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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Role Quotes (86 quotes)

Les Leucocytes Et L'esprit De Sacrifice. — Il semble, d'après les recherches de De Bruyne (Phagocytose, 1895) et de ceux qui le citent, que les leucocytes des Lamellibranches — probablement lorsqu'ils ont phagocyté, qu'ils se sont chargés de résidus et de déchets, qu'ils ont, en un mot, accompli leur rôle et bien fait leur devoir — sortent du corps de l'animal et vont mourir dans le milieu ambiant. Ils se sacrifient. Après avoir si bien servi l'organisme par leur activité, ils le servent encore par leur mort en faisant place aux cellules nouvelles, plus jeunes.
N'est-ce pas la parfaite image du désintéressement le plus noble, et n'y a-t-il point là un exemple et un modèle? Il faut s'en inspirer: comme eux, nous sommes les unités d'un grand corps social; comme eux, nous pouvons le servir et envisager la mort avec sérénité, en subordonnant notre conscience individuelle à la conscience collective.
(30 Jan 1896)
Leukocytes and The Spirit Of Sacrifice. - It seems, according to research by De Bruyne (Phagocytosis, 1885) and those who quote it, that leukocytes of Lamellibranches [bivalves] - likely when they have phagocytized [ingested bacteria], as they become residues and waste, they have, in short, performed their role well and done their duty - leave the body of the animal and will die in the environment. They sacrifice themselves. Having so well served the body by their activities, they still serve in their death by making room for new younger cells.
Isn't this the perfect image of the noblest selflessness, and thereby presents an example and a model? It should be inspiring: like them, we are the units of a great social body, like them, we can serve and contemplate death with equanimity, subordinating our individual consciousness to collective consciousness.
In Recueil d'Œuvres de Léo Errera: Botanique Générale (1908), 194. Google translation by Webmaster. Please give feedback if you can improve it.
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A hot topic of late, expressed most notably in Bernie Siegel’s best-selling books, has emphasized the role of positive attitude in combating such serious diseases as cancer. From the depths of my skeptical and rationalist soul, I ask the Lord to protect me from California touchie-feeliedom.
…...
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All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
The Blind Watchmaker (1986), 5.
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Almost everyone... seems to be quite sure that the differences between the methodologies of history and of the natural sciences are vast. For, we are assured, it is well known that in the natural sciences we start from observation and proceed by induction to theory. And is it not obvious that in history we proceed very differently? Yes, I agree that we proceed very differently. But we do so in the natural sciences as well.
In both we start from myths—from traditional prejudices, beset with error—and from these we proceed by criticism: by the critical elimination of errors. In both the role of evidence is, in the main, to correct our mistakes, our prejudices, our tentative theories—that is, to play a part in the critical discussion, in the elimination of error. By correcting our mistakes, we raise new problems. And in order to solve these problems, we invent conjectures, that is, tentative theories, which we submit to critical discussion, directed towards the elimination of error.
The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality (1993), 140.
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Anything at all that can be the object of scientific thought becomes dependent on the axiomatic method, and thereby indirectly on mathematics, as soon as it is ripe for the formation of a theory. By pushing ahead to ever deeper layers of axioms … we become ever more conscious of the unity of our knowledge. In the sign of the axiomatic method, mathematics is summoned to a leading role in science.
Address (11 Sep 1917), 'Axiomatisches Denken' delivered before the Swiss Mathematical Society in Zürich. Translated by Ewald as 'Axiomatic Thought', (1918), in William Bragg Ewald, From Kant to Hilbert (1996), Vol. 2, 1115.
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As a boy I had liked both drawing and physics, and I always abhorred the role of being a spectator. In 1908, when I was 15, I designed, built and flew a toy model airplane which won the then-famous James Gordon Bennett Cup. By 16 I had discovered that design could be fun and profitable, and this lesson has never been lost on me.
On the official Raymond Loewry website.
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As never before, the work of the engineer is basic to the kind of society to which our best efforts are committed. Whether it be city planning, improved health care in modern facilities, safer and more efficient transportation, new techniques of communication, or better ways to control pollution and dispose of wastes, the role of the engineer—his initiative, creative ability, and hard work—is at the root of social progress.
Remarks for National Engineers Week (1971). As quoted in Consulting Engineer (1971), 36, 18.
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As usual, the author in his thorough, unobjective fashion has marshalled up all the good, indifferent and bad arguments ... I offer the following detailed comments ... though I realize that many of them will arouse him to a vigorous, if not violent rebuttal. In order to preserve the pH of Dr. Brown's digestive system I would not require a rebuttal as a condition of publication...
With heartiest greetings of the season to you and yours! Jack Roberts
PS The above comments should (help) to reduce your winter heating bill!
Jack Roberts' referee's report on Herbert Charles Brown's paper with Rachel Kornblum on the role of steric strain in carbonium ion reactions.
As quoted by D. A. Davenport, in 'On the Comparative Unimportance of the Invective Effect', Chemtech (Sep 1987), 17, 530.
