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Who said: “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.”
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Something Quotes (719 quotes)

...for the animals, which we resemble and which would be our equals if we did not have reason, do not reflect upon the actions or the passions of their external or internal senses, and do not know what is color, odor or sound, or if there is any differences between these objects, to which they are moved rather than moving themselves there. This comes about by the force of the impression that the different objects make on their organs and on their senses, for they cannot discern if it is more appropriate to go and drink or eat or do something else, and they do not eat or drink or do anything else except when the presence of objects or the animal imagination [l'imagination brutalle], necessitates them and transports them to their objects, without their knowing what they do, whether good or bad; which would happen to us just as to them if we were destitute of reason, for they have no enlightenment except what they must have to take their nourishment and to serve us for the uses to which God has destined them.
[Arguing the uniqueness of man by regarding animals to be merely automatons.].
Les Préludes de l'Harmonie Universelle (1634), 135-139. In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 318.
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...I believe there exists, & I feel within me, an instinct for the truth, or knowledge or discovery, of something of the same nature as the instinct of virtue, & that our having such an instinct is reason enough for scientific researches without any practical results ever ensuing from them.
The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol. 4. (1847-50)
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...I may perhaps venture a short word on the question much discussed in certain quarters, whether in the work of excavation it is a good thing to have cooperation between men and women ... Of a mixed dig ... I have seen something, and it is an experiment that I would be reluctant to try again. I would grant if need be that women are admirable fitted for the work, yet I would uphold that they should undertake it by themselves ... the work of an excavator on the dig and off it lays on those who share it a bond of closer daily intercourse than is conceivable ... between men and women, except in chance cases, I do not believe that such close and unavoidable companionship can ever be other than a source of irritation; at any rate, I believe that however it may affect women, the ordinary male at least cannot stand it ... A minor ... objection lies in one particular form of contraint ... moments will occur on the best regulated dig when you want to say just what you think without translation, which before the ladies, whatever their feelings about it, cannot be done.
Archaeological Excavation (1915), 63-64. In Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Breaking Ground (2006), 557-558. By (), 163-164.
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...it would be a simple way of solving the goiter problem. And in addition to that it would be the biggest thing in a medical proposition to be carried out in the state of Michigan, and Michigan is a large place. And as I thought of the thing the more convinced I became that this oughtn't to be a personal thing, This ought to be something done by the Michigan State Medical Society as a body.
Recommending the addition of a trace of iodine to table salt.
Opening address to the Medical Department of the University of Michigan, Sep 1914. Quoted by Howard Markel in 'When it Rains it Pours' : Endemic Goiter, Iodized Salt, and David Murray Cowie, M.D. American Journal of Public Health, Feb 1987, vol.77, No.2, page 222.
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...the scientific cast of mind examines the world critically, as if many alternative worlds might exist, as if other things might be here which are not. Then we are forced to ask why what we see is present and not something else. Why are the Sun and moon and the planets spheres? Why not pyramids, or cubes, or dodecahedra? Why not irregular, jumbly shapes? Why so symmetrical, worlds? If you spend any time spinning hypotheses, checking to see whether they make sense, whether they conform to what else we know. Thinking of tests you can pose to substantiate or deflate hypotheses, you will find yourself doing science.
…...
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A stands for atom; it is so small No one has ever seen it at all.
B stands for bomb; the bombs are much bigger,
So, brother, do not be too fast on the trigger.
H has become a most ominous letter.
It means something bigger if not something better.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 74.
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Ath. There still remain three studies suitable for freemen. Calculation in arithmetic is one of them; the measurement of length, surface, and depth is the second; and the third has to do with the revolutions of the stars in reference to one another … there is in them something that is necessary and cannot be set aside, … if I am not mistaken, [something of] divine necessity; for as to the human necessities of which men often speak when they talk in this manner, nothing can be more ridiculous than such an application of the words.
Cle. And what necessities of knowledge are there, Stranger, which are divine and not human?
Ath. I conceive them to be those of which he who has no use nor any knowledge at all cannot be a god, or demi-god, or hero to mankind, or able to take any serious thought or charge of them.
Plato
In Republic, Bk. 7, in Jowett, Dialogues of Plato (1897, 2010), Vol. 4, 331.
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Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
'Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination'. In the collection. Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 14.
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Die Mathematiker sind eine Art Franzosen. Spricht man zu ihnen, so übersetzen sie alles in ihre eigene Sprache, und so wird es alsobald etwas ganz anderes.
Mathematicians are a kind of Frenchmen. Whenever you say anything or talk to them, they translate it into their own language, and right away it is something completely different.
Quoted by Christiane Senn-Fennell, 'Oral and Written Communication', in Ian Westbury et al. (eds.), Teaching as a Reflective Practice (2000), 225.
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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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Dilbert: I’m obsessed with inventing a perpetual motion machine. Most scientists think it's impossible, but I have something they don’t.
Dogbert: A lot of spare time?
Dilbert: Exactly.
Dilbert cartoon strip (8 Aug 1991).
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Every teacher certainly should know something of non-euclidean geometry. Thus, it forms one of the few parts of mathematics which, at least in scattered catch-words, is talked about in wide circles, so that any teacher may be asked about it at any moment. … Imagine a teacher of physics who is unable to say anything about Röntgen rays, or about radium. A teacher of mathematics who could give no answer to questions about non-euclidean geometry would not make a better impression.
On the other hand, I should like to advise emphatically against bringing non-euclidean into regular school instruction (i.e., beyond occasional suggestions, upon inquiry by interested pupils), as enthusiasts are always recommending. Let us be satisfied if the preceding advice is followed and if the pupils learn to really understand euclidean geometry. After all, it is in order for the teacher to know a little more than the average pupil.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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Puisqu'on ne peut être universel en sachant tout ce qui se peut sur tout, il faut savoir peu de tout. Car il est bien plus beau de savoir quelque chose de tout que de savoir rout d'une chose; cette universalité est la plus belle. Si on pouvait avoir les deux, encore mieux.
Since we cannot be universal and know all that is to be known of everything, we ought to know a little about everything, For it is far better to know something about everything than to know all about one thing.
Pensées. Quoted in Nigel Rees, Brewer's Famous Quotations: 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (2006), 249.
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Ratbert (as lab rat, to scientist): Doc, we have to talk. Every day you feed me over a hundred pounds of macaroni and cheese. At first I thought you were just being a good host. But lately I’ve been thinking it could be something far more sinister.
Scientist (thinking): Macaroni and cheese causes paranoia.
Dilbert cartoon strip (24 Jul 1990).
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Socrates: Shall we set down astronomy among the objects of study? Glaucon: I think so, to know something about the seasons, the months and the years is of use for military purposes, as well as for agriculture and for navigation. Socrates: It amuses me to see how afraid you are, lest the common herd of people should accuse you of recommending useless studies.
Socrates
As quoted by Plato. In Richard Garnett, Léon Vallée, Alois Brandl (eds.), The Universal Anthology: A Collection of the Best Literature (1899), Vol. 4, 111.
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To Wheeler's comment, If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day, a student responded, I can't believe that space is that crummy. Wheeler replied: To disagree leads to study, to study leads to understanding, to understand is to appreciate, to appreciate is to love. So maybe I'll end up loving your theory.
Quoted in Charles Birch, Biology and the Riddle of Life (1999), 10.
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[In refutation of evolution] They use carbon dating ... to prove that something was millions of years old. Well, we have the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and the carbon dating test that they used then would have to then prove that these were hundreds of millions of years younger, when what happened was they had the exact same results on the fossils and canyons that they did the tests on that were supposedly 100 millions of years old. And it’s the kind of inconsistent tests like this that they’re basing their “facts” on.
[Citing results from a solitary young-Earth creationist, questioning whether the lava dome at Mount St. Helens is really a million years old.]
From interview by Miles O''Brien on CNN (30 Mar 1996). Reported from transcript, via Nexis, in New York Magazine (15 Sep 2010).
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A chess problem is genuine mathematics, but it is in some way “trivial” mathematics. However, ingenious and intricate, however original and surprising the moves, there is something essential lacking. Chess problems are unimportant. The best mathematics is serious as well as beautiful—“important” if you like, but the word is very ambiguous, and “serious” expresses what I mean much better.
'A Mathematician's Apology', in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), 2029.
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A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
In Mostly Harmless (1992), 135.
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A genius is one who shoots at something no one else can see—and hits it.
Anonymous
In M. P. Singh, Quote Unquote (2007), 148.
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A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?
The Two Cultures: The Rede Lecture (1959), 14-5.
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A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe”; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but the striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
In Letter (4 Mar 1950), replying to a grieving father over the loss of a young son. In Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children (2002), 184.
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A little science is something that they must have. I should like my nephews to know what air is, and water; why we breathe, and why wood burns; the nutritive elements essential to plant life, and the constituents of the soil. And it is no vague and imperfect knowledge from hearsay I would have them gain of these fundamental truths, on which depend agriculture and the industrial arts and our health itself; I would have them know these things thoroughly from their own observation and experience. Books here are insufficient, and can serve merely as aids to scientific experiment.
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A man’s first duty, a young man’s at any rate, is to be ambitious … the noblest ambition is that of leaving behind one something of permanent value.
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 77.
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A mathematician who can only generalise is like a monkey who can only climb UP a tree. ... And a mathematician who can only specialise is like a monkey who can only climb DOWN a tree. In fact neither the up monkey nor the down monkey is a viable creature. A real monkey must find food and escape his enemies and so must be able to incessantly climb up and down. A real mathematician must be able to generalise and specialise. ... There is, I think, a moral for the teacher. A teacher of traditional mathematics is in danger of becoming a down monkey, and a teacher of modern mathematics an up monkey. The down teacher dishing out one routine problem after another may never get off the ground, never attain any general idea. and the up teacher dishing out one definition after the other may never climb down from his verbiage, may never get down to solid ground, to something of tangible interest for his pupils.
From 'A Story With A Moral', Mathematical Gazette (Jun 1973), 57, No. 400, 86-87
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A mile and a half from town, I came to a grove of tall cocoanut trees, with clean, branchless stems reaching straight up sixty or seventy feet and topped with a spray of green foliage sheltering clusters of cocoanuts—not more picturesque than a forest of colossal ragged parasols, with bunches of magnified grapes under them, would be. I once heard a grouty northern invalid say that a cocoanut tree might be poetical, possibly it was; but it looked like a feather-duster struck by lightning. I think that describes it better than a picture—and yet, without any question, there is something fascinating about a cocoanut tree—and graceful, too.
In Roughing It (1913), 184-85.
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A pessimist is a person who is always right but doesn’t get any enjoyment out of it, while an optimist, is one who imagines that the future is uncertain. It is a duty to be an optimist, because if you imagine that the future is uncertain, then you must do something about it.
In The Pursuit of Simplicity (1980, 1981), 149, footnote 19.
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A premature attempt to explain something that thrills you will destroy your perceptivity rather than increase it, because your tendency will be to explain away rather than seek out.
Victor K. McElhenty, Insisting on the Impossible, 245.
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A scientific invention consists of six (or some number) ideas, five of which are absurd but which, with the addition of the sixth and enough rearrangement of the combinations, results in something no one has thought of before.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 66.
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A scientist is in a sense a learned small boy. There is something of the scientist in every small boy. Others must outgrow it. Scientists can stay that way all their lives.
Nobel banquet speech (10 Dec 1967). In Ragnar Granit (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1967 (1968).
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A short, broad man of tremendous vitality, the physical type of Hereward, the last of the English, and his brother-in-arms, Winter, Sylvester’s capacious head was ever lost in the highest cloud-lands of pure mathematics. Often in the dead of night he would get his favorite pupil, that he might communicate the very last product of his creative thought. Everything he saw suggested to him something new in the higher algebra. This transmutation of everything into new mathematics was a revelation to those who knew him intimately. They began to do it themselves. His ease and fertility of invention proved a constant encouragement, while his contempt for provincial stupidities, such as the American hieroglyphics for π and e, which have even found their way into Webster’s Dictionary, made each young worker apply to himself the strictest tests.
In Florian Cajori, Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 265.
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A single tree by itself is dependent upon all the adverse chances of shifting circumstances. The wind stunts it: the variations in temperature check its foliage: the rains denude its soil: its leaves are blown away and are lost for the purpose of fertilisation. You may obtain individual specimens of line trees either in exceptional circumstances, or where human cultivation had intervened. But in nature the normal way in which trees flourish is by their association in a forest. Each tree may lose something of its individual perfection of growth, but they mutually assist each other in preserving the conditions of survival. The soil is preserved and shaded; and the microbes necessary for its fertility are neither scorched, nor frozen, nor washed away. A forest is the triumph of the organisation of mutually dependent species.
In Science and the Modern World (1926), 296-7.
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A smattering of everything is worth little. It is a fallacy to suppose that an encyclopaedic knowledge is desirable. The mind is made strong, not through much learning, but by the thorough possession of something.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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A thing is either alive or it isn’t; there is nothing that is almost alive. There is but the remotest possibility of the origin of life by spontaneous generation, and every likelihood that Arrhenius is right when he dares to claim that life is a cosmic phenomenon, something that drifts between the spheres, like light, and like light transiently descends upon those fit to receive it.
