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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index S > Category: Strange

Strange Quotes (157 quotes)

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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Lyveris to-forn us
Useden to marke
For selkouthes that thei seighen,
Hir sones for to teche;
And helden it an heigh science
Hir wittes to knowe.
Ac thorugh hir science soothly
Was nevere no soule y-saved,
Ne broght by hir bokes
To blisse ne to joye;
For alle hir kynde knowynges
Come but of diverse sightes.
Patriarkes and prophetes
Repreveden hir science,
And seiden hir wordes and hir wisdomes
Nas but a folye
And to the clergie of Crist
Counted it but a trufle.

Our ancestors in olden days used to record
The strange things they saw, and teach them to their sons;
And they held it a high science, to have knowledge of such things.
But no soul was ever saved by all that science,
Nor brought by books into eternal bliss;
Their science was only a series of sundry observations.
So patriarchs and prophets disapproved of their science,
And said their so-called words of wisdom were but folly—
And compared with Christian philosophy, a contemptible thing.
In William Langland and B. Thomas Wright (ed.) The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman (1842), 235-236. Modern translation by Terrence Tiller in Piers Plowman (1981, 1999), 123.
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Mahomet’s tombe at Mecha is said strangely to hang up, attracted by some invisible Loadstone, but the Memory of this Doctor will never fall to the ground, which his incomparable Book ‘De Magnete’ will support to Eternity.
In The History of the The Worthies of England (1662, 1840), Vol. 1, 515.
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To Wheeler's comment, If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day, a student responded, I can't believe that space is that crummy. Wheeler replied: To disagree leads to study, to study leads to understanding, to understand is to appreciate, to appreciate is to love. So maybe I'll end up loving your theory.
Quoted in Charles Birch, Biology and the Riddle of Life (1999), 10.
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Yet ar ther fibicches in forceres
Of fele raennes makyng,
Experimentz of alkenamye
The peple to deceyve;
If thow thynke to do-wel,
Deel therwith nevere.

There are many men, also, who makes use of strange devices,
Alchemical experiments for the deception of others:
If you desire to do well, have no dealings with these.
In William Langland and B. Thomas Wright (ed.) The Vision and Creed of Piers Ploughman (1842), 186. Modern translation by Terrence Tiller in Piers Plowman (1981, 1999), 94.
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CALPURNIA: When beggars die there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
CAESAR: Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
Julius Caesar (1599), II, ii.
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LEPIDUS: What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?
ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth. It is just so high as it is, and moves with it own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
LEPIDUS: What colour is it of?
ANTONY:Of its own colour, too.
LEPIDUS:’Tis a strange serpent.
ANTONY:’Tis so, and the tears of it are wet.
In Antony and Cleopatra (1606-7), II, vii.
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A bad earthquake at once destroys the oldest associations: the world, the very emblem of all that is solid, has moved beneath our feet like a crust over a fluid; one second of time has conveyed to the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would never have created.
Journal of Researches: Into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. BeagIe Round the World (1839), ch. XVI, 369.
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A lot of people ask, “Do you think humans are parasites?” It’s an interesting idea and one worth thinking about. People casually refer to humanity as a virus spreading across the earth. In fact, we do look like some strange kind of bio-film spreading across the landscape. A good metaphor? If the biosphere is our host, we do use it up for our own benefit. We do manipulate it. We alter the flows and fluxes of elements like carbon and nitrogen to benefit ourselves—often at the expense of the biosphere as a whole. If you look at how coral reefs or tropical forests are faring these days, you’ll notice that our host is not doing that well right now. Parasites are very sophisticated; parasites are highly evolved; parasites are very successful, as reflected in their diversity. Humans are not very good parasites. Successful parasites do a very good job of balancing—using up their hosts and keeping them alive. It’s all a question of tuning the adaptation to your particular host. In our case, we have only one host, so we have to be particularly careful.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites'.
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A marveilous newtrality have these things mathematicall, and also a strange participation between things supernaturall, immortall, intellectuall, simple and indivisible, and things naturall, mortall, sensible, componded and divisible.
John Dee
In Mathematicall Praeface to the Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara (1570).
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A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.
In Since Cezanne (1922), 40.
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A small cabin stands in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, about a hundred yards off a trail that crosses the Cascade Range. In midsummer, the cabin looked strange in the forest. It was only twelve feet square, but it rose fully two stories and then had a high and steeply peaked roof. From the ridge of the roof, moreover, a ten-foot pole stuck straight up. Tied to the top of the pole was a shovel. To hikers shedding their backpacks at the door of the cabin on a cold summer evening—as the five of us did—it was somewhat unnerving to look up and think of people walking around in snow perhaps thirty-five feet above, hunting for that shovel, then digging their way down to the threshold.
In Encounters with the Archdruid (1971), 3.
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A strange enigma is man! Someone calls him a soul concealed in an animal.
Remark by the fictional Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s reply. In The Sign of the Four (1890), 196.
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A strange feeling of complete, almost solemn contentment suddenly overcame me when the descent module landed, rocked, and stilled. The weather was foul, but I smelled Earth, unspeakably sweet and intoxicating. And wind. Now utterly delightful; wind after long days in space.
…...
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Alas! That partial Science should approve
The sly rectangle’s too licentious love!
From three bright Nymphs the wily wizard burns;-
Three bright-ey’d Nymphs requite his flame by turns.
Strange force of magic skill! Combined of yore.
Anonymous
'The Loves of the Triangles. A Mathematical and Philosophical Poem', in The Anti-Jacobean or Weekly Examiner, Monday 16 April 1798, 182. [Written by George Canning, Hookham Frere, and George Ellis].
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All that Eddington and Millikan achieve, when they attempt their preposterous reconciliation of science and theology, is to prove that they themselves, for all their technical skill, are scientists only by trade, not by conviction. They practice science diligently and to some effect, but only in the insensate way in which Blind Tom played the piano. … they can’t get rid of a congenital incredulity. Science, to them, remains a bit strange and shocking. They are somewhat in the position of a Christian clergyman who finds himself unable to purge himself of a suspicion that Jonah, after all, probably did not swallow the whale.
Minority Report (1956, 2006 reprint), 140.
