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Who said: “Dangerous... to take shelter under a tree, during a thunder-gust. It has been fatal to many, both men and beasts.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Situation

Situation Quotes (113 quotes)

Dilbert: Maybe I’m unlucky in love because I’m so knowledgeable about science that I intimidate people. Their intimidation becomes low self-esteem, then they reject me to protect their egos.
Dogbert: Occam’s Razor.
Dilbert: What is “Occam's Razor”?
Dogbert: A guy named Occam had a rule about the world. Basically he said that when there are multiple explanations for something the simplest explanation is usually correct. The simplest explanation for your poor love life is that you’re immensely unattractive.
Dilbert: Maybe Occam had another rule that specifically exempted this situation, but his house burned down with all his notes. Then he forgot.
Dogbert: Occam’s Razor.
Dilbert: I’m an idiot.
Dogbert: I don’t think we can rule it out at this point.
Dilbert comic strip (11 Jul 1993).
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A black hole has no hair.
[Summarizing the simplicity of a black hole, which shows only three characteristics to the outside world (mass, charge, spin) and comparing the situation to a room full of bald-pated people who had one characteristic in common, but no differences in hair length, style or color for individual variations.]
In Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (2000), 297. Quote introduced previously as the No-Hair Theorem in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John Wheeler, Gravitation (1973).
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A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful, and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so.
From Address (1954) to Princeton Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Sciences and in Society', published in A.H. Taub (ed.), John von Neumann: Collected Works (1963), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted and cited in Rosemary Schmalz,Out of the Mouths of Mathematicians: A Quotation Book for Philomaths (1993), 123.
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A scientific writer can scarcely encounter anything more undesirable than, after completing a work, to have one of the foundations shaken. I became aware of this situation through a letter from Mr. Bertrand Russell as the printing of this volume neared completion.
In Epilog, Grundgestze der Arithmetic (1903), Vol. 2, 253. Russell wrote in 1901, just as Frege was about to publish Volume 2 of his last major work. English translation by Webmaster using Google translate and online dictionaries, from the original German: “Einem wissenschaftlichen Schriftsteller kann kaum etwas Unerwünschteres begegnen, als dass ihm nach Vollendung einer Arbeit eine der Grundlagen seines Baues erschüttert wird. In diese Lage wurde ich durch einen Brief des Herrn Bertrand Russell versetzt, als der Druck dieses Bandes sich seinem Ende näherte.” The translation in John E. Hopcroft, 'Turing Machines', Scientific American (May 1984), 250, No. 5, 95, gives: “A scientist can hardly meet with anything more undesirable than to have the foundations give way just as the work is finished. I was put in this position by a letter from Mr. Bertrand Russell when the work was nearly through the press.”
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A very sincere and serious freshman student came to my office with a question that had clearly been troubling him deeply. He said to me, ‘I am a devout Christian and have never had any reason to doubt evolution, an idea that seems both exciting and well documented. But my roommate, a proselytizing evangelical, has been insisting with enormous vigor that I cannot be both a real Christian and an evolutionist. So tell me, can a person believe both in God and in evolution?’ Again, I gulped hard, did my intellectual duty, a nd reassured him that evolution was both true and entirely compatible with Christian belief –a position that I hold sincerely, but still an odd situation for a Jewish agnostic.
…...
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A very small cause which escapes our notice determines a considerable effect that we cannot fail to see, and then we say that the effect is due to chance. If we knew exactly the laws of nature and the situation of the universe at the initial moment, we could predict exactly the situation of that same universe at a succeeding moment.
In 'Chance', Science et Méthode (1908). Quoted in Richard Kautz, Chaos: The Science of Predictable Random Motion (2011), 167 as translated in Science and Method by F. Maitland (1918).
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Absolute space, of its own nature without reference to anything external, always remains homogenous and immovable. Relative space is any movable measure or dimension of this absolute space; such a measure or dimension is determined by our senses from the situation of the space with respect to bodies and is popularly used for immovable space, as in the case of space under the earth or in the air or in the heavens, where the dimension is determined from the situation of the space with respect to the earth. Absolute and relative space are the same in species and in magnitude, but they do not always remain the same numerically. For example, if the earth moves, the space of our air, which in a relative sense and with respect to the earth always remains the same, will now be one part of the absolute space into which the air passes, now another part of it, and thus will be changing continually in an absolute sense.
The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), 3rd edition (1726), trans. I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman (1999), Definitions, Scholium, 408-9.
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According to the older view, for every single effect of a serum, there was a separate substance, or at least a particular chemical group... A normal serum contained as many different haemagglutinins as it agglutinated different cells. The situation was undoubtedly made much simpler if, to use the Ehrlich terminology... the separate haptophore groups can combine with an extremely large number of receptors in stepwise differing quantities as a stain does with different animal tissues, though not always with the same intensity. A normal serum would therefore visibly affect such a large number of different blood cells... not because it contained countless special substances, but because of the colloids of the serum, and therefore of the agglutinins by reason of their chemical constitution and the electrochemical properties resulting from it. That this manner of representation is a considerable simplification is clear; it also opens the way to direct experimental testing by the methods of structural chemistry.
'Die Theorien der Antikorperbildung ... ', Wiener klinische Wöchenschrift (1909), 22, 1623-1631. Trans. Pauline M. H. Mazumdar.
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All attempts to adapt our ethical code to our situation in the technological age have failed.
Max Born
My Life & My Views (1968), 52.
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Almost every major systematic error which has deluded men for thousands of years relied on practical experience. Horoscopes, incantations, oracles, magic, witchcraft, the cures of witch doctors and of medical practitioners before the advent of modern medicine, were all firmly established through the centuries in the eyes of the public by their supposed practical successes. The scientific method was devised precisely for the purpose of elucidating the nature of things under more carefully controlled conditions and by more rigorous criteria than are present in the situations created by practical problems.
Personal Knowledge (1958), 183.
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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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Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world; knowing they’re going to light the bottom, and doesn’t get a little worried, does not fully understand the situation.
Response to question whether he was worried about embarking on the first space shuttle flight. As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries—not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer. For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.
From A Logical Point of View (1953), 44. [Note: “qua” means “in the character or role of,” thus “qua lay physicist” means “in the role of lay physicist,” or perhaps even (?) “putting on my lay physicist hat.” —Webmaster]
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As for the place of mathematics in relation to other sciences, mathematics can be seen as a big warehouse full of shelves. Mathematicians put things on the shelves and guarantee that they are true. They also explain how to use them and how to reconstruct them. Other sciences come and help themselves from the shelves; mathematicians are not concerned with what they do with what they have taken. This metaphor is rather coarse, but it reflects the situation well enough.
From interview with Marc Kirch, 'My First Fifty years at the Collège de France', collected in Helge Holden and Ragni Piene, The Abel Prize: 2003-2007 The First Five Years (2009), 15-29.
