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Significant Quotes (74 quotes)

Surtout l’astronomie et l’anatomie sont les deux sciences qui nous offrent le plus sensiblement deux grands caractères du Créateur; l’une, son immensité, par les distances, la grandeur, et le nombre des corps célestes; l’autre, son intelligence infinie, par la méchanique des animaux.
Above all, astronomy and anatomy are the two sciences which present to our minds most significantly the two grand characteristics of the Creator; the one, His immensity, by the distances, size, and number of the heavenly bodies; the other, His infinite intelligence, by the mechanism of animate beings.
Original French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed.) Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 119-120.
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A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 222.
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A troubling question for those of us committed to the widest application of intelligence in the study and solution of the problems of men is whether a general understanding of the social sciences will be possible much longer. Many significant areas of these disciplines have already been removed by the advances of the past two decades beyond the reach of anyone who does not know mathematics; and the man of letters is increasingly finding, to his dismay, that the study of mankind proper is passing from his hands to those of technicians and specialists. The aesthetic effect is admittedly bad: we have given up the belletristic “essay on man” for the barbarisms of a technical vocabulary, or at best the forbidding elegance of mathematical syntax.
Opening paragraph of 'The Study of Man: Sociology Learns the Language of Mathematics' in Commentary (1 Sep 1952). Reprinted in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 2, 1294.
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An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician find themselves in an anecdote, indeed an anecdote quite similar to many that you have no doubt already heard.
After some observations and rough calculations the engineer realizes the situation and starts laughing.
A few minutes later the physicist understands too and chuckles to himself happily, as he now has enough experimental evidence to publish a paper.
This leaves the mathematician somewhat perplexed, as he had observed right away that he was the subject of an anecdote, and deduced quite rapidly the presence of humor from similar anecdotes, but considers this anecdote to be too trivial a corollary to be significant, let alone funny.
Anonymous
In 'Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science' APS News (Jun 2003), 12 No. 6.
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As far as the meaning of life in general, or in the abstract, as far as I can see, there is none. If all of life were suddenly to disappear from earth and anywhere else it may exist, or if none had ever formed in the first place, I think the Universe would continue to exist without perceptible change. However, it is always possible for an individual to invest his own life with meaning that he can find significant. He can so order his life that he may find as much beauty and wisdom in it as he can, and spread as much of that to others as possible.
In a book proposal for The Meaning of Life edited by Hugh S. Moorhead, 1989.
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As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.
Letter to an interested layman (13 Feb 1934). In Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Albert Einstein: The Human Side: New Glipses From His Archives (1981), 18.
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As I review the nature of the creative drive in the inventive scientists that have been around me, as well as in myself, I find the first event is an urge to make a significant intellectual contribution that can be tangible embodied in a product or process.
Quoted in New York Times (2 Mar 1991), 1 and 29.
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As I strayed into the study of an eminent physicist, I observed hanging against the wall, framed like a choice engraving, several dingy, ribbon-like strips of, I knew not what... My curiosity was at once aroused. What were they? ... They might be shreds of mummy-wraps or bits of friable bark-cloth from the Pacific, ... [or] remnants from a grandmother’s wedding dress... They were none of these... He explained that they were carefully-prepared photographs of portions of the Solar Spectrum. I stood and mused, absorbed in the varying yet significant intensities of light and shade, bordered by mystic letters and symbolic numbers. As I mused, the pale legend began to glow with life. Every line became luminous with meaning. Every shadow was suffused with light shining from behind, suggesting some mighty achievement of knowledge; of knowledge growing more daring in proportion to the remoteness of the object known; of knowledge becoming more positive in its answers, as the questions which were asked seemed unanswerable. No Runic legend, no Babylonish arrowhead, no Egyptian hieroglyph, no Moabite stone, could present a history like this, or suggest thoughts of such weighty import or so stimulate and exalt the imagination.
The Sciences of Nature Versus the Science of Man: A Plea for the Science of Man (1871), 7-9.
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Attaching significance to invariants is an effort to recognize what, because of its form or colour or meaning or otherwise, is important or significant in what is only trivial or ephemeral. A simple instance of failing in this is provided by the poll-man at Cambridge, who learned perfectly how to factorize a²-b² but was floored because the examiner unkindly asked for the factors of p²–q².
