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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Stand Quotes (107 quotes)

δος μοι που στω και κινω την γην — Dos moi pou sto kai kino taen gaen (in epigram form, as given by Pappus, classical Greek).
δος μοι πα στω και τα γαν κινάσω — Dos moi pa sto kai tan gan kinaso (Doric Greek).
Give me a place to stand on and I can move the Earth.
About four centuries before Pappas, but about three centuries after Archimedes lived, Plutarch had written of Archimedes' understanding of the lever:
Archimedes, a kinsman and friend of King Hiero, wrote to him that with a given force, it was possible to move any given weight; and emboldened, as it is said, by the strength of the proof, he asserted that, if there were another world and he could go to it, he would move this one.
A commonly-seen expanded variation of the aphorism is:
Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I can move the earth.
As attributed to Pappus (4th century A.D.) and Plutarch (c. 46-120 A.D.), in Sherman K. Stein, Archimedes: What Did He Do Besides Cry Eureka? (1999), 5, where it is also stated that Archimedes knew that ropes and pulley exploit “the principle of the lever, where distance is traded for force.” Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis, in his book, Archimedes (1956), Vol. 12., 15. writes that Hiero invited Archimedes to demonstrate his claim on a ship from the royal fleet, drawn up onto land and there loaded with a large crew and freight, and Archimedes easily succeeded. Thomas Little Heath in The Works of Archimedes (1897), xix-xx, states according to Athenaeus, the mechanical contrivance used was not pulleys as given by Plutarch, but a helix., Heath provides cites for Pappus Synagoge, Book VIII, 1060; Plutarch, Marcellus, 14; and Athenaeus v. 207 a-b. What all this boils down to, in the opinion of the Webmaster, is the last-stated aphorism would seem to be not the actual words of Archimedes (c. 287 – 212 B.C.), but restatements of the principle attributed to him, formed by other writers centuries after his lifetime.
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Question: Explain how to determine the time of vibration of a given tuning-fork, and state what apparatus you would require for the purpose.
Answer: For this determination I should require an accurate watch beating seconds, and a sensitive ear. I mount the fork on a suitable stand, and then, as the second hand of my watch passes the figure 60 on the dial, I draw the bow neatly across one of its prongs. I wait. I listen intently. The throbbing air particles are receiving the pulsations; the beating prongs are giving up their original force; and slowly yet surely the sound dies away. Still I can hear it, but faintly and with close attention; and now only by pressing the bones of my head against its prongs. Finally the last trace disappears. I look at the time and leave the room, having determined the time of vibration of the common “pitch” fork. This process deteriorates the fork considerably, hence a different operation must be performed on a fork which is only lent.
Genuine student answer* to an Acoustics, Light and Heat paper (1880), Science and Art Department, South Kensington, London, collected by Prof. Oliver Lodge. Quoted in Henry B. Wheatley, Literary Blunders (1893), 176-7, Question 4. (*From a collection in which Answers are not given verbatim et literatim, and some instances may combine several students' blunders.)
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[Students or readers about teachers or authors.] They will listen with both ears to what is said by the men just a step or two ahead of them, who stand nearest to them, and within arm’s reach. A guide ceases to be of any use when he strides so far ahead as to be hidden by the curvature of the earth.
From Lecture (5 Apr 1917) at Hackley School, Tarrytown, N.Y., 'Choosing Books', collected in Canadian Stories (1918), 150.
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A fact is like a sack which won’t stand up if it’s empty. In order that it may stand up, one has to put into it the reason and sentiment which caused it to exist.
Character, The Father, in play Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921), Act 1. Collected in John Gassner and Burns Mantle, A Treasury of the Theatre (1935), Vol. 2, 507.
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A large part of the training of the engineer, civil and military, as far as preparatory studies are concerned; of the builder of every fabric of wood or stone or metal designed to stand upon the earth, or bridge the stream, or resist or float upon the wave; of the surveyor who lays out a building lot in a city, or runs a boundary line between powerful governments across a continent; of the geographer, navigator, hydrographer, and astronomer,—must be derived from the mathematics.
In 'Academical Education', Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions (1870), Vol. 3, 513.
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A man cannot well stand by himself, and so he is glad to join a party; because if he does not find rest there, he at any rate finds quiet and safety.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 183.
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A man’s value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.
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A most vile face! and yet she spends me forty pound a year in Mercury and Hogs Bones. All her teeth were made in the Black-Fryars, both her Eyebrows i’ the Strand, and her Hair in Silver-street. Every part of Town owns a Piece of her.
A reference to artificial teeth by character Otter, speaking of his wife, in Epicoene: or, The Silent Woman (1609), Act IV, Sc. 2, 64. Also, True-wit makes a specific reference to “false Teeth” in Act I, Sc. 1, 10.
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A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
In 'A Noiseless Patient Spider', Broadway: A London Magazine (1868), reprinted in Leaves of Grass (5th ed., 1871, 1888), 343.
