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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Sky

Sky Quotes (68 quotes)

1122 … Thereafter there were many sailors on the sea and on inland water who said that they had seen a great and extensive fire near the ground in the northeast which continuously increased in width as it mounted to the sky. And the heavens opened into four parts and fought against it as if determined to put it out, and the fire stopped rising upwards. They saw that fire at the first streak of dawn, and it lasted until full daylight: this happened on 7 December.
From the 'Peterborough Chronicle (Laud Manuscript)', The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, as translated in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Issue 1624 (1975), 250. The Chronicle is the work of many successive hands at several monasteries across England.
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363 feet of gleaming white equipment being pushed up through the blue skies of Florida...
NASA
…...
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Ante mare et terras et quod tegit omnia caelum
unus erat toto naturae vultus in orbe,
quem dixere chaos: rudis indigestaque moles
nec quicquam nisi pondus iners congestaque eodem
non bene iunctarum discordia semina rerum.

The original Latin text of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, lines 5-9, in which he described the Creation of the universe. The Google translation engine gives this raw version: “In front of the sea, the sky and the earth, and that which covers all was one of the faces of the whole of nature in the world, which they called chaos: rough and unorganized mass he desires nothing but an inert weight, in the same discordant seeds of things not well joined.”
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A lodestone is a wonderful thing in very many experiments, and like living things. And one of its remarkable virtues in that which the ancients considered to be a living soul in the sky, in the globes and in the stars, in the sun and in the moon.
In De Magnete. Cited in Gerrit L. Verschuur, Hidden Attraction (1996), 19.
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A sky without clouds is a meadow without flowers, a sea without sails.
(24 Jun 1852). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: IV: May 1, 1852-February 27, 1853 (1906), 139.
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All Nature bristles with the marks of interrogation—among the grass and the petals of flowers, amidst the feathers of birds and the hairs of mammals, on mountain and moorland, in sea and sky-everywhere. It is one of the joys of life to discover those marks of interrogation, these unsolved and half-solved problems and try to answer their questions.
In Riddles of Science (1932), 5.
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All over the world there lingers on the memory of a giant tree, the primal tree, rising up from the centre of the Earth to the heavens and ordering the universe around it. It united the three worlds: its roots plunged down into subterranean abysses, Its loftiest branches touched the empyrean. Thanks to the Tree, it became possible to breathe the air; to all the creatures that then appeared on Earth it dispensed its fruit, ripened by the sun and nourished by the water which it drew from the soil. From the sky it attracted the lightning from which man made fire and, beckoning skyward, where clouds gathered around its fall. The Tree was the source of all life, and of all regeneration. Small wonder then that tree-worship was so prevalent in ancient times.
From 'L'Arbre Sacre' ('The Sacred Tree'), UNESCO Courier (Jan 1989), 4. Epigraph to Chap 1, in Kenton Miller and Laura Tangley, Trees of Life: Saving Tropical Forests and Their Biological Wealt (1991), 1.
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Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life; ...
'So careful of the type', but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go' ...
Man, her last work, who seemed so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who rolled the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law—
Tho’ Nature red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed...
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), Cantos 56-57. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 176.
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Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and you can look out of the window and see the blue sky—or the answer is wrong and you have to start all over and try again and see how it comes out this time.
From 'Arithmetic', Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960), 115.
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Before the seas and lands had been created, before the sky that covers everything, Nature displayed a single aspect only throughout the cosmos; Chaos was its name, a shapeless, unwrought mass of inert bulk and nothing more, with the discordant seeds of disconnected elements all heaped together in anarchic disarray.
Describing the creation of the universe from chaos, at the beginning of Book I of Metamorphoses, lines 5-9. As translated in Charles Martin (trans.), Metamorphoses (2004), 15.
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By blending water and minerals from below with sunlight and CO2 from above, green plants link the earth to the sky. We tend to believe that plants grow out of the soil, but in fact most of their substance comes from the air. The bulk of the cellulose and the other organic compounds produced through photosynthesis consists of heavy carbon and oxygen atoms, which plants take directly from the air in the form of CO2. Thus the weight of a wooden log comes almost entirely from the air. When we burn a log in a fireplace, oxygen and carbon combine once more into CO2, and in the light and heat of the fire we recover part of the solar energy that went into making the wood.
