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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Return Quotes (124 quotes)


... I left Caen, where I was living, to go on a geologic excursion under the auspices of the School of Mines. The incidents of the travel made me forget my mathematical work. Having reached Coutances, we entered an omnibus to go to some place or other. At the moment when I put my foot on the step, the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it, that the transformations I had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Eudidean geometry. I did not verify the idea; I should not have had time, as upon taking my seat in the omnibus, I went on with a conversation already commenced, but I felt a perfect certainty. On my return to Caen, for convenience sake, I verified the result at my leisure.
Quoted in Sir Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (1990), 541. Science and Method (1908) 51-52, 392.
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...an idea is no more an even relatively constant thing than is a feeling or emotion or volitional process. There exist only changing and transient ideational processes; there are no permanent ideas that return again and disappear again.
An Introduction to Psychology (1912)
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...Furthermore, an inducement must be offered to those who are engaged in the industrial exploitation of natural sources of power, as waterfalls, by guaranteeing greater returns on the capital invested than they can secure by local development of the prop
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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...learning chiefly in mathematical sciences can so swallow up and fix one's thought, as to possess it entirely for some time; but when that amusement is over, nature will return, and be where it was, being rather diverted than overcome by such speculations.
An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England (1850), 154
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...reality is a system, completely ordered and fully intelligible, with which thought in its advance is more and more identifying itself. We may look at the growth of knowledge … as an attempt by our mind to return to union with things as they are in their ordered wholeness…. and if we take this view, our notion of truth is marked out for us. Truth is the approximation of thought to reality … Its measure is the distance thought has travelled … toward that intelligible system … The degree of truth of a particular proposition is to be judged in the first instance by its coherence with experience as a whole, ultimately by its coherence with that further whole, all comprehensive and fully articulated, in which thought can come to rest.
The Nature of Thought (1939), Vol II, 264. Quoted in Erhard Scheibe and Brigitte Falkenburg (ed), Between Rationalism and Empiricism: Selected Papers in the Philosophy of Physics (2001), 233
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[Describing the effects of over-indulgence in wine:]
But most too passive, when the blood runs low
Too weakly indolent to strive with pain,
And bravely by resisting conquer fate,
Try Circe's arts; and in the tempting bowl
Of poisoned nectar sweet oblivion swill.
Struck by the powerful charm, the gloom dissolves
In empty air; Elysium opens round,
A pleasing frenzy buoys the lightened soul,
And sanguine hopes dispel your fleeting care;
And what was difficult, and what was dire,
Yields to your prowess and superior stars:
The happiest you of all that e'er were mad,
Or are, or shall be, could this folly last.
But soon your heaven is gone: a heavier gloom
Shuts o'er your head; and, as the thundering stream,
Swollen o'er its banks with sudden mountain rain,
Sinks from its tumult to a silent brook,
So, when the frantic raptures in your breast
Subside, you languish into mortal man;
You sleep, and waking find yourself undone,
For, prodigal of life, in one rash night
You lavished more than might support three days.
A heavy morning comes; your cares return
With tenfold rage. An anxious stomach well
May be endured; so may the throbbing head;
But such a dim delirium, such a dream,
Involves you; such a dastardly despair
Unmans your soul, as maddening Pentheus felt,
When, baited round Citheron's cruel sides,
He saw two suns, and double Thebes ascend.
The Art of Preserving Health: a Poem in Four Books (2nd. ed., 1745), Book IV, 108-110.
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A discussion between Haldane and a friend began to take a predictable turn. The friend said with a sigh, “It’s no use going on. I know what you will say next, and I know what you will do next.” The distinguished scientist promptly sat down on the floor, turned two back somersaults, and returned to his seat. “There,” he said with a smile. “That’s to prove that you’re not always right.”
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 253.
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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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After a short period spent in Brussels as a guest of a neurological institute, I returned to Turin on the verge of the invasion of Belgium by the German army, Spring 1940, to join my family. The two alternatives left then to us were either to emigrate to the United States, or to pursue some activity that needed neither support nor connection with the outside Aryan world where we lived. My family chose this second alternative. I then decided to build a small research unit at home and installed it in my bedroom.
Autobiography, Nobel Foundation
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All parts of the material universe are in constant motion and though some of the changes may appear to be cyclical, nothing ever exactly returns, so far as human experience extends, to precisely the same condition.
Address (Jul 1874) at the grave of Joseph Priestley, in Joseph Henry and Arthur P. Molella, et al. (eds.), A Scientist in American Life: Essays and Lectures of Joseph Henry (1980), 119.
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All the sciences have a relation, greater or less, to human nature; and...however wide any of them may seem to run from it, they still return back by one passage or another. Even Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Natural Religion, are in some measure dependent on the science of MAN; since they lie under the cognizance of men, and are judged of by their powers and faculties.
A Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40), ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (1888), introduction, xix.
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Always preoccupied with his profound researches, the great Newton showed in the ordinary-affairs of life an absence of mind which has become proverbial. It is related that one day, wishing to find the number of seconds necessary for the boiling of an egg, he perceived, after waiting a minute, that he held the egg in his hand, and had placed his seconds watch (an instrument of great value on account of its mathematical precision) to boil!
This absence of mind reminds one of the mathematician Ampere, who one day, as he was going to his course of lectures, noticed a little pebble on the road; he picked it up, and examined with admiration the mottled veins. All at once the lecture which he ought to be attending to returned to his mind; he drew out his watch; perceiving that the hour approached, he hastily doubled his pace, carefully placed the pebble in his pocket, and threw his watch over the parapet of the Pont des Arts.
Popular Astronomy: a General Description of the Heavens (1884), translated by J. Ellard Gore, (1907), 93.
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An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.
As quoted in David Prerau, Seize the Daylight: The Curious And Contentious Story of Daylight (2006).
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An involuntary return to the point of departure is, without doubt, the most disturbing of all journeys.
…...
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And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I,show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness”' as by a boundary; not by something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle itself is a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself-do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?—This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!
The Will to Power (Notes written 1883-1888), book 4, no. 1067. Trans. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale and ed. W. Kaufmann (1968), 549-50.
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Any country that wants to make full use of all its potential scientists and technologists … must not expect to get the women quite so simply as it gets the men. It seems to me that marriage and motherhood are at least as socially important as military service. Government regulations are framed to ensure (in the United Kingdom) that a man returning to work from military service is not penalized by his absence. Is it utopian, then, to suggest that any country that really wants a woman to return to a scientific career when her children no longer need her physical presence should make special arrangements to encourage her to do so?
In Impact of Science on Society (1970), 20 58. Commenting how for men who went to war, their jobs were held for them pending their return.
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As to what Simplicius said last, that to contend whether the parts of the Sun, Moon, or other celestial body, separated from their whole, should naturally return to it, is a vanity, for that the case is impossible, it being clear by the demonstrations of Aristotle that the celestial bodies are impassible, impenetrable, unpartable, etc., I answer that none of the conditions whereby Aristotle distinguishes the celestial bodies from the elementary has any foundation other than what he deduces from the diversity of their natural motions; so that, if it is denied that the circular motion is peculiar to celestial bodies, and affirmed instead that it is agreeable to all naturally moveable bodies, one is led by necessary confidence to say either that the attributes of generated or ungenerated, alterable or unalterable, partable or unpartable, etc., equally and commonly apply to all bodies, as well to the celestial as to the elementary, or that Aristotle has badly and erroneously deduced those from the circular motion which he has assigned to celestial bodies.
