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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: Smooth

Smooth Quotes (32 quotes)

A practical botanist will distinguish, at the first glance, the plant of different quarters of the globe, and yet will be at a loss to tell by what mark he detects them. There is, I know not what look—sinister, dry, obscure, in African plants; superb and elevated in the Asiatic; smooth and cheerful in the American; stunted and indurated in the Alpine.
Quoted in William Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (1847), Vol. 3, 355-356, citing ‘Philosophia Botanica’ (1751), 171.
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At length being at Clapham where there is, on the common, a large pond which, I observed to be one day very rough with the wind, I fetched out a cruet of oil and dropt a little of it on the water. I saw it spread itself with surprising swiftness upon the surface; but the effect of smoothing the waves was not produced; for I had applied it first on the leeward side of the pond, where the waves were largest, and the wind drove my oil back upon the shore. I then went to the windward side, where they began to form; and there the oil, though not more than a tea-spoonful, produced an instant calm over a space several yards square, which spread amazingly, and extended itself gradually till it reached the leeside, making all that quarter of the pond, perhaps half an acre, as smooth as a looking-glass.
[Experiment to test an observation made at sea in 1757, when he had seen the wake of a ship smoothed, explained by the captain as presumably due to cooks emptying greasy water in to the sea through the scuppers.]
Letter, extract in 'Of the still of Waves by Means of Oil The Gentleman's Magazine (1775), Vol. 45, 82.
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At the sea shore you pick up a pebble, fashioned after a law of nature, in the exact form that best resists pressure, and worn as smooth as glass. It is so perfect that you take it as a keepsake. But could you know its history from the time when a rough fragment of rock fell from the overhanging cliff into the sea, to be taken possession of by the under currents, and dragged from one ocean to another, perhaps around the world, for a hundred years, until in reduced and perfect form it was cast upon the beach as you find it, you would have a fit illustration of what many principles, now in familiar use, have endured, thus tried, tortured and fashioned during the ages.
From Address (1 Aug 1875), 'The Growth of Principles' at Saratoga. Collected in William L. Snyder (ed.), Great Speeches by Great Lawyers: A Collection of Arguments and Speeches (1901), 246.
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Enhydros is a variety of geode. The name comes from the water it contains. It is always round, smooth, and very white but will sway back and forth when moved. Inside it is a liquid just as in an egg, as Pliny, our Albertus, and others believed, and it may even drip water. Liquid bitumen, sometimes with a pleasant odor, is found enclosed in rock just as in a vase.
As translated by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean A. Bandy from the first Latin Edition of 1546 in De Natura Fossilium: (Textbook of Mineralogy) (2004), 104. Originally published by Geological Society of America as a Special Paper (1955). There are other translations with different wording.
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Even today a good many distinguished minds seem unable to accept or even to understand that from a source of noise natural selection alone and unaided could have drawn all the music of the biosphere. In effect natural selection operates upon the products of chance and can feed nowhere else; but it operates in a domain of very demanding conditions, and from this domain chance is barred. It is not to chance but to these conditions that eveloution owes its generally progressive cource, its successive conquests, and the impresssion it gives of a smooth and steady unfolding.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 118-119.
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Five per cent vision is better than no vision at all. Five per cent hearing is better than no hearing at all. Five per cent flight efficiency is better than no flight at all. It is thoroughly believable that every organ or apparatus that we actually see is the product of a smooth trajectory through animal space, a trajectory in which every intermediate stage assisted survival and reproduction.
[Rebutting the Creationist assertion that fully developed organs could not have arisen 'by chance.']
The Blind Watchmaker (1986, 1996) 90-91.
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Gynaecologists are very smooth indeed. Because they have to listen to woeful and sordid symptoms they develop an expression of refinement and sympathy.
A Sense of Asher (1972), 86.
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I am mindful that scientific achievement is rooted in the past, is cultivated to full stature by many contemporaries and flourishes only in favorable environment. No individual is alone responsible for a single stepping stone along the path of progress, and where the path is smooth progress is most rapid. In my own work this has been particularly true.
