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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: Stars

Stars Quotes (304 quotes)

1095 … Then after Easter on the eve of St. Ambrose, which is on 4 April [recte 3 April], almost everywhere in this country and almost the whole night, stars in very large numbers were seen to fall from heaven, not by ones or twos, but in such quick succession that they could not be counted.
In The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, as translated in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Issue 1624 (1975), 230. The Chronicle is the work of many successive hands at several monasteries across England. For the date recorded, This meteor shower could have been a display of the Lyrids (according to The Starseeker, reprinted in O. Vrazell, 'Astronomical Observations in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle', Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Newsletter (Aug 1984), 78, 57.
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1106. … In the first week of Lent, on the Friday, 16 February, a strange star appeared in the evening, and for a long time afterwards was seen shining for a while each evening. The star made its appearance in the south-west, and seemed to be small and dark, but the light that shone from it was very bright, and appeared like an enormous beam of light shining north-east; and one evening it seemed as if the beam were flashing in the opposite direction towards the star. Some said that they had seen other unknown stars about this time, but we cannot speak about these without reservation, because we did not ourselves see them.
In George Norman Garmonsway (ed., trans.), 'The Parker Chronicle', The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (1953), 240. This translation from the original Saxon, is a modern printing of an ancient anthology known as The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Manuscript copies were held at various English monasteries. These copies of the Chronicle include content first recorded in the late 9th century. This quote comes from the copy known as the Peterborough Chronicle (a.k.a. Laud manuscript).
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Ath. There still remain three studies suitable for freemen. Calculation in arithmetic is one of them; the measurement of length, surface, and depth is the second; and the third has to do with the revolutions of the stars in reference to one another … there is in them something that is necessary and cannot be set aside, … if I am not mistaken, [something of] divine necessity; for as to the human necessities of which men often speak when they talk in this manner, nothing can be more ridiculous than such an application of the words.
Cle. And what necessities of knowledge are there, Stranger, which are divine and not human?
Ath. I conceive them to be those of which he who has no use nor any knowledge at all cannot be a god, or demi-god, or hero to mankind, or able to take any serious thought or charge of them.
Plato
In Republic, Bk. 7, in Jowett, Dialogues of Plato (1897, 2010), Vol. 4, 331.
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Ce qui est admirable, ce n'est pas que le champ des étoiles soit si vaste, c'est que l'homme l'ait mesuré.
The wonder is, not that the field of the stars is so vast, but that man has measured it.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 16.
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Dogbert (gazing at night sky) No matter how bad the day is, the stars are always there.
Dilbert Actually, many of them burned out years ago, but their light is just now reaching earth.
DogbertThank you for shattering my comfortable misconception.
DilbertIt's the miracle of science.
Dilbert comic strip (21 Nov 1990).
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Quand on demande à nos philosophes à quoi sert ce nombre prodigieux d’étoiles fixes, dont une partie suffirait pour faire ce qu’elles font toutes, ils vous répondent froidement qu’elles servent à leur réjouir la vue.
When our philosophers are asked what is the use of these countless myriads of fixed stars, of which a small part would be sufficient to do what they all do, they coolly tell us that they are made to give delight to their eyes.
In 'Premier Soir', Entretiens Sur La Pluralité Des Mondes (1686, 1863), 29. French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 117.
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Sic Itur Ad Astra
So we go to the stars.
Motto from his family coat-of-arms, given by Louis XVI (Dec 1783) to Pierre Montgolfier in recognition of his sons’ successful balloon flight. Illustration in the French magazine Contemporaries (8 Feb 1903), No. 539. Another coat-of-arms illustration is in Raoul De Cazenove, Premiers Voyages Aeriens (1887), 24. The motto comes from Virgil, who wrote “Sic itur ad astra” in the Aeneid, Book 9, line 641, spoken by Apollo to Aeneas’s young son. Above translation using Google translate. The motto is used elsewhere (including over the gate at Edinburgh Castle), and has various similar translations, such as “We journey to the stars.”
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[Describing the effects of over-indulgence in wine:]
But most too passive, when the blood runs low
Too weakly indolent to strive with pain,
And bravely by resisting conquer fate,
Try Circe's arts; and in the tempting bowl
Of poisoned nectar sweet oblivion swill.
Struck by the powerful charm, the gloom dissolves
In empty air; Elysium opens round,
A pleasing frenzy buoys the lightened soul,
And sanguine hopes dispel your fleeting care;
And what was difficult, and what was dire,
Yields to your prowess and superior stars:
The happiest you of all that e'er were mad,
Or are, or shall be, could this folly last.
But soon your heaven is gone: a heavier gloom
Shuts o'er your head; and, as the thundering stream,
Swollen o'er its banks with sudden mountain rain,
Sinks from its tumult to a silent brook,
So, when the frantic raptures in your breast
Subside, you languish into mortal man;
You sleep, and waking find yourself undone,
For, prodigal of life, in one rash night
You lavished more than might support three days.
A heavy morning comes; your cares return
With tenfold rage. An anxious stomach well
May be endured; so may the throbbing head;
But such a dim delirium, such a dream,
Involves you; such a dastardly despair
Unmans your soul, as maddening Pentheus felt,
When, baited round Citheron's cruel sides,
He saw two suns, and double Thebes ascend.
The Art of Preserving Health: a Poem in Four Books (2nd. ed., 1745), Book IV, 108-110.
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[Of the Laputans:] They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve about Mars, whereof the innermost is distant from the centre of the primary planet exactly three of his diameters, and the outermost five; the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty one and a half.
Gulliver's Travels (1726, Penguin ed. 1967), Part III, Chap. 3, 213.
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A bit of mould is a pleiad of flowers; a nebula is an ant-hill of stars.
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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A hundred years ago, Auguste Compte, … a great philosopher, said that humans will never be able to visit the stars, that we will never know what stars are made out of, that that's the one thing that science will never ever understand, because they're so far away. And then, just a few years later, scientists took starlight, ran it through a prism, looked at the rainbow coming from the starlight, and said: “Hydrogen!” Just a few years after this very rational, very reasonable, very scientific prediction was made, that we'll never know what stars are made of.
Quoted in Nina L. Diamond, Voices of Truth (2000), 332.
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A lodestone is a wonderful thing in very many experiments, and like living things. And one of its remarkable virtues in that which the ancients considered to be a living soul in the sky, in the globes and in the stars, in the sun and in the moon.
In De Magnete. Cited in Gerrit L. Verschuur, Hidden Attraction (1996), 19.
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A monument to Newton! a monument to Shakespeare! Look up to Heaven—look into the Human Heart. Till the planets and the passions–the affections and the fixed stars are extinguished—their names cannot die.
In 'Noctes Ambrosianae: XXV' (Jun 1830), The Works of Professor Wilson of the University of Edinburgh: Noctes Ambrosianae (1865), Vol. 3, 55.
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A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe. ... What a terrible future!
In letter to A.S. Suvorin (18 Oct 1888).
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According to the Boshongo people of central Africa, in the beginning, there was only darkness, water, and the great god Bumba. One day Bumba, in pain from a stomach ache, vomited up the sun. The sun dried up some of the water, leaving land. Still in pain, Bumba vomited up the moon, the stars, and then some animals. The leopard, the crocodile, the turtle, and finally, man. This creation myth, like many others, tries to answer the questions we all ask. Why are we here? Where did we come from?
Lecture (1987), 'The Origin of the Universe', collected in Black Holes And Baby Universes And Other Essays (1993), 99.
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Accordingly the primordial state of things which I picture is an even distribution of protons and electrons, extremely diffuse and filling all (spherical) space, remaining nearly balanced for an exceedingly long time until its inherent instability prevails. We shall see later that the density of this distribution can be calculated; it was about one proton and electron per litre. There is no hurry for anything to begin to happen. But at last small irregular tendencies accumulate, and evolution gets under way. The first stage is the formation of condensations ultimately to become the galaxies; this, as we have seen, started off an expansion, which then automatically increased in speed until it is now manifested to us in the recession of the spiral nebulae.
As the matter drew closer together in the condensations, the various evolutionary processes followed—evolution of stars, evolution of the more complex elements, evolution of planets and life.
The Expanding Universe (1933), 56-57.
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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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All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.
From website for PBS program, Stephen Hawking's Universe (1997).
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All of us Hellenes tell lies … about those great Gods, the Sun and the Moon… . We say that they, and diverse other stars, do not keep the same path, and we call them planets or wanderers. … Each of them moves in the same path-not in many paths, but in one only, which is circular, and the varieties are only apparent.
Plato
In Plato and B. Jowett (trans.), The Dialogues of Plato: Laws (3rd ed., 1892), Vol. 5, 204-205.
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America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade.
From State of the Union Address (25 Jan 1984).
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Arthur Stanley Eddington quote: An electron is no more (and no less) hypothetical than a star. Nowadays we count electrons one b
An electron is no more (and no less) hypothetical than a star. Nowadays we count electrons one by one in a Geiger counter, as we count the stars one by one on a photographic plate.
Messenger Lectures (1934), New Pathways in Science (1935), 21.
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Anaximenes son of Eurystratus, of Miletus, was a pupil of Anaximander; some say he was also a pupil of Parmenides. He said that the material principle was air and the infinite; and that the stars move, not under the earth, but round it. He used simple and economical Ionic speech. He was active, according to what Apollodorus says, around the time of the capture of Sardis, and died in the 63rd Olympiad.
Diogenes Laertius 2.3. In G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (eds), The Presocratic Philosophers: A Critical History with a Selection of Texts(1983), p. 143.
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Ancient stars in their death throes spat out atoms like iron which this universe had never known. ... Now the iron of old nova coughings vivifies the redness of our blood.
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st century (2003), 223. Quoted in Rob Brezsny, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia (2005), 228.
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And beyond our galaxy are other galaxies, in the universe all told at least a hundred billion, each containing a hundred billion stars. Do these figures mean anything to you?
In The Centaur (1990).
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And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.
'Residence at Cambridge', The Prelude, or, Growth of a Poet's Mind: An Autobiographical Poem (1850), Book 3, 57-58.
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And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.
Bible
(circa 725 B.C.)
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Aristotle ... imputed this symphony of the heavens ... this music of the spheres to Pythagorus. ... But Pythagoras alone of mortals is said to have heard this harmony ... If our hearts were as pure, as chaste, as snowy as Pythagoras' was, our ears would resound and be filled with that supremely lovely music of the wheeling stars.
'On the Music of the Spheres'. Second Prolusion. In John Milton and Merritt Yerkes Hughes (ed.), Complete Poems and Major Prose (1957, 2003), 603-604.
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Art gallery? Who needs it? Look up at the swirling silver-lined clouds in the magnificent blue sky or at the silently blazing stars at midnight. How could indoor art be any more masterfully created than God’s museum of nature?
…...
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As marvelous as the stars is the mind of the person who studies them.
Jr., in Voyage to the Great Attractor by Alan Dressier (1995).