In An Almanac for Moderns (1935), 393.
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A wealthy doctor who can help a poor man, and will not without a fee, has less sense of humanity than a poor ruffian who kills a rich man to supply his necessities. It is something monstrous to consider a man of a liberal education tearing out the bowels of a poor family by taking for a visit what would keep them a week.
In The Tatler: Or, Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq (8 Oct 1709), collected in Harrison’s British Classicks (1785), Vol. 3, No. 78, 220. Isaac Bickerstaff was the nom de plume used by Richard Steele, who published it—with uncredited contributions from Joseph Addison under the same invented name. The original has no authorship indicated for the item, but (somehow?) later publications attribute it to Addison. For example, in Samuel Austin Allibone (ed.), Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1876), 535.
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A weird happening has occurred in the case of a lansquenet named Daniel Burghammer, of the squadron of Captain Burkhard Laymann Zu Liebenau, of the honorable Madrucci Regiment in Piadena, in Italy. When the same was on the point of going to bed one night he complained to his wife, to whom he had been married by the Church seven years ago, that he had great pains in his belly and felt something stirring therein. An hour thereafter he gave birth to a child, a girl. When his wife was made aware of this, she notified the occurrence at once. Thereupon he was examined and questioned. … He confessed on the spot that he was half man and half woman and that for more than seven years he had served as a soldier in Hungary and the Netherlands… . When he was born he was christened as a boy and given in baptism the name of Daniel… . He also stated that while in the Netherlands he only slept once with a Spaniard, and he became pregnant therefrom. This, however, he kept a secret unto himself and also from his wife, with whom he had for seven years lived in wedlock, but he had never been able to get her with child… . The aforesaid soldier is able to suckle the child with his right breast only and not at all on the left side, where he is a man. He has also the natural organs of a man for passing water. Both are well, the child is beautiful, and many towns have already wished to adopt it, which, however, has not as yet been arranged. All this has been set down and described by notaries. It is considered in Italy to be a great miracle, and is to be recorded in the chronicles. The couple, however, are to be divorced by the clergy.
Anonymous
'From Piadena in Italy, the 26th day of May 1601'. As quoted in George Tennyson Matthews (ed.) The Fugger Newsletter (1970), 247-248. A handwritten collection of news reports (1568-1604) by the powerful banking and merchant house of Fugger in Ausburg. This was footnoted in The Story of the Secret Service (1937), 698. https://books.google.com/books?id=YfssAAAAMAAJ Richard Wilmer Rowan - 1937
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A work of genius is something like the pie in the nursery song, in which the four and twenty blackbirds are baked. When the pie is opened, the birds begin to sing. Hereupon three fourths of the company run away in a fright; and then after a time, feeling ashamed, they would fain excuse themselves by declaring, the pie stank so, they could not sit near it. Those who stay behind, the men of taste and epicures, say one to another, We came here to eat. What business have birds, after they have been baked, to be alive and singing? This will never do. We must put a stop to so dangerous an innovation: for who will send a pie to an oven, if the birds come to life there? We must stand up to defend the rights of all the ovens in England. Let us have dead birds..dead birds for our money. So each sticks his fork into a bird, and hacks and mangles it a while, and then holds it up and cries, Who will dare assert that there is any music in this bird’s song?
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 86. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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Abel has left mathematicians something to keep them busy for five hundred years.
As quoted by Eric Temple Bell in The Queen of the Sciences (1931, 1938), 10.
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About 85 per cent of my “thinking” time was spent getting into a position to think, to make a decision, to learn something I needed to know. Much more time went into finding or obtaining information than into digesting it. Hours went into the plotting of graphs... When the graphs were finished, the relations were obvious at once, but the plotting had to be done in order to make them so.
From article 'Man-Computer Symbiosis', in IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics (Mar 1960), Vol. HFE-1, 4-11.
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About eight days ago I discovered that sulfur in burning, far from losing weight, on the contrary, gains it; it is the same with phosphorus; this increase of weight arises from a prodigious quantity of air that is fixed during combustion and combines with the vapors. This discovery, which I have established by experiments, that I regard as decisive, has led me to think that what is observed in the combustion of sulfur and phosphorus may well take place in the case of all substances that gain in weight by combustion and calcination; and I am persuaded that the increase in weight of metallic calxes is due to the same cause... This discovery seems to me one of the most interesting that has been made since Stahl and since it is difficult not to disclose something inadvertently in conversation with friends that could lead to the truth I have thought it necessary to make the present deposit to the Secretary of the Academy to await the time I make my experiments public.
Sealed note deposited with the Secretary of the French Academy 1 Nov 1772. Oeuvres de Lavoisier, Correspondance, Fasc. II. 1770-75 (1957), 389-90. Adapted from translation by A. N. Meldrum, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Science (1930), 3.
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According to Herr Cook's observation, the inhabitants of New Guinea have something they set light to which burns up almost like gunpowder. They also put it into hollow staves, and from a distance you could believe they are shooting. But it does not produce so much as a bang. Presumably they are trying to imitate the Europeans. They have failed to realize its real purpose.
Aphorism 27 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 48.
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Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination, a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. But nearly all the grandest discoveries of science have been but the rewards of accurate measurement and patient long-continued labour in the minute sifting of numerical results.
Presidential inaugural address, to the General Meeting of the British Association, Edinburgh (2 Aug 1871). In Report of the Forty-First Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1872), xci.
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After a tremendous task has been begun in our time, first by Copernicus and then by many very learned mathematicians, and when the assertion that the earth moves can no longer be considered something new, would it not be much better to pull the wagon to its goal by our joint efforts, now that we have got it underway, and gradually, with powerful voices, to shout down the common herd, which really does not weigh arguments very carefully?
Letter to Galileo (13 Oct 1597). In James Bruce Ross (ed.) and Mary Martin (ed., trans.), 'Comrades in the Pursuit of Truth', The Portable Renaissance Reader (1953, 1981), 599. As quoted and cited in Merry E. Wiesner, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (2013), 377.
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Agriculture is something like farming; only farming is doing it.
Anonymous
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All children are curious and I wonder by what process this trait becomes developed in some and suppressed in others. I suspect again that schools and colleges help in the suppression insofar as they meet curiosity by giving the answers, rather than by some method that leads from narrower questions to broader questions. It is hard to satisfy the curiosity of a child, and even harder to satisfy the curiosity of a scientist, and methods that meet curiosity with satisfaction are thus not apt to foster the development of the child into the scientist. I don't advocate turning all children into professional scientists, although I think there would be advantages if all adults retained something of the questioning attitude, if their curiosity were less easily satisfied by dogma, of whatever variety.
The Nature of Natural History (1950, 1990), 256-257.
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Although man is not armed by nature nor is naturally swiftest in flight, yet he has something better by far—reason. For by the possession of this function he exceeds the beasts to such a degree that he subdues. … You see, therefore, how much the gift of reason surpasses mere physical equipment.
As given in Toby E. Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West (2003), 102, citing Tina Stiefel, Science, Reason, and Faith in the Twelfth Century (1976), 3.
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Alvarez seemed to care less about the way the picture in the puzzle would look, when everything fit together, than about the fun of looking for pieces that fit. He loved nothing more than doing something that everybody else thought impossible. His designs were clever, and usually exploited some little-known principle that everyone else had forgotten.
As quoted in Walter Sullivan, 'Luis W. Alvarez, Nobel Physicist Who Explored Atom, Dies at 77: Obituary', New York Times (2 Sep 1988).
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Among the memoirs of Kirchhoff are some of uncommon beauty. … Can anything be beautiful, where the author has no time for the slightest external embellishment?—But—; it is this very simplicity, the indispensableness of each word, each letter, each little dash, that among all artists raises the mathematician nearest to the World-creator; it establishes a sublimity which is equalled in no other art, something like it exists at most in symphonic music. The Pythagoreans recognized already the similarity between the most subjective and the most objective of the arts.
In Ceremonial Speech (15 Nov 1887) celebrating the 301st anniversary of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. Published as Gustav Robert Kirchhoff: Festrede zur Feier des 301. Gründungstages der Karl-Franzens-Universität zu Graz (1888), 28-29, as translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 186. From the original German, “Gerade unter den zuletzt erwähnten Abhandlungen Kirchhoff’s sind einige von ungewöhnlicher Schönheit. … kann etwas schön sein, wo dem Autor auch zur kleinsten äusseren Ausschmückung die Zeit fehlt?–Doch–; gerade durch diese Einfachheit, durch diese Unentbehrlichkeit jedes Wortes, jedes Buchstaben, jedes Strichelchens kömmt der Mathematiker unter allen Künstlern dem Weltenschöpfer am nächsten; sie begründet eine Erhabenheit, die in keiner Kunst ein Gleiches,–Aehnliches höchstens in der symphonischen Musik hat. Erkannten doch schon die Pythagoräer die Aehnlichkeit der subjectivsten und der objectivsten der Künste.”
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An experiment differs from an observation in this, that knowledge gained through observation seems to appear of itself, while that which an experiment brings us is the fruit of an effort that we make, with the object of knowing whether something exists or does not exist.
Traité sur l'expérience en médecine (1774), Vol. 1, 45. In Claude Bernard, Henry C. Greene, L. J. Henderson, An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1957), 6.
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An invention that is quickly accepted will turn out to be a rather trivial alteration of something that has already existed.
Speaking at a shareholders’ meeting (1975). As quoted by Victor K. McElheny, in Insisting On The Impossible: The Life Of Edwin Land (1999), 403.
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An inventor is an opportunist, one who takes occasion by the hand; who, having seen where some want exists, successfully applies the right means to attain the desired end. The means may be largely, or even wholly, something already known, or there may be a certain originality or discovery in the means employed. But in every case the inventor uses the work of others. If I may use a metaphor, I should liken him to the man who essays the conquest of some virgin alp. At the outset he uses the beaten track, and, as he progresses in the ascent, he uses the steps made by those who have preceded him, whenever they lead in the right direction; and it is only after the last footprints have died out that he takes ice-axe in hand and cuts the remaining steps, few or many, that lift him to the crowning height which is his goal.
In Kenneth Raydon Swan, Sir Joseph Swan (1946), 44.
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Analogy is a wonderful, useful and most important form of thinking, and biology is saturated with it. Nothing is worse than a horrible mass of undigested facts, and facts are indigestible unless there is some rhyme or reason to them. The physicist, with his facts, seeks reason; the biologist seeks something very much like rhyme, and rhyme is a kind of analogy.... This analogizing, this fine sweeping ability to see likenesses in the midst of differences is the great glory of biology, but biologists don't know it.... They have always been so fascinated and overawed by the superior prestige of exact physical science that they feel they have to imitate it.... In its central content, biology is not accurate thinking, but accurate observation and imaginative thinking, with great sweeping generalizations.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 98-100.
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And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I,show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness”' as by a boundary; not by something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self-creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle itself is a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself-do you want a name for this world? A solution for all its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?—This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!
The Will to Power (Notes written 1883-1888), book 4, no. 1067. Trans. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale and ed. W. Kaufmann (1968), 549-50.
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And, notwithstanding a few exceptions, we do undoubtedly find that the most truly eminent men have had not only their affections, but also their intellect, greatly influenced by women. I will go even farther; and I will venture to say that those who have not undergone that influence betray a something incomplete and mutilated. We detect, even in their genius, a certain frigidity of tone; and we look in vain for that burning fire, that gushing and spontaneous nature with which our ideas of genius are indissolubly associated. Therefore, it is, that those who are most anxious that the boundaries of knowledge should be enlarged, ought to be most eager that the influence of women should be increased, in order that every resource of the human mind may be at once and quickly brought into play.
Lecture (19 Mar 1858) at the Royal Institution, 'The Influence Of Women On The Progress Of Knowledge', collected in The Miscellaneous and Posthumous Works of Henry Thomas Buckle (1872), Vol. 1, 17. Published in Frazier’s Magazine (Apr 1858).
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Andrade [who was looking after wartime inventions] is like an inverted Micawber, waiting for something to turn down.
As quoted by C.P. Snow in his Lectures at Harvard University (1960), in which he spoke extensively about Henry Tizard. Collected in print as Science and Government (1960), 6. Snow gave this quote to exemplify what he called Tizard's “lively satirical tongue,” but Tizard probably did not originate the epigram. The article 'A Spectator's Notebook' The Spectator (21 Dec 1944), 4, states it was coined by Philip Guedalla, “unless, indeed, which is unlikely, it goes back farther still.” As early as during the first World War, Guedalla “applied it to the Inventions Board under Lord Fisher, sitting in an office in Cockspur Street, and ‘waiting like a kind of inverted Mr. Micawber, for something to turn down.’” Webmaster assumes Tizard's quote refers to Edward Neville da Costa Andrade, also a wartime science consultant.
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Any time you wish to demonstrate something, the number of faults is proportional to the number of viewers.
Anonymous
Bye's First Law of Model Railroading. In Paul Dickson, The Official Rules, (1978), 23.
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Anyone of common mental and physical health can practice scientific research. … Anyone can try by patient experiment what happens if this or that substance be mixed in this or that proportion with some other under this or that condition. Anyone can vary the experiment in any number of ways. He that hits in this fashion on something novel and of use will have fame. … The fame will be the product of luck and industry. It will not be the product of special talent.
