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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Shape

Shape Quotes (52 quotes)

Thomasina: Every week I plot your equations dot for dot, x’s against y’s in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like a bell, there must be an equation for one like a bluebell, and if a bluebell, why not a rose? Do we believe nature is written in numbers?
Septimus: We do.
Thomasina: Then why do your shapes describe only the shapes of manufacture?
Septimus: I do not know.
Thomasina: Armed thus, God could only make a cabinet.
In the play, Acadia (1993), Scene 3, 37.
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According to the theory of aerodynamics, as may be readily demonstrated through wind tunnel experiments, the bumblebee is unable to fly. This is because the size, weight and shape of his body in relation to the total wingspread make flying impossible. But the bumblebee, being ignorant of these scientific truths, goes ahead and flies anyway—and makes a little honey every day.
Anonymous
Sign in a General Motors Corporation factory. As quoted in Ralph L. Woods, The Businessman's Book of Quotations (1951), 249-50. Cited in Suzy Platt (ed)., Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), 118.
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Also the earth is not spherical, as some have said, although it tends toward sphericity, for the shape of the universe is limited in its parts as well as its movement… . The movement which is more perfect than others is, therefore, circular, and the corporeal form which is the most perfect is the sphere.
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But here it may be objected, that the present Earth looks like a heap of Rubbish and Ruines; And that there are no greater examples of confusion in Nature than Mountains singly or jointly considered; and that there appear not the least footsteps of any Art or Counsel either in the Figure and Shape, or Order and Disposition of Mountains and Rocks. Wherefore it is not likely they came so out of God's hands ... To which I answer, That the present face of the Earth with all its Mountains and Hills, its Promontaries and Rocks, as rude and deformed as they appear, seems to me a very beautiful and pleasant object, and with all the variety of Hills, and Valleys, and Inequalities far more grateful to behold, than a perfectly level Countrey without any rising or protuberancy, to terminate the sight: As anyone that hath but seen the Isle of Ely, or any the like Countrey must need acknowledge.
John Ray
Miscellaneous Discourses Concerning the Dissolution and Changes of the World (1692), 165-6.
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Contingency is rich and fascinating; it embodies an exquisite tension between the power of individuals to modify history and the intelligible limits set by laws of nature. The details of individual and species’s lives are not mere frills, without power to shape the large-scale course of events, but particulars that can alter entire futures, profoundly and forever.
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Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the “Mona Lisa” painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam, whether it takes ultimate shape in a law of physics or a law of the land, a poem or a policy, a sonata or a mechanical computer.
Baccalaureate address (9 Jun 1957), Yale University. In In the University Tradition (1957), 156.
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Darwin grasped the philosophical bleakness with his characteristic courage. He argued that hope and morality cannot, and should not, be passively read in the construction of nature. Aesthetic and moral truths, as human concepts, must be shaped in human terms, not ‘discovered’ in nature. We must formulate these answers for ourselves and then approach nature as a partner who can answer other kinds of questions for us–questions about the factual state of the universe, not about the meaning of human life. If we grant nature the independence of her own domain–her answers unframed in human terms–then we can grasp her exquisite beauty in a free and humble way. For then we become liberated to approach nature without the burden of an inappropriate and impossible quest for moral messages to assuage our hopes and fears. We can pay our proper respect to nature’s independence and read her own ways as beauty or inspiration in our different terms.
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Experiments on ornamental plants undertaken in previous years had proven that, as a rule, hybrids do not represent the form exactly intermediate between the parental strains. Although the intermediate form of some of the more striking traits, such as those relating to shape and size of leaves, pubescence of individual parts, and so forth, is indeed nearly always seen, in other cases one of the two parental traits is so preponderant that it is difficult or quite impossible, to detect the other in the hybrid. The same is true for Pisum hybrids. Each of the seven hybrid traits either resembles so closely one of the two parental traits that the other escapes detection, or is so similar to it that no certain distinction can be made. This is of great importance to the definition and classification of the forms in which the offspring of hybrids appear. In the following discussion those traits that pass into hybrid association entirely or almost entirely unchanged, thus themselves representing the traits of the hybrid, are termed dominating and those that become latent in the association, recessive. The word 'recessive' was chosen because the traits so designated recede or disappear entirely in the hybrids, but reappear unchanged in their progeny, as will be demonstrated later.
'Experiments on Plant Hybrids' (1865). In Curt Stern and Eva R. Sherwood (eds.), The Origin of Genetics: A Mendel Source Book (1966), 9.