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As one recalls some of the monstrous situations under which human beings have lived and live their lives, one marvels at man’s meekness and complacency. It can only be explained by the quality of flesh to become calloused to situations that if faced suddenly would provoke blisters and revolt.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), 469
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Because intelligence is our own most distinctive feature, we may incline to ascribe superior intelligence to the basic primate plan, or to the basic plan of the mammals in general, but this point requires some careful consideration. There is no question at all that most mammals of today are more intelligent than most reptiles of today. I am not going to try to define intelligence or to argue with those who deny thought or consciousness to any animal except man. It seems both common and scientific sense to admit that ability to learn, modification of action according to the situation, and other observable elements of behavior in animals reflect their degrees of intelligence and permit us, if only roughly, to compare these degrees. In spite of all difficulties and all the qualifications with which the expert (quite properly) hedges his conclusions, it also seems sensible to conclude that by and large an animal is likely to be more intelligent if it has a larger brain at a given body size and especially if its brain shows greater development of those areas and structures best developed in our own brains. After all, we know we are intelligent, even though we wish we were more so.
In The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man (1949), 78.
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Biological disciplines tend to guide research into certain channels. One consequence is that disciplines are apt to become parochial, or at least to develop blind spots, for example, to treat some questions as “interesting” and to dismiss others as “uninteresting.” As a consequence, readily accessible but unworked areas of genuine biological interest often lie in plain sight but untouched within one discipline while being heavily worked in another. For example, historically insect physiologists have paid relatively little attention to the behavioral and physiological control of body temperature and its energetic and ecological consequences, whereas many students of the comparative physiology of terrestrial vertebrates have been virtually fixated on that topic. For the past 10 years, several of my students and I have exploited this situation by taking the standard questions and techniques from comparative vertebrate physiology and applying them to insects. It is surprising that this pattern of innovation is not more deliberately employed.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 233.
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But ... the working scientist ... is not consciously following any prescribed course of action, but feels complete freedom to utilize any method or device whatever which in the particular situation before him seems likely to yield the correct answer. ... No one standing on the outside can predict what the individual scientist will do or what method he will follow.
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But nothing of a nature foreign to the duties of my profession [clergyman] engaged my attention while I was at Leeds so much as the, prosecution of my experiments relating to electricity, and especially the doctrine of air. The last I was led into a consequence of inhabiting a house adjoining to a public brewery, where first amused myself with making experiments on fixed air [carbon dioxide] which found ready made in the process of fermentation. When I removed from that house, I was under the necessity making the fixed air for myself; and one experiment leading to another, as I have distinctly and faithfully noted in my various publications on the subject, I by degrees contrived a convenient apparatus for the purpose, but of the cheapest kind. When I began these experiments I knew very little of chemistry, and had in a manner no idea on the subject before I attended a course of chymical lectures delivered in the Academy at Warrington by Dr. Turner of Liverpool. But I have often thought that upon the whole, this circumstance was no disadvantage to me; as in this situation I was led to devise an apparatus and processes of my own, adapted to my peculiar views. Whereas, if I had been previously accustomed to the usual chemical processes, I should not have so easily thought of any other; and without new modes of operation I should hardly have discovered anything materially new.
Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley, in the Year 1795 (1806), Vol. 1, 61-2.
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Catastrophe Theory is—quite likely—the first coherent attempt (since Aristotelian logic) to give a theory on analogy. When narrow-minded scientists object to Catastrophe Theory that it gives no more than analogies, or metaphors, they do not realise that they are stating the proper aim of Catastrophe Theory, which is to classify all possible types of analogous situations.
From 'La Théorie des catastrophes État présent et perspective', as quoted in Erick Christopher Zeeman, (ed.), Catastrophe Theory: Selected Papers, 1972-1977 (1977), 637, as cited in Martin Krampe (ed.), Classics of Semiotics (1987), 214.
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Chief Seattle, of the Indians that inhabited the Seattle area, wrote a wonderful paper that has to do with putting oneself in tune with the universe. He said, “Why should I lament the disappearance of my people! All things end, and the white man will find this out also.” And this goes for the universe. One can be at peace with that. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t participate in efforts to correct the situation. But underlying the effort to change must be an “at peace.” To win a dog sled race is great. To lose is okay too.
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Consider the plight of a scientist of my age. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1940. In the 41 years since then the amount of biological information has increased 16 fold; during these 4 decades my capacity to absorb new information has declined at an accelerating rate and now is at least 50% less than when I was a graduate student. If one defines ignorance as the ratio of what is available to be known to what is known, there seems no alternative to the conclusion that my ignorance is at least 25 times as extensive as it was when I got my bachelor’s degree. Although I am sure that my unfortunate condition comes as no surprise to my students and younger colleagues, I personally find it somewhat depressing. My depression is tempered, however, by the fact that all biologists, young or old, developing or senescing, face the same melancholy situation because of an interlocking set of circumstances.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 228.
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Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
From paper 'Science, Philosophy and Religion', prepared for initial meeting of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City (9-11 Sep 1940). Collected in Albert Einstein: In His Own Words (2000), 212.
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Every situation, every moment—is of infinite worth; for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 166
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Every species of plant and animal is determined by a pool of germ plasm that has been most carefully selected over a period of hundreds of millions of years. We can understand now why it is that mutations in these carefully selected organisms almost invariably are detrimental.The situation can be suggested by a statement by Dr. J.B.S. Haldane: “My clock is not keeping perfect time. It is conceivable that it will run better if I shoot a bullet through it; but it is much more probable that it will stop altogether.” Professor George Beadle, in this connection, has asked: “What is the chance that a typographical error would improve Hamlet?”
In No More War! (1958), Chap. 4, 53.
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Everybody now wants to discover universal laws which will explain the structure and behavior of the nucleus of the atom. But actually our knowledge of the elementary particles that make up the nucleus is tiny. The situation calls for more modesty. We should first try to discover more about these elementary particles and about their laws. Then it will be the time for the major synthesis of what we really know, and the formulation of the universal law.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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Everyone is aware of the difficult and menacing situation in which human society–shrunk into one community with a common fate–now finds itself, but only a few act accordingly. Most people go on living their every-day life: half frightened, half indifferent, they behold the ghostly tragicomedy which is being performed on the international stage before the eyes and ears of the world. But on that stage, on which the actors under the floodlights play their ordained parts, our fate of tomorrow, life or death of the nations, is being decided.
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Finally in a large population, divided and subdivided into partially isolated local races of small size, there is a continually shifting differentiation among the latter (intensified by local differences in selection but occurring under uniform and static conditions) which inevitably brings about an indefinitely continuing, irreversible, adaptive, and much more rapid evolution of the species. Complete isolation in this case, and more slowly in the preceding, originates new species differing for the most part in nonadaptive parallel orthogenetic lines, in accordance with the conditions. It is suggested, in conclusion, that the differing statistical situations to be expected among natural species are adequate to account for the different sorts of evolutionary processes which have been described, and that, in particular, conditions in nature are often such as to bring about the state of poise among opposing tendencies on which an indefinitely continuing evolutionary process depends.