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All the real true knowledge we have of Nature is intirely experimental, insomuch that, how strange soever the assertion seems, we may lay this down as the first fundamental unerring rule in physics, That it is not within the compass of human understanding to assign a purely speculative reason for any one phaenomenon in nature.
In The Procedure, Extent, and Limits of Human Understanding (1728, 1729), 205-206.
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Among those whom I could never pursuade to rank themselves with idlers, and who speak with indignation of my morning sleeps and nocturnal rambles, one passes the day in catching spiders, that he may count their eyes with a microscope; another exhibits the dust of a marigold separated from the flower with a dexterity worthy of Leuwenhoweck himself. Some turn the wheel of electricity; some suspend rings to a lodestone, and find that what they did yesterday, they can do again to-day.—Some register the changes of the wind, and die fully convinced that the wind is changeable.—There are men yet more profound, who have heard that two colorless liquors may produce a color by union, and that two cold bodies will grow hot of they are mingled: they mingle them, and produce the effect expected, say it is strange, and mingle them again.
In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 243.
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An inventive age
Has wrought, if not with speed of magic, yet
To most strange issues. I have lived to mark
A new and unforeseen creation rise
From out the labours of a peaceful Land:
Wielding her potent enginery to frame
And to produce, with appetite as keen
As that of war, which rests not night or day.
In The Excursion (1814). In The Works of William: Wordsworth (1994), Book 8, 875.
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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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Art arises in those strange complexities of action that are called human beings. It is a kind of human behavior. As such it is not magic, except as human beings are magical. Nor is it concerned in absolutes, eternities, “forms,” beyond those that may reside in the context of the human being and be subject to his vicissitudes. Art is not an inner state of consciousness, whatever that may mean. Neither is it essentially a supreme form of communication. Art is human behavior, and its values are contained in human behavior.
In Art Is Action: A Discussion of Nine Arts in a Modern World (1939), 1.
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As he [Clifford] spoke he appeared not to be working out a question, but simply telling what he saw. Without any diagram or symbolic aid he described the geometrical conditions on which the solution depended, and they seemed to stand out visibly in space. There were no longer consequences to be deduced, but real and evident facts which only required to be seen. … So whole and complete was his vision that for the time the only strange thing was that anybody should fail to see it in the same way. When one endeavored to call it up again, and not till then, it became clear that the magic of genius had been at work, and that the common sight had been raised to that higher perception by the power that makes and transforms ideas, the conquering and masterful quality of the human mind which Goethe called in one word das Dämonische.
In Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays by William Kingdon Clifford(1879), Vol. 1, Introduction, 4-5.
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At first it seems obvious, but the more you think about it the stranger the deductions from this axiom seem to become; in the end you cease to understand what is meant by it.
As quoted, without citation, in Stories about Sets (1968), 84.
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Bacon himself was very ignorant of all that had been done by mathematics; and, strange to say, he especially objected to astronomy being handed over to the mathematicians. Leverrier and Adams, calculating an unknown planet into a visible existence by enormous heaps of algebra, furnish the last comment of note on this specimen of the goodness of Bacon’s view… . Mathematics was beginning to be the great instrument of exact inquiry: Bacon threw the science aside, from ignorance, just at the time when his enormous sagacity, applied to knowledge, would have made him see the part it was to play. If Newton had taken Bacon for his master, not he, but somebody else, would have been Newton.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 53-54.
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Because a fact seems strange to you, you conclude that it is not one. ... All science, however, commences by being strange. Science is successive. It goes from one wonder to another. It mounts by a ladder. The science of to-day would seem extravagant to the science of a former time. Ptolemy would believe Newton mad.
In Victor Hugo and Lorenzo O'Rourke (trans.) Victor Hugo's Intellectual Autobiography: (Postscriptum de ma vie) (1907), 322.
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But from the time I was in college I learned that there is nothing one could imagine which is so strange and incredible that it was not said by some philosopher; and since that time, I have recognized through my travels that all those whose views are different from our own are not necessarily, for that reason, barbarians or savages, but that many of them use their reason either as much as or even more than we do. I also considered how the same person, with the same mind, who was brought up from infancy either among the French or the Germans, becomes different from what they would have been if they had always lived among the Chinese or among the cannibals, and how, even in our clothes fashions, the very thing that we liked ten years ago, and that we may like again within the next ten years, appears extravagant and ridiculous to us today. Thus our convictions result from custom and example very much more than from any knowledge that is certain... truths will be discovered by an individual rather than a whole people.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 2, 14-5.
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But if any skillful minister of nature shall apply force to matter, and by design torture and vex it, in order to [effect] its annihilation, it, on the contrary being brought under this necessity, changes and transforms itself into a strange variety of shapes and appearances; for nothing but the power of the Creator can annihilate, or truly destroy it.
As quoted in M.J. Gorton, 'The Weather', Popular Science News (1889), 23, No. 8, 115.
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But the Presidence of that mighty Power … its particular Agency and Concern therein: and its Purpose and Design … will more evidently appear, when I shall have proved … That the said Earth, though not indifferently and alike fertil in all parts of it, was yet generally much more fertil than ours is … That its Soil was more luxuriant, and teemed forth its Productions in far greater plenty and abundance than the present Earth does … That when Man was fallen, and had abandoned his primitive Innocence, the Case was much altered: and a far different Scene of Things presented; that generous Vertue, masculine Bravery, and prudent Circumspection which he was before Master of, now deserting him … and a strange imbecility immediately seized and laid hold of him: he became pusillanimous, and was easily ruffled with every little Passion within: supine, and as openly exposed to any Temptation or Assault from without. And now these exuberant Productions of the Earth became a continued Decoy and Snare unto him.
In An Essay Toward A Natural History of the Earth (1695), 84-86.
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Can a physicist visualize an electron? The electron is materially inconceivable and yet, it is so perfectly known through its effects that we use it to illuminate our cities, guide our airlines through the night skies and take the most accurate measurements. What strange rationale makes some physicists accept the inconceivable electrons as real while refusing to accept the reality of a Designer on the ground that they cannot conceive Him?
In letter to California State board of Education (14 Sep 1972).