Dialogue on the Great World Systems (1632). Revised and Annotated by Giorgio De Santillana (1953), 45.
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At night I would return home, set out a lamp before me, and devote myself to reading and writing. Whenever sleep overcame me or I became conscious of weakening, I would turn aside to drink a cup of wine, so that my strength would return to me. Then I would return to reading. And whenever sleep seized me I would see those very problems in my dream; and many questions became clear to me in my sleep. I continued in this until all of the sciences were deeply rooted within me and I understood them as is humanly possible. Everything which I knew at the time is just as I know it now; I have not added anything to it to this day. Thus I mastered the logical, natural, and mathematical sciences, and I had now reached the science.
Avicenna
W. E. Gohhnan, The Life of Ibn Sina: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation (1974), 29-31.
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Biological evolution is a system of constant divergence without subsequent joining of branches. Lineages, once distinct, are separate forever. In human history, transmission across lineages is, perhaps, the major source of cultural change. Europeans learned about corn and potatoes from Native Americans and gave them smallpox in return.
…...
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Euler was a believer in God, downright and straightforward. The following story is told by Thiebault, in his Souvenirs de vingt ans de séjour à Berlin, … Thiebault says that he has no personal knowledge of the truth of the story, but that it was believed throughout the whole of the north of Europe. Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of the Empress. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a good deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her counsellors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expositions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest’s tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented: though the name of the mathematician is not given, it was Euler. He advanced toward Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction:
Monsieur, (a + bn) / n = x, donc Dieu existe; repondez!

Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter rose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1878), 251. [The declaration in French expresses, “therefore God exists; please answer!” This Euler-Diderot anecdote, as embellished by De Morgan, is generally regarded as entirely fictional. Diderot before he became an encyclopedist was an accomplished mathematician and fully capable of recognizing—and responding to—the absurdity of an algebraic expression in proving the existence of God. See B.H. Brown, 'The Euler-Diderot Anecdote', The American Mathematical Monthly (May 1942), 49, No. 5, 392-303. —Webmaster.]
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Every 12 years Jupiter returns to the same position in the sky; every 370 days it disappears in the fire of the Sun in the evening to the west, 30 days later it reappears in the morning to the east...[Observation in 4th century B.C.]
Gan De
In the lost book Suixing Jing (Treatise on Jupiter), quoted in the extensive compilation Kaiyuan Zhanjing, (The Kaiyuan Treatise on Astrology (compiled 718-726). Quotation as given in Norman K. Glendenning, Our Place in the Universe (2007), 126. Source cited in Helaine Selin, Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures (1997), 342.
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Every mathematical book that is worth reading must be read “backwards and forwards”, if I may use the expression. I would modify Lagrange’s advice a little and say, “Go on, but often return to strengthen your faith.” When you come on a hard or dreary passage, pass it over; and come back to it after you have seen its importance or found the need for it further on.
In Algebra, Part 2 (1889), Preface, viii.
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Few people doubt that the Apollo missions to the Moon as well as the precursory Mercury and Gemini missions not only had a valuable role for the United States in its Cold War with the Soviet Union but also lifted the spirits of humankind. In addition, the returned samples of lunar surface material fueled important scientific discoveries.
In 'Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete?', Issues in Science and Technology (Summer 2004).
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Humanity is about to learn that a lunatic (touched by the moon) is not a crazy man but one so sane, well-informed, well-coordinated, self-disciplined, cooperative and fearless as to be the first earthian human to have been ferried to a physical landing upon the moon, and thereafter to have been returned safely to reboard his mother space vehicle earth.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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I became expert at dissecting crayfish. At one point I had a crayfish claw mounted on an apparatus in such a way that I could operate the individual nerves. I could get the several-jointed claw to reach down and pick up a pencil and wave it around. I am not sure that what I was doing had much scientific value, although I did learn which nerve fiber had to be excited to inhibit the effects of another fiber so that the claw would open. And it did get me interested in robotic instrumentation, something that I have now returned to. I am trying to build better micromanipulators for surgery and the like.
In Jeremy Bernstein, 'A.I.', The New Yorker (14 Dec 1981).
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I purpose, in return for the honour you do us by coming to see what are our proceedings here, to bring before you, in the course of these lectures, the Chemical History of a Candle. I have taken this subject on a former occasion; and were it left to my own will, I should prefer to repeat it almost every year—so abundant is the interest that attaches itself to the subject, so wonderful are the varieties of outlet which it offers into the various departments of philosophy. There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play, and is touched upon in these phenomena. There is no better, there is no more open door by which you can enter the study of natural philosophy, than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.
A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle (1861), 13-4.
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I return to the newborn world, and the soft-soil fields,
What their first birthing lifted to the shores
Of light, and trusted to the wayward winds.
First the Earth gave the shimmer of greenery
And grasses to deck the hills; then over the meadows
The flowering fields are bright with the color of springtime,
And for all the trees that shoot into the air.
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995) Book 5, lines 777-84, 181.
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I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Bible
Ecclesiastes 9:11. As given in the King James Version.
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I stand almost with the others. They believe the world was made for man, I believe it likely that it was made for man; they think there is proof, astronomical mainly, that it was made for man, I think there is evidence only, not proof, that it was made for him. It is too early, yet, to arrange the verdict, the returns are not all in. When they are all in, I think that they will show that the world was made for man; but we must not hurry, we must patiently wait till they are all in.
Attributed.
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I want to get back again from Chemistry to Physics as soon as I can. The second-rate men seem to know their place so much better.
R. J. Strutt, John William Strutt, Third Baron Rayleigh (1924), 222.
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I would request that my body in death be buried, not cremated so that the energy content contained within in gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it just as I’ve dined upon flora and fauna throughout my life.
…...
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If physics leads us today to a world view which is essentially mystical, it returns, in a way, to its beginning, 2,500 years ago. ... This time, however, it is not only based on intuition, but also on experiments of great precision and sophistication, and on a rigorous and consistent mathematical formalism.
In The Tao of Physics (1975), 19.
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In 1946 [we visited] a rock called Le Veyron, around which sea life swarmed … an undersea paradise.… About thirty years later I returned … to the same depth, to the same caves, at the same time of year. The grotto was empty. Not one single fish lived among the rocks. The verdant gardens were gone.…
When I saw Le Veyron, I believed that the sea’s most monstrous force doesn’t live in Loch Ness. It lives in us.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 40-41.
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In attempting to discover how much blood passes from the veins into the arteries I made dissections of living animals, opened up arteries in them, and carried out various other investigations. I also considered the symmetry and size of the ventricles of the heart and of the vessels which enter and leave them (since Nature, who does nothing purposelessly, would not purposelessly have given these vessels such relatively large size). I also recalled the elegant and carefully contrived valves and fibres and other structural artistry of the heart; and many other points. I considered rather often and with care all this evidence, and took correspondingly long trying to assess how much blood was transmitted and in how short a time. I also noted that the juice of the ingested food could not supply this amount without our having the veins, on the one hand, completely emptied and the arteries, on the other hand, brought to bursting through excessive inthrust of blood, unless the blood somehow flowed back again from the arteries into the veins and returned to the right ventricle of the heart. In consequence, I began privately to consider that it had a movement, as it were, in a circle.
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth j. Franklin (1957), Chapter 8, 57-8.
