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

Song Quotes (37 quotes)

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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As language-using organisms, we participate in the evolution of the Universe most fruitfully through interpretation. We understand the world by drawing pictures, telling stories, conversing. These are our special contributions to existence. It is our immense good fortune and grave responsibility to sing the songs of the Cosmos.
Epigraph, without citation, in Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (2008), 103.
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At a distance in the meadow I hear still, at long intervals, the hurried commencement of the bobolink s strain, the bird just dashing into song, which is as suddenly checked, as it were, by the warder of the seasons, and the strain is left incomplete forever. Like human beings they are inspired to sing only for a short season.
(29 Jun 1851). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: II: 1850-September 15, 1851 (1906), 275.
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At the bottom of every leaf-stem is a cradle, and in it is an infant germ; the winds will rock it, the birds will sing to it all summer long, but the next season it will unfold and go alone.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 7.
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Gather, ye nations, gather!
From forge, and mine, and mill!
Come, Science and Invention;
Come, Industry and Skill!…

Gather, ye nations, gather!
Let ancient discord cease,
And Earth, with myriad voices,
Awake the song of Peace!
From poem, 'The Festival of Labour' (1851), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 539. Written for the opening of the Great Exhibition.
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How many times did the sun shine, how many times did the wind howl over the desolate tundras, over the bleak immensity of the Siberian taigas, over the brown deserts where the Earth’s salt shines, over the high peaks capped with silver, over the shivering jungles, over the undulating forests of the tropics! Day after day, through infinite time, the scenery has changed in imperceptible features. Let us smile at the illusion of eternity that appears in these things, and while so many temporary aspects fade away, let us listen to the ancient hymn, the spectacular song of the seas, that has saluted so many chains rising to the light.
Tectonics of Asia (1924), 165, trans. Albert V. and Marguerite Carozzi.
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Hypotheses are cradle-songs by which the teacher lulls his scholars to sleep. The thoughtful and honest observer is always learning more and more of his limitations; he sees that the further knowledge spreads, the more numerous are the problems that make their appearance.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 195.
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I scrutinize life.
Part of a longer quote that begins, “You disembowel the animal…” on the Jean-Henri Fabre Quotes page of this website.
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I searched along the changing edge
Where, sky-pierced now the cloud had broken.
I saw no bird, no blade of wing,
No song was spoken.
I stood, my eyes turned upward still
And drank the air and breathed the light.
Then, like a hawk upon the wind,
I climbed the sky, I made the flight.
…...
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If trouble were as easy to get out of as into—life would be one sweet song.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 280.
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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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In the past, you wouldn’t have had any problem in getting a countryman to explain the difference between a blackbird and a song thrush, but you might have that difficulty with a kid now. Equally, if you asked a chap about gorillas in the 19th-century, he wouldn’t have heard of the creatures, but today an urban boy knows all about them.
Explaining how the success of nature documentaries may result in children who know more about gorillas than the wildlife in their own gardens. As reported by Adam Lusher in 'Sir David Attenborough', Daily Mail (28 Feb 2014).
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Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read music. For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean?
It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat—and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.
So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.
'What do You Care What Other People Think?' Further Adventures of a Curious Character (1988), 244.
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Nowhere is water so beautiful as in the desert for nowhere else is it so scarce. By definition. Water, like a human being or a tree or a bird or a song gains value by rarity, singularity, isolation. In a humid climate water is common. In the desert each drop is precious.
Essay in Desert Images, collected in Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside (1984), 82.
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Ode to Newton: Come celebrate with me in song the name Of Newton, to the Muses dear, for the Unlocked the hidden treasures of truth ... Nearer the gods no mortal may approach.
…...
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Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.
On the effect of chemical insecticides and fertilizers, Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin (1962)
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Papyra, throned upon the banks of Nile,
Spread her smooth leaf, and waved her silver style.