In 'Evolution In Mendelian Populations', Genetics, (1931), 16, 158.
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Geography is … only a branch of statistics, a knowledge of which is necessary to the well-understanding of the history of nations, as well as their situations relative to each other.
In The Statistical Breviary: Shewing, on a Principle Entirely New, the Resources of Every State and Kingdom in Europe (1801), 5.
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Given a situation, a system with a Leerstelle [a gap], whether a given completion (Lueckenfuellung) does justice to the structure, is the “right” one, is often determined by the structure of the system, the situation. There are requirements, structurally determined; there are possible in pure cases unambiguous decisions as to which completion does justice to the situation, which does not, which violates the requirements and the situation.
From 'Some Problems in the Theory of Ethics', collected in Mary Henle (ed.), Documents of Gestalt Psychology (1961), 36.
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Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings which compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.
Introduction to Oeuvres vol. VII, Theorie Analytique de Probabilites (1812-1820). As translated by Frederick Wilson Truscott and Frederick Lincoln Emory in A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902), 4. [LaPlace is here expressing his belief in causal determinism.] From the original French, “Une intelligence qui, pour un instant donné, connaîtrait toutes les forces dont la nature est animée, et la situation respective des êtres qui la composent, si d’ailleurs elle était assez vaste pour soumettre ces données a l’analyse, embrasserait dans la même formula les mouvements des plus grand corps de l’univers et ceux du plus léger atome: rien ne serait incertain pour elle, et l’avenir comme le passé serait présent à ses yeux.”
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Gödel proved that the world of pure mathematics is inexhaustible; no finite set of axioms and rules of inference can ever encompass the whole of mathematics; given any finite set of axioms, we can find meaningful mathematical questions which the axioms leave unanswered. I hope that an analogous Situation exists in the physical world. If my view of the future is correct, it means that the world of physics and astronomy is also inexhaustible; no matter how far we go into the future, there will always be new things happening, new information coming in, new worlds to explore, a constantly expanding domain of life, consciousness, and memory.
From Lecture 1, 'Philosophy', in a series of four James Arthur Lectures, 'Lectures on Time and its Mysteries' at New York University (Autumn 1978). Printed in 'Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe', Reviews of Modern Physics (Jul 1979), 51, 449.
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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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I am born into an environment–I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither–all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out about it as much as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge; it is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surroundings of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth.
…...
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I call that part of the human body irritable, which becomes shorter upon being touched; very irritable if it contracts upon a slight touch, and the contrary if by a violent touch it contracts but little. I call that a sensible part of the human body, which upon being touched transmits the impression of it to the soul; and in brutes, in whom the existence of a soul is not so clear, I call those parts sensible, the Irritation of which occasions evident signs of pain and disquiet in the animal. On the contrary, I call that insensible, which being burnt, tore, pricked, or cut till it is quite destroyed, occasions no sign of pain nor convulsion, nor any sort of change in the situation of the body.
'A Treatise on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals' (Read 1752). Trans. 1755 and reprinted in Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 1936, 4(2), 658-9.
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I confess that Fermat’s Theorem as an isolated proposition has very little interest for me, for a multitude of such theorems can easily be set up, which one could neither prove nor disprove. But I have been stimulated by it to bring our again several old ideas for a great extension of the theory of numbers. Of course, this theory belongs to the things where one cannot predict to what extent one will succeed in reaching obscurely hovering distant goals. A happy star must also rule, and my situation and so manifold distracting affairs of course do not permit me to pursue such meditations as in the happy years 1796-1798 when I created the principal topics of my Disquisitiones arithmeticae. But I am convinced that if good fortune should do more than I expect, and make me successful in some advances in that theory, even the Fermat theorem will appear in it only as one of the least interesting corollaries.
In reply to Olbers' attempt in 1816 to entice him to work on Fermat's Theorem. The hope Gauss expressed for his success was never realised.
Letter to Heinrich Olbers (21 Mar 1816). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 413.
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I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper.
…...
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I don’t think America can just drill itself out of its current energy situation. We don’t need to destroy the environment to meet our energy needs. We need smart, comprehensive, common-sense approaches that balance the need to increase domestic energy supplies with the need to maximize energy efficiency.
Statement on New Long-Term Energy Solutions (22 Mar 2001). In Bill Adler (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy (2011).
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I found out that the main ability to have was a visual, and also an almost tactile, way to imagine the physical situations, rather than a merely logical picture of the problems. … Very soon I discovered that if one gets a feeling for no more than a dozen … radiation and nuclear constants, one can imagine the subatomic world almost tangibly, and manipulate the picture dimensionally and qualitatively, before calculating more precise relationships.
In Adventures of a Mathematician (1976), 147.
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I found the best ideas usually came, not when one was actively striving for them, but when one was in a more relaxed state… I used to take long solitary walks on Sundays, during which I tended to review the current situation in a leisurely way. Such occasions often proved fruitful, even though (or perhaps, because) the primary purpose of the walk was relaxation and not research.
'Methods in Theoretical Physics', From A Life of Physics: Evening Lectures at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. A Special Supplement of the IAEA Bulletin (1968), 24.
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I often use the analogy of a chess game: one can learn all the rules of chess, but one doesn’t know how to play well…. The present situation in physics is as if we know chess, but we don’t know one or two rules. But in this part of the board where things are in operation, those one or two rules are not operating much and we can get along pretty well without understanding those rules. That’s the way it is, I would say, regarding the phenomena of life, consciousness and so forth.
In Superstrings: A Theory of Everything? by P. C. W. Davies and Julian Brown (1988).
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I specifically paused to show that, if there were such machines with the organs and shape of a monkey or of some other non-rational animal, we would have no way of discovering that they are not the same as these animals. But if there were machines that resembled our bodies and if they imitated our actions as much as is morally possible, we would always have two very certain means for recognizing that, none the less, they are not genuinely human. The first is that they would never be able to use speech, or other signs composed by themselves, as we do to express our thoughts to others. For one could easily conceive of a machine that is made in such a way that it utters words, and even that it would utter some words in response to physical actions that cause a change in its organs—for example, if someone touched it in a particular place, it would ask what one wishes to say to it, or if it were touched somewhere else, it would cry out that it was being hurt, and so on. But it could not arrange words in different ways to reply to the meaning of everything that is said in its presence, as even the most unintelligent human beings can do. The second means is that, even if they did many things as well as or, possibly, better than anyone of us, they would infallibly fail in others. Thus one would discover that they did not act on the basis of knowledge, but merely as a result of the disposition of their organs. For whereas reason is a universal instrument that can be used in all kinds of situations, these organs need a specific disposition for every particular action.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 5, 40.