In Essays of a Catholic Layman in England (1931).
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As experimentalists, we always can find something to do, even if we have to work with string and sealing wax.
As quoted in T.W. Hänsch, 'From (Incr)edible Lasers to New Spectroscopy', collected in William M. Yen and Marc D. Levenson (eds.), Lasers, Spectroscopy and New Ideas: A Tribute to Arthur L. Schawlow (2013), 6.
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Ask a scientist what he conceives the scientific method to be, and he will adopt an expression that is at once solemn and shifty eyed: solemn because he feels he ought to declare an opinion; shifty eyed because he is wondering how to conceal the fact that he has no opinion to declare. If taunted he would probably mumble something about “Induction” and “Establishing the Laws of Nature”, but if anyone working in a laboratory professed to be trying to establish the Laws of Nature by induction, we should think he was overdue for leave.
From a Jayne Lecture (1968), 'Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought', printed in Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society (1969), Vol. 75. Lecture republished as Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought (2009), 11. Also included in Peter Medawar, Pluto’s Republic (1984), 80.
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Astronomy is one of the sublimest fields of human investigation. The mind that grasps its facts and principles receives something of the enlargement and grandeur belonging to the science itself. It is a quickener of devotion.
In Thoughts Selected From the Writings of Horace Mann (1872), 41.
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At first he who invented any art that went beyond the common perceptions of man was naturally admired by men, not only because there was something useful in the inventions, but because he was thought wise and superior to the rest. But as more arts were invented, and some were directed to the necessities of life, others to its recreation, the inventors of the latter were always regarded as wiser than the inventors of the former, because their branches of knowledge did not aim at utility.
Aristotle
Metaphysics, 981b, 13-20. In Jonathan Barnes (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 2, 1553.
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At Gabriel College there was a very holy object on the high altar of the Oratory, covered with a black velvet cloth... At the height of the invocation the Intercessor lifted the cloth to reveal in the dimness a glass dome inside which there was something too distant to see, until he pulled a string attached to a shutter above, letting a ray of sunlight through to strike the dome exactly. Then it became clear: a little thing like a weathervane, with four sails black on one side and white on the other, began to whirl around as the light struck it. It illustrated a moral lesson, the Intercessor explained, for the black of ignorance fled from the light, whereas the wisdom of white rushed to embrace it.
[Alluding to Crookes's radiometer.]
Northern Lights (2001), 149.
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At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important.
As quoted on the website mcescher.com, without citation.
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At the beginning of this debate Stephen [Hawking] said that he thinks that he is a positivist, whereas I am a Platonist. I am happy with him being a positivist, but I think that the crucial point here is, rather, that I am a realist. Also, if one compares this debate with the famous debate of Bohr and Einstein, some seventy years ago, I should think that Stephen plays the role of Bohr, whereas I play Einstein's role! For Einstein argued that there should exist something like a real world, not necessarily represented by a wave function, whereas Bohr stressed that the wave function doesn't describe a 'real' microworld but only 'knowledge' that is useful for making predictions.
Debate at the Isaac Newton Institute of the Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University (1994), transcribed in Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time (1996), 134-135.
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Authority—the fact, namely, that something has already happened or been said or decided, is of great value; but it is only a pedant who demands authority for everything.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 188.
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Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.
From 'Mending Wall', in North of Boston (1914). Collected in Robert Frost and Thomas Fasano (ed.), Selected Early Poems of Robert Frost (2008), 52. Note: This passage may be the source which John F. Kennedy had in mind when he wrote in his personal notebook, "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up." (see John F. Kennedy quotes on this site). The words in that terse paraphrase are those of Kennedy, and are neither those of Frost, or, as often attributed, G.K. Chesterton (q.v).
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Behold the mighty dinosaur,
Famous in prehistoric lore,
Not only for his power and strength
But for his intellectual length.
You will observe by these remains
The creature had two sets of brains—
One in his head (the usual place),
The other at his spinal base.
Thus he could reason 'A priori'
As well as 'A posteriori'.
No problem bothered him a bit
He made both head and tail of it.
So wise was he, so wise and solemn,
Each thought filled just a spinal column.
If one brain found the pressure strong
It passed a few ideas along.
If something slipped his forward mind
'Twas rescued by the one behind.
And if in error he was caught
He had a saving afterthought.
As he thought twice before he spoke
He had no judgment to revoke.
Thus he could think without congestion
Upon both sides of every question.
Oh, gaze upon this model beast
Defunct ten million years at least.
'The Dinosaur: A Poem' (1912). In E. H. Colbert (ed.), The Dinosaur Book (1951), 78.
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Biological diversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it. Life in a local site struck down by a passing storm springs back quickly: opportunistic species rush in to fill the spaces. They entrain the succession that circles back to something resembling the original state of the environment.
In 'Storm Over the Amazon', The Diversity of Life (1992), 15.
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Biologically speaking, if something bites you, it is more likely to be female.
As quoted, without source, in Des MacHale, Wit (2003), 236.
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BRAIN, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think. That which distinguishes the man who is content to be something from the man who wishes to do something. A man of great wealth, or one who has been pitchforked into high station, has commonly such a headful of brain that his neighbors cannot keep their hats on. In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, brain is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  41.
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But how is one to make a scientist understand that there is something unalterably deranged about differential calculus, quantum theory, or the obscene and so inanely liturgical ordeals of the precession of the equinoxes.
…...
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But in the present century, thanks in good part to the influence of Hilbert, we have come to see that the unproved postulates with which we start are purely arbitrary. They must be consistent, they had better lead to something interesting.
In A History of Geometrical Methods (1940, reprint 2003), 423.
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But it is precisely mathematics, and the pure science generally, from which the general educated public and independent students have been debarred, and into which they have only rarely attained more than a very meagre insight. The reason of this is twofold. In the first place, the ascendant and consecutive character of mathematical knowledge renders its results absolutely insusceptible of presentation to persons who are unacquainted with what has gone before, and so necessitates on the part of its devotees a thorough and patient exploration of the field from the very beginning, as distinguished from those sciences which may, so to speak, be begun at the end, and which are consequently cultivated with the greatest zeal. The second reason is that, partly through the exigencies of academic instruction, but mainly through the martinet traditions of antiquity and the influence of mediaeval logic-mongers, the great bulk of the elementary text-books of mathematics have unconsciously assumed a very repellant form,—something similar to what is termed in the theory of protective mimicry in biology “the terrifying form.” And it is mainly to this formidableness and touch-me-not character of exterior, concealing withal a harmless body, that the undue neglect of typical mathematical studies is to be attributed.
In Editor’s Preface to Augustus De Morgan and Thomas J. McCormack (ed.), Elementary Illustrations of the Differential and Integral Calculus (1899), v.
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But we shall not satisfy ourselves simply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill. We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forev
http://web.archive.org/web/20070109161311/http://www.knowprose.com/node/12961
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But why, it has been asked, did you go there [the Antarctic]? Of what use to civilization can this lifeless continent be? ... [Earlier] expeditions contributed something to the accumulating knowledge of the Antarctic ... that helps us thrust back further the physical and spiritual shadows enfolding our terrestrial existence. Is it not true that one of the strongest and most continuously sustained impulses working in civilization is that which leads to discovery? As long as any part of the world remains obscure, the curiosity of man must draw him there, as the lodestone draws the mariner's needle, until he comprehends its secret.
In 'Hoover Presents Special Medal to Byrd...', New York Times (21 Jun 1930), 1.
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But, you might say, “none of this shakes my belief that 2 and 2 are 4.” You are quite right, except in marginal cases—and it is only in marginal cases that you are doubtful whether a certain animal is a dog or a certain length is less than a meter. Two must be two of something, and the proposition “2 and 2 are 4” is useless unless it can be applied. Two dogs and two dogs are certainly four dogs, but cases arise in which you are doubtful whether two of them are dogs. “Well, at any rate there are four animals,” you may say. But there are microorganisms concerning which it is doubtful whether they are animals or plants. “Well, then living organisms,” you say. But there are things of which it is doubtful whether they are living organisms or not. You will be driven into saying: “Two entities and two entities are four entities.” When you have told me what you mean by “entity,” we will resume the argument.
In Basic Writings, 1903-1959 (1961), 108.
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By profession a biologist, [Thomas Henry Huxley] covered in fact the whole field of the exact sciences, and then bulged through its four fences. Absolutely nothing was uninteresting to him. His curiosity ranged from music to theology and from philosophy to history. He didn't simply know something about everything; he knew a great deal about everything.
'Thomas Henry Huxley.' In the Baltimore Evening Sun (4 May 1925). Reprinted in A Second Mencken Chrestomathy: A New Selection from the Writings of America's Legendary Editor, Critic, and Wit (2006), 157.
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By research in pure science I mean research made without any idea of application to industrial matters but solely with the view of extending our knowledge of the Laws of Nature. I will give just one example of the ‘utility’ of this kind of research, one that has been brought into great prominence by the War—I mean the use of X-rays in surgery. Now, not to speak of what is beyond money value, the saving of pain, or, it may be, the life of the wounded, and of bitter grief to those who loved them, the benefit which the state has derived from the restoration of so many to life and limb, able to render services which would otherwise have been lost, is almost incalculable. Now, how was this method discovered? It was not the result of a research in applied science starting to find an improved method of locating bullet wounds. This might have led to improved probes, but we cannot imagine it leading to the discovery of X-rays. No, this method is due to an investigation in pure science, made with the object of discovering what is the nature of Electricity. The experiments which led to this discovery seemed to be as remote from ‘humanistic interest’ —to use a much misappropriated word—as anything that could well be imagined. The apparatus consisted of glass vessels from which the last drops of air had been sucked, and which emitted a weird greenish light when stimulated by formidable looking instruments called induction coils. Near by, perhaps, were great coils of wire and iron built up into electro-magnets. I know well the impression it made on the average spectator, for I have been occupied in experiments of this kind nearly all my life, notwithstanding the advice, given in perfect good faith, by non-scientific visitors to the laboratory, to put that aside and spend my time on something useful.
In Speech made on behalf of a delegation from the Conjoint Board of Scientific Studies in 1916 to Lord Crewe, then Lord President of the Council. In George Paget Thomson, J. J. Thomson and the Cavendish Laboratory in His Day (1965), 167-8.
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Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
As co-author with Richard Durham, in The Greatest: My Own Story (1975), 365.
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Chance ... must be something more than the name we give to our ignorance.
In Science and Method (1908) translated by Francis Maitland (1914, 2007), 66.
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Classification is now a pejorative statement. You know, these classifiers look like “dumb fools.” I’m a classifier. But I’d like to use a word that includes more than what people consider is encompassed by classification. It is more than that, and it’s something which can be called phenomenology.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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Clean water is a great example of something that depends on energy. And if you solve the water problem, you solve the food problem.
In Lecture (2003) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories in Golden, Colorado, as quoted in obituary, Barnaby J. Feder, 'Richard E. Smalley, 62, Dies; Chemistry Nobel Winner:', New York Times (29 Oct 2005), Late Edition (East Coast), C16.
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Connected by innumerable ties with abstract science, Physiology is yet in the most intimate relation with humanity; and by teaching us that law and order, and a definite scheme of development, regulate even the strangest and wildest manifestations of individual life, she prepares the student to look for a goal even amidst the erratic wanderings of mankind, and to believe that history offers something more than an entertaining chaos—a journal of a toilsome, tragi-comic march nowither.
In 'Educational Value of Natural History Sciences', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 97.
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Consciousness is not sharply defined, but fades into sub-consciousness; and beyond that we must postulate something indefinite but yet continuous with our mental nature. This I take it be the world-stuff.
From Gifford Lecture, Edinburgh, (1927), 'Reality', collected in The Nature of the Physical World (1928), 280.
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Disease is not something personal and special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws as apply to the living body at all times, from the first moment until death.
In Ian F. McNeely, Medicine on a Grand Scale: Rudolf Virchow, Liberalism, and the Public Health (2002), 26.
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Do not expect to be hailed as a hero when you make your great discovery. More likely you will be a ratbag—maybe failed by your examiners. Your statistics, or your observations, or your literature study, or your something else will be patently deficient. Do not doubt that in our enlightened age the really important advances are and will be rejected more often than acclaimed. Nor should we doubt that in our own professional lifetime we too will repudiate with like pontifical finality the most significant insight ever to reach our desk.
Theories of the Earth and Universe (1988), 365.
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Does it mean, if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it? Is that how you want to play this game? Because if it is, here’s a list of the things in the past that the physicists—at the time—didn’t understand … [but now we do understand.] If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance, that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller, as time moves on. So just be ready for that to happen, if that’s how you want to come at the problem. That’s simply the “God of the Gaps” argument that’s been around for ever.
From interview, The Science Studio video series of The Science Network website, episode 'The Moon, the Tides and why Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Colbert’s God' (20 Jan 2011), time 26:58-27:55.