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Chemists show us that strange property, catalysis, which enables a substance while unaffected itself to incite to union elements around it. So a host, or hostess, who may know but little of those concerned, may, as a social switchboard, bring together the halves of pairs of scissors, men who become life-long friends, men and women who marry and are happy husbands and wives.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 179.
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Connected by innumerable ties with abstract science, Physiology is yet in the most intimate relation with humanity; and by teaching us that law and order, and a definite scheme of development, regulate even the strangest and wildest manifestations of individual life, she prepares the student to look for a goal even amidst the erratic wanderings of mankind, and to believe that history offers something more than an entertaining chaos—a journal of a toilsome, tragi-comic march nowither.
In 'Educational Value of Natural History Sciences', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 97.
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Consider the hateful brew compounded with gleaming, deadly white lead whose fresh colour is like milk…. Over the victim’s jaws and in the grooves of the gums is plastered an astringent froth, and the furrow of the tongue turns rough on either side, and the depth of the throat grows somewhat dry, and from the pernicious venom follows a dry retching and hawking, for this affliction is severe; meanwhile his spirit sickens and he is worn out with mortal suffering. His body too grows chill, while sometimes his eyes behold strange illusions or else he drowses; nor can he bestir his limbs as heretofore, and he succumbs to the overmastering fatigue.
Nicander
As translated by A.S.F. Gow and A.F. Scholfield in Nicander: The Poems and Portical Fragments (1953), 99.
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Crowds of silent voices whisper in our ears, transforming the nature of what we see and hear. Some are those of childhood authorities and heroes; others come from family and peers. The strangest emerge from beyond the grave.
In 'Reality is a Shared Hallucination', Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2000), 77.
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Diseased nature oftentimes breaks forth
In strange eruptions.
Dialogue by Hotspur to Glendower, in King Henry IV, Part I (c. 1597), Act III. Scene 1.
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Don’t think of organ donations as giving up part of yourself to keep a total stranger alive. It’s really a total stranger giving up almost all of themselves to keep part of you alive.
Anonymous
…...
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Einstein’s 1905 paper came out and suddenly changed people’s thinking about space-time. We’re again [2007] in the middle of something like that. When the dust settles, time—whatever it may be—could turn out to be even stranger and more illusory than even Einstein could imagine.
Quoted by Tim Folger in 'Newsflash: Time May Not Exist', Discover Magazine (Jun 2007).
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Eugen Bleuler (who in 1911 coined the word 'schizophrenia') once said that in the end his patients were stranger to him than the birds in his garden. But if they're strangers to us, what are we to them?
Hurry Down Sunshine (2009), 26.
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Focusing on the science-technology relationship may strike some as strange, because conventional wisdom views this relationship as an unproblematic given. … Technology is seen as being, at best, applied science … the conventional view perceives science as clearly preceding and founding technology. … Recent studies in the history of technology have begun to challenge this assumed dependency of technology on science. … But the conventional view of science is persistent.
In 'Technology and Science', Stephen V. Monsma (ed.), Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective (1986), 78-79.
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He who is unfamiliar with mathematics remains more or less a stranger to our time.
In Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (1889), 39. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 122. From the original German, “Wer mathematisch ein Laie ist, geht mehr oder weniger als Fremder durch unsere Zeit”. More literally, the first phrase would be translated as, “He who is a layman in mathematics…”.
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He [a student] liked to look at the … remains of queer animals: funny little skulls and bones and disjointed skeletons of strange monsters that must have been remarkable when they were alive … [he] wondered if the long one with the flat, triangular head used to crawl, or hop, or what.
In 'The Great Paste-pot Handicap' Maroon Tales: University of Chicago Stories (1910), 289. Note: the fictional student is in the University of Chicago’s Walker Museum.
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He [Sylvester] had one remarkable peculiarity. He seldom remembered theorems, propositions, etc., but had always to deduce them when he wished to use them. In this he was the very antithesis of Cayley, who was thoroughly conversant with everything that had been done in every branch of mathematics.
I remember once submitting to Sylvester some investigations that I had been engaged on, and he immediately denied my first statement, saying that such a proposition had never been heard of, let alone proved. To his astonishment, I showed him a paper of his own in which he had proved the proposition; in fact, I believe the object of his paper had been the very proof which was so strange to him.
As quoted by Florian Cajori, in Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 268.
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His [Erwin Schrödinger's] private life seemed strange to bourgeois people like ourselves. But all this does not matter. He was a most lovable person, independent, amusing, temperamental, kind and generous, and he had a most perfect and efficient brain.
Max Born
In My Life, Recollections of a Nobel Laureate (1978), 270. Quoted by Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (1992), 6.
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How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people–first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
…...
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How strange it would be if the final theory were to be discovered in our lifetimes! The discovery of the final laws of nature will mark a discontinuity in human intellectual history, the sharpest that has occurred since the beginning of modern science in the seventeenth century. Can we now imagine what that would be like?
In Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), 235.
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However dangerous might be the shock of a comet, it might be so slight, that it would only do damage at the part of the Earth where it actually struck; perhaps even we might cry quits if while one kingdom were devastated, the rest of the Earth were to enjoy the rarities which a body which came from so far might bring it. Perhaps we should be very surprised to find that the debris of these masses that we despised were formed of gold and diamonds; but who would be the most astonished, we, or the comet-dwellers, who would be cast on our Earth? What strange being each would find the other!
From 'Lettre sur la comčte', Śuvres de M. Maupertuis (1752), 203. As quoted in Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979), 95-96.
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I abide in a goodly Museum,
Frequented by sages profound:
'Tis a kind of strange mausoleum,
Where the beasts that have vanished abound.
There's a bird of the ages Triassic,
With his antediluvian beak,
And many a reptile Jurassic,
And many a monster antique.
'Ballad of the Ichthyosaurus', Dreams to Sell (1887), 14.
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I always dreamed that man was a stranger on this planet.
As quoted in Jon, Michael and Deborah Fripp, Speaking of Science (2000), 167, citing “in conversation with Bill Smollers.”
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I am persuaded that there is not in the nature of science anything unfavourable to religious feelings, and if I were not so persuaded I should be much puzzled to account for our being invested, as we so amply are, with the facilities that lead us to the discovery of scientific truth. It would be strange if our Creator should be found to be urging us on in a career which tended to be a forgetfulness of him.