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I think the next [21st] century will be the century of complexity. We have already discovered the basic laws that govern matter and understand all the normal situations. We don’t know how the laws fit together, and what happens under extreme conditions. But I expect we will find a complete unified theory sometime this century. The is no limit to the complexity that we can build using those basic laws.
[Answer to question: Some say that while the twentieth century was the century of physics, we are now entering the century of biology. What do you think of this?]
'"Unified Theory" Is Getting Closer, Hawking Predicts', interview in San Jose Mercury News (23 Jan 2000), 29A. Answer quoted in Ashok Sengupta, Chaos, Nonlinearity, Complexity: The Dynamical Paradigm of Nature (2006), vii. Question included in Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, Nicholas Stern and Mario Molina , Global Sustainability: a Nobel Cause (2010), 13. Cite from Brent Davis and Dennis J. Sumara, Complexity and Education: Inquiries Into Learning, Teaching, and Research (2006), 171.
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I wish people would more generally bring back the seeds of pleasing foreign plants and introduce them broadcast, sowing them by our waysides and in our fields, or in whatever situation is most likely to suit them. It is true, this would puzzle botanists, but there is no reason why botanists should not be puzzled. A botanist is a person whose aim is to uproot, kill and exterminate every plant that is at all remarkable for rarity or any special virtue, and the rarer it is the more bitterly he will hunt it down.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 281.
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If arithmetical skill is the measure of intelligence, then computers have been more intelligent than all human beings all along. If the ability to play chess is the measure, then there are computers now in existence that are more intelligent than any but a very few human beings. However, if insight, intuition, creativity, the ability to view a problem as a whole and guess the answer by the “feel” of the situation, is a measure of intelligence, computers are very unintelligent indeed. Nor can we see right now how this deficiency in computers can be easily remedied, since human beings cannot program a computer to be intuitive or creative for the very good reason that we do not know what we ourselves do when we exercise these qualities.
In Machines That Think (1983).
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If we go back to our chequer game, the fundamental laws are rules by which the chequers move. Mathematics may be applied in the complex situation to figure out what in given circumstances is a good move to make. But very little mathematics is needed for the simple fundamental character of the basic laws. They can be simply stated in English for chequers.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965), 36.
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Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has nine thousand matches. The other has seven thousand matches. Each of them is concerned about who's ahead, who's stronger. Well that's the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what's needed to dissuade the other, that if it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable. What is necessary is to reduce the matches and to clean up the gasoline.
From Sagan's analogy about the nuclear arms race and the need for disarmament, during a panel discussion in ABC News Viewpoint following the TV movie The Day After (20 Nov 1983). Transcribed by Webmaster from a video recording. It is seen misquoted in summary form as “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
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In a strange way, Marcion understood the situation better than the more conventional followers of the church, for Lucifer is merely one of the faces of a larger force. Evil is a by-product, a component, of creation.
In 'Who is Lucifer?', The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (1997), 2.
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In order to translate a sentence from English into French two things are necessary. First, we must understand thoroughly the English sentence. Second, we must be familiar with the forms of expression peculiar to the French language. The situation is very similar when we attempt to express in mathematical symbols a condition proposed in words. First, we must understand thoroughly the condition. Second, we must be familiar with the forms of mathematical expression.
In How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), 174.
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In the application of inductive logic to a given knowledge situation, the total evidence available must be used as a basis for determining the degree of confirmation.
In Logical Foundations of Probability (1950, 1962), 211.
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Is science visionary? Is it not the hardest-headed intellectual discipline we know? How, then, does science look at this universe? Always as a bundle of possibilities. Habitually the scientist looks at this universe and every area in it as a bundle of possibilities, with no telling what might come if we fulfilled the conditions. Thomas Edison was no dreamer. He was a seer. The possibilities that he brought out were factually there. They were there before he saw them. They would have been there if he never had seen them. Always the possibilities are part of the actualities in any given situation.
In 'Don't Lose Faith in Human Possibilities', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 15.
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It did not cause anxiety that Maxwell’s equations did not apply to gravitation, since nobody expected to find any link between electricity and gravitation at that particular level. But now physics was faced with an entirely new situation. The same entity, light, was at once a wave and a particle. How could one possibly imagine its proper size and shape? To produce interference it must be spread out, but to bounce off electrons it must be minutely localized. This was a fundamental dilemma, and the stalemate in the wave-photon battle meant that it must remain an enigma to trouble the soul of every true physicist. It was intolerable that light should be two such contradictory things. It was against all the ideals and traditions of science to harbor such an unresolved dualism gnawing at its vital parts. Yet the evidence on either side could not be denied, and much water was to flow beneath the bridges before a way out of the quandary was to be found. The way out came as a result of a brilliant counterattack initiated by the wave theory, but to tell of this now would spoil the whole story. It is well that the reader should appreciate through personal experience the agony of the physicists of the period. They could but make the best of it, and went around with woebegone faces sadly complaining that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they must look on light as a wave; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, as a particle. On Sundays they simply prayed.
The Strange Story of the Quantum (1947), 42.
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It has become, in my view, a bit too trendy to regard the acceptance of death as something tantamount to intrinsic dignity. Of course I agree with the preacher of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to love and a time to die - and when my skein runs out I hope to face the end calmly and in my own way. For most situations, however, I prefer the more martial view that death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light.
Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections on Natural History (1991).
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It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.
The Sea Around Us (1951).
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It is not therefore the business of philosophy, in our present situation in the universe, to attempt to take in at once, in one view, the whole scheme of nature; but to extend, with great care and circumspection, our knowledge, by just steps, from sensible things, as far as our observations or reasonings from them will carry us, in our enquiries concerning either the greater motions and operations of nature, or her more subtile and hidden works. In this way Sir Isaac Newton proceeded in his discoveries.
An Account of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophical Discoveries, in Four Books (1748), 19.
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It is the curse of humanity that it learns to tolerate even the most horrible situations by habituation.
From the original German, “Es ist ein Fluch des Menschengeschlechtes, dass es durch Gewöhnung auch das Schrecklichste ertragen lernt,” in 'Mittheilungen über die in Oberschlesien herrschende Typhus-Epidemie', R. Virchow and B. Reinhardt, Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medicin (1848), 2, No. 2, 156. As translated in Rudolf Virchow and L.J. Rather (ed.), 'Report on the Typhus Epidemic in Upper Silesia', Collected Essays in Public Health and Epidemiology, (1985), 213, as reprinted in Social Medicine (2006), 1, No. 1, 16.
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Like taxes, radioactivity has long been with us and in increasing amounts; it is not to be hated and feared, but accepted and controlled. Radiation is dangerous, let there be no mistake about that—but the modern world abounds in dangerous substances and situations too numerous to mention. ... Consider radiation as something to be treated with respect, avoided when practicable, and accepted when inevitable.