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Each and every loss becomes an instance of ultimate tragedy–something that once was, but shall never be known to us. The hump of the giant deer–as a nonfossilizable item of soft anatomy–should have fallen into the maw of erased history. But our ancestors provided a wondrous rescue, and we should rejoice mightily. Every new item can instruct us; every unexpected object possesses beauty for its own sake; every rescue from history’s great shredding machine is–and I don’t know how else to say this–a holy act of salvation for a bit of totality.
…...
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Education, like everything else, goes in fads, and has the normal human tendency to put up with something bad for just so long, and then rush to the other extreme.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 43.
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Educators may bring upon themselves unnecessary travail by taking a tactless and unjustifiable position about the relation between scientific and religious narratives. … The point is that profound but contradictory ideas may exist side by side, if they are constructed from different materials and methods and have different purposes. Each tells us something important about where we stand in the universe, and it is foolish to insist that they must despise each other.
In The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (1995), 107.
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Edward [Teller] isn’t the cloistered kind of scientist. He gets his ideas in conversation and develops them by trying them out on people. We were coming back from Europe on the Ile de France and I was standing in the ship’s nightclub when he came up and said, 'Freddie, I think I have an idea.’ It was something he’d just thought of about magnetohydrodynamics. I was a bachelor then and I’d located several good-looking girls on the ship, but I knew what I had to do, so I disappeared and started working on the calculations. I’d get something finished and start prowling on the deck again when Edward would turn up out of the night and we’d walk the deck together while he talked and I was the brick wall he was bouncing these things off of. By the end of the trip we had a paper. He’d had the ideas, and I’d done some solving of equations. But he insisted that we sign in alphabetical order, which put my name first.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 61-62.
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Einstein’s 1905 paper came out and suddenly changed people’s thinking about space-time. We’re again [2007] in the middle of something like that. When the dust settles, time—whatever it may be—could turn out to be even stranger and more illusory than even Einstein could imagine.
Quoted by Tim Folger in 'Newsflash: Time May Not Exist', Discover Magazine (Jun 2007).
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ELECTRICITY, n. The power that causes all natural phenomena not known to be caused by something else. It is the same thing as lightning, and its famous attempt to strike Dr. Franklin is one of the most picturesque incidents in that great and good man's career. The memory of Dr. Franklin is justly held in great reverence, particularly in France, where a waxen effigy of him was recently on exhibition, bearing the following touching account of his life and services to science:
Monsieur Franqulin, inventor of electricity. This illustrious savant, after having made several voyages around the world, died on the Sandwich Islands and was devoured by savages, of whom not a single fragment was ever recovered.
Electricity seems destined to play a most important part in the arts and industries. The question of its economical application to some purposes is still unsettled, but experiment has already proved that it will propel a street car better than a gas jet and give more light than a horse.
The Cynic's Word Book (1906), 87. Also published later as The Devil's Dictionary.
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Engineering is quite different from science. Scientists try to understand nature. Engineers try to make things that do not exist in nature. Engineers stress invention. To embody an invention the engineer must put his idea in concrete terms, and design something that people can use. That something can be a device, a gadget, a material, a method, a computing program, an innovative experiment, a new solution to a problem, or an improvement on what is existing. Since a design has to be concrete, it must have its geometry, dimensions, and characteristic numbers. Almost all engineers working on new designs find that they do not have all the needed information. Most often, they are limited by insufficient scientific knowledge. Thus they study mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and mechanics. Often they have to add to the sciences relevant to their profession. Thus engineering sciences are born.
Y.C. Fung and P. Tong, Classical and Computational Solid Mechanics (2001), 1.
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Environmentalists may get off on climate porn, but most people just turn away. 'If it was really so bad, they'd do something,' says one colleague, without specifying who 'they' are. The human tendency to convince yourself that everything is OK, because no one else is worried, is deeply ingrained.
'Wake up and smell the smoke of disaster', The Times (8 Nov 2007).
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Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity.
Quoted in Carl Seelig (ed.), Helle Zeit, Dunkle Zeit: In Memoriam Albert Einstein (1956), 71.
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Even fairly good students, when they have obtained the solution of the problem and written down neatly the argument, shut their books and look for something else. Doing so, they miss an important and instructive phase of the work. ... A good teacher should understand and impress on his students the view that no problem whatever is completely exhausted.
In How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method (2004), 14.
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Every common mechanic has something to say in his craft about good and evil, useful and useless, but these practical considerations never enter into the purview of the mathematician.
Quoted in Robert Drew Hicks, Stoic and Epicurean (1910), 210.
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Every failure teaches a man something, to wit, that he will probably fail again next time.
In A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 617.
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Every man has his little weakness. It often takes the form of a desire to get something for nothing.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Apr 1905), 20, No. 5, 160.
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Every man has some forte something he can do better than he can do anything else. Many men, however, never find the job they are best fitted for. And often this is because they do not think enough. Too many men drift lazily into any job, suited or unsuited for them; and when they don’t get along well they blame everybody and everything except themselves.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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Every one is fond of comparing himself to something great and grandiose, as Louis XIV likened himself to the sun, and others have had like similes. I am more humble. I am a mere street scavenger (chiffonier) of science. With my hook in my hand and my basket on my back, I go about the streets of science, collecting what I find.
Quoted in Michael Foster, Claude Bernard (1899), 40.
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Every so often, you have to unlearn what you thought you already knew, and replace it by something more subtle.
In Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld (2014), 44.
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Every time we get slapped down, we can say, “Thank you Mother Nature,” because it means we’re about to learn something important.
Quoted at end of article of Michael D. Lemonick and J. Madeleine Nash, 'Unraveling Universe', Time (6 Mar 1995), 145, 84.
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Everything that comes into being seeks room for itself and desires duration: hence it drives something else from its place and shortens its duration.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 199.
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Everything which comes to be, comes to be out of, and everything which passes away passes away into, its opposite or something in between. And the things in between come out of the opposites—thus colors come out of pale and dark. So the things which come to be naturally all are or are out of opposites.
Aristotle
In 'Physics', Book 1, Chapter 2, 188b22, as translated by William Charlton, Physics: Books I and II (1983), 12.
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Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings—much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.
In Adam Bede (1859, 1860), 151.
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Experiment is the sole source of truth. It alone can teach us something new; it alone can give us certainty.
Science and Hypothesis (1902), trans. W. J. G. and preface by J. Larmor (1905), 140.
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Fear of something is at the root of hate for others and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. Keep your thoughts free from hate, and you will have no fear from those who hate you. ...
David, though small, was filled with truth, right thinking and good will for others. Goliath represents one who let fear into his heart, and it stayed there long enough to grow into hate for others.
In Alvin D. Smith, George Washington Carver: Man of God (1954), 43. Cited in Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver, Scientist and Symbol (1982), 107. Smith's book is about his recollections of G.W. Carver's Sunday School classes at Tuskegee, some 40 years earlier. Webmaster, who has not yet been able to see the original book, cautions this quote may be the gist of Carver's words, rather than a verbatim quote.
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Finally, since I thought that we could have all the same thoughts, while asleep, as we have while we are awake, although none of them is true at that time, I decided to pretend that nothing that ever entered my mind was any more true than the illusions of my dreams. But I noticed, immediately afterwards, that while I thus wished to think that everything was false, it was necessarily the case that I, who was thinking this, was something. When I noticed that this truth “I think, therefore I am” was so firm and certain that all the most extravagant assumptions of the sceptics were unable to shake it, I judged that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy for which I was searching. Then, when I was examining what I was, I realized that I could pretend that I had no body, and that there was no world nor any place in which I was present, but I could not pretend in the same way that I did not exist. On the contrary, from the very fact that I was thinking of doubting the truth of other things, it followed very evidently and very certainly that I existed; whereas if I merely ceased to think, even if all the rest of what I had ever imagined were true, I would have no reason to believe that I existed. I knew from this that I was a substance, the whole essence or nature of which was to think and which, in order to exist, has no need of any place and does not depend on anything material. Thus this self—that is, the soul by which I am what I am—is completely distinct from the body and is even easier to know than it, and even if the body did not exist the soul would still be everything that it is.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 4, 24-5.
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Firefly meteorites blazed against a dark background, and sometimes the lightning was frighteningly brilliant. Like a boy, I gazed open-mouthed at the fireworks, and suddenly, before my eyes, something magical occurred. A greenish radiance poured from Earth directly up to the station, a radiance resembling gigantic phosphorescent organ pipes, whose ends were glowing crimson, and overlapped by waves of swirling green mist.
“Consider yourself very lucky, Vladimir,” I said to myself, “to have watched the northern lights.”
…...
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For the birth of something new, there has to be a happening. Newton saw an apple fall; James Watt watched a kettle boil; Roentgen fogged some photographic plates. And these people knew enough to translate ordinary happenings into something new...
Quoted by André Maurois, The Life of Sir Alexander Fleming, trans. by Gerard Hopkins (1959), 167. Cited in Steven Otfinoski, Alexander Fleming: Conquering Disease with Penicillin (1993), 1.
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For the evolution of science by societies the main requisite is the perfect freedom of communication between each member and anyone of the others who may act as a reagent.
The gaseous condition is exemplified in the soiree, where the members rush about confusedly, and the only communication is during a collision, which in some instances may be prolonged by button-holing.
The opposite condition, the crystalline, is shown in the lecture, where the members sit in rows, while science flows in an uninterrupted stream from a source which we take as the origin. This is radiation of science. Conduction takes place along the series of members seated round a dinner table, and fixed there for several hours, with flowers in the middle to prevent any cross currents.
The condition most favourable to life is an intermediate plastic or colloidal condition, where the order of business is (1) Greetings and confused talk; (2) A short communication from one who has something to say and to show; (3) Remarks on the communication addressed to the Chair, introducing matters irrelevant to the communication but interesting to the members; (4) This lets each member see who is interested in his special hobby, and who is likely to help him; and leads to (5) Confused conversation and examination of objects on the table.
I have not indicated how this programme is to be combined with eating.
Letter to William Grylls Adams (3 Dec 1873). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 949-50.
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For twenty pages perhaps, he read slowly, carefully, dutifully, with pauses for self-examination and working out examples. Then, just as it was working up and the pauses should have been more scrupulous than ever, a kind of swoon and ecstasy would fall on him, and he read ravening on, sitting up till dawn to finish the book, as though it were a novel. After that his passion was stayed; the book went back to the Library and he was done with mathematics till the next bout. Not much remained with him after these orgies, but something remained: a sensation in the mind, a worshiping acknowledgment of something isolated and unassailable, or a remembered mental joy at the rightness of thoughts coming together to a conclusion, accurate thoughts, thoughts in just intonation, coming together like unaccompanied voices coming to a close.
In Mr. Fortune’s Maggot (1927), 161.
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For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health; for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were present—namely, the diseases and wounds—go away from the body and dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance,—the flesh itself being a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils—that is, privations of the good which we call health—are accidents. Just in the same way, what are called vices in the soul are nothing but privations of natural good. And when they are cured, they are not transferred elsewhere: when they cease to exist in the healthy soul, they cannot exist anywhere else.
In Marcus Dods (ed.), J.F. Shaw (trans.), The Enchiridion of Augustine, Chap. 9, collected in The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo: A new translation (1873), Vol. 9, 181-182.
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Form your life humanly, and you have done enough: but you will never reach the height of art and the depth of science without something divine.
Idea 68. In Friedrich Schlegel, translated by Ernst Behler and Roman Struc, Dialogue on Poetry and Literary Aphorisms (trans. 1968), 155.
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Furthermore, it’s equally evident that what goes on is actually one degree better than self-reproduction, for organisms appear to have gotten more elaborate in the course of time. Today's organisms are phylogenetically descended from others which were vastly simpler than they are, so much simpler, in fact, that it’s inconceivable, how any kind of description of the latter, complex organism could have existed in the earlier one. It’s not easy to imagine in what sense a gene, which is probably a low order affair, can contain a description of the human being which will come from it. But in this case you can say that since the gene has its effect only within another human organism, it probably need not contain a complete description of what is to happen, but only a few cues for a few alternatives. However, this is not so in phylogenetic evolution. That starts from simple entities, surrounded by an unliving amorphous milieu, and produce, something more complicated. Evidently, these organisms have the ability to produce something more complicated than themselves.
From lecture series on self-replicating machines at the University of Illinois, Lecture 5 (Dec 1949), 'Re-evaluation of the Problems of Complicated Automata—Problems of Hierarchy and Evolution', Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata (1966).
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Geologists have not been slow to admit that they were in error in assuming that they had an eternity of past time for the evolution of the earth's history. They have frankly acknowledged the validity of the physical arguments which go to place more or less definite limits to the antiquity of the earth. They were, on the whole, disposed to acquiesce in the allowance of 100 millions of years granted to them by Lord Kelvin, for the transaction of the whole of the long cycles of geological history. But the physicists have been insatiable and inexorable. As remorseless as Lear's daughters, they have cut down their grant of years by successive slices, until some of them have brought the number to something less than ten millions. In vain have the geologists protested that there must somewhere be a flaw in a line of argument which tends to results so entirely at variance with the strong evidence for a higher antiquity, furnished not only by the geological record, but by the existing races of plants and animals. They have insisted that this evidence is not mere theory or imagination, but is drawn from a multitude of facts which become hopelessly unintelligible unless sufficient time is admitted for the evolution of geological history. They have not been able to disapprove the arguments of the physicists, but they have contended that the physicists have simply ignored the geological arguments as of no account in the discussion.