Nobel Prize banquet speech (29 Feb 1940)
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I have never thought that you could obtain the extremely clumpy, heterogeneous universe we have today, strongly affected by plasma processes, from the smooth, homogeneous one of the Big Bang, dominated by gravitation.
Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),196.
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I have sat by night beside a cold lake
And touched things smoother than moonlight on still water,
But the moon on this cloud sea is not human,
And here is no shore, no intimacy,
Only the start of space, the road to suns.
Trans Canada
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I took a good clear piece of Cork and with a Pen-knife sharpen'd as keen as a Razor, I cut a piece of it off, and thereby left the surface of it exceeding smooth, then examining it very diligently with a Microscope, me thought I could perceive it to appear a little porous; but I could not so plainly distinguish them, as to be sure that they were pores, much less what Figure they were of: But judging from the lightness and yielding quality of the Cork, that certainly the texture could not be so curious, but that possibly, if I could use some further diligence, I might find it to be discernable with a Microscope, I with the same sharp Penknife, cut off from the former smooth surface an exceeding thin piece of it with a deep plano-convex Glass, I could exceedingly plainly perceive it to be all perforated and porous, much like a Honey-comb, but that the pores of it were not regular; yet it was not unlike a Honey-comb in these particulars.
First, in that it had a very little solid substance, in comparison of the empty cavity that was contain'd between, ... for the Interstitia or walls (as I may so call them) or partitions of those pores were neer as thin in proportion to their pores as those thin films of Wax in a Honey-comb (which enclose and constitute the sexangular cells) are to theirs.
Next, in that these pores, or cells, were not very deep, but constituted of a great many little Boxes, separated out of one continued long pore, by certain Diaphragms...
I no sooner discerned these (which were indeed the first microscopical pores I ever saw, and perhaps, that were ever seen, for I had not met with any Writer or Person, that had made any mention of them before this) but me thought I had with the discovery of them, presently hinted to me the true and intelligible reason of all the Phænomena of Cork.
Micrographia, or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon (1665), 112-6.
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If I go out into nature, into the unknown, to the fringes of knowledge, everything seems mixed up and contradictory, illogical, and incoherent. This is what research does; it smooths out contradictions and makes things simple, logical, and coherent.
In 'Dionysians and Apollonians', Science (2 Jun 1972), 176, 966. Reprinted in Mary Ritchie Key, The Relationship of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication (1980), 318.
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In the case of those solids, whether of earth, or rock, which enclose on all sides and contain crystals, selenites, marcasites, plants and their parts, bones and the shells of animals, and other bodies of this kind which are possessed of a smooth surface, these same bodies had already become hard at the time when the matter of the earth and rock containing them was still fluid. And not only did the earth and rock not produce the bodies contained in them, but they did not even exist as such when those bodies were produced in them.
The Prodromus of Nicolaus Steno's Dissertation Concerning a Solid Body enclosed by Process of Nature within a Solid (1669), trans. J. G. Winter (1916), 218.
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It is not possible to find in all geometry more difficult and more intricate questions or more simple and lucid explanations [than those given by Archimedes]. Some ascribe this to his natural genius; while others think that incredible effort and toil produced these, to all appearance, easy and unlaboured results. No amount of investigation of yours would succeed in attaining the proof, and yet, once seen, you immediately believe you would have discovered it; by so smooth and so rapid a path he leads you to the conclusion required.
Plutarch
In John Dryden (trans.), Life of Marcellus.
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Observation is like a piece of glass, which, as a mirror, must be very smooth, and must be very carefully polished, in order that it may reflect the image pure and undistorted.
'The Study of the Natural Sciences: An Introductory Lecture to the Course of Experimental Chemistry in the University of Munich, for the Winter Session of 1852-53,' as translated and republished in The Medical Times and Gazette (22 Jan 1853), N.S. Vol. 6, 82.
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On each of two porches lie big chunks of serpentine—smooth as talc, mottled black and green. When you see rocks like that on a porch, a geologist is inside.