Recommending the same view towards radiation as the risks of automobile travel.
While in the Office of Naval Research. In Must we Hide? (1949), 44.
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Like the ski resort full of girls hunting for husbands and husbands hunting for girls, the situation is not as symmetrical as it might seem.
In lecture at Birkbeck College, University of London, quoted in Alan L. MacKay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 160.
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Man is a little germ that lives on an unimportant rock ball that revolves about a small star at the outskirts of an ordinary galaxy. ... I am absolutely amazed to discover myself on this rock ball rotating around a spherical fire. It’s a very odd situation. And the more I look at things I cannot get rid of the feeling that existence is quite weird.
From lecture, 'Images of God,' available as a podcast, and part of The Tao of Philosophy six-CD collection of lectures by Watts.
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Maybe the situation is hopeless. Television is just the wrong medium, at least in prime time, to teach science. I think it is hopeless if it insists on behaving like television… The people who produce these programs always respond to such complaints by insisting that no one would watch a program consisting of real scientists giving real lectures to real students. If they are right, then this sort of program is just another form of entertainment.
(1986).
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Most people prefer to carry out the kinds of experiments that allow the scientist to feel that he is in full control of the situation rather than surrendering himself to the situation, as one must in studying human beings as they actually live.
In Blackberry Winter (1972), 321.
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Nature abhors a hero. For one thing, he violates the law of conservation of energy. For another, how can it be the survival of the fittest when the fittest keeps putting himself in situations where he is most likely to be creamed?
…...
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On our planet, all objects are subject to continual and inevitable changes which arise from the essential order of things. These changes take place at a variable rate according to the nature, condition, or situation of the objects involved, but are nevertheless accomplished within a certain period of time. Time is insignificant and never a difficulty for Nature. It is always at her disposal and represents an unlimited power with which she accomplishes her greatest and smallest tasks.
Hydrogéologie (1802), trans. A. V. Carozzi (1964), 61.
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One of the major goals when studying specific genetic diseases is to find the primary gene product, which in turn leads to a better understanding of the biochemical basis of the disorder. The bottom line often reads, 'This may lead to effective prenatal diagnosis and eventual eradication of the disease.' But we now have the ironic situation of being able to jump right to the bottom line without reading the rest of the page, that is, without needing to identify the primary gene product or the basic biochemical mechanism of the disease. The technical capability of doing this is now available. Since the degree of departure from our previous approaches and the potential of this procedure are so great, one will not be guilty of hyperbole in calling it the 'New Genetics'.
'Prenatal Diagnosis and the New Genetics', The American Journal of Human Genetics, 1980, 32:3, 453.
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One of the many useful properties of giant nerve fibres is that samples of protoplasm or axoplasm as it is usually called can be obtained by squeezing out the contents from a cut end … As in many other cells there is a high concentration of potassium ions and relatively low concentration of sodium and chloride ions. This is the reverse of the situation in the animals’ blood or in sea water, where sodium and chloride are the dominant ions and potassium is relatively dilute.
The Conduction of the Nervous Impulse (1964), 27.
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Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.
…...
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Perhaps the central problem we face in all of computer science is how we are to get to the situation where we build on top of the work of others rather than redoing so much of it in a trivially different way.
From Turing Award lecture (1968), 'One Man's View of Computer Science', collected in ACM Turing Award Lectures: The First Twenty Years, 1966 to 1985 (1987), 216. ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery. The lecture is also published in Journal of the ACM (Jan 1969), 16, No. 1, 10.
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Plants, generally speaking, meet the impact of the terrestrial environment head on, although of course they in turn modify the physical environment by adventitious group activity. The individual plant cannot select its habitat; its location is largely determined by the vagaries of the dispersal of seeds or spores and is thus profoundly affected by chance. Because of their mobility and their capacity for acceptance or rejection terrestrial animals, in contrast, can and do actively seek out and utilize the facets of the environment that allow their physiological capacities to function adequately. This means that an animal by its behavior can fit the environment to its physiology by selecting situations in which its physiological capacities can cope with physical conditions. If one accepts this idea, it follows that there is no such thing as The Environment, for there exist as many different terrestrial environments as there are species of animals.
From 'The role of physiology in the distribution of terrestrial vertebrates', collected in C.L. Hubbs (ed.), Zoogeography: Publ. 51 (1958), 84.
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Pure mathematics and physics are becoming ever more closely connected, though their methods remain different. One may describe the situation by saying that the mathematician plays a game in which he himself invents the rules while the while the physicist plays a game in which the rules are provided by Nature, but as time goes on it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which Nature has chosen. … Possibly, the two subjects will ultimately unify, every branch of pure mathematics then having its physical application, its importance in physics being proportional to its interest in mathematics.
From Lecture delivered on presentation of the James Scott prize, (6 Feb 1939), 'The Relation Between Mathematics And Physics', printed in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1938-1939), 59, Part 2, 124.
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Samoa culture demonstrates how much the tragic or the easy solution of the Oedipus situation depends upon the inter-relationship between parents and children, and is not created out of whole cloth by the young child’s biological impulses.
Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World (1949), 119.
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Science can be thought of as a large pool of knowledge, fed by a steady flow from the tap of basic research. Every now and then the water is dipped out and put to use, but one never knows which part of the water will be needed. This confuses the funding situation for basic science, because usually no specific piece of scientific work can be justified in advance; one cannot know which is going to be decisive. Yet history shows that keeping water flowing into the pool is a very worthwhile enterprise.
In 'Technology Development', Science (1983), 220, 576-580. As quoted and cited in H. Charles Romesburg, Best Research Practices (2009), 213.
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Science never cheered up anyone. The truth about the human situation is just too awful.
Timequake (1997), 105.
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Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. …
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable … that it may become possible to set up nuclear chain reactions in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable—though much less certain—that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat or exploded in a port, might well destroy the whole port altogether with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
Letter to President Franklin P. Roosevelt, (2 Aug 1939, delivered 11 Oct 1939). In Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (Eds.) Einstein on Peace (1960, reprinted 1981), 294-95.
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Talent, in difficult situations, strives to untie knots, which genius instantly cuts with one swift decision.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 203.
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That mathematics “do not cultivate the power of generalization,”; … will be admitted by no person of competent knowledge, except in a very qualified sense. The generalizations of mathematics, are, no doubt, a different thing from the generalizations of physical science; but in the difficulty of seizing them, and the mental tension they require, they are no contemptible preparation for the most arduous efforts of the scientific mind. Even the fundamental notions of the higher mathematics, from those of the differential calculus upwards are products of a very high abstraction. … To perceive the mathematical laws common to the results of many mathematical operations, even in so simple a case as that of the binomial theorem, involves a vigorous exercise of the same faculty which gave us Kepler’s laws, and rose through those laws to the theory of universal gravitation. Every process of what has been called Universal Geometry—the great creation of Descartes and his successors, in which a single train of reasoning solves whole classes of problems at once, and others common to large groups of them—is a practical lesson in the management of wide generalizations, and abstraction of the points of agreement from those of difference among objects of great and confusing diversity, to which the purely inductive sciences cannot furnish many superior. Even so elementary an operation as that of abstracting from the particular configuration of the triangles or other figures, and the relative situation of the particular lines or points, in the diagram which aids the apprehension of a common geometrical demonstration, is a very useful, and far from being always an easy, exercise of the faculty of generalization so strangely imagined to have no place or part in the processes of mathematics.