Letter to H. J. Rose (19 Nov 1826). Quoted in I. Todhunter (ed.), William Whewell: An Account of His Writings with Selections From His Literary and Scientific Correspondence (1876), Vol. 2, 76.
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I ask any one who has adopted the calling of an engineer, how much time he lost when he left school, because he had to devote himself to pursuits which were absolutely novel and strange, and of which he had not obtained the remotest conception from his instructors? He had to familiarize himself with ideas of the course and powers of Nature, to which his attention had never been directed during his school-life, and to learn, for the first time, that a world of facts lies outside and beyond the world of words.
From After-Dinner Speech (Apr 1869) delivered before the Liverpool Philomathic Society, 'Scientific Education', collected in Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870), 63. Previously published in Macmillan’s Magazine.
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I cannot but look upon the strange Instinct of this noisome and troublesome Creature a Louse, of searching out foul and nasty Clothes to harbor and breed in, as an Effect of divine Providence, design’d to deter Men and Women from Sluttishness and Sordidness.
John Ray
In The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), 309.
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I have not yet lost a feeling of wonder, and of delight, that this delicate motion should reside in all the things around us, revealing itself only to him who looks for it. I remember, in the winter of our first experiments, just seven years ago, looking on snow with new eyes. There the snow lay around my doorstep—great heaps of protons quietly precessing in the earth's magnetic field. To see the world for a moment as something rich and strange is the private reward of many a discovery.
Opening remark, Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1952).
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I never got tired of watching the radar echo from an aircraft as it first appeared as a tiny blip in the noise on the cathode-ray tube, and then grew slowly into a big deflection as the aircraft came nearer. This strange new power to “see” things at great distances, through clouds or darkness, was a magical extension of our senses. It gave me the same thrill that I felt in the early days of radio when I first heard a voice coming out of a horn...
In Boffin: A Personal Story of the Early Days of Radar, Radio Astronomy and Quantum Optics (1991), 9.
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I think it would be a very rash presumption to think that nowhere else in the cosmos has nature repeated the strange experiment which she has performed on earth—that the whole purpose of creation has been staked on this one planet alone. It is probable that dotted through the cosmos there are other suns which provide the energy for life to attendant planets. It is apparent, however, that planets with just the right conditions of temperature, oxygen, water and atmosphere necessary for life are found rarely.
But uncommon as a habitable planet may be, non-terrestrial life exists, has existed and will continue to exist. In the absence of information, we can only surmise that the chance that it surpasses our own is as good as that it falls below our level.
As quoted by H. Gordon Garbedian in 'Ten Great Riddles That Call For Solution by Scientists', New York Times (5 Oct 1930), XX4. Garbedian gave no citation to a source for Shapley’s words. However, part of this quote is very similar to that of Sir Arthur Eddington: “It would indeed be rash to assume that nowhere else has Nature repeated the strange experiment which she has performed on the earth,” from 'Man’s Place in the Universe', Harper’s Magazine (Oct 1928), 157 573.
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I understood that you would take the human race in the concrete, have exploded the absurd notion of Pope’s Essay on Man, [Erasmus] Darwin, and all the countless believers even (strange to say) among Christians of man’s having progressed from an ouran-outang state—so contrary to all History, to all religion, nay, to all possibility—to have affirmed a Fall in some sense as a fact….
Letter to William Wordsworth (30 May 1815). In William Knight, The Life of William Wordsworth (1889), Vol. 2, 259. [Note: “ouran” is as written. Erasmus identified in footnote.]
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I venture to assert that the feelings one has when the beautiful symbolism of the infinitesimal calculus first gets a meaning, or when the delicate analysis of Fourier has been mastered, or while one follows Clerk Maxwell or Thomson into the strange world of electricity, now growing so rapidly in form and being, or can almost feel with Stokes the pulsations of light that gives nature to our eyes, or track with Clausius the courses of molecules we can measure, even if we know with certainty that we can never see them I venture to assert that these feelings are altogether comparable to those aroused in us by an exquisite poem or a lofty thought.
In paper (May 1891) read before Bath Branch of the Teachers’ Guild, published in The Practical Teacher (July 1891), reprinted as 'Geometry', in Frederic Spencer, Chapters on the Aims and Practice of Teaching (1897), 194.
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Ideologues of all persuasions think they know how the economy will respond to the Administration’s strange mixture of Lafferism and monetarism. Indeed, their self-confidence is so vast, and their ability to rationalize so crafty, that one cannot imagine a scenario for the next few years, that they would regard as falsifying their dogma. The failure of any prediction can always be blamed on quirky political decisions or unforeseen historical events.
In 'Mathematical Games: The Laffer Curve', Scientific American (Dec 1981), 245, No. 6, 30. Collected in The Night Is Large: Collected Essays, 1938-1995 (1997), 135.
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If the kind of controversy which so often springs up between modernism and traditionalism in religion were applied to more commonplace affairs of life we might see some strange results. …It arises, let us say, from a passage in an obituary notice which mentions that the deceased had loved to watch the sunsets from his peaceful country home.. …it is forgotten that what the deceased man looked out for each evening was an experience and not a creed.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 84-85.
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If the man of science chose to follow the example of historians and pulpit-orators, and to obscure strange and peculiar phenomena by employing a hollow pomp of big and sounding words, this would be his opportunity; for we have approached one of the greatest mysteries which surround the problem of animated nature and distinguish it above all other problems of science. To discover the relations of man and woman to the egg-cell would be almost equivalent of the egg-cell in the body of the mother, the transfer to it by means of the seed, of the physical and mental characteristics of the father, affect all the questions which the human mind has ever raised in regard to existence.
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel, The Evolution of Man (1897), vol 1, 148.
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If we peep into Dom Claude’s cell, we are introduced to a typical alchemist’s laboratory—a gloomy, dimly-lighted place, full of strange vessels, and furnaces, and melting-pots, spheres, and portions of skeletons hanging from the ceiling; the floor littered with stone bottles, pans, charcoal, aludels, and alembics, great parchment books covered with hieroglyphics; the bellows with its motto Spira, Spera; the hour-glass, the astrolabe, and over all cobwebs, and dust, and ashes. The walls covered with various aphorisms of the brotherhood; legends and memorials in many tongues; passages from the Smaragdine Table of Hermes Trismegistus; and looming out from all in great capitals, ’ANAΓKH.