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In man, then, let us take the amount that is extruded by the individual beats, and that cannot return into the heart because of the barrier set in its way by the valves, as half an ounce, or three drachms, or at least one drachm. In half an hour the heart makes over a thousand beats; indeed, in some individuals, and on occasion, two, three, or four thousand. If you multiply the drachms per beat by the number of beats you will see that in half an hour either a thousand times three drachms or times two drachms, or five hundred ounces, or other such proportionate quantity of blood has been passed through the heart into the arteries, that is, in all cases blood in greater amount than can be found in the whole of the body. Similarly in the sheep or the dog. Let us take it that one scruple passes in a single contraction of the heart; then in half an hour a thousand scruples, or three and a half pounds of blood, do so. In a body of this size, as I have found in the sheep, there is often not more than four pounds of blood.
In the above sort of way, by calculating the amount of blood transmitted [at each heart beat] and by making a count of the beats, let us convince ourselves that the whole amount of the blood mass goes through the heart from the veins to the arteries and similarly makes the pulmonary transit.
Even if this may take more than half an hour or an hour or a day for its accomplishment, it does nevertheless show that the beat of the heart is continuously driving through that organ more blood than the ingested food can supply, or all the veins together at any time contain.
De Motu Cordis (1628), The Circulation of the Blood and Other Writings, trans. Kenneth J. Franklin (1957), Chapter 9, 62-3.
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In my considered opinion the peer review system, in which proposals rather than proposers are reviewed, is the greatest disaster visited upon the scientific community in this century. No group of peers would have approved my building the 72-inch bubble chamber. Even Ernest Lawrence told me he thought I was making a big mistake. He supported me because he knew my track record was good. I believe that U.S. science could recover from the stultifying effects of decades of misguided peer reviewing if we returned to the tried-and-true method of evaluating experimenters rather than experimental proposals. Many people will say that my ideas are elitist, and I certainly agree. The alternative is the egalitarianism that we now practice and I’ve seen nearly kill basic science in the USSR and in the People's Republic of China.
Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 200-1.
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In the early seventies my mother [Mary Leakey] returned to Laetoli, a site in Tanzania that my parents had discovered in the thirties. In 1976, she discovered footprints of ancient hominids. These three-and-a-half-million- year-old footprints provide evidence of bipedality.
In Pamela Weintraub, The Omni Interviews (1984), 60.
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In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the old Oolitic Silurian Period, must a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have their streets joined together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
Life on the Mississippi (1883, 2000), 173.
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In the year 1456 ... a Comet was seen passing Retrograde between the Earth and the sun... Hence I dare venture to foretell, that it will return again in the year 1758.
A Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets (1705),22.
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Invention is an Heroic thing, and plac'd above the reach of a low, and vulgar Genius. It requires an active, a bold, a nimble, a restless mind: a thousand difficulties must be contemn'd with which a mean heart would be broken: many attempts must be made to no purpose: much Treasure must sometimes be scatter'd without any return: much violence, and vigour of thoughts must attend it: some irregularities, and excesses must be granted it, that would hardly be pardon'd by the severe Rules of Prudence.
The History of the Royal Society (1667), 392.
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It is the destiny of wine to be drunk, and it is the destiny of glucose to be oxidized. But it was not oxidized immediately: its drinker kept it in his liver for more than a week, well curled up and tranquil, as a reserve aliment for a sudden effort; an effort that he was forced to make the following Sunday, pursuing a bolting horse. Farewell to the hexagonal structure: in the space of a few instants the skein was unwound and became glucose again, and this was dragged by the bloodstream all the way to a minute muscle fiber in the thigh, and here brutally split into two molecules of lactic acid, the grim harbinger of fatigue: only later, some minutes after, the panting of the lungs was able to supply the oxygen necessary to quietly oxidize the latter. So a new molecule of carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere, and a parcel of the energy that the sun had handed to the vine-shoot passed from the state of chemical energy to that of mechanical energy, and thereafter settled down in the slothful condition of heat, warming up imperceptibly the air moved by the running and the blood of the runner. 'Such is life,' although rarely is it described in this manner: an inserting itself, a drawing off to its advantage, a parasitizing of the downward course of energy, from its noble solar form to the degraded one of low-temperature heat. In this downward course, which leads to equilibrium and thus death, life draws a bend and nests in it.
The Periodic Table (1975), trans. Raymond Rosenthal (1984), 192-3.
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It must happen that in some cases the author is not understood, or is very imperfectly understood; and the question is what is to be done. After giving a reasonable amount of attention to the passage, let the student pass on, reserving the obscurity for future efforts. … The natural tendency of solitary students, I believe, is not to hurry away prematurely from a hard passage, but to hang far too long over it; the just pride that does not like to acknowledge defeat, and the strong will that cannot endure to be thwarted, both urge to a continuance of effort even when success seems hopeless. It is only by experience we gain the conviction that when the mind is thoroughly fatigued it has neither the power to continue with advantage its course in .an assigned direction, nor elasticity to strike out a new path; but that, on the other hand, after being withdrawn for a time from the pursuit, it may return and gain the desired end.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 68.
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It seems to me that you are solving a problem which goes beyond the limits of physiology in too simple a way. Physiology has realized its problem with fortitude, breaking man down into endless actions and counteractions and reducing him to a crossing, a vortex of reflex acts. Let it now permit sociology to restore him as a whole. Sociology will wrest man from the anatomical theatre and return him to history.
Letter to his son, Alexander, July-Aug 1868. Trans. Roger Smith, Inhibition: History and Meaning in the Sciences of Mind and Brain (1992), 223.
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It will be possible in a few more years to build radio controlled rockets which can be steered into such orbits beyond the limits of the atmosphere and left to broadcast scientific information back to the Earth. A little later, manned rockets will be able to make similar flights with sufficient excess power to break the orbit and return to Earth. (1945) [Predicting communications satellites.]
In 'Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Coverage?', Wireless World (Oct 1945). Quoted and cited in Arthur C. Clarke, Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998, 21.
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It would be rash to say that nothing remains for discovery or improvement even in elementary mathematics, but it may be safely asserted that the ground has been so long and so thoroughly explored as to hold out little hope of profitable return for a casual adventurer.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 73.
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It would be rash to say that nothing remains for discovery or improvement even in elementary mathematics, but it may be safely asserted that the ground has been so long and so thoroughly explored as to hold out little hope of profitable return for a casual adventurer.
In 'Private Study of Mathematics', Conflict of Studies and other Essays (1873), 73.
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Just go on ... and faith will soon return.
[To a friend hesitant with respect to infinitestimals].
As expressed in P. J. Davis and R. Hersh, The Mathematical Experience (1981, 1995), 277.
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Let me describe briefly how a black hole might be created. Imagine a star with a mass 10 times that of the sun. During most of its lifetime of about a billion years the star will generate heat at its center by converting hydrogen into helium. The energy released will create sufficient pressure to support the star against its own gravity, giving rise to an object with a radius about five times the radius of the sun. The escape velocity from the surface of such a star would be about 1,000 kilometers per second. That is to say, an object fired vertically upward from the surface of the star with a velocity of less than 1,000 kilometers per second would be dragged back by the gravitational field of the star and would return to the surface, whereas an object with a velocity greater than that would escape to infinity.
When the star had exhausted its nuclear fuel, there would be nothing to maintain the outward pressure, and the star would begin to collapse because of its own gravity. As the star shrank, the gravitational field at the surface would become stronger and the escape velocity would increase. By the time the radius had got down to 10 kilometers the escape velocity would have increased to 100,000 kilometers per second, the velocity of light. After that time any light emitted from the star would not be able to escape to infinity but would be dragged back by the gravitational field. According to the special theory of relativity nothing can travel faster than light, so that if light cannot escape, nothing else can either. The result would be a black hole: a region of space-time from which it is not possible to escape to infinity.
