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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Realize Quotes (147 quotes)
Realise Quotes

Science for the Citizen is ... also written for the large and growing number of adolescents, who realize that they will be the first victims of the new destructive powers of science misapplied.
Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery (1938), Author's Confessions, 9.
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A fateful process is set in motion when the individual is released “to the freedom of his own impotence” and left to justify his existence by his own efforts. The autonomous individual, striving to realize himself and prove his worth, has created all that is great in literature, art, music, science and technology. The autonomous individual, also, when he can neither realize himself nor justify his existence by his own efforts, is a breeding call of frustration, and the seed of the convulsions which shake our world to its foundations.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 18.
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A lecture is much more of a dialogue than many of you probably realize.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height, spots a man down below and asks,“Excuse me, can you help me? I promised to return the balloon to its owner, but I don’t know where I am.”
The man below says: “You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 350 feet above mean sea level and 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees west longitude.”
“You must be an engineer,” says the balloonist.
“I am,” replies the man.“How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost.”
The man below says, “You must be a manager.”
“I am,” replies the balloonist,“but how did you know?”
“Well,” says the engineer,“you don’t know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem.The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault.”
Anonymous
In Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 199.
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A small bubble of air remained unabsorbed... if there is any part of the phlogisticated air [nitrogen] of our atmosphere which differs from the rest, and cannot be reduced to nitrous acid, we may safely conclude that it is not more than 1/120 part of the whole.
Cavendish did not realize the significance of the remaining small bubble. Not until a century later were the air’s Noble Gases appreciated.
'Experiments on Air', read 2 June 1785, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1785, 75, 382.
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According to Herr Cook's observation, the inhabitants of New Guinea have something they set light to which burns up almost like gunpowder. They also put it into hollow staves, and from a distance you could believe they are shooting. But it does not produce so much as a bang. Presumably they are trying to imitate the Europeans. They have failed to realize its real purpose.
Aphorism 27 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 48.
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An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote, indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already heard.
After some observations and rough calculations the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing.
A few minutes later the physicist understands too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.
This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.
Anonymous
In 'Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science' APS News (Jun 2003), 12 No. 6.
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Anton Chekhov wrote that ‘one must not put a loaded rifle on stage if no one is thinking of firing it.’ Good drama requires spare and purposive action, sensible linking of potential causes with realized effects. Life is much messier; nothing happens most of the time. Millions of Americans (many hotheaded) own rifles (many loaded), but the great majority, thank God, do not go off most of the time. We spend most of real life waiting for Godot, not charging once more unto the breach.
…...
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Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 214.
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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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As the issues are greater than men ever sought to realize before, the recriminations will be fiercer and pride more desperately hurt. It may help to recall that many recognized before the bomb ever feel that the time had already come when we must learn to live in One World.
…...
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As usual, the author in his thorough, unobjective fashion has marshalled up all the good, indifferent and bad arguments ... I offer the following detailed comments ... though I realize that many of them will arouse him to a vigorous, if not violent rebuttal. In order to preserve the pH of Dr. Brown's digestive system I would not require a rebuttal as a condition of publication...
With heartiest greetings of the season to you and yours! Jack Roberts
PS The above comments should (help) to reduce your winter heating bill!
Jack Roberts' referee's report on Herbert Charles Brown's paper with Rachel Kornblum on the role of steric strain in carbonium ion reactions.
As quoted by D. A. Davenport, in 'On the Comparative Unimportance of the Invective Effect', Chemtech (Sep 1987), 17, 530.
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Astronomy was thus the cradle of the natural sciences and the starting point of geometrical theories. The stars themselves gave rise to the concept of a ‘point’; triangles, quadrangles and other geometrical figures appeared in the constellations; the circle was realized by the disc of the sun and the moon. Thus in an essentially intuitive fashion the elements of geometrical thinking came into existence.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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At first, the people talking about ecology were only defending the fishes, the animals, the forest, and the river. They didn’t realize that human beings were in the forest—and that these humans were the real ecologists, because they couldn’t live without the forest and the forest couldn’t be saved without them.
Quoted in Andrew Revkin, The Burning Season
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Before I flew I was already aware of how small and vulnerable our planet is; but only when I saw it from space, in all its ineffable beauty and fragility, did I realize that humankind’s most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations.
In Jack Hassard and Julie Weisberg , Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project (1999), 40.
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But although in theory physicists realize that their conclusions are ... not certainly true, this ... does not really sink into their consciousness. Nearly all the time ... they ... act as if Science were indisputably True, and what's more, as if only science were true.... Any information obtained otherwise than by the scientific method, although it may be true, the scientists will call “unscientific,” using this word as a smear word, by bringing in the connotation from its original [Greek] meaning, to imply that the information is false, or at any rate slightly phony.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 176-77.
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Catastrophe Theory is—quite likely—the first coherent attempt (since Aristotelian logic) to give a theory on analogy. When narrow-minded scientists object to Catastrophe Theory that it gives no more than analogies, or metaphors, they do not realise that they are stating the proper aim of Catastrophe Theory, which is to classify all possible types of analogous situations.
From 'La Théorie des catastrophes État présent et perspective', as quoted in Erick Christopher Zeeman, (ed.), Catastrophe Theory: Selected Papers, 1972-1977 (1977), 637, as cited in Martin Krampe (ed.), Classics of Semiotics (1987), 214.
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Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state. We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone.
'The Laws of Habit', The Popular Science Monthly (Feb 1887), 451.
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Dear Mr. Bell: … Sir Wm. Thomson … speaks with much enthusiasm of your achievement. What yesterday he would have declared impossible he has today seen realized, and he declares it the most wonderful thing he has seen in America. You speak of it as an embryo invention, but to him it seems already complete, and he declares that, before long, friends will whisper their secrets over the electric wire. Your undulating current he declares a great and happy conception.
Letter to Alexander Graham Bell (25 Jun 1876). Quoted in Alexander Graham Bell, The Bell Telephone: The Deposition of Alexander Graham Bell, in the Suit Brought by the United States to Annul the Bell Patents (1908), 101. Note: William Thomson is better known as Lord Kelvin.