In The Birth of Chemistry (1874), 100.
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Imperceptibly a change had been wrought in me until I no longer felt alone in a strange, silent country. I had learned to hear the echoes of a time when every living thing upon this land and even the varied overshadowing skies had its voice, a voice that was attentively heard and devoutly heeded by the ancient people of America. Henceforth, to me the plants, the trees, the clouds and all things had become vocal with human hopes, fears and supplications.
From Preface, Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs (1915), v.
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In 1768, some peasants, near Luce in France, heard a thunderclap and saw a large stone fall from the sky. Reports of this strange phenomenon reached the French Academy of Sciences. The Academy asked Lavoisier, the premier chemist, to investigate. Lavoisier knew that stones do not fall out of the sky; so, in his knowledgeable arrogance, he reported that the witnesses were either lying or mistaken. The academy did not accept the fact of meteorites until the following century.
In 'Forum: A Case of Spontaneous Human Combustion', New Scientist (15 May 1986), 70.
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In a strange way, Marcion understood the situation better than the more conventional followers of the church, for Lucifer is merely one of the faces of a larger force. Evil is a by-product, a component, of creation.
In 'Who is Lucifer?', The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (1997), 2.
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In geology we cannot dispense with conjectures: [but] because we are condemned to dream let us ensure that our dreams are like those of sane men—e.g. that they have their foundations in truth—and are not like the dreams of the sick, formed by strange combinations of phantasms, contrary to nature and therefore incredible.
Introducione alla Geologia, Part I (1811), trans. Ezio Vaccari, 81.
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In some strange way, any new fact or insight that I may have found has not seemed to me as a “discovery” of mine, but rather something that had always been there and that I had chanced to pick up.
Truth and Beauty: Aesthetics and Motivations in Science (1987, 1990), Preface, ix.
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It is a strange fact, characteristic of the incomplete state of our present knowledge, that totally opposing conclusions are drawn about prehistoric conditions on our planet, depending on whether the problem is approached from the biological or the geophysical viewpoint.
In The Origins of Continents and Oceans (4th ed. 1929), trans. John Biram (1966), 5.
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It is a strange feeling which comes over one as he stands in the centre of the tunnel, and knows that a mighty river is rolling on over his head, and that great ships with their thousands of tons burthen, sail over him. ... There is no single work of Art in London (with the exception of St. Paul's Cathedral) which excites so much curiosity and admiration among foreigners as the Tunnel. Great buildings are common to all parts of Europe, but the world has not such another Tunnel as this. There is something grand in the idea of walking under a broad river—making a pathway dry and secure beneath ships and navies!
[About visiting Brunel's Thames Tunnel, the first in the world under a navigable waterway.]
What I Saw in London: or, Men and Things in the Great Metropolis (1853), 168-169.
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It is a strange irony that the principles of science should seem to deny the necessary conviction of common sense.
In The Order of Nature (1917), 92.
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It is a very strange thing to reflect that but for the invention of Professor Haber the Germans could not have continued the War after their original stack of nitrates was exhausted. The invention of this single man has enabled them, utilising the interval in which their accumulations were used up, not only to maintain an almost unlimited supply of explosives for all purposes, but to provide amply for the needs of agriculture in chemical manures. It is a remarkable fact, and shows on what obscure and accidental incidents the fortunes of possible the whole world may turn in these days of scientific discovery.
[During World War I, Fritz Haber and Karl Bosch invented a large scale process to cause the direct combination of hydrogen and nitrogen gases to chemically synthesize ammonia, thus providing a replacement for sodium nitrate in the manufacture of explosives and fertilizers.]
Parliamentary debate (25 Apr 1918). In Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469. by Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth
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It is as if Cleopatra fell off her barge in 40 BC and hasn't hit the water yet.
[Illustrating how strange the behaviour of kaon particles, when first found in cosmic rays, which lived without predicted decay for a surprisingly long time—seemingly postponed a million billion times longer than early theory expected.]
Anonymous
In Frank Close, Michael Marten, Christine Sutton, The Particle Odyssey: a Journey to the Heart of the Matter (2004),75.
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It is for such inquiries the modern naturalist collects his materials; it is for this that he still wants to add to the apparently boundless treasures of our national museums, and will never rest satisfied as long as the native country, the geographical distribution, and the amount of variation of any living thing remains imperfectly known. He looks upon every species of animal and plant now living as the individual letters which go to make up one of the volumes of our earth’s history; and, as a few lost letters may make a sentence unintelligible, so the extinction of the numerous forms of life which the progress of cultivation invariably entails will necessarily render obscure this invaluable record of the past. It is, therefore, an important object, which governments and scientific institutions should immediately take steps to secure, that in all tropical countries colonised by Europeans the most perfect collections possible in every branch of natural history should be made and deposited in national museums, where they may be available for study and interpretation. If this is not done, future ages will certainly look back upon us as a people so immersed in the pursuit of wealth as to be blind to higher considerations. They will charge us with having culpably allowed the destruction of some of those records of Creation which we had it in our power to preserve; and while professing to regard every living thing as the direct handiwork and best evidence of a Creator, yet, with a strange inconsistency, seeing many of them perish irrecoverably from the face of the earth, uncared for and unknown.
In 'On the Physical Geography of the Malay Archipelago', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1863), 33, 234.
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It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully,but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretches out his arms for others.
Letter to Farkas Wolfgang Bolyai (2 Sep 1808). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 416.
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It is not, indeed, strange that the Greeks and Romans should not have carried ... any ... experimental science, so far as it has been carried in our time; for the experimental sciences are generally in a state of progression. They were better understood in the seventeenth century than in the sixteenth, and in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth. But this constant improvement, this natural growth of knowledge, will not altogether account for the immense superiority of the modern writers. The difference is a difference not in degree, but of kind. It is not merely that new principles have been discovered, but that new faculties seem to be exerted. It is not that at one time the human intellect should have made but small progress, and at another time have advanced far; but that at one time it should have been stationary, and at another time constantly proceeding. In taste and imagination, in the graces of style, in the arts of persuasion, in the magnificence of public works, the ancients were at least our equals. They reasoned as justly as ourselves on subjects which required pure demonstration.
