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Spectrum Quotes (20 quotes)

After a duration of a thousand years, the power of astrology broke down when, with Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, the progress of astronomy overthrew the false hypothesis upon which the entire structure rested, namely the geocentric system of the universe. The fact that the earth revolves in space intervened to upset the complicated play of planetary influences, and the silent stars, related to the unfathomable depths of the sky, no longer made their prophetic voices audible to mankind. Celestial mechanics and spectrum analysis finally robbed them of their mysterious prestige.
Franz Cumont, translated by J.B. Baker, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (1912, 2007), 6.
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After the discovery of spectral analysis no one trained in physics could doubt the problem of the atom would be solved when physicists had learned to understand the language of spectra. So manifold was the enormous amount of material that has been accumulated in sixty years of spectroscopic research that it seemed at first beyond the possibility of disentanglement. An almost greater enlightenment has resulted from the seven years of Röntgen spectroscopy, inasmuch as it has attacked the problem of the atom at its very root, and illuminates the interior. What we are nowadays hearing of the language of spectra is a true 'music of the spheres' in order and harmony that becomes ever more perfect in spite of the manifold variety. The theory of spectral lines will bear the name of Bohr for all time. But yet another name will be permanently associated with it, that of Planck. All integral laws of spectral lines and of atomic theory spring originally from the quantum theory. It is the mysterious organon on which Nature plays her music of the spectra, and according to the rhythm of which she regulates the structure of the atoms and nuclei.
Atombau und Spektrallinien (1919), viii, Atomic Structure and Spectral Lines, trans. Henry L. Brose (1923), viii.
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At the moment I am occupied by an investigation with Kirchoff which does not allow us to sleep. Kirchoff has made a totally unexpected discovery, inasmuch as he has found out the cause for the dark lines in the solar spectrum and can produce these lines artificially intensified both in the solar spectrum and in the continuous spectrum of a flame, their position being identical with that of Fraunhofer’s lines. Hence the path is opened for the determination of the chemical composition of the Sun and the fixed stars.
Letter to H.E. Roscoe (Nov 1859). In The Life and Experiences of Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe (1906), 71.
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At the moment I am occupied by an investigation with Kirchoff which does not allow us to sleep. Kirchoff has made a totally unexpected discovery, inasmuch as he has found out the cause for the dark lines in the solar spectrum and can produce these lines artificially intensified both in the solar spectrum and in the continuous spectrum of a flame, their position being identical with that of Fraunhofer’s lines. Hence the path is opened for the determination of the chemical composition of the Sun and the fixed stars.
Letter to H.E. Roscoe (Nov 1859). In The Life and Experiences of Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe (1906), 81.
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From what has been said it is also evident, that the Whiteness of the Sun's Light is compounded all the Colours wherewith the several sorts of Rays whereof that Light consists, when by their several Refrangibilities they are separated from one another, do tinge Paper or any other white Body whereon they fall. For those Colours ... are unchangeable, and whenever all those Rays with those their Colours are mix'd again, they reproduce the same white Light as before.
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 2, Exper. XV, 114.
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If we seek for the simplest arrangement, which would enable it [the eye] to receive and discriminate the impressions of the different parts of the spectrum, we may suppose three distinct sensations only to be excited by the rays of the three principal pure colours, falling on any given point of the retina, the red, the green, and the violet; while the rays occupying the intermediate spaces are capable of producing mixed sensations, the yellow those which belong to the red and green, and the blue those which belong to the green and violet.
'Chromatics', in Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1824), Vol. 3, 142.
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In my view, the proper attitude of a public-service broadcaster is that it should attempt to cover as broad as possible a spectrum of human interest and should measure success by the width of those views. There shouldn’t be all that large a number of gaps in the spectrum; and a major element in the spectrum is scientific understanding. The fact that it doesn’t necessarily get as big an audience as cookery is of no consequence.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 33.
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In the last four days I have got the spectrum given by Tantalum. Chromium. Manganese. Iron. Nickel. Cobalt. and Copper and part of the Silver spectrum. The chief result is that all the elements give the same kind of spectrum, the result for any metal being quite easy to guess from the results for the others. This shews that the insides of all the atoms are very much alike, and from these results it will be possible to find out something of what the insides are made up of.
Letter to his mother (2 Nov 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 209.
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Newton was probably responsible for the concept that there are seven primary colours in the spectrum—he had a strong interest in musical harmonies and, since there are seven distinct notes in the musical scale, he divided up the spectrum into spectral bands with widths corresponding to the ratios of the small whole numbers found in the just scale.
In 'Light and Colour', Trevor Lamb and Janine Bourriau, Colour: Art & Science (1995), 72.
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Science is spectral analysis. Art is light synthesis.
Pro domo et Mundo, (1912) Chap. 4. In 'Riddles and Solutions', Half-Truths and One-And-A-Half-Truths: Selected Aphorisms, editted by Harry Zohn (1976), 47.