The storied pyramid, the laurel’d bust,
The trophy’d arch had crumbled into dust;
The sacred symbol, and the epic song (Unknown the character, forgot the tongue,)
With each unconquer’d chief, or sainted maid,
Sunk undistinguish’d in Oblivion’s shade.
Sad o’er the scatter’d ruins Genius sigh’d,
And infant Arts but learn’d to lisp, and died.
Till to astonish’d realms Papyra taught To paint in mystic colours Sound and Thought,
With Wisdom’s voice to print the page sublime,
And mark in adamant the steps of Time.
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Science cannot tell us a word about why music delights us, of why and how an old song can move us to tears.
…...
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She has the sort of body you go to see in marble. She has golden hair. Quickly, deftly, she reaches with both hands behind her back and unclasps her top. Setting it on her lap, she swivels ninety degrees to face the towboat square. Shoulders back, cheeks high, she holds her pose without retreat. In her ample presentation there is defiance of gravity. There is no angle of repose. She is a siren and these are her songs.
…...
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Teaching thermal physics
Is as easy as a song:
You think you make it simpler
When you make it slightly wrong!
In The Physics Teacher (Sep 1970). As quoted and cited in Clifford Swartz, Cliff's Nodes: Editorials from The Physics Teacher (2006), 192.
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That alone is worthy to be called Natural History, which investigates and records the condition of living things, of things in a state of nature; if animals, of living animals:— which tells of their 'sayings and doings,' their varied notes and utterances, songs and cries; their actions, in ease and under the pressure of circumstances; their affections and passions, towards their young, towards each other, towards other animals, towards man: their various arts and devices, to protect their progeny, to procure food, to escape from their enemies, to defend themselves from attacks; their ingenious resources for concealment; their stratagems to overcome their victims; their modes of bringing forth, of feeding, and of training, their offspring; the relations of their structure to their wants and habits; the countries in which they dwell; their connexion with the intimate world around them, mountain or plain, forest or field, barren heath or bushy dell, open savanna or wild hidden glen, river, lake, or sea:— this would be indeed zoology, i.e. the science of living creatures.
A Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica (1851), vi-vii.
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The Astronomer’s Drinking Song
Astronomers! What can avail
Those who calumniate us;
Experiment can never fail
With such an apparatus…
A Budget of Paradoxes
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The concept of number is the obvious distinction between the beast and man. Thanks to number, the cry becomes a song, noise acquires rhythm, the spring is transformed into a dance, force becomes dynamic, and outlines figures.
Epigraph, without citation, in Corrective and Social Psychiatry and Journal of Behavior Technology Methods and Therapy (1966), Vol. 12, 409.
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The forest doctors of the Amazon say each plant has its “song”, and that to know how to use the plant you must listen to its voice.
In 'Fifty Years On, the Silence of Rachel Carson’s Spring Consumes Us', The Guardian (25 Sep 2012).
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The mathematician can afford to leave to his clients, the engineers, or perhaps the popular philosophers, the emotion of belief: for himself he keeps the lyrical pleasure of metre and of evolving equations: and it is a pleasant surprise to him and an added problem if he finds that the arts can use his calculations, or that the senses can verify them, much as if a composer found that sailors could heave better when singing his songs.
In 'Revolution in Science', Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy (1933), 81.
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The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
Bible
Bible: New International Version (1984), Isaiah 55:12-13.
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The need to make music, and to listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings. I cannot imagine, even in our most primitive times, the emergence of talented painters to make cave paintings without there having been, near at hand, equally creative people making song. It is, like speech, a dominant aspect of human biology.
In 'The Music of This Sphere', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 25.