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Fractals are patterns which occur on many levels. This concept can be applied to any musical parameter. I make melodic fractals, where the pitches of a theme I dream up are used to determine a melodic shape on several levels, in space and time. I make rhythmic fractals, where a set of durations associated with a motive get stretched and compressed and maybe layered on top of each other. I make loudness fractals, where the characteristic loudness of a sound, its envelope shape, is found on several time scales. I even make fractals with the form of a piece, its instrumentation, density, range, and so on. Here I’ve separated the parameters of music, but in a real piece, all of these things are combined, so you might call it a fractal of fractals.
Interview (1999) on The Discovery Channel. As quoted by Benoit B. Manelbrot and Richard Hudson in The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward (2010), 133.
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I cannot separate land and sea: to me they interfinger like a pattern in a moss agate, positive and negative shapes irrevocably interlocked. My knowledge of this peninsula depends on that understanding: of underwater canyons that are continuations of the land, of the shell fossils far inland that measure continuations of the sea in eons past.
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I conceived and developed a new geometry of nature and implemented its use in a number of diverse fields. It describes many of the irregular and fragmented patterns around us, and leads to full-fledged theories, by identifying a family of shapes I call fractals.
The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), Introduction, xiii.
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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 suppose that I tend to be optimistic about the future of physics. And nothing makes me more optimistic than the discovery of broken symmetries. In the seventh book of the Republic, Plato describes prisoners who are chained in a cave and can see only shadows that things outside cast on the cave wall. When released from the cave at first their eyes hurt, and for a while they think that the shadows they saw in the cave are more real than the objects they now see. But eventually their vision clears, and they can understand how beautiful the real world is. We are in such a cave, imprisoned by the limitations on the sorts of experiments we can do. In particular, we can study matter only at relatively low temperatures, where symmetries are likely to be spontaneously broken, so that nature does not appear very simple or unified. We have not been able to get out of this cave, but by looking long and hard at the shadows on the cave wall, we can at least make out the shapes of symmetries, which though broken, are exact principles governing all phenomena, expressions of the beauty of the world outside.
In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1989), 'Conceptual Foundations of the Unified Theory of Weak and Electromagnetic Interactions.' Nobel Lectures: Physics 1971-1980 (1992), 556.
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I would trade all the advantages of humanity to be a fly on the wall when Franklin and Jefferson discussed liberty, Lenin and Trotsky revolution, Newton and Halley the shape of the universe, or when Darwin entertained Huxley and Lyell at Down.
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If atoms do, by chance, happen to combine themselves into so many shapes, why have they never combined together to form a house or a slipper? By the same token, why do we not believe that if innumerable letters of the Greek alphabet were poured all over the market-place they would eventually happen to form the text of the Iliad?
The Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Book 2, Chapter 12, 'Apology for Raymond Sebond', trans. M. A. Screech (1991), 612.
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In order to turn natural history into a true science, one would have to devote oneself to investigations capable of telling us not the particular shape of such and such an animal, but the general procedures of nature in the animal's production and preservation. 'Lettre sur le progress des sciences' in Oeuvres de Mr. De Maupertuis (1756), Vol. 2, 386.
Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 392.
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In the beginning was the myth. God, in his search for self-expression, invested the souls of Hindus, Greeks, and Germans with poetic shapes and continues to invest each child’s soul with poetry every day.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 8
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It is not by his mixing and choosing, but by the shapes of his colors, and the combination of those shapes, that we recognize the colorist. Color becomes significant only when it becomes form.
In Art (1958), 156.
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It would indeed be a great delusion, if we stated that those sports of Nature [we find] enclosed in rocks are there by chance or by some vague creative power. Ah, that would be superficial indeed! In reality, those shells, which once were alive in water and are now dead and decomposed, were made thus by time not Nature; and what we now find as very hard, figured stone, was once soft mud and which received the impression of the shape of a shell, as I have frequently demonstrated.
La vana speculazione disingannata del senso (1670), trans. Ezio Vaccari, 83-4.
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Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
... Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal Man unfold all Nature's law,
Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And shew'd a NEWTON as we shew an Ape.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle II. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 516-7.
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Man not only survives and functions in his environment, he shapes it and he is shaped by it.
In Barbara Ward and René Jules Dubos, Only One Earth: the Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet: an unofficial report commissioned by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972), 30. This is similar to the quote, “Man shapes himself through decisions that shape his environment,” which is commonly seen attributed to Dubos, but without citation. If you know the primary source of this wording of that quote, please contact webmaster.
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Nature! … She is ever shaping new forms: what is, has never yet been; what has been, comes not again. Everything is new, and yet nought but the old.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 9.
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Nature, … in order to carry out the marvelous operations [that occur] in animals and plants has been pleased to construct their organized bodies with a very large number of machines, which are of necessity made up of extremely minute parts so shaped and situated as to form a marvelous organ, the structure and composition of which are usually invisible to the naked eye without the aid of a microscope. … Just as Nature deserves praise and admiration for making machines so small, so too the physician who observes them to the best of his ability is worthy of praise, not blame, for he must also correct and repair these machines as well as he can every time they get out of order.
