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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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Reverse Quotes (21 quotes)

A perfect thermo-dynamic engine is such that, whatever amount of mechanical effect it can derive from a certain thermal agency; if an equal amount be spent in working it backwards, an equal reverse thermal effect will be produced.
'Thomson on Carnot’s Motive Power of Heat' (appended to 'Réflexions sur la puissance motrice du feu' (1824) translated by R.H. Thurston) in Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, and on Machines Fitted to Develop that Power (1890), 139.
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A strict materialist believes that everything depends on the motion of matter. He knows the form of the laws of motion though he does not know all their consequences when applied to systems of unknown complexity.
Now one thing in which the materialist (fortified with dynamical knowledge) believes is that if every motion great & small were accurately reversed, and the world left to itself again, everything would happen backwards the fresh water would collect out of the sea and run up the rivers and finally fly up to the clouds in drops which would extract heat from the air and evaporate and afterwards in condensing would shoot out rays of light to the sun and so on. Of course all living things would regrede from the grave to the cradle and we should have a memory of the future but not of the past.
The reason why we do not expect anything of this kind to take place at any time is our experience of irreversible processes, all of one kind, and this leads to the doctrine of a beginning & an end instead of cyclical progression for ever.
Letter to Mark Pattison (7 Apr 1868). In P. M. Hannan (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 360-1.
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Algebra reverses the relative importance of the factors in ordinary language. It is essentially a written language, and it endeavors to exemplify in its written structures the patterns which it is its purpose to convey. The pattern of the marks on paper is a particular instance of the pattern to be conveyed to thought. The algebraic method is our best approach to the expression of necessity, by reason of its reduction of accident to the ghost-like character of the real variable.
In Science and Philosophy (1948), 116.
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Apparently the anti-evolutionist expects to see a monkey or an ass transformed into a man, though he must be familiar enough with the reverse process.
As quoted by E. Newton Harvey, in 'Edwin Grant Conklin: A Biographical Memoir', Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences(1958), Vol. 31, 59.
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Bradley is one of the few basketball players who have ever been appreciatively cheered by a disinterested away-from-home crowd while warming up. This curious event occurred last March, just before Princeton eliminated the Virginia Military Institute, the year’s Southern Conference champion, from the NCAA championships. The game was played in Philadelphia and was the last of a tripleheader. The people there were worn out, because most of them were emotionally committed to either Villanova or Temple-two local teams that had just been involved in enervating battles with Providence and Connecticut, respectively, scrambling for a chance at the rest of the country. A group of Princeton players shooting basketballs miscellaneously in preparation for still another game hardly promised to be a high point of the evening, but Bradley, whose routine in the warmup time is a gradual crescendo of activity, is more interesting to watch before a game than most players are in play. In Philadelphia that night, what he did was, for him, anything but unusual. As he does before all games, he began by shooting set shots close to the basket, gradually moving back until he was shooting long sets from 20 feet out, and nearly all of them dropped into the net with an almost mechanical rhythm of accuracy. Then he began a series of expandingly difficult jump shots, and one jumper after another went cleanly through the basket with so few exceptions that the crowd began to murmur. Then he started to perform whirling reverse moves before another cadence of almost steadily accurate jump shots, and the murmur increased. Then he began to sweep hook shots into the air. He moved in a semicircle around the court. First with his right hand, then with his left, he tried seven of these long, graceful shots-the most difficult ones in the orthodoxy of basketball-and ambidextrously made them all. The game had not even begun, but the presumably unimpressible Philadelphians were applauding like an audience at an opera.
A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton
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But, contrary to the lady’s prejudices about the engineering profession, the fact is that quite some time ago the tables were turned between theory and applications in the physical sciences. Since World War II the discoveries that have changed the world are not made so much in lofty halls of theoretical physics as in the less-noticed labs of engineering and experimental physics. The roles of pure and applied science have been reversed; they are no longer what they were in the golden age of physics, in the age of Einstein, Schrödinger, Fermi and Dirac.
'The Age of Computing: a Personal Memoir', Daedalus (1992), 121, 120.
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By an application of the theory of relativity to the taste of readers, today in Germany I am called a German man of science, and in England I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be regarded as a bête noire the descriptions will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew for the Germans and a German man of science for the English!
Times (28 Nov 1919). In Robert Andrews Famous Lines: a Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations (1997), 414. Variations of this quote were made by Einstein on other occasions.
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Descartes said, “I think; therefore I am.” The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, “I am not; therefore I cannot think.”
In Orthodoxy (1918, 2008), 25.
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Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
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If you are on the side whence the wind is blowing you will see the trees looking much lighter than you would see them on the other sides; and this is due to the fact that the wind turns up the reverse side of the leaves which in all trees is much whiter than the upper side.