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At the beginning of this debate Stephen [Hawking] said that he thinks that he is a positivist, whereas I am a Platonist. I am happy with him being a positivist, but I think that the crucial point here is, rather, that I am a realist. Also, if one compares this debate with the famous debate of Bohr and Einstein, some seventy years ago, I should think that Stephen plays the role of Bohr, whereas I play Einstein's role! For Einstein argued that there should exist something like a real world, not necessarily represented by a wave function, whereas Bohr stressed that the wave function doesn't describe a 'real' microworld but only 'knowledge' that is useful for making predictions.
Debate at the Isaac Newton Institute of the Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University (1994), transcribed in Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time (1996), 134-135.
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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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Chance... in the accommodation peculiar to sensorimotor intelligence, plays the same role as in scientific discovery. It is only useful to the genius and its revelations remain meaningless to the unskilled.
The Origin of Intelligence in the Child (1936), trans. Margaret Cook (1953), 303.
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Chemical biodynamics, involving as it does, the fusion of many scientific disciplines, … [played a role] in the elucidation of the carbon cycle. It can be expected to take an increasingly important place in the understanding of the dynamics of living organisms on a molecular level.
In Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1961), 'The Path of Carbon in Photosynthesis', Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1942-1962 (1964).
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Contrary to popular parlance, Darwin didn't discover evolution. He uncovered one (most would say the) essential mechanism by which it operates: natural selection. Even then, his brainstorm was incomplete until the Modern Synthesis of the early/mid-20th century when (among other things) the complementary role of genetic heredity was fully realized. Thousands upon thousands of studies have followed, providing millions of data points that support this understanding of how life on Earth has come to be as it is.
In online article, 'The Day That Botany Took on Bobby Jindal by Just Being Itself', Huffington Post (5 Aug 2013).
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Cosmology does, I think, affect the way that we perceive humanity’s role in nature. One thing we’ve learnt from astronomy is that the future lying ahead is more prolonged than the past. Even our sun is less than halfway through its life.
…...
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Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future. If she was going to do role playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave it beautiful breasts.
Interview (1977), as quoted in Kenneth C. Davis, Don't Know Much About History (2009), 435.
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Everyone working in science, no matter their politics, has a stake in cleaning up the mess revealed by the East Anglia emails. Science is on the credibility bubble. If it pops, centuries of what we understand to be the role of science go with it.
Newspaper
In D. Henninger, 'Climategate: Science is Dying', Wall Street Journal (Dec 2009), A21.
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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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For the religious, passivism [i.e., objects are obedient to the laws of nature] provides a clear role of God as the author of the laws of nature. If the laws of nature are God’s commands for an essentially passive world…, God also has the power to suspend the laws of nature, and so perform miracles.
In The Philosophy of Nature: A Guide to the New Essentialism (2002), 2.
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Former arbiters of taste must have felt (as so many apostles of ‘traditional values’ and other highminded tags for restriction and conformity do today) that maintaining the social order required a concept of unalloyed heroism. Human beings so designated as role models had to embody all virtues of the paragon–which meant, of course, that they could not be described in their truly human and ineluctably faulted form.
…...
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Fractal is a word invented by Mandelbrot to bring together under one heading a large class of objects that have [played] … an historical role … in the development of pure mathematics. A great revolution of ideas separates the classical mathematics of the 19th century from the modern mathematics of the 20th. Classical mathematics had its roots in the regular geometric structures of Euclid and the continuously evolving dynamics of Newton. Modern mathematics began with Cantor’s set theory and Peano’s space-filling curve. Historically, the revolution was forced by the discovery of mathematical structures that did not fit the patterns of Euclid and Newton. These new structures were regarded … as “pathological,” .… as a “gallery of monsters,” akin to the cubist paintings and atonal music that were upsetting established standards of taste in the arts at about the same time. The mathematicians who created the monsters regarded them as important in showing that the world of pure mathematics contains a richness of possibilities going far beyond the simple structures that they saw in Nature. Twentieth-century mathematics flowered in the belief that it had transcended completely the limitations imposed by its natural origins.
Now, as Mandelbrot points out, … Nature has played a joke on the mathematicians. The 19th-century mathematicians may not have been lacking in imagination, but Nature was not. The same pathological structures that the mathematicians invented to break loose from 19th-century naturalism turn out to be inherent in familiar objects all around us.
From 'Characterizing Irregularity', Science (12 May 1978), 200, No. 4342, 677-678. Quoted in Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), 3-4.
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Groups do not have experiences except insofar as all their members do. And there are no experiences... that all the members of a scientific community must share in the course of a [scientific] revolution. Revolutions should be described not in terms of group experience but in terms of the varied experiences of individual group members. Indeed, that variety itself turns out to play an essential role in the evolution of scientific knowledge.
Thomas S. Kuhn's Foreword to Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas S Kuhn's Philosophy of Science (1993), xiii.
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I feel that, in a sense, the writer knows nothing any longer. He has no moral stance. He offers the reader the contents of his own head, a set of options and imaginative alternatives. His role is that of a scientist, whether on safari or in his laboratory, faced with an unknown terrain or subject. All he can do is to devise various hypotheses and test them against the facts.
Crash (1973, 1995), Introduction. In Barry Atkins, More Than A Game: the Computer Game as a Fictional Form (2003), 144.
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I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black … who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country.
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I furnished the body that was needed to sit in the defendant's chair. [Explaining his role in the Scopes Monkey Trial.]
