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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Silent

Silent Quotes (28 quotes)

L’Astronomie est utile, parce qu’elle nous élève au-dessus de nous-mêmes; elle est utile, parce qu’elle est grande; elle est utile, parce qu’elle est belle… C’est elle qui nous montre combien l’homme est petit par le corps et combien il est grand par l’esprit, puisque cette immensité éclatante où son corps n’est qu’un point obscur, son intelligence peut l’embrasser tout entière et en goûter la silencieuse harmonie.
Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand[; it is useful because it is beautiful]… It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony.
In La Valeur de la Science (1904), 276, translated by George Bruce Halsted, in The Value of Science (1907), 84. Webmaster added the meaning of “elle est utile, parce qu’elle est belle,” in brackets, which was absent in Halsted’s translation.
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To the Memory of Fourier
Fourier! with solemn and profound delight,
Joy born of awe, but kindling momently
To an intense and thrilling ecstacy,
I gaze upon thy glory and grow bright:
As if irradiate with beholden light;
As if the immortal that remains of thee
Attuned me to thy spirit’s harmony,
Breathing serene resolve and tranquil might.
Revealed appear thy silent thoughts of youth,
As if to consciousness, and all that view
Prophetic, of the heritage of truth
To thy majestic years of manhood due:
Darkness and error fleeing far away,
And the pure mind enthroned in perfect day.
In R. Graves, Life of W. R. Hamilton (1882), Vol. l, 696.
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Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs,—
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress
Its music.
Poem, 'The Invitation' (1822), collected in The Poetical Works (1844), 306.
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Beyond lonely Pluto, dark and shadowless, lies the glittering realm of interstellar space, the silent ocean that rolls on and on, past stars and galaxies alike, to the ends of the Universe. What do men know of this vast infinity, this shoreless ocean? Is it hostile or friendly–or merely indifferent?
…...
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Everything that we call Invention or Discovery in the higher sense of the word is the serious exercise and activity of an original feeling for truth, which, after a long course of silent cultivation, suddenly flashes out into fruitful knowledge.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 193.
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Here man is no longer the center of the world, only a witness, but a witness who is also a partner in the silent life of nature, bound by secret affinities to the trees.
From Presidential Address (20 Dec 1957), to the Annual Meeting of the Swedish Academy, 'The Linnaeus Tradition and Our Time', collected in Servant of Peace: A Selection of the Speeches and Statements of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1953-1961 (1962), 153. Also in Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations (1973), Vol. 3, 703.
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History … celebrates the battlefields that kill us, but keeps silent on the crop fields that sustain us. It knows the bastards of kings, she doesn’t know the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly.
From the original French, “L’histoire … célèbre les champs de bataille qui nous tuent, elle garde le silence sur les champs de culture qui nous font vivre; elle sait les bâtards des rois, elle ne sait pas l'origine du froment. Ainsi le veut la sottise humaine,” in Les Merveilles de l'Instinct Chez les Insectes: Morceaux Choisis (The Wonders of Instinct in Insects: Selected Pieces) (1913), 242. English version by Webmaster using Google to translate literally and indicate the context is lamenting that history has not preserved the origins of food cultivation. The translation usually seen is “History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death but scorns to speak of the ploughed fields whereby we live. It knows the names of the kings’ bastards, but cannot tell us the origin of wheat,” for example, in Alan L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 88.
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I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.
…...
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Imperceptibly a change had been wrought in me until I no longer felt alone in a strange, silent country. I had learned to hear the echoes of a time when every living thing upon this land and even the varied overshadowing skies had its voice, a voice that was attentively heard and devoutly heeded by the ancient people of America. Henceforth, to me the plants, the trees, the clouds and all things had become vocal with human hopes, fears and supplications.
From Preface, Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs (1915), v.
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It may be observed of mathematicians that they only meddle with such things as are certain, passing by those that are doubtful and unknown. They profess not to know all things, neither do they affect to speak of all things. What they know to be true, and can make good by invincible arguments, that they publish and insert among their theorems. Of other things they are silent and pass no judgment at all, chusing [choosing] rather to acknowledge their ignorance, than affirm anything rashly. They affirm nothing among their arguments or assertions which is not most manifestly known and examined with utmost rigour, rejecting all probable conjectures and little witticisms. They submit nothing to authority, indulge no affection, detest subterfuges of words, and declare their sentiments, as in a Court of Judicature [Justice], without passion, without apology; knowing that their reasons, as Seneca testifies of them, are not brought to persuade, but to compel.
Mathematical Lectures (1734), 64.
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It [mathematics] is in the inner world of pure thought, where all entia dwell, where is every type of order and manner of correlation and variety of relationship, it is in this infinite ensemble of eternal verities whence, if there be one cosmos or many of them, each derives its character and mode of being,—it is there that the spirit of mathesis has its home and its life.
Is it a restricted home, a narrow life, static and cold and grey with logic, without artistic interest, devoid of emotion and mood and sentiment? That world, it is true, is not a world of solar light, not clad in the colours that liven and glorify the things of sense, but it is an illuminated world, and over it all and everywhere throughout are hues and tints transcending sense, painted there by radiant pencils of psychic light, the light in which it lies. It is a silent world, and, nevertheless, in respect to the highest principle of art—the interpenetration of content and form, the perfect fusion of mode and meaning—it even surpasses music. In a sense, it is a static world, but so, too, are the worlds of the sculptor and the architect. The figures, however, which reason constructs and the mathematic vision beholds, transcend the temple and the statue, alike in simplicity and in intricacy, in delicacy and in grace, in symmetry and in poise. Not only are this home and this life thus rich in aesthetic interests, really controlled and sustained by motives of a sublimed and supersensuous art, but the religious aspiration, too, finds there, especially in the beautiful doctrine of invariants, the most perfect symbols of what it seeks—the changeless in the midst of change, abiding things hi a world of flux, configurations that remain the same despite the swirl and stress of countless hosts of curious transformations.
