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Who said: “Environmental extremists ... wouldn’t let you build a house unless it looked like a bird’s nest.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Signal

Signal Quotes (14 quotes)

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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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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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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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, 4, No. 4, 10.
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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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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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- 70 -
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- 40 -
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