As quoted in Newsweek, Vol. 69, 94.
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I have always been very fond of mathematics—for one short period, I even toyed with the possibility of abandoning chemistry in its favour. I enjoyed immensely both its conceptual and formal beauties, and the precision and elegance of its relationships and transformations. Why then did I not succumb to its charms? … because by and large, mathematics lacks the sensuous elements which play so large a role in my attraction to chemistry.I love crystals, the beauty of their forms and formation; liquids, dormant, distilling, sloshing! The fumes, the odors—good or bad, the rainbow of colors; the gleaming vessels of every size, shape and purpose.
In Arthur Clay Cope Address, Chicago (28 Aug 1973). In O. T. Benfey and P. J. T. Morris (eds.), Robert Burns Woodward. Architect and Artist in the World of Molecules (2001), 427.
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I have often pondered over the roles of knowledge or experience, on the one hand, and imagination or intuition, on the other, in the process of discovery. I believe that there is a certain fundamental conflict between the two, and knowledge, by advocating caution, tends to inhibit the flight of imagination. Therefore, a certain naivete, unburdened by conventional wisdom, can sometimes be a positive asset.
In R. Langlands, 'Harish-Chandra', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1985), Vol. 31, 206.
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I see the whole of humankind becoming a single, integrated organism. … I look upon each of us as I would an individual cell in the organism, each of us playing his or her respective role.
From interview with James Reston, Jr., in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 109. Previously published in magazine, Omni (May 1982).
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If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one, if judged by the evidence on hand.
A cautious statement indicating that evidence was, in 1954, beginning to point to the connection between lung cancer and smoking.
Quoted in 'Tobacco Industry Denies Cancer Tie'. New York Times (14 Apr 1954), 51. In Oliver E. Byrd, Health Yearbook (1954), 142. The newspaper article was a report 'that the Tobacco Industry Research Committee had made public a list of "quotations and statements authorized by 36 distinguished cancer authorities" denying that there was any proof establishing a link between smothing and lung cancer. The committee is the spokesman for the leading tobacco manufacturers and associations of tobacco growers.' Webmaster comments: So, the central news was the publication of a booklet (which was essentially statements carefully picked for the purpose of propaganda for the tobacco industry). The quoted comment of Dr. Heuper, of the National Cancer Institute, is often seen in a list of regrettable remarks—where it is always stated lacking the final qualifying phrase, 'if judged by the evidence on hand.' Thus his statement was not at all an outright denial that smoking and lung cancer were related, but was—in fact— a balanced viewpoint indicating that the evidence was not yet in place. In fact, at the time, there was much debate on what reliable conclusions could be drawn on the basis of existing conflicting evidence from various researchers. Dr. Heuper's career was spent actively protecting health by carefully investigating cancer risks from various domestic and industrial chemicals. The list of regrettable remarks presently widely circulating on the web, and frequently seen in publications, unfairly distorts the intent of Heuper's quotation by omitting the final phrase. What is regrettable is that a huge number of authors are republishing the distorted remark, without consulting a primary print source and examining its context. Again, at the time, even the position of the American Cancer Society was cautiously stated, and limited to their position to: 'The evidence to date justifies suspicion that cigarette smoking does, to a degree as yet undertermined, increase the likelihood of developing cancer of the lung....' (See the ACS quote for 17 Mar 1954).
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If we survey the mathematical works of Sylvester, we recognize indeed a considerable abundance, but in contradistinction to Cayley—not a versatility toward separate fields, but, with few exceptions—a confinement to arithmetic-algebraic branches. …
The concept of Function of a continuous variable, the fundamental concept of modern mathematics, plays no role, is indeed scarcely mentioned in the entire work of Sylvester—Sylvester was combinatorist [combinatoriker].
In Mathematische Annalen (1898), Bd.50, 134-135. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 173.
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In an unenlightened society some people are forced to play degrading social roles; in an enlightened society, everyone is.
In The Decline and Fall of Science (1976), 5.
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In many cases, mathematics is an escape from reality. The mathematician finds his own monastic niche and happiness in pursuits that are disconnected from external affairs. Some practice it as if using a drug. Chess sometimes plays a similar role. In their unhappiness over the events of this world, some immerse themselves in a kind of self-sufficiency in mathematics. (Some have engaged in it for this reason alone.)
In Adventures of a Mathematician (1976), 120.
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Inspiration in the field of science by no means plays any greater role, as academic conceit fancies, than it does in the field of mastering problems of practical life by a modern entrepreneur. On the other hand, and this also is often misconstrued, inspiration plays no less a role in science than it does in the realm of art.
Max Weber
From a Speech (1918) presented at Munich University, published in 1919, and collected in 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', Gessammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre (1922), 524-525. As given in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright-Mills (translators and eds.), 'Science as a Vocation', Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (1946), 136.
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Inspiration plays no less a role in science than it does in the realm of art. It is a childish notion to think that a mathematician attains any scientifically valuable results by sitting at his desk with a ruler, calculating machines or other mechanical means. The mathematical imagination of a Weierstrass is naturally quite differently oriented in meaning and result than is the imagination of an artist, and differs basically in quality. But the psychological processes do not differ. Both are frenzy (in the sense of Plato’s “mania”) and “inspiration.”