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As soon … as it was observed that the stars retained their relative places, that the times of their rising and setting varied with the seasons, that sun, moon, and planets moved among them in a plane, … then a new order of things began.… Science had begun, and the first triumph of it was the power of foretelling the future; eclipses were perceived to recur in cycles of nineteen years, and philosophers were able to say when an eclipse was to be looked for. The periods of the planets were determined. Theories were invented to account for their eccentricities; and, false as those theories might be, the position of the planets could be calculated with moderate certainty by them.
Lecture delivered to the Royal Institution (5 Feb 1864), 'On the Science of History'. Collected in Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain with Abstracts of the Discourses (1866), Vol. 4, 187.
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As the sun eclipses the stars by his brilliancy, so the man of knowledge will eclipse the fame of others in assemblies of the people if he proposes algebraic problems, and still more if he solves them.
In Florian Cajori, History of Mathematics (1893), 92.
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Astronomers = Moon Starers = No More Stars
Anagram
From 'The Anagram Hall of Fame' on the wordsmith.org website.
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Astronomers have built telescopes which can show myriads of stars unseen before; but when a man looks through a tear in his own eye, that is a lens which opens reaches into the unknown, and reveals orbs which no telescope, however skilfully constructed, could do.
Life Thoughts (1858), 20.
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Astronomy is older than physics. In fact, it got physics started by showing the beautiful simplicity of the motion of the stars and planets, the understanding of which was the beginning of physics. But the most remarkable discovery in all of astronomy is that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth.
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6.
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Astronomy may be revolutionized more than any other field of science by observations from above the atmosphere. Study of the planets, the Sun, the stars, and the rarified matter in space should all be profoundly influenced by measurements from balloons, rockets, probes and satellites. ... In a new adventure of discovery no one can foretell what will be found, and it is probably safe to predict that the most important new discovery that will be made with flying telescopes will be quite unexpected and unforeseen. (1961)
Opening and closing of 'Flying Telescopes', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1961), Vol. 17, No. 5, 191 and 194.
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Astronomy was thus the cradle of the natural sciences and the starting point of geometrical theories. The stars themselves gave rise to the concept of a ‘point’; triangles, quadrangles and other geometrical figures appeared in the constellations; the circle was realized by the disc of the sun and the moon. Thus in an essentially intuitive fashion the elements of geometrical thinking came into existence.
In George Edward Martin, The Foundations of Geometry and the Non-Euclidean Plane (1982), 72.
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Astrophysicists have the formidable privilege of having the largest view of the Universe; particle detectors and large telescopes are today used to study distant stars, and throughout space and time, from the infinitely large to the infinitely small, the Universe never ceases to surprise us by revealing its structures little by little.
In Black Holes (1992), xv.
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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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At this very minute, with almost absolute certainty, radio waves sent forth by other intelligent civilizations are falling on the earth. A telescope can be built that, pointed in the right place, and tuned to the right frequency, could discover these waves. Someday, from somewhere out among the stars, will come the answers to many of the oldest, most important, and most exciting questions mankind has asked.
In Intelligent Life in Space (1962), 111.
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Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.
…...
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Before counting the stars have a look underfoot.
Anonymous
Attributed an “Oriental saying”, in a translation from the original Russian (1960), by David Sobolev of D.N. Trifonov and L.G. Vlasov, 107 Stories About Chemistry (1970), 215. New edition published as Silhouettes of Chemistry (1987), 196. Webmaster has so far found only this single source.
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Between this body [the earth] and the heavens there are suspended, in this aerial spirit, seven stars, separated by determinate spaces, which, on account of their motion, we call wandering.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 19-20.
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Beyond lonely Pluto, dark and shadowless, lies the glittering realm of interstellar space, the silent ocean that rolls on and on, past stars and galaxies alike, to the ends of the Universe. What do men know of this vast infinity, this shoreless ocean? Is it hostile or friendly–or merely indifferent?
…...
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But in the heavens we discover by their light, and by their light alone, stars so distant from each other that no material thing can ever have passed from one to another; and yet this light, which is to us the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds, tells us also that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds as those which we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule, therefore, throughout the universe, bears impressed on it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the double royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac ... the exact quantity of each molecule to all others of same kind gives it, as Sir John Herschel has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article and precludes the idea of its being external and self-existent.
'Molecules', 1873. In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 375-6.
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But what exceeds all wonders, I have discovered four new planets and observed their proper and particular motions, different among themselves and from the motions of all the other stars; and these new planets move about another very large star [Jupiter] like Venus and Mercury, and perchance the other known planets, move about the Sun. As soon as this tract, which I shall send to all the philosophers and mathematicians as an announcement, is finished, I shall send a copy to the Most Serene Grand Duke, together with an excellent spyglass, so that he can verify all these truths.
Letter to the Tuscan Court, 30 Jan 1610. Quoted in Albert van Heiden (ed.), Siderius Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger (1989), 18.
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By death the moon was gathered in Long ago, ah long ago;
Yet still the silver corpse must spin
And with another's light must glow.
Her frozen mountains must forget
Their primal hot volcanic breath,
Doomed to revolve for ages yet,
Void amphitheatres of death.
And all about the cosmic sky,
The black that lies beyond our blue,
Dead stars innumerable lie,
And stars of red and angry hue
Not dead but doomed to die.
'Cosmic Death' (1923), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 30.
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Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world…
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
…...
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Consider now the Milky Way. Here also we see an innumerable dust, only the grains of this dust are no longer atoms but stars; these grains also move with great velocities, they act at a distance one upon another, but this action is so slight at great distances that their trajectories are rectilineal; nevertheless, from time to time, two of them may come near enough together to be deviated from their course, like a comet that passed too close to Jupiter. In a word, in the eyes of a giant, to whom our Suns were what our atoms are to us, the Milky Way would only look like a bubble of gas.
Science and Method (1908), trans. Francis Maitland (1914), 254-5.
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Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
Second verse of poem, 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', In Poems: Including Lyrical Ballads: In two Volumes (1815), Vol. 1, 328.
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Counting stars by candlelight all are dim but one is bright; the spiral light of Venus rising first and shining best, from the northwest corner of a brand-new crescent moon crickets and cicadas sing a rare and different tune.
Terrapin Station
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Do all the stars have systems of planets?
Movie character
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Dreams are wishes cast upon stars, so catch a shining one ~ take your friend’s hand~ and hold on forever.
…...
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Each science and law is … prospective and fruitful. Astronomy is not yet astronomy, whilst it only counts the stars in the sky. It must come nearer, and be related to men and their life.
From Notes to 'Progress of Culture' in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1904), Vol. 8, 409.
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Early Greek astronomers, derived their first knowledge from the Egyptians, and these from the Chaldeans, among whom the science was studied, at a very early period. Their knowledge of astronomy, which gave their learned men the name of Magi, wise men, afterwards degenerated into astrology, or the art of consulting the position of the stars to foretel events—and hence sprung the silly occupation of sooth saying, for which the Chaldeans were noted to a proverb, in later ages.
In Elements of Useful Knowledge (1806), Vol. 1, 8-9. Note “foretel” is as printed in this text.
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Exits sun; enters moon.
This moon is never alone.
Stars are seen all around.
These twinklers do not make a sound.
The tiny ones shine from their place.
Mother moon watches with a smiling face.
Its light is soothing to the eyes.
Night’s darkness hides its face.
Cool and calm is its light.
Heat and sweat are never felt.
Some days, moon is not seen.
Makes kids wonder, where had it been?
Partial eclipse shades the moon.
In summers it does not arrive soon.
Beautiful is this milky ball.
It is the love of one and all.
…...
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Facts may belong to the past history of mankind, to the social statistics of our great cities, to the atmosphere of the most distant stars, to the digestive organs of a worm, or to the life of a scarcely visible bacillus. It is not the facts themselves which form science, but the method in which they are dealt with.
From The Grammar of Science (1892), 15.
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Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against a bastion and citadel of the stars.
Cosmos
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Finally, from what we now know about the cosmos, to think that all this was created for just one species among the tens of millions of species who live on one planet circling one of a couple of hundred billion stars that are located in one galaxy among hundreds of billions of galaxies, all of which are in one universe among perhaps an infinite number of universes all nestled within a grand cosmic multiverse, is provincially insular and anthropocentrically blinkered. Which is more likely? That the universe was designed just for us, or that we see the universe as having been designed just for us?
…...
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For it is owing to their wonder that men now both begin and at first began to philosophize; they wondered originally at the obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about the greater matters, e.g. about the phenomena of the moon and those of the sun and the stars, and about the genesis of the universe. And a man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant (whence even the lover of myth is in a sense a lover of wisdom, for myth is composed of wonders); therefore since they philosophized in order to escape from ignorance, evidently they were pursuing science in order to know, and not for any utilitarian end. And this is confirmed by the facts; for it was when almost all the necessities of life and the things that make for comfort and recreation were present, that such knowledge began to be sought. Evidently then we do not seek it for the sake of any advantage; but as the man is free, we say, who exists for himself and not for another, so we pursue this as the only free science, for it alone exists for itself.
Aristotle
Metaphysics, 982b, 12-27. In Jonathan Baines (ed.), The Complete Works of Aristotle (1984), Vol. 2, 1554.
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For nature is a perpetuall circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, and solids out of fluids, fixed things out of volatile, & volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, & gross out of subtile, Some things to ascend & make the upper terrestriall juices, Rivers and the Atmosphere; & by consequence others to descend for a Requitall to the former. And as the Earth, so perhaps may the Sun imbibe this spirit copiously to conserve his Shineing, & keep the Planets from recedeing further from him. And they that will, may also suppose, that this Spirit affords or carryes with it thither the solary fewell & materiall Principle of Light; And that the vast aethereall Spaces between us, & the stars are for a sufficient repository for this food of the Sunn and Planets.
Letter to Oldenburg (7 Dec 1675). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 366.
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Forty years as an astronomer have not quelled my enthusiasm for lying outside after dark, staring up at the stars. It isn’t only the beauty of the night sky that thrills me. It’s the sense I have that some of those points of light are the home stars of beings not so different from us, daily cares and all, who look across space and wonder, just as we do.
…...
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From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of the theory of sundials.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 1, Sec. 10. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 10.
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From man or angel the great Architect did wisely to conceal, and not divulge his secrets to be scanned by them who ought rather admire; or if they list to try conjecture, he his fabric of the heavens left to their disputes, perhaps to move his laughter at their quaint opinions wide hereafter, when they come to model heaven calculate the stars, how they will wield the mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive to save appearances, how gird the sphere with centric and eccentric scribbled o’er, and epicycle, orb in orb.
Paradise Lost (1674, 1754), Book 8, 231.
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God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 153
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Governments and parliaments must find that astronomy is one of the sciences which cost most dear: the least instrument costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, the least observatory costs millions; each eclipse carries with it supplementary appropriations. And all that for stars which are so far away, which are complete strangers to our electoral contests, and in all probability will never take any part in them. It must be that our politicians have retained a remnant of idealism, a vague instinct for what is grand; truly, I think they have been calumniated; they should be encouraged and shown that this instinct does not deceive them, that they are not dupes of that idealism.
