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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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Review Quotes (26 quotes)

Der bis zur Vorrede, die ihn abweist, gelangte Leser hat das Buch für baares Geld gekauft und frägt, was ihn schadlos hält? – Meine letzte Zuflucht ist jetzt, ihn zu erinnern, daß er ein Buch, auch ohne es gerade zu lesen, doch auf mancherlei Art zu benutzen weiß. Es kann, so gut wie viele andere, eine Lücke seiner Bibliothek ausfüllen, wo es sich, sauber gebunden, gewiß gut ausnehmen wird. Oder auch er kann es seiner gelehrten Freundin auf die Toilette, oder den Theetisch legen. Oder endlich er kann ja, was gewiß das Beste von Allem ist und ich besonders rathe, es recensiren.
The reader who has got as far as the preface and is put off by that, has paid money for the book, and wants to know how he is to be compensated. My last refuge now is to remind him that he knows of various ways of using a book without precisely reading it. It can, like many another, fill a gap in his library, where, neatly bound, it is sure to look well. Or he can lay it on the dressing-table or tea-table of his learned lady friend. Or finally he can review it; this is assuredly the best course of all, and the one I specially advise.
In Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xv-xvi. As translated by E.F.J. Payne in The World as Will and Representation (1958, 1969), Vol. 1, xvii. In the preface, Schopenhauer is joking that some readers of his book may find his work does not interest them.
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As I review the nature of the creative drive in the inventive scientists that have been around me, as well as in myself, I find the first event is an urge to make a significant intellectual contribution that can be tangible embodied in a product or process.
Quoted in New York Times (2 Mar 1991), 1 and 29.
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By a recent estimate, nearly half the bills before the U.S. Congress have a substantial science-technology component and some two-thirds of the District of Columbia Circuit Court’s case load now involves review of action by federal administrative agencies; and more and more of such cases relate to matters on the frontiers of technology.
If the layman cannot participate in decision making, he will have to turn himself over, essentially blind, to a hermetic elite. … [The fundamental question becomes] are we still capable of self-government and therefore freedom?
Margaret Mead wrote in a 1959 issue of Daedalus about scientists elevated to the status of priests. Now there is a name for this elevation, when you are in the hands of—one hopes—a benevolent elite, when you have no control over your political decisions. From the point of view of John Locke, the name for this is slavery.
Quoted in 'Where is Science Taking Us? Gerald Holton Maps the Possible Routes', The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 May 1981). In Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (1982), 80.
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Committees are dangerous things that need most careful watching. I believe that a research committee can do one useful thing and one only. It can find the workers best fitted to attack a particular problem, bring them together, give them the facilities they need, and leave them to get on with the work. It can review progress from time to time, and make adjustments; but if it tries to do more, it will do harm.
Attributed.
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Darwin's Origin of Species had come into the theological world like a plough into an ant-hill. Everywhere those thus rudely awakened from their old comfort and repose had swarmed forth angry and confused. Reviews, sermons, books light and heavy, came flying at the new thinker from all sides.
From The Warfare of Science and Theology in Christendom (1898), 70.
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Deforestation photo of burning brush and timber on the ground + quote caption “Earth skinned alive”
Deforestation of Amazon forest by burning to clear for grazing lands.
Credit: NASA LBA-ECO Project
Earth, Skinned Alive.
[Headline for deforestation book review.]
Newspaper
Headline to book review by Stephen J. Pyne in New York Times (21 Apr 1991), BR19. (The book being reviewed was Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley, Trees of Life: Saving Tropical Forests and Their Biological Wealth.)
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Every man is ready to join in the approval or condemnation of a philosopher or a statesman, a poet or an orator, an artist or an architect. But who can judge of a mathematician? Who will write a review of Hamilton’s Quaternions, and show us wherein it is superior to Newton’s Fluxions?
In 'Imagination in Mathematics', North American Review, 85, 224.