'The Quantum Mechanics of Black Holes', Scientific American, 1977, 236, 34-40.
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Man’s usurpation over nature is an egotism that will destroy human as well as whale kingdoms. … Academies should return to wisdom study in tree groves rather than robot study in plastic cells…
Resolution at World Poetry Conference in Stony Brook, Long Island, New York by Beat Bard, Allen Ginsberg and 35 others. Quoted in Time (12 Jul 1968).
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Men always fool themselves when they give up experience for systems born of the imagination. Man is the work of nature, he exists in nature, he is subject to its laws, he can not break free, he can not leave even in thought; it is in vain that his spirit wants to soar beyond the bounds of the visible world, he is always forced to return.
Opening statement of first chapter of Système de la Nature (1770), Vol. 1, 1. Translation by Webmaster using Google Translate. From the original French, “Les hommes se tromperont toujours, quand ils abandonneront l'expérience pour des systèmes enfantés par l’imagination. L’homme est l’ouvrage de la nature, il existe dans la nature, il est soumis à ses lois, il ne peut s’en affranchir, il ne peut même par la pensée en sortir; c’est en vain que son esprit veut s’élancer au delà des bornes du monde visible, il est toujours forcé d’y rentrer.” In the English edition (1820-21), Samuel Wilkinson gives this as “Man has always deceived himself when he abandoned experience to follow imaginary systems.—He is the work of nature.—He exists in Nature.—He is submitted to the laws of Nature.—He cannot deliver himself from them:—cannot step beyond them even in thought. It is in vain his mind would spring forward beyond the visible world: direful and imperious necessity ever compels his return.”
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Misuse of reason might yet return the world to pre-technological night; plenty of religious zealots hunger for just such a result, and are happy to use the latest technology to effect it.
The Heart of Things: Applying Philosophy to the 21st Century (2006).
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Most manufacturers take resources out of the ground and convert them to products that are designed to be thrown away or incinerated within months. We call these “cradle to grave” product flows. Our answer to that is “cradle to cradle” design. Everything is reused—either returned to the soil as nontoxic “biological nutrients” that will biodegrade safely, or returned to industry as “technical nutrients” that can be infinitely recycled.
In interview article, 'Designing For The Future', Newsweek (15 May 2005).
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Most people regard scientists as explorers … Imagine a handful of people shipwrecked on a strange island and setting out to explore it. One of them cuts a solitary path through the jungle, going on and on until he is exhausted or lost or both. He eventually returns to his companions, and they listen to him with goggling eyes as he describes what he saw; what he fell into, and what bit him. After a rest he demands more supplies and sets off again to explore the unknown. Many of his companions will be doing the same, each choosing his own direction and pursuing his pioneering path.
In The Development of Design (1981), 1.
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Mr. Hobbes told me that the cause of his Lordship's [Francis Bacon's] death was trying an Experiment: viz. as he was taking the aire in a Coach with Dr. Witherborne (a Scotchman, Physitian to the King) towards High-gate, snow lay on the ground, and it came into my Lord's thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow, as in Salt. They were resolved they would try the Experiment presently. They alighted out of the Coach and went into a poore woman's house at the bottom of Highgate hill, and bought a Hen, and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the body with Snow, and my Lord did help to doe it himselfe. The Snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that he could not return to his Lodging.
John Aubrey, Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 16.
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Mr. Hobbes told me that the cause of his Lordship’s [Francis Bacon s] death was trying an experiment: viz., as he was taking the air in a coach with Dr. Witherborne, a Scotchman, physician to the King, towards Highgate, snow lay on the ground, and it came into my Lord’s thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow as in salt. They were resolved they would try the experiment presently. They alighted out of the coach and went into a poor woman s house at the bottom of Highgate Hill and bought a hen and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the body with snow, and my Lord did help to do it himself The snow so chilled him that he immediately fell so extremely ill that he could not return to his lodgings.
In Brief Lives (late 17th century), as excerpted in The Retrospective Review (1821), 292.
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Newton lectured now and then to the few students who chose to hear him; and it is recorded that very frequently he came to the lecture-room and found it empty. On such occasions he would remain fifteen minutes, and then, if no one came, return to his apartments.
In 'Sir Isaac Newton', People’s Book of Biography: Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries (1868), 250.
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Nobody knows more than a tiny fragment of science well enough to judge its validity and value at first hand. For the rest he has to rely on views accepted at second hand on the authority of a community of people accredited as scientists. But this accrediting depends in its turn on a complex organization. For each member of the community can judge at first hand only a small number of his fellow members, and yet eventually each is accredited by all. What happens is that each recognizes as scientists a number of others by whom he is recognized as such in return, and these relations form chains which transmit these mutual recognitions at second hand through the whole community. This is how each member becomes directly or indirectly accredited by all. The system extends into the past. Its members recognize the same set of persons as their masters and derive from this allegiance a common tradition, of which each carries on a particular strand.
Personal Knowledge (1958), 163.
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Not marble graven with public records, whereby breath and life return to goodly heroes after death.
Horace
In Ode 8, 'In Praise of Poesy', Horace, The Odes and Epodes (1921), 315.
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On one occasion, when he was giving a dinner to some friends at the university, he left the table to get them a bottle of wine; but, on his way to the cellar, he fell into reflection, forgot his errand and his company, went to his chamber, put on his surplice, and proceeded to the chapel. Sometimes he would go into the street half dressed, and on discovering his condition, run back in great haste, much abashed. Often, while strolling in his garden, he would suddenly stop, and then run rapidly to his room, and begin to write, standing, on the first piece of paper that presented itself. Intending to dine in the public hall, he would go out in a brown study, take the wrong turn, walk a while, and then return to his room, having totally forgotten the dinner. Once having dismounted from his horse to lead him up a hill, the horse slipped his head out of the bridle; but Newton, oblivious, never discovered it till, on reaching a tollgate at the top of the hill, he turned to remount and perceived that the bridle which he held in his hand had no horse attached to it. His secretary records that his forgetfulness of his dinner was an excellent thing for his old housekeeper, who “sometimes found both dinner and supper scarcely tasted of, which the old woman has very pleasantly and mumpingly gone away with”. On getting out of bed in the morning, he has been discovered to sit on his bedside for hours without dressing himself, utterly absorbed in thought.
In 'Sir Isaac Newton', People’s Book of Biography: Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries (1868), 257.
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On Tuesday evening at Museum, at a ball in the gardens. The night was chill, I dropped too suddenly from Differential Calculus into ladies’ society, and could not give myself freely to the change. After an hour’s attempt so to do, I returned, cursing the mode of life I was pursuing; next morning I had already shaken hands, however, with Diff. Calculus, and forgot the ladies….
From his diary for 10 Aug 1851, as quoted in J. Helen Gardner and Robin J. Wilson, 'Thomas Archer Hirst—Mathematician Xtravagant II: Student Days in Germany', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jun-Jul 1993), 6, No. 100, 534.
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Once it happened that all the other members of a man mutinied against the stomach, which they accused as the single, idle, uncontributing part in the entire body, while the rest were put to hardships and the expense of much labor to supply and minister to its appetites. However, the stomach merely ridiculed the fatuity of the members, who appeared not to be aware that the stomach certainly does receive the general nourishment, but only to return it again and distribute it amongst the rest.
Fable related by Menenius Agrippa to resolve a grievance of plebeians against the social hierarchy, described in 'Life of Coriolanus', collected in A.H. Clough (ed.), Plutarch’s Lives of Illustrious Men (1859, 1881), 155.