In An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1878), 612-13.
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The Qualities then that are in Bodies rightly considered, are of Three sorts.
First, the Bulk, Figure, Number, Situation, and Motion, or Rest of their solid Parts; those are in them, whether we perceive them or no; and when they are of that size, that we can discover them, we have by these an Idea of the thing, as it is in it self, as is plain in artificial things. These I call primary Qualities.
Secondly, The Power that is in any Body, by Reason of its insensible primary Qualities, to operate after a peculiar manner on any of our Senses, and thereby produce in us the different Ideas of several Colours, Sounds, Smells, Tastes, etc. These are usually called sensible Qualities.
Thirdly, The Power that is in any Body, by Reason of the particular Constitution of its primary Qualities, to make such a change in the Bulk, Figure, Texture, and Motion of another Body, as to make it operate on our Senses, differently from what it did before. Thus the Sun has a Power to make Wax white, and Fire to make Lead fluid. These are usually called Powers.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Edited by Peter Nidditch (1975), Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 23, 140-1.
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The difficulties connected with my criterion of demarcation (D) are important, but must not be exaggerated. It is vague, since it is a methodological rule, and since the demarcation between science and nonscience is vague. But it is more than sharp enough to make a distinction between many physical theories on the one hand, and metaphysical theories, such as psychoanalysis, or Marxism (in its present form), on the other. This is, of course, one of my main theses; and nobody who has not understood it can be said to have understood my theory.
The situation with Marxism is, incidentally, very different from that with psychoanalysis. Marxism was once a scientific theory: it predicted that capitalism would lead to increasing misery and, through a more or less mild revolution, to socialism; it predicted that this would happen first in the technically highest developed countries; and it predicted that the technical evolution of the 'means of production' would lead to social, political, and ideological developments, rather than the other way round.
But the (so-called) socialist revolution came first in one of the technically backward countries. And instead of the means of production producing a new ideology, it was Lenin's and Stalin's ideology that Russia must push forward with its industrialization ('Socialism is dictatorship of the proletariat plus electrification') which promoted the new development of the means of production.
Thus one might say that Marxism was once a science, but one which was refuted by some of the facts which happened to clash with its predictions (I have here mentioned just a few of these facts).
However, Marxism is no longer a science; for it broke the methodological rule that we must accept falsification, and it immunized itself against the most blatant refutations of its predictions. Ever since then, it can be described only as nonscience—as a metaphysical dream, if you like, married to a cruel reality.
Psychoanalysis is a very different case. It is an interesting psychological metaphysics (and no doubt there is some truth in it, as there is so often in metaphysical ideas), but it never was a science. There may be lots of people who are Freudian or Adlerian cases: Freud himself was clearly a Freudian case, and Adler an Adlerian case. But what prevents their theories from being scientific in the sense here described is, very simply, that they do not exclude any physically possible human behaviour. Whatever anybody may do is, in principle, explicable in Freudian or Adlerian terms. (Adler's break with Freud was more Adlerian than Freudian, but Freud never looked on it as a refutation of his theory.)
The point is very clear. Neither Freud nor Adler excludes any particular person's acting in any particular way, whatever the outward circumstances. Whether a man sacrificed his life to rescue a drowning, child (a case of sublimation) or whether he murdered the child by drowning him (a case of repression) could not possibly be predicted or excluded by Freud's theory; the theory was compatible with everything that could happen—even without any special immunization treatment.
Thus while Marxism became non-scientific by its adoption of an immunizing strategy, psychoanalysis was immune to start with, and remained so. In contrast, most physical theories are pretty free of immunizing tactics and highly falsifiable to start with. As a rule, they exclude an infinity of conceivable possibilities.
'The Problem of Demarcation' (1974). Collected in David Miller (ed.) Popper Selections (1985), 127-128.
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The experience and behaviour that gets labelled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.
Politics of Experience (1967), 95.
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The male's difficulties in his sexual relations after marriage include a lack of facility, of ease, or of suavity in establishing rapport in a sexual situation.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948), 545.
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The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics. The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.
Quoted by Tim Folger in 'Newsflash: Time May Not Exist', Discover Magazine (Jun 2007).
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The moment after, I began to respire 20 quarts of unmingled nitrous oxide. A thrilling, extending from the chest to the extremities, was almost immediately produced. I felt a sense of tangible extension highly pleasurable in every limb; my visible impressions were dazzling, and apparently magnified, I heard distinctly every sound in the room and was perfectly aware of my situation. By degrees, as the pleasurable sensations increased, I last all connection with external things; trains of vivid visible images rapidly passed through my mind, and were connected with words in such a manner, as to produce perceptions perfectly novel. I existed in a world of newly connected and newly modified ideas. I theorised—I imagined that I made discoveries. When I was awakened from this semi-delirious trance by Dr. Kinglake, who took the bag from my mouth, indignation and pride were the first feelings produced by the sight of the persons about me. My emotions were enthusiastic and sublime; and for a minute I walked round the room, perfectly regardless of what was said to me. As I recovered my former state of mind, I felt an inclination to communicate the discoveries I had made during the experiment. I endeavoured to recall the ideas, they were feeble and indistinct; one collection of terms, however, presented itself: and with the most intense belief and prophetic manner, I exclaimed to Dr Kinglake, 'Nothing exists but thoughts!—the universe is composed of impressions, ideas, pleasures and pains!'
Researches, Chemical and Philosophical (1800), in J. Davy (ed.), The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy (1839-40), Vol 3, 289-90.
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The most successful men in the end are those whose success is the result of steady accretion. That intellectuality is more vigorous that has attained its strength gradually. It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider—and progressively better able to grasp any theme or situation—persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thought upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.
In Orison Swett Marden, 'Bell Telephone Talk: Hints on Success by Alexander G. Bell', How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves (1901), 35.
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The new naval treaty permits the United States to spend a billion dollars on warships—a sum greater than has been accumulated by all our endowed institutions of learning in their entire history. Unintelligence could go no further! … [In Great Britain, the situation is similar.] … Until the figures are reversed, … nations deceive themselves as to what they care about most.
Universities: American, English, German (1930), 302.