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Do you realize we’ve got 250 million years of coal? But coal has got environmental hazards to it, but there’s—I’m convinced, and I know that we—technology can be developed so we can have zero-emissions coal-fired electricity plants.
Remarks at the Associated Builders and Contractors National Legislative Conference (8 Jun 2005). The White house corrected “250 million years” to “250 years” in a footnote to the printed record, 41 WCPD 956 in 'Administration of George W. Bush', 959.
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During the eight days I spent in space, I realized that mankind needs height primarily to better know our long-suffering Earth, to see what cannot be seen close up. Not just to love her beauty, but also to ensure that we do not bring even the slightest harm to the natural world
Pham Tuan
In Jack Hassard and Julie Weisberg , Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project (1999), 40.
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Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
In Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 105.
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Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
From interview with James Reston, Jr., in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 105. Previously published in magazine, Omni (May 1982).
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Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace.
His reaction to a harsh, inaccurate, article in the New York Times that questioned the practicality of his goals in rocket research, (1920). As quoted by Dr. Kurt Debus, Director of Kennedy Space Center, NASA, in address (15 Jul 1965) at First World Exhibition of Transport and communications, Munich, collected in Chronology on Astronautics and Aeronautics in 1965 (1966), 332. This is the earliest evidence of this quote that Webmaster, as yet, has found. Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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Every well established truth is an addition to the sum of human power, and though it may not find an immediate application to the economy of every day life, we may safely commit it to the stream of time, in the confident anticipation that the world will not fail to realize its beneficial results.
In 'Report of the Secretary', Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1856 (1857), 20.
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Fiction is, indeed, an indispensable supplement to logic, or even a part of it; whether we are working inductively or deductively, both ways hang closely together with fiction: and axioms, though they seek to be primary verities, are more akin to fiction. If we had realized the nature of axioms, the doctrine of Einstein, which sweeps away axioms so familiar to us that they seem obvious truths, and substitutes others which seem absurd because they are unfamiliar, might not have been so bewildering.
In The Dance of Life (1923), 86.
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For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.
…...
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He who would lead a Christ-like life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man of science, or a young student at the University, or one who watches sheep upon a moor, or a maker of dramas like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza. or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his nets into the sea. It does not matter what he is as long as he realises the perfection of the soul that is within him.
In 'The Critic As Artist', Oscariana: Epigrams (1907), 27-28
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How few people will realize how much detail had to be gone into before Bakelite was a commercial success.
Diary entry (13 Oct 1909). In Savage Grace (1985, 2007), 65.
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How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make - leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone - we all dwell in a house of one room - the world with the firmament for its roof - and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track.
John Muir
…...
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I believe citizens are beginning to realize that their birthright, a healthy ecosystem, has been stolen, and they want it back.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and what We Eat (2004), 317.
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I came to realize that exaggerated concern about what others are doing can be foolish. It can paralyze effort, and stifle a good idea. One finds that in the history of science almost every problem has been worked out by someone else. This should not discourage anyone from pursuing his own path.
From Theodore von Karman and Lee Edson (ed.), The Wind and Beyond: Theodore von Karman, Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Science (1967).
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I don't know what your Company is feeling as of today about the work of Dr. Alice Hamilton on benzol [benzene] poisoning. I know that back in the old days some of your boys used to think that she was a plain nuisance and just picking on you for luck. But I have a hunch that as you have learned more about the subject, men like your good self have grown to realize the debt that society owes her for her crusade. I am pretty sure that she has saved the lives of a great many girls in can-making plants and I would hate to think that you didn't agree with me.
Letter to S. P. Miller, technical director of a company that sold solvents, 9 Feb 1933. Alice Hamilton papers, no. 40, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College. Quoted in Barbara Sicherman, Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters (1984).
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I had observed that there were different lines exhibited in the spectra of different metals when ignited in the voltaic arc; and if I had had any reasonable amount of wit I ought to have seen the converse, viz., that by ignition different bodies show in their spectral lines the materials of which they are formed. If that thought had occured to my mind, I should have discovered the spectroscope before Kirchoff; but it didn’t.
Address, in 'Report to the Chemical Society's Jubilee', Nature (26 Mar 1891), 43, 493. Words as in original text, occured and Kirchoff are sic.
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I have long recognized the theory and aesthetic of such comprehensive display: show everything and incite wonder by sheer variety. But I had never realized how power fully the decor of a cabinet museum can promote this goal until I saw the Dublin [Natural History Museum] fixtures redone right ... The exuberance is all of one piece–organic and architectural. I write this essay to offer my warmest congratulations to the Dublin Museum for choosing preservation–a decision not only scientifically right, but also ethically sound and decidedly courageous. The avant-garde is not an exclusive locus of courage; a principled stand within a reconstituted rear unit may call down just as much ridicule and demand equal fortitude. Crowds do not always rush off in admirable or defendable directions.
…...
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I realize that Galen called an earth which contained metallic particles a mixed earth when actually it is a composite earth. But it behooves one who teaches others to give exact names to everything.
As translated by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean A. Bandy from the first Latin Edition of 1546 in De Natura Fossilium: (Textbook of Mineralogy) (2004), 19. Originally published by Geological Society of America as a Special Paper (1955). There are other translations with different wording.
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I realized that my prior projects were just finger warm-ups. Now I have to tackle complexity itself. But it took long, before I had assembled the courage to do so.
…...
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I sometimes wonder how we spent leisure time before satellite television and Internet came along…and then I realise that I have spent more than half of my life in the ‘dark ages’!
From interview (5 Dec 2003) days before his 86th birthday with Nalaka Gunawardene, published on the internet sites http://southasia.oneworld.net and arthurcclarke.net.
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I used to think the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body. But then I realised, Well …look what’s telling me that?
In The Reader’s Digest (1998), 152, 166. (The ellipsis itself is part of the quote, indicating a pause.)