History (May 1828). In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 36.
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It is said that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, and nowhere is this more true than in the case of black holes. Black holes are stranger than anything dreamt up by science fiction writers.
In Lecture, 'Into a Black Hole' (2008). On hawking.org website.
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It is strange that the immense variety in nature can be resolved into a series of numbers.
Lecture (Christmas 1923), 'The Atoms of Which Things Are Made'. Collected in Concerning the Nature of Things: Six Lectures Delivered at the Royal Institution (1925, 1954), 37.
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It is strange that we know so little about the properties of numbers. They are our handiwork, yet they baffle us; we can fathom only a few of their intricacies. Having defined their attributes and prescribed their behavior, we are hard pressed to perceive the implications of our formulas.
In James R. Newman (ed.), 'Commentary on The Mysteries of Arithmetic', The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 1, 497.
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It is strange, but rocks, properly chosen and polished, can be as beautiful as flowers, and much more durable.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 159.
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It is strange, but the longer I live the more I am governed by the feeling of Fatalism, or rather predestination. The feeling or free-will, said to be innate in man, fails me more and more. I feel so deeply that however much I may struggle, I cannot change fate one jot. I am now almost resigned. I work because I feel I am at the worst. I can neither wish nor hope for anything. You have no idea how indifferent I am to everything.
In Letter to Anna Carlotta, collected in Anna Charlotte Leffler, Sonya Kovalevsky: A Biography (1895), 133, as translated by A. De Furuhjelm and A.M. Clive Bayley.
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It is the reciprocity of these appearances—that each party should think the other has contracted—that is so difficult to realise. Here is a paradox beyond even the imagination of Dean Swift. Gulliver regarded the Lilliputians as a race of dwarfs; and the Lilliputians regarded Gulliver as a giant. That is natural. If the Lilliputians had appeared dwarfs to Gulliver, and Gulliver had appeared a dwarf to the Lilliputians—but no! that is too absurd for fiction, and is an idea only to be found in the sober pages of science. …It is not only in space but in time that these strange variations occur. If we observed the aviator carefully we should infer that he was unusually slow in his movements; and events in the conveyance moving with him would be similarly retarded—as though time had forgotten to go on. His cigar lasts twice as long as one of ours. …But here again reciprocity comes in, because in the aviator’s opinion it is we who are travelling at 161,000 miles a second past him; and when he has made all allowances, he finds that it is we who are sluggish. Our cigar lasts twice as long as his.
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 23-24.
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It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a Hospital that it should do the sick no harm.
First sentence of Preface to Notes on Hospitals (1859, 3rd. Ed.,1863), iii.
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It seems very strange … that in the course of the world’s history so obvious an improvement should never have been adopted. … The next generation of Britishers would be the better for having had this extra hour of daylight in their childhood.
In Report, and Special Report, from the Select Committee on the Daylight Saving Bill: Minutes of Evidence (1908), 116.
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It’s easier for a woman to go into a strange village than a man. If a strange man wanders in, the natives are afraid he’ll take their wives away, but a woman can work with the mothers and children.
Explaining her ability in observing Pacific Island cultures. As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 143.
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Judging from our experience upon this planet, such a history, that begins with elementary particles, leads perhaps inevitably toward a strange and moving end: a creature that knows, a science-making animal, that turns back upon the process that generated him and attempts to understand it. Without his like, the universe could be, but not be known, and this is a poor thing. Surely this is a great part of our dignity as men, that we can know, and that through us matter can know itself; that beginning with protons and electrons, out of the womb of time and the vastnesses of space, we can begin to understand; that organized as in us, the hydrogen, the carbon, the nitrogen, the oxygen, those 16-21 elements, the water, the sunlight—all having become us, can begin to understand what they are, and how they came to be.
In 'The Origins of Life', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (1964), 52, 609-110.
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Man is merely a frequent effect, a monstrosity is a rare one, but both are equally natural, equally inevitable, equally part of the universal and general order. And what is strange about that? All creatures are involved in the life of all others, consequently every species... all nature is in a perpetual state of flux. Every animal is more or less a human being, every mineral more or less a plant, every plant more or less an animal... There is nothing clearly defined in nature.
D'Alembert's Dream (1769), in Rameau's Nephew and D' Alembert's Dream, trans. Leonard Tancock (Penguin edition 1966), 181.
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Man is perhaps half spirit and half matter, as the polyp is half plant and half animal. The strangest of creatures lie always at the boundary.
Aphorism 30 in Notebook D (1773-1775), as translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Aphorisms (1990). Reprinted as The Waste Books (2000), 48.
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Many the forms of life,
Fearful and strange to see,
But man supreme stands out
For strangeness and for fear.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated in Harvard Classics. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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Many the wonders but nothing walks stranger than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff (1954) in David Grene and Richmond Lattimore (eds.)The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles (1957), Vol. 2, 170.
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Mathematics is not a careful march down a well-cleared highway, but a journey into a strange wilderness, where the explorers often get lost. Rigour should be a signal to the historian that the maps have been made, and the real explorers have gone elsewhere.
'Mathematics and History', Mathematical Intelligencer (1992), 4, No. 4, 10.
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Mathematics is often erroneously referred to as the science of common sense. Actually, it may transcend common sense and go beyond either imagination or intuition. It has become a very strange and perhaps frightening subject from the ordinary point of view, but anyone who penetrates into it will find a veritable fairyland, a fairyland which is strange, but makes sense, if not common sense.
With co-author James R. Newman, in Mathematics and the Imagination (1940), 359.
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Mathematics is strange: many make thousands but not many make millions.
Anonymous
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 250.
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Most people regard scientists as explorers … Imagine a handful of people shipwrecked on a strange island and setting out to explore it. One of them cuts a solitary path through the jungle, going on and on until he is exhausted or lost or both. He eventually returns to his companions, and they listen to him with goggling eyes as he describes what he saw; what he fell into, and what bit him. After a rest he demands more supplies and sets off again to explore the unknown. Many of his companions will be doing the same, each choosing his own direction and pursuing his pioneering path.
In The Development of Design (1981), 1.