'Twenty-five years of Geological Progress in Britain', Nature, 1895, 51, 369.
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Geology does better in reclothing dry bones and revealing lost creations, than in tracing veins of lead and beds of iron; astronomy better in opening to us the houses of heaven than in teaching navigation; surgery better in investigating organiation than in setting limbs; only it is ordained that, for our encouragement, every step we make in science adds something to its practical applicabilities.
Modern Painters (1852), Part 3, 8-9.
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Get a scalpel, and practice just, say, cutting a piece of meat or something like that. You sort of learn how you want to hold your fingers, and that sort of thing, and try to become graceful when you operate.
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GNU, n. An animal of South Africa, which in its domesticated state resembles a horse, a buffalo and a stag. In its wild condition it is something like a thunderbolt, an earthquake and a cyclone.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  119.
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God was always invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works … you don't need him anymore. But … you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet.
Interview, collected in Paul C. W. Davies and Julian R. Brown (eds.) Superstrings: A Theory of Everything? (1988), 208-209.
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Gradually, at various points in our childhoods, we discover different forms of conviction. There’s the rock-hard certainty of personal experience (“I put my finger in the fire and it hurt,”), which is probably the earliest kind we learn. Then there’s the logically convincing, which we probably come to first through maths, in the context of Pythagoras’s theorem or something similar, and which, if we first encounter it at exactly the right moment, bursts on our minds like sunrise with the whole universe playing a great chord of C Major.
In short essay, 'Dawkins, Fairy Tales, and Evidence', 2.
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Guido was as much enchanted by the rudiments of algebra as he would have been if I had given him an engine worked by steam, with a methylated spirit lamp to heat the boiler; more enchanted, perhaps for the engine would have got broken, and, remaining always itself, would in any case have lost its charm, while the rudiments of algebra continued to grow and blossom in his mind with an unfailing luxuriance. Every day he made the discovery of something which seemed to him exquisitely beautiful; the new toy was inexhaustible in its potentialities.
In Young Archimedes: And Other Stories (1924), 299. The fictional character, Guido, is a seven year old boy. Methylated spirit is an alcohol fuel.
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Have you ever watched an eagle held captive in a zoo, fat and plump and full of food and safe from danger too?
Then have you seen another wheeling high up in the sky, thin and hard and battle-scarred, but free to soar and fly?
Well, which have you pitied the caged one or his brother? Though safe and warm from foe or storm, the captive, not the other!
There’s something of the eagle in climbers, don’t you see; a secret thing, perhaps the soul, that clamors to be free.
It’s a different sort of freedom from the kind we often mean, not free to work and eat and sleep and live in peace serene.
But freedom like a wild thing to leap and soar and strive, to struggle with the icy blast, to really be alive.
That’s why we climb the mountain’s peak from which the cloud-veils flow, to stand and watch the eagle fly, and soar, and wheel... below...
…...
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He has something demoniacal in him, who can discern a law, or couple two facts.
In 'Natural History of Massachusetts', The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (Jul 1842), 3, No. 1, 39-40. In 'Natural history of Massachusetts', The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (Jul 1842), 3, No. 1, 39-40.
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He is not a true man of science who does not bring some sympathy to his studies, and expect to learn something by behavior as well as by application. It is childish to rest in the discovery of mere coincidences, or of partial and extraneous laws.
In A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1862), 381.
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He [Robert Hooke] is but of midling stature, something crooked, pale faced, and his face but little belowe, but his head is lardge; his eie full and popping, and not quick; a grey eie. He haz a delicate head of haire, browne, and of an excellent moist curle. He is and ever was very temperate, and moderate in dyet, etc. As he is of prodigious inventive head, so is a person of great vertue and goodnes. Now when I have sayd his Inventive faculty is so great, you cannot imagine his Memory to be excellent, for they are like two Bucketts, as one goes up, the other goes downe. He is certainly the greatest Mechanick this day in the World.
Brief Lives (1680), edited by Oliver Lawson Dick (1949), 165.
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His mother’s favorite, he [Freud] possessed the self-confidence that told him he would achieve something worth while in life, and the ambition to do so, though for long the direction this would take remained uncertain.
In The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud: The Formative Years and the Great Discoveries, 1856-1900 (1957), 15.
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His [Marvin Minsky’s] basic interest seemed to be in the workings of the human mind and in making machine models of the mind. Indeed, about that time he and a friend made one of the first electronic machines that could actually teach itself to do something interesting. It monitored electronic “rats” that learned to run mazes. It was being financed by the Navy. On one notable occasion, I remember descending to the basement of Memorial Hall, while Minsky worked on it. It had an illuminated display panel that enabled one to follow the progress of the “rats.” Near the machine was a hamster in a cage. When the machine blinked, the hamster would run around its cage happily. Minsky, with his characteristic elfin grin, remarked that on a previous day the Navy contract officer had been down to see the machine. Noting the man’s interest in the hamster, Minsky had told him laconically, “The next one we build will look like a bird.”
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However, all scientific statements and laws have one characteristic in common: they are “true or false” (adequate or inadequate). Roughly speaking, our reaction to them is “yes” or “no.” The scientific way of thinking has a further characteristic. The concepts which it uses to build up its coherent systems are not expressing emotions. For the scientist, there is only “being,” but no wishing, no valuing, no good, no evil; no goal. As long as we remain within the realm of science proper, we can never meet with a sentence of the type: “Thou shalt not lie.” There is something like a Puritan's restraint in the scientist who seeks truth: he keeps away from everything voluntaristic or emotional.
Essays in Physics (1950), 68.
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Hubble's observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 8-9.
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I am afraid I shall have to give up my trade; I am far too inert to keep up with organic chemistry, it is becoming too much for me, though I may boast of having contributed something to its development. The modern system of formulae is to me quite repulsive.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (21 May 1862), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), footnote, 225.
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I am always surprised when a young man tells me he wants to work at cosmology. I think of cosmology as something that happens to one, not something one can choose.
In Presidential Address (8 Feb 1963), Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (Mar 1963), 4, 185.
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I became expert at dissecting crayfish. At one point I had a crayfish claw mounted on an apparatus in such a way that I could operate the individual nerves. I could get the several-jointed claw to reach down and pick up a pencil and wave it around. I am not sure that what I was doing had much scientific value, although I did learn which nerve fiber had to be excited to inhibit the effects of another fiber so that the claw would open. And it did get me interested in robotic instrumentation, something that I have now returned to. I am trying to build better micromanipulators for surgery and the like.
In Jeremy Bernstein, 'A.I.', The New Yorker (14 Dec 1981).
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I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.
After stating he did definitely not believe in flying saucers, ancient astronauts, Bermuda Triangle or life after death, he explained what he would believe in. From editorial, 'Don’t You Believe?', Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (18 Jan 1982), 6, No. 1, 6. Collected in The Roving Mind (1983), 43.
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I believe natural beauty has a necessary place in the spiritual development of any individual or any society. I believe that whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man’s spiritual growth.
As quoted in Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997), 259.
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I believed that, instead of the multiplicity of rules that comprise logic, I would have enough in the following four, as long as I made a firm and steadfast resolution never to fail to observe them.
The first was never to accept anything as true if I did not know clearly that it was so; that is, carefully to avoid prejudice and jumping to conclusions, and to include nothing in my judgments apart from whatever appeared so clearly and distinctly to my mind that I had no opportunity to cast doubt upon it.
The second was to subdivide each on the problems I was about to examine: into as many parts as would be possible and necessary to resolve them better.
The third was to guide my thoughts in an orderly way by beginning, as if by steps, to knowledge of the most complex, and even by assuming an order of the most complex, and even by assuming an order among objects in! cases where there is no natural order among them.
And the final rule was: in all cases, to make such comprehensive enumerations and such general review that I was certain not to omit anything.
The long chains of inferences, all of them simple and easy, that geometers normally use to construct their most difficult demonstrations had given me an opportunity to think that all the things that can fall within the scope of human knowledge follow from each other in a similar way, and as long as one avoids accepting something as true which is not so, and as long as one always observes the order required to deduce them from each other, there cannot be anything so remote that it cannot be reached nor anything so hidden that it cannot be uncovered.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 2, 16.
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I came to biochemistry through chemistry; I came to chemistry, partly by the labyrinthine routes that I have related, and partly through the youthful romantic notion that the natural sciences had something to do with nature. What I liked about chemistry was its clarity surrounded by darkness; what attracted me, slowly and hesitatingly, to biology was its darkness surrounded by the brightness of the givenness of nature, the holiness of life. And so I have always oscillated between the brightness of reality and the darkness of the unknowable. When Pascal speaks of God in hiding, Deus absconditus, we hear not only the profound existential thinker, but also the great searcher for the reality of the world. I consider this unquenchable resonance as the greatest gift that can be bestowed on a naturalist.
Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life before Nature (1978), 55.
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I can see him [Sylvester] now, with his white beard and few locks of gray hair, his forehead wrinkled o’er with thoughts, writing rapidly his figures and formulae on the board, sometimes explaining as he wrote, while we, his listeners, caught the reflected sounds from the board. But stop, something is not right, he pauses, his hand goes to his forehead to help his thought, he goes over the work again, emphasizes the leading points, and finally discovers his difficulty. Perhaps it is some error in his figures, perhaps an oversight in the reasoning. Sometimes, however, the difficulty is not elucidated, and then there is not much to the rest of the lecture. But at the next lecture we would hear of some new discovery that was the outcome of that difficulty, and of some article for the Journal, which he had begun. If a text-book had been taken up at the beginning, with the intention of following it, that text-book was most likely doomed to oblivion for the rest of the term, or until the class had been made listeners to every new thought and principle that had sprung from the laboratory of his mind, in consequence of that first difficulty. Other difficulties would soon appear, so that no text-book could last more than half of the term. In this way his class listened to almost all of the work that subsequently appeared in the Journal. It seemed to be the quality of his mind that he must adhere to one subject. He would think about it, talk about it to his class, and finally write about it for the Journal. The merest accident might start him, but once started, every moment, every thought was given to it, and, as much as possible, he read what others had done in the same direction; but this last seemed to be his real point; he could not read without finding difficulties in the way of understanding the author. Thus, often his own work reproduced what had been done by others, and he did not find it out until too late.
A notable example of this is in his theory of cyclotomic functions, which he had reproduced in several foreign journals, only to find that he had been greatly anticipated by foreign authors. It was manifest, one of the critics said, that the learned professor had not read Rummer’s elementary results in the theory of ideal primes. Yet Professor Smith’s report on the theory of numbers, which contained a full synopsis of Kummer’s theory, was Professor Sylvester’s constant companion.
This weakness of Professor Sylvester, in not being able to read what others had done, is perhaps a concomitant of his peculiar genius. Other minds could pass over little difficulties and not be troubled by them, and so go on to a final understanding of the results of the author. But not so with him. A difficulty, however small, worried him, and he was sure to have difficulties until the subject had been worked over in his own way, to correspond with his own mode of thought. To read the work of others, meant therefore to him an almost independent development of it. Like the man whose pleasure in life is to pioneer the way for society into the forests, his rugged mind could derive satisfaction only in hewing out its own paths; and only when his efforts brought him into the uncleared fields of mathematics did he find his place in the Universe.
In Florian Cajori, Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 266-267.
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I can think of a few microorganisms, possibly the tubercle bacillus, the syphilis spirochete, the malarial parasite, and a few others, that have a selective advantage in their ability to infect human beings, but there is nothing to be gained, in an evolutionary sense, by the capacity to cause illness or death. Pathogenicity may be something of a disadvantage for most microbes…
In 'Germs', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 90.
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I cannot but be astonished that Sarsi should persist in trying to prove by means of witnesses something that I may see for myself at any time by means of experiment. Witnesses are examined in doutbful matters which are past and transient, not in those which are actual and present. A judge must seek by means of witnesses to determine whether Peter injured John last night, but not whether John was injured, since the judge can see that for himself.
'The Assayer' (1623), trans. Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957), 271.
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I cannot tell you the efforts to which I was condemned to understand something of the diagrams of Descriptive Geometry, which I detest.
Epigraph, without citation, in E.T. Bell, Men of Mathematics (1937, 1965), 181.
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I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.
In 'The Science Of Deduction', A Study In Scarlet (1887, 1904), 15-16.
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I consider then, that generally speaking, to render a reason of an effect or Phaenomenon, is to deduce It from something else in Nature more known than it self, and that consequently there may be divers kinds of Degrees of Explication of the same thing. For although such Explications be the most satisfactory to the Understanding, wherein 'tis shewn how the effect is produc'd by the more primitive and Catholick Affection of Matter, namely bulk, shape and motion, yet are not these Explications to be despis'd, wherein particular effects are deduc'd from the more obvious and familiar Qualities or States of Bodies, ... For in the search after Natural Causes, every new measure of Discovery does both instinct and gratifie the Understanding.
Physiological Essays (1669), 20.
