannot be denied by any rational being. (Often, facts are also not at all easy to determine or specify–but this question raises different issues for another time.) Facts, however, may also be highly scale dependent–and the perceptions of one world may have no validity or expression in the domain of another. The one-page map of Maine cannot recognize the separate boulders of Acadia, but both provide equally valid representations of a factual coastline.
The World as I See It (1999)
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Those of us who make only a brief study of chemistry, the benefits to be expected are of an indirect nature. Increased capacity for enjoyment, a livelier interest in the world in which we live, a more intelligent attitude toward the great questions of the day—these are the by-products of a well-balanced education, including chemistry in its proper relation to other studies.
In Fundamental Chemistry, and Elementary Textbook for College Classes (1947), 7.
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Thought isn't a form of energy. So how on Earth can it change material processes? That question has still not been answered.
As quoted in Eric Roston, The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Gratest Threat (2009), 117.
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Through the ages, man's main concern was life after death. Today, for the first time, we find we must ask questions about whether there will be life before death.
The Crazy Ape (1970), 18.
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To understand [our cosmological roots]...is to give voice to the silent stars. Stand under the stars and say what you like to them. Praise them or blame them, question them, pray to them, wish upon them. The universe will not answer. But it will have spoken.
…...
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Train yourselves. Don't wait to be fed knowledge out of a book. Get out and seek it. Make explorations. Do your own research work. Train your hands and your mind. Become curious. Invent your own problems and solve them. You can see things going on all about you. Inquire into them. Seek out answers to your own questions. There are many phenomena going on in nature the explanation of which cannot be found in books. Find out why these phenomena take place. Information a boy gets by himself is enormously more valuable than that which is taught to him in school.
In 'Dr. Irving Langmuir', Boys' Life (Jul 1941), 12.
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Under pressure from the computer, the question of mind in relation to machine is becoming a central cultural preoccupation. It is becoming for us what sex was to the Victorians—threat and obsession, taboo and fascination.
In The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984), 313.
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We are a bit of stellar matter gone wrong. We are physical machinery—puppets that strut and talk and laugh and die as the hand of time pulls the strings beneath. But there is one elementary inescapable answer. We are that which asks the question.
…...
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We cannot take anything for granted, beyond the first mathematical formula. Question everything else.
In ‎Phebe Mitchell Kendall (ed.), Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals (1896), 188.
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We expect that the study of lunar geology will help to answer some longstanding questions about the early evolution of the earth. The moon and the earth are essentially a two-planet system, and the two bodies are probably closely related in origin. In this connection the moon is of special interest because its surface has not been subjected to the erosion by running water that has helped to shape the earth's surface.
In Scientific American (Sep 1964). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Dec 2014), 311, No. 6, 98.
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We must not only prepare [students] in sciences, we must prepare them in other areas. For example, I teach Chemistry but on every test I give I have an English question. And I give a simple question. I say, “Discuss your understanding of this topic.”
In address, to the Economic Club of Detroit (14 Jan 1990), 'Where Do We Go From Here?' on the massiechairs.com website.
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We often frame our understanding of what the [Hubble] space telescope will do in terms of what we expect to find, and actually it would be terribly anticlimactic if in fact we find what we expect to find. … The most important discoveries will provide answers to questions that we do not yet know how to ask and will concern objects we have not yet imagined.
As quoted in Timothy Ferris, 'The Space Telescope: A Sign of Intelligent Life', New York Times (29 Apr 1990), A1.
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We [may] answer the question: “Why is snow white?” by saying, “For the same reason that soap-suds or whipped eggs are white”—in other words, instead of giving the reason for a fact, we give another example of the same fact. This offering a similar instance, instead of a reason, has often been criticised as one of the forms of logical depravity in men. But manifestly it is not a perverse act of thought, but only an incomplete one. Furnishing parallel cases is the necessary first step towards abstracting the reason imbedded in them all.
In The Principles of Psychology (1918), Vol. 2, 363-364.
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What Is Mathematics? This question, if asked in earnest, has no answer.
'Why Mathematics Grows', Journal of the History of Ideas (Jan-Mar 1965), 26, No. 1, 3. In Salomon Bochner and Robert Clifford Gunning (ed.) Collected Papers of Salomon Bochner (1992), Vol. 4, 191.
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What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
…...
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What terrible questions we are learning to ask! The former men believed in magic, by which temples, cities, and men were swallowed up, and all trace of them gone. We are coming on the secret of a magic which sweeps out of men's minds all vestige of theism and beliefs which they and their fathers held and were framed upon.
In 'Illusions', The Atlantic Monthly (Nov 1858), 1, 60.
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When we say that scientific knowledge is unlimited, we mean that there is no question whose answer is in principle unattainable by science.
The Logical Structure of the World, trans. R. George (1967), 290. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 171.
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Whether the minds of men and women are or are not alike, are obviously psychological questions.
In 'Preparation in Psychology', The Study of Sociology (1896), 348. Also published in a series of articles in Contemporary Review (1873) https://books.google.com/books?id= Herbert Spencer - 1880
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Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.