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Natural historians tend to avoid tendentious preaching in this philosophical mode (although I often fall victim to such temptations in these essays). Our favored style of doubting is empirical: if I wish to question your proposed generality, I will search for a counterexample in flesh and blood. Such counterexamples exist in abundance, for the form a staple in a standard genre of writing in natural history–the “wonderment of oddity” or “strange ways of the beaver” tradition.
In 'Reversing Established Orders', Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (2011), 394.
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Never to have seen anything but the temperate zone is to have lived on the fringe of the world. Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer live the majority of all the plant species, the vast majority of the insects, most of the strange ... quadrupeds, all of the great and most of the poisonous snakes and large lizards, most of the brilliantly colored sea fishes, and the strangest and most gorgeously plumaged of the birds.
Exploring For Plants (1930), 329.
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Nevertheless if any skillful Servant of Nature shall bring force to bear on matter, and shall vex it and drive it to extremities as if with the purpose of reducing it to nothing, then will matter (since annihilation or true destruction is not possible except by the omnipotence of God) finding itself in these straits, turn and transform itself into strange shapes, passing from one change to another till it has gone through the whole circle and finished the period.
From 'Proteus; or Matter', De Sapientia Veterum (1609), Sec. 13. As translated in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 6, 726.
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Now [Michele Besso] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing in physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
Letter of condolence to the family of Michele Besso, his lifelong friend (21 Mar 1955). In Tabatha Yeatts, Albert Einstein (2007), 116. (Besso died on 15 Mar 1955. Einstein died 18 Apr 1955.)
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Now, I must tell you of a strange experience which bore fruit in my later life. ... We had a cold [snap] drier that ever observed before. People walking in the snow left a luminous trail behind them and a snowball thrown against an obstacle gave a flare of light like a loaf of sugar hit with a knife. [As I stroked] MaÄŤak's back, [it became] a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks. ... My father ... remarked, this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see on the trees in a storm. My mother seemed alarmed. Stop playing with the cat, she said, he might start a fire. I was thinking abstractly. Is nature a cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded. ...
I cannot exaggerate the effect of this marvelous sight on my childish imagination. Day after day I asked myself what is electricity and found no answer. Eighty years have gone by since and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it.
Letter to Miss Pola Fotitch, 'A Story of Youth Told by Age' (1939). In John Ratzlaff, editor, Tesla Said (1984), 283-84. Cited in Marc J. Seifer, Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla (1998), 5.
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Of all the strange “crimes” that humanity has legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing—with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.
In 'From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long', Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 259.
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Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.
Scarlet Begonias
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Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.
…...
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People have now a-days got a strange opinion that every thing should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do as much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken.
Entry for Feb 1776. In George Birkbeck-Hill (ed.), Boswell's Life of Johnson (1934-50), Vol. 2, 7.
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People have now-a-days got a strange opinion that everything should be taught by lectures. Now, I cannot see that lectures can do so much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken. I know nothing that can best be taught by lectures, except where experiments are to be shewn. You may teach chemistry by lectures.
Elements of Chemistry (1830)
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Philosophers and psychiatrists should explain why it is that we mathematicians are in the habit of systematically erasing our footsteps. Scientists have always looked askance at this strange habit of mathematicians, which has changed little from Pythagoras to our day.
From the second Fubini Lecture, delivered at the Villa Gualino, Torino (2 Jun 1998), 'What is Invariant Theory, Really?' Collected in Henry H. Crapo and D. Senato (eds.), Algebraic Combinatorics and Computer Science: A Tribute to Gian-Carlo Rota (2001), 55.
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Physicists are people, differing from the common run of humanity only in that from time to time they tend to speak a strange language of their own, much of which they understand.
In 'A Newsman Looks at Physicists', Physics Today (May 1948), 1, No. 1, 15.
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Science starts with preconception, with the common culture, and with common sense. It moves on to observation, is marked by the discovery of paradox, and is then concerned with the correction of preconception. It moves then to use these corrections for the designing of further observation and for more refined experiment. And as it moves along this course the nature of the evidence and experience that nourish it becomes more and more unfamiliar; it is not just the language that is strange [to common culture].
From 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 67.
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Since Pawlow [Pavlov] and his pupils have succeeded in causing the secretion of saliva in the dog by means of optic and acoustic signals, it no longer seems strange to us that what the philosopher terms an 'idea' is a process which can cause chemical changes in the body.
The Mechanistic Conception of Life (1912), 63.
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So I travelled, stopping ever and again, in great strides of a thousand years or more, drawn on by the mystery of the earth’s fate, watching with a strange fascination the sun grow larger and duller in the westward sky, and the life of the old earth ebbing out.
In The Time Machine (1898), 160.
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Strange as it may sound, the power of mathematics rests on its evasion of all unnecessary thought and on its wonderful saving of mental operations.
As quoted, without source, in E.T. Bell, Men of Mathematics (1937), Vol. 1, l (Roman numeral 'l').
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Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occurring.
Spoken by fictional character, Charlie Chan, in Behind That Curtain (1928)', 47. The line also appears in the screenplay of the 1929 film adaptation with the same name.
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That scientific work should be more useful the more it has been used, while mechanical work is expended in use, may seem strange to us.
From 'The Economy of Science' in The Science of Mechanics: A Critical and Historical Exposition of its Principles (1893), 488.
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That small word “Force,” they make a barber's block,
Ready to put on
Meanings most strange and various, fit to shock
Pupils of Newton....
The phrases of last century in this
Linger to play tricks—
Vis viva and Vis Mortua and Vis Acceleratrix:
Those long-nebbed words that to our text books still
Cling by their titles,
And from them creep, as entozoa will,
Into our vitals.
But see! Tait writes in lucid symbols clear
One small equation;
And Force becomes of Energy a mere
Space-variation.
'Report on Tait's Lecture on Force:— B.A., 1876', reproduced in Bruce Clarke, Energy Forms: Allegory and Science in the Era of Classical Thermodynamics (2001), 19. Maxwell's verse was inspired by a paper delivered at the British Association (B.A.. He was satirizing a “considerable cofusion of nomenclature” at the time, and supported his friend Tait's desire to establish a redefinition of energy on a thermnodynamic basis.