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The greatest of all spectral classifiers, Antonia Maury had two strikes on her: the biggest one was, she was a woman. A woman had no chance at anything in astronomy except at Harvard in the 1880’s and 1890’s. And even there, things were rough. It now turns out that her director, E.C. Pickering, did not like the way she classified; she then refused to change to suit him; and after her great publication in Harvard Annals 28 (1897), she left Harvard—and in a sense, astronomy. ... I would say the most remarkable phenomenological investigation in modern astronomy is Miss Maury’s work in Harvard Annals 28. She didn’t have anything astrophysical to go on. Investigations between 1890 and 1900 were the origin of astrophysics. But these were solar, mostly. And there Miss Maury was on the periphery. I’ve seen pictures of groups, where she’d be standing away a little bit to one side of the other people, a little bit in the background. It was a very sad thing. When Hertzsprung wrote Pickering to congratulate him on Miss Maury’s work that had led to Hertzsprung’s discovery of super giants, Pickering is supposed to have replied that Miss Maury’s work was wrong — could not possibly be correct.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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The Sun is no lonelier than its neighbors; indeed, it is a very common-place star,—dwarfish, though not minute,—like hundreds, nay thousands, of others. By accident the brighter component of Alpha Centauri (which is double) is almost the Sun's twin in brightness, mass, and size. Could this Earth be transported to its vicinity by some supernatural power, and set revolving about it, at a little less than a hundred million miles' distance, the star would heat and light the world just as the Sun does, and life and civilization might go on with no radical change. The Milky Way would girdle the heavens as before; some of our familiar constellations, such as Orion, would be little changed, though others would be greatly altered by the shifting of the nearer stars. An unfamiliar brilliant star, between Cassiopeia and Perseus would be—the Sun. Looking back at it with our telescopes, we could photograph its spectrum, observe its motion among the stars, and convince ourselves that it was the same old Sun; but what had happened to the rest of our planetary system we would not know.
The Solar System and its Origin (1935), 2-3.
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The unprecedented identification of the spectrum of an apparently stellar object in terms of a large red-shift suggests either of the two following explanations.
The stellar object is a star with a large gravitational red-shift. Its radius would then be of the order of 10km. Preliminary considerations show that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to account for the occurrence of permitted lines and a forbidden line with the same red-shift, and with widths of only 1 or 2 per cent of the wavelength.
The stellar object is the nuclear region of a galaxy with a cosmological red-shift of 0.158, corresponding to an apparent velocity of 47,400 km/sec. The distance would be around 500 megaparsecs, and the diameter of the nuclear region would have to be less than 1 kiloparsec. This nuclear region would be about 100 times brighter optically than the luminous galaxies which have been identified with radio sources thus far. If the optical jet and component A of the radio source are associated with the galaxy, they would be at a distance of 50 kiloparsecs implying a time-scale in excess of 105 years. The total energy radiated in the optical range at constant luminosity would be of the order of 1059 ergs.
Only the detection of irrefutable proper motion or parallax would definitively establish 3C 273 as an object within our Galaxy. At the present time, however, the explanation in terms of an extragalactic origin seems more direct and less objectionable.
'3C 273: A Star-like Object with Large Red-Shift', Nature (1963), 197, 1040.
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The whole subject of the X rays is opening out wonderfully, Bragg has of course got in ahead of us, and so the credit all belongs to him, but that does not make it less interesting. We find that an X ray bulb with a platinum target gives out a sharp line spectrum of five wavelengths which the crystal separates out as if it were a diffraction grating. In this way one can get pure monochromatic X rays. Tomorrow we search for the spectra of other elements. There is here a whole new branch of spectroscopy, which is sure to tell one much about the nature of an atom.
Letter to his mother (18 May 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 205.
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To try to make a model of an atom by studying its spectrum is like trying to make a model of a grand piano by listening to the noise it makes when thrown downstairs.
In Oliver Lodge in Atoms and Rays (1924), 74.
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What beauty. I saw clouds and their light shadows on the distant dear earth…. The water looked like darkish, slightly gleaming spots…. When I watched the horizon, I saw the abrupt, contrasting transition from the earth’s light-colored surface to the absolutely black sky. I enjoyed the rich color spectrum of the earth. It is surrounded by a light blue aureole that gradually darkens, becomes turquoise, dark blue, violet, and finally coal black.
Describing his view while making the first manned orbit of the earth (12 Apr 1961). As quoted in Don Knefel, Writing and Life: A Rhetoric for Nonfiction with Readings (1986), 93. Front Cover
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When it is considered that this light, when obtained with mercury gas, has an efficiency at least eight times as great as that obtained by an ordinary incandescent lamp, it will be appreciated that it has its use in places where lack of red is not important, for the economy of operation will much more than compensate for the somewhat unnatural color given to illuminated objects.
'Electric Gas Lamps and Gas Electrical Resistance Phenomena', a paper read at the 150th AIEE meeting 3 Jan 1902. In Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (1902), 61.
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With crystals we are in a situation similar to an attempt to investigate an optical grating merely from the spectra it produces... But a knowledge of the positions and intensities of the spectra does not suffice for the determination of the structure. The phases with which the diffracted waves vibrate relative to one another enter in an essential way. To determine a crystal structure on the atomic scale, one must know the phase differences between the different interference spots on the photographic plate, and this task may certainly prove to be rather difficult.
Physikalische Zeitschrift (1913), 14. Translated in Walter Moore, Schrödinger. Life and Thought (1989), 73.
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[Otto Struve] made the remark once that he never looked at the spectrum of a star, any star, where he didn’t find something important to work on.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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[W]e pity our fathers for dying before steam and galvanism, sulphuric ether and ocean telegraphs, photograph and spectrograph arrived, as cheated out of their human estate.
'Works and Days', Emerson's Complete Works (1883), 152.
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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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