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I wasn’t aware of Chargaff’s rules when he said them, but the effect on me was quite electric because I realized immediately that if you had this sort of scheme that John Griffith was proposing, of adenine being paired with thymine, and guanine being paired with cytosine, then you should get Chargaff’s rules.
I was very excited, but I didn’t actually tell Chargaff because it was something I was doing with John Griffith. There was a sort of musical comedy effect where I forgot what the bases were and I had to go to the library to check, and I went back to John Griffith to find out which places he said. Low and behold, it turned out that John Griffith’s ideas fitted in with Chargaff’s rules!
This was very exciting, and we thought “ah ha!” and we realized—I mean what anyone who is familiar with the history of science ought to realize—that when you have one-to-one ratios, it means things go to together. And how on Earth no one pointed out this simple fact in those years, I don’t know.
From Transcript of documentary by VSM Productions, The DNA Story (1973). As excerpted on web page 'Chargaff’s Rules', Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA on website scarc.library.oregonstate.edu
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If I get the impression that Nature itself makes the decisive choice [about] what possibility to realize, where quantum theory says that more than one outcome is possible, then I am ascribing personality to Nature, that is to something that is always everywhere. [An] omnipresent eternal personality which is omnipotent in taking the decisions that are left undetermined by physical law is exactly what in the language of religion is called God.
As quoted by John D. Barrow in The Universe that Discovered Itself (2000), 171.
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If in some madhouse there is a lunatic who still believes the old churchly tenet that heaven is up above, even this [the first manned landing on the moon] probably will not disabuse him. Surely those of us still sane enough to be at large realize that this event will have no more to so with theology, God, or self-knowledge than any flower we pluck or any hand we press—in fact, much less.
(13 Jul 1969). As given in Alan F. and Jason R. Pater (eds.), What They Said in 1969: The Yearbook of Spoken Opinion (1970), 402.
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If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.
In speech to first national meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery (1947), as quoted in Franz L. Alt, 'Archaeology of computers: Reminiscences, 1945-1947', Communications of the ACM (Jul 1972), 15, No. 7, 694.
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If the average man in the street were asked to name the benefits derived from sunshine, he would probably say “light and warmth” and there he would stop. But, if we analyse the matter a little more deeply, we will soon realize that sunshine is the one great source of all forms of life and activity on this old planet of ours. … [M]athematics underlies present-day civilization in much the same far-reaching manner as sunshine underlies all forms of life, and that we unconsciously share the benefits conferred by the mathematical achievements of the race just as we unconsciously enjoy the blessings of the sunshine.
From Address (25 Feb 1928) to National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Boston. Abstract published in 'Mathematics and Sunshine', The Mathematics Teacher (May 1928), 21, No. 5, 245.
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If the potential of modern science is to be realized, there is no alternative to global public goods and institutions.
(2000). Epigraph in Dana Dalrymple, 'Scientific Knowledge as a Global Public Good: Contributions to Innovation and the Economy', collected in National Research Council, et. al., The Role of Scientific and Technical Data and Information in the Public Domain: Proceedings of a Symposium (2003), 35. National Research Council, ‎Policy and Global Affairs, ‎Board on International Scientific Organizations - 2003
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If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don't think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; if you think of, detail by detail, what you have to do next, it is a wonderful dream even though the end is a long way off, for there are about five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and [when you] start taking the first ten, and ... twenty after that, it is amazing how quickly you get through through the four thousand [nine hundred] and ninety. The last ten steps you never seem to work out. But you keep on coming nearer to giving the world something.
Victor K. McElheny, Insisting on the Impossible (1999), 1.
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If you’re telling a story, it’s very tempting to personalise an animal. To start with, biologists said this fascination with one individual was just television storytelling. But they began to realise that, actually, it was a new way to understand behaviour–following the fortunes of one particular animal could be very revealing and have all kinds of implications in terms of the ecology and general behaviour of the animals in that area.
From interview with Alice Roberts, 'Attenborough: My Life on Earth', The Biologist (Aug 2015), 62, No. 4, 15.
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In a world that is rightly so concerned about climate change and the atmosphere, to be so ignorant and neglectful of our oceans is deeply troubling. However, … having woken up to this living disaster and having realized that there are limits to how much abuse we can inflict, it’s not too late to turn things around.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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In recent years scientists have grown self-conscious, perhaps because they have only lately become of age. They realize that they are now part of the drama of human history, and they look to the professional historian for background and perspective.
(1932). Epigraph, without citation, in I. Bernard Cohen, Science, Servant of Man: A Layman's Primer for the Age of Science (1948), 1.
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In the modern interpretation of Mendelism, facts are being transformed into factors at a rapid rate. If one factor will not explain the facts, then two are involved; if two prove insufficient, three will sometimes work out. The superior jugglery sometimes necessary to account for the results may blind us, if taken too naively, to the common-place that the results are often so excellently 'explained' because the explanation was invented to explain them. We work backwards from the facts to the factors, and then, presto! explain the facts by the very factors that we invented to account for them. I am not unappreciative of the distinct advantages that this method has in handling the facts. I realize how valuable it has been to us to be able to marshal our results under a few simple assumptions, yet I cannot but fear that we are rapidly developing a sort of Mendelian ritual by which to explain the extraordinary facts of alternative inheritance. So long as we do not lose sight of the purely arbitrary and formal nature of our formulae, little harm will be done; and it is only fair to state that those who are doing the actual work of progress along Mendelian lines are aware of the hypothetical nature of the factor-assumption.
'What are 'Factors' in Mendelian Explanations?', American Breeders Association (1909), 5, 365.
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In years gone by, we would just take, take, take from the oceans but today we realize this is not an option, that the oceans keep us alive, and that we need to tread more carefully. This is now both a governance issue and a choice issue.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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Increased knowledge of heredity means increased power of control over the living thing, and as we come to understand more and more the architecture of the plant or animal we realize what can and what cannot be done towards modification or improvement.
Reginald C. Punnett, in article 'Mendelism', from Hugh Chisholm (ed.) The Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), Vol. 18, 120.