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems (1997), 178.
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Each science and law is … prospective and fruitful. Astronomy is not yet astronomy, whilst it only counts the stars in the sky. It must come nearer, and be related to men and their life.
From Notes to 'Progress of Culture' in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1904), Vol. 8, 409.
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Ere land and sea and the all-covering sky
Were made, in the whole world the countenance
Of nature was the same, all one, well named
Chaos, a raw and undivided mass,
Naught but a lifeless bulk, with warring seeds
Of ill-joined elements compressed together.
Ovid’s description of the Creation of the universe at the beginning of Metamorphoses, Book I, lines 5-9, as translated in A.D. Melville (trans.), Ovid: Metamorphoses (1987), 1.
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Every 12 years Jupiter returns to the same position in the sky; every 370 days it disappears in the fire of the Sun in the evening to the west, 30 days later it reappears in the morning to the east...[Observation in 4th century B.C.]
Gan De
In the lost book Suixing Jing (Treatise on Jupiter), quoted in the extensive compilation Kaiyuan Zhanjing, (The Kaiyuan Treatise on Astrology (compiled 718-726). Quotation as given in Norman K. Glendenning, Our Place in the Universe (2007), 126. Source cited in Helaine Selin, Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures (1997), 342.
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Every movement in the skies or upon the earth proclaims to us that the universe is under government.
In A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe (1864), 4.
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Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema
I turn the handle and the story starts:
Reel after reel is all astronomy,
Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky,
Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.
Life leaves the slime and through all ocean darts;
She conquers earth, and raises wings to fly;
Then spirit blooms, and learns how not to die,-
Nesting beyond the grave in others' hearts.
I turn the handle: other men like me
Have made the film: and now I sit and look
In quiet, privileged like Divinity
To read the roaring world as in a book.
If this thy past, where shall they future climb,
O Spirit, built of Elements and Time?
'Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema' (1922), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 55.
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First, the chief character, who is supposed to be a professional astronomer, spends his time fund raising and doing calculations at his desk, rather than observing the sky. Second, the driving force of a scientific project is institutional self-aggrandizement rather than intellectual curiosity.
[About the state of affairs in academia.]
In Marc J. Madou, Fundamentals of Microfabrication: the Science of Miniaturization (2nd ed., 2002), 535
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Happy the men who made the first essay,
And to celestial regions found the way!
No earthly vices clogg’d their purer souls,
That they could soar so high as touch the poles:
Sublime their thoughts and from pollution clear,
Bacchus and Venus held no revels there;
From vain ambition free; no love of war
Possess’d their minds, nor wranglings at the bar;
No glaring grandeur captivates their eyes,
For such see greater glory in the skies:
Thus these to heaven attain.
In Craufurd Tait Ramage (ed., trans.), Beautiful Thoughts From Latin Authors, with English Translations (1864),
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I am the daughter of earth and water, And the nursling of the sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain,
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams,
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph, And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.
The Cloud (1820). In K. Raine (ed.), Shelley (1974), 289.
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I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television—of that I am quite sure
In 'Removal' (Jul 1938), collected in One Man's Meat (1942), 3.
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I have always played with the fancy that some contagion from outer space had been the seed of man. Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from.
Commenting on the first moon landing. Quoted in The New York Times (21 July 1969), 6.
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I hear the scream of a great hawk, sailing with a ragged wing against the high wood-side, apparently to scare his prey and so detect it—shrill, harsh, fitted to excite terror in sparrows and to issue from his split and curved bill. I see his open bill the while against the sky. Spit with force from his mouth with an undulatory quaver imparted to it from his wings or motion as he flies.
(15 Jun 1852). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: IV: May 1, 1852-February 27,, 1853 (1906), 103.
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If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One...
I am become Death,
The shatterer of worlds.
[Quoted after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]
Sacred Hindu Epic, Bhagavad Gita. Quoted in A. Berry (ed.), Harrop's Book of Scientific Anecdotes (1989), 175.
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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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In fields of air he writes his name,
And treads the chambers of the sky;
He reads the stars, and grasps the flame
That quivers in the realms on high.
In poem 'Art', collected in Samuel Kettell (ed.), Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices (1829), Vol. 3, 198.