A Wild Sheep Chase. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 45
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Who are we? The answer to this question is not only one of the tasks but the task of science.
…...
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Why do they [Americans] quarrel, why do they hate Negroes, Indians, even Germans, why do they not have science and poetry commensurate with themselves, why are there so many frauds and so much nonsense? I cannot soon give a solution to these questions ... It was clear that in the United States there was a development not of the best, but of the middle and worst sides of European civilization; the notorious general voting, the tendency to politics... all the same as in Europe. A new dawn is not to be seen on this side of the ocean.
The Oil Industry in the North American State of Pennsylvania and in the Caucasus (1877). Translated by H. M. Leicester, from the original in Russian, in 'Mendeleev's Visit to America', Journal of Chemical Education (1957), 34, 333.
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Will fluorine ever have practical applications?
It is very difficult to answer this question. I may, however, say in all sincerity that I gave this subject little thought when I undertook my researches, and I believe that all the chemists whose attempts preceded mine gave it no more consideration.
A scientific research is a search after truth, and it is only after discovery that the question of applicability can be usefully considered.
Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1897). In Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to July 1897 (1898), 261.
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Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence without theory there is no learning.
In The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education (1993), 103.
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Women decide the larger questions of life correctly and quickly, not because they are lucky guessers, not because they practise a magic inherited from savagery, but simply and solely because they have sense. They see at a glance what most men could not see with searchlights and telescopes.
…...
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[Describing a freshman seminar titled “How the Tabby Cat Got Her Stripes or The Silence of the Genes”:] The big idea we start with is: “How is the genome interpreted, and how are stable decisions that affect gene expression inherited from one cell to the next? This is one of the most competitive areas of molecular biology at the moment, and the students are reading papers that in some instances were published this past year. As a consequence, one of the most common answers I have to give to their questions is, “We just don't know.”
As quoted by Kitta MacPherson in 'Exploring Epigenetics: President Shirley Tilghman in the Classroom,' Princeton University Undergraduate Admission web page accessed 14 Oct 2013.
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[Doubtful attribution; from docudrama script] Big questions get big answers.
This statement is in the script to the BBC TV docudrama Life Story (14 Sep 1987), a.k.a. Race for the Double Helix and shown as part of the Horizon science program series. The writing credits are William Nicholson, with James Watson (book). Webmaster has not yet found the quote in a primary source, especially not a source earlier than docudrama. Lacking another source, Webmaster wonders if this quote was created by the scriptwriter, and not verbatim from an original statement by Crick himself. Please contact if you know a primary source.
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[In geology,] As in history, the material in hand remains silent if no questions are asked. The nature of these questions depends on the “school” to which the geologist belongs and on the objectivity of his investigations. Hans Cloos called this way of interrogation “the dialogue with the earth,” “das Gesprach mit der Erde.”
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 456.
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[In] the realm of science, ... what we have achieved will be obsolete in ten, twenty or fifty years. That is the fate, indeed, that is the very meaning of scientific work. ... Every scientific “fulfillment” raises new “questions” and cries out to be surpassed rendered obsolete. Everyone who wishes to serve science has to resign himself to this.
Max Weber
The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation, translated by Rodney Livingstone (2004), xxviii.
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[Physicists] feel that the field of bacterial viruses is a fine playground for serious children who ask ambitious questions.
From 'Experiments with Bacterial Viruses (Bacteriophages)', Harvey Lecture (1946), 41, 161. As cited in Robert Olby, The Path of the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA (1974, 1994), 237.
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[Reply when questioned, “Don’t you find it very inconvenient stammering, Dr. Darwin?”] No, sir, because I have time to think before I speak, and don’t ask impertinent questions.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), 'Reminiscences', The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887, 1896), Vol. 1, 118, footnote. The quote is stated by Francis Darwin to have been told to him by his father, Charles Darwin.
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[Richard P.] Feynman's cryptic remark, “no one is that much smarter ...,” to me, implies something Feynman kept emphasizing: that the key to his achievements was not anything “magical” but the right attitude, the focus on nature's reality, the focus on asking the right questions, the willingness to try (and to discard) unconventional answers, the sensitive ear for phoniness, self-deception, bombast, and conventional but unproven assumptions.
In book review of James Gleick's Genius, 'Complexities of Feynman', Science, 259 (22 Jan 1993), 22
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[W]e have made a thing, a most terrible weapon, that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world. We have made a thing that, by all standards of the world we grew up in, is an evil thing. And by doing so, by our participation in making it possible to make these things, we have raised again the question of whether science is good for man, of whether it is good to learn about the world, to try to understand it, to try to control it, to help give to the world of men increased insight, increased power. Because we are scientists, we must say an unalterable yes to these questions; it is our faith and our commitment, seldom made explicit, even more seldom challenged, that knowledge is a good in itself, knowledge and such power as must come with it.
Speech to the American Philosophical Society (Jan 1946). 'Atomic Weapons', printed in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 90(1), 7-10. In Deb Bennett-Woods, Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society (2008), 23. Identified as a speech to the society in Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer‎ (2005), 323.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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