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It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that a chimpanzee or a dog is an intelligent animal. Instead, it takes a bigoted human to suggest that it’s not.
In The Omni Interviews (1984), 73.
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It has been said repeatedly that one can never, try as he will, get around to the front of the universe. Man is destined to see only its far side, to realize nature only in retreat.
In 'The Innocent Fox,' The Star Thrower (1978).
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It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression. St. Vincent De Paul cautioned his disciples to deport themselves so that the poor “will forgive them the bread you give them.”
In 'The Awakening of Asia', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 12.
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It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.
The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977, 1993), 154.
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It is fashionable nowadays to talk about the endless riches of the sea. The ocean is regarded as a sort of bargain basement, but I don’t agree with that estimate. People don’t realize that water in the liquid state is very rare in the universe. Away from earth it is usually a gas. This moisture is a blessed treasure, and it is our basic duty, if we don’t want to commit suicide, to preserve it.
As quoted by Nancy Hicks in 'Cousteau’s Philosophy of the Sea Helps Him Get Another Medal', New York Times (25 Oct 1970), 54.
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It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on Earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.
…...
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It is important to realize that life on this planet has spent about three-quarters of its existence in single-celled form, and even today the majority of organisms still exist as single cells. The evolutionary pressure to become complex is evidently not very great.
and Robert Shapiro
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It is 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 therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.
…...
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It might be helpful to realize, that very probably the parents of the first native born Martians are alive today.
As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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It usually develops that after much laborious and frustrating effort the investigator of environmental physiology succeeds in proving that the animal in question can actually exist where it lives. It is always somewhat discouraging for an investigator to realize that his efforts can be made to appear so trite, but this statement does not belittle the ecological physiologist. If his data assist the understanding of the ways in which an animal manages to live where it does, he makes an important contribution to the study of distribution, for the present is necessarily a key to the past.”
From 'The role of physiology in the distribution of terrestrial vertebrates', collected in C.L. Hubbs (ed.), Zoogeography: Publ. 51 (1958), 84.
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Its [science’s] effectiveness is almost inevitable because it narrows the possibility of refutation and failure. Science begins by saying it can only answer this type of question and ends by saying these are the only questions that can be asked. Once the implications and shallowness of this trick are fully realised, science will be humbled and we shall be free to celebrate ourselves once again.
From Understanding the Present: An Alternative History of Science (2004), 249.
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Later, I realized that the mission had to end in a let-down because the real barrier wasn’t in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.
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Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward.
…...
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Mankind lies groaning, half-crushed beneath the weight of its own progress. Men do not sufficiently realize that their future is in their own hands. Theirs is the task of determining first of all whether they want to go on living or not. Theirs the responsibility, then, for deciding if they want merely to live, or intend to make just the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on their refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods.
The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, trans. by R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton (1935), 275.
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Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
…...
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Many people think that conservation is just about saving fluffy animals—what they don’t realise is that we’re trying to prevent the human race from committing suicide … We have declared war on the biological world, the world that supports us … At the moment the human race is in the position of a man sawing off the tree branch he is sitting on.
As quoted in Douglass Botting, Gerald Durrell: The Authorized Biography (1999), 194.
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My eureka moment was in the dead of night, the early hours of the morning, on a cold, cold night, and my feet were so cold, they were aching. But when the result poured out of the charts, you just forget all that. You realize instantly how significant this is—what it is you’ve really landed on—and it’s great!
[About her discovery of the first pulsar radio signals.]
From BBC TV program, Journeys in Time and Space: Invisible Universe (28 Feb 2001).
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No man that does not see visions will ever realize any high hope or undertake any high enterprise.
Address, Convention Hall, Philadelphia (10 May 1915). In 'Text of President’s Speech: Tells New Citizens, They Must Think Themselves Only Americans', New York Times (11 May 1915), 1.
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No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
…...
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Nobody can be a good reasoner unless by constant practice he has realised the importance of getting hold of the big ideas and hanging on to them like grim death.
In 'Presidential Address to the London Branch of the Mathematical Association', Mathematical Gazette (Mar 1913), 7, No. 104, 92.
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Now and then, in the course of the century, a great man of science, like Darwin; a great poet, like Keats; a fine critical spirit, like M. Renan; a supreme artist, like Flaubert, has been able to isolate himself, to keep himself out of reach of the clamorous claims of others, to stand “under the shelter of the wall,” as Plato puts it, and so to realise the perfection of what was in him, to his own incomparable gain, and to the incomparable and lasting gain of the whole world.
In Sebastian Melmoth (1908), 133-134.
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Once human beings realize something can be done, they're not satisfied until they've done it.
Cease Fire (1958). In Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (2006), 1.
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One of my surgical giant friends had in his operating room a sign “If the operation is difficult, you aren’t doing it right.” What he meant was, you have to plan every operation You cannot ever be casual You have to realize that any operation is a potential fatality.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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One of the most impressive discoveries was the origin of the energy of the stars, that makes them continue to burn. One of the men who discovered this was out with his girl friend the night after he realized that nuclear reactions must be going on in the stars in order to make them shine.
She said “Look at how pretty the stars shine!”
He said, “Yes, and right now I am the only man in the world who knows why they shine.”
She merely laughed at him. She was not impressed with being out with the only man who, at that moment, knew why stars shine. Well, it is sad to be alone, but that is the way it is in this world.
…...
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One point at which our magicians attempt their sleight-of-hand is when they slide quickly from the Hubble, redshift-distance relation to redshift-velocity of expansion. There are now five or six whole classes of objects that violate this absolutely basic assumption. It really gives away the game to realize how observations of these crucial objects have been banned from the telescope and how their discussion has met with desperate attempts at suppression.
In 'Letters: Wrangling Over the Bang', Science News (27 Jul 1991), 140, No. 4, 51. Also quoted in Roy C. Martin, Astronomy on Trial: A Devastating and Complete Repudiation of the Big Bang Fiasco (1999), Appendix I, 217.
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One stops being a child when one realizes that telling one’s trouble does not make it better.