In 'Recent Developments in Invariant Theory', The Mathematical Gazette (Dec 1926), 13, No. 185, 217. [Note: A poll-man is a student who takes the ordinary university degree, without honours. -Webmaster]
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AZT stood up and said, 'Stop your pessimism. Stop your sense of futility. Go back to the lab. Go back to development. Go back to clinical trials. Things will work.'
[On the impact of AZT emerging as the long-sought first significant AIDS drug.]
As quoted in Emily Langer, 'Researcher Jerome P. Horwitz, 93, created AZT, the first approved treatment for HIV/AIDS' Washington Post (19 Sep 2012). The article was excerpted on blogs, sometimes referring to this quote by saying "AZT was more a cure for fatalism than for AIDS."
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Both social and biosocial factors are necessary to interpret crosscultural studies, with the general proviso that one’s research interest determines which elements, in what combinations, are significant for the provision of understanding.
…...
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Cosmology is a science which has only a few observable facts to work with. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation added one—the present radiation temperature of the universe. This, however, was a significant increase in our knowledge since it requires a cosmology with a source for the radiation at an early epoch and is a new probe of that epoch. More sensitive measurements of the background radiation in the future will allow us to discover additional facts about the universe.
'Discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background', in B. Bertotti (ed.) Modern Cosmology in Retrospect (1990), 304.
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Do not expect to be hailed as a hero when you make your great discovery. More likely you will be a ratbag—maybe failed by your examiners. Your statistics, or your observations, or your literature study, or your something else will be patently deficient. Do not doubt that in our enlightened age the really important advances are and will be rejected more often than acclaimed. Nor should we doubt that in our own professional lifetime we too will repudiate with like pontifical finality the most significant insight ever to reach our desk.
Theories of the Earth and Universe (1988), 365.
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Engineering is more closely akin to the arts than perhaps any other of the professions; first, because it requires the maximum of natural aptitude and of liking for the work in order to offset other factors; second, because it demands, like the arts, an almost selfless consecration to the job; and, third, because out of the hundreds who faithfully devote themselves to the task, only a few are destined to receive any significant reward—in either money or fame.
As coauthor with Frank W. Skinner, and Harold E. Wessman, 'Foreward', Vocational Guidance in Engineering Lines (1933), vi.
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Every time a significant discovery is being made one sets in motion a tremendous activity in laboratories and industrial enterprises throughout the world. It is like the ant who suddenly finds food and walks back to the anthill while sending out material called food attracting substance. The other ants follow the path immediately in order to benefit from the finding and continue to do so as long as the supply is rich.
Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1982). In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1982 (1983)
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Forests and trees make significant direct contributions to the nutrition of poor households ... [as] rural communities in Central Africa obtained a critical portion of protein and fat in their diets through hunting wildlife from in and around forests. The five to six million tonnes of bushmeat eaten yearly in the Congo Basin is roughly equal to the total amount of beef produced annually in Brazil – without the accompanying need to clear huge swathes of forest for cattle.
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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From a long view of the history of mankind—seen from, say, ten thousand years from now—there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade.
In The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), Vol. 2, page 1-11.
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Global nuclear war could have a major impact on climate—manifested by significant surface darkening over many weeks, subfreezing land temperatures persisting for up to several months, large perturbations in global circulation patterns, and dramatic changes in local weather and precipitation rates—a harsh “nuclear winter” in any season. [Co-author with Carl Sagan]
In 'Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions', Science (1983), 222, 1290.
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Hitherto the principle of causality was universally accepted as an indispensable postulate of scientific research, but now we are told by some physicists that it must be thrown overboard. The fact that such an extraordinary opinion should be expressed in responsible scientific quarters is widely taken to be significant of the all-round unreliability of human knowledge. This indeed is a very serious situation.
In Max Planck and James Vincent Murphy (trans.), Where is Science Going?, (1932), 66.