In Henri Poincaré and George Bruce Halsted (trans.), The Value of Science: Essential Writings of Henri Poincare (1907), 84.
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He telleth the number of stars; he calleth them all by their names.
Bible
Psalms 147:4 in The Holy Bible (1746), 549.
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Holding then to science with one hand—the left hand—we give the right hand to religion, and cry: ‘Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things, more wondrous than the shining worlds can tell.’ Obedient to the promise, religion does awaken faculties within us, does teach our eyes to the beholding of more wonderful things. Those great worlds blazing like suns die like feeble stars in the glory of the morning, in the presence of this new light. The soul knows that an infinite sea of love is all about it, throbbing through it, everlasting arms of affection lift it, and it bathes itself in the clear consciousness of a Father’s love.
…...
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How peacefully he sleep!
Yet may his ever-questing spirit, freed at length
from all the frettings of this little world,
Wander at will among the uncharted stars.
Fairfield his name. Perchance celestial fields
disclosing long sought secrets of the past
Spread 'neath his enraptured gaze
And beasts and men that to his earthly sight
were merely bits of stone shall live again to
gladden those eager eyes.
o let us picture him—enthusiast—scientist—friend—
Seeker of truth and light through all eternity!
New York Sun (13 Nov 1935). Reprinted in 'Henry Fairfield Osborn', Supplement to Natural History (Feb 1936), 37:2, 135. Bound in Kofoid Collection of Pamphlets on Biography, University of California.
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How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders. I am reminded of the Isaac Asimov story “Nightfall,” about the planet where the stars were visible only once in a thousand years. So awesome was the sight that it drove men mad. We who can see the stars every night glance up casually at the cosmos and then quickly down again, searching for a Dairy Queen.
…...
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Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
In 'The Deadly Information', Introduction written by Asimov for James Randi, Flim-Flam (1982), xiii.
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Humans ... would not exist but for the wreckage of spent stars. So you're made of detritus [from exploded stars]. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?
In Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries (2007), 222.
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I admit that the generation which produced Stalin, Auschwitz and Hiroshima will take some beating, but the radical and universal consciousness of the death of God is still ahead of us. Perhaps we shall have to colonise the stars before it is finally borne in upon us that God is not out there.
In Thomas Mann: a Critical Study (1971), 175.
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I am afraid all we can do is to accept the paradox and try to accommodate ourselves to it, as we have done to so many paradoxes lately in modern physical theories. We shall have to get accustomed to the idea that the change of the quantity R, commonly called the 'radius of the universe', and the evolutionary changes of stars and stellar systems are two different processes, going on side by side without any apparent connection between them. After all the 'universe' is an hypothesis, like the atom, and must be allowed the freedom to have properties and to do things which would be contradictory and impossible for a finite material structure.
Kosmos (1932), 133.
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I believe a blade of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
In Leaves of Grass (1855), 34.
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I believe as a matter of faith that the extension of space travel to the limits of the solar system will probably be accomplished in several decades, perhaps before the end of the century. Pluto is 4000 million miles from the sun. The required minimum launching velocity is about 10 miles per second and the transit time is 46 years. Thus we would have to make the velocity considerably higher to make the trip interesting to man. Travel to the stars is dependent on radically new discoveries in science and technology. The nearest star is 25 million million miles way and requires a travel time of more than four years at the speed of light. Prof. Dr. Ing. E. Sanger has speculated that velocities comparable with the speed of light might be attained in the next century, but such extrapolation of current technology is probably not very reliable.
In Popular Mechanics (Sep 1961), 262.
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I can assure you, reader, that in a very few hours, even during the first day, you will learn more natural philosophy about things contained in this book, than you could learn in fifty years by reading the theories and opinions of the ancient philosophers. Enemies of science will scoff at the astrologers: saying, where is the ladder on which they have climbed to heaven, to know the foundation of the stars? But in this respect I am exempt from such scoffing; for in proving my written reason, I satisfy sight, hearing, and touch: for this reason, defamers will have no power over me: as you will see when you come to see me in my little Academy.
The Admirable Discourses (1580), trans. Aurele La Rocque (1957), 27.
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I can hear the sizzle of newborn stars, and know anything of meaning, of the fierce magic emerging here. I am witness to flexible eternity, the evolving past, and I know we will live forever, as dust or breathe in the face of stars, in the shifting pattern of winds.
Joy Harjo
In Secrets from the Center of the World (1989), 56.
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I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements. The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air. It is by the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is balanced in the middle of space.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 18.
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I do not study to understand the transit of the stars. My soul has never sought for responses from ghosts. I detest all sacrilegious rites.
Confessions [c.397], Book X, chapter 35 (56), trans. H. Chadwick (1991),212.
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I feel the development of space should continue. It is of tremendous importance. … Along with this development of space, which is really a flowering of civilization toward the stars, you might say, we must protect the surface of the earth. That’s even more important. Our environment on the surface is where man lives.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York … a city neighborhood that included houses, lampposts, walls, and bushes. But with an early bedtime in the winter, I could look out my window and see the stars, and the stars were not like anything else in my neighborhood. [At age 5] I didn’t know what they were.
[At age 9] my mother … said to me, “You have a library card now, and you know how to read. Take the streetcar to the library and get a book on stars.” … I stepped up to the big librarian and asked for a book on stars. … I sat down and found out the answer, which was something really stunning.
I found out that the stars are glowing balls of gas. I also found out that the Sun is a star but really close and that the stars are all suns except really far away I didn’t know any physics or mathematics at that time, but I could imagine how far you’d have to move the Sun away from us till it was only as bright as a star. It was in that library, reading that book, that the scale of the universe opened up to me. There was something beautiful about it.
At that young age, I already knew that I’d be very happy if I could devote my life to finding out more about the stars and the planets that go around them. And it’s been my great good fortune to do just that.
Quoted in interview with Jack Rightmyer, in 'Stars in His Eyes', Highlights For Children (1 Jan 1997). Ages as given in Tom Head (ed.), Conversations with Carl Sagan (2006), x.
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I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came, and went—and came, and brought no day.
Darkness (1816), lines 1-6. In Jerome J. McGann (ed.), Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works (1986), Vol. 4, 40-1.
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I have looked further into space than ever human being did before me. I have observed stars of which the light, it can be proved, must take two million years to reach the earth.
Having identified Uranus (1781), the first planet discovered since antiquity. Quoted in Constance Anne Lubbock, The Herschel Chronicle: the Life-story of William Herschel and his Sister, Caroline Herschel (1933), 336.
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I have always played with the fancy that some contagion from outer space had been the seed of man. Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from.
Commenting on the first moon landing. In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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I have presented the periodic table as a kind of travel guide to an imaginary country, of which the elements are the various regions. This kingdom has a geography: the elements lie in particular juxtaposition to one another, and they are used to produce goods, much as a prairie produces wheat and a lake produces fish. It also has a history. Indeed, it has three kinds of history: the elements were discovered much as the lands of the world were discovered; the kingdom was mapped, just as the world was mapped, and the relative positions of the elements came to take on a great significance; and the elements have their own cosmic history, which can be traced back to the stars.
In The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), Preface, viii.
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I have satisfied myself that the [cosmic] rays are not generated by the formation of new matter in space, a process which would be like water running up a hill. Nor do they come to any appreciable amount from the stars. According to my investigations the sun emits a radiation of such penetrative power that it is virtually impossible to absorb it in lead or other substances. ... This ray, which I call the primary solar ray, gives rise to a secondary radiation by impact against the cosmic dust scattered through space. It is the secondary radiation which now is commonly called the cosmic ray, and comes, of course, equally from all directions in space. [The article continues: The phenomena of radioactivity are not the result of forces within the radioactive substances but are caused by this ray emitted by the sun. If radium could be screened effectively against this ray it would cease to be radioactive, he said.]
Quoted in 'Tesla, 75, Predicts New Power Source', New York Times (5 Jul 1931), Section 2, 1.
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I hear one day the word “mountain,” and I ask someone “what is a mountain? I have never seen one.”
I join others in discussions of mountains.
One day I see in a book a picture of a mountain.
And I decide I must climb one.
I travel to a place where there is a mountain.
At the base of the mountain I see there are lots of paths to climb.
I start on a path that leads to the top of the mountain.
I see that the higher I climb, the more the paths join together.
After much climbing the many paths join into one.
I climb till I am almost exhausted but I force myself and continue to climb.
Finally I reach the top and far above me there are stars.
I look far down and the village twinkles far below.
It would be easy to go back down there but it is so beautiful up here.
I am just below the stars.
…...
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I just looked up at a fine twinkling star and thought that a voyager whom I know, now many a days’ sail from this coast, might possibly be looking up at that same star with me. The stars are the apexes of what triangles!
In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: I: 1837-1846 (1906), 486.
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I myself consider that gravity is merely a certain natural inclination with which parts are imbued by the architect of all things for gathering themselves together into a unity and completeness by assembling into the form of a globe. It is easy to believe that the Sun, Moon and other luminaries among the wandering stars have this tendency also, so that by its agency they retain the rounded shape in which they reveal themselves, but nevertheless go round their orbits in various ways. If then the Earth also performs other motions, as for example the one about the centre, they must necessarily be like those which are similarly apparent in many external bodies in which we find an annual orbit.
'Book One. Chapter IX. Whether several motions can be attributed to the Earth, and on the centre of the universe', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 46.
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I remember growing up thinking that astronauts and their job was the coolest thing you could possibly do... But I absolutely couldn’t identify with the people who were astronauts. I thought they were movie stars.
…...
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I remember my father had a sermon he used to preach when we were in Florida, in which he gave a reference to the Southern Cross—about the stars, the colors, in the Southern Cross, which thrilled me very much. I must have been around 5 years old. ... Now, it turns out that the Southern Cross itself does have one red star, together with three blue ones.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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I see it fall.
So beautiful and light.
So very tranquil.
Untouchable in the night.
Pretty in white.
Like the stars at night.
The twinkle from the shine.
The cold from the sky.
With every footprint left.
Every snowman made.
With every snowflake fallen.
Unique in every way.
…...
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I see the moon like a clipped piece of silver. Like gilded bees the stars cluster round her.
In his dialogue 'The Critic As Artist', collected in Intentions (1891), 92.
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I tell my students, with a feeling of pride that I hope they will share, that the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen that make up ninety-nine per cent of our living substance were cooked in the deep interiors of earlier generations of dying stars. Gathered up from the ends of the universe, over billions of years, eventually they came to form, in part, the substance of our sun, its planets, and ourselves. Three billion years ago, life arose upon the earth. It is the only life in the solar system.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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I tell young people to reach for the stars. And I can't think of a greater high than you could possibly get than by inventing something.