Diary entry for 31 Oct 1937, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1961), 66.
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Physicists speak of the particle representation or the wave representation. Bohr's principle of complementarity asserts that there exist complementary properties of the same object of knowledge, one of which if known will exclude knowledge of the other. We may therefore describe an object like an electron in ways which are mutually exclusive—e.g., as wave or particle—without logical contradiction provided we also realize that the experimental arrangements that determine these descriptions are similarly mutually exclusive. Which experiment—and hence which description one chooses—is purely a matter of human choice.
The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature (1982), 94.
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Science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value. Scientists cannot, therefore, hold themselves entirely aloof from the sorts of issues dealt with by philosophers and theologians. By devoting to these issues something of the energy and care they give to their research in science, they can help others realize more fully the human potentialities of their discoveries. They can also come to appreciate for themselves that these discoveries cannot be a genuine substitute for knowledge of the truly ultimate.
In Letter (1 Jun 1988) to Father George V. Coyne, Director of the Vatican Observatory. On vatican.va website.
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Science has always promised two things not necessarily related—an increase first in our powers, second in our happiness and wisdom, and we have come to realize that it is the first and less important of the two promises which it has kept most abundantly.
In 'The Disillusion with the Laboratory,', The Modern Temper (1929).
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Science is not the enemy of humanity but one of the deepest expressions of the human desire to realize that vision of infinite knowledge. Science shows us that the visible world is neither matter nor spirit; the visible world is the invisible organization of energy.
The Cosmic Code (1982), 348.
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Science itself, no matter whether it is the search for truth or merely the need to gain control over the external world, to alleviate suffering, or to prolong life, is ultimately a matter of feeling, or rather, of desire—the desire to know or the desire to realize.
In New Perspectives in Physics (1962), 196.
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Scientists [still] refuse to consider man as an object of scientific scrutiny except through his body. The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the universe—even a positivist one—remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 36. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Speaking about symmetry, look out our window, and you may see a cardinal attacking its reflection in the window. The cardinal is the only bird we have who often does this. If it has a nest nearby, the cardinal thinks there is another cardinal trying to invade its territory. It never realizes it is attacking its own reflection. Cardinals don’t know much about mirror symmetry!
In István Hargittai, 'A Great Communicator of Mathematics and Other Games: A Conversation with Martin Gardner', The Mathematical Intelligencer. (1997), 194(4), 36-40. Quoted in István and Magdolna Hargittai, In Our Own Image (2000), 9.
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Stress: When you wake up screaming and you realize you haven’t fallen asleep yet.
Anonymous
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Students who have attended my [medical] lectures may remember that I try not only to teach them what we know, but also to realise how little this is: in every direction we seem to travel but a very short way before we are brought to a stop; our eyes are opened to see that our path is beset with doubts, and that even our best-made knowledge comes but too soon to an end.
In Notes on the Composition of Scientific Papers (1904), 3.
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Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.
…...
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Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.
…...
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Take the living human brain endowed with mind and thought. …. The physicist brings his tools and commences systematic exploration. All that he discovers is a collection of atoms and electrons and fields of force arranged in space and time, apparently similar to those found in inorganic objects. He may trace other physical characteristics, energy, temperature, entropy. None of these is identical with thought. … How can this collection of ordinary atoms be a thinking machine? … The Victorian physicist felt that he knew just what he was talking about when he used such terms as matter and atoms. … But now we realize that science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom. The physical atom is, like everything else in physics, a schedule of pointer readings.
From a Gifford Lecture, University of Edinburgh (1927), published in 'Pointer Readings: Limits of Physical Knowledge', The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 258-259.
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Talent deals with the actual, with discovered and realized truths, any analyzing, arranging, combining, applying positive knowledge, and, in action, looking to precedents. Genius deals with the possible, creates new combinations, discovers new laws, and acts from an insight into new principles.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe.
…...
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Thanks to the sharp eyes of a Minnesota man, it is possible that two identical snowflakes may finally have been observed. While out snowmobiling, Oley Skotchgaard noticed a snowflake that looked familiar to him. Searching his memory, he realized it was identical to a snowflake he had seen as a child in Vermont. Weather experts, while excited, caution that the match-up will be difficult to verify.
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 105.
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The best part of working at a university is the students. They come in fresh, enthusiastic, open to ideas, unscarred by the battles of life. They don't realize it, but they're the recipients of the best our society can offer. If a mind is ever free to be creative, that's the time. They come in believing textbooks are authoritative but eventually they figure out that textbooks and professors don't know everything, and then they start to think on their own. Then, I begin learning from them.
As quoted in autobiography of Stephen Chu in Gösta Ekspong (ed.), Nobel Lectures: Physics 1996-2000 (2002), 120.
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The first thing to realize about physics ... is its extraordinary indirectness.... For physics is not about the real world, it is about “abstractions” from the real world, and this is what makes it so scientific.... Theoretical physics runs merrily along with these unreal abstractions, but its conclusions are checked, at every possible point, by experiments.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 60-62.
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The future can be anything we want it to be, providing we have the faith and that we realize that peace, no less than war, required 'blood and sweat and tears.'
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The great age of the earth will appear greater to man when he understands the origin of living organisms and the reasons for the gradual development and improvement of their organization. This antiquity will appear even greater when he realizes the length of time and the particular conditions which were necessary to bring all the living species into existence. This is particularly true since man is the latest result and present climax of this development, the ultimate limit of which, if it is ever reached, cannot be known.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 77.
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The ideal government of all reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone–one which barely escapes being no government at all. This ideal, I believe, will be realized in the world twenty or thirty centuries after I have passed from these scenes and taken up my public duties in Hell.
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The landscape has been so totally changed, the ways of thinking have been so deeply affected, that it is very hard to get hold of what it was like before… It is very hard to realize how total a change in outlook Isaac Newton has produced.
From 'Newton and the Twentieth Century—A Personal View', collected in Raymond Flood, John Fauvel, Michael Shortland and Robin Wilson (eds.), Let Newton Be! A New Perspective on his Life and Works (1988), 241.