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Hypothesis is the most important mental technique of the investigator, and its main function is to suggest new experiments or new observations. Indeed, most experiments and many observations are carried out with the deliberate object of testing an hypothesis. Another function is to help one see the significance of an object or event that otherwise would mean nothing. For instance, a mind prepared by the hypothesis of evolution would make many more significant observations on a field excursion than one not so prepared. Hypotheses should be used as tools to uncover new facts rather than as ends in themselves.
The Art of Scientific Investigation (1953), 46.
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I do not maintain that the chief value of the study of arithmetic consists in the lessons of morality that arise from this study. I claim only that, to be impressed from day to day, that there is something that is right as an answer to the questions with which one is able to grapple, and that there is a wrong answer—that there are ways in which the right answer can be established as right, that these ways automatically reject error and slovenliness, and that the learner is able himself to manipulate these ways and to arrive at the establishment of the true as opposed to the untrue, this relentless hewing to the line and stopping at the line, must color distinctly the thought life of the pupil with more than a tinge of morality. … To be neighborly with truth, to feel one’s self somewhat facile in ways of recognizing and establishing what is right, what is correct, to find the wrong persistently and unfailingly rejected as of no value, to feel that one can apply these ways for himself, that one can think and work independently, have a real, a positive, and a purifying effect upon moral character. They are the quiet, steady undertones of the work that always appeal to the learner for the sanction of his best judgment, and these are the really significant matters in school work. It is not the noise and bluster, not even the dramatics or the polemics from the teacher’s desk, that abide longest and leave the deepest and stablest imprint upon character. It is these still, small voices that speak unmistakably for the right and against the wrong and the erroneous that really form human character. When the school subjects are arranged on the basis of the degree to which they contribute to the moral upbuilding of human character good arithmetic will be well up the list.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 18. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 69.
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I don’t know if I would call it a miracle. I would call it a spectacular example of what people can do. To me, it’s like putting the first man on the moon or splitting the atom. We’ve shown that if the right treatment is given to people who have a catastrophic injury that they could walk away from it.
Expressing optimism for further recovery for Kevin Everett, a Buffalo Bills football player who suffered a paralyzing spinal injury during a game (9 Sep 2007), but after two days of hospital treatment had begun voluntarily moving his arms and legs. Green credits as significant to the recovery was that within minutes of his injury, the patient was quickly treated with intravenous ice-cold saline solution to induce hypothermia.
Quoted in John Wawrow, 'Bills' Everett Improves, May Walk Again', Associated Press news report, Washington Post (12 Sep 2007).
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I know few significant questions of public policy which can safely be confided to computers. In the end, the hard decisions inescapably involve imponderables of intuition, prudence, and judgment.
From Address to the Centennial Convocation of the National Academy of Sciences (22 Oct 1963), 'A Century of Scientific Conquest.' Online at The American Presidency Project.
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I require a term to express those bodies which can pass to the electrodes, or, as they are usually called, the poles. Substances are frequently spoken of as being electro-negative, or electro-positive, according as they go under the supposed influence of a direct attraction to the positive or negative pole. But these terms are much too significant for the use to which I should have to put them; for though the meanings are perhaps right, they are only hypothetical, and may be wrong; and then, through a very imperceptible, but still very dangerous, because continual, influence, they do great injury to science, by contracting and limiting the habitual view of those engaged in pursuing it. I propose to distinguish these bodies by calling those anions which go to the anode of the decomposing body; and those passing to the cathode, cations; and when I have occasion to speak of these together, I shall call them ions.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1834, 124, 79.
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If man were by nature a solitary animal, the passions of the soul by which he was conformed to things so as to have knowledge of them would be sufficient for him; but since he is by nature a political and social animal it was necessary that his conceptions be made known to others. This he does through vocal sound. Therefore there had to be significant vocal sounds in order that men might live together. Whence those who speak different languages find it difficult to live together in social unity.
As quoted in Jeffrey J. Maciejewski, Thomas Aquinas on Persuasion: Action, Ends, and Natural Rhetoric (2013), 36.
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If there were some solitary or feral man, the passions of the soul would be sufficient for him; by them he would be conformed to things in order that he might have knowledge of them. But because man is naturally political and social, there is need for one man to make his conceptions known to others, which is done with speech. So significant speech was needed if men were to live together. Which is why those of different tongues do not easily live together.