Assembling California
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One will see a layer of smooth stones, popularly called fluitati [diluvium], and over these another layer of smaller pebbles, thirdly sand, and finally earth, and you will see this repeatedly … up to the summit of the Mountain. This clearly shows that the order has been caused by many floods, not just one.
In De' Corpi Marini che su Monti si Trovano (1721), 57, as translated by Ezio Vaccari.
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Papyra, throned upon the banks of Nile,
Spread her smooth leaf, and waved her silver style.
The storied pyramid, the laurel’d bust,
The trophy’d arch had crumbled into dust;
The sacred symbol, and the epic song (Unknown the character, forgot the tongue,)
With each unconquer’d chief, or sainted maid,
Sunk undistinguish’d in Oblivion’s shade.
Sad o’er the scatter’d ruins Genius sigh’d,
And infant Arts but learn’d to lisp, and died.
Till to astonish’d realms Papyra taught To paint in mystic colours Sound and Thought,
With Wisdom’s voice to print the page sublime,
And mark in adamant the steps of Time.
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Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
In Change! (1983). Quoted in Reader's Digest (1987), 131, Nos. 783-787, 1.
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Suppose a number of equal waves of water to move upon the surface of a stagnant lake, with a certain constant velocity, and to enter a narrow channel leading out of the lake. Suppose then another similar cause to have excited another equal series of waves, which arrive at the same time, with the first. Neither series of waves will destroy the other, but their effects will be combined: if they enter the channel in such a manner that the elevations of one series coincide with those of the other, they must together produce a series of greater joint elevations; but if the elevations of one series are so situated as to correspond to the depressions of the other, they must exactly fill up those depressions. And the surface of the water must remain smooth; at least I can discover no alternative, either from theory or from experiment.
A Reply to the Animadversions of the Edinburgh Reviewers on Some Papers Published in the Philosophical Transactions (1804), 17-8.
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The achievements of the Beagle did not just depend on FitzRoy’s skill as a hydrographer, nor on Darwin’s skill as a natural scientist, but on the thoroughly effective fashion in which everyone on board pulled together. Of course Darwin and FitzRoy had their quarrels, but all things considered, they were remarkably infrequent. To have shared such cramped quarters for nearly five years with a man often suffering from serious depression, prostrate part of the time with sea sickness, with so little friction, Darwin must have been one of the best-natured people ever! This is, indeed, apparent in his letters. And anyone who has participated in a scientific expedition will agree that when he wrote from Valparaiso in July 1834 that ‘The Captain keeps all smooth by rowing everyone in turn, which of course he has as much right to do as a gamekeeper to shoot partridges on the first of September’, he was putting a finger on an important ingredient in the Beagle’s success.
From Introduction to The Beagle Record (1979, 2012), 9.
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The evening was calm, the calmest we had known above the North Col. The smooth, outward dipping slabs glowed in the fast setting sun and, at an immense distance beneath, clouds concealed the valleys and lesser peaks. There was nothing to obstruct the tremendous prospect. Seen from Everest, great peaks that dominate the climber as he toils along the East Rongbuk Glacier, and up the slopes of the North Col, show like insignificant ripples at the base of a great ocean roller. Even the North Peak was but a stepping-stone to quick-footed vision.
…...
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The first principles of the universe are atoms and empty space. Everything else is merely thought to exist. The worlds are unlimited. They come into being and perish. Nothing can come into being from that which is not nor pass away into that which is not. Further, the atoms are unlimited in size and number, and they are borne along in the whole universe in a vortex, and thereby generate all composite things—-fire, water, air, earth. For even these are conglomerations of given atoms. And it is because of their solidarity that these atoms are impassive and unalterable. The sun and the moon have been composed of such smooth and spherical masses [i.e. atoms], and so also the soul, which is identical with reason.
Diogenes Laertius IX, 44. Trans. R. D. Hicks (1925), Vol. 2, 453-5. An alternate translation of the opening is "Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion."
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The mountains too, at a distance, appear airy masses and smooth, but seen near at hand they are rough.
Diogenes Laertius, trans. Charles Duke Yonge, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (1901), 411.