Max Weber
From a Speech (1918) presented at Munich University, published in 1919, and collected in 'Wissenschaft als Beruf', Gessammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre (1922), 524-525. As given in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright-Mills (translators and eds.), 'Science as a Vocation', Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (1946), 136.
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It appears unlikely that the role of the genes in development is to be understood so long as the genes are considered as dictatorial elements in the cellular economy. It is not enough to know what a gene does when it manifests itself. One must also know the mechanisms determining which of the many gene-controlled potentialities will be realized.
'The Role of the Cytoplasm in Heredity', in William D. McElroy and Bentley Glass (eds.), A Symposium on the Chemical Basis of Heredity (1957), 162.
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It is a remarkable fact that the second law of thermodynamics has played in the history of science a fundamental role far beyond its original scope. Suffice it to mention Boltzmann’s work on kinetic theory, Planck’s discovery of quantum theory or Einstein’s theory of spontaneous emission, which were all based on the second law of thermodynamics.
From Nobel lecture, 'Time, Structure and Fluctuations', in Tore Frängsmyr and Sture Forsén (eds.), Nobel Lectures, Chemistry 1971-1980, (1993), 263.
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It is possible to state as a general principle that the mesodermic phagocytes, which originally (as in the sponges of our days) acted as digestive cells, retained their role to absorb the dead or weakened parts of the organism as much as different foreign intruders.
'Uber die Pathologische Bedeutung der Intracellularen Verduung', Fortschritte der Medizin (1884), 17, 558-569. Trans. Alfred I. Tauber and Leon Chernyak, Metchnikoff and the Origins of Immunology (1991), 141.
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It’s important to always bear in mind that life occurs in historical time. Everyone in every culture lives in some sort of historical time, though it might not be perceived in the same way an outside observer sees it. It’s an interesting question, “When is now?” “Now” can be drawn from some point like this hour, this day, this month, this lifetime, or this generation. “Now” can also have occurred centuries ago; things like unfair treaties, the Trail of Tears, and the Black Hawk War, for instance, remain part of the “Now” from which many Native Americans view their place in time today. Human beings respond today to people and events that actually occurred hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Ethnohistorians have played a major role in showing how now is a social concept of time, and that time is part of all social life. I can only hope that their work will further the understanding that the study of social life is a study of change over time.
From Robert S. Grumet, 'An Interview with Anthony F. C. Wallace', Ethnohistory (Winter 1998), 45, No. 1, 127.
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Liebig himself seems to have occupied the role of a gate, or sorting-demon, such as his younger contemporary Clerk Maxwell once proposed, helping to concentrate energy into one favored room of the Creation at the expense of everything else.
Gravity's Rainbow (1973), 411.
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Man embraces in his makeup all the natural orders; he’s a squid, a mollusk, a sucker and a buzzard; sometimes he’s a cerebrate.
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My sense is that the most under-appreciated–and perhaps most under-researched–linkages between forests and food security are the roles that forest-based ecosystem services play in underpinning sustainable agricultural production. Forests regulate hydrological services including the quantity, quality, and timing of water available for irrigation. Forest-based bats and bees pollinate crops. Forests mitigate impacts of climate change and extreme weather events at the landscape scale.
In 'Forests and food security: What we know and need to know', Forest News online blog by the Center for International Forestry Research (20 Apr 2011).
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Now is the time to take longer strides—time for a new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.
Address to Joint Session of Congress, on Urgent National Needs (25 May 1961). On web site of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Also in Vital Speeches of the Day (15 Jun 1961), Vol. 27, No. 17, 518-9.
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Now when you cut a forest, an ancient forest in particular, you are not just removing a lot of big trees and a few birds fluttering around in the canopy. You are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you. The number of these species may go to tens of thousands. ... Many of them are still unknown to science, and science has not yet discovered the key role undoubtedly played in the maintenance of that ecosystem, as in the case of fungi, microorganisms, and many of the insects.
On Human Nature (2000). In John H. Morgan, Naturally Good (2005), 252.
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Of all the sciences that pertain to reason, Metaphysics and Geometry are those in which imagination plays the greatest part. … Imagination acts no less in a geometer who creates than in a poet who invents. It is true that they operate differently on their object. The first shears it down and analyzes it, the second puts it together and embellishes it. … Of all the great men of antiquity, Archimedes is perhaps the one who most deserves to be placed beside Homer.
From the original French: “La Métaphysique & la Géométrie sont de toutes les Sciences qui appartiennent à la raison, celles où l’imagination à le plus de part. … L’imagination dans un Géometre qui crée, n’agit pas moins que dans un Poëte qui invente. Il est vrai qu’ils operent différemment sur leur objet; le premier le dépouille & l’analyse, le second le compose & l’embellit. … De tous les grands hommes de l’antiquité, Archimede est peut-être celui qui mérite le plus d’être placé à côté d’Homere.” In Discours Preliminaire de L'Encyclopedie (1751), xvi. As translated by Richard N. Schwab and Walter E. Rex, Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot (1963, 1995), xxxvi. A footnote states “Note that ‘geometer’ in d’Alembert’s definition is a term that includes all mathematicians and is not strictly limited to practitioners of geometry alone.” Also seen in a variant extract and translation: “Thus metaphysics and mathematics are, among all the sciences that belong to reason, those in which imagination has the greatest role. I beg pardon of those delicate spirits who are detractors of mathematics for saying this …. The imagination in a mathematician who creates makes no less difference than in a poet who invents…. Of all the great men of antiquity, Archimedes may be the one who most deserves to be placed beside Homer.” This latter translation may be from The Plan of the French Encyclopædia: Or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Trades and Manufactures (1751). Webmaster has not yet been able to check for a verified citation for this translation. Can you help?