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The average English author [of mathematical texts] leaves one under the impression that he has made a bargain with his reader to put before him the truth, the greater part of the truth, and nothing but the truth; and that if he has put the facts of his subject into his book, however difficult it may be to unearth them, he has fulfilled his contract with his reader. This is a very much mistaken view, because effective teaching requires a great deal more than a bare recitation of facts, even if these are duly set forth in logical order—as in English books they often are not. The probable difficulties which will occur to the student, the objections which the intelligent student will naturally and necessarily raise to some statement of fact or theory—these things our authors seldom or never notice, and yet a recognition and anticipation of them by the author would be often of priceless value to the student. Again, a touch of humour (strange as the contention may seem) in mathematical works is not only possible with perfect propriety, but very helpful; and I could give instances of this even from the pure mathematics of Salmon and the physics of Clerk Maxwell.
In Perry, Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 59-61.
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The chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I were to change places with the Persian king.
Physica subterranea (1667). Quoted in The Chemistry Leaflet (1935), 9, 490, which also comments that it was hanging as an inscription “on the walls of the library of the Chemists’ Club in New York City.”
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The discovery of the telephone has made us acquainted with many strange phenomena. It has enabled us, amongst other things, to establish beyond a doubt the fact that electric currents actually traverse the earth's crust. The theory that the earth acts as a great reservoir for electricity may be placed in the physicist's waste-paper basket, with phlogiston, the materiality of light, and other old-time hypotheses.
From Recent Progress in Telephony: British Association Report (1882). Excerpted in John Joseph Fahie, A History of Wireless Telegraphy (1902), 136.
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The Earth has no business possessing such a Moon. It is too huge—over a quarter Earth’s diameter and about 1/81 of its mass. No other planet in the Solar System has even nearly so large a satellite.
In Asimov on Physics (1976), 46. Also in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 166.
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The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place. All through the long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest where waves have broken heavily against the land, where the tides have pressed forward over the continents, receded, and then returned. For no two successive days is the shore line precisely the same. Not only do the tides advance and retreat in their eternal rhythms, but the level of the sea itself is never at rest. It rises or falls as the glaciers melt or grow, as the floor of the deep ocean basins shifts under its increasing load of sediments, or as the Earth’s crust along the continental margins warps up or down in adjustment to strain and tension. Today a little more land may belong to the sea, tomorrow a little less. Always the edge of the sea remains an elusive and indefinable boundary.
Opening paragraph in The Edge of the Sea (1955), 1.
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The Einsteinian and the Newtonian vision of the world are two faithful reflectors of it: just as the two images, polarized in opposite directions, which Iceland spar shows us in its strange crystal both share the light of the same object.
In Einstein and the Universe; A Popular Exposition of the Famous Theory (1922), 239.
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The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it.
The Art of the Soluble (1967). Quoted in Colin J. Sanderson, Understanding Genes and GMOs (2007), 1.
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The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated.
In The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 186. This is seen in several places attributed to W.I.B. Beveridge. However,it appears in his The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950), 109, where it is clearly shown as a quote from Wilfred Trotter, with a footnote citing the source as Collected Papers. (The quote has been removed from the Beveridge page on this web site 29 Jun 2015.)
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The Moon and the weather
May change together;
But change of the Moon
Does not change the weather.
If we’d no moon at all,
And that may seem strange,
We still should have weather
That’s subject to change.
Anonymous
Cited as “heard many years ago” in Notes and Queries (23 Sep 1882), 246. Quoted in George Frederick Chambers, The Story of the Weather Simply Told for General Readers (1897), 197.
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The Moon is a white strange world, great, white, soft-seeming globe in the night sky, and what she actually communicates to me across space I shall never fully know. But the Moon that pulls the tides, and the Moon that controls the menstrual periods of women, and the Moon that touches the lunatics, she is not the mere dead lump of the astronomist.... When we describe the Moon as dead, we are describing the deadness in ourselves. When we find space so hideously void, we are describing our own unbearable emptiness.
…...
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The old Sussex tortoise, that I have mentioned to you so often, is become my property. I dug it out of its winter dormitory in March last, when it was enough awakened to express its resentments by hissing; and, packing it in a box with earth, carried it eighty miles in post-chaises. The rattle and hurry of the journey so perfectly roused it that, when I turned it out on a border, it walked twice down to the bottom of my garden; however, in the evening, the weather being cold, it buried it-self in the loose mound, and continues still concealed … When one reflects on the state of this strange being, it is a matter of wonder to find that Providence should bestow such a profusion of days, such a seeming waste of longevity, on a reptile that appears to relish it so little as to squander more than two-thirds of its existence in joyless stupor, and be lost to all sensation for months together in the profoundest of slumbers.
In Letter to Daines Barrington, (21 Apr 1780) in The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), 357.
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The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.
From La Prisonničre (1923), a volume in the series of novels Ŕ la Recherche du Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past). Translated by C.K. Moncrief as The Captive (1929, 1949), 70-71. This text is often seen paraphrased as “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.” [Note that the context refers to the “eyes” of artists (including composers), and their ability to transport the viewer or listener with “a pair of wings, … which would enable us to traverse infinite space” to see new vistas through their art.]
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The origin of volcanic energy is one of the blankest mysteries of science, and it is strange indeed, that a class of phenomena so long familiar to the human race and so zealously studied through all the ages should be so utterly without explanation. (1880)
In Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (1880), 113.
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The overwhelming astonishment, the queerest structure we know about so far in the whole universe, the greatest of all cosmological scientific puzzles, confounding all our efforts to comprehend it, is the earth. We are only now beginning to appreciate how strange and splendid it is, how it catches the breath, the loveliest object afloat around the sun, enclosed in its own blue bubble of atmosphere, manufacturing and breathing its own oxygen, fixing its own nitrogen from the air into its own soil, generating its own weather at the surface of its rain forests, constructing its own carapace from living parts: chalk cliffs, coral reefs, old fossils from earlier forms of life now covered by layers of new life meshed together around the globe, Troy upon Troy.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (1984), 22-23.
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The position in which we are now is a very strange one which in general political life never happened. Namely, the thing that I refer to is this: To have security against atomic bombs and against the other biological weapons, we have to prevent war, for if we cannot prevent war