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I despise Birth-Control first because it is ... an entirely meaningless word; and is used so as to curry favour even with those who would first recoil from its real meaning. The proceeding these quack doctors recommend does not control any birth. ... But these people know perfectly well that they dare not write the plain word Birth-Prevention, in any one of the hundred places where they write the hypocritical word Birth-Control. They know as well as I do that the very word Birth-Prevention would strike a chill into the public... Therefore they use a conventional and unmeaning word, which may make the quack medicine sound more innocuous. ... A child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce ... he is their own creative contribution to creation.
In 'Babies and Distributism', The Well and the Shadows (1935). Collected in G. K. Chesterton and Dale Ahlquist (ed.), In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton (2011), 272.
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I do not believe that science per se is an adequate source of happiness, nor do I think that my own scientific outlook has contributed very greatly to my own happiness, which I attribute to defecating twice a day with unfailing regularity. Science in itself appears to me neutral, that is to say, it increases men’s power whether for good or for evil. An appreciation of the ends of life is something which must be superadded to science if it is to bring happiness, but only the kind of society to which science is apt to give rise. I am afraid you may be disappointed that I am not more of an apostle of science, but as I grow older, and no doubt—as a result of the decay of my tissues, I begin to see the good life more and more as a matter of balance and to dread all over-emphasis upon anyone ingredient.
Letter to W. W. Norton, Publisher (27 Jan 1931). In The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 1914-1944 (1968), Vol. 2, 200.
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I do not maintain that the chief value of the study of arithmetic consists in the lessons of morality that arise from this study. I claim only that, to be impressed from day to day, that there is something that is right as an answer to the questions with which one is able to grapple, and that there is a wrong answer—that there are ways in which the right answer can be established as right, that these ways automatically reject error and slovenliness, and that the learner is able himself to manipulate these ways and to arrive at the establishment of the true as opposed to the untrue, this relentless hewing to the line and stopping at the line, must color distinctly the thought life of the pupil with more than a tinge of morality. … To be neighborly with truth, to feel one’s self somewhat facile in ways of recognizing and establishing what is right, what is correct, to find the wrong persistently and unfailingly rejected as of no value, to feel that one can apply these ways for himself, that one can think and work independently, have a real, a positive, and a purifying effect upon moral character. They are the quiet, steady undertones of the work that always appeal to the learner for the sanction of his best judgment, and these are the really significant matters in school work. It is not the noise and bluster, not even the dramatics or the polemics from the teacher’s desk, that abide longest and leave the deepest and stablest imprint upon character. It is these still, small voices that speak unmistakably for the right and against the wrong and the erroneous that really form human character. When the school subjects are arranged on the basis of the degree to which they contribute to the moral upbuilding of human character good arithmetic will be well up the list.
In Arithmetic in Public Education (1909), 18. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 69.
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I do not see how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time. They are in opposition. In science you want to say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say ... something that everyone knows already in words that nobody can understand.
Commenting to him about the poetry J. Robert Oppenheimer wrote.
Quoted in Steven George Krantz, Mathematical Apocrypha Redux: More Stories and Anecdotes of Mathematicians (2005), 169
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I don't really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.
In The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks (1947), 75.
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I felt more determined than ever to become a physician, and thus place a strong barrier between me and all ordinary marriage. I must have something to engross my thoughts, some object in life which will fill this vacuum, and prevent this sad wearing away of the heart.
Entry from her early journal, stated in Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women (1895), 28.
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I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery, but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.
As quoted in John Noble Wilford, 'Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest', New York Times (12 Mar 1991), C10.
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I find myself now preaching about the golden age of manned spaceflight, because something went on there, within us, that we’re missing. When we went to the Moon, it was not only just standing on a new plateau for all mankind. We changed the way everybody in the world thought of themselves, you know. It was a change that went on inside of us. And we’re losing that.
From interview with Ron Stone (24 May 1999) for NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project on NASA website.
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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York … a city neighborhood that included houses, lampposts, walls, and bushes. But with an early bedtime in the winter, I could look out my window and see the stars, and the stars were not like anything else in my neighborhood. [At age 5] I didn’t know what they were.
[At age 9] my mother … said to me, “You have a library card now, and you know how to read. Take the streetcar to the library and get a book on stars.” … I stepped up to the big librarian and asked for a book on stars. … I sat down and found out the answer, which was something really stunning.
I found out that the stars are glowing balls of gas. I also found out that the Sun is a star but really close and that the stars are all suns except really far away I didn’t know any physics or mathematics at that time, but I could imagine how far you’d have to move the Sun away from us till it was only as bright as a star. It was in that library, reading that book, that the scale of the universe opened up to me. There was something beautiful about it.
At that young age, I already knew that I’d be very happy if I could devote my life to finding out more about the stars and the planets that go around them. And it’s been my great good fortune to do just that.
Quoted in interview with Jack Rightmyer, in 'Stars in His Eyes', Highlights For Children (1 Jan 1997). Ages as given in Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), x.
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I happen to be a kind of monkey. I have a monkeylike curiosity that makes me want to feel, smell, and taste things which arouse my curiosity, then to take them apart. It was born in me. Not everybody is like that, but a scientific researchist should be. Any fool can show me an experiment is useless. I want a man who will try it and get something out of it.
Quoted in Guy Suits, ''Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 357.
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I have a peculiar theory about radium, and I believe it is the correct one. I believe that there is some mysterious ray pervading the universe that is fluorescing to it. In other words, that all its energy is not self-constructed but that there is a mysterious something in the atmosphere that scientists have not found that is drawing out those infinitesimal atoms and distributing them forcefully and indestructibly.
Quoted in 'Edison Fears Hidden Perils of the X-Rays', New York World (3 Aug 1903), 1.
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I have always felt that astronomical hypotheses should not be regarded as articles of faith, but should only serve as a framework for astronomical calculations, so that it does not matter whether they were right or wrong, as long as the phenomena can be characterized precisely. For who could possibly be certain as to whether the uneven movement of the sun, if we follow the hypotheses of Ptolemy, can be explained by assuming an epicycle or eccentricity. Both assumptions are plausible. That’s why I would consider it quite desirable for you to tell something about that in the preface. In this way you would appease the Aristotelians and the theologians, whose opposition you dread.
From surviving fragment of a Letter (20 Apr 1541) answering a query from Copernicus as to whether he should publish his book (De Revolutionibus). From the German in Leopold Friedrich Prowe, Nicolaus Coppernicus (1883), Vol. 1, Part 2, 521-522. Translated from Prowe by Webmaster using web resources. Original German: “Hypothesen nicht als Glaubens-Artikel zu betrachten seien, sondern nur als Grundlage für die astronomischen Rechnungen zu dienen hätten, so dass es nicht darauf ankomme, ob sie richtig oder falsch seien, wofern sich nur die Erscheinungen dadurch genau bestimmen liessen. »Denn wer dürfte uns wohl darüber sichere Auskunft geben, ob die ungleiche Bewegung der Sonne, wenn wir den Hypothesen des Ptolemaeus folgen, durch Annahme eines Epicykels oder der Ekcentricität zu erklären sei. Beide Annahmen sind gestattet. Daher würde ich—so schliesst Osiander—es für recht wünschenswerth erachten, wenn Du hierüber in der Vorrede etwas beibrächtest. Auf diese Weise würdest Du die Aristoteliker und die Theologen milder stimmen, von denen Du befürchtest, dass sie heftigen Widerspruch kundthun werden.«” Compare Latin text, from Johannes Kepler, 'Apologia Tychonia', Astronomi Opera Omnia (1858), Vol. 1, 246: “De hypothesibus ego sic sensi semper, non esse articulos fidei, sed fundamenta calculi ita ut, etiamsi falsae sint, modo motuum φαινομενα exacte exhibeant, nihil referat; quis enim nos certiores reddet, an Solis inaequalis motus nomine epicycli an nomine eccentricitatis contingat, si Ptolemaei hypotheses sequamur, cum id possit utrumque. Quare plausibile fore videretur, si hac de re in praefatione nonnihil attingeres. Sic enim placidiores redderes peripatheticos et theologos, quos contradicturos metuis.”
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I have always tried to fit knowledge that I acquired into my understanding of the world. … When something comes along that I don’t understand, that I can’t fit in, that bothers me, I think about it, mull over it, and perhaps ultimately do some work with it. That’s perhaps the reason that I’ve been able to make discoveries in molecular biology.
From interview with Neil A. Campbell, in 'Crossing the Boundaries of Science', BioScience (Dec 1986), 36, No. 11, 739.
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I have been battering away at Saturn, returning to the charge every now and then. I have effected several breaches in the solid ring, and now I am splash into the fluid one, amid a clash of symbols truly astounding. When I reappear it will be in the dusky ring, which is something like the state of the air supposing the siege of Sebastopol conducted from a forest of guns 100 miles one way, and 30,000 miles the other, and the shot never to stop, but go spinning away round a circle, radius 170,000 miles.
Letter to Lewis Campbell (28 Aug 1857). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 1846-1862, 538.
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I have been described on more than one occasion as belonging to something called the 'Functional School of Social Anthropology' and even as being its leader, or one of its leaders. This Functional School does not really exist; it is a myth invented by Professor Malinowski ... There is no place in natural science for 'schools' in this sense, and I regard social anthropology as a branch of natural science. ... I conceive of social anthropology as the theoretical natural science of human society, that is, the investigation of social phenomena by methods essentially similar to those used in the physical and biological sciences. I am quite willing to call the subject 'comparative sociology', if anyone so wishes.
In A. Kuper, Anthropologists and Anthropology: The Modern British School (1983), 36.
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I have been especially fortunate for about 50 years in having two memory banks available—whenever I can't remember something I ask my wife, and thus I am able to draw on this auxiliary memory bank. Moreover, there is a second way In which I get ideas ... I listen carefully to what my wife says, and in this way I often get a good idea. I recommend to ... young people ... that you make a permanent acquisition of an auxiliary memory bank that you can become familiar with and draw upon throughout your lives.
T. Goertzel and B. Goertzel, Linus Pauling (1995), 240.
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I have been so constantly under the necessity of watching the movements of the most unprincipled set of pirates I have ever known, that all my time has been occupied in defense, in putting evidence into something like legal shape that I am the inventor of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph.
From a letter to his brother describing the challenge of defending his patents (19 Apr 1848).
Samuel F. B. Morse, His Letters and Journals (1914), vol.2, 283.
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I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed far enough [as a Cambridge undergraduate] at least to understand something of the great leading principles of mathematics; for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), 'Autobiography', The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887, 1896), Vol. 1, 40.
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I have indeed lived and worked to my taste either in art or science. What more could a man desire? Knowledge has always been my goal. There is much that I shall leave behind undone…but something at least I was privileged to leave for the world to use, if it so intends…As the Latin poet said I will leave the table of the living like a guest who has eaten his fill. Yes, if I had another life to spend, I certainly would not waste it. But that cannot be, so why complain?
Letter to R. C. Craw, quoted in Tuatara (1984) Vol. 27 (1): 5-7
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I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world... Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value.
A Mathematician's Apology (1940), 90-1.
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I have never done anything “useful.” No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world... Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value. [The things I have added to knowledge do not differ from] the creations of the other artists, great or small, who have left some kind of memorial beind them.
Concluding remarks in A Mathmatician's Apology (1940, 2012), 150-151.
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I have not yet lost a feeling of wonder, and of delight, that this delicate motion should reside in all the things around us, revealing itself only to him who looks for it. I remember, in the winter of our first experiments, just seven years ago, looking on snow with new eyes. There the snow lay around my doorstep—great heaps of protons quietly precessing in the earth's magnetic field. To see the world for a moment as something rich and strange is the private reward of many a discovery.
Opening remark, Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1952).
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I have said that science is impossible without faith. … Inductive logic, the logic of Bacon, is rather something on which we can act than something which we can prove, and to act on it is a supreme assertion of faith … Science is a way of life which can only fluorish when men are free to have faith.
In Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, Statistics and Truth (1997), 31.
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I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.
Performed as Edith Ann.
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I like the word “nanotechnology.” I like it because the prefix “nano” guarantees it will be fundamental science for decades; the “technology” says it is engineering, something you’re involved in not just because you’re interested in how nature works but because it will produce something that has a broad impact.
From interview in 'Wires of Wonder', Technology Review (Mar 2001), 104, No. 2, 88.
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I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself ‘Dijkstra would not have liked this’, well, that would be enough immortality for me.
…...
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I myself, a professional mathematician, on re-reading my own work find it strains my mental powers to recall to mind from the figures the meanings of the demonstrations, meanings which I myself originally put into the figures and the text from my mind. But when I attempt to remedy the obscurity of the material by putting in extra words, I see myself falling into the opposite fault of becoming chatty in something mathematical.
Astronomia Nova, New Astronomy, (1609), Introduction, second paragraph.
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I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. … After we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, … we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 89.
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I now think the answer is very simple: it’s true. God did create the universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and of necessity has involved Himself with His creation ever since. The purpose of this universe is something that only God knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life.
In Letter (May 2005), sent to the Hope College 2005 Alumni Banquet, read in lieu of accepting an award in person, because of declining health from cancer.
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I remember working out a blueprint for my future when I was twelve years old I resolved first to make enough money so I'd never be stopped from finishing anything; second, that to accumulate money in a hurry—and I was in a hurry—I'd have to invent something that people wanted. And third, that if I ever was going to stand on my own feet, I'd have to leave home.