'Reply to Doctor Sbaraglia' in Opera Posthuma (1697), in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 1, 568.
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Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
In The Schweitzer Album: A Portrait in Words and Pictures (1965), 39.
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Of beasts, it is confess’d, the ape
Comes nearest us in human shape;
Like man he imitates each fashion,
And malice is his ruling passion.
In Poetical Essay, 'The Logicians Refuted', The Scots Magazine (1759),-21, 525.
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Of what use are the great number of petrifactions, of different species, shape and form which are dug up by naturalists? Perhaps the collection of such specimens is sheer vanity and inquisitiveness. I do not presume to say; but we find in our mountains the rarest animals, shells, mussels, and corals embalmed in stone, as it were, living specimens of which are now being sought in vain throughout Europe. These stones alone whisper in the midst of general silence.
Philosophia Botanica (1751), aphorism 132. Trans. Frans A. Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans: The Spreading of their Ideas in Systematic Botany, 1735-1789 (1971), 56.
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Science has blown to atoms, as she can rend and rive in the rocks themselves; but in those rocks she has found, and read aloud, the great stone book which is the history of the earth, even when darkness sat upon the face of the deep. Along their craggy sides she has traced the footprints of birds and beasts, whose shapes were never seen by man. From within them she has brought the bones, and pieced together the skeletons, of monsters that would have crushed the noted dragons of the fables at a blow.
Book review of Robert Hunt, Poetry of Science (1848), in the London Examiner (1848). Although uncredited in print, biographers identified his authorship from his original handwritten work. Collected in Charles Dickens and ‎Frederic George Kitton (ed.) Old Lamps for New Ones: And Other Sketches and Essays (1897), 87.
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Science is the art of the appropriate approximation. While the flat earth model is usually spoken of with derision it is still widely used. Flat maps, either in atlases or road maps, use the flat earth model as an approximation to the more complicated shape.
In 'On the Nature of Science', Physics in Canada (Jan/Feb 2007), 63, No. 1, 13.
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Scientific discovery, or the formulation of scientific theory, starts in with the unvarnished and unembroidered evidence of the senses. It starts with simple observation—simple, unbiased, unprejudiced, naive, or innocent observation—and out of this sensory evidence, embodied in the form of simple propositions or declarations of fact, generalizations will grow up and take shape, almost as if some process of crystallization or condensation were taking place. Out of a disorderly array of facts, an orderly theory, an orderly general statement, will somehow emerge.
In 'Is the Scientific Paper Fraudulent?', The Saturday Review (1 Aug 1964), 42.
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Technology shapes society and society shapes technology.
Environmental Science and Technology (1990).
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The attitude of the intellectual community toward America is shaped not by the creative few but by the many who for one reason or another cannot transmute their dissatisfaction into a creative impulse, and cannot acquire a sense of uniqueness and of growth by developing and expressing their capacities and talents. There is nothing in contemporary America that can cure or alleviate their chronic frustration. They want power, lordship, and opportunities for imposing action. Even if we should banish poverty from the land, lift up the Negro to true equality, withdraw from Vietnam, and give half of the national income as foreign aid, they will still see America as an air-conditioned nightmare unfit for them to live in.
In 'Some Thoughts on the Present', The Temper of Our Time (1967), 107.
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The great obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.
The Discoverers (1985), 86.
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The inherent unpredictability of future scientific developments—the fact that no secure inference can be drawn from one state of science to another—has important implications for the issue of the limits of science. It means that present-day science cannot speak for future science: it is in principle impossible to make any secure inferences from the substance of science at one time about its substance at a significantly different time. The prospect of future scientific revolutions can never be precluded. We cannot say with unblinking confidence what sorts of resources and conceptions the science of the future will or will not use. Given that it is effectively impossible to predict the details of what future science will accomplish, it is no less impossible to predict in detail what future science will not accomplish. We can never confidently put this or that range of issues outside “the limits of science”, because we cannot discern the shape and substance of future science with sufficient clarity to be able to say with any assurance what it can and cannot do. Any attempt to set “limits” to science—any advance specification of what science can and cannot do by way of handling problems and solving questions—is destined to come to grief.
The Limits of Science (1984), 102-3.
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The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community. From the moment of birth the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behavior.
In 'The Science of Custom', Patterns of Culture (1934, 2005), 2-3.
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The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them into shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1. In Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain (1986), 162.
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The protean nature of the computer is such that it can act like a machine or like a language to be shaped and exploited.