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The scientific world-picture vouchsafes a very complete understanding of all that happens–it makes it just a little too understandable. It allows you to imagine the total display as that of a mechanical clockwork which, for all that science knows, could go on just the same as it does, without there being consciousness, will, endeavor, pain and delight and responsibility connected with it–though they actually are. And the reason for this disconcerting situation is just this: that for the purpose of constructing the picture of the external world, we have used the greatly simplifying device of cutting our own personality out, removing it; hence it is gone, it has evaporated, it is ostensibly not needed.
…...
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The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning. … Such are the perversities of social logic.
In article, 'The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy', The Antioch Review (Summer 1948), 8, No. 2, 195-196. Included as Chap. 7 of Social Theory and Social Structure (1949), 181-195. Note: Merton coined the expression “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
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The situation with regard to insulin is particularly clear. In many parts of the world diabetic children still die from lack of this hormone. ... [T]hose of us who search for new biological facts and for new and better therapeutic weapons should appreciate that one of the central problems of the world is the more equitable distribution and use of the medical and nutritional advances which have already been established. The observations which I have recently made in parts of Africa and South America have brought this fact very forcible to my attention.
'Studies on Diabetes and Cirrhosis', Proceedings, American Philosophical Society (1952) 96, No. 1, 29.
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The strata of the earth are frequently very much bent, being raised in some places, and depressed in others, and this sometimes with a very quick ascent or descent; but as these ascents and descents, in a great measure, compensate one another, if we take a large extent of country together, we may look upon the whole set of strata, as lying nearly horizontally. What is very remarkable, however, in their situation, is, that from most, if not all, large tracts of high and mountainous countries, the strata lie in a situation more inclined to the horizon, than the country itself, the mountainous countries being generally, if not always, formed out of the lower strata of earth. This situation of the strata may be not unaptly represented in the following manner. Let a number of leaves of paper, of several different sorts or colours, be pasted upon one another; then bending them up together into a ridge in the middle, conceive them to be reduced again to a level surface, by a plane so passing through them, as to cut off all the part that had been raised; let the middle now be again raised a little, and this will be a good general representation of most, if not of all, large tracts of mountainous countries, together with the parts adjacent, throughout the whole world.
'Conjectures Concerning the Cause, and Observations upon the Phenomena of Earthquakes', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1760), 51, 584-5.
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The theory of the method of knowing which is advanced in these pages may be termed pragmatic. ... Only that which has been organized into our disposition so as to enable us to adapt the environment to our needs and adapt our aims and desires to the situation in which we live is really knowledge.
Democracy and Education: an Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (1916), 400.
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The whole question of imagination in science is often misunderstood by people in other disciplines. They try to test our imagination in the following way. They say, “Here is a picture of some people in a situation. What do you imagine will happen next?” When we say, “I can’t imagine,” they may think we have a weak imagination. They overlook the fact that whatever we are allowed to imagine in science must be consistent with everything else we know; that the electric fields and the waves we talk about are not just some happy thoughts which we are free to make as we wish, but ideas which must be consistent with all the laws of physics we know. We can’t allow ourselves to seriously imagine things which are obviously in contradiction to the laws of nature. And so our kind of imagination is quite a difficult game. One has to have the imagination to think of something that has never been seen before, never been heard of before. At the same time the thoughts are restricted in a strait jacket, so to speak, limited by the conditions that come from our knowledge of the way nature really is. The problem of creating something which is new, but which is consistent with everything which has been seen before, is one of extreme difficulty
In The Feynman Lectures in Physics (1964), Vol. 2, Lecture 20, p.20-10 to p.20-11.
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There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life.
Carl Jung
In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (1969), 48.
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Thinking consists in envisaging, realizing structural features and structural requirements; proceeding in accordance with, and determined by, these requirements; thereby changing the situation in the direction of structural improvements.
In Productive Thinking (1959), 235.
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This cement can be used in any situation and for any purpose to which any other mortar or hydraulic cement can be applied. It does not become perfectly hard within one or two months.
Directions for Using White's Patent Hydraulic Cement.
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This is really the cornerstone of our situation. Now, I believe what we should try to bring about is the general conviction that the first thing you have to abolish is war at all costs, and every other point of view must be of secondary importance.
…...
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This is the reason why all attempts to obtain a deeper knowledge of the foundations of physics seem doomed to me unless the basic concepts are in accordance with general relativity from the beginning. This situation makes it difficult to use our empirical knowledge, however comprehensive, in looking for the fundamental concepts and relations of physics, and it forces us to apply free speculation to a much greater extent than is presently assumed by most physicists.
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To consider the matter aright, reason is nothing but a wonderful and unintelligible instinct in our souls, which carries us along a certain train of ideas, and endows them with particular qualities, according to their particular situations and relations. This instinct, 'tis true, arises from past observation and experience; but can anyone give the ultimate reason, why past experience and observation produces such an effect, any more than why nature alone should produce it?
A Treatise on Human Nature (1739-40), ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (1888), book 1, part 3, section 16, 179.
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Understanding a theory has, indeed, much in common with understanding a human personality. We may know or understand a man's system of dispositions pretty well; that is to say, we may be able to predict how he would act in a number of different situations. But since there are infinitely many possible situations, of infinite variety, a full understanding of a man's dispositions does not seem to be possible.
Objective Knowledge: an Evolutionary Approach (1972), 299.
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Unhappily for the physiologist, the subjects of the principal department of his science, that of animal physiology, are sentient beings; and every experiment, every new or unusual situation of such a being, is necessarily attended by pain or suffering of a bodily or mental kind.
A Critical and Experimental Essay on the Circulation of the Blood (1831), 1.
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Until 1930 or thereabout biologists [using microscopes], in the situation of Astronomers and Astrophysicists, were permitted to see the objects of their interest, but not to touch them; the cell was as distant from us, as the stars and galaxies were from them.
Nobel Lecture, The Coming Age of the Cell, 12 Dec 1974
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We are at our human finest, dancing with our minds, when there are more choices than two. Sometimes there are ten, even twenty different ways to go, all but one bound to be wrong, and the richness of the selection in such situations can lift us onto totally new ground.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 39.
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We are fast approaching a situation in which nobody will believe anything we [physicists] say in any matter that touches upon our self-interest. Nothing we do is likely to arrest our decline in numbers, support or social value.
'Hard Times', Physics Today (Oct 1992), 45, 9.
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We are … led to a somewhat vague distinction between what we may call “hard” data and “soft” data. This distinction is a matter of degree, and must not be pressed; but if not taken too seriously it may help to make the situation clear. I mean by “hard” data those which resist the solvent influence of critical reflection, and by “soft” data those which, under the operation of this process, become to our minds more or less doubtful.
Our Knowledge of the External World (1925), 75.
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We have here no esoteric theory of the ultimate nature of concepts, nor a philosophical championing of the primacy of the 'operation'. We have merely a pragmatic matter, namely that we have observed after much experience that if we want to do certain kinds of things with our concepts, our concepts had better be constructed in certain ways. In fact one can see that the situation here is no different from what we always find when we push our analysis to the limit; operations are not ultimately sharp or irreducible any more than any other sort of creature. We always run into a haze eventually, and all our concepts are describable only in spiralling approximation.