Sententia super libri Perihermeneias (Commentary on Aristotle’s On Interpretation) [1270-1271], Book I, lesson 2, number 2, trans. R. McInerny, quoted in R. McInerny (ed.) Thomas Aquinas, Selected Writings (1998), 460.
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In primitive art you will find no accurate representation: you will find only significant form. Yet no other art moves us so profoundly.
In Art (1913), 22.
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In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fraulein Noether was the most significant mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.
In letter (1 May 1935), Letters to the Editor, 'The Late Emmy Noether: Professor Einstein Writes in Appreciation of a Fellow-Mathematician', New York Times (4 May 1935), 12.
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In the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. ... The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances.
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), xiv-xv.
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It has been stated that the research should be discontinued because it involved “meddling with evolution.” Homo sapiens has been meddling with evolution in many ways and for a long time. We started in a big way when we domesticated plants and animals. We continue every time we alter the environment. In general, recombinant DNA research docs not seem to represent a significant increase in the risks associated with such meddling—although it may significantly increase the rate at which we meddle.
In letter to the Board of Directors of Friends of the Earth, published in The Coevolutionary Quarterly (Spring 1978), as abstracted and cited in New Scientist (6 Jul 1978), 35.
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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 follow that “significant form” was form behind which we catch a sense of ultimate reality.
In Art (1913), 54.
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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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My life has been a continuous fulfillment of dreams. It appears that everything I saw and did has a new, and perhaps, more significant meaning, every time I see it. The earth is good. It is a privilege to live thereon.
In The National Gardener (1952?), 7.
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No isolated experiment, however significant in itself, can suffice for the experimental demonstration of any natural phenomenon; for the “one chance in a million” will undoubtedly occur, with no less and no more than its appropriate frequency, however surprised we may be that it should occur to us.
The Design of Experiments (1935, 1971), 13-14.
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Obviously, what our age has in common with the age of the Reformation is the fallout of disintegrating values. What needs explaining is the presence of a receptive audience. More significant than the fact that poets write abstrusely, painters paint abstractly, and composers compose unintelligible music is that people should admire what they cannot understand; indeed, admire that which has no meaning or principle.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 62.
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One of the most important choices any researcher makes is picking a significant topic to study. If you choose the right problem, you get important results that transform our perception of the underlying structure of the universe. If you don’t choose the right problem, you may work very hard but only get an interesting result.
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One reason which has led the organic chemist to avert his mind from the problems of Biochemistry is the obsession that the really significant happenings in the animal body are concerned in the main with substances of such high molecular weight and consequent vagueness of molecular structure as to make their reactions impossible of study by his available and accurate methods. There remains, I find, pretty widely spread, the feeling—due to earlier biological teaching—that, apart from substances which are obviously excreta, all the simpler products which can be found in cells or tissues are as a class mere objects, already too remote from the fundamental biochemical events to have much significance. So far from this being the case, recent progress points in the clearest way to the fact that the molecules with which a most important and significant part of the chemical dynamics of living tissues is concerned are of a comparatively simple character.
In 'The Dynamic Side of Biochemistry', Address (11 Sep 1913) in Report on the 83rd Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1914), 657-8.
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Science is not gadgetry. The desirable adjuncts of modern living, although in many instances made possible by science, certainly do not constitute science. Basic scientific knowledge often (but not always) is a prerequisite to such developments, but technology primarily deserves the credit for having the financial courage, the ingenuity, and the driving energy to see to it that so-called ‘pure knowledge’ is in fact brought to the practical service of man. And it should also be recognized that those who have the urge to apply knowledge usefully have themselves often made significant contribution to pure knowledge and have even more often served as a stimulation to the activities of a pure researcher.
Warren Weaver (1894–1978), U.S. mathematician, scientist, educator. Science and Imagination, ch. 1, Basic Books (1967).
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Significant advances in science often have a peculiar quality: they contradict obvious, commonsense opinions.
A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube: An Autobiography (1984).