In Sidney Shalett, 'Aviation’s Stormy Genius', Saturday Evening Post (13 Oct 1956), 229, No. 15, 26 & 155
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I said that there is something every man can do, if he can only find out what that something is. Henry Ford has proved this. He has installed in his vast organization a system for taking hold of a man who fails in one department, and giving him a chance in some other department. Where necessary every effort is made to discover just what job the man is capable of filling. The result has been that very few men have had to be discharged, for it has been found that there was some kind of work each man could do at least moderately well. This wonderful system adopted by my friend Ford has helped many a man to find himself. It has put many a fellow on his feet. It has taken round pegs out of square holes and found a round hole for them. I understand that last year only 120 workers out of his force of 50,000 were discharged.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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I said to myself, if there's a group of these people that are so courageous and so selfless, somebody ought to carry their damn banner and do something about. That's 1965. I was 20 years old. I said I was going to commit my career to curing paralysis.
Referring to the paralyzed veteran volunteers in the spinal cord injury laboratory with whom Green worked while attending medical school.
Quoted in Jennifer Kay 'Neurosurgeon Barth Green: Football player's treatment available to all', Associated Press news report, USA Today website (posted 27 Sep 2007).
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I saw a horrible brown heap on the floor in the corner, which, but for previous experience in this dismal wise, I might not have suspected to be “the bed.” There was something thrown upon it and I asked what it was. “’Tis the poor craythur that stays here, sur; and ’tis very bad she is, ’tis very bad she’s been this long time, and ’tis better she’ll never be, and ’tis slape she doos all day, and ’tis wake she doos all night, and ‘tis the lead, Sur.” “The what?” “The lead, Sur. Sure, ’tis the lead-mills, where women gets took on at eighteen pence a day, Sur, when they makes application early enough, and is lucky and wanted, and ’tis lead-pisoned she is, Sur, and some of them gits lead-pisoned soon and some of them gets lead-pisoned later, and some but not many, niver, and ’tis all according to the constitooshun, Sur, and some constitooshuns is strong, and some is weak, and her constitooshun is lead-pisoned, bad as can be, Sur, and her brain is coming out at her ear, and it hurts her dreadful, and that’s what it is and niver no more and niver so less, Sur.”
In 'New Uncommercial Samples: A Small Star in the East', All the Year Round (19 Dec 1868), New Series, No. 3, 62.
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I sought excitement and, taking chances, I was all ready to fail in order to achieve something large.
On the official Raymond Loewry website. Also quoted in part in Society of Industrial Artists and Designers, Designer (1980).
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I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record. … There is a big gap between what the facts are, and what the perceptions are. … I mean “genetically modified” sounds Frankensteinish. Drought-resistant sounds really like something you’d want.
Speech at Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) convention, San Diego (Jun 2014). Audio on AgWired website.
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I tell young people to reach for the stars. And I can't think of a greater high than you could possibly get than by inventing something.
From audio on MIT video '1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award Winner', on 'Innovative Lives: Stephanie Kwolek and Kevlar, The Wonder Fiber' on the Smithsonian website.
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I think every child born on this planet up to the age of about four or five is fascinated by the natural world. If they aren’t it’s because we deprive them of the opportunity. Over half the world’s population is urbanised and the thought that some children may grow up not looking at a pond or knowing how plants grow is a terrible thing. If you lose that delight and joy and intoxication, you’ve lost something hugely precious.
From interview with Alice Roberts, 'Attenborough: My Life on Earth', The Biologist (Aug 2015), 62, No. 4, 14.
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I think I have been much of my life an irritant. But some people say that something good came out of my research, something valuable that could be regarded as a pearl, and I can assure those who worked with me it was you who made the pearls and I was merely the grain of sand, the irritant to produce the pearls.
Recalling how, when increasingly in demand to serve on committees, upon attempting to resign from one, he was told by the chairman “We want you as an irritant.” Remark at a luncheon, quoted in Obituary, 'Nicholas Kurti, C. B. E. 14 May 1908-24 November 1998', by J.H. Sanders, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 2000), 46, 309.
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I think it is the general rule that the originator of a new idea is not the most suitable person to develop it, because his fears of something going wrong are really too strong…
At age 69.
The Development of Quantum Theory (1971). In A. Pais, 'Playing With Equations, the Dirac Way'. Behram N. Kursunoglu (Ed.) and Eugene Paul Wigner (Ed.), Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: Reminiscences about a Great Physicist (1990), 111.
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I think it’s a very valuable thing for a doctor to learn how to do research, to learn how to approach research, something there isn't time to teach them in medical school. They don't really learn how to approach a problem, and yet diagnosis is a problem; and I think that year spent in research is extremely valuable to them.
On mentoring a medical student.
Quoted in interview by Mary Ellen Avery (1997)
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I think I’ve had more failures than successes, but I don’t see the failures as mistakes because I always learned something from those experiences. I see them as having not achieved the initial goal, nothing more than that.
Quoted in Timothy L. O’Brien, 'Not Invented here: Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge?', New York Times (13 Nov 2005), B6.
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I think that harping on [earthquake] prediction is something between a will-o'-the-wisp and a red herring. Attention is thereby diverted away from positive measures to eliminate earthquake risk.
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
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I think there is something more important than believing: Action! The world is full of dreamers, there aren’t enough who will move ahead and begin to take concrete steps to actualize their vision.
…...
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I think there will always be something interesting left to be discovered.
From interview with Neil A. Campbell, in 'Crossing the Boundaries of Science', BioScience (Dec 1986), 36, No. 11, 739.
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I think we are living in a new time. I think that the ways of working when there was not the current widespread questioning of what science does are no longer applicable. Besides, there is a difference between the sort of research you do when you’re developing something for the first time and the sort of thing you have to do to make sure it continues to work—and the two different sorts of research are done best by different sorts of people. And, just as with basic science, one needs confirmatory experiments. One can’t just have one group saying “yes they’re safe, yes they’re safe, take our word for it, we made them and we know they’re safe”. Someone else, quite independent, needs to take a look, do the confirmatory experiment. Duplication in this case can do nothing but good.
From interview with Graham Chedd, 'The Lady Gets Her Way', New Scientist (5 Jul 1973), 59, No. 853, 16.
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I trust ... I have succeeded in convincing you that modern chemistry is not, as it has so long appeared, an ever-growing accumulation of isolated facts, as impossible for a single intellect to co-ordinate as for a single memory to grasp.
The intricate formulae that hang upon these walls, and the boundless variety of phenomena they illustrate, are beginning to be for us as a labyrinth once impassable, but to which we have at length discovered the clue. A sense of mastery and power succeeds in our minds to the sort of weary despair with which we at first contemplated their formidable array. For now, by the aid of a few general principles, we find ourselves able to unravel the complexities of these formulae, to marshal the compounds which they represent in orderly series; nay, even to multiply their numbers at our will, and in a great measure to forecast their nature ere we have called them into existence. It is the great movement of modern chemistry that we have thus, for an hour, seen passing before us. It is a movement as of light spreading itself over a waste of obscurity, as of law diffusing order throughout a wilderness of confusion, and there is surely in its contemplation something of the pleasure which attends the spectacle of a beautiful daybreak, something of the grandeur belonging to the conception of a world created out of chaos.
Concluding remark for paper presented at the Friday Discourse of the the Royal Institution (7 Apr 1865). 'On the Combining Power of Atoms', Proceedings of the Royal Institution (1865), 4, No. 42, 416.
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I want to put in something about Bernoulli’s numbers, in one of my Notes, as an example of how the implicit function may be worked out by the engine, without having been worked out by human head & hands first. Give me the necessary data & formulae.
Lovelace Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, 42, folio 12 (6 Feb 1841). As quoted and cited in Dorothy Stein (ed.), 'This First Child of Mine', Ada: A Life and a Legacy (1985), 106-107.
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Thomas Edison quote “Afraid of things that worked”, record track background+colorized photo of Edison & tinfoil phonograph
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I was always afraid of things that worked the first time. Long experience proved that there were great drawbacks found generally before they could be got commercial; but here was something there was no doubt of.
[Recalling astonishment when his tin-foil cylinder phonograph first played back his voice recording of “Mary had a little lamb.”]
Quoted in Frank Lewis Dyer, Thomas Commerford Martin, Edison: His Life and Inventions (1910), 208.
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I was suffering from a sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie down for several hours, during which time I had nothing to do but to think over any subjects then particularly interesting me. One day something brought to my recollection Malthus's 'Principles of Population', which I had read about twelve years before. I thought of his clear exposition of 'the positive checks to increase'—disease, accidents, war, and famine—which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? The answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies, the strongest, swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine, the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self-acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain—that is, the fittest would survive.
[The phrase 'survival of the fittest,' suggested by the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus, was expressed in those words by Herbert Spencer in 1865. Wallace saw the term in correspondence from Charles Darwin the following year, 1866. However, Wallace did not publish anything on his use of the expression until very much later, and his recollection is likely flawed.]
My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (1905), Vol. 1, 361-362, or in reprint (2004), 190.
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I was working with a Crookes tube covered by a shield of black cardboard. A piece of barium platino-cyanide paper lay on the bench there. I had been passing a current through the tube, and I noticed a peculiar black line across the paper. …
The effect was one which could only be produced in ordinary parlance by the passage of light. No light could come from the tube because the shield which covered it was impervious to any light known even that of the electric arc. …
I did not think; I investigated. …
I assumed that the effect must have come from the tube since its character indicated that it could come from nowhere else. … It seemed at first a new kind of invisible light. It was clearly something new something unrecorded. …
There is much to do, and I am busy, very busy. [Describing to a journalist the discovery of X-rays that he had made on 8 Nov 1895.]
In H.J.W. Dam in 'The New Marvel in Photography", McClure's Magazine (Apr 1896), 4:5, 413.
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I was working with these very long-chain … extended-chain polymers, where you had a lot of benzene rings in them. … Transforming a polymer solution from a liquid to a fiber requires a process called spinning. … We spun it and it spun beautifully. It [Kevlar] was very strong and very stiff—unlike anything we had made before. I knew that I had made a discovery. I didn’t shout “Eureka!” but I was very excited, as was the whole laboratory excited, and management was excited, because we were looking for something new. Something different. And this was it.
From transcript for video interview (2007, published Aug 2012), 'Stephanie Kwolek: Curiosity and the Discovery of Kevlar', in the series Women in Chemistry, on Chemical Heritage Foundation website.
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I wasn’t aware of Chargaff’s rules when he said them, but the effect on me was quite electric because I realized immediately that if you had this sort of scheme that John Griffith was proposing, of adenine being paired with thymine, and guanine being paired with cytosine, then you should get Chargaff’s rules.
I was very excited, but I didn’t actually tell Chargaff because it was something I was doing with John Griffith. There was a sort of musical comedy effect where I forgot what the bases were and I had to go to the library to check, and I went back to John Griffith to find out which places he said. Low and behold, it turned out that John Griffith’s ideas fitted in with Chargaff’s rules!
This was very exciting, and we thought “ah ha!” and we realized—I mean what anyone who is familiar with the history of science ought to realize—that when you have one-to-one ratios, it means things go to together. And how on Earth no one pointed out this simple fact in those years, I don’t know.
From Transcript of documentary by VSM Productions, The DNA Story (1973). As excerpted on web page 'Chargaff’s Rules', Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA on website scarc.library.oregonstate.edu
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I would be the last to deny that the greatest scientific pioneers belonged to an aristocracy of the spirit and were exceptionally intelligent, something that we as modest investigators will never attain, no matter how much we exert ourselves. Nevertheless … I continue to believe that there is always room for anyone with average intelligence … to utilize his energy and … any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain, and that even the least gifted may, like the poorest land that has been well-cultivated and fertilized, produce an abundant harvest..
From Preface to the second edition, Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), xv.
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I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree [Cardinal Baronius (1538-1607)]: “That the intention of the holy ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”
Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1611 5), trans. Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957), 186.
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I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree: 'That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.
Letter to Cristina di Lorena, Grand Duchess of Tuscany (the mother of his patron Cosmo), 1615. Translation as given in the Galilean Library web page www.galilean-library.org/manuscript.php?postid=43841.
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If any layman were to ask a number of archaeologists to give, on the spur of the moment, a definition of archaeology, I suspect that such a person might find the answers rather confusing. He would, perhaps, sympathize with Socrates who, when he hoped to learn from the poets and artisans something about the arts they practised, was forced to go away with the conviction that, though they might themselves be able to accomplish something, they certainly could give no clear account to others of what they were trying to do.
Opening statement in lecture at Columbia University (8 Jan 1908), 'Archaeology'. Published by the Columbia University Press (1908).
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If any spiritualistic medium can do stunts, there is no more need for special conditions than there is for a chemist to turn down lights, start operations with a hymn, and ask whether there's any chemical present that has affinity with something named Hydrogen.
Lo! (1932). In The Complete Books of Charles Fort (1975), 575.