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The teacher manages to get along still with the cumbersome algebraic analysis, in spite of its difficulties and imperfections, and avoids the smooth infinitesimal calculus, although the eighteenth century shyness toward it had long lost all point.
Elementary Mathematics From an Advanced Standpoint (1908). 3rd edition (1924), trans. E. R. Hedrick and C. A. Noble (1932), Vol. 1, 155.
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There is one great difficulty with a good hypothesis. When it is completed and rounded, the corners smooth and the content cohesive and coherent, it is likely to become a thing in itself, a work of art. It is then like a finished sonnet or a painting completed. One hates to disturb it. Even if subsequent information should shoot a hole in it, one hates to tear it down because it once was beautiful and whole. One of our leading scientists, having reasoned a reef in the Pacific, was unable for a long time to reconcile the lack of a reef, indicated by soundings, with the reef his mind told him was there.
In John Steinbeck and Edward Flanders Ricketts Sea of Cortez: a Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), 179-80.
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Voice is a flowing breath of air, perceptible to the hearing by contact. It moves in an endless number of circular rounds, like the innumerably increasing circular waves which appear when a stone is thrown into smooth water, and which keep on spreading indefinitely from the centre.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 5, Chap 1, Sec. 6. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 138.
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We do not live in a time when knowledge can be extended along a pathway smooth and free from obstacles, as at the time of the discovery of the infinitesimal calculus, and in a measure also when in the development of projective geometry obstacles were suddenly removed which, having hemmed progress for a long time, permitted a stream of investigators to pour in upon virgin soil. There is no longer any browsing along the beaten paths; and into the primeval forest only those may venture who are equipped with the sharpest tools.
In 'Mathematisches und wissenschaftliches Denken', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 11, 55. In Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 91.
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When the greatest of American logicians, speaking of the powers that constitute the born geometrician, had named Conception, Imagination, and Generalization, he paused. Thereupon from one of the audience there came the challenge, “What of reason?” The instant response, not less just than brilliant, was: “Ratiocination—that is but the smooth pavement on which the chariot rolls.”
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 31.
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While a glacier is moving, it rubs and wears down the bottom on which it moves, scrapes its surface (now smooth), triturates the broken-off material that is found between the ice and the rock, pulverizes or reduces it to a clayey paste, rounds angular blocks that resist its pressure, and polishes those having a larger surface. At the surface of the glacier, other processes occur. Fragments of rocks that are broken-off from the neighbouring walls and fall on the ice, remain there or can be transported to the sides; they advance in this way on the top of the glacier, without moving or rubbing against each other … and arrive at the extremity of the glacier with their angles, sharp edges, and their uneven surfaces intact.
La théorie des glaciers et ses progrès les plus récents. Bibl. universelle de Genève, (3), Vol. 41, p.127. Trans. Karin Verrecchia.
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Why is geometry often described as “cold” and “dry?” One reason lies in its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline, or a tree. Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line… Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity.
From The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), Introduction, xiii.
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…I distinguish two parts of it, which I call respectively the brighter and the darker. The brighter seems to surround and pervade the whole hemisphere; but the darker part, like a sort of cloud, discolours the Moon’s surface and makes it appear covered with spots. Now these spots, as they are somewhat dark and of considerable size, are plain to everyone and every age has seen them, wherefore I will call them great or ancient spots, to distinguish them from other spots, smaller in size, but so thickly scattered that they sprinkle the whole surface of the Moon, but especially the brighter portion of it. These spots have never been observed by anyone before me; and from my observations of them, often repeated, I have been led to the opinion which I have expressed, namely, that I feel sure that the surface of the Moon is not perfectly smooth, free from inequalities and exactly spherical… but that, on the contrary, it is full of inequalities, uneven, full of hollows and protuberances, just like the surface of the Earth itself, which is varied everywhere by lofty mountains and deep valleys.
Describing his pioneering telescope observations of the Moon made from Jan 1610. In The Starry Messenger (Mar 1610). Quoted in Patrick Moore, Patrick Moore on the Moon (2006), 56.
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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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