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A small cabin stands in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, about a hundred yards off a trail that crosses the Cascade Range. In midsummer, the cabin looked strange in the forest. It was only twelve feet square, but it rose fully two stories and then had a high and steeply peaked roof. From the ridge of the roof, moreover, a ten-foot pole stuck straight up. Tied to the top of the pole was a shovel. To hikers shedding their backpacks at the door of the cabin on a cold summer evening—as the five of us did—it was somewhat unnerving to look up and think of people walking around in snow perhaps thirty-five feet above, hunting for that shovel, then digging their way down to the threshold.
In Encounters with the Archdruid (1971), 3.
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A vision of the whole of life!. Could any human undertaking be ... more grandiose? This attempt stands without rival as the most audacious enterprise in which the mind of man has ever engaged ... Here is man, surrounded by the vastness of a universe in which he is only a tiny and perhaps insignificant part—and he wants to understand it.
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Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval [tropical] forests, ... temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature. No one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.
In What Mr. Darwin Saw in His Voyage Round the World in the Ship “Beagle” 1879, 170.
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Behind and permeating all our scientific activity, whether in critical analysis or in discovery, there is an elementary and overwhelming faith in the possibility of grasping the real world with out concepts, and, above all, faith in the truth over which we have no control but in the service of which our rationality stands or falls. Faith and intrinsic rationality are interlocked with one another
Christian Theology of Scientific Culture (1981), 63. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 187.
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Between men of different studies and professions, may be observed a constant reciprocation of reproaches. The collector of shells and stones derides the folly of him who pastes leaves and flowers upon paper, pleases himself with colours that are perceptibly fading, and amasses with care what cannot be preserved. The hunter of insects stands amazed that any man can waste his short time upon lifeless matter, while many tribes of animals yet want their history. Every one is inclined not only to promote his own study, but to exclude all others from regard, and having heated his imagination with some favourite pursuit, wonders that the rest of mankind are not seized with the same passion.
From 'Numb. 83, Tuesday, January 1, 1750', The Rambler (1756), Vol. 2, 150.
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But ... the working scientist ... is not consciously following any prescribed course of action, but feels complete freedom to utilize any method or device whatever which in the particular situation before him seems likely to yield the correct answer. ... No one standing on the outside can predict what the individual scientist will do or what method he will follow.
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But now that I was finally here, standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn’t summon the energy to care.
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Cayley was singularly learned in the work of other men, and catholic in his range of knowledge. Yet he did not read a memoir completely through: his custom was to read only so much as would enable him to grasp the meaning of the symbols and understand its scope. The main result would then become to him a subject of investigation: he would establish it (or test it) by algebraic analysis and, not infrequently, develop it so to obtain other results. This faculty of grasping and testing rapidly the work of others, together with his great knowledge, made him an invaluable referee; his services in this capacity were used through a long series of years by a number of societies to which he was almost in the position of standing mathematical advisor.
In Proceedings of London Royal Society (1895), 58, 11-12.
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Common sense always speaks too late. Common sense is the guy who tells you you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week. Common sense is the Monday morning quarterback who could have won the ball game if he had been on the team. But he never is. He’s high up in the stands with a flask on his hip. Common sense is the little man in a grey suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it’s always somebody else’s money he’s adding up.
In novel, Playback (1958), Chap. 14, 95.
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During the school period the student has been mentally bending over his desk; at the University he should stand up and look around. For this reason it is fatal if the first year at the University be frittered away in going over the old work in the old spirit. At school the boy painfully rises from the particular towards glimpses at general ideas; at the University he should start from general ideas and study their applications to concrete cases.
In 'The Rhythm of Education', The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929), 26.
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Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.
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Every great scientist becomes a great scientist because of the inner self-abnegation with which he stands before truth, saying: “Not my will, but thine, be done.” What, then, does a man mean by saying, Science displaces religion, when in this deep sense science itself springs from religion?
In 'The Real Point of Conflict between Science and Religion', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 148.
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Everything is like a purse—there may be money in it, and we can generally say by the feel of it whether there is or is not. Sometimes, however, we must turn it inside out before we can be quite sure whether there is anything in it or no. When I have turned a proposition inside out, put it to stand on its head, and shaken it, I have often been surprised to find how much came out of it.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 222.
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Facts were never pleasing to him. He acquired them with reluctance and got rid of them with relief. He was never on terms with them until he had stood them on their heads.
The Greenwood Hat (1937), 55.
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For me too, the periodic table was a passion. ... As a boy, I stood in front of the display for hours, thinking how wonderful it was that each of those metal foils and jars of gas had its own distinct personality.
[Referring to the periodic table display in the Science Museum, London, with element samples in bottles]
Letter to Oliver Sacks. Quoted in Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001), footnote, 203.
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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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How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make - leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone - we all dwell in a house of one room - the world with the firmament for its roof - and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track.
John Muir
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I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.
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I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television—of that I am quite sure
In 'Removal' (Jul 1938), collected in One Man's Meat (1942), 3.
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I cannot judge my work while I am doing it. I have to do as painters do, stand back and view it from a distance, but not too great a distance. How great? Guess.
Quoted without citation in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 291. Webmaster has tried without success to locate a primary source. Can you help?