From audio on MIT video '1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award Winner', on 'Innovative Lives: Stephanie Kwolek and Kevlar, The Wonder Fiber' on the Smithsonian website.
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I therefore concluded, and decided unhesitatingly, that there are three stars in the heavens moving about Jupiter, as Venus and Mercury about the Sun; which at length was established as clear as daylight by numerous other observations.
Referring to his pioneering telescope observations.
The Starry Messenger (Mar 1610). Quoted in Edmund Blair Bolles, Galileo's Commandment (1999), 104.
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I therefore took this opportunity and also began to consider the possibility that the Earth moved. Although it seemed an absurd opinion, nevertheless, because I knew that others before me had been granted the liberty of imagining whatever circles they wished to represent the phenomena of the stars, I thought that I likewise would readily be allowed to test whether, by assuming some motion of the Earth's, more dependable representations than theirs could be found for the revolutions of the heavenly spheres.
'To His Holiness Pope Paul III', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 26.
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I think it’s going to be great if people can buy a ticket to fly up and see black sky and the stars. I’d like to do it myself - but probably after it has flown a serious number of times first!
…...
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I think there probably is life, maybe primitive life, in outer space. There might be very primitive life in our solar system—single-cell animals, that sort of thing. We may know the answer to that in five or ten years. There is very likely to be life in other solar systems, in planets around other stars. But we won’t know about that for a long time.
Interview conducted on Scholastic website (20 Nov 1998).
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I wanted to be a scientist from my earliest school days. The crystallizing moment came when I first caught on that stars are mighty suns, and how staggeringly far away they must be to appear to us as mere points of light. I’m not sure I even knew the word science then, but I was gripped by the prospect of understanding how things work, of helping to uncover deep mysteries, of exploring new worlds.
In 'With Science on Our Side', Washington Post (9 Jan 1994).
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I will give you a “celestial multiplication table.” We start with a star as the unit most familiar to us, a globe comparable to the sun. Then—
A hundred thousand million Stars make one Galaxy;
A hundred thousand million Galaxies make one Universe.
The figures may not be very trustworthy, but I think they give a correct impression.
In The Expanding Universe (1933), 4.
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I will not now discuss the Controversie betwixt some of the Modern Atomists, and the Cartesians; the former of whom think, that betwixt the Earth and the Stars, and betwixt these themselves there are vast Tracts of Space that are empty, save where the beams of Light do pass through them; and the later of whom tell us, that the Intervals betwixt the Stars and Planets (among which the Earth may perhaps be reckon'd) are perfectly fill'd, but by a Matter far subtiler than our Air, which some call Celestial, and others Æther. I shall not, I say, engage in this controversie, but thus much seems evident, That If there be such a Celestial Matter, it must ' make up far the Greatest part of the Universe known to us. For the Interstellar part of the world (If I may so stile it) bears so very great a proportion to the Globes, and their Atmospheres too, (If other Stars have any as well as the Earth,) that It Is almost incomparably Greater in respect of them, than all our Atmosphere is in respect of the Clouds, not to make the comparison between the Sea and the Fishes that swim in it.
A Continuation of New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring and Weight of the Air, and their Effects (1669), 127.
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I would liken science and poetry in their natural independence to those binary stars, often different in colour, which Herschel’s telescope discovered to revolve round each other. “There is one light of the sun,” says St. Paul, “and another of the moon, and another of the stars: star differeth from star in glory.” It is so here. That star or sun, for it is both, with its cold, clear, white light, is SCIENCE: that other, with its gorgeous and ever-shifting hues and magnificent blaze, is POETRY. They revolve lovingly round each other in orbits of their own, pouring forth and drinking in the rays which they exchange; and they both also move round and shine towards that centre from which they came, even the throne of Him who is the Source of all truth and the Cause of all beauty.
'The Alleged Antagonism between Poetry and Chemistry.' In Jesse Aitken Wilson, Memoirs of George Wilson. Quoted in Natural History Society of Montreal, 'Reviews and Notices of Books,' The Canadian Naturalist and Geologist (1861) Vol. 6, 393.
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Ideas are like stars: You will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.
…...
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If a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. … One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime.
In 'Nature', The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1870), Vol. 1, Chap 1, 7.
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If a photographic plate under the center of a lens focused on the heavens is exposed for hours, it comes to reveal stars so far away that even the most powerful telescopes fail to reveal them to the naked eye. In a similar way, time and concentration allow the intellect to perceive a ray of light in the darkness of the most complex problem.
From Reglas y Consejos sobre Investigacíon Cientifica: Los tónicos de la voluntad. (1897), as translated by Neely and Larry W. Swanson, in Advice for a Young Investigator (1999), 34.
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If common sense has not the brilliancy of the sun, it has the fixity of the stars.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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If one might wish for impossibilities, I might then wish that my children might be well versed in physical science, but in due subordination to the fulness and freshness of their knowledge on moral subjects. ... Rather than have it the principal thing in my son's mind, I would gladly have him think that the sun went round the earth, and that the stars were so many spangles set in the bright blue firmament.
Letter to Dr. Greenhill (9 May 1836). In Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold (2nd Ed., 1846), 277.
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If seeds in the black Earth can turn into such beautiful roses what might not the heart of man become in its long journey towards the stars?
…...
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If there is an underlying oneness of all things, it does not matter where we begin, whether with stars, or laws of supply and demand, or frogs, or Napoleon Bonaparte. One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.
Lo! (1931, 1941), 8.
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If we consider what science already has enabled men to know—the immensity of space, the fantastic philosophy of the stars, the infinite smallness of the composition of atoms, the macrocosm whereby we succeed only in creating outlines and translating a measure into numbers without our minds being able to form any concrete idea of it—we remain astounded by the enormous machinery of the universe.
Address (10 Sep 1934) to the International Congress of Electro-Radio Biology, Venice. In Associated Press, 'Life a Closed Book, Declares Marconi', New York Times (11 Sep 1934), 15.
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If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits
…...
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Ignorance may find a truth on its doorstep that erudition vainly seeks in the stars.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 168.
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In fields of air he writes his name,
And treads the chambers of the sky;
He reads the stars, and grasps the flame
That quivers in the realms on high.
In poem 'Art', collected in Samuel Kettell (ed.), Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices (1829), Vol. 3, 198.
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In man’s brain the impressions from outside are not merely registered; they produce concepts and ideas. They are the imprint of the external world upon the human brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that, after a long period of searching and erring, some of the concepts and ideas in human thinking should have come gradually closer to the fundamental laws of the world, that some of our thinking should reveal the true structure of atoms and the true movements of the stars. Nature, in the form of man, begins to recognize itself.
In Knowledge and Wonder (1962).
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In my opinion the separation of the c- and ac-stars is the most important advancement in stellar classification since the trials by Vogel and Secchi ... To neglect the c-properties in classifying stellar spectra, I think, is nearly the same thing as if a zoologist, who has detected the deciding differences between a whale and a fish, would continue classifying them together.
Letter to Edward Pickering (22 Jul 1908). In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1974), Vol. 9, 194.
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In the first book I shall describe all the positions of the spheres, along with the motions which I attribute to the Earth, so that the book will contain as it were the general structure of the universe. In the remaining books I relate the motions of the remaining stars, and all the spheres, to the mobility of the Earth, so that it can be thence established how far the motions and appearances of the remaining stars and spheres can be saved, if they are referred to the motions of the Earth.
'To His Holiness Pope Paul III', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans, A. M. Duncan (1976), 26.
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In the heavens we discover [stars] by their light, and by their light alone ... the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds ... that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time. Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac.
[Footnote: Where Maxwell uses the term “molecule” we now use the term “atom.”]
Lecture to the British Association at Bradford (1873), 'Atoms and Molecules'. Quoted by Ernest Rutherford, in 'The Constitution of Matter and the Evolution of the Elements', The Popular Science Monthly (Aug 1915), 112.
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In the moonlight
While drinking homemade wine
My sorrow hung heavy
And my heart felt like lead.
The moon was golden yellow
The night soft and mellow.
There was a smell of jasmine
All around.
And I felt the weight of the world
Upon my shoulders.
I looked at the twinkling stars in the sky
So far and wide
Here’s to you
I lifted my wine
And my eyes looked upon the brilliance
Of the moon and stars
From afar...
…...
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In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together, and which will continue to exist there when the last of their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven.
From Address (22 Apr 1857) for Inauguration of Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, collected in 'Academical Education', Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions (1870), Vol. 3, 514. This is seen misattributed to Eric Temple Bell, who only quoted it, attributing it to Everett, in for example, Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Sciences (1938), 20.
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In the streets of a modern city the night sky is invisible; in rural districts, we move in cars with bright headlights. We have blotted out the heavens, and only a few scientists remain aware of stars and planets, meteorites and comets.
In 'On Comets', collected in In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935), 224.
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In this great celestial creation, the catastrophy of a world, such as ours, or even the total dissolution of a system of worlds, may possibly be no more to the great Author of Nature, than the most common accident in life with us, and in all probability such final and general Doomsdays may be as frequent there, as even Birthdays or mortality with us upon the earth. This idea has something so cheerful in it, that I know I can never look upon the stars without wondering why the whole world does not become astronomers; and that men endowed with sense and reason should neglect a science they are naturally so much interested in, and so capable of enlarging their understanding, as next to a demonstration must convince them of their immortality, and reconcile them to all those little difficulties incident to human nature, without the least anxiety. All this the vast apparent provision in the starry mansions seem to promise: What ought we then not to do, to preserve our natural birthright to it and to merit such inheritance, which alas we think created all to gratify alone a race of vain-glorious gigantic beings, while they are confined to this world, chained like so many atoms to a grain of sand.
In The Universe and the Stars: Being an Original Theory on the Visible Creation, Founded on the Laws of Nature (1750, 1837), 132.
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In this lecture I would like to conclude with … some characteristics [of] gravity … The most impressive fact is that gravity is simple. It is simple to state the principles completely and not have left any vagueness for anybody to change the ideas of the law. It is simple, and therefore it is beautiful. It is simple in its pattern. I do not mean it is simple in its action—the motions of the various planets and the perturbations of one on the other can be quite complicated to work out, and to follow how all those stars in a globular cluster move is quite beyond our ability. It is complicated in its actions, but the basic pattern or the system beneath the whole thing is simple. This is common to all our laws; they all turn out to be simple things, although complex in their actual actions.
In 'The Law of Gravitation, as Example of Physical Law', the first of his Messenger Lectures (1964), Cornell University. Collected in The Character of Physical Law (1967), 33-34.
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Isn’t it marvelous how those scientists know the names of all those stars?
Anonymous
…...
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It is because simplicity and vastness are both beautiful that we seek by preference simple facts and vast facts; that we take delight, now in following the giant courses of the stars, now in scrutinizing the microscope that prodigious smallness which is also a vastness, and now in seeking in geological ages the traces of a past that attracts us because of its remoteness.
…...
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It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages, than to know the age of the rocks; it is better for one to know that he is close to the Heavenly Father, than to know how far the stars in the heavens are apart.