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In nature hybrid species are usually sterile, but in science the reverse is often true. Hybrid subjects are often astonishingly fertile, whereas if a scientific discipline remains too pure it usually wilts.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 150.
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In scientific thought we adopt the simplest theory which will explain all the facts under consideration and enable us to predict new facts of the same kind. The catch in this criterion lies in the world “simplest.” It is really an aesthetic canon such as we find implicit in our criticisms of poetry or painting. The layman finds such a law as dx/dt = κ(d²x/dy²) much less simple than “it oozes,” of which it is the mathematical statement. The physicist reverses this judgment, and his statement is certainly the more fruitful of the two, so far as prediction is concerned. It is, however, a statement about something very unfamiliar to the plain man, namely the rate of change of a rate of change.
In 'Science and Theology as Art-Forms', Possible Worlds (1927), 227.
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It is ironical that, in the very field in which Science has claimed superiority to Theology, for example—in the abandoning of dogma and the granting of absolute freedom to criticism—the positions are now reversed. Science will not tolerate criticism of special relativity, while Theology talks freely about the death of God, religionless Christianity, and so on.
In 'Preface', Science at the Crossroads (1972), 13.
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It is like the difference between a specialist and a philosopher. A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until at last he knows everything about nothing. A philosopher is someone who knows less and less about more and more until at last he knows nothing about everything. Physics is now too philosophical. In my work I would like to reverse the process, and to try to limit the things to be found out and to make some modest discoveries which may later be useful.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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Noitaton Hsilop esrever diova!
In Michael Stueben Twenty Years Before the Blackboard, (1998), 131. The sentence is written backwards from “Avoid reverse Polish notation!” [Note the E. Kim Nebeuts is probably a pen name since, also reversed, it reads Mike Stueben. —Webmaster]
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Our way of life has been influenced by the way technology has developed. In future, it seems to me, we ought to try to reverse this and so develop our technology that it meets the needs of the sort of life we wish to lead.
Men, Machines and Sacred Cows (1984).
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Pope has elegantly said a perfect woman's but a softer man. And if we take in the consideration, that there can be but one rule of moral excellence for beings made of the same materials, organized after the same manner, and subjected to similar laws of Nature, we must either agree with Mr. Pope, or we must reverse the proposition, and say, that a perfect man is a woman formed after a coarser mold.
Letter XXII. 'No Characteristic Difference in Sex'. In Letters on Education with Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects (1790), 128.
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Psychiatrist David Shainberg argued that mental illness, which appears chaotic, is actually the reverse. Mental illness occurs when images of the self become rigid and closed, restricting an open creative response to the world.[Co-author with David Peat]
In John F. Briggs and David Peat, Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Spiritual Wisdom from the Science of Change (1999, 2000), 29. A footnote gives the source of this idea as from David Shainberg, The Transforming Self: New Dimensions in Psychoanalytic Process (1973).
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Somebody once observed to the eminent philosopher Wittgenstein how stupid medieval Europeans living before the time of Copernicus must have been that they could have looked at the sky and thought that the sun was circling the earth. Surely a modicum of astronomical good sense would have told them that the reverse was true. Wittgenstein is said to have replied: “I agree. But I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun had been circling the earth.”
In Day the Universe Changed (1985), 11.
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The responsibility for maintaining the composition of the blood in respect to other constituents devolves largely upon the kidneys. It is no exaggeration to say that the composition of the blood is determined not by what the mouth ingests but by what the kidneys keep; they are the master chemists of our internal environment, which, so to speak, they synthesize in reverse. When, among other duties, they excrete the ashes of our body fires, or remove from the blood the infinite variety of foreign substances which are constantly being absorbed from our indiscriminate gastrointestinal tracts, these excretory operations are incidental to the major task of keeping our internal environment in an ideal, balanced state. Our glands, our muscles, our bones, our tendons, even our brains, are called upon to do only one kind of physiological work, while our kidneys are called upon to perform an innumerable variety of operations. Bones can break, muscles can atrophy, glands can loaf, even the brain can go to sleep, without immediately endangering our survival, but when the kidneys fail to manufacture the proper kind of blood neither bone, muscle, gland nor brain can carry on.
'The Evolution of the Kidney', Lectures on the Kidney (1943), 3.
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This single Stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that neglected Corner, I once knew in a flourishing State in a Forest: It was full of Sap, full of Leaves, and full of Boughs: But now, in vain does the busy Art of Man pretend to vie with Nature, by tying that withered Bundle of Twigs to its sapless Trunk: It is at best but the Reverse of what it was; a Tree turned upside down, the Branches on the Earth, and the Root in the Air.
'A Meditation Upon a Broom-stick: According to The Style and Manner of the Honorable Robert Boyle's Meditations' (1703), collected in 'Thoughts On Various Subjects', The Works of Jonathan Swift (1746), Vol. 1, 55-56.
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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 -
Antoine Lavoisier
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Euclid
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- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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