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I experimented with all possible maneuvers—loops, somersaults and barrel rolls. I stood upside down on one finger and burst out laughing, a shrill, distorted laugh. Nothing I did altered the automatic rhythm of the air. Delivered from gravity and buoyancy, I flew around in space.
Describing his early test (1943) in the Mediterranean Sea of the Aqua-Lung he co-invented.
Quoted in 'Sport: Poet of the Depths', Time (28 Mar 1960)
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I have long recognized the theory and aesthetic of such comprehensive display: show everything and incite wonder by sheer variety. But I had never realized how power fully the decor of a cabinet museum can promote this goal until I saw the Dublin [Natural History Museum] fixtures redone right ... The exuberance is all of one piece–organic and architectural. I write this essay to offer my warmest congratulations to the Dublin Museum for choosing preservation–a decision not only scientifically right, but also ethically sound and decidedly courageous. The avant-garde is not an exclusive locus of courage; a principled stand within a reconstituted rear unit may call down just as much ridicule and demand equal fortitude. Crowds do not always rush off in admirable or defendable directions.
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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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I stand almost with the others. They believe the world was made for man, I believe it likely that it was made for man; they think there is proof, astronomical mainly, that it was made for man, I think there is evidence only, not proof, that it was made for him. It is too early, yet, to arrange the verdict, the returns are not all in. When they are all in, I think that they will show that the world was made for man; but we must not hurry, we must patiently wait till they are all in.
Attributed.
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I stand before you as somebody who is both physicist and a priest, and I want to hold together my scientific and my religious insights and experiences . I want to hold them together, as far as I am able, without dishonesty and without compartmentalism. I don’t want to be a priest on Sunday and a physicist on Monday; I want to be both on both days.
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I waited for Rob and, linking arms, we took our final steps together onto the rooftop of the world. It was 8.15 am on 24 May 2004; there was nowhere higher on the planet that we could go, the world lay at our feet. Holding each other tightly, we tried to absorb where we were. To be standing here, together, exactly three years since Rob’s cancer treatment, was nothing short of a miracle. Standing on top of Everest was more than just climbing a mountain - it was a gift of life. With Pemba and Nawang we crowded together, wrapping our arms around each other. They had been more than Sherpas, they had been our guardian angels.
Jo Gambi
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If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.
As quoted, previously on webpage with short bio of Hal Abelson at publicknowledge.org (as archived from Nov 2004).
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If it were not for our conception of weights and measures we would stand in awe of the firefly as we do before the sun.
In Kahlil Gibran: The Collected Works (207), 204.
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If somebody’d said before the flight, “Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?” I would have say, “No, no way.” But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried.
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In Euclid each proposition stands by itself; its connection with others is never indicated; the leading ideas contained in its proof are not stated; general principles do not exist. In modern methods, on the other hand, the greatest importance is attached to the leading thoughts which pervade the whole; and general principles, which bring whole groups of theorems under one aspect, are given rather than separate propositions. The whole tendency is toward generalization. A straight line is considered as given in its entirety, extending both ways to infinity, while Euclid is very careful never to admit anything but finite quantities. The treatment of the infinite is in fact another fundamental difference between the two methods. Euclid avoids it, in modern mathematics it is systematically introduced, for only thus is generality obtained.
In 'Geometry', Encyclopedia Britannica (9th edition).
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In Japan, an exceptional dexterity that comes from eating with chopsticks … is especially useful in micro-assembly. (This … brings smiles from my colleagues, but I stand by it. Much of modern assembly is fine tweezer work, and nothing prepares for it better than eating with chopsticks from early childhood.)
In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (1998, 1999), 475.
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In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.
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Instead of adjusting students to docile membership in whatever group they happen to be placed, we should equip them to cope with their environment, not be adjusted to it, to be willing to stand alone, if necessary, for what is right and true.
In speech, 'Education for Creativity in the Sciences', Conference at New York University, Washington Square. As quoted by Gene Currivan in 'I.Q. Tests Called Harmful to Pupil', New York Times (16 Jun 1963), 66.
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Intellect is void of affection and sees an object as it stands in the light of science, cool and disengaged. The intellect goes out of the individual, floats over its own personality, and regards it as a fact, and not as I and mine.
From 'Intellect', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 326.
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It is a better world with some buffalo left in it, a richer world with some gorgeous canyons unmarred by signboards, hot-dog stands, super highways, or high-tension lines, undrowned by power or irrigation reservoirs. If we preserved as parks only those places that have no economic possibilities, we would have no parks. And in the decades to come, it will not be only the buffalo and the trumpeter swan who need sanctuaries. Our own species is going to need them too. It needs them now.
Conclusion of essay 'The Marks of Human Passage', collected in This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and its Magic Rivers (1955), 17.
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It is a strange feeling which comes over one as he stands in the centre of the tunnel, and knows that a mighty river is rolling on over his head, and that great ships with their thousands of tons burthen, sail over him. ... There is no single work of Art in London (with the exception of St. Paul's Cathedral) which excites so much curiosity and admiration among foreigners as the Tunnel. Great buildings are common to all parts of Europe, but the world has not such another Tunnel as this. There is something grand in the idea of walking under a broad river—making a pathway dry and secure beneath ships and navies!