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The modern naturalist must realize that in some of its branches his profession, while more than ever a science, has also become an art.
African Game Trails (1910), 17.
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The moment you encounter string theory and realise that almost all of the major developments in physics over the last hundred years emerge—and emerge with such elegance—from such a simple starting point, you realise that this incredibly compelling theory is in a class of its own.
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The more we realize our minuteness and our impotence in the face of cosmic forces, the more amazing becomes what human beings have achieved.
New Hopes for a Changing World (1952), 187.
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The only important thing to realise about history is that it all took place in the last five minutes.
In The Decline and Fall of Science (1976), 3.
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The present knowledge of the biochemical constitution of the cell was achieved largely by the use of destructive methods. Trained in the tradition of the theory of solutions, many a biochemist tends, even today, to regard the cell as a “bag of enzymes”. However, everyone realizes now that the biochemical processes studied in vitro may have only a remote resemblance to the events actually occurring in the living cell.
Nucleo-cytoplasmic Relations in Micro-Organisms: Their Bearing on Cell Heredity and Differentiation (1953), 108.
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The realization that our small planet is only one of many worlds gives mankind the perspective it needs to realize sooner that our own world belongs to all of its creatures, that the Moon landing marks the end of our childhood as a race and the beginning of a newer and better civilization.
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The reason I cannot really say that I positively enjoy nature is that I do not quite realize what it is that I enjoy. A work of art, on the other hand, I can grasp. I can — if I may put it this way — find that Archimedian point, and as soon as I have found it, everything is readily clear for me. Then I am able to pursue this one main idea and see how all the details serve to illuminate it.
Søren Kierkegaard, translation by Howard Vincent Hong and Edna Hatlestad Hong Søren Kierkegaard’s Journal and Papers (1834), 50.
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The regularity with which we conclude that further advances in a particular field are impossible seems equaled only by the regularity with which events prove that we are of too limited vision. And it always seems to be those who have the fullest opportunity to know who are the most limited in view. What, then, is the trouble? I think that one answer should be: we do not realize sufficiently that the unknown is absolutely infinite, and that new knowledge is always being produced.
Quoted in Guy Suits, 'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357.
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The strength and weakness of physicists is that we believe in what we can measure. And if we can't measure it, then we say it probably doesn't exist. And that closes us off to an enormous amount of phenomena that we may not be able to measure because they only happened once. For example, the Big Bang. ... That's one reason why they scoffed at higher dimensions for so many years. Now we realize that there's no alternative...
Quoted in Nina L. Diamond, Voices of Truth (2000), 333-334.
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The symbol A is not the counterpart of anything in familiar life. To the child the letter A would seem horribly abstract; so we give him a familiar conception along with it. “A was an Archer who shot at a frog.” This tides over his immediate difficulty; but he cannot make serious progress with word-building so long as Archers, Butchers, Captains, dance round the letters. The letters are abstract, and sooner or later he has to realise it. In physics we have outgrown archer and apple-pie definitions of the fundamental symbols. To a request to explain what an electron really is supposed to be we can only answer, “It is part of the A B C of physics”.
In Introduction to The Nature of the Physical World (1928), xiv.
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The United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed, if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.
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The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the Universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern “knowledge” is that it is wrong.
The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. “If I am the wisest man,” said Socrates, “it is because I alone know that I know nothing.” The implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.
Alas, none of this was new to me. (There is very little that is new to me; I wish my correspondents would realize this.) This particular theme was addressed to me a quarter of a century ago by John Campbell, who specialized in irritating me. He also told me that all theories are proven wrong in time.
My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
In The Relativity of Wrong (1989), 214.
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There are 60 sub-atomic particles they’ve discovered that can explain the thousands of other sub-atomic particles, and the model is too ugly. This is my analogy: it’s like taking Scotch tape and taping a giraffe to a mule to a whale to a tiger and saying this is the ultimate theory of particles. … We have so many particles that Oppenheimer once said you could give a Nobel Prize to the physicist that did not discover a particle that year. We were drowning in sub-atomic particles.
Now we realize that this whole zoo of sub-atomic particles, thousands of them coming out of our accelerators, can be explained by little vibrating strings.
Quoted in Nina L. Diamond, Voices of Truth (2000), 334.
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There are … two fields for human thought and action—the actual and the possible, the realized and the real. In the actual, the tangible, the realized, the vast proportion of mankind abide. The great, region of the possible, whence all discovery, invention, creation proceed, and which is to the actual as a universe to a planet, is the chosen region of genius. As almost every thing which is now actual was once only possible, as our present facts and axioms were originally inventions or discoveries, it is, under God, to genius that we owe our present blessings. In the past, it created the present; in the present, it is creating the future.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 202.
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There is a clarity, a brilliance to space that simply doesn’t exist on earth, even on a cloudless summer’s day in the Rockies, and nowhere else can you realize so fully the majesty of our Earth and be so awed at the thought that it’s only one of untold thousands of planets.
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There is no drink like pure water, provided one realizes that it is alcohol that is the purifying agent.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 220.
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There is no failure for the man who realizes his power, who never knows when he is beaten; there is no failure for the determined endeavor; the unconquerable will. There is no failure for the man who gets up every time he falls, who rebounds like a rubber ball, who persist when everyone else gives up, who pushes on when everyone else turns back.
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There is thus a possibility that the ancient dream of philosophers to connect all Nature with the properties of whole numbers will some day be realized. To do so physics will have to develop a long way to establish the details of how the correspondence is to be made. One hint for this development seems pretty obvious, namely, the study of whole numbers in modern mathematics is inextricably bound up with the theory of functions of a complex variable, which theory we have already seen has a good chance of forming the basis of the physics of the future. The working out of this idea would lead to a connection between atomic theory and cosmology.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 129.