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Once regarded as the herald of enlightenment in all spheres of knowledge, science is now increasingly seen as a strictly instrumental system of control. Its use as a means of social manipulation and its role in restricting human freedom now parallel in every detail its use as a means of natural manipulation.
In The Ecology of Freedom (1982).
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One evening at a Joint Summer Research Congerence in the early 1990’s Nicholai Reshetikhin and I [David Yetter] button-holed Flato, and explained at length Shum’s coherence theorem and the role of categories in “quantum knot invariants”. Flato was persistently dismissive of categories as a “mere language”. I retired for the evening, leaving Reshetikhin and Flato to the discussion. At the next morning’s session, Flato tapped me on the shoulder, and, giving a thumbs-up sign, whispered, “Hey! Viva les categories! These new ones, the braided monoidal ones.”
In David N. Yetter, Functorial Knot Theory: Categories of Tangles, Coherence, Categorical Deformations, and Topological Invariants (2001), 8. Yetter writes this personal anecdote is given as a narrative in his own words. Presumable the phrases in quotation marks are based on recollection when written years later.
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One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of the mind. Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.
(1984) Quoted in Jerome Agel (ed.), The Making of Kubrick's 2001 (4th Ed. 1970), 300. In James E. Combs, Polpop: Politics and Popular Culture in America (1984), 147.
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Organisms ... are directed and limited by their past. They must remain imperfect in their form and function, and to that extent unpredictable since they are not optimal machines. We cannot know their future with certainty, if only because a myriad of quirky functional shifts lie within the capacity of any feature, however well adapted to a present role.
…...
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Pathology, probably more than any other branch of science, suffers from heroes and hero-worship. Rudolf Virchow has been its archangel and William Welch its John the Baptist, while Paracelsus and Cohnheim have been relegated to the roles of Lucifer and Beelzebub. … Actually, there are no heroes in Pathology—all of the great thoughts permitting advance have been borrowed from other fields, and the renaissance of pathology stems not from pathology itself but from the philosophers Kant and Goethe.
Quoted from an address to a second year class, in Levin L. Waters, obituary for Harry S. N. Greene, M.D., in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine (Feb-Apr 1971), 43:4-5, 207.
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Pavlov’s data on the two fundamental antagonistic nervous processes—stimulation and inhibition—and his profound generalizations regarding them, in particular, that these processes are parts of a united whole, that they are in a state of constant conflict and constant transition of the one to the other, and his views on the dominant role they play in the formation of the higher nervous activity—all those belong to the most established natural—scientific validation of the Marxist dialectal method. They are in complete accord with the Leninist concepts on the role of the struggle between opposites in the evolution, the motion of matter.
In E. A. Asratyan, I. P. Pavlov: His Life and Work (1953), 153.
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Radiant energy, which at the beginning [of the universe] played a predominant role in the evolutionary process, gradually lost its importance and by the end of the thirty-millionth year yielded its priority in favor of ordinary atomic matter.
In The Creation of the Universe (1952, 2012), 136.
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Science progresses by a series of combinations in which chance plays not the least role. Its life is rough and resembles that of minerals which grow by juxtaposition [accretion]. This applies not only to science such as it emerges [results] from the work of a series of scientists, but also to the particular research of each one of them. In vain would analysts dissimulate: (however abstract it may be, analysis is no more our power than that of others); they do not deduce, they combine, they compare: (it must be sought out, sounded out, solicited.) When they arrive at the truth it is by cannoning from one side to another that they come across it.
English translation from manuscript, in Évariste Galois and Peter M. Neumann, 'Dossier 12: On the progress of pure analysis', The Mathematical Writings of Évariste Galois (2011), 263. A transcription of the original French is on page 262. In the following quote from that page, indicated deletions are omitted, and Webmaster uses parentheses to enclose indications of insertions above the original written line. “La science progresse par une série de combinaisons où le hazard ne joue pas le moindre rôle; sa vie est brute et ressemble à celle des minéraux qui croissent par juxtà position. Cela s’applique non seulement à la science telle qu’elle résulte des travaux d’une série de savants, mais aussi aux recherches particulières à chacun d’eux. En vain les analystes voudraient-ils se le dissimuler: (toute immatérielle qu’elle wst analyse n’est pas pas plus en notre pouvoir que des autres); ils ne déduisent pas, ils combinent, ils comparent: (il faut l’epier, la sonder, la solliciter) quand ils arrivent à la vérité, c’est en heurtant de côté et d’autre qu’il y sont tombés.” Webmaster corrected from typo “put” to “but” in the English text.