[About visiting Brunel's Thames Tunnel, the first in the world under a navigable waterway.]
What I Saw in London: or, Men and Things in the Great Metropolis (1853), 168-169.
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It is admitted by all that a finished or even a competent reasoner is not the work of nature alone; the experience of every day makes it evident that education develops faculties which would otherwise never have manifested their existence. It is, therefore, as necessary to learn to reason before we can expect to be able to reason, as it is to learn to swim or fence, in order to attain either of those arts. Now, something must be reasoned upon, it matters not much what it is, provided it can be reasoned upon with certainty. The properties of mind or matter, or the study of languages, mathematics, or natural history, may be chosen for this purpose. Now of all these, it is desirable to choose the one which admits of the reasoning being verified, that is, in which we can find out by other means, such as measurement and ocular demonstration of all sorts, whether the results are true or not. When the guiding property of the loadstone was first ascertained, and it was necessary to learn how to use this new discovery, and to find out how far it might be relied on, it would have been thought advisable to make many passages between ports that were well known before attempting a voyage of discovery. So it is with our reasoning faculties: it is desirable that their powers should be exerted upon objects of such a nature, that we can tell by other means whether the results which we obtain are true or false, and this before it is safe to trust entirely to reason. Now the mathematics are peculiarly well adapted for this purpose, on the following grounds:
1. Every term is distinctly explained, and has but one meaning, and it is rarely that two words are employed to mean the same thing.
2. The first principles are self-evident, and, though derived from observation, do not require more of it than has been made by children in general.
3. The demonstration is strictly logical, taking nothing for granted except self-evident first principles, resting nothing upon probability, and entirely independent of authority and opinion.
4. When the conclusion is obtained by reasoning, its truth or falsehood can be ascertained, in geometry by actual measurement, in algebra by common arithmetical calculation. This gives confidence, and is absolutely necessary, if, as was said before, reason is not to be the instructor, but the pupil.
5. There are no words whose meanings are so much alike that the ideas which they stand for may be confounded. Between the meaning of terms there is no distinction, except a total distinction, and all adjectives and adverbs expressing difference of degrees are avoided.
In On the Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1898), chap. 1.
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It is difficult to know how to treat the errors of the age. If a man oppose them, he stands alone; if he surrender to them, they bring him neither joy nor credit.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 185.
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It isn’t important in which sea or lake you observe a slick of pollution, or in the forests of which country afire breaks out, or on which continent a hurricane arises. You are standing guard over the whole of our Earth.
In Jack Hassard and Julie Weisberg , Environmental Science on the Net: The Global Thinking Project (1999), 23.
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It startled him even more when just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute’s Prize for Extreme Cleverness he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smart-ass.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979, 1997), 78.
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It was cold. Space, the air we breathed, the yellow rocks, were deadly cold. There was something ultimate, passionless, and eternal in this cold. It came to us as a single constant note from the depths of space. We stood on the very boundary of life and death.
…...
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It’s like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it’s like.
As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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Life, forever dying to be born afresh, forever young and eager, will presently stand upon this Earth as upon a footstool, and stretch out its realm amidst the stars.
…...
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Many the forms of life,
Fearful and strange to see,
But man supreme stands out
For strangeness and for fear.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated in Harvard Classics. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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Mathematics is distinguished from all other sciences except only ethics, in standing in no need of ethics. Every other science, even logic—logic, especially—is in its early stages in danger of evaporating into airy nothingness, degenerating, as the Germans say, into an anachrioid [?] film, spun from the stuff that dreams are made of. There is no such danger for pure mathematics; for that is precisely what mathematics ought to be.
In Charles S. Peirce, ‎Charles Hartshorne (ed.), ‎Paul Weiss (ed.), Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (1931), Vol. 4, 200.
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Mathematics vindicates the right … to stand in the front rank of the pioneers that search the real truth and find it crystallized forever in brilliant gems.
In Lectures on the Philosophy of Mathematics (1918), 194.
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Nature, the parent of all things, designed the human backbone to be like a keel or foundation. It is because we have a backbone that we can walk upright and stand erect. But this was not the only purpose for which Nature provided it; here, as elsewhere, she displayed great skill in turning the construction of a single member to a variety of different uses.
It Provides a Path for the Spinal Marrow, Yet is Flexible.
Firstly, she bored a hole through the posterior region of the bodies of all the vertebrae, thus fashioning a suitable pathway for the spinal marrow which would descend through them.
Secondly, she did not make the backbone out of one single bone with no joints. Such a unified construction would have afforded greater stability and a safer seat for the spinal marrow since, not having joints, the column could not have suffered dislocations, displacements, or distortions. If the Creator of the world had paid such attention to resistance to injury and had subordinated the value and importance of all other aims in the fabric of parts of the body to this one, he would certainly have made a single backbone with no joints, as when someone constructing an animal of wood or stone forms the backbone of one single and continuous component. Even if man were destined only to bend and straighten his back, it would not have been appropriate to construct the whole from one single bone. And in fact, since it was necessary that man, by virtue of his backbone, be able to perform a great variety of movements, it was better that it be constructed from many bones, even though as a result of this it was rendered more liable to injury.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, 57-58, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in 'Nature’s Skill in Creating a Backbone to Hold Us Erect', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), 138.