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The problem for a writer of a text-book has come now, in fact, to be this—to write a book so neatly trimmed and compacted that no coach, on looking through it, can mark a single passage which the candidate for a minimum pass can safely omit. Some of these text-books I have seen, where the scientific matter has been, like the lady’s waist in the nursery song, compressed “so gent and sma’,” that the thickness barely, if at all, surpasses what is devoted to the publisher’s advertisements. We shall return, I verily believe, to the Compendium of Martianus Capella. The result of all this is that science, in the hands of specialists, soars higher and higher into the light of day, while educators and the educated are left more and more to wander in primeval darkness.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science (1885), Nature, 32, 448. [Martianus Capella, who flourished c.410-320, wrote a compendium of the seven liberal arts. —Webmaster]
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The wintry clouds drop spangles on the mountains. If the thing occurred once in a century historians would chronicle and poets would sing of the event; but Nature, prodigal of beauty, rains down her hexagonal ice-stars year by year, forming layers yards in thickness. The summer sun thaws and partially consolidates the mass. Each winter's fall is covered by that of the ensuing one, and thus the snow layer of each year has to sustain an annually augmented weight. It is more and more compacted by the pressure, and ends by being converted into the ice of a true glacier, which stretches its frozen tongue far down beyond the limits of perpetual snow. The glaciers move, and through valleys they move like rivers.
The Glaciers of the Alps & Mountaineering in 1861 (1911), 247.
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There's antimony, arsenic, aluminium, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and
nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.
There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium,
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium,
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium.
There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium,
And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium,
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium,
And lead, praseodymium and platinum, plutonium,
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium,
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium,
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.
There's sulfur, californium and fermium, berkelium,
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium,
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium,
And chlorine, cobalt, carbon, copper, tungsten, tin and sodium.
These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discarvard.
[To the tune of I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.]
Song, 'The Elements' (1959). In Tom Lehrer,Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer: With Not Enough Drawings by Ronald Searle (1981), 151.
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Think, In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us, and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence.
From poem, 'Sonnets From the Portuguese' (1826), XXII. In Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Harriet Waters Preston (ed.), The Complete Poetical Works of Mrs. Browning (1900), 219.
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We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens ... The diversity of the phenomena of Nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.
From Mysterium Cosmographicum. Quote as translated in Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980, 1985), 32.
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We had various kinds of tape-recorded concerts and popular music. But by the end of the flight what we listened to most was Russian folk songs. We also had recordings of nature sounds: thunder, rain, the singing of birds. We switched them on most frequently of all, and we never grew tired of them. It was as if they returned us to Earth.
…...
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Whether one show one's self a man of genius in science or compose a song, the only point is, whether the thought, the discovery, the deed, is living and can live on.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 549:41.
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Words well up freely from the breast, without necessity or intent, and there may well have been no wandering horde in any desert that did not already have its own songs. For man, as a species, is a singing creature, though the notes, in his case, are also coupled with thought.
On Language (1836), trans. Peter Heath (1988), 60.
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You disembowel the animal and I study it alive; you make it an object of horror and pity, and I make it love you; you work in a torture and dismemberment workshop, I observe under the blue sky, on the cicadas’ song; … you scrutinize death, I scrutinize life.
From the original French, “Vous éventrez la bête et moi je l'étudie vivante ; vous en faites un objet d'horreur et de pitié, et moi je la fais aimer; vous travaillez dans un atelier de torture et de dépècement, j'observe sous le ciel bleu, au chant des cigales; … vous scrutez la mort, je scrute la vie.” In 'L’Harmas', Nouveaux Souvenirs entomologiques: Études sur l’instinct et les mœurs des Insectes (1882), 3. English version by Webmaster using Google translate.
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“Once the rockets are up
Who cares where they come down
That's not my department,”
Says Wernher von Braun.
Stanza from song, 'Wernher von Braun' on record That Was the Year That Was (Jul 1965). As cited in Michael J. Hogan and Thomas G. Paterson, Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations (2004), 91.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
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Euclid
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- 80 -
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Bible
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- 70 -
Samuel Morse
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Pierre Laplace
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Theodore Roosevelt
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- 60 -
Francis Galton
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Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
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James Watson
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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- 10 -
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