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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Signal

Signal Quotes (27 quotes)

A single swallow, it is said, devours ten millions of insects every year. The supplying of these insects I take to be a signal instance of the Creator's bounty in providing for the lives of His creatures.
Attributed to Henry Ward Beecher as a quote under the definition of 'Bounty' in Ambrose Bierce, The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary, 40. Webmaster has not yet found a primary print source confirming the quote is by Beecher, and thus presently lists it under Bierce. Please contact webmaster if you know a primary print source for Beecher.
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As a reminder to the prospective observer of extraterrestrial radio noise, I shall conclude by offering the following motto for radio astronomers (with apologies to Gertrude Stein): Signals in the grass, alas!
From address to the 101st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Gainesville, Florida (27 Dec 1958). Printed in 'An Account of the Discovery of Jupiter as a Radio Source', The Astronomical Journal (Mar 1959), 64, No. 2, 39.
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Birds ... are sensitive indicators of the environment, a sort of “ecological litmus paper,” ... The observation and recording of bird populations over time lead inevitably to environmental awareness and can signal impending changes.
In Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America (2008), 10.
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For a smart material to be able to send out a more complex signal it needs to be nonlinear. If you hit a tuning fork twice as hard it will ring twice as loud but still at the same frequency. That’s a linear response. If you hit a person twice as hard they’re unlikely just to shout twice as loud. That property lets you learn more about the person than the tuning fork. - When Things Start to Think, 1999.
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Fourier’s Theorem … is not only one of the most beautiful results of modern analysis, but it may be said to furnish an indispensable instrument in the treatment of nearly every recondite question in modern physics. To mention only sonorous vibrations, the propagation of electric signals along a telegraph wire, and the conduction of heat by the earth’s crust, as subjects in their generality intractable without it, is to give but a feeble idea of its importance.
In William Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait, Treatise on Natural Philosophy (1867), Vol. 1, 28.
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I like a deep and difficult investigation when I happen to have made it easy to myself, if not to all others; and there is a spirit of gambling in this, whether, as by the cast of a die, a calculation è perte de vue shall bring out a beautiful and perfect result or shall be wholly thrown away. Scientific investigations are a sort of warfare carried on in the closet or on the couch against all one's contemporaries and predecessors; I have often gained a signal victory when I have been half asleep, but more frequently have found, upon being thoroughly awake, that the enemy had still the advantage of me, when I thought I had him fast in a corner, and all this you see keeps me alive.
Letter to Hudson Gurney, quoted in George Peacock, The Life of Thomas Young (1855), 239.
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In formal logic a contradiction is the signal of a defeat, but in the evolution of real knowledge it marks the first step in progress toward a victory. This is one great reason for the utmost toleration of variety of opinion. Once and forever, this duty of toleration has been summed up in the words, “Let both grow together until the harvest.”
In 'Religion and Science', The Atlantic (Aug 1925).
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It is easy to create an interstellar radio message which can be recognized as emanating unambiguously from intelligent beings. A modulated signal (‘beep,’ ‘beep-beep,’…) comprising the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, for example, consists exclusively of the first 12 prime numbers…. A signal of this kind, based on a simple mathematical concept, could only have a biological origin. … But by far the most promising method is to send pictures.
From 'The Quest for Extraterrestrial Intelligence', in the magazine Smithsonian (May 1978), 43-44. Reprinted in Cosmic Search (Mar 1979), 1, No. 2, 5.
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It is not always the truth that tells us where to look for new knowledge. We don’t search for the penny under the lamp post where the light is. We know we are more likely to find it out there in the darkness. My favorite way of expressing this notion to graduate students who are trying to do very hard experiments is to remind them that “God loves the noise as much as he does the signal.”
In 'Physics and the APS in 1979', Physics Today (Apr 1980), 33, No. 4, 50.
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It still fascinates me to think that here in this room you have radio signals from stations all over the world going through, and we can stick up an antenna and receive them.
Recalling how his lifelong “natural interest in how things work” began as a youth, which included such activities as building a Tesla coil and assembling crystal radios. In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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Magnitude may be compared to the power output in kilowatts of a [radio] broadcasting station; local intensity, on the Mercalli or similar scale, is then comparable to the signal strength noted on a receiver at a given locality. Intensity, like signal strength, will generally fall off with distance from the source; it will also depend on local conditions at the point of observation, and to some extent on the conditions along the path from source to that point.
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
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Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost. Rigour should be a signal to the historian that the maps have been made, and the real explorers have gone elsewhere.
'Mathematics and History', Mathematical Intelligencer (1992), 4, No. 4, 10.
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My eureka moment was in the dead of night, the early hours of the morning, on a cold, cold night, and my feet were so cold, they were aching. But when the result poured out of the charts, you just forget all that. You realize instantly how significant this is—what it is you’ve really landed on—and it’s great!
[About her discovery of the first pulsar radio signals.]
From BBC TV program, Journeys in Time and Space: Invisible Universe (28 Feb 2001).