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The real tragedy of human existence is not that we are nasty by nature, but that a cruel structural asymmetry grants to rare events of meanness such power to shape our history.
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The sciences and arts are not cast in a mold, but formed and shaped little by little, by repeated handling and polishing, as bears lick their cubs into shape at leisure.
In Donald M. Frame (trans.), The Complete Essays of Montaigne (1958), 421.
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The solution, as all thoughtful people recognize, must lie in properly melding the themes of inborn predisposition and shaping through life’s experiences. This fruitful joining cannot take the false form of percentages adding to 100–as in ‘intelligence is 80 percent nature and 20 percent nurture,’ or ‘homosexuality is 50 percent inborn and 50 percent learned,’ and a hundred other harmful statements in this foolish format. When two ends of such a spectrum are commingled, the result is not a separable amalgam (like shuffling two decks of cards with different backs), but an entirely new and higher entity that cannot be decomposed (just as adults cannot be separated into maternal and paternal contributions to their totality).
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The United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed, if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.
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There are moments when very little truth would be enough to shape opinion. One might be hated at extremely low cost.
Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), 151.
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There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.
The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), canto 123. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 194.
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Time will soon destroy the works of famous painters and sculptors, but the Indian arrowhead will balk his efforts and Eternity will have to come to his aid. They are not fossil bones, but, as it were, fossil thoughts, forever reminding me of the mind that shaped them… . Myriads of arrow-points lie sleeping in the skin of the revolving earth, while meteors revolve in space. The footprint, the mind-print of the oldest men.
(28 Mar 1859). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: XII: March, 2, 1859-November 30, 1859 (1906), 91.
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Two kinds of symbol must surely be distinguished. The algebraic symbol comes naked into the world of mathematics and is clothed with value by its masters. A poetic symbol—like the Rose, for Love, in Guillaume de Lorris—comes trailing clouds of glory from the real world, clouds whose shape and colour largely determine and explain its poetic use. In an equation, x and y will do as well as a and b; but the Romance of the Rose could not, without loss, be re-written as the Romance of the Onion, and if a man did not see why, we could only send him back to the real world to study roses, onions, and love, all of them still untouched by poetry, still raw.
C.S. Lewis and E.M. Tillyard, The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (1936), 97.
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We expect that the study of lunar geology will help to answer some longstanding questions about the early evolution of the earth. The moon and the earth are essentially a two-planet system, and the two bodies are probably closely related in origin. In this connection the moon is of special interest because its surface has not been subjected to the erosion by running water that has helped to shape the earth's surface.
In Scientific American (Sep 1964). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Dec 2014), 311, No. 6, 98.
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We knew that DNA was important. We knew it was an important molecule. And we knew that its shape was likely to be important. But we didn’t realise I think just how important it would be. Put in other words, we didn’t realise that the shape would give us a clue to the replication mechanism. And this turned out to be really an unexpected dividend from finding out what the shape was.
From Transcript of BBC TV program, The Prizewinners (1962).
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We 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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What is the shape of space? Is it flat, or is it bent? Is it nicely laid out, or is it warped and shrunken? Is it finite, or is it infinite? Which of the following does space resemble more: (a) a sheet of paper, (b) an endless desert, (c) a soap bubble, (d) a doughnut, (e) an Escher drawing, (f) an ice cream cone, (g) the branches of a tree, or (h) a human body?
The Fourth Dimension: And How to Get There (1985), 91.
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Why is geometry often described as “cold” and “dry?” One reason lies in its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline, or a tree. Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line… Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity.
From The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), Introduction, xiii.
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Why the dinosaurs died out is not known, but it is supposed to be because they had minute brains and devoted themselves to the growth of weapons of offense in the shape of numerous horns. However that may be, it was not through their line that life developed.
In 'Men versus. Insects' (1933), collected in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), 199.
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Within the nucleus [of a cell] is a network of fibers, a sap fills the interstices of the network. The network resolves itself into a definite number of threads at each division of the cell. These threads we call chromosomes. Each species of animals and plants possesses a characteristic number of these threads which have definite size and sometimes a specific shape and even characteristic granules at different levels. Beyond this point our strongest microscopes fail to penetrate.
In A Critique of the Theory of Evolution (1916), 91.
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[Am I vegetarian?] No. If you understand about the natural world, we’re a part of the system and you can’t feed lions grass. But because we have the intelligence to choose… But we haven’t got the gut to allow us to be totally vegetarian for a start. You can tell by the shape of our guts and the shape of our teeth that we evolved to be omnivores. We aren’t carnivores like lions but neither are we elephants.
Interview by Simon Gage in 'David Attenborough: I’m not an animal lover', Metro (29 Jan 2013, London).
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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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