Reflections of a Physicist (1950 ), 9.
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We must raise the salaries of our operators or they will all be taken from us, that is, all that are good for anything. You will recollect that, at the first meeting of the Board of Directors, I took the ground that 'it was our policy to make the office of operator desirable, to pay operators well and make their situation so agreeable that intelligent men and men of character will seek the place and dread to lose it.' I still think so, and, depend upon it, it is the soundest economy to act on this principle.
Letter to T.S. Faxton, one of his lieutenants (15 Mar 1848). Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals (1914), vol. 2, 274.
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We ought then to consider the present state of the universe as the effect of its previous state and as the cause of that which is to follow. An intelligence that, at a given instant, could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings that make it up, if moreover it were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, would encompass in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atoms. For such an intelligence nothing would be uncertain, and the future, like the past, would be open to its eyes.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 2.
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We spend long hours discussing the curious situation that the two great bodies of biological knowledge, genetics and embryology, which were obviously intimately interrelated in development, had never been brought together in any revealing way. An obvious difficulty was that the most favorable organisms for genetics, Drosophila as a prime example, were not well suited for embryological study, and the classical objects of embryological study, sea urchins and frogs as examples, were not easily investigated genetically. What might we do about it? There were two obvious approaches: one to learn more about the genetics of an embryologically favourable organism, the other to better understand the development of Drosophila. We resolved to gamble up to a year of our lives on the latter approach, this in Ephrussi’s laboratory in Paris which was admirably equipped for tissue culture, tissue or organ transplantation, and related techniques.
In 'Recollections', Annual Review of Biochemistry, 1974, 43, 6.
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What appear to be the most valuable aspects of the theoretical physics we have are the mathematical descriptions which enable us to predict events. These equations are, we would argue, the only realities we can be certain of in physics; any other ways we have of thinking about the situation are visual aids or mnemonics which make it easier for beings with our sort of macroscopic experience to use and remember the equations.
In The Lost Cause: Causation and the Mind-body Problem (2003).
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What is important is the gradual development of a theory, based on a careful analysis of the ... facts. ... Its first applications are necessarily to elementary problems where the result has never been in doubt and no theory is actually required. At this early stage the application serves to corroborate the theory. The next stage develops when the theory is applied to somewhat more complicated situations in which it may already lead to a certain extent beyond the obvious and familiar. Here theory and application corroborate each other mutually. Beyond lies the field of real success: genuine prediction by theory. It is well known that all mathematized sciences have gone through these successive stages of evolution.
'Formulation of the Economic Problem' in Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1964), 8. Reprinted in John Von Neumann, F. Bródy (ed.) and Tibor Vámos (ed.), The Neumann Compendium (2000), 416.
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With crystals we are in a situation similar to an attempt to investigate an optical grating merely from the spectra it produces... But a knowledge of the positions and intensities of the spectra does not suffice for the determination of the structure. The phases with which the diffracted waves vibrate relative to one another enter in an essential way. To determine a crystal structure on the atomic scale, one must know the phase differences between the different interference spots on the photographic plate, and this task may certainly prove to be rather difficult.
Physikalische Zeitschrift (1913), 14. Translated in Walter Moore, Schrödinger. Life and Thought (1989), 73.
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With terminal illness, your fate is sealed. Morally, we're more comfortable with a situation where you don't cause death, but you hasten it. We think that's a bright line.
Comparing the U.S. with Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal for patients suffering 'intolerable health problems.'
Quoted in Amanda Ripley, 'True Freedom', Time magazine (20 Apr 2003).
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Wonder [admiratio astonishment, marvel] is a kind of desire for knowledge. The situation arises when one sees an effect and does not know its cause, or when the cause of the particular effect is one that exceeds his power of understanding. Hence, wonder is a cause of pleasure insofar as there is annexed the hope of attaining understanding of that which one wants to know. ... For desire is especially aroused by the awareness of ignorance, and consequently a man takes the greatest pleasure in those things which he discovers for himself or learns from the ground up.
From Summa Theologiae Question 32, 'The Causes of Pleasure,' Article 8, 'Is Pleasure Caused by Wondering.'(1a2ae 32.8). As translated in James Vincent Cunningham, Tragic Effect and Tragic Process in Some Plays of Shakespeare (1945). Also in The Collected Essays of J.V. Cunningham (1976), 72-73.
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Wonder [admiratio astonishment, marvel] is a kind of desire for knowledge. The situation arises when one sees an effect and does not know its cause, or when the cause of the particular effect is one that exceeds his power of understanding. Hence, wonder is a cause of pleasure insofar as there is annexed the hope of attaining understanding of that which one wants to know. ... For desire is especially aroused by the awareness of ignorance, and consequently a man takes the greatest pleasure in those things which he discovers for himself or learns from the ground up.
From Summa Theologiae Question 32, 'The Causes of Pleasure,' Article 8, 'Is Pleasure Caused by Wondering.'(1a2ae 32.8). As translated in James Vincent Cunningham, Tragic Effect and Tragic Process in Some Plays of Shakespeare (1945). Also in The Collected Essays of J.V. Cunningham (1976), 72-73.
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[My] numberless observations... made on the Strata... [have] made me confident of their uniformity throughout this Country & [have] led me to conclude that the same regularity... will be found to extend to every part of the Globe for Nature has done nothing by piecemeal. [T]here is no inconsistency in her productions. [T]he Horse never becomes an Ass nor the Crab an Apple by any intermixture or artificial combination whatever[. N]or will the Oak ever degenerate into an Ash or an Ash into an Elm. [H]owever varied by Soil or Climate the species will still be distinct on this ground. [T]hen I argue that what is found here may be found elsewhere[.] When proper allowances are made for such irregularities as often occur and the proper situation and natural agreement is well understood I am satisfied there will be no more difficulty in ascertaining the true quality of the Strata and the place of its possition [sic] than there is now in finding the true Class and Character of Plants by the Linean [sic] System.
Natural Order of the Strata in England and Wales Accurately Delineated and Described, unpublished manuscript, Department of Geology, University of Oxford, 1801, f. 7v.
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[T]here is little chance that aliens from two societies anywhere in the Galaxy will be culturally close enough to really 'get along.' This is something to ponder as you watch the famous cantina scene in Star Wars. ... Does this make sense, given the overwhelmingly likely situation that galactic civilizations differ in their level of evolutionary development by thousands or millions of years? Would you share drinks with a trilobite, an ourang-outang, or a saber-toothed tiger? Or would you just arrange to have a few specimens stuffed and carted off to the local museum?
Quoted in 'Do Aliens Exist in the Milky Way', PBS web page for WGBH Nova, 'Origins.'
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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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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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