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In the streets of a modern city the night sky is invisible; in rural districts, we move in cars with bright headlights. We have blotted out the heavens, and only a few scientists remain aware of stars and planets, meteorites and comets.
In 'On Comets', collected in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), 224.
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Infidels are intellectual discoverers. They sail the unknown seas and find new isles and continents in the infinite realms of thought. An Infidel is one who has found a new fact, who has an idea of his own, and who in the mental sky has seen another star. He is an intellectual capitalist, and for that reason excites the envy and hatred of the theological pauper.
In 'The Great Infidels', The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll (1902), Vol. 3, 309.
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It is obvious that man dwells in a splendid universe, a magnificent expanse of earth and sky and heaven, which manifestly is built on a majestic plan, maintains some mighty design, though man himself cannot grasp it. Yet for him it is not a pleasant or satisfying world. In his few moments of respite from labor or from his enemies, he dreams that this very universe might indeed be perfect, its laws operating just as now they seem to do, and yet he and it somehow be in full accord. The very ease with which he can frame this image to himself makes the reality all the more mocking. ... It is only too clear that man is not at home in this universe, and yet he is not good enough to deserve a better.
In The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939, 1954), 7.
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It is said that Thales of Miletus, who was the first of the Greeks to devote himself to the study of the stars, was on one occasion so intent upon observing the heavens that he fell into a well, whereupon a maidservant laughed and remarked, “In his zeal for things in the sky he does not see what is at his feet.”
Thales
Apocryphal story, as given in Richard A. Gregory, Discovery: Or, The Spirit and Service of Science (1916), 21.
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Laplace considers astronomy a science of observation, because we can only observe the movements of the planets; we cannot reach them, indeed, to alter their course and to experiment with them. “On earth,” said Laplace, “we make phenomena vary by experiments; in the sky, we carefully define all the phenomena presented to us by celestial motion.” Certain physicians call medicine a science of observations, because they wrongly think that experimentation is inapplicable to it.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 18. A footnote cites Laplace, Systčme du monde, Chap. 2.
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Later, I realized that the mission had to end in a let-down because the real barrier wasn’t in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.
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Living with my Indian friends I found I was a stranger in my native land. As time went on, the outward aspect of nature remained the same, but change was wrought in me. I learned to hear the echoes of a time when every living thing even the sky had a voice. That voice devoutly heard by the ancient people of America I desired to make audible to others.
On the plaque over her cremated remains in the patio of the Art Museum at Sante Fe. Edited by William Henry Homes from the preface she wrote in her last book, a small collection of Indian Games and Dances (1915). As stated in concluding pages of Joan T. Mark, A Stranger in Her Native Land: Alice Fletcher and the American Indians (1988), 354-355.
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Many animals even now spring out of the soil,
Coalescing from the rains and the heat of the sun.
Small wonder, then, if more and bigger creatures,
Full-formed, arose from the new young earth and sky.
The breed, for instance, of the dappled birds
Shucked off their eggshells in the springtime, as
Crickets in summer will slip their slight cocoons
All by themselves, and search for food and life.
Earth gave you, then, the first of mortal kinds,
For all the fields were soaked with warmth and moisture.
On the Nature of Things, trans. Anthony M. Esolen (1995), Book 5, lines 794-803, 181.
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Oh, my dear Kepler, how I wish that we could have one hearty laugh together. Here, at Padua, is the principal professor of philosophy, whom I have repeatedly and urgently requested to look at the moon and planets through my glass, [telescope] which he pertinaciously refuses to do. Why are you not here? what shouts of laughter we should have at this glorious folly! and to hear the professor of philosophy at Pisa laboring before the grand duke with logical arguments, as if with magical incantations, to charm the new planets out of the sky.
From Letter to Johannes Kepler. As translated in John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune, Life of Galileo Galilei: With Illustrations of the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy (1832), 92-93.
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Our atom of carbon enters the leaf, colliding with other innumerable (but here useless) molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. It adheres to a large and complicated molecule that activates it, and simultaneously receives the decisive message from the sky, in the flashing form of a packet of solar light; in an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphous, and finally inserted in a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life. All this happens swiftly, in silence, at the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere, and gratis: dear colleagues, when we learn to do likewise we will be sicut Deus [like God], and we will have also solved the problem of hunger in the world.