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One day at Fenner's (the university cricket ground at Cambridge), just before the last war, G. H. Hardy and I were talking about Einstein. Hardy had met him several times, and I had recently returned from visiting him. Hardy was saying that in his lifetime there had only been two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. For those not familiar with cricket, or with Hardy's personal idiom, I ought to mention that “the Bradman class” denoted the highest kind of excellence: it would include Shakespeare, Tolstoi, Newton, Archimedes, and maybe a dozen others. Well, said Hardy, there had only been two additions in his lifetime. One was Lenin and the other Einstein.
Variety of Men (1966), 87.
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Our federal income tax law defines the tax y to be paid in terms of the income x; it does so in a clumsy enough way by pasting several linear functions together, each valid in another interval or bracket of income. An archaeologist who, five thousand years from now, shall unearth some of our income tax returns together with relics of engineering works and mathematical books, will probably date them a couple of centuries earlier, certainly before Galileo and Vieta.
From Address (1940), given at the Bicentennial Conference at the University of Pennsylvania, 'The Mathematical Way of Thinking'. Collected in Hermann Weyl and Peter Pesic (ed.), Levels of Infinity: Selected Writings on Mathematics and Philosophy (2012), 67.
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Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.
On the effect of chemical insecticides and fertilizers, Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin (1962)
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Relativity
There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She set out one day
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.
Published without attribution in Punch (19 Dec 1923), 165, 591. He was later identified as the author, based his claim to have written it, in a letter to The Observer (1937).
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Returning now to the Malay Archipelago, we find that all the wide expanse of sea which divides Java, Sumatra, and Borneo from each other, and from Malacca and Siam, is so shallow that ships can anchor in any part of it, since it rarely exceeds forty fathoms in depth; and if we go as far as the line of a hundred fathoms, we shall include the Philippine Islands and Bali, east of Java. If, therefore, these islands have been separated from each other and the continent by subsidence of the intervening tracts of land, we should conclude that the separation has been comparatively recent, since the depth to which the land has subsided is so small. It is also to be remarked that the great chain of active volcanoes in Sumatra and Java furnishes us with a sufficient cause for such subsidence, since the enormous masses of matter they have thrown out would take away the foundations of the surrounding district; and this may be the true explanation of the often-noticed fact that volcanoes and volcanic chains are always near the sea. The subsidence they produce around them will, in time, make a sea, if one does not already exist.
Malay Archipelago
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Returning to the moon is an important step for our space program. Establishing an extended human presence on the moon could vastly reduce the costs of further space exploration, making possible ever more ambitious missions. Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth’s gravity is expensive. Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost. Also, the moon is home to abundant resources. Its soil contains raw materials that might be harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air. We can use our time on the moon to develop and test new approaches and technologies and systems that will allow us to function in other, more challenging environments. The moon is a logical step toward further progress and achievement.
Speech, NASA Headquarters (14 Jan 2004). In Office of the Federal Register (U.S.) Staff (eds.), Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, George W. Bush (2007), 58.
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Science in England is not a profession: its cultivators are scarcely recognised even as a class. Our language itself contains no single term by which their occupation can be expressed. We borrow a foreign word [Savant] from another country whose high ambition it is to advance science, and whose deeper policy, in accord with more generous feelings, gives to the intellectual labourer reward and honour, in return for services which crown the nation with imperishable renown, and ultimately enrich the human race.
The Exposition of 1851: Or the Views of Industry, Science and Government of England (1851), 171.
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Science is a great many things, … but in the end they all return to this: Science is the acceptance of what works and the rejection of what does not. That needs more courage than we might think.
From The Common Sense of Science (1951), 148.
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Science is one of our best weapons against authoritarianism, but authoritarianism has been known to surface among scientists. When this happens, misguided perfectionists or romanticists sometimes seek to root it out by attacking science. Instead of destroying science, which would merely return us to ignorance and superstition, what we need to do is to expose and root out the authoritarians.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 129.
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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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Since a given system can never of its own accord go over into another equally probable state but into a more probable one, it is likewise impossible to construct a system of bodies that after traversing various states returns periodically to its original state, that is a perpetual motion machine.
'The Second Law of Thermodynamics', Populäre Schriften, Essay 3. Address to a Formal meeting of the Imperial Academy of Science, 29 May 1886. In Brian McGuinness (ed.), Ludwig Boltzmann: Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, Selected Writings (1974), 30.
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Some guns were fired to give notice that the departure of the balloon was near. ... Means were used, I am told, to prevent the great balloon's rising so high as might endanger its bursting. Several bags of sand were taken on board before the cord that held it down was cut, and the whole weight being then too much to be lifted, such a quantity was discharged as would permit its rising slowly. Thus it would sooner arrive at that region where it would be in equilibrio with the surrounding air, and by discharging more sand afterwards, it might go higher if desired. Between one and two o’clock, all eyes were gratified with seeing it rise majestically from above the trees, and ascend gradually above the buildings, a most beautiful spectacle. When it was about two hundred feet high, the brave adventurers held out and waved a little white pennant, on both sides of their car, to salute the spectators, who returned loud claps of applause. The wind was very little, so that the object though moving to the northward, continued long in view; and it was a great while before the admiring people began to disperse. The persons embarked were Mr. Charles, professor of experimental philosophy, and a zealous promoter of that science; and one of the Messrs Robert, the very ingenious constructors of the machine.
While U.S. ambassador to France, writing about witnessing, from his carriage outside the garden of Tuileries, Paris, the first manned balloon ascent using hydrogen gas on the afternoon of 1 Dec 1783. A few days earlier, he had watched the first manned ascent in Montgolfier's hot-air balloon, on 21 Nov 1783.
Letter to Sir Charles Banks (1 Dec 1783). In The Writings of Benjamin Franklin: 1783-1788 (1906), Vol. 9, 119-120.
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Some people say there is a God out there. ... but in my travels around the earth all day long, I looked around and didn't see Him ... I saw no God or angels. The rocket was made by our own people. I don't believe in God. I believe in man, in his strength, his possibilities, and his reason.[After his return from a space flight orbitting the earth.]
As quoted, without citation, in H. T. Spence, Confronting Contemporary Christian Music: A Plain Account of Its History, Philosophy, and Future (2002), 7.
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Suppose that you are in love with a lady on Neptune and that she returns the sentiment. It will be some consolation for the melancholy separation if you can say to yourself at some possibly pre-arranged moment, “She is thinking of me now.” Unfortunately a difficulty has arisen because we have had to abolish Now. There is no absolute Now, but only the various relative Nows, differing according to their reckoning of different observers and covering the whole neutral wedge which at the distance of Neptune is about eight hours thick. She will have to think of you continuously for eight hours on end in order to circumvent the ambiguity “Now.”
In The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 49.
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The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received: were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house. [Upon narrowly missing a shipwreck on the Scilly rocks.]
[Frequently seen summarized as, though not Franklin's own wording: Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.
Letter written at Falmouth, England (17 Jul 1757) to Deborah Read Franklin (common-law wife). Quoted in Benjamin Franklin and William Temple Franklin, The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin (1818), 175 footnote added by W.T. Franklin.
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The bones of Descartes were returned to France (all except those of the right hand, which were retained by the French Treasurer-General as a souvenir for his skill in engineering the transaction) and were re-entombed in what is now the Pantheon. There was to have been a public oration, but this was hastily forbidden by order of the crown, as the doctrines of Descartes were deemed to be still too hot for handling before the people.
In Men of Mathematics (1937), 51-52. The remains of Descartes were returned to his native France, seventeen years after he died in Stockholm, Sweden.