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Significant inventions are not mere accidents. The erroneous view [that they are] is widely held, and it is one that the scientific and technical community, unfortunately, has done little to dispel. Happenstance usually plays a part, to be sure, but there is much more to invention than the popular notion of a bolt out of the blue. Knowledge in depth and in breadth are virtual prerequisites. Unless the mind is thoroughly charged beforehand, the proverbial spark of genius, if it should manifest itself, probably will find nothing to ignite.
Speech, at award of Perkin Medal. As quoted in 'Introduction', Royston M. Roberts, Serendipity (1989), x.
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Some see a clear line between genetic enhancement and other ways that people seek improvement in their children and themselves. Genetic manipulation seems somehow worse - more intrusive, more sinister - than other ways of enhancing performance and seeking success. But, morally speaking, the difference is less significant than it seems. Bioengineering gives us reason to question the low-tech, high-pressure child-rearing practices we commonly accept. The hyperparenting familiar in our time represents an anxious excess of mastery and dominion that misses the sense of life as a gift. This draws it disturbingly close to eugenics... Was the old eugenics objectionable only insofar as it was coercive? Or is there something inherently wrong with the resolve to deliberately design our progeny's traits... But removing coercion does not vindicate eugenics. The problem with eugenics and genetic engineering is that they represent a one-sided triumph of willfulness over giftedness, of dominion over reverence, of molding over beholding.
Michael J. Sandel, 'The Case Against Perfection', The Atlantic Monthly (Apr 2004).
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The art of writing history is the art of emphasizing the significant facts at the expense of the insignificant. And it is the same in every field of knowledge. Knowledge is power only if a man knows what facts not to bother about.
In The Orange Tree: A Volume of Essays (1926), 60.
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The chemical differences among various species and genera of animals and plants are certainly as significant for the history of their origins as the differences in form. If we could define clearly the differences in molecular constitution and functions of different kinds of organisms, there would be possible a more illuminating and deeper understanding of question of the evolutionary reactions of organisms than could ever be expected from morphological considerations.
'Uber das Vorkommen von Haemoglobin in den Muskeln der Mollusken und die Verbreitung desselben in den lebenden Organismen', Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere, 1871, 4, 318-9. Trans. Joseph S. Fruton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 270.
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The day when the scientist, no matter how devoted, may make significant progress alone and without material help is past. This fact is most self-evident in our work. Instead of an attic with a few test tubes, bits of wire and odds and ends, the attack on the atomic nucleus has required the development and construction of great instruments on an engineering scale.
Nobel Prize banquet speech (29 Feb 1940)
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The determination of the value of an item must not be based on its price, but rather on the utility it yields. The price of the item is dependent only on the thing itself and is equal for everyone; the utility, however, is dependent on the particular circumstances of the person making the estimate. Thus there is no doubt that a gain of one thousand ducats is more significant to a pauper than to a rich man though both gain the same amount.
Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk (1738), 24.
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The discovery of the famous original [Rosetta Stone] enabled Napoleon’s experts to begin the reading of Egypt’s ancient literature. In like manner the seismologists, using the difficult but manageable Greek of modern physics, are beginning the task of making earthquakes tell the nature of the earth’s interior and translating into significant speech the hieroglyphics written by the seismograph.
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The education explosion is producing a vast number of people who want to live significant, important lives but lack the ability to satisfy this craving for importance by individual achievement. The country is being swamped with nobodies who want to be somebodies.
From address to employees of the Phillips Petroleum Co. In Bartlesville, Oklahoma, excerpted in the Franklin, Indiana, The Daily Journal (23 Jan 1978), 2.
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The evidence from both approaches, statistical and experimental, does not appear sufficiently significant to me to warrant forsaking the pleasure of smoking. As a matter of fact, if the investigations had been pointed toward some material that I thoroughly dislike, such as parsnips, I still would not feel that evidence of the type presented constituted a reasonable excuse for eliminating the things from my diet. I will still continue to smoke, and if the tobacco companies cease manufacturing their product, I will revert to sweet fern and grape leaves.
Introduction in Eric Northrup, Science Looks at Smoking (1957), 34.