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Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward logical manner imagined by outsiders. Instead, its steps forward (and sometimes backward) are often very human events in which personalities and cultural traditions play major roles.
In The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (1968, 2001), Preface, xi.
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Spaf's First Law of System Administration: If your position in an organization includes responsibility for security, but does not include corresponding authority, then your role in the organization is to take the blame when something happens. You should make sure your resume is up-to-date.
From 'Quotable Spaf' on his faculty webpage at purdue.com.
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That all plants immediately and substantially stem from the element water alone I have learnt from the following experiment. I took an earthern vessel in which I placed two hundred pounds of earth dried in an oven, and watered with rain water. I planted in it a willow tree weighing five pounds. Five years later it had developed a tree weighing one hundred and sixty-nine pounds and about three ounces. Nothing but rain (or distilled water) had been added. The large vessel was placed in earth and covered by an iron lid with a tin-surface that was pierced with many holes. I have not weighed the leaves that came off in the four autumn seasons. Finally I dried the earth in the vessel again and found the same two hundred pounds of it diminished by about two ounces. Hence one hundred and sixty-four pounds of wood, bark and roots had come up from water alone. (1648)
A diligent experiment that was quantitatively correct only as far as it goes. He overlooked the essential role of air and photosynthesis in the growth process.
Complex. atque mist. elem. fig., 30, Opp. pp. 104-5; Aufgang, 148. In Walter Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont (2002) , 53.
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The astronomer is severely handicapped as compared with other scientists. He is forced into a comparatively passive role. He cannot invent his own experiments as the physicist, the chemist or the biologist can. He cannot travel about the Universe examining the items that interest him. He cannot, for example, skin a star like an onion and see how it works inside.
In The Nature of the Universe (1950).
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The burgeoning field of computer science has shifted our view of the physical world from that of a collection of interacting material particles to one of a seething network of information. In this way of looking at nature, the laws of physics are a form of software, or algorithm, while the material world—the hardware—plays the role of a gigantic computer.
'Laying Down the Laws', New Scientist. In Clifford A. Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them (2008), 183.
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The chemical compounds are comparable to a system of planets in that the atoms are held together by chemical affinity. They may be more or less numerous, simple or complex in composition, and in the constitution of the materials, they play the same role as Mars and Venus do in our planetary system, or the compound members such as our earth with its moon, or Jupiter with its satellites... If in such a system a particle is replaced by one of different character, the equilibrium can persist, and then the new compound will exhibit properties similar to those shown by the original substance.
Quoted in Ralph Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 55.
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The history of thermodynamics is a story of people and concepts. The cast of characters is large. At least ten scientists played major roles in creating thermodynamics, and their work spanned more than a century. The list of concepts, on the other hand, is surprisingly small; there are just three leading concepts in thermodynamics: energy, entropy, and absolute temperature.
In Great Physicists (2001), 93.
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The most wonderful mystery of life may well be the means by which it created so much diversity from so little physical matter. The biosphere, all organisms combined, makes up only about one part in ten billion of the earth's mass. … Yet life has divided into millions of species, the fundamental units, each playing a unique role in relation to the whole.
In 'The Most Fundamental Unit', The Diversity of Life (1992), 35.
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The realization of the role played by DNA has had absolutely no consequence for either therapy or prevention…. Treatments for cancer remain today what they were before molecular biology was ever thought of: cut it out, burn it out, or poison it.
From review, 'Billions and Billions of Demons', of the book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, in New York Review of Books (9 Jan 1997).
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The role of biology today, like the role of every other science, is simply to describe, and when it explains it does not mean that it arrives at finality; it only means that some descriptions are so charged with significance that they expose the relationship of cause and effect.
As quoted in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 37. Webmaster so far has not found the primary source (can you help?)
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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 role of inhibition in the working of the central nervous system has proved to be more and more extensive and more and more fundamental as experiment has advanced in examining it. Reflex inhibition can no longer be regarded merely as a factor specially developed for dealing with the antagonism of opponent muscles acting at various hinge-joints. Its role as a coordinative factor comprises that, and goes beyond that. In the working of the central nervous machinery inhibition seems as ubiquitous and as frequent as is excitation itself. The whole quantitative grading of the operations of the spinal cord and brain appears to rest upon mutual interaction between the two central processes 'excitation' and 'inhibition', the one no less important than the other. For example, no operation can be more important as a basis of coordination for a motor act than adjustment of the quantity of contraction, e.g. of the number of motor units employed and the intensity of their individual tetanic activity. This now appears as the outcome of nice co-adjustment of excitation and inhibition upon each of all the individual units which cooperate in the act.
Inhibition as a Coordinative Factor', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1932). Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 288.
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The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.
Quoted in Richard Saul Wurman, Information Anxiety 2 (2001), 240.
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The trend of mathematics and physics towards unification provides the physicist with a powerful new method of research into the foundations of his subject. … The method is to begin by choosing that branch of mathematics which one thinks will form the basis of the new theory. One should be influenced very much in this choice by considerations of mathematical beauty. It would probably be a good thing also to give a preference to those branches of mathematics that have an interesting group of transformations underlying them, since transformations play an important role in modern physical theory, both relativity and quantum theory seeming to show that transformations are of more fundamental importance than equations.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 122.