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The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head-mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one.
Man on His Nature (1940), 225.
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The course of the line we indicated as forming our grandest terrestrial fold [along the shores of Japan] returns upon itself. It is an endless fold, an endless band, the common possession of two sciences. It is geological in origin, geographical in effect. It is the wedding ring of geology and geography, uniting them at once and for ever in indissoluble union.
Presidential Address to the Geology Section, Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1892), 705.
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The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.
Address to the Nation on the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, from the Cabinet Room (1 Feb 2003). In William J. Federer, A Treasury of Presidential Quotations (2004), 438.
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The Dark Ages may return—the Stone Age may return on the gleaming wings of Science; and what might now shower immeasureable material blessings upon mankind may even bring about its total destruction. Beware! I say. Time may be short.
Referring to the discovery of atomic energy.
“Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri (5 Mar 1946). Maxims and Reflections (1947), 164.
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The earth holds a silver treasure, cupped between ocean bed and tenting sky. Forever the heavens spend it, in the showers that refresh our temperate lands, the torrents that sluice the tropics. Every suckling root absorbs it, the very soil drains it down; the rivers run unceasing to the sea, the mountains yield it endlessly… Yet none is lost; in vast convection our water is returned, from soil to sky, and sky to soil, and back gain, to fall as pure as blessing. There was never less; there could never be more. A mighty mercy on which life depends, for all its glittering shifts, water is constant.
In A Cup of Sky (1950), 41.
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The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place. All through the long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest where waves have broken heavily against the land, where the tides have pressed forward over the continents, receded, and then returned. For no two successive days is the shore line precisely the same. Not only do the tides advance and retreat in their eternal rhythms, but the level of the sea itself is never at rest. It rises or falls as the glaciers melt or grow, as the floor of the deep ocean basins shifts under its increasing load of sediments, or as the Earth’s crust along the continental margins warps up or down in adjustment to strain and tension. Today a little more land may belong to the sea, tomorrow a little less. Always the edge of the sea remains an elusive and indefinable boundary.
Opening paragraph in The Edge of the Sea (1955), 1.
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The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated. They hanker for the scribe’s golden age, for a return to something like the scribe-dominated societies of ancient Egypt, China, and Europe of the Middle Ages. There is little doubt that the present trend in the new and renovated countries toward social regimentation stems partly from the need to create adequate employment for a large number of scribes. And since the tempo of the production of the literate is continually increasing, the prospect is of ever-swelling bureaucracies.
In 'Scribe, Writer, and Rebel', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 109.
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The fact is the physical chemists never use their eyes and are most lamentably lacking in chemical culture. It is essential to cast out from our midst, root and branch, this physical element and return to our laboratories.
'Ionomania in Extremis', Chemistry and Industry (1936), 14, 917.
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The future of humanity is uncertain, even in the most prosperous countries, and the quality of life deteriorates; and yet I believe that what is being discovered about the infinitely large and the infinitely small is sufficient to absolve this end of the century and millennium. What a very few are acquiring in knowledge of the physical world will perhaps cause this period not to be judged as a pure return to barbarism.
In 'News from the Sky', Other People’s Trades (1989), 23-24.
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The law of diminishing returns means that even the most beneficial principle will become harmful if carried far enough.
'Penetrating the Rhetoric', The Vision of the Anointed (1996), 102.
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The moon makes her circuit of the heaven in twenty-eight days plus about an hour, and with her return to the sign from which she set forth, completes a lunar month.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 9, Chap 1, Sec. 5. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 258.
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The night before Easter Sunday of that year (1920) I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of thin paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at six o’clock in the morning that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at three o’clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered seventeen years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory, and performed a simple experiment on a frog heart according to the nocturnal design. I have to describe this experiment briefly since its results became the foundation of the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse. The hearts of two frogs were isolated, the first with its nerves, the second without. Both hearts were attached to Straub cannulas filled with a little Ringer solution. The vagus nerve of the first heart was stimulated for a few minutes. Then the Ringer solution that had been in the first heart during the stimulation of the vagus was transferred to the second heart. It slowed and its beats diminished just as if its vagus had been stimulated. Similarly, when the accelerator nerve was stimulated and the Ringer from this period transferred, the second heart speeded up and its beats increased. These results unequivocally proved that the nerves do not influence the heart directly but liberate from their terminals specific chemical substances which, in their turn, cause the well-known modifications of the function of the heart characteristic of the stimulation of its nerves.
'An Autobiographic Sketch', Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1960), 4, 17.
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The powers which tend to preserve, and those which tend to change the condition of the earth's surface, are never in equilibrio; the latter are, in all cases, the most powerful, and, in respect of the former, are like living in comparison of dead forces. Hence the law of decay is one which suffers no exception: The elements of all bodies were once loose and unconnected, and to the same state nature has appointed that they should all return... TIME performs the office of integrating the infinitesimal parts of which this progression is made up; it collects them into one sum, and produces from them an amount greater than any that can be assigned.
Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), 116-7.
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The problem for a writer of a text-book has come now, in fact, to be this—to write a book so neatly trimmed and compacted that no coach, on looking through it, can mark a single passage which the candidate for a minimum pass can safely omit. Some of these text-books I have seen, where the scientific matter has been, like the lady’s waist in the nursery song, compressed “so gent and sma’,” that the thickness barely, if at all, surpasses what is devoted to the publisher’s advertisements. We shall return, I verily believe, to the Compendium of Martianus Capella. The result of all this is that science, in the hands of specialists, soars higher and higher into the light of day, while educators and the educated are left more and more to wander in primeval darkness.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science (1885), Nature, 32, 448. [Martianus Capella, who flourished c.410-320, wrote a compendium of the seven liberal arts. —Webmaster]
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The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature had established between her organized and her inorganic creations; and she avenges herself upon the intruder, by letting loose upon her defaced provinces destructive energies hitherto kept in check by organic forces destined to be his best auxiliaries, but which he has unwisely dispersed and driven from the field of action. When the forest is gone, the great reservoir of moisture stored up in its vegetable mould is evaporated, and returns only in deluges of rain to wash away the parched dust into which that mould has been converted. The well-wooded and humid hills are turned to ridges of dry rock, which encumbers the low grounds and chokes the watercourses with its debris, and–except in countries favored with an equable distribution of rain through the seasons, and a moderate and regular inclination of surface–the whole earth, unless rescued by human art from the physical degradation to which it tends, becomes an assemblage of bald mountains, of barren, turfless hills, and of swampy and malarious plains. There are parts of Asia Minor, of Northern Africa, of Greece, and even of Alpine Europe, where the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon; and though, within that brief space of time which we call “the historical period,” they are known to have been covered with luxuriant woods, verdant pastures, and fertile meadows, they are now too far deteriorated to be reclaimable by man, nor can they become again fitted for human use, except through great geological changes, or other mysterious influences or agencies of which we have no present knowledge, and over which we have no prospective control. The earth is fast becoming an unfit home for its noblest inhabitant, and another era of equal human crime and human improvidence, and of like duration with that through which traces of that crime and that improvidence extend, would reduce it to such a condition of impoverished productiveness, of shattered surface, of climatic excess, as to threaten the depravation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction of the species.
Man and Nature, (1864), 42-3.