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No nation can be really great unless it is great in peace, in industry, integrity, honesty. Skilled intelligence in civic affairs and industrial enterprises alike; the special ability of the artist, the man of letters, the man of science, and the man of business; the rigid determination to wrong no man, and to stand for righteousness—all these are necessary in a great nation.
Address (2 Jun 1897) at U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. In 'Washington's Forgotten Maxim', United States Naval Institute Proceedings (1897), 23, 450.
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Nobody knows how the stand of our knowledge about the atom would be without him. Personally, [Niels] Bohr is one of the amiable colleagues I have met. He utters his opinions like one perpetually groping and never like one who believes himself to be in possession of the truth.
Quoted in Bill Becker, 'Pioneer of the Atom', New York Times Sunday Magazine (20 Oct 1957), 52.
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One of the differences between the natural and the social sciences is that in the natural sciences, each succeeding generation stands on the shoulders of those that have gone before, while in the social sciences, each generation steps in the faces of its predecessors.
Skinner's Theory of Teaching Machines (1959), 167.
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One summer night, out on a flat headland, all but surrounded by the waters of the bay, the horizons were remote and distant rims on the edge of space. Millions of stars blazed in darkness, and on the far shore a few lights burned in cottages. Otherwise there was no reminder of human life. My companion and I were alone with the stars: the misty river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky, the patterns of the constellations standing out bright and clear, a blazing planet low on the horizon. It occurred to me that if this were a sight that could be seen only once in a century, this little headland would be thronged with spectators. But it can be seen many scores of nights in any year, and so the lights burned in the cottages and the inhabitants probably gave not a thought to the beauty overhead; and because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they never will.
In The Sense of Wonder (1956), as condensed in Reader’s Digest (1986), 129, 174.
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One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world’s problems will produce anything of lasting value. Such a generation, even when equipped with the most modern technology, will be essentially primitive - it will stand in awe of nature, and submit to the tutelage of medicine men.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 38.
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Our country is now at war and the only way out is forward. I would not change one word I have spoken against war but that is no longer the issue. We must now stand together.
As quoted in 'David Starr Jordan Dies at Age of 80', New York Times (20 Sep 1931), N6.
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Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility in this world life-and-death struggle to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity’s destruction. … We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. This appeal is sent to you only after long consideration of the immense crisis we face. … We ask your help at this fateful moment as a sign that we scientists do not stand alone.
In 'Atomic Education Urged by Einstein', New York Times (25 May 1946), 13. Extract from a telegram (24 May 1946) to “several hundred prominent Americans”, signed by Albert Einstein as Chairman, with other members, of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. It was also signed by the Federation of American Scientists.
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Paradox has been defined as “Truth standing on her head to get attention.”
In 'When Doctors Agree', The Paradoxes of Mr Pond (1937), 71.
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People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live...[We] never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.
…...
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Phenomena unfold on their own appropriate scales of space and time and may be invisible in our myopic world of dimensions assessed by comparison with human height and times metered by human lifespans. So much of accumulating importance at earthly scales ... is invisible by the measuring rod of a human life. So much that matters to particles in the microscopic world of molecules ... either averages out to stability at our scale or simply stands below our limits of perception.
…...
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Physics is unable to stand on its own feet, but needs a metaphysics on which to support itself, whatever fine airs it may assume towards the latter.
The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Byrne (1958), Vol. 2, 172.
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Plants stand still and wait to be counted.
Contrasting the ease of counting plants with the difficulties following the population dynamics of animals. In Population Biology of Plants (1977, 2010), 515.
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Science is rooted in the will to truth. With the will to truth it stands or falls. Lower the standard even slightly and science becomes diseased at the core. Not only science, but man. The will to truth, pure and unadulterated, is among the essential conditions of his existence; if the standard is compromised he easily becomes a kind of tragic caricature of himself.
Opening statement in 'On Truth', Social Research (May 1934), 1, No. 2, 135.
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Since [World War I] we have seen the atomic age, the computer age, the space age, and the bio-engineering age, each as epochal as the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. And all these have occurred in one generation. Man has stood on the moon and looked back on the earth, that small planet now reduced to a neighbourhood. But our material achievements have exceeded the managerial capacities of our human minds and institutions.
As quoted in Colin Bingham (ed.), Wit and Wisdom: A Public Affairs Miscellany (1982), 227.
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Stand firm in your refusal to remain conscious during algebra. In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.
In 'Tips for Teens,' Social Studies (1981), 27.
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Standing beside each other, we feasted our eyes. Above us the cerulean sky deepened to an inky black as the remnants of the atmosphere gave way to the depths of space. The mighty Himalaya were now a sparkling relief map spread out before us and garnished with a gleaming lattice work of swirling glaciers. Even Cho Oyu, Lhotse and Makalu, all 8,000-meter giants, were dwarfed. To the east and west, Kanchenjunga and Shishapangma, two more great sentinels of the Himalaya, stood crystal clear over 100 kilometers away. To the north were the burnished plains of Tibet, and to the south the majestic peaks and lush foothills of Nepal. We stood on the crown jewel of the earth, the curved horizon spinning endlessly around us.