In chapter, 'The Origin of Man', In His Image (1922), 93.
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President Clinton at podium + Quote “our children's children will know the term cancer only as a constellation of stars”
President Clinton at the Human Genome Announcement at the White House (20 Jun 2000), with Francis S. Collins (left) and Craig Ventner. (source)
It is now conceivable that our children's children will know the term cancer only as a constellation of stars. [Speaking on the Human Genome Project's progress.]
From White House Announcement of the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project, broadcast on the day of the publication of the first draft of the human genome. Quoted in transcript on the National Archives, Clinton White House web site, 'Text of Remarks on the Completion of the First Survey of the Entire Human Genome Project' (26 Jun 2000).
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It is of priceless value to the human race to know that the sun will supply the needs of the earth, as to light and heat, for millions of years; that the stars are not lanterns hung out at night, but are suns like our own; and that numbers of them probably have planets revolving around them, perhaps in many cases with inhabitants adapted to the conditions existing there. In a sentence, the main purpose of the science is to learn the truth about the stellar universe; to increase human knowledge concerning our surroundings, and to widen the limits of intellectual life.
In 'The Nature of the Astronomer’s Work', North American Review (Jun 1908), 187, No. 631, 915.
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It is reported of Margaret Fuller that she said she accepted the universe. “Gad, she'd better!” retorted Carlyle. Carlyle himself did not accept the universe in a very whole-hearted manner. Looking up at the midnight stars, he exclaimed: “A sad spectacle! If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly; if they be na inhabited, what a waste of space!”
Opening paragraph of book of collected essays, Accepting the Universe (1920), 3. “‘I accept the universe’ is reported to have been a favorite utterance of our New England transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller…” was stated by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), 41. James continues, “and when some one repeated this phrase to Thomas Carlyle, his sardonic comment is said to have been: ‘Gad! she'd better!’” Note that James does not here merge Carlyle's remark about the universe. Burroughs’ attribution of the “sad spectacle” quote is, so far, the earliest found by the Webmaster, who has not located it in a printed work by Carlisle himself. If you know a primary source, or earlier attribution, please contact Webmaster.
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It is said that Thales of Miletus, who was the first of the Greeks to devote himself to the study of the stars, was on one occasion so intent upon observing the heavens that he fell into a well, whereupon a maidservant laughed and remarked, “In his zeal for things in the sky he does not see what is at his feet.”
Thales
Apocryphal story, as given in Richard A. Gregory, Discovery: Or, The Spirit and Service of Science (1916), 21.
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It is unlikely that we will ever see a star being born. Stars are like animals in the wild. We may see the very young, but never their actual birth, which is a veiled and secret event. Stars are born inside thick clouds of dust and gas in the spiral arms of the galaxy, so thick that visible light cannot penetrate them.
Perfect Symmetry: The Search for the Beginning of Time (1985), 44.
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It may be that the old astrologers had the truth exactly reversed, when they believed that the stars controlled the destinies of men. The time may come when men control the destinies of stars.
The View from Serendip (1977), 79.
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It may be true, that as Francis Thompson noted, ‘Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star’, but in computing the motion of stars and planets, the effects of flowers do not loom large. It is the disregarding of the effect of flowers on stars that allows progress in astronomy. Appropriate abstraction is critical to progress in science.
…...
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It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your idea, but it is disaster to have no idea to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach for the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is a sin.
…...
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It seems to me that the evidence ... is opposed to the view that the spirals are individual galaxies comparable with our own. In fact, there appears as yet no reason for modifying the tentative hypothesis that the spirals are not composed of typical stars at all, but are truly nebulous objects.
[Contradicting the view of Heber Curtis during the Shapley-Curtis debate on 26 Apr 1920 to the National Academy of Sciences.]
In Aleksandr Sergeevich Sharov and Igor Dmitrievich Novikov, Edwin Hubble: The Discoverer of the Big Bang Universe (1993), 27.
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It took less than an hour to make the atoms, a few hundred million years to make the stars and planets, but five billion years to make man!
In The Creation of the Universe (1952), 139.
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It was an admirable reply of a converted astronomer, who, when interrogated concerning his comparative estimate of religion and the science he had formerly idolized, answered, 'I am now bound for heaven, and I take the stars in my way.'
Anonymous
In Tryon Edwards. A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 506.
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It’s becoming clear that in a sense the cosmos provides the only laboratory where sufficiently extreme conditions are ever achieved to test new ideas on particle physics. The energies in the Big Bang were far higher than we can ever achieve on Earth. So by looking at evidence for the Big Bang, and by studying things like neutron stars, we are in effect learning something about fundamental physics.
From editted transcript of BBC Radio 3 interview, collected in Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards, A Passion For Science (1988), 33.
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Just as the spectroscope opened up a new astronomy by enabling the astronomer to determine some of the constituents of which distant stars are composed, so the seismograph, recording the unfelt motion of distant earthquakes, enables us to see into the earth and determine its nature with as great a certainty, up to a certain point, as if we could drive a tunnel through it and take samples of the matter passed through.
'The Constitution of the Interior of the Earth, as Revealed by Earthquakes', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1906), 62, 456.
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Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity. By day, space is one with the earth and with man - it is his sun that is shining, his clouds that are floating past; at night, space is his no more. When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars - pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience.
…...
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Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.
From Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961). As quoted in Elizabeth Sirimarco, The Cold War (2005), 45.
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Let him look at that dazzling light hung aloft as an eternal lamp to lighten the universe; let him behold the earth, a mere dot compared with the vast circuit which that orb describes, and stand amazed to find that the vast circuit itself is but a very fine point compared with the orbit traced by the stars as they roll their course on high. But if our vision halts there, let imagination pass beyond; it will fail to form a conception long before Nature fails to supply material. The whole visible world is but an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of Nature. No notion comes near it. Though we may extend our thought beyond imaginable space, yet compared with reality we bring to birth mere atoms. Nature is an infinite sphere whereof the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short, imagination is brought to silence at the thought, and that is the most perceptible sign of the all-power of God.
Let man reawake and consider what he is compared with the reality of things; regard himself lost in this remote corner of Nature; and from the tiny cell where he lodges, to wit the Universe, weigh at their true worth earth, kingdoms, towns, himself. What is a man face to face with infinity?
Pensées (1670), Section 1, aphorism 43. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal’s Pensées (1950), 19.
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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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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.
In The Time Machine (1898), 144.
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Man is a part of nature, not something contrasted with nature. His thoughts and his bodily movements follow the same laws that describe the motions of stars and atoms.
Opening of What I Believe (1925), 1.
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Man is slightly nearer to the atom than to the star. … From his central position man can survey the grandest works of Nature with the astronomer, or the minutest works with the physicist. … [K]nowledge of the stars leads through the atom; and important knowledge of the atom has been reached through the stars.
Lecture 1. Stars and Atoms (1928, 2007), 9.
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Many billions of years will elapse before the smallest, youngest stars complete their nuclear burning and into white dwarfs. But with slow, agonizing finality perpetual night will surely fall.
In The Last Three Minutes: Conjectures About The Ultimate Fate Of The Universe (1994, 2008), 50.
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Many professional mathematicians regard their work as a form of play, in the same way professional golfers or basketball stars might.
In his final retrospective article, 'A Quarter-Century of Recreational Mathematics', Scientific American (Aug 1998).
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Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2, lines 139-141.
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Minorities are the stars of the firmament; majorities, the darkness in which they float.
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Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.
Ptolemy
…...
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My picture of the world is drawn in perspective and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are all as small as three-penny bits. I don't really believe in astronomy, except as a complicated description of part of the course of human and possibly animal sensation. I apply my perspective not merely to space but also to time. In time the world will cool and everything will die; but that is a long time off still and its present value at compound discount is almost nothing.
From a paper read to the Apostles, a Cambridge discussion society (1925). In 'The Foundations of Mathematics' (1925), collected in Frank Plumpton Ramsey and D.H. Mellor (ed.), Philosophical Papers (1990), Epilogue, 249. Citation to the paper, in Nils-Eric Sahlin, The Philosophy of F.P. Ramsey (1990), 225.
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Nature crying out and speaking to country people in these words: Clown, wherefore dost thou behold the heavens? Why dost thou seek after the stars? When thou art now werry with short sleep, the nights are troublesome to thee. So I scatter little stars in the grass, and I shew them in the evening when thy labour is ended, and thou art miraculously allured to look upon them when thous passest by: Dost thou not see how a light like fire is covered when she closeth her wings, and she carrieth both night and day with her.
In Thomas Moffett, 'Glow-Worms', The Theater of Insects.
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No one knows the diversity in the world, not even to the nearest order of magnitude. … We don’t know for sure how many species there are, where they can be found or how fast they’re disappearing. It’s like having astronomy without knowing where the stars are.
Quoted in Jamie Murphy and Andrea Dorfman, 'The Quiet Apocalypse,' Time (13 Oct 1986).
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No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.
…...
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Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck,
And yet methinks I have astronomy.
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or season's quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well …
Opening lines of 'Sonnet 14' (1609) in Complete Dramatic Works and Miscellaneous Poems (1823), 776. (1906), 14.
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Nothing is more symptomatic of the enervation, of the decompression of the Western imagination, than our incapacity to respond to the landings on the Moon. Not a single great poem, picture, metaphor has come of this breathtaking act, of Prometheus’ rescue of Icarus or of Phaeton in flight towards the stars.
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Now do you not see that the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It counsels and corrects all the arts of mankind... it is the prince of mathematics, and the sciences founded on it are absolutely certain. It has measured the distances and sizes of the stars it has discovered the elements and their location... it has given birth to architecture and to perspective and to the divine art of painting.
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Now when we think that each of these stars is probably the centre of a solar system grander than our own, we cannot seriously take ourselves to be the only minds in it all.
…...
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Oh! But I have better news for you, Madam, if you have any patriotism as citizen of this world and wish its longevity. Mr. Herschel has found out that our globe is a comely middle-aged personage, and has not so many wrinkles as seven stars, who are evidently our seniors. Nay, he has discovered that the Milky Way is not only a mob of stars, but that there is another dairy of them still farther off, whence, I conclude, comets are nothing but pails returning from milking, instead of balloons filled with inflammable air.
Letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory (4 Jul 1785) in W. S. Lewis (ed.), Horace Walpole's Correspondence with the Countess of Upper Ossory (1965), Vol. 33, 474.
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On entering a temple we assume all signs of reverence. How much more reverent then should we be before the heavenly bodies, the stars, the very nature of God!
From Quaestiones Naturales as translated in Charles Singer, From Magic to Science (1958), 57.
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One important object of this original spectroscopic investigation of the light of the stars and other celestial bodies, namely to discover whether the same chemical elements as those of our earth are present throughout the universe, was most satisfactorily settled in the affirmative. (1909)
In Publications of Sir William Huggins's Observatory (1909), Vol. 2, 49, footnote added to emphasize the significance of the results shown in this collection’s reprint of William Huggins and Dr. Miller, 'On the Spectra of Some of the Fixed Stars', Philosophical Transactions (1864), 64, 413-435.