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The role of hypothesis in research can be discussed more effectively if we consider first some examples of discoveries which originated from hypotheses. One of the best illustrations of such a discovery is provided by the story of Christopher Columbus’ voyage; it has many of the features of a classic discovery in science. (a) He was obsessed with an idea—that since the world is round he could reach the Orient by sailing West, (b) the idea was by no means original, but evidently he had obtained some additional evidence from a sailor blown off his course who claimed to have reached land in the west and returned, (c) he met great difficulties in getting someone to provide the money to enable him to test his idea as well as in the actual carrying out of the experimental voyage, (d) when finally he succeeded he did not find the expected new route, but instead found a whole new world, (e) despite all evidence to the contrary he clung to the bitter end to his hypothesis and believed that he had found the route to the Orient, (f) he got little credit or reward during his lifetime and neither he nor others realised the full implications of his discovery, (g) since his time evidence has been brought forward showing that he was by no means the first European to reach America.
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950), 41.
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The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI, to us insiders) has so far only proved that no matter what you beam up—the Pythagorean theorem, pictures of attractive nude people, etc.—the big 800 number in the sky does not return calls.
From essay 'First Person Secular: Blocking the Gates to Heaven', Mother Jones Magazine (Jun 1986), 48. Collected in The Worst Years of our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1995), 267.
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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 sun, moving as it does, sets up processes of change and becoming and decay, and by its agency the finest and sweetest water is every day carried up and is dissolved into vapour and rises to the upper region, where it is condensed again by the cold and so returns to the earth. This, as we have said before, is the regular course of nature.
Aristotle
Meteorology (350 B.C.), Book II, translated by E. W. Webster. Internet Classics Archive, (classics.mit.edu).
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The truth is, the Science of Nature has been already too long made only a work of the Brain and the Fancy: It is now high time that it should return to the plainness and soundness of Observations on material and obvious things.
Micrographia (1665). In Extracts from Micrographia (1906), 10.
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The two revolutions, I mean the annual revolutions of the declination and of the centre of the Earth, are not completely equal; that is the return of the declination to its original value is slightly ahead of the period of the centre. Hence it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices seem to anticipate their timing, not because the sphere of the fixed stars moves to the east, but rather the equatorial circle moves to the west, being at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic in proportion to the declination of the axis of the terrestrial globe.
'Book Three. Chapter I. The Precession of the equinoxes and solstices', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 141.
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The various branches of knowledge always tend as a whole to stray away from life, and return thither only by a roundabout way.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 189.
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Then if the first argument remains secure (for nobody will produce a neater one, than the length of the periodic time is a measure of the size of the spheres), the order of the orbits follows this sequence, beginning from the highest: The first and highest of all is the sphere of the fixed stars, which contains itself and all things, and is therefore motionless. It is the location of the universe, to which the motion and position of all the remaining stars is referred. For though some consider that it also changes in some respect, we shall assign another cause for its appearing to do so in our deduction of the Earth's motion. There follows Saturn, the first of the wandering stars, which completes its circuit in thirty years. After it comes Jupiter which moves in a twelve-year long revolution. Next is Mars, which goes round biennially. An annual revolution holds the fourth place, in which as we have said is contained the Earth along with the lunar sphere which is like an epicycle. In fifth place Venus returns every nine months. Lastly, Mercury holds the sixth place, making a circuit in the space of eighty days. In the middle of all is the seat of the Sun. For who in this most beautiful of temples would put this lamp in any other or better place than the one from which it can illuminate everything at the same time? Aptly indeed is he named by some the lantern of the universe, by others the mind, by others the ruler. Trismegistus called him the visible God, Sophocles' Electra, the watcher over all things. Thus indeed the Sun as if seated on a royal throne governs his household of Stars as they circle around him. Earth also is by no means cheated of the Moon's attendance, but as Aristotle says in his book On Animals the Moon has the closest affinity with the Earth. Meanwhile the Earth conceives from the Sun, and is made pregnant with annual offspring. We find, then, in this arrangement the marvellous symmetry of the universe, and a sure linking together in harmony of the motion and size of the spheres, such as could be perceived in no other way. For here one may understand, by attentive observation, why Jupiter appears to have a larger progression and retrogression than Saturn, and smaller than Mars, and again why Venus has larger ones than Mercury; why such a doubling back appears more frequently in Saturn than in Jupiter, and still more rarely in Mars and Venus than in Mercury; and furthermore why Saturn, Jupiter and Mars are nearer to the Earth when in opposition than in the region of their occultation by the Sun and re-appearance. Indeed Mars in particular at the time when it is visible throughout the night seems to equal Jupiter in size, though marked out by its reddish colour; yet it is scarcely distinguishable among stars of the second magnitude, though recognized by those who track it with careful attention. All these phenomena proceed from the same course, which lies in the motion of the Earth. But the fact that none of these phenomena appears in the fixed stars shows their immense elevation, which makes even the circle of their annual motion, or apparent motion, vanish from our eyes.
'Book One. Chapter X. The Order of the Heavenly Spheres', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 49-51.
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There are many occasions when the muscles that form the lips of the mouth move the lateral muscles that are joined to them, and there are an equal number of occasions when these lateral muscles move the lips of this mouth, replacing it where it cannot return of itself, because the function of muscle is to pull and not to push except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.
'Anatomy', in The Notebooks of Leonardoda Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 152.
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There came in February the issue of Life saying on the cover “Dr. Teller Refutes 9000 Scientists”… I wrote to Life and said first that Teller hadn’t refuted 9000 scientists and second I felt that they should publish the article that I had written… They sent the article back and said that they didn’t want it and then I offered it to Look. The editor of Look called me and said they couldn’t get into a controversy with Life. Then I offered it to the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal and Readers Digest and none of them were interested in it. And then I thought, “What shall I do? I’ll have to write a book and see if I can’t get it published.”’
As quoted in Ted Goertzel, et al., Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics (1965, 1995), 46.
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There is no doubt that human survival will continue to depend more and more on human intellect and technology. It is idle to argue whether this is good or bad. The point of no return was passed long ago, before anyone knew it was happening.
…...
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There is nothing mysterious, as some have tried to maintain, about the applicability of mathematics. What we get by abstraction from something can be returned.
In Introduction to the Foundations of Mathematics (1952), 175.
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This skipping is another important point. It should be done whenever a proof seems too hard or whenever a theorem or a whole paragraph does not appeal to the reader. In most cases he will be able to go on and later he may return to the parts which he skipped.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 19.
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Thus I learned the single essential to qualify a dive as successful: a return.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 38.
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To prove to an indignant questioner on the spur of the moment that the work I do was useful seemed a thankless task and I gave it up. I turned to him with a smile and finished, 'To tell you the truth we don't do it because it is useful but because it's amusing.' The answer was thought of and given in a moment: it came from deep down in my soul, and the results were as admirable from my point of view as unexpected. My audience was clearly on my side. Prolonged and hearty applause greeted my confession. My questioner retired shaking his head over my wickedness and the newspapers next day, with obvious approval, came out with headlines 'Scientist Does It Because It's Amusing!' And if that is not the best reason why a scientist should do his work, I want to know what is. Would it be any good to ask a mother what practical use her baby is? That, as I say, was the first evening I ever spent in the United States and from that moment I felt at home. I realised that all talk about science purely for its practical and wealth-producing results is as idle in this country as in England. Practical results will follow right enough. No real knowledge is sterile. The most useless investigation may prove to have the most startling practical importance: Wireless telegraphy might not yet have come if Clerk Maxwell had been drawn away from his obviously 'useless' equations to do something of more practical importance. Large branches of chemistry would have remained obscure had Willard Gibbs not spent his time at mathematical calculations which only about two men of his generation could understand. With this faith in the ultimate usefulness of all real knowledge a man may proceed to devote himself to a study of first causes without apology, and without hope of immediate return.