Jo Gambi
…...
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Standing now in diffused light, with the wind at my back, I experience suddenly a feeling of completeness–not a feeling of having achieved something or of being stronger than everyone who was ever here before, not a feeling of having arrived at the ultimate point, not a feeling of supremacy. Just a breath of happiness deep inside my mind and my breast. The summit seemed suddenly to me to be a refuge, and I had not expected to find any refuge up here. Looking at the steep, sharp ridges below us, I have the impression that to have come later would have been too late. Everything we now say to one another, we only say out of embarrassment. I don’t think anymore. As I pull the tape recorder, trancelike, from my rucksack, and switch it on wanting to record a few appropriate phrases, tears again well into my eyes. “Now we are on the summit of Everest,” I begin, “it is so cold that we cannot take photographs…” I cannot go on, I am immediately shaken with sobs. I can neither talk nor think, feeling only how this momentous experience changes everything. To reach only a few meters below the summit would have required the same amount of effort, the same anxiety and burden of sorrow, but a feeling like this, an eruption of feeling, is only possible on the summit itself.
In Everest: Expedition to the Ultimate (1979), 180.
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Suppose then I want to give myself a little training in the art of reasoning; suppose I want to get out of the region of conjecture and probability, free myself from the difficult task of weighing evidence, and putting instances together to arrive at general propositions, and simply desire to know how to deal with my general propositions when I get them, and how to deduce right inferences from them; it is clear that I shall obtain this sort of discipline best in those departments of thought in which the first principles are unquestionably true. For in all our thinking, if we come to erroneous conclusions, we come to them either by accepting false premises to start with—in which case our reasoning, however good, will not save us from error; or by reasoning badly, in which case the data we start from may be perfectly sound, and yet our conclusions may be false. But in the mathematical or pure sciences,—geometry, arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, the calculus of variations or of curves,— we know at least that there is not, and cannot be, error in our first principles, and we may therefore fasten our whole attention upon the processes. As mere exercises in logic, therefore, these sciences, based as they all are on primary truths relating to space and number, have always been supposed to furnish the most exact discipline. When Plato wrote over the portal of his school. “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here,” he did not mean that questions relating to lines and surfaces would be discussed by his disciples. On the contrary, the topics to which he directed their attention were some of the deepest problems,— social, political, moral,—on which the mind could exercise itself. Plato and his followers tried to think out together conclusions respecting the being, the duty, and the destiny of man, and the relation in which he stood to the gods and to the unseen world. What had geometry to do with these things? Simply this: That a man whose mind has not undergone a rigorous training in systematic thinking, and in the art of drawing legitimate inferences from premises, was unfitted to enter on the discussion of these high topics; and that the sort of logical discipline which he needed was most likely to be obtained from geometry—the only mathematical science which in Plato’s time had been formulated and reduced to a system. And we in this country [England] have long acted on the same principle. Our future lawyers, clergy, and statesmen are expected at the University to learn a good deal about curves, and angles, and numbers and proportions; not because these subjects have the smallest relation to the needs of their lives, but because in the very act of learning them they are likely to acquire that habit of steadfast and accurate thinking, which is indispensable to success in all the pursuits of life.
In Lectures on Teaching (1906), 891-92.
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Teaching is not telling. If it were telling, we’d all be so smart we couldn't stand ourselves.
Anonymous
Sometimes seen in recent publications attributed to Mark Twain, for example, in Thomas R. Rosebrough and ‎Ralph G. Leverett Transformational Teaching in the Information Age (2011), 71. Also seen as “If teaching were just telling then we’d all be so smart we couldn’t stand up.” Webmaster has tried, but has not yet been able to find a primary source in Twain’s writings, and so believes “Anonymous” is the most likely source. Can you help?
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The day dawned grey and dreary
The sky made of silver
While the first snowflakes
Began to fall.
A lone bird chirped
In a tree bare of its leaves.
Standing on a lonely road
I stood watching as the world
Started changing.
And I embraced the winter
With memories of summer’s warmth
Still in my heart.
And soon the snowflakes
Began to dance about me
And I twirled around and around
As everything
Turned into a winter wonderland.
…...
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The end of the ridge and the end of the world... then nothing but that clear, empty air. There was nowhere else to climb. I was standing on the top of the world.
…...
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The idiot, the Indian, the child and unschooled farmer’s boy stand nearer to the light by which nature is to be read, than the dissector or the antiquary.
Concluding sentence in 'History', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 41.
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The infinite! No other question has ever moved so profoundly the spirit of man; no other idea has so fruitfully stimulated his intellect; yet no other concept stands in greater need of clarification than that of the infinite.
Address in memory of Karl Weierstrass. As quoted in Journal of the University of Bombay (1933), 2, 201. Also in Tobias Dantzig, Number: The Language of Science (1937), 237. Also partially quoted as epigraph in in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 3, 1593. which dates the address as 1921. Another translation for perhaps the same address ('On the Infinite'), in honor of Weierstrass, dates it as 4 Jun 1925, in Paul Benacerraf (ed.) Philosophy of Mathematics (1983), 183. See this alternate version elsewhere on this page, beginning, “From time immemorial…”.