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The first man who said “fire burns” was employing scientific method, at any rate if he had allowed himself to be burnt several times. This man had already passed through the two stages of observation and generalization. He had not, however, what scientific technique demands—a careful choice of significant facts on the one hand, and, on the other hand, various means of arriving at laws otherwise than my mere generalization. (1931)
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 3.
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The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
…...
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The meaning of geography is as much a sealed book to the person of ordinary intelligence and education as the meaning of a great cathedral would be to a backwoodsman, and yet no cathedral can be more suggestive of past history in its many architectural forms than is the land about us, with its innumerable and marvellously significant geographic forms. It makes one grieve to think of opportunity for mental enjoyment that is last because of the failure of education in this respect.
'Geographic Methods in Geologic Investigation', The National Geographic Magazine, 1889, 1, 23.
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The number of hypotheses and theories about climate change are numerous. Quite naturally they have caught the public attention, as any proof of past climactic change points to the possibility of future climate change, which inevitably will have significant implications for global economics.
'Klimaschwankungen seit 1700 nebst Bemerkungen fiber die Klimaschwankungen der Diluvialzeit' Pencks Geographische Abhandlingen (1890) 4,2. In Eduard Brückner, Nico Stehr (Ed.), Hans von Storch (Ed.) and Barbara Stehr, Eduard Brückner (2000), 11.
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The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature. ... It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect.
In Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 58.
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The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature. Indeed, I regard this as the major discovery of the past hundred years of biology. It is, in its way, an illuminating piece of news. … It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect.
Essay, 'The Hazards of Science', collected in The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979), 73.
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The opinion appears to be gaining ground that this very general conception of functionality, born on mathematical ground, is destined to supersede the narrower notion of causation, traditional in connection with the natural sciences. As an abstract formulation of the idea of determination in its most general sense, the notion of functionality includes and transcends the more special notion of causation as a one-sided determination of future phenomena by means of present conditions; it can be used to express the fact of the subsumption under a general law of past, present, and future alike, in a sequence of phenomena. From this point of view the remark of Huxley that Mathematics “knows nothing of causation” could only be taken to express the whole truth, if by the term “causation” is understood “efficient causation.” The latter notion has, however, in recent times been to an increasing extent regarded as just as irrelevant in the natural sciences as it is in Mathematics; the idea of thorough-going determinancy, in accordance with formal law, being thought to be alone significant in either domain.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sheffield, Section A, Nature (1 Sep 1910), 84, 290.
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The pressures for human cloning are powerful; but, although it seems likely that somebody, at some time, will attempt it, we need not assume that it will ever become a common or significant feature of human life.
In The Second Creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control
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The scientist takes off from the manifold observations of predecessors, and shows his intelligence, if any, by his ability to discriminate between the important and the negligible, by selecting here and there the significant steppingstones that will lead across the difficulties to new understanding. The one who places the last stone and steps across to the terra firma of accomplished discovery gets all the credit.
In As I Remember Him (1940).
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The significance of a fact is relative to [the general body of scientific] knowledge. To say that a fact is significant in science, is to say that it helps to establish or refute some general law; for science, though it starts from observation of the particular, is not concerned essentially with the particular, but with the general. A fact, in science, is not a mere fact, but an instance. In this the scientist differs from the artist, who, if he deigns to notice facts at all, is likely to notice them in all their particularity.
In The Scientific Outlook (1931, 2009), 38.
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The significant chemicals of living tissue are rickety and unstable, which is exactly what is needed for life.
As shown, without citation, in Randy Moore, Writing to Learn Science (1997), 226.
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The significant thing about the Darbys and coke-iron is not that the first Abraham Darby “invented” a new process but that five generations of the Darby connection were able to perfect it and develop most of its applications.
In Essays on Culture Change (2003), Vol. 2, 200.
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The story of scientific discovery has its own epic unity—a unity of purpose and endeavour—the single torch passing from hand to hand through the centuries; and the great moments of science when, after long labour, the pioneers saw their accumulated facts falling into a significant order—sometimes in the form of a law that revolutionised the whole world of thought—have an intense human interest, and belong essentially to the creative imagination of poetry.
In Prefactory Note, Watchers of the Sky (1922), v.