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One of the great triumphs of 20th Century astrophysics, was tracing the elements of your body, of all the elements around us, to the actions of stars—that crucible in the centers of stars that cooked basic elements into heavier elements, light elements into heavy elements. (I say “cooked”—I mean thermonuclear fusion.) The heat brings them together, gets you bigger atoms, that then do other interesting chemical things, fleshing out the contents of the Periodic Table.
From interview, The Science Studio video series of The Science Network website, episode 'The Moon, the Tides and why Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Colbert’s God' (20 Jan 2011), time 20:53-21:25.
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One of the most impressive discoveries was the origin of the energy of the stars, that makes them continue to burn. One of the men who discovered this was out with his girl friend the night after he realized that nuclear reactions must be going on in the stars in order to make them shine.
She said “Look at how pretty the stars shine!”
He said, “Yes, and right now I am the only man in the world who knows why they shine.”
She merely laughed at him. She was not impressed with being out with the only man who, at that moment, knew why stars shine. Well, it is sad to be alone, but that is the way it is in this world.
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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 will weave the canvas; another will fell a tree by the light of his ax. Yet another will forge nails, and there will be others who observe the stars to learn how to navigate. And yet all will be as one. Building a boat isn’t about weaving canvas, forging nails, or reading the sky. It’s about giving a shared taste for the sea, by the light of which you will see nothing contradictory but rather a community of love.
From the French, “Celui-là tissera des toiles, l’autre dans la forêt par l’éclair de sa hache couchera l’arbre. L’autre, encore, forgera des clous, et il en sera quelque part qui observeront les étoiles afin d’apprendre à gouverner. Et tous cependant ne seront qu’un. Créer le navire ce n’est point tisser les toiles, forger les clous, lire les astres, mais bien donner le goût de la mer qui est un, et à la lumière duquel il n’est plus rien qui soit contradictoire mais communauté dans l’amour.” In Citadelle (1948), Sect. 75, 687. An English edition was published as “Wisdom of the Sands.” The translation in the subject quote is given the website quoteinvestigator.com which discusses how it may have been paraphrased anonymously to yield the commonly seen quote as “If you want to build a ship, don’t recruit the men to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for vast and endless sea.”
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Our knowledge of stars and interstellar matter must be based primarily on the electromagnetic radiation which reaches us. Nature has thoughtfully provided us with a universe in which radiant energy of almost all wave lengths travels in straight lines over enormous distances with usually rather negligible absorption.
In 'Flying Telescopes', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May 1961), Vol. 17, No. 5, 191.
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Our sun is one of 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Our galaxy is one of billions of galaxies populating the universe. It would be the height of presumption to think that we are the only living things in that enormous immensity.
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Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Starving backstage, morning-stars are jaded
The moonshine murmur still shivers alone
Curved slice of sliver, shear breath shadows stone
Suspending twilight shiny and shaded
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Carving solace into silver in June
On horizons’ glow from forgotten gold
The moonshine’s’ shilling delivers alone
Gleaming duels of knights, pierce deathly silence
Steel tines of starlight, clashing swords they hold
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
Dimples aware, sparkle sand on the dune
Winking at comets, after tails are told
The moon-sand whispers, sift rivers alone
Sharpness they hone, filing skills onto stone
Starlight dazzles, its own space created
Painting the desert, sun-setting the tone
From owls’ talon, moonlight shimmers alone
Earth Man
…...
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People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
In Circulations: Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases, 1.
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Picture yourself during the early 1920's inside the dome of the [Mount Wilson Observatory]. … [Milton] Humason is showing [Harlow] Shapley stars he had found in the Andromeda Nebula that appeared and disappeared on photographs of that object. The famous astronomer very patiently explains that these objects could not be stars because the Nebula was a nearby gaseous cloud within our own Milky Way system. Shapley takes his handkerchief from his pocket and wipes the identifying marks off the back of the photographic plate.
Of course, Hubble came along in 1924 and showed that it was just these Cepheid variable stars in the Andromeda Nebula which proved it was a separate galaxy system.
In Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies (1998), 168. Arp writes that this was “a piece of real history which I happen to know because it was told to me by one of the participants. It dramatically illustrate the critical role of discordant evidence.”
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Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination—stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern—of which I am a part. … What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the “why?” It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6, footnote.
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Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars.
In 'Our Home in Space.' In R.C. Prasad (ed.), Modern Essays: Studying Language Through Literature (1987), 26.
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Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
…...
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Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.
From a History Channel TV show, (?) The Universe.
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Science boasts of the distance of its stars; of the terrific remoteness of the things of which it has to speak. But poetry and religion always insist upon the proximity, the almost menacing closeness of the things with which they are concerned. Always the Kingdom of Heaven is “At Hand.”
'A Glimpse of My Country', The Daily News. Collected in Tremendous Trifles (1920), 277.
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Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars
Les Brown
…...
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Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
…...
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Since, then, there is no objection to the mobility of the Earth, I think it must now be considered whether several motions are appropriate for it, so that it can be regarded as one of the wandering stars. For the fact that it is not the centre of all revolutions is made clear by the apparent irregular motion of the wandering stars, and their variable distances from the Earth, which cannot be understood in a circle having the same centre as the Earth.
'Book One. Chapter IX. Whether several motions can be attributed to the Earth, and on the centre of the universe', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 46.
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So let us then try to climb the mountain, not by stepping on what is below us, but to pull us up at what is above us, for my part at the stars; amen.
As quoted, without citation, on the mcescher.com website.
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So numerous are the objects which meet our view in the heavens, that we cannot imagine a point of space where some light would not strike the eye;—innumerable stars, thousands of double and multiple systems, clusters in one blaze with their tens of thousands of stars, and the nebulae amazing us by the strangeness of their forms and the incomprehensibility of their nature, till at last, from the limit of our senses, even these thin and airy phantoms vanish in the distance.
On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1858), 420.
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Some things mankind can finish and be done with, but not ... science, that persists, and changes from ancient Chaldeans studying the stars to a new telescope with a 200-inch reflector and beyond; not religion, that persists, and changes from old credulities and world views to new thoughts of God and larger apprehensions of his meaning.
In 'What Keeps Religion Going?', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 51-52.
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Spong and I had also several fine discourses upon the globes this afternoon, particularly why the fixed stars do not rise and set at the same hour all the year long, which he could not demonstrate nor I neither.
Entry for 19 Aug 1666. In Samuel Pepys and Henry B. Wheatley (ed.), The Diary of Samuel Pepys (1895, 1900), Vol. 5, 382. He spent the day with Mr Reeves and Mr Spong.
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Stars look serene, but they are incredibly violent furnaces that occasionally erupt in incredibly violent explosions.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 309.
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Teach me your mood,
O patient stars.
Who climb each night,
the ancient sky.
leaving on space no shade, no scars,
no trace of age, no fear to die.
…...
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Telescopes are in some ways like time machines. They reveal galaxies so far away that their light has taken billions of years to reach us. We in astronomy have an advantage in studying the universe, in that we can actually see the past.
We owe our existence to stars, because they make the atoms of which we are formed. So if you are romantic you can say we are literally starstuff. If you’re less romantic you can say we’re the nuclear waste from the fuel that makes stars shine.
We’ve made so many advances in our understanding. A few centuries ago, the pioneer navigators learnt the size and shape of our Earth, and the layout of the continents. We are now just learning the dimensions and ingredients of our entire cosmos, and can at last make some sense of our cosmic habitat.
…...
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Tell a man that there are 300 billion stars in the universe, and he’ll believe you. Tell him that a bench has wet paint upon it and he’ll have to touch it to be sure.
Anonymous
Occasionally seen attributed to Albert Einstein, but without citation, so it is most likely anonymous.
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That night I lie out under the stars again. The Pleiades are there winking at me. I am no longer on my way from one place to another. I have changed lives. My life now is as black and white as night and day; a life of fierce struggle under the sun, and peaceful reflection under the night sky. I feel as though I am floating on a raft far, far away from any world I ever knew.
Ted Simon
…...
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The aim of education should be to preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that a child is born with. Grades and gold stars destroy this yearning for learning.
Letter to David Bayless (6 Feb 1992).
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The astronomer who catalogues the stars cannot add one atom to the universe; the poet can call an universe from the atom.
From Zanoni (1842), 6.
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The astronomer who studies the motion of the stars is surely like a blind man who, with only a staff [mathematics] to guide him, must make a great, endless, hazardous journey that winds through innumerable desolate places. What will be the result? Proceeding anxiously for a while and groping his way with his staff, he will at some time, leaning upon it, cry out in despair to Heaven, Earth and all the Gods to aid him in his misery.
In The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler (1968).
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The astronomers must be very clever to have found out the narnes of all the stars.
Anonymous
In The Physics Teacher, October 1970.
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The believer has the whole world of wealth (Prov. 17: 6 LXX) and “possesses all things as if he had nothing” (2 Cor. 6: 10) by virtue of his attachment to you whom all things serve; yet he may know nothing about the circuits of the Great Bear. It is stupid to doubt that he is better than the person who measures the heaven and counts the stars and weighs the elements, but neglects you who have disposed everything “by measure and number and weight” (Wisd. 11: 21).
Confessions [c.397], Book V, chapter 4 (7), trans. H. Chadwick (1991), 76.
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The body of the Earth, large, sluggish and inapt for motion, is not to be disturbed by movement (especially three movements), any more than the Aetherial Lights [stars] are to be shifted, so that such ideas are opposed both to physical principles and to the authority of the Holy Writ which many time: confirms the stability of the Earth (as we shall discuss more fully elsewhere).
De Mundi Aetherei Recentioribus Phaenomenis (On Recent Phenomena in the Aetherial World) (1588). Quoted in M. Boas Hall, The Scientific Renaissance 1450-1630 (1962), 115.
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The colors are stunning. In a single view, I see - looking out at the edge of the earth: red at the horizon line, blending to orange and yellow, followed by a thin white line, then light blue, gradually turning to dark blue and various gradually darker shades of gray, then black and a million stars above. It’s breathtaking.
…...
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The conditions of the earth’s core are starlike. From their study can physicists of the future tell us something more of the true nature of the stars?
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The experience was more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I have a newfound sense of wonder seeing the Earth and stars from such an incredible perspective. Certainly, through my training I was prepared for the technical aspects, but I had no idea that I would be flooded with such amazement and joy after seeing my first sunrise and sunset from space.
…...
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The fact that astronomies change while the stars abide is a true analogy of every realm of human life and thought, religion not least of all.
In The Living of These Days: An Autobiography (1956), 230.