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The laboratory work was the province of Dr Searle, an explosive, bearded Nemesis who struck terror into my heart. If one made a blunder one was sent to ‘stand in the corner’ like a naughty child. He had no patience with the women students. He said they disturbed the magnetic equipment, and more than once I heard him shout ‘Go and take off your corsets!’ for most girls wore these garments then, and steel was beginning to replace whalebone as a stiffening agent. For all his eccentricities, he gave us excellent training in all types of precise measurement and in the correct handling of data.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 116.
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The mathematician … stands between areas of study, especially between the humanities and the natural sciences … The object of his research is more spiritual than that of the natural scientist, and more sentient than that of the humanist.
Max Dehn
Address (18 Jan 1928) at the University of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Trans. by Abe Schenitzer, and published in 'The Mentality of the Mathematician: A Characterization', The Mathematical Intelligencer (1983), 5, No. 2. As quoted in Michael Fitzgerald and Ioan James, The Mind of the Mathematician (2007), 6.
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The multiplicity is only apparent. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view, unless strong prejudices stand in the West.
…...
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The night spread out of the east in a great flood, quenching the red sunlight in a single minute. We wriggled by breathless degrees deep into our sleeping bags. Our sole thought was of comfort; we were not alive to the beauty or the grandeur of our position; we did not reflect on the splendor of our elevation. A regret I shall always have is that I did not muster up the energy to spend a minute or two stargazing. One peep I did make between the tent flaps into the night, and I remember dimly an appalling wealth of stars, not pale and remote as they appear when viewed through the moisture-laden air of lower levels, but brilliant points of electric blue fire standing out almost stereoscopically. It was a sight an astronomer would have given much to see, and here were we lying dully in our sleeping bags concerned only with the importance of keeping warm and comfortable.
…...
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The person who observes a clock, sees in it not only the pendulum swinging to and fro, and the dial-plate, and the hands moving, for a child can see all this; but he sees also the parts of the clock, and in what connexion the suspended weight stands to the wheel-work, and the pendulum to the moving hands.
'The Study of the Natural Sciences: An Introductory Lecture to the Course of Experimental Chemistry in the University of Munich, for the Winter Session of 1852-53,' as translated and republished in The Medical Times and Gazette (22 Jan 1853), N.S. Vol. 6, 82.
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The power that produced Man when the monkey was not up to the mark, can produce a higher creature than Man if Man does not come up to the mark. What it means is that if Man is to be saved, Man must save himself. There seems no compelling reason why he should be saved. He is by no means an ideal creature. At his present best many of his ways are so unpleasant that they are unmentionable in polite society, and so painful that he is compelled to pretend that pain is often a good. Nature holds no brief for the human experiment: it must stand or fall by its results. If Man will not serve, Nature will try another experiment.
Back to Methuselah: a Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), xvii.
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The product of mental labor—science—always stands far below its value, because the labor-time necessary to reproduce it has no relation at all to the labor-time required for its original production.
Karl Marx
…...
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The vital act is the act of participation. “Participator” is the incontrovertible new concept given by quantum mechanics. It strikes down the term “observer” of classical theory, the man who stands safely behind the thick glass wall and watches what goes on without taking part. It can’t be done, quantum mechanics says.
In Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne, John Archibald Wheeler, 'Beyond the Edge of Time', Gravitation (1973), Part 3, 1217.
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There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.
The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.
In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850), canto 123. Collected in Alfred Tennyson and William James Rolfe (ed.) The Poetic and Dramatic works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1898), 194.
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There they stand, the innumerable stars, shining in order like a living hymn, written in light.
…...
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There was this huge world out there, independent of us human beings and standing before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partly accessible to our inspection and thought. The contemplation of that world beckoned like a liberation.
…...
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This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more still than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.
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This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
From poem 'Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie' (1847), as collected in The Poetical Works of H.W. Longfellow (1855), 7.
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This is the kingdom of the chemical elements, the substances from which everything tangible is made. It is not an extensive country, for it consists of only a hundred or so regions (as we shall often term the elements), yet it accounts for everything material in our actual world. From the hundred elements that are at the center of our story, all planets, rocks, vegetation, and animals are made. These elements are the basis of the air, the oceans, and the Earth itself. We stand on the elements, we eat the elements, we are the elements. Because our brains are made up of elements, even our opinions are, in a sense, properties of the elements and hence inhabitants of the kingdom.
In 'The Terrain', The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), 3.