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From my close observation of writers ... they fall in to two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.
In Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection? (2003).
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He who gives a portion of his time and talent to the investigation of mathematical truth will come to all other questions with a decided advantage over his opponents. He will be in argument what the ancient Romans were in the field: to them the day of battle was a day of comparative recreation, because they were ever accustomed to exercise with arms much heavier than they fought; and reviews differed from a real battle in two respects: they encountered more fatigue, but the victory was bloodless.
Reflection 352, in Lacon: or Many things in Few Words; Addressed to Those Who Think (1820), 159.
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I believed that, instead of the multiplicity of rules that comprise logic, I would have enough in the following four, as long as I made a firm and steadfast resolution never to fail to observe them.
The first was never to accept anything as true if I did not know clearly that it was so; that is, carefully to avoid prejudice and jumping to conclusions, and to include nothing in my judgments apart from whatever appeared so clearly and distinctly to my mind that I had no opportunity to cast doubt upon it.
The second was to subdivide each on the problems I was about to examine: into as many parts as would be possible and necessary to resolve them better.
The third was to guide my thoughts in an orderly way by beginning, as if by steps, to knowledge of the most complex, and even by assuming an order of the most complex, and even by assuming an order among objects in! cases where there is no natural order among them.
And the final rule was: in all cases, to make such comprehensive enumerations and such general review that I was certain not to omit anything.
The long chains of inferences, all of them simple and easy, that geometers normally use to construct their most difficult demonstrations had given me an opportunity to think that all the things that can fall within the scope of human knowledge follow from each other in a similar way, and as long as one avoids accepting something as true which is not so, and as long as one always observes the order required to deduce them from each other, there cannot be anything so remote that it cannot be reached nor anything so hidden that it cannot be uncovered.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 2, 16.
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I found the best ideas usually came, not when one was actively striving for them, but when one was in a more relaxed state… I used to take long solitary walks on Sundays, during which I tended to review the current situation in a leisurely way. Such occasions often proved fruitful, even though (or perhaps, because) the primary purpose of the walk was relaxation and not research.
'Methods in Theoretical Physics', From A Life of Physics: Evening Lectures at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. A Special Supplement of the IAEA Bulletin (1968), 24.
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I have reviewed this work elsewhere under the title 'Natural Products Chemistry 1950 to 1980-A Personal View.' It is with some relish that I recall the flood of reprint requests prompted by the following footnote on the title page: 'Selected personal statements by the author were removed by the editor without Professor Djerassi's consent. An uncensored version of this paper can be obtained by writing to Professor C. Djerassi'.
Steroids Made it Possible (1990), 14.
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I remember one occasion when I tried to add a little seasoning to a review, but I wasn’t allowed to. The paper was by Dorothy Maharam, and it was a perfectly sound contribution to abstract measure theory. The domains of the underlying measures were not sets but elements of more general Boolean algebras, and their range consisted not of positive numbers but of certain abstract equivalence classes. My proposed first sentence was: “The author discusses valueless measures in pointless spaces.”
In I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography (1985), 120.
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If you see a formula in the Physical Review that extends over a quarter of a page, forget it. It’s wrong. Nature isn’t that complicated.
As quoted, without citation in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 166. Need a primary source - can you help?
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In 399 B.C. Socrates was accused of introducing new gods and questioning accepted gods. He was sentenced to death by a jury of 500 of his peers. His philosophy did not pass peer review.
Please contact webmaster if you have the primary source for this interesting quote.
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In a scientific journal, a major consideration is whether the book reviewed has made a contribution to medical science. Cynics may well say that they know of no psychiatric text that would meet such conditions, and they may be right.
Myre Sim
In book review by Myre Sim, about 'Ending the Cycle of Abuse', The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (May 1997), 42:4, 425.
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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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Many climate sceptics seem to review scientific data and studies not as scientists but as attorneys, magnifying doubts and treating incomplete explanations as falsehoods rather than signs of progress towards the truth.