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The universe is asymmetric and I am persuaded that life, as it is known to us, is a direct result of the asymmetry of the universe or of its indirect consequences. The universe is asymmetric.
Acknowledging the role of molecules that have stereoisomers, some the mirror image of the others, and microorganisms whose chemistry prefers only one of those forms.
Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Science (1 Jun 1874). Reprinted in Oeuvres, Vol. 1, 361. In J.B.S. Haldane, Nature, 185, 87. As cited in Alan L. Mackay,The Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977), 117. Pasteur's application of a microorganism with a chemical behaviour preferring a specific stereoisomer is in Sven Klussmann, The Aptamer Handbook (2006), 420.
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There are still psychologists who, in a basic misunderstanding, think that gestalt theory tends to underestimate the role of past experience. Gestalt theory tries to differentiate between and-summative aggregates, on the one hand, and gestalten, structures, on the other, both in sub-wholes and in the total field, and to develop appropriate scientific tools for investigating the latter. It opposes the dogmatic application to all cases of what is adequate only for piecemeal aggregates. The question is whether an approach in piecemeal terms, through blind connections, is or is not adequate to interpret actual thought processes and the role of the past experience as well. Past experience has to be considered thoroughly, but it is ambiguous in itself; so long as it is taken in piecemeal, blind terms it is not the magic key to solve all problems.
In Productive Thinking (1959), 65.
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There is a hidden healthcare system with clear definitions and roles. Eighty-five percent of healthcare takes place in a big pool without the ‘benefit’ of ‘medical clergy’.
As quoted in 'Aphorism of the Month', Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (Nov 2005), 59, No. 11, 933.
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This is true of all science. Successes were largely due to forgetting completely about what one ultimately wanted, or whether one wanted anything ultimately; in refusing to investigate things which profit, and in relying solely on guidance by criteria of intellectual elegance. … And I think it extremely instructive to watch the role of science in everyday life, and to note how in this area the principle of laissez faire has led to strange and wonderful results.
Address (Jun 1954) to Princeton Graduate Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Science and in Society', in Collected Works: Vol. 6: Theory of Games, Astrophysics, Hydrodynamics and Meteorology (1961), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted in Armand Borel, 'On the Place of Mathematics in Culture', in Armand Borel: Œvres: Collected Papers (1983), Vol. 4, 422.
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Those individuals who give moral considerations a much greater weight than considerations of expediency represent a comparatively small minority, five percent of the people perhaps. But, In spite of their numerical inferiority, they play a major role in our society because theirs is the voice of the conscience of society.
In J. Robert Moskin, Morality in America (1966), 17. Otherwise unconfirmed in this form. Please contact webmaster if you know a primary print source.
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To this I may add another form of temptation, manifold in its dangers … There exists in the soul … a cupidity which does not take delight in the carnal pleasure but in perceptions acquired through the flesh. It is a vain inquisitiveness dignified with the title of knowledge and science. As this is rooted in the appetite for knowing, and as among the senses the eyes play a leading role in acquiring knowledge, the divine word calls it “the lust of the eyes” (I John, 2: 16) … To satisfy this diseased craving … people study the operations of nature, which lie beyond our grasp when there is no advantage in knowing and the investigators simply desire knowledge for its own sake. This motive is again at work if, using a perverted science for the same end, people try to achieve things by magical arts.
From Confessions (c.397), Book X, Chap. 35 (54-55), as given in Henry Chadwick, Confessions: A New Translation by Henry Chadwick (1991), 210-212.
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Today, nothing is unusual about a scientific discovery's being followed soon after by a technical application: The discovery of electrons led to electronics; fission led to nuclear energy. But before the 1880's, science played almost no role in the advances of technology. For example, James Watt developed the first efficient steam engine long before science established the equivalence between mechanical heat and energy.
Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001), 42.
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Tungsten, X-rays, and Coolidge form a trinity that has left an indelible impression upon our life and times. The key word in this triad is Coolidge, for his work brought the element tungsten from laboratory obscurity to the central role of the industrial stage and gave the X-ray a central role in the progress of medicine throughout the world.
In National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, Vol. 53, 141.
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Very old and wide-spread is the opinion that forests have an important impact on rainfall. ... If forests enhance the amount and frequency of precipitation simply by being there, deforestation as part of agricultural expansion everywhere, must necessarily result in less rainfall and more frequent droughts. This view is most poignantly expressed by the saying: Man walks the earth and desert follows his steps! ... It is not surprising that under such circumstances the issue of a link between forests and climate has ... been addressed by governments. Lately, the Italian government has been paying special attention to reforestation in Italy and its expected improvement of the climate. ... It must be prevented that periods of heavy rainfall alternate with droughts. ...In the Unites States deforestation plays an important role as well and is seen as the cause for a reduction in rainfall. ... committee chairman of the American Association for Advancement of Science demands decisive steps to extend woodland in order to counteract the increasing drought. ... some serious concerns. In 1873, in Vienna, the congress for agriculture and forestry discussed the problem in detail; and when the Prussian house of representatives ordered a special commission to examine a proposed law pertaining to the preservation and implementation of forests for safeguarding, it pointed out that the steady decrease in the water levels of Prussian rivers was one of the most serious consequences of deforestation only to be rectified by reforestation programs. It is worth mentioning that ... the same concerns were raised in Russia as well and governmental circles reconsidered the issue of deforestation.
as quoted in Eduard Brückner - The Sources and Consequences of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Historical Times editted by N. Stehr and H. von Storch (2000)
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We believe that biotechnology has a critical role to play in increasing agricultural productivity, particularly in light of climate change. We also believe it can help to improve the nutritional value of staple foods.