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This [the fact that the pursuit of mathematics brings into harmonious action all the faculties of the human mind] accounts for the extraordinary longevity of all the greatest masters of the Analytic art, the Dii Majores of the mathematical Pantheon. Leibnitz lived to the age of 70; Euler to 76; Lagrange to 77; Laplace to 78; Gauss to 78; Plato, the supposed inventor of the conic sections, who made mathematics his study and delight, who called them the handles or aids to philosophy, the medicine of the soul, and is said never to have let a day go by without inventing some new theorems, lived to 82; Newton, the crown and glory of his race, to 85; Archimedes, the nearest akin, probably, to Newton in genius, was 75, and might have lived on to be 100, for aught we can guess to the contrary, when he was slain by the impatient and ill mannered sergeant, sent to bring him before the Roman general, in the full vigour of his faculties, and in the very act of working out a problem; Pythagoras, in whose school, I believe, the word mathematician (used, however, in a somewhat wider than its present sense) originated, the second founder of geometry, the inventor of the matchless theorem which goes by his name, the pre-cognizer of the undoubtedly mis-called Copernican theory, the discoverer of the regular solids and the musical canon who stands at the very apex of this pyramid of fame, (if we may credit the tradition) after spending 22 years studying in Egypt, and 12 in Babylon, opened school when 56 or 57 years old in Magna Græcia, married a young wife when past 60, and died, carrying on his work with energy unspent to the last, at the age of 99. The mathematician lives long and lives young; the wings of his soul do not early drop off, nor do its pores become clogged with the earthy particles blown from the dusty highways of vulgar life.
In Presidential Address to the British Association, Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2 (1908), 658.
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Time is awake when all things sleep.
Time stands straight when all things fall.
Time shuts in all and will not be shut.
Is, was, and shall be are Time’s children.
O Reason! be witness! be stable!
Vyasa
In The Mahabarata (1968), Vol. 1, 31, v. 247-248
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To stand at the edge of the sea… is to have knowledge of things that are as eternal as any earthly life can be.
…...
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To understand [our cosmological roots]...is to give voice to the silent stars. Stand under the stars and say what you like to them. Praise them or blame them, question them, pray to them, wish upon them. The universe will not answer. But it will have spoken.
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We are gliding across the world in total silence, with absolute smoothness; a motion of stately grace which makes me feel godlike as I stand erect in my sideways chariot, cruising the night sky.
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We are told that “Mathematics is that study which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.” I think no statement could have been made more opposite to the facts of the case; that mathematical analysis is constantly invoking the aid of new principles, new ideas, and new methods, not capable of being defined by any form of words, but springing direct from the inherent powers and activities of the human mind, and from continually renewed introspection of that inner world of thought of which the phenomena are as varied and require as close attention to discern as those of the outer physical world (to which the inner one in each individual man may, I think, be conceived to stand somewhat in the same relation of correspondence as a shadow to the object from which it is projected, or as the hollow palm of one hand to the closed fist which it grasps of the other), that it is unceasingly calling forth the faculties of observation and comparison, that one of its principal weapons is induction, that it has frequent recourse to experimental trial and verification, and that it affords a boundless scope for the exercise of the highest efforts of the imagination and invention.
In Presidential Address to British Association, Exeter British Association Report (1869), pp. 1-9, in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 654.
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We consider species to be like a brick in the foundation of a building. You can probably lose one or two or a dozen bricks and still have a standing house. But by the time you’ve lost twenty percent of species, you’re going to destabilize the entire structure. That’s the way ecosystems work.
The Christian Science Monitor (26 May 1989)
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We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive... From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences we see fantastic forms stretching in the frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.
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We woke periodically throughout the night to peel off leeches. In the light of the head torch, the ground was a sea of leeches - black, slithering, standing up on one end to sniff the air and heading inexorably our way to feed. Our exposed faces were the main problem, with leeches feeding off our cheeks and becoming entangled in our hair. I developed a fear of finding one feeding in my ear, and that it would become too large to slither out, causing permanent damage.
Kinabalu Escape: The Soldiers’ Story
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When asked what it was like to set about proving something, the mathematician likened proving a theorem to seeing the peak of a mountain and trying to climb to the top. One establishes a base camp and begins scaling the mountain’s sheer face, encountering obstacles at every turn, often retracing one’s steps and struggling every foot of the journey. Finally when the top is reached, one stands examining the peak, taking in the view of the surrounding countryside and then noting the automobile road up the other side!
Space-filler in The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal (Nov 1980), 11, No. 5, 295.
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Winter opened its vaults last night, flinging fistfuls of crystalline diamonds into the darkening sky. Like white-tulled ballerinas dancing gracefully on heaven’s stage, silent stars stood entranced by their intricate beauty. Motionless, I watched each lacy gem drift softly by my upturned face, as winter’s icy hands guided them gently on their swirling lazy way, and blanketed the waiting earth in cold splendor. The shivering rustling of reeds, the restless fingers of the trees snapping in the frosty air, broke the silent stillness, as winter quietly pulled up its white coverlet over the sleepy earth.
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Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.
…...
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You cannot make a man by standing a sheep on its hind-legs. But by standing a flock of sheep in that position you can make a crowd of men.
In Zuleika Dobson (1911), 158.
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[Wolfgang Bolyai] was extremely modest. No monument, said he, should stand over his grave, only an apple-tree, in memory of the three apples: the two of Eve and Paris, which made hell out of earth, and that of Newton, which elevated the earth again into the circle of the heavenly bodies.
In History of Elementary Mathematics (1910), 273.
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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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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



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