Levi Primo and Raymond Rosenthal (trans.), The Periodic Table (1975, 1984), 227-228. In this final section of his book, Levi imagines the life of a carbon atom. He calls this his first “literary dream”. It came to him at Auschwitz.
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People have been looking up at the skies for 10,000 years, wondering and dreaming. I hope we always do.
As quoted by Howard Wilkinson in 'John Glenn Had the Stuff U.S. Heroes are Made of', The Cincinnati Enquirer (20 Feb 2002)
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Somebody once observed to the eminent philosopher Wittgenstein how stupid medieval Europeans living before the time of Copernicus must have been that they could have looked at the sky and thought that the sun was circling the earth. Surely a modicum of astronomical good sense would have told them that the reverse was true. Wittgenstein is said to have replied: “I agree. But I wonder what it would have looked like if the sun had been circling the earth.”
In Day the Universe Changed (1985), 11.
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Suddenly there was an enormous explosion, like a violent volcano. The nuclear reactions had led to overheating in the underground burial grounds. The explosion poured radioactive dust and materials high up into the sky. It was just the wrong weather for such a tragedy. Strong winds blew the radioactive clouds hundreds of miles away. It was difficult to gauge the extent of the disaster immediately, and no evacuation plan was put into operation right away. Many villages and towns were only ordered to evacuate when the symptoms of radiation sickness were already quite apparent. Tens of thousands of people were affected, hundreds dying, though the real figures have never been made public. The large area, where the accident happened, is still considered dangerous and is closed to the public.
'Two Decades of Dissidence', New Scientist (4 Nov 1976), 72, No. 72, 265.
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The earth holds a silver treasure, cupped between ocean bed and tenting sky. Forever the heavens spend it, in the showers that refresh our temperate lands, the torrents that sluice the tropics. Every suckling root absorbs it, the very soil drains it down; the rivers run unceasing to the sea, the mountains yield it endlessly… Yet none is lost; in vast convection our water is returned, from soil to sky, and sky to soil, and back gain, to fall as pure as blessing. There was never less; there could never be more. A mighty mercy on which life depends, for all its glittering shifts, water is constant.
In A Cup of Sky (1950), 41.
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The Himalayas are the crowning achievement of the Indo-Australian plate. India in the Oligocene crashed head on into Tibet, hit so hard that it not only folded and buckled the plate boundaries but also plowed into the newly created Tibetan plateau and drove the Himalayas five and a half miles into the sky. The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat. When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in a warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as 20,000 feet below the sea floor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth.
If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.
Annals of the Former World
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The most striking impression was that of an overwhelming bright light. I had seen under similar conditions the explosion of a large amount—100 tons—of normal explosives in the April test, and I was flabbergasted by the new spectacle. We saw the whole sky flash with unbelievable brightness in spite of the very dark glasses we wore. Our eyes were accommodated to darkness, and thus even if the sudden light had been only normal daylight it would have appeared to us much brighter than usual, but we know from measurements that the flash of the bomb was many times brighter than the sun. In a fraction of a second, at our distance, one received enough light to produce a sunburn. I was near Fermi at the time of the explosion, but I do not remember what we said, if anything. I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 147.
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The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids.
Tweet, @HillaryClinton on Twitter (3 Feb 2015).
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The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI, to us insiders) has so far only proved that no matter what you beam up—the Pythagorean theorem, pictures of attractive nude people, etc.—the big 800 number in the sky does not return calls.
From essay 'First Person Secular: Blocking the Gates to Heaven', Mother Jones Magazine (Jun 1986), 48. Collected in The Worst Years of our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1995), 267.
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The sky is no longer the limit.
From Medal of Freedom presentation speech given to the three astronauts of the first manned moon landing mission. In Leon Wagener, One Giant Leap: Neil Armstrong's Stellar American Journey (2004), 226.
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The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.
On reading the scriptures. 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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The ten most important two-letter words in the English language: “if it is to be, it is up to me.” …
[Remember] the African parable of the sparrow who while flying through the sky heard a clap of thunder. He fell to the ground with his two little legs sticking up.