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The general disposition of the land [in the Periodic Kingdom] is one of metals in the west, giving way, as you travel eastward, to a varied landscape of nonmetals, which terminates in largely inert elements at the eastern shoreline. To the south of the mainland, there is an offshore island, which we shall call the Southern Island. It consists entirely of metals of subtly modulated personality. North of the mainland, situated rather like Iceland off the northwestern edge of Europe, lies a single, isolated region-hydrogen. This simple but gifted element is an essential outpost of the kingdom, for despite its simplicity it is rich in chemical personality. It is also the most abundant element in the universe and the fuel of the stars.
In The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), 9.
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The great truths with which it [mathematics] deals, are clothed with austere grandeur, far above all purposes of immediate convenience or profit. It is in them that our limited understandings approach nearest to the conception of that absolute and infinite, towards which in most other things they aspire in vain. In the pure mathematics we contemplate absolute truths, which existed in the divine mind before the morning stars sang together, and which will continue to exist there, when the last of their radiant host shall have fallen from heaven. They existed not merely in metaphysical possibility, but in the actual contemplation of the supreme reason. The pen of inspiration, ranging all nature and life for imagery to set forth the Creator’s power and wisdom, finds them best symbolized in the skill of the surveyor. "He meted out heaven as with a span;" and an ancient sage, neither falsely nor irreverently, ventured to say, that “God is a geometer”.
In Orations and Speeches (1870), Vol. 3, 614.
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The greatest scientists have always looked on scientific materialism as a kind of religion, as a mythology. They are impelled by a great desire to explore mystery, to celebrate mystery in the universe, to open it up, to read the stars, to find the deeper meaning.
In Pamela Weintraub (ed.), 'E. O. Wilson', The Omni Interviews (1984), 231.
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The helium which we handle must have been put together at some time and some place. We do not argue with the critic who urges that the stars are not hot enough for this process; we tell him to go and find a hotter place.
The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926), 301.
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The important thing in any science is to do the things that can be done. Scientists naturally have a right and a duty to have opinions. But their science gives them no special insight into public affairs. There is a time for scientists and movie stars and people who have flown the Atlantic to restrain their opinions lest they be taken more seriously than they should be.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 69.
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The interpretation of messages from the earth’s interior demands all the resources of ordinary physics and of extraordinary mathematics. The geophysicist is of a noble company, all of whom are reading messages from the untouchable reality of things. The inwardness of things—atoms, crystals, mountains, planets, stars, nebulas, universes—is the quarry of these hunters of genius and Promethean boldness.
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The largest land animal is the elephant, and it is the nearest to man in intelligence: it understands the language of its country and obeys orders, remembers duties that it has been taught, is pleased by affection and by marks of honour, nay more it possesses virtues rare even in man, honesty, wisdom, justice, also respect for the stars and reverence for the sun and moon.
Natural History, 8, I. Trans. H. Rackham, Pliny: Natural History (1947), Vol. 3, 3.
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The mathematical giant [Gauss], who from his lofty heights embraces in one view the stars and the abysses …
Kurzer Grundriss eines Versuchs (1851), 44. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 158.
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The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses. No creature who began as a mathematical improbability, who was selected through millions of years of unprecedented environmental hardship and change for ruggedness, ruthlessness, cunning, and adaptability, and who in the short ten thousand years of what we may call civilization has achieved such wonders as we find about us, may be regarded as a creature without promise.
African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man (1961), 348.
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The moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.
…...
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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions. As instances of such discoveries, which are in most cases due to the increasing order of accuracy made possible by improvements in measuring instruments, may be mentioned: first, the departure of actual gases from the simple laws of the so-called perfect gas, one of the practical results being the liquefaction of air and all known gases; second, the discovery of the velocity of light by astronomical means, depending on the accuracy of telescopes and of astronomical clocks; third, the determination of distances of stars and the orbits of double stars, which depend on measurements of the order of accuracy of one-tenth of a second-an angle which may be represented as that which a pin's head subtends at a distance of a mile. But perhaps the most striking of such instances are the discovery of a new planet or observations of the small irregularities noticed by Leverrier in the motions of the planet Uranus, and the more recent brilliant discovery by Lord Rayleigh of a new element in the atmosphere through the minute but unexplained anomalies found in weighing a given volume of nitrogen. Many other instances might be cited, but these will suffice to justify the statement that “our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.”
In Light Waves and Their Uses (1903), 23-4. Michelson had some years earlier referenced “an eminent physicist” that he did not name who had “remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals,” near the end of his Convocation Address at the Dedication of the Ryerson Physical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, 'Some of the Objects and Methods of Physical Science' (4 Jul 1894), published in University of Chicago Quarterly Calendar (Aug 1894), 3, No.2, 15. Also
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The morning stars sang together.
And a person of delicate ear and nice judgment discussed the singing at length, and showed how and wherein one star differed from another, and which was great and which was not.
And still the morning stars sang together.
'Classification' in Little Stings (1907, 1908), 83.
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The motion of the stars over our heads is as much an illusion as that of the cows, trees and churches that flash past the windows of our train.
The Stars in their Courses (1931), 3.
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The motive for the study of mathematics is insight into the nature of the universe. Stars and strata, heat and electricity, the laws and processes of becoming and being, incorporate mathematical truths. If language imitates the voice of the Creator, revealing His heart, mathematics discloses His intellect, repeating the story of how things came into being. And Value of Mathematics, appealing as it does to our energy and to our honor, to our desire to know the truth and thereby to live as of right in the household of God, is that it establishes us in larger and larger certainties. As literature develops emotion, understanding, and sympathy, so mathematics develops observation, imagination, and reason.
In A Theory of Motives, Ideals and Values in Education (1907), 406.
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The next care to be taken, in respect of the Senses, is a supplying of their infirmities with Instruments, and, as it were, the adding of artificial Organs to the natural; this in one of them has been of late years accomplisht with prodigious benefit to all sorts of useful knowledge, by the invention of Optical Glasses. By the means of Telescopes, there is nothing so far distant but may be represented to our view; and by the help of Microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visible World discovered to the understanding. By this means the Heavens are open'd, and a vast number of new Stars, and new Motions, and new Productions appear in them, to which all the ancient Astronomers were utterly Strangers. By this the Earth it self, which lyes so neer us, under our feet, shews quite a new thing to us, and in every little particle of its matter, we now behold almost as great a variety of creatures as we were able before to reckon up on the whole Universe it self.
Micrographia, or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon (1665), preface, sig. A2V.
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The next object which I have observed is the essence or substance of the Milky Way. By the aid of a telescope anyone may behold this in a manner which so distinctly appeals to the senses that all the disputes which have tormented philosophers through so many ages are exploded at once by the irrefragable evidence of our eyes, and we are freed from wordy disputes upon this subject, for the Galaxy is nothing else but a mass of innumerable stars planted together in clusters.
In pamphlet, The Sidereal Messenger (1610), reprinted in The Sidereal Messenger of Galileo Galilei: And a Part of the Preface to the Preface to Kepler's Dioptrics Containing the Original Account of Galileo's Astronomical Discoveries (1880), 42.
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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 nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.
In Cosmos (1980), 233.
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The number of fixed stars which observers have been able to see without artificial powers of sight up to this day can be counted. It is therefore decidedly a great feat to add to their number, and to set distinctly before the eyes other stars in myriads, which have never been seen before, and which surpass the old, previously known stars in number more than ten times.
In pamphlet, The Sidereal Messenger (1610), reprinted in The Sidereal Messenger of Galileo Galilei: And a Part of the Preface to the Preface to Kepler's Dioptrics Containing the Original Account of Galileo's Astronomical Discoveries (1880), 7-8.
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The number of stars making up the Milky Way is about 10¹¹ or something like the number of raindrops falling in Hyde Park in a day’s heavy rain.
From review of Harlow Shapley, Of Stars and Men in 'Man and his Universe', New Scientist (12 Mar 1959), 594,
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The picture of scientific method drafted by modern philosophy is very different from traditional conceptions. Gone is the ideal of a universe whose course follows strict rules, a predetermined cosmos that unwinds itself like an unwinding clock. Gone is the ideal of the scientist who knows the absolute truth. The happenings of nature are like rolling dice rather than like revolving stars; they are controlled by probability laws, not by causality, and the scientist resembles a gambler more than a prophet. He can tell you only his best posits—he never knows beforehand whether they will come true. He is a better gambler, though, than the man at the green table, because his statistical methods are superior. And his goal is staked higher—the goal of foretelling the rolling dice of the cosmos. If he is asked why he follows his methods, with what title he makes his predictions, he cannot answer that he has an irrefutable knowledge of the future; he can only lay his best bets. But he can prove that they are best bets, that making them is the best he can do—and if a man does his best, what else can you ask of him?
The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951, 1973), 248-9. Collected in James Louis Jarrett and Sterling M. McMurrin (eds.), Contemporary Philosophy: A Book of Readings (1954), 376.
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The poet alone knows astronomy, chemistry, vegetation, and animation, for he does not stop at these facts, but employs them as signs. He knows why the plain, or meadow of space, was strown with these flowers we call suns, and moons, and stars; why the deep is adorned with animals, with men, and gods; for, in every word he speaks he rides on them as the horses of thought.
Essay, 'The Poet', in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alfred Riggs Ferguson (ed.) and Jean Ferguson Carr (ed.), The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume III, Essays: Second Series (1984), 104.
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The prohibition of science would be contrary to the Bible, which in hundreds of places teaches us how the greatness and the glory of God shine forth marvelously in all His works, and is to be read above all in the open book of the heavens. And let no one believe that the reading of the most exalted thoughts which are inscribed upon these pages is to be accomplished through merely staring up at the radiance of the stars. There are such profound secrets and such lofty conceptions that the night labors and the researches of hundreds and yet hundreds of the keenest minds, in investigations extending over thousands of years would not penetrate them, and the delight of the searching and finding endures forever.
As stated by William H. Hobbs, 'The Making of Scientific Theories,' Address of the president of Michigan Academy of Science at the Annual Meeting, Ann Arbor (28 Mar 1917) in Science (11 May 1917), N.S. 45, No. 1167, 443.
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The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.
In A Preface to Morals (1929, 1982), 127.
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The radius of space began at zero; the first stages of the expansion consisted of a rapid expansion determined by the mass of the initial atom, almost equal to the present mass of the universe. If this mass is sufficient, and the estimates which we can make indicate that this is indeed so, the initial expansion was able to permit the radius to exceed the value of the equilibrium radius. The expansion thus took place in three phases: a first period of rapid expansion in which the atom-universe was broken into atomic stars, a period of slowing-down, followed by a third period of accelerated expansion. It is doubtless in this third period that we find ourselves today, and the acceleration of space which followed the period of slow expansion could well be responsible for the separation of stars into extra-galactic nebulae.
From 'La formation des Nebuleuses dans l’Univers en Expansion', Comptes Rendus (1933), 196, 903-904. As translated in Helge Kragh, Cosmology and Controversy: The Historical Development of Two Theories of the Universe (1996), 52.