Editorial, Nature (28 Jul 2011), 475, 423-424.
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Most of the crackpot papers which are submitted to The Physical Review are rejected, not because it is impossible to understand them, but because it is possible. Those which are impossible to understand are usually published. When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will be only half-understood; to everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.
In 'Innovation in Physics', Scientific American (Sep 1958), 199. Collected in From Eros to Gaia (1993).
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On the basis of the results recorded in this review, it can be claimed that the average sand grain has taken many hundreds of millions of years to lose 10 per cent. of its weight by abrasion and become subangular. It is a platitude to point to the slowness of geological processes. But much depends on the way things are put. For it can also be said that a sand grain travelling on the bottom of a river loses 10 million molecules each time it rolls over on its side and that representation impresses us with the high rate of this loss. The properties of quartz have led to the concentration of its grains on the continents, where they could now form a layer averaging several hundred metres thick. But to my mind the most astounding numerical estimate that follows from the present evaluations, is that during each and every second of the incredibly long geological past the number of quartz grains on earth has increased by 1,000 million.
'Sand-its Origin, Transportation, Abrasion and Accumulation', The Geological Society of South Africa (1959), Annexure to Volume 62, 31.
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Peer reviewers go for orthodoxy ... Many of the great 19th-century discoveries were made by men who had independent wealth—Charles Darwin is the prototype. They trusted themselves.
[Commenting that the anonymous peer review process is the enemy of scientific creativity]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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When one ponders on the tremendous journey of evolution over the past three billion years or so, the prodigious wealth of structures it has engendered, and the extraordinarily effective teleonomic performances of living beings from bacteria to man, one may well find oneself beginning to doubt again whether all this could conceiveably be the product of an enormous lottery presided over by natural selection, blindly picking the rare winners from among numbers drawn at random. [Nevertheless,] a detailed review of the accumulated modern evidence [shows] that this conception alone is compatible with the facts.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 138.
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Wind, earthquake, fire—meteorology, seismology, physics—pass in review, as we have been reviewing the natural forces of evolution; the Lord was not in them. Afterwards, a stirring, an awakening in the organ of the brain, a voice which asks “What doest thou here?”
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 26.
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[George] Uhlenbeck was a highly gifted physicist. One of his remarkable traits was he would read every issue of The Physical Review from cover to cover.
'The Physical Review Then and Now', in H. Henry Stroke, Physical Review: The First Hundred Years: a Selection of Seminal Papers and Commentaries, Vol. 1, 3.
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[Shawn Lawrence Otto describes the damaging] strategy used to undermine science in the interest of those industries where science has pointed out the dangers of their products to individuals and human life in general … [It was] used a generation ago by the tobacco industry… First they manufacture uncertainty by raising doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence. Then they launder information by using seemingly independent front organizations to promote their desired message and thereby confuse the public. And finally they recruit unscrupulous scientific spokespeople to misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings and cherry-pick facts in an attempt to persuade the media and the public that there is still serious debate among scientists on the issue at hand.
In 'Science Is Politics', Huffington Post (28 May 2014).
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“These changes in the body,” he wrote in the review paper he sent to the American Journal of Physiology late in 1913, “are, each one of them, directly serviceable in making the organism more efficient in the struggle which fear or rage or pain may involve; for fear and rage are organic preparations for action, and pain is the most powerful known stimulus to supreme exertion. The organism which with the aid of increased adrenal secretion can best muster its energies, can best call forth sugar to supply the labouring muscles, can best lessen fatigue, and can best send blood to the parts essential in the run or the fight for life, is most likely to survive. Such, according to the view here propounded, is the function of the adrenal medulla at times of great emergency.”
Quoted in S. Benison, A. C. Barger and E. L. Wolfe, Walter B Cannon: The Life and Times of a Young Scientist (1987), 311.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 20 -
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