An eagle flying nearby saw the sparrow and asked “Hey, man, what’s happening?”
Replied the sparrow, “The sky is falling down.”
Mocked the eagle, “And what are you going to do, hold it up with those two little legs of yours?”
Replied the sparrow, “One does what one can with what one has.”
In address, to the Economic Club of Detroit (14 Jan 1990), 'Where Do We Go From Here?' on the massiechairs.com website.
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There are so many stars shining in the sky, so many beautiful things winking at you, but when Venus comes out, all the others are waned, they are pushed to the background.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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There is a place with four suns in the sky—red, white, blue, and yellow; two of them are so close together that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth—and made of diamond. There are atomic nuclei a few miles across which rotate thirty times a second. There are tiny grains between the stars, with the size and atomic composition of bacteria. There are stars leaving the Milky Way, and immense gas clouds falling into it. There are turbulent plasmas writhing with X- and gamma-rays and mighty stellar explosions. There are, perhaps, places which are outside our universe. The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it.
Opening paragraph, in 'Introduction' Planetary Exploration (1970), 15.
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There's nothing situate under heaven's eye
But hath his bond in earth, in sea, in sky.
The beasts, the fishes, and the winged fowls
Are their males' subjects and at their controls.
Man, more divine, the master of all these,
Lord of the wide world and wild wat'ry seas,
Indu'd with intellectual sense and souls,
Of more pre-eminence than fish and fowls,
Are masters to their females, and their lords;
Then let your will attend on their accords.
The Comedy of Errors (1594), II, i.
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These days at ten o’clock at night a most alarming wonder has manifested itself in the skies. The firmament was rent asunder and through this gap one could distinguish chariots and armies, riders with yellow, white, red and black standards, though to do battle against each other. This awesome and unusual vision continued from ten at night till about two of the morning, and was witnessed with alarm and dismay by many honest and trustworthy people. The significance thereof is known but to God Almighty, Who may graciously prevent the shedding of innocent blood.
Anonymous
'Frightful Apparition in the Sky at Vienna. From Vienna, the 11th day of August 1590'. As quoted in George Tennyson Matthews (ed.) News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959), 188. A handwritten collection of news reports (1568-1604) by the powerful banking and merchant house of Fugger in Ausburg.
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Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom, and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebby with stars.
Walden (1882), Vol. 1, 155.
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Tomorrow may be fair, however stormy the sky of today.
Quoted, without citation, in front matter to T. A. Edison Foundation, Lewis Howard Latimer: A Black Inventor: a Biography and Related Experiments You Can Do (1973). If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Twice in my life I have spent two weary and scientifically profitless years seeking evidence to corroborate dearly loved hypotheses that later proved to be groundless; times such as these are hard for scientists—days of leaden gray skies bringing with them a miserable sense of oppression and inadequacy.
From Advice to a Young Scientist (1979), 6.
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Vultures are homely, but they clean up all the garbage and that's good. And they're elegant in the sky.
As quoted by Lisa Foderado in 'In The Studio With Roger Tory Peterson; Reluctant Earthling', The New York Times (26 Aug 1993), C1.
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Walking home at night, I shine my flashlight up at the sky. I send billions of ... photons toward space. What is their destination? A tiny fraction will be absorbed by the air. An even smaller fraction will be intercepted by the surface of planets and stars. The vast majority ... will plod on forever. After some thousands of years they will leave our galaxy; after some millions of years they will leave our supercluster. They will wander through an even emptier, even colder realm. The universe is transparent in the direction of the future.
Atoms of Silence
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We live in the sky, not under it.
'Climbing in Search of the Sky', Fortnightly Review, No. 37 (1 Jan 1870), 13.
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We need go back only a few centuries to find the great mass of people depending on religion for the satisfaction of practically all their wishes. From rain out of the sky to good health on earth, they sought their desires at the altars of their gods. Whether they wanted large families, good crops, freedom from pestilence, or peace of mind, they conceived themselves as dependent on the favor of heaven. Then science came with its alternative, competitive method of getting what we want. That is science’s most important attribute. As an intellectual influence it is powerful enough, but as a practical way of achieving man’s desires it is overwhelming.
In 'The Real Point of Conflict between Science and Religion', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 140-141.