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The Spacious Firmament on high,
With all the blue Etherial Sky,
And spangled Heav’ns, a Shining Frame, Their great Original proclaim:
Th’unwearied Sun, from day to day
Does his Creator’s Pow’r display,
And publishes to every Land
The Work of an Almighty Hand.
Soon as the Evening Shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous Tale,
And nightly to the listning Earth Repeats the Story of her Birth:
Whilst all the Stars that round her burn,
And all the Planets, in their turn,
Confirm the Tidings as they rowl,
And spread the Truth from Pole to Pole.
What though, in solemn Silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial Ball?
What tho’ nor real Voice nor Sound
Amid their radiant Orbs be found?
In Reason’s Ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious Voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
“The Hand that made us is Divine”.
The Spectator, no. 465, Saturday 23 August 1712. In D. F. Bond (ed.) The Spectator (1965), Vol. 4, 144-5.
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The stars are laboratories in which the evolution of matter proceeds in the direction of large molecules.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 50. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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The stars bend like slaves to laws not decreed for them by human intelligence, but gleaned from them.
As quoted by George Greenstein in 'The Bulldog: A Profile of Ludwig Boltzmann', The American Scholar (1 Jan 1999), 60, 102.
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The stars hang bright above,
Silent, as if they watch’d the sleeping earth.
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The strongest affection and utmost zeal should, I think, promote the studies concerned with the most beautiful objects. This is the discipline that deals with the universe’s divine revolutions, the stars’ motions, sizes, distances, risings and settings . . . for what is more beautiful than heaven?
…...
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The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment. The important applications of the science, the theoretical interest of its ideas, and the logical rigour of its methods all generate the expectation of a speedy introduction to processes of interest. We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, this great science eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.
Opening to An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 7.
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The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment. … We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, this greatest science eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.
Opening of Chap 1, in An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 7.
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The sun and the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago—as even their infinitely more numerous analogues on the earth beneath are likely to disappear—had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.
In The Dance of Life (1923), 352.
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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 sun … is a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars themselves and of the heavens. When we consider his operations, we must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the chief regulator and the God of nature; he also lends his light to the other stars. He is the most illustrious and excellent, beholding all things and hearing all things.
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 20.
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The two revolutions, I mean the annual revolutions of the declination and of the centre of the Earth, are not completely equal; that is the return of the declination to its original value is slightly ahead of the period of the centre. Hence it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices seem to anticipate their timing, not because the sphere of the fixed stars moves to the east, but rather the equatorial circle moves to the west, being at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic in proportion to the declination of the axis of the terrestrial globe.
'Book Three. Chapter I. The Precession of the equinoxes and solstices', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 141.
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The universe is one great kindergarten for man. Everything that exists has brought with it its own peculiar lesson. The mountain teaches stability and grandeur; the ocean immensity and change. Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes—every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.
…...
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The vast spread
Of darkness
That speaks of mystery
The darkness that reveals
The beauty that lies beneath
In the form of glittering
Stars, a countless beauty
That seemed to conceal
A million stories
That can make the mankind
Take a new look at life
And the majestic moon
That silently looks at mankind
Wondering how its serenity
Was disturbed by the little steps
Of a man from the beautiful earth
Yet softly smiling back
And let the world sleep
In its magical glow
A glow that soothes
The world’s senses
And forget the pain of reality
…...
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The very closest stars would require many years to visit, even traveling at the speed of light, which is impossible according to Einstein's theory of relativity. Today's fastest spaceships would require 200,000 years to travel to Alpha Centauri, our closest bright star. The energy required to send a hundred colonists to another star, as Frank Drake has pointed out, would be enough to meet the energy needs of the entire United States over a human lifetime. And these estimates are regarding nearby stars. When we consider the distances across the entire galaxy, and between galaxies, interstellar travel seems absolutely untenable.
As co-author with his son, Marshall Fisher, in Strangers in the Night: a Brief History of Life on Other Worlds (1998).
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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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The word “universe” means the general assemblage of all nature, and it also means the heaven that is made up of the constellations and the courses of the stars.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 9, Chap 1, Sec. 2. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 257.
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The works of the great poets have only been read for most part as the multitude read the stars, at most, astrologically, not astronomically.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 464:3.
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The year 1918 was the time of the great influenza epidemic, the schools were closed. And this was when, as far as I can remember, the first explicitly strong interest in astronomy developed ... I took a piece of bamboo, and sawed a piece in the middle of each end, to put a couple of spectacle lenses in it. Well, the Pleiades looked nice because the stars were big. I thought I was looking at stars magnified. Well, they weren’t. It was a little thing with two lenses at random on each end, and all you got were extra focal images, big things, but I thought I was looking at star surfaces. I was 12 years old.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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Then if the first argument remains secure (for nobody will produce a neater one, than the length of the periodic time is a measure of the size of the spheres), the order of the orbits follows this sequence, beginning from the highest: The first and highest of all is the sphere of the fixed stars, which contains itself and all things, and is therefore motionless. It is the location of the universe, to which the motion and position of all the remaining stars is referred. For though some consider that it also changes in some respect, we shall assign another cause for its appearing to do so in our deduction of the Earth's motion. There follows Saturn, the first of the wandering stars, which completes its circuit in thirty years. After it comes Jupiter which moves in a twelve-year long revolution. Next is Mars, which goes round biennially. An annual revolution holds the fourth place, in which as we have said is contained the Earth along with the lunar sphere which is like an epicycle. In fifth place Venus returns every nine months. Lastly, Mercury holds the sixth place, making a circuit in the space of eighty days. In the middle of all is the seat of the Sun. For who in this most beautiful of temples would put this lamp in any other or better place than the one from which it can illuminate everything at the same time? Aptly indeed is he named by some the lantern of the universe, by others the mind, by others the ruler. Trismegistus called him the visible God, Sophocles' Electra, the watcher over all things. Thus indeed the Sun as if seated on a royal throne governs his household of Stars as they circle around him. Earth also is by no means cheated of the Moon's attendance, but as Aristotle says in his book On Animals the Moon has the closest affinity with the Earth. Meanwhile the Earth conceives from the Sun, and is made pregnant with annual offspring. We find, then, in this arrangement the marvellous symmetry of the universe, and a sure linking together in harmony of the motion and size of the spheres, such as could be perceived in no other way. For here one may understand, by attentive observation, why Jupiter appears to have a larger progression and retrogression than Saturn, and smaller than Mars, and again why Venus has larger ones than Mercury; why such a doubling back appears more frequently in Saturn than in Jupiter, and still more rarely in Mars and Venus than in Mercury; and furthermore why Saturn, Jupiter and Mars are nearer to the Earth when in opposition than in the region of their occultation by the Sun and re-appearance. Indeed Mars in particular at the time when it is visible throughout the night seems to equal Jupiter in size, though marked out by its reddish colour; yet it is scarcely distinguishable among stars of the second magnitude, though recognized by those who track it with careful attention. All these phenomena proceed from the same course, which lies in the motion of the Earth. But the fact that none of these phenomena appears in the fixed stars shows their immense elevation, which makes even the circle of their annual motion, or apparent motion, vanish from our eyes.
'Book One. Chapter X. The Order of the Heavenly Spheres', in Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), trans. A. M. Duncan (1976), 49-51.
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There are so many stars shining in the sky, so many beautiful things winking at you, but when Venus comes out, all the others are waned, they are pushed to the background.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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There can be no thought of finishing, for aiming at the stars, both literally and figuratively, is the work of generations, but no matter how much progress one makes there is always the thrill of just beginning.
In letter to H.G. Wells (Apr 1932). Quoted in Tom D. Crouch, Aiming for the Stars: the Dreamers and Doers of the Space Age (1999), 20.
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There is a place with four suns in the sky—red, white, blue, and yellow; two of them are so close together that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth—and made of diamond. There are atomic nuclei a few miles across which rotate thirty times a second. There are tiny grains between the stars, with the size and atomic composition of bacteria. There are stars leaving the Milky Way, and immense gas clouds falling into it. There are turbulent plasmas writhing with X- and gamma-rays and mighty stellar explosions. There are, perhaps, places which are outside our universe. The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it.
Opening paragraph, in 'Introduction' Planetary Exploration (1970), 15.
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There is another approach to the extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFO origins. This assessment depends on a large number of factors about which we know little, and a few about which we know literally nothing. I want to make some crude numerical estimate of the probability that we are frequently visited by extraterrestrial beings.
Now, there is a range of hypotheses that can be examined in such a way. Let me give a simple example: Consider the Santa Claus hypothesis, which maintains that, in a period of eight hours or so on December 24-25 of each year, an outsized elf visits one hundred million homes in the United States. This is an interesting and widely discussed hypothesis. Some strong emotions ride on it, and it is argued that at least it does no harm.
We can do some calculations. Suppose that the elf in question spends one second per house. This isn't quite the usual picture—“Ho, Ho, Ho,” and so on—but imagine that he is terribly efficient and very speedy; that would explain why nobody ever sees him very much-only one second per house, after all. With a hundred million houses he has to spend three years just filling stockings. I have assumed he spends no time at all in going from house to house. Even with relativistic reindeer, the time spent in a hundred million houses is three years and not eight hours. This is an example of hypothesis-testing independent of reindeer propulsion mechanisms or debates on the origins of elves. We examine the hypothesis itself, making very straightforward assumptions, and derive a result inconsistent with the hypothesis by many orders of magnitude. We would then suggest that the hypothesis is untenable.
We can make a similar examination, but with greater uncertainty, of the extraterrestrial hypothesis that holds that a wide range of UFOs viewed on the planet Earth are space vehicles from planets of other stars.
The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective (1973), 200.
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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’s a joke among cosmologists that romantics are made of stardust, but cynics are made of the nuclear waste of worn-out stars.
As co-author with Nancy Ellen Abrams, in The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos (2006), 279. With less clarity (with no reference to the worn-out stars), this was expressed earlier by Simon Singh, in Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need To Know About It (2004), 389, as: “Romantics might like to think of themselves as being composed of Stardust. Cynics might prefer to think of themselves as nuclear waste.”
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They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars—on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
Poem, ‘Desert Places’, in Collected Poems of Robert Frost 1939 (1945), 386.
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They had neither compass, nor astronomical instruments, nor any of the appliances of our time for finding their position at sea; they could only sail by the sun, moon, and stars, and it seems incomprehensible how for days and weeks, when these were invisible, they were able to find their course through fog and bad weather; but they found it, and in the open craft of the Norwegian Vikings, with their square sails, fared north and west over the whole ocean, from Novaya Zemlya and Spitsbergen to Greenland, Baffin Bay, Newfoundland, and North America.
In northern mists: Arctic exploration in early times - Volume 1 - Page 248 https://books.google.com/books?id=I1ugAAAAMAAJ Fridtjof Nansen - 1911
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This is the excellent foppery of the world: that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeits of our own behaviour—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's tail and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows that I am rough and lecherous. Fut! I should have been that I am had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing.
King Lear (1605-6), I, ii.
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