U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. Hearing on the President’s FY2009 War Supplemental Request. (30 Apr 2009).
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We live in a capitalist economy, and I have no particular objection to honorable self-interest. We cannot hope to make the needed, drastic improvement in primary and secondary education without a dramatic restructuring of salaries. In my opinion, you cannot pay a good teacher enough money to recompense the value of talent applied to the education of young children. I teach an hour or two a day to tolerably well-behaved near-adults–and I come home exhausted. By what possible argument are my services worth more in salary than those of a secondary-school teacher with six classes a day, little prestige, less support, massive problems of discipline, and a fundamental role in shaping minds. (In comparison, I only tinker with intellects already largely formed.)
…...
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We must not overlook the role that extremists play. They are the gadflies that keep society from being too complacent or self-satisfied; they are, if sound, the spearhead of progress. If they are fundamentally wrong, free discussion will in time put an end to them.
I Remember (1940), 405.
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Well, there’s no doubt about the fact that, that higher energy prices lead to greater conservation, greater energy efficiency, and they also, of course, play a useful role on the supply side.
John Snow
…...
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What really matters for me is … the more active role of the observer in quantum physics … According to quantum physics the observer has indeed a new relation to the physical events around him in comparison with the classical observer, who is merely a spectator.
Letter to Niels Bohr (1955). Quoted in Robert J. Scully, The Demon and the Quantum (2007), 22.
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When I was in college studying science, I found the experience fundamentally unsatisfying. I was continually oppressed by the feeling that my only role was to “shut up and learn.” I felt there was nothing I could say to my instructors that they would find interesting. … As I sat in the science lecture hall, I was utterly silent. That’s not a good state to be in when you are 19 years old.
In Understanding the Universe: An Inquiry Approach to Astronomy and the Nature of Scientific Research (2013), ix.
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You [the Mensheviks] are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on—into the dustbin of history!
In History of the Russian Revolution (1933), Vol. 3, Chap. 10.
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[Concerning] phosphorescent bodies, and in particular to uranium salts whose phosphorescence has a very brief duration. With the double sulfate of uranium and potassium ... I was able to perform the following experiment: One wraps a Lumière photographic plate with a bromide emulsion in two sheets of very thick black paper, such that the plate does not become clouded upon being exposed to the sun for a day. One places on the sheet of paper, on the outside, a slab of the phosphorescent substance, and one exposes the whole to the sun for several hours. When one then develops the photographic plate, one recognizes that the silhouette of the phosphorescent substance appears in black on the negative. If one places between the phosphorescent substance and the paper a piece of money or a metal screen pierced with a cut-out design, one sees the image of these objects appear on the negative. One can repeat the same experiments placing a thin pane of glass between the phosphorescent substance and the paper, which excludes the possibility of chemical action due to vapors which might emanate from the substance when heated by the sun's rays. One must conclude from these experiments that the phosphorescent substance in question emits rays which pass through the opaque paper and reduces silver salts.
[Although the sun is irrelevant, and he misinterprets the role of phosphorescence, he has discovered the effect of radioactivity.]
Read at French Academy of Science (24 Feb 1896). In Comptes Rendus (1896), 122, 420. As translated by Carmen Giunta on the Classic Chemistry web site.
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[Misquotation; not by Einstein.] If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. [Apparently remorseful for his role in the development of the atom bomb.]
Although often seen cited as “Attributed” New Statesman (16 Apr 1965), Ralph Keyes in The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (2006), 53, states “Einstein said no such thing.” See the similar quote about a plumber.
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[On the practical applications of particle physics research with the Large Hadron Collider.] Sometimes the public says, “What's in it for Numero Uno? Am I going to get better television reception? Am I going to get better Internet reception?” Well, in some sense, yeah. … All the wonders of quantum physics were learned basically from looking at atom-smasher technology. … But let me let you in on a secret: We physicists are not driven to do this because of better color television. … That's a spin-off. We do this because we want to understand our role and our place in the universe.
As quoted in Alan Boyle, 'Discovery of Doom? Collider Stirs Debate', article (8 Sep 2008) on a msnbc.com web page. The article writer included the information that Kaku noted that past discoveries from the world of particle physics ushered in many of the innovations we enjoy today, ranging from satellite communications and handheld media players to medical PET scanners (which put antimatter to practical use)."
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[There is] some mathematical quality in Nature, a quality which the casual observer of Nature would not suspect, but which nevertheless plays an important role in Nature’s scheme.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 122.
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~~[No Known Source]~~ The role of the scholar is to destroy chimeras, that of the statesman is to make use of them.
Webmaster has looked for a primary source, and cannot yet find one. Can you help? Meanwhile it may be better to attribute to Anonymous.
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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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