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Were the succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would present us an uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the Galaxy—since there could be absolutely no point, in all that background, at which would not exist a star. The only mode, therefore, in which, under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the voids which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all.
'Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe' (1848). Collected in The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe (1857), Vol. 2, 183.
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What beauty. I saw clouds and their light shadows on the distant dear earth…. The water looked like darkish, slightly gleaming spots…. When I watched the horizon, I saw the abrupt, contrasting transition from the earth’s light-colored surface to the absolutely black sky. I enjoyed the rich color spectrum of the earth. It is surrounded by a light blue aureole that gradually darkens, becomes turquoise, dark blue, violet, and finally coal black.
Describing his view while making the first manned orbit of the earth (12 Apr 1961). As quoted in Don Knefel, Writing and Life: A Rhetoric for Nonfiction with Readings (1986), 93. Front Cover
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What caused me to undertake the catalog was the nebula I discovered above the southern horn of Taurus on September 12, 1758, while observing the comet of that year. ... This nebula had such a resemblance to a comet in its form and brightness that I endeavored to find others, so that astronomers would not confuse these same nebulae with comets just beginning to shine. I observed further with suitable refractors for the discovery of comets, and this is the purpose I had in mind in compiling the catalog.
After me, the celebrated Herschel published a catalog of 2000 which he has observed. This unveiling the sky, made with instruments of great aperture, does not help in the perusal of the sky for faint comets. Thus my object is different from his, and I need only nebulae visible in a telescope of two feet [focal length].
Connaissance des Temps for 1800/1801. In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 330.
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When you enter some grove, peopled with ancient trees, such as are higher than ordinary, and whose boughs are so closely interwoven that you cannot see the sky; the stately loftiness of the wood, the privacy of the place, and the awful gloom, cannot but strike you, as with the presence of a deity.
Epistle LXI, 'On The God Within Us', The Epistles of Lucius Annćus Seneca trans. Thomas Morell (1786), Vol. 1, 142. Also translated by Richard Mott Gummere (1916) as “If ever you come upon a grove of ancient trees which have grown to an exceptional height, shutting out a view of sky by a veil of pleached and intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot and your marvel at the thick unbroken shade in the midst of the open spaces, will prove to you the presence of deity.”
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When you look up at the sky, you have a feeling of unity, which delights you and makes you giddy.
…...
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Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (1967), 116.
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Why, then, are we surprised that comets, such a rare spectacle in the universe, are not known, when their return is at vast intervals?. … The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject … And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them …. Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate … Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all. Someday there will be a man who will show in what regions comets have their orbit, why they travel so remote from other celestial bodies, how large they are and what sort they are.
Natural Questions, Book 7. As translated by Thomas H. Corcoran in Seneca in Ten Volumes: Naturales Quaestiones II (1972), 279 and 293.
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[In the beginning, before creation] There was neither Aught nor Naught, no air nor sky beyond. ...
[There was only]
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.
Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
No gods had yet been born—who then can e'er the truth disclose?
Rigveda
In Rigveda. In John Robson, Hinduism and Its Relations to Christianity (1893), 17.
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[My friends and I studied science to get away from] the stench of Fascist truths which tainted the sky. ... [T]he chemistry and physics on which we fed, besides being nourishment vital in themselves, were an antidote to Fascism. ... [T]hey were clear and distinct and verifiable at every step, and not a tissue of lies and emptiness like the radio and the newspapers.
The Periodic Table, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (1986), 42. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 170.
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[Urbain Jean Joseph] Le Verrier—without leaving his study, without even looking at the sky—had found the unknown planet [Neptune] solely by mathematical calculation, and, as it were, touched it with the tip of his pen!
In Camille Flammarion, Astronomy (1914), 171.
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[When I was a child] I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I was a street kid. … [T]here was one aspect of that environment that, for some reason, struck me as different, and that was the stars. … I could tell they were lights in the sky, but that wasn’t an explanation. I mean, what were they? Little electric bulbs on long black wires, so you couldn’t see what they were held up by? What were they? … My mother said to me, "Look, we’ve just got you a library card … get out a book and find the answer.” … It was in there. It was stunning. The answer was that the Sun was a star, except very far away. … The dazzling idea of a universe vast beyond imagining swept over me. … I sensed awe.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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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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