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There isn’t one, not one, instance where it’s known what pattern of neural connectivity realizes a certain cognitive content, inate or learned, in either the infant’s nervous system or the adult’s. To be sure, our brains must somehow register the contents of our mental states. The trouble is: Nobody knows how—by what neurological means—they do so. Nobody can look at the patterns of connectivity (or of anything else) in a brain and figure out whether it belongs to somebody who knows algebra, or who speaks English, or who believes that Washington was the Father of his country.
In Critical Condition: Polemic Essays on Cognitive science and the Philosophy of the Mind (1988), 269-71. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 180.
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Thinking consists in envisaging, realizing structural features and structural requirements; proceeding in accordance with, and determined by, these requirements; thereby changing the situation in the direction of structural improvements.
In Productive Thinking (1959), 235.
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This is often the way it is in physics—our mistake is not that we take our theories too seriously, but that we do not take them seriously enough. It is always hard to realize that these numbers and equations we play with at our desks have something to do with the real world.
In The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977, Rev. ed. 1993), 131-132.
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Thus will the fondest dream of Phallic science be realized: a pristine new planet populated entirely by little boy clones of great scientific entrepreneurs free to smash atoms, accelerate particles, or, if they are so moved, build pyramids—without any social relevance or human responsibility at all.
…...
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To go to sea! Why, it is to have the experience of Noah,—to realize the deluge. Every vessel is an ark.
In Cape Cod (1866), 175.
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To the east was our giant neighbor Makalu, unexplored and unclimbed, and even on top of Everest the mountaineering instinct was sufficient strong to cause me to spend some moments conjecturing as to whether a route up that mountain might not exist. Far away across the clouds the great bulk of Kangchenjunga loomed on the horizon. To the west, Cho Oyu, our old adversary from 1952, dominated the scene and we could see the great unexplored ranges of Nepal stretching off into the distance. The most important photograph, I felt, was a shot down the north ridge, showing the North Col and the old route that had been made famous by the struggles of those great climbers of the 1920s and 1930s. I had little hope of the results being particularly successful, as I had a lot of difficulty in holding the camera steady in my clumsy gloves, but I felt that they would at least serve as a record. After some ten minutes of this, I realized that I was becoming rather clumsy-fingered and slow-moving, so I quickly replaced my oxygen set and experience once more the stimulating effect of even a few liters of oxygen. Meanwhile, Tenzing had made a little hole in the snow and in it he placed small articles of food – a bar of chocolate, a packet of biscuits and a handful of lollies. Small offerings, indeed, but at least a token gifts to the gods that all devoted Buddhists believe have their home on this lofty summit. While we were together on the South Col two days before, Hunt had given me a small crucifix that he had asked me to take to the top. I, too, made a hole in the snow and placed the crucifix beside Tenzing’s gifts.
As quoted in Whit Burnett, The Spirit of Adventure: The Challenge (1955), 349.
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Today I am more than ever frightened. I wish it would dawn upon engineers that, in order to be an engineer, it is not enough to be an engineer.
In Toward a Philosophy of History (1941), 103.
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Vagueness is very much more important in the theory of knowledge than you would judge it to be from the writings of most people. Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise, and everything precise is so remote from everything that we normally think, that you cannot for a moment suppose that is what we really mean when we say what we think.
In The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918, 1919), 2.
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Very few people realize the enormous bulk of contemporary mathematics. Probably it would be easier to learn all the languages of the world than to master all mathematics at present known. The languages could, I imagine, be learnt in a lifetime; mathematics certainly could not. Nor is the subject static.
In 'The Extent of Mathematics', Prelude to Mathematics (1955), 11.
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We are about to move into the Aquarian age of clearer thinking. Astrology and witchcraft both have a contribution to make to the new age, and it behooves the practitioners of both to realize their responsibilities and ob­ligations to the science and the religion.
In Diary of a Witch (1969), 186.
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We are too ready to accept others and ourselves as we are and to assume that we are incapable of change. We forget the idea of growth, or we do not take it seriously. There is no good reason why we should not develop and change until the last day we live. Psychoanalysis is one of the most powerful means of helping us to realize this aim.
In 'Dedication', American Journal of Psychoanalysis (1942), 35, 99-100. As quoted and cited in Milton M. Berger, Women Beyond Freud: New Concepts Of Feminine Psychology (2013).
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We knew that DNA was important. We knew it was an important molecule. And we knew that its shape was likely to be important. But we didn’t realise I think just how important it would be. Put in other words, we didn’t realise that the shape would give us a clue to the replication mechanism. And this turned out to be really an unexpected dividend from finding out what the shape was.
From Transcript of BBC TV program, The Prizewinners (1962).
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We now realize with special clarity, how much in error are those theorists who believe that theory comes inductively from experience.
In section 3, 'The Field Concept', Physics and Reality (1936), collected in Essays in Physics (1950), 28.
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We’re suffocating ourselves by cutting things down. And the awful thing is that the knowledge is there. Fifty years ago when we exterminated things, we did it without realising. Now there’s plenty of evidence of what it is we’re doing, and yet we keep on doing it.
In Rowan Hooper, 'One Minute With… David Attenborough', New Scientist (2 Feb 2013), 217, No. 2902, 25.
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What it is important to realize is that automation ... is an attempt to exercise control, not only of the mechanical process itself, but of the human being who once directed it: turning him from an active to a passive agent, and finally eliminating him all together.
In 'The Myth of the Machine,' The Pentagon of Power (1970).
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When living with the Indians in their homes and pursuing my ethnological studies: One day I suddenly realized with a rude shock that, unlike my Indian friends, I was an alien, a stranger in my native land; its fauna and flora had no fond, familiar place amid my mental imagery, nor did any thoughts of human aspiration or love give to its hills and valleys the charm of personal companionship. I was alone, even in my loneliness.
Opening of Preface, Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs (1915), v.
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When the war finally came to an end, 1 was at a loss as to what to do. ... I took stock of my qualifications. A not-very-good degree, redeemed somewhat by my achievements at the Admiralty. A knowledge of certain restricted parts of magnetism and hydrodynamics, neither of them subjects for which I felt the least bit of enthusiasm.