A.V. Hill
Quoted in Larry R. Squire (ed.), The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography (1996), Vol. I, 351.
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Tobacco, in its various forms, is one of the most mischievous of all drugs. There is perhaps no other drug which injures the body in so many ways and so universally as does tobacco. Some drugs offer a small degree of compensation for the evil effects which they produce; but tobacco has not a single redeeming feature and gives nothing in return.
In Tobaccoism: or, How Tobacco Kills (1922), Preface, 7.
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We can see that, the constant in the law of gravitation being fixed, there may be some upper limit to the amount of matter possible; as more and more matter is added in the distant parts, space curves round and ultimately closes; the process of adding more matter must stop, because there is no more space, and we can only return to the region already dealt with. But there seems nothing to prevent a defect of matter, leaving space unclosed. Some mechanism seems to be needed, whereby either gravitation creates matter, or all the matter in the universe conspires to define a law of gravitation.
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 163.
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We had various kinds of tape-recorded concerts and popular music. But by the end of the flight what we listened to most was Russian folk songs. We also had recordings of nature sounds: thunder, rain, the singing of birds. We switched them on most frequently of all, and we never grew tired of them. It was as if they returned us to Earth.
…...
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We have before us the restoration of that ancient land whose name was a synonym for abundance, prosperity, and grandeur for many generations. Records as old as those of Egypt and as well attested tell of fertile lands and teeming populations, mighty kings and warriors, sages and wise men, over periods of thousands of years. ... A land such as this is worth resuscitating. Once we have apprehended the true cause of its present desolate and abandoned condition, we are on our way to restoring it to its ancient fertility. A land which so readily responded to ancient science, and gave a return which sufficed for the maintenance of a Persian Court in all its splendor, will surely respond to the efforts of modern science and return manifold the money and talent spent on its regeneration.
From The Restoration of the Ancient Irrigation Works on the Tigris: or, The Re-creation of Chaldea (1903), 30.
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We might expect … in the summer of the “great year,” which we are now considering, that there would be a great predominance of tree-ferns and plants allied to the palms and arborescent grasses in the isles of the wide ocean, while the dicotyledenous plants and other forms now most common in temperate regions would almost disappear from the earth. Then might these genera of animals return, of which the memorials are preserved in the ancient rocks of our continents. The huge iguanodon might reappear in the woods, and the ichthyosaur in the sea, while the pterodactyle might flit again through umbrageous groves of tree-ferns. Coral reefs might be prolonged beyond the arctic circle, where the whale and narwal [sic] now abound. Turtles might deposit their eggs in the sand of the sea beach, where now the walrus sleeps, and where the seal is drifted on the ice-floe.
In Principles of Geology (1830-3), Vol. 1, 123.
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What marvel is this? We begged you for drinkable springs,
O earth, and what is your lap sending forth?
Is there life in the deeps as well? A race yet unknown
Hiding under the lava? Are they who had fled returning?
Come and see, Greeks; Romans, come! Ancient Pompeii Is found again, the city of Hercules rises!
Translation as given, without citation, as epigraph in C.W. Ceram, Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology (1986), 1. There are other translations of the Schiller’s original German, for example, in 'Pompeii and Herculaneum', Life of Schiller: Poetical Works (1902), 249.
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What strange wonder is this? Our prayer to thee was for water,
Earth! What is this that thou now send’st from thy womb in reply?
In the abyss is there life ? Or hidden under the lava
Dwelleth some race now unknown? Does what hath fled e’er return?
Greeks and Romans, oh come! Oh, see the ancient Pompeii
Here is discover’d again,—Hercules’ town is rebuilt!
Beginning lines of poem, 'Pompeii and Herculaneum', in Edgar A. Bowring (trans.), The Poems of Schiller (1875), 237.
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Whatever the common-sense of earlier generations may have held in this respect, modern common-sense holds that the scientist’s answer is the only ultimately true one. In the last resort enlightened common-sense sticks by the opaque truth and refuses to go behind the returns given by the tangible facts.
From 'The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation', American Journal of Sociology (Mar 1906), 11, collected in The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation and Other Essays (1919), 4.
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When an inquiry becomes so convoluted, we must suspect that we are proceeding in the wrong way. We must return to go, change gears, and reformulate the problem, not pursue every new iota of information or nuance of argument jn the old style, hoping all the time that our elusive solution simply awaits a crucial item, yet undiscovered.
In The Flamingo’s Smile (1985).
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When autumn returns with its long anticipated holidays, and preparations are made for a scamper in some distant locality, hammer and notebook will not occupy much room in the portmanteau, and will certainly be found most entertaining company.
In The Story of a Boulder: or, Gleanings from the Note-book of a Field Geologist (1858), viii.
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When I read some forty years ago that shells from Syria were found in the Alpes, I said, I admit, in a rather joking way, that these shells had apparently been carried by pilgrims on their return from Jerusalem. Mr. Buffon reprimanded me rather sharply in his Theory of the Earth, p. 28 I. I did not want to lose his friendship for peanuts; however, I am still of the same opinion because the impossibility of the formation of mountains by the sea is demonstrated to me.
Les Singularites de la Nature (1768), in Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire (1877-1885), Vol. 26, 408. Trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
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When the president said, “We’re going to send a man to the moon and return him safely,” the safe part sounded pretty good. But they were using hydrogen, and the only thing I knew about hydrogen was that they used it with the Hindenburg, and that didn’t work out too good.
Interview (30 Sep 2004) with Morley Safer at luncheon after official reopening of Rocket Park. As quoted in Corey Kilgannon, 'The Rocket Park Reopens, And Cronkite Reminisces', New York Times (1 Oct 2004), B6.
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Why, then, are we surprised that comets, such a rare spectacle in the universe, are not known, when their return is at vast intervals?. … The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject … And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them …. Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate … Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all. Someday there will be a man who will show in what regions comets have their orbit, why they travel so remote from other celestial bodies, how large they are and what sort they are.
Natural Questions, Book 7. As translated by Thomas H. Corcoran in Seneca in Ten Volumes: Naturales Quaestiones II (1972), 279 and 293.
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You will die but the carbon will not; its career does not end with you. It will return to the soil, and there a plant may take it up again in time, sending it once more on a cycle of plant and animal life.
…...
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[In the Royal Society, there] has been, a constant Resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men deliver'd so many things, almost in an equal number of words. They have exacted from all their members, a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions; clear senses; a native easiness: bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness, as they can: and preferring the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that, of Wits, or Scholars.
The History of the Royal Society (1667), 113.
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~~[No known source]~~ Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, there you long return.
Best attributed simply to “Anonymous” because there seems to be no known reliable primary source. Another example of a feral quote that is almost certainly not authentic, yet spreads virally like a lexicographic plague. It must be centuries old, but does not show up in major 19th-century quote collections. It is simply too good to be true. Included here to attach this caution.
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’Tis late; the astronomer in his lonely height
Exploring all the dark, descries from far
Orbs that like distant isles of splendor are,
And mornings whitening in the infinite.…
He summons one disheveled, wandering star,—
Return ten centuries hence on such a night.
That star will come. It dare not by one hour
Cheat science, or falsify her calculation;
Men will have passed, but watchful in the tower
Man shall remain in sleepless contemplation;
And should all men have perished there in turn,
Truth in their stead would watch that star’s return.
From poem, 'The Appointment', as translated by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, collected in Samuel Waddington (ed.), The Sonnets of Europe (1886), 154.
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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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