In 'The Universe and Beyond', Hibbert Journal (1904-1906), 3, 314.
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Nature is beneficent. I praise her and all her works. She is silent and wise. … She is cunning, but for good ends. … She has brought me here and will also lead me away. I trust her. She may scold me, but she will not hate her work.
As quoted by T.H. Huxley, in Norman Lockyer (ed.), 'Nature: Aphorisms by Goethe', Nature (1870), 1, 10.
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Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things
you have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
where never lark, or even eagle flew
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
…...
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Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination—stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern—of which I am a part. … What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the “why?” It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6, footnote.
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Sauntering silently among the healthful groves, concerning yourself about every thing worthy a wise and good man?
Horace
Epistle IV, to Albius Tibullus, translated by Christopher Smart in The Works of Horace (1861), 237. Also seen translated as, “To linger silently among the healthful woods, musing on such things as are worthy of a wise and good man.”
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Television is too powerful a force for the public good to be stopped by misleading propaganda. No one can retard TV's advance any more than carriage makers could stop the automobile, the cable the wireless, or silent pictures the talkies.
Address to Stockholders, 30th Annual Meeting of RCA Corporation, printed in 'Television Outlook is Bright', Radio Age: Research, Manufacturing, Communications, Broadcasting, Television (Jul 1949), 8, No. 4, 21.
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The clouds roll on.
Silent as sleepwalkers the clouds
keep coming from infinity
bank behind bank
and line after line,
and change colors on the earth.
As translated in Rolf Jacobsen and ‎Roger Greenwald (ed., trans.), 'The Clouds', North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen, A Bilingual Edition (1985, 2002), 9, from 'Earth and Iron' (1933). Collected in the original Norwegian edition (1999).
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The sad and solemn night
Hath yet her multitude of cheerful fires;
The glorious host of light
Walk the dark hemisphere till she retires;
All through her silent watches, gliding slow,
Her constellations come, and climb the heavens, and go.
Poem, 'Hymn to the North Star', collected in Poems by William Cullen Bryant: Collected and Arranged by Himself (1873), 84.
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The stars hang bright above,
Silent, as if they watch’d the sleeping earth.
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The worst primary school scolding I ever received was for ridiculing a classmate who asked, ‘What’s an atom?’ To my third grader’s mind, the question betrayed a level of ignorance more befitting a preschooler, but the teacher disagreed and banned me from recess for a week. I had forgotten the incident until a few years ago, while sitting in on a quantum mechanics class taught by a Nobel Prizewinning physicist. Midway through a brutally abstract lecture on the hydrogen atom, a plucky sophomore raised his hand and asked the very same question. To the astonishment of all, our speaker fell silent. He stared out the window for what seemed like an eternity before answering, ‘I don’t know.’
'The Secret Life of Atoms'. Discover (Jun 2007), 28:6, 52.
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There are many Green Dragons in this world of wayside inns, even as there are many White Harts, Red Lions, Silent Women and other incredible things.
In A Traveller in Little Things (1921), 9.
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To understand [our cosmological roots]...is to give voice to the silent stars. Stand under the stars and say what you like to them. Praise them or blame them, question them, pray to them, wish upon them. The universe will not answer. But it will have spoken.
…...
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We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: Vishnu is trying to pursue the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that one way or another. There was a great deal of solemn talk that this was the end of the great wars of the century.
At the first atomic bomb test (16 Jul 1945), in Len Giovanitti and Fred Freed, The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965), 197
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What is it to see, in an Eagle glide
Which fills a human heart with so much pride?
Is it that it soars effortless above the Earth
That steals us from our own limits & dearth?
Trapped in our seas of befuddling sludge
We try and try but cannot budge.
And then to see a mortal; with such ease take wing
Up in a breeze that makes our failing spirits sing?
Do we, vicarious birds, search in it our childishness -
When we too were young & yearned in heart to fly?
Taking flights of fancy through adolescent nights
Listening little, heeding less, knowing not why?
From its highest perch in the forest of snow
Majestic - the Eagle soars alone.
Riding thermals, lording clouds
Till dropping silent from the sky as a stone
But we, so quick and ready to fold
Give up our wings at the whiff of age
Losing years, cursing time, wasting spirit
Living out entire lives in futile rage!
…...
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When I am silent, I have thunder hidden inside.
Rumi
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 189
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When I was in college studying science, I found the experience fundamentally unsatisfying. I was continually oppressed by the feeling that my only role was to “shut up and learn.” I felt there was nothing I could say to my instructors that they would find interesting. … As I sat in the science lecture hall, I was utterly silent. That’s not a good state to be in when you are 19 years old.
In Understanding the Universe: An Inquiry Approach to Astronomy and the Nature of Scientific Research (2013), ix.
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Winter opened its vaults last night, flinging fistfuls of crystalline diamonds into the darkening sky. Like white-tulled ballerinas dancing gracefully on heaven’s stage, silent stars stood entranced by their intricate beauty. Motionless, I watched each lacy gem drift softly by my upturned face, as winter’s icy hands guided them gently on their swirling lazy way, and blanketed the waiting earth in cold splendor. The shivering rustling of reeds, the restless fingers of the trees snapping in the frosty air, broke the silent stillness, as winter quietly pulled up its white coverlet over the sleepy earth.
…...
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[In geology,] As in history, the material in hand remains silent if no questions are asked. The nature of these questions depends on the “school” to which the geologist belongs and on the objectivity of his investigations. Hans Cloos called this way of interrogation “the dialogue with the earth,” “das Gesprach mit der Erde.”
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 456.
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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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- 10 -
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