No published papers at all … [Only gradually did I realize that this lack of qualification could be an advantage. By the time most scientists have reached age thirty they are trapped by their own expertise. They have invested so much effort in one particular field that it is often extremely difficult, at that time in their careers, to make a radical change. I, on the other hand, knew nothing, except for a basic training in somewhat old-fashioned physics and mathematics and an ability to turn my hand to new things. … Since I essentially knew nothing, I had an almost completely free choice. …
In What Mad Pursuit (1988).
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When we have fully discovered the scientific laws that govern life, we shall realise that one person who has more illusions than the dreamer is the man of action.
In Epigrams of Oscar Wilde (2007), 111.
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Whenever you note the time on the clock, realize that it is now—right now—later than it has ever been.
As quoted in Douglas Martin, 'Kenneth Franklin, Astronomer, Dies at 84', New York Times (21 Jun 2007), C13. This was Martin’s concluding remark in a paper for the new millenium making clear it properly began not on in 2000, but on 1 Jan 2001.
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Will it be possible to solve these problems? It is certain that nobody has thus far observed the transformation of dead into living matter, and for this reason we cannot form a definite plan for the solution of this problem of transformation. But we see that plants and animals during their growth continually transform dead into living matter, and that the chemical processes in living matter do not differ in principle from those in dead matter. There is, therefore, no reason to predict that abiogenesis is impossible, and I believe that it can only help science if the younger investigators realize that experimental abiogenesis is the goal of biology.
The Dynamics of Living Matter (1906), 223.
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You tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this world to me with an image. I realize that you have been reduced to poetry. … So that science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art.
In Albert Camus and Justin O’Brien (trans.), 'An Absurd Reasoning', The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (1955), 15.
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You would be surprised at the number of academics who say things like ‘I didn’t realise what a sponge was until I saw a programme of yours’.
Interview with David Barrett, 'Attenborough: Children Don’t Know Enough About Nature', Daily Telegraph (17 Apr 2011).
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[In mathematics] we behold the conscious logical activity of the human mind in its purest and most perfect form. Here we learn to realize the laborious nature of the process, the great care with which it must proceed, the accuracy which is necessary to determine the exact extent of the general propositions arrived at, the difficulty of forming and comprehending abstract concepts; but here we learn also to place confidence in the certainty, scope and fruitfulness of such intellectual activity.
In Ueber das Verhältnis der Naturwissenschaften zur Gesammtheit der Wissenschaft, Vorträge und Reden (1896), Bd. 1, 176. Also seen translated as “In mathematics we see the conscious logical activity of our mind in its purest and most perfect form; here is made manifest to us all the labor and the great care with which it progresses, the precision which is necessary to determine exactly the source of the established general theorems, and the difficulty with which we form and comprehend abstract conceptions; but we also learn here to have confidence in the certainty, breadth, and fruitfulness of such intellectual labor”, in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 20. From the original German, “Hier sehen wir die bewusste logische Thätigkeit unseres Geistes in ihrer reinsten und vollendetsten Form; wir können hier die ganze Mühe derselben kennen lernen, die grosse Vorsicht, mit der sie vorschreiten muss, die Genauigkeit, welche nöthig ist, um den Umfang der gewonnenen allgemeinen Sätze genau zu bestimmen, die Schwierigkeit, abstracte Begriffe zu bilden und zu verstehen; aber ebenso auch Vertrauen fassen lernen in die Sicherheit, Tragweite und Fruchtbarkeit solcher Gedankenarbeit.”
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[Kepler] had to realize clearly that logical-mathematical theoretizing, no matter how lucid, could not guarantee truth by itself; that the most beautiful logical theory means nothing in natural science without comparison with the exactest experience. Without this philosophic attitude, his work would not have been possible.
From Introduction that Einstein wrote for Carola Baumgardt and Jamie Callan, Johannes Kepler Life and Letters (1953), 13.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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[The original development of the Spinning Mule was a] continual endeavour to realise a more perfect principle of spinning; and though often baffled, I as often renewed the attempt, and at length succeeded to my utmost desire, at the expense of every shilling I had in the world.
'Extract from a manuscript document circulated by Crompton about the year 1809 or 1810', reprinted in The Basis of Mr. Samuel Crompton’s Claims to a Second Remuneration for his Discovery of the Mule Spinning Machine, (1868), 29.
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[Watching natural history programs] brings a solace you can’t describe in words. It’s because we’re part of it fundamentally…. In moments of great grief, that’s where you look and immerse yourself. You realise you are not immortal, you are not a god, you are part of the natural world and you come to accept that.
Reflecting on the letters he received from newly bereaved people. While his series are running on TV, in dozens of letters daily (comprising the majority of the correspondence), they tell him that the only things they can face in their darkest moments are his natural-history programmes. From interview with Joe Shute, 'David Attenborough at 90: ‘I think about my mortality every day’', The Telegraph (29 Oct 2016).
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… (T)he same cause, such as electricity, can simultaneously affect all sensory organs, since they are all sensitive to it; and yet, every sensory nerve reacts to it differently; one nerve perceives it as light, another hears its sound, another one smells it; another tastes the electricity, and another one feels it as pain and shock. One nerve perceives a luminous picture through mechanical irritation, another one hears it as buzzing, another one senses it as pain… He who feels compelled to consider the consequences of these facts cannot but realize that the specific sensibility of nerves for certain impressions is not enough, since all nerves are sensitive to the same cause but react to the same cause in different ways… (S)ensation is not the conduction of a quality or state of external bodies to consciousness, but the conduction of a quality or state of our nerves to consciousness, excited by an external cause.
Law of Specific Nerve Energies.
Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen für Vorlesungen, 2nd Ed. translation by Edwin Clarke and Charles Donald O'Malley
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“Half genius and half buffoon,” Freeman Dyson ... wrote. ... [Richard] Feynman struck him as uproariously American—unbuttoned and burning with physical energy. It took him a while to realize how obsessively his new friend was tunneling into the very bedrock of modern science.
In Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), Prologue, 4.
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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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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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