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The weight of our civilization has become so great, it now ranks as a global force and a significant wild card in the human future along with the Ice Ages and other vicissitudes of a volatile and changeable planetary system
Rethinking Environmentalism (13 Dec 1998).
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These neutrino observations are so exciting and significant that I think we're about to see the birth of an entirely new branch of astronomy: neutrino astronomy. Supernova explosions that are invisible to us because of dust clouds may occur in our galaxy as often as once every 10 years, and neutrino bursts could give us a way to study them.
New York Times (3 Apr 1987)
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We have decided to call the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal, by the name Cybernetics, which we form from the Greek … for steersman. In choosing this term, we wish to recognize that the first significant paper on feedback mechanisms is an article on governors, which was published by Clerk Maxwell in 1868, and that governor is derived from a Latin corruption … We also wish to refer to the fact that the steering engines of a ship are indeed one of the earliest and best-developed forms of feedback mechanisms.
In Cybernetics (1948), 19.
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What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? Only one answer seems possible—significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way; certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. These relations and combinations of lines and colours, these æsthetically moving forms, I call “Significant Form”; and “Significant Form” is the one quality common to all works of visual art.
In Art (1913), 8.
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What was most significant about the lunar voyage was not that man set foot on the Moon but that they set eye on the earth.
…...
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When I was 9, my parents gave me a Commodore 64, which was fun. At the time, the opportunity to program your own computer was easier than it is today. Today there are significantly larger barriers because of the complexity built into computing.
From address at a conference on Google campus, co-hosted with Common Sense Media and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop 'Breakthrough Learning in the Digital Age'. As quoted in Technology blog report by Dan Fost, 'Google co-founder Sergey Brin wants more computers in schools', Los Angeles Times (28 Oct 2009). On latimesblogs.latimes.com website. As quoted, without citation, in Can Akdeniz, Fast MBA (2014), 280.
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When scientists discovered that liquid water, which brought forth life on Earth, exists nowhere else in great quantities in the solar system, the most significant lesson they taught was not that water, or the life that depends on it, is necessarily the result of some chemical accident in space; their most important revelation was that water is rare in infinity, that we should prize it, preserve it, conserve it.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 201-202.
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[A significant invention] must be startling, unexpected. It must come to a world that is not prepared for it.
Speaking at a shareholders' meeting (1975) as quoted by Victor K. McElheny, in Insisting On The Impossible: The Life Of Edwin Land (1999), 403-404.
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[Decoding the human genome sequence] is the most significant undertaking that we have mounted so far in an organized way in all of science. I believe that reading our blueprints, cataloguing our own instruction book, will be judged by history as more significant than even splitting the atom or going to the moon.
Interview (23 May 1998), 'Cracking the Code to Life', Academy of Achievement web site.
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[Freud's] great strength, though sometimes also his weakness, was the quite extraordinary respect he had for the singular fact... When he got hold of a simple but significant fact he would feel, and know, that it was an example of something general or universal, and the idea of collecting statistics on the matter was quite alien to him.
The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1953), Vol 1, 96-7.
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[There was] in some of the intellectual leaders a great aspiration to demonstrate that the universe ran like a piece of clock-work, but this was was itself initially a religious aspiration. It was felt that there would be something defective in Creation itself—something not quite worthy of God—unless the whole system of the universe could be shown to be interlocking, so that it carried the pattern of reasonableness and orderliness. Kepler, inaugurating the scientist’s quest for a mechanistic universe in the seventeenth century, is significant here—his mysticism, his music of the spheres, his rational deity demand a system which has the beauty of a piece of mathematics.
In The Origins of Modern Science (1950), 105.
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~~[Reinterpretation]~~ The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
Yet another of the Einstein-like quotes in common circulation for which there appears to be no known source in the given wording. There are also a number of variations on the the theme. It resembles an authentic quote, “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels,” from a longer discussion, in 'Atomic Education Urged by Einstein', New York Times (25 May 1946), 13. Other reinterpretations, not in exactly Einstein’s wording, include: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.” “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” “The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them.” For more context, see the authentic quote that begins, “Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived…,” on the Albert Einstein Quotes page on this website.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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