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Nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus, which he declined to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration; the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write, that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is, that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honoured them with signal favours.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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Nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus, which he declined to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration; the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through. Others write, that a Roman soldier, running upon him with a drawn sword, offered to kill him; and that Archimedes, looking back, earnestly besought him to hold his hand a little while, that he might not leave what he was at work upon inconclusive and imperfect; but the soldier, nothing moved by his entreaty, instantly killed him. Others again relate, that as Archimedes was carrying to Marcellus mathematical instruments, dials, spheres, and angles, by which the magnitude of the sun might be measured to the sight, some soldiers seeing him, and thinking that he carried gold in a vessel, slew him. Certain it is, that his death was very afflicting to Marcellus; and that Marcellus ever after regarded him that killed him as a murderer; and that he sought for his kindred and honoured them with signal favours.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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Professor Ayrton said that we were gradually coming within thinkable distance of the realization of a prophecy he had ventured to make four years before, of a time when, if a person wanted to call to a friend he knew not where, he would call in a very loud electromagnetic voice, heard by him who had the electromagnetic ear, silent to him who had it not. “Where are you?” he would say. A small reply would come, “I am at the bottom of a coalmine, or crossing the Andes, or in the middle of the Atlantic.” Or, perhaps in spite of all the calling, no reply would come, and the person would then know that his friend was dead. Think of what this would mean ... a real communication from a distance based on true physical laws.
[His prophecy of cell phones, as a comment on Marconi's paper, 'Syntonic Wireless Telegraphy,' read before the Society of Arts, 15 May 1901, about his early radio signal experiments.]
From Engineering Magazine (Jul 1901) as described in 'Marconi and his Transatlantic Signal', The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (1902), Vol. 63, 782.
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Since Pawlow [Pavlov] and his pupils have succeeded in causing the secretion of saliva in the dog by means of optic and acoustic signals, it no longer seems strange to us that what the philosopher terms an 'idea' is a process which can cause chemical changes in the body.
The Mechanistic Conception of Life (1912), 63.
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That was the turning point. It was as though the signal was there, 'This is the disease you're going to have to work against.' I never really stopped to think about anything else. It was that sudden.
Autobiography, Nobel Foundation
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The chairs and tables around us which broadcast to us incessantly those signals which affect our sight and touch cannot in their nature be like unto the signals or to the sensations which the signals awake at the end of their journey.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 36.
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The human senses (above all, that of hearing) do not possess one set of constant parameters, to be measured independently, one at a time. It is even questionable whether the various 'senses' are to be regarded as separate, independent detectors. The human organism is one integrated whole, stimulated into response by physical signals; it is not to be thought of as a box, carrying various independent pairs of terminals labeled 'ears', 'eyes', 'nose', et cetera.
On Human Communication: A Review, A Survey and a Criticism (1957), 127-8.
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The key to SETI is to guess the type of communication that an alien society would use. The best guesses so far have been that they would use radio waves, and that they would choose a frequency based on 'universal' knowledge—for instance, the 1420 MHz hydrogen frequency. But these are assumptions formulated by the human brain. Who knows what sort of logic a superadvanced nonhuman life form might use? ... Just 150 years ago, an eyeblink in history, radio waves themselves were inconceivable, and we were thinking of lighting fires to signal the Martians.
Quoted on PBS web page related to Nova TV program episode on 'Origins: Do Aliens Exist in the Milky Way'.
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The world is full of signals that we don’t perceive. Tiny creatures live in a different world of unfamiliar forces. Many animals of our scale greatly exceed our range of perception for sensations familiar to us ... What an imperceptive lot we are. Surrounded by so much, so fascinating and so real, that we do not see (hear, smell, touch, taste) in nature, yet so gullible and so seduced by claims for novel power that we mistake the tricks of mediocre magicians for glimpses of a psychic world beyond our ken. The paranormal may be a fantasy; it is certainly a haven for charlatans. But ‘parahuman’ powers of perception lie all about us in birds, bees, and bacteria.
…...
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They were in orbit around the planet now, and its giant curving bulk loomed so huge that he could see nothing else, nothing but the bands and swirls of clouds that raced fiercely across Jupiter’s face. The clouds shifted and flowed before his eyes, spun into eddies the size of Asia, moved and throbbed and pulsed like living creatures. Lightning flashed down there, sudden explosions of light that flickered back and forth across the clouds, like signalling lamps.
Ben Bova
Jupiter
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Were we in danger of stopping [the experiment] when we liked the answer? I realized then, as I have often said since, that nature does not “know” what experiment a scientist is trying to do. “God loves the noise as much as the signal.”
In Confessions of a Technophile (1994), 45, with embedded quote by Branscomb cited in footnote as from 'Physics and the APS in 1979', Physics Today (Apr 1980), 33, No. 4, 49.
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When a Parliament, acting against the declared Sense of the Nation, would have appeared as surprising a phœnomenon in the moral World, as a retrograde Motion of the Sun, or any other signal Deviation of Things from their ordinary Course in the natural World.
In A Dissertation Upon Parties: In Several Letters to Caleb D’Anvers, Esq. (1733, 1735), 39.
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Years ago I used to worry about the degree to which I specialized. Vision is limited enough, yet I was not really working on vision, for I hardly made contact with visual sensations, except as signals, nor with the nervous pathways, nor the structure of the eye, except the retina. Actually my studies involved only the rods and cones of the retina, and in them only the visual pigments. A sadly limited peripheral business, fit for escapists. But it is as though this were a very narrow window through which at a distance, one can only see a crack of light. As one comes closer the view grows wider and wider, until finally looking through the same narrow window one is looking at the universe. It is like the pupil of the eye, an opening only two to three millimetres across in daylight, but yielding a wide angle of view, and manoeuvrable enough to be turned in all directions. I think this is always the way it goes in science, because science is all one. It hardly matters where one enters, provided one can come closer, and then one does not see less and less, but more and more, because one is not dealing with an opaque object, but with a window.
In Scientific American, 1960s, attributed.
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You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.
When asked to describe radio
…...
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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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