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If I get the impression that Nature itself makes the decisive choice [about] what possibility to realize, where quantum theory says that more than one outcome is possible, then I am ascribing personality to Nature, that is to something that is always everywhere. [An] omnipresent eternal personality which is omnipotent in taking the decisions that are left undetermined by physical law is exactly what in the language of religion is called God.
As quoted by John D. Barrow in The Universe that Discovered Itself (2000), 171.
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If I knew something about it, I wouldn’t lecture on it!
As quoted in David C. Cassidy, Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb (2009), 86. According to Cassidy, this was the response when Sommerfeld was “once asked how he could lecture on a subject he did not understand.” Footnoted as “WH [Werner Heisenberg] to his father, 15 May 1918.”
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If I make a decision it is a possession. I take pride in it, I tend to defend it and not listen to those who question it. If I make sense, then this is more dynamic, and I listen and I can change it. A decision is something you polish. Sensemaking is a direction for the next period.
Personal communication (13 Jun 1995). In Karl E. Weick, 'The Experience of Theorizing: Sensemaking as Topic and Resource'. Quoted in Ken G. Smith (ed.) and Michael A. Hitt (ed), Great Minds in Management: the Theory of Process Development (2005), 398. Weick writes that Gleason explains how leadership needs 'sensemaking rather than decision making.' As a highly skilled wildland firefighter he would make sense of an unfolding fire, giving directives that are open to revision at any time, so they can be self-correcting, responsive, with a transparent rationale. By contrast, decision making eats up valuable time with polishing the decision to get it 'right' and defending it, and also encourages blind spots.
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If I set out to prove something, I am no real scientist—I have to learn to follow where the facts lead me—I have to learn to whip my prejudices.
Attributed, as cited in Peter McDonald (ed.), Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 95. Quoted earlier without citation as “If I want to find truth, I must have an open mind. I have to learn to follow where the facts lead me—I have to learn to whip my prejudices,” in World Order (1948), 14, 76.
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If in physics there’s something you don’t understand, you can always hide behind the uncharted depths of nature. You can always blame God. You didn’t make it so complex yourself. But if your program doesn’t work, there is no one to hide behind. You cannot hide behind an obstinate nature. If it doesn’t work, you’ve messed up.
…...
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If it is good to teach students about the chemical industry then why is it not good to assign ethical qualities to substances along with their physical and chemical ones? We might for instance say that CS [gas] is a bad chemical because it can only ever be used by a few people with something to protect against many people with nothing to lose. Terylene or indigotin are neutral chemicals. Under capitalism their production is an exploitive process, under socialism they are used for the common good. Penicillin is a good chemical.
Quoted in T. Pateman (ed.), Countercourse (1972), 215.
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If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied.
In Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (2007), 237.
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If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking upon his creation, I should have recommended something simpler.
Remarking on the complexity of Ptolemaic model of the universe after it was explained to him.
(circa 1250 A.D.) As atttributed, in John Esten Keller, Alfonso X, El Sabio (1967), Preface.
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If there is a regulation that says you have to do something—whether it be putting in seat belts, catalytic converters, clean air for coal plants, clean water—the first tack that the lawyers use, among others things, and that companies use, is that it’s going to drive the electricity bill up, drive the cost of cars up, drive everything up. It repeatedly has been demonstrated that once the engineers start thinking about it, it’s actually far less than the original estimates. We should remember that when we hear this again, because you will hear it again.
Talk (Apr 2007) quoted in 'Obama's Energy and Environment Team Includes a Nobel Laureate', Kent Garber, US News website (posted 11 Dec 2008).
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If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it.
[Subsequently became known as Murphy's Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”]
As quoted in Robert L. Forward, 'Murphy Lives!', Science (Jan-Feb 1983), 83, 78. Short form in J.A. Simpson (ed), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (1982).
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If there is anything that we wish to change in a child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves.
Carl Jung
…...
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If there is no intelligence in the universe, then the universe has created something greater than itself—for it has created you and me.
In 'If A Man Die, Shall He Live again?', More Power To You: Fifty Editorials From Every Week (1917), 219.
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If there is one thing I’ve learned in my years on this planet, it’s that the happiest and most fulfilled people I’ve known are those who devoted themselves to something bigger and more profound than merely their own self interest.
From speech (3 Oct 1977) announcing he was donating his papers to Ohio State University. As quoted on the OSU website.
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If there is something very slightly wrong in our definition of the theories, then the full mathematical rigor may convert these errors into ridiculous conclusions.
Feynman Lectures on Gravitation, edited by Brian Hatfield (2002), 21.
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If there is such a thing as luck, then I must be the most unlucky fellow in the world. I’ve never once made a lucky strike in all my life. When I get after something that I need, I start finding everything in the world that I don’t need—one damn thing after another. I find ninety-nine things that I don’t need, and then comes number one hundred, and that—at the very last—turns out to be just what I had been looking for.
In Martin André Rosanoff, 'Edison in His Laboratory', Harper’s Magazine (Sep 1932), 406.
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If there were not something of mind in matter, how could matter change the mind?
In Pamela Weintraub (ed.), 'Through the Looking Glass', The Omni Interviews (1984), 161.
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If we are still here to witness the destruction of our planet some five billion years or more hence ..., then we will have achieved something so unprecedented in the history of life that we should be willing to sing our swan song with joy.
…...
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If we drove an automobile the way we try to run civilization, I think we would face backwards, looking through the back window, admiring where we came from, and not caring where we are going. If you want a good life you must look to the future. … I think it is all right to have courses in history. But history is the “gonest” thing in the world. … Let’s keep history, but let’s take a small part of the time and study where we are going. … We can do something about the unmade history.
As quoted in book review, T.A. Boyd, 'Charles F. Kettering: Prophet of Progress', Science (30 Jan 1959), 256.
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If you are young, then I say: Learn something about statistics as soon as you can. Don’t dismiss it through ignorance or because it calls for thought. … If you are older and already crowned with the laurels of success, see to it that those under your wing who look to you for advice are encouraged to look into this subject. In this way you will show that your arteries are not yet hardened, and you will be able to reap the benefits without doing overmuch work yourself. Whoever you are, if your work calls for the interpretation of data, you may be able to do without statistics, but you won’t do as well.
In Facts from Figures (1951), 463.
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If you do something, it’s worth doing well; except to bureaucrats. to them, if you do something, it’s worth doing cheaply.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 170.
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If you don’t wake up at three in the morning and want to do something, you’re wasting your time.
As quoted in J. Kim Vandiver and Pagan Kennedy, 'Harold Eugene Edgerton', Biographical Memoirs (National Academy of Sciences, 2005), Vol. 86, 111.
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If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don't think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; if you think of, detail by detail, what you have to do next, it is a wonderful dream even though the end is a long way off, for there are about five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and [when you] start taking the first ten, and ... twenty after that, it is amazing how quickly you get through through the four thousand [nine hundred] and ninety. The last ten steps you never seem to work out. But you keep on coming nearer to giving the world something.
Victor K. McElheny, Insisting on the Impossible (1999), 1.
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If you had come to me a hundred years ago, do you think I should have dreamed of the telephone? Why, even now I cannot understand it! I use it every day, I transact half my correspondence by means of it, but I don’t understand it. Thnk of that little stretched disk of iron at the end of a wire repeating in your ear not only sounds, but words—not only words, but all the most delicate and elusive inflections and nuances of tone which separate one human voice from another! Is not that something of a miracle?
Quoted in Harold Begbie in Pall Mall magazine (Jan 1903). In Albert Shaw, The American Monthly Review of Reviews (1903), 27, 232.
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If you haven’t measured something, you really don’t know very much about it.
Attributed. As quoted in Arthur R. Upgren, Weather: How It Works and Why It Matters (2008), 7.
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If you look at a tree and think of it as a design assignment, it would be like asking you to make something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, provides habitat for hundreds of species, accrues solar energy’s fuel, makes complex sugars and food, changes colors with the seasons, creates microclimates, and self-replicates.
In audio segment, 'William McDonough: Godfather of Green', WNYC, Studio 360 broadcast on NPR radio (18 Mar 2008) and archived on the station website.
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If you were going to risk all that, not just risk the hardship and the pain but risk your life. Put everything on line for a dream, for something that’s worth nothing, that can’t be proved to anybody. You just have the transient moment on a summit and when you come back down to the valley it goes. It is actually a completely illogical thing to do. It is not justifiable by any rational terms. That’s probably why you do it.
The Beckoning Silence
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If, as a chemist, I see a flower, I know all that is involved in synthesizing a flower’s elements. And I know that even the fact that it exists is not something that is natural. It is a miracle.
In Pamela Weintraub (ed.), 'Through the Looking Glass', The Omni Interviews (1984), 161.
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If, then, there must be something eternal, let us see what sort of Being it must be. And to that it is very obvious to Reason, that it must necessarily be a cogitative Being. For it is as impossible to conceive that ever bare incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter...
In Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690, 1801), Book 4, Chap. 10, Sec. 10, 114.
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Imagine that … the world is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. … If we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules…. However, we might not be able to understand why a particular move is made in the game, merely because it is too complicated and our minds are limited…. We must limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game.
If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world.
In 'Basic Physics', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964, 2013), Vol. 1, 2-1.
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In 1944 Erwin Schroedinger, stimulated intellectually by Max Delbruck, published a little book called What is life? It was an inspiration to the first of the molecular biologists, and has been, along with Delbruck himself, credited for directing the research during the next decade that solved the mystery of how 'like begat like.' Max was awarded this Prize in 1969, and rejoicing in it, he also lamented that the work for which he was honored before all the peoples of the world was not something which he felt he could share with more than a handful. Samuel Beckett's contributions to literature, being honored at the same time, seemed to Max somehow universally accessible to anyone. But not his. In his lecture here Max imagined his imprisonment in an ivory tower of science.
'The Polymerase Chain Reaction', Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1993). In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1991-1995 (1997), 103.
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In a class I was taking there was one boy who was much older than the rest. He clearly had no motive to work. I told him that, if he could produce for me, accurately to scale, drawings of the pieces of wood required to make a desk like the one he was sitting at, I would try to persuade the Headmaster to let him do woodwork during the mathematics hours—in the course of which, no doubt, he would learn something about measurement and numbers. Next day, he turned up with this task completed to perfection. This I have often found with pupils; it is not so much that they cannot do the work, as that they see no purpose in it.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 52.
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In a great number of programmes I’m not a scientist—I’m simply a commentator. So I should claim no virtue for the fact that [people] seem to trust me, if that is indeed the case. It’s simply that I very seldom talk about something they can’t see. If I say a lion is attacking a wildebeest, they can see it is; if I were to say something about a proton, it might be different.
As quoted in Bill Parry, 'Sir David Attenborough in Conversation', The Biologist (Jun 2010), 57, No. 2, 93.
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In a sense, of course, probability theory in the form of the simple laws of chance is the key to the analysis of warfare;… My own experience of actual operational research work, has however, shown that its is generally possible to avoid using anything more sophisticated. … In fact the wise operational research worker attempts to concentrate his efforts in finding results which are so obvious as not to need elaborate statistical methods to demonstrate their truth. In this sense advanced probability theory is something one has to know about in order to avoid having to use it.
In 'Operations Research', Physics Today (Nov 1951), 19. As cited by Maurice W. Kirby and Jonathan Rosenhead, 'Patrick Blackett (1897)' in Arjang A. Assad (ed.) and Saul I. Gass (ed.),Profiles in Operations Research: Pioneers and Innovators (2011), 25.
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In ancient days two aviators procured to themselves wings. Daedalus flew safely through the middle air and was duly honored on his landing. Icarus soared upwards to the sun till the wax melted which bound his wings and his flight ended in fiasco. In weighing their achievements, there is something to be said for Icarus. The classical authorities tell us that he was only “doing a stunt,” but I prefer to think of him as the man who brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying machines of his day.
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In biology, nothing is clear, everything is too complicated, everything is a mess, and just when you think you understand something, you peel off a layer and find deeper complications beneath. Nature is anything but simple.
The Hot Zone
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In Cairo, I secured a few grains of wheat that had slumbered for more than thirty centuries in an Egyptian tomb. As I looked at them this thought came into my mind: If one of those grains had been planted on the banks of the Nile the year after it grew, and all its lineal descendants had been planted and replanted from that time until now, its progeny would to-day be sufficiently numerous to feed the teeming millions of the world. An unbroken chain of life connects the earliest grains of wheat with the grains that we sow and reap. There is in the grain of wheat an invisible something which has power to discard the body that we see, and from earth and air fashion a new body so much like the old one that we cannot tell the one from the other.…This invisible germ of life can thus pass through three thousand resurrections.
In In His Image (1922), 33.
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In consequence of Darwin's reformed Theory of Descent, we are now in a position to establish scientifically the groundwork of a non-miraculous history of the development of the human race. ... If any person feels the necessity of conceiving the coming into existence of this matter as the work of a supernatural creative power, of the creative force of something outside of matter, we have nothing to say against it. But we must remark, that thereby not even the smallest advantage is gained for a scientific knowledge of nature. Such a conception of an immaterial force, which as the first creates matter, is an article of faith which has nothing whatever to do with human science.
In Ernst Haeckel and E. Ray Lankester (trans.), The History of Creation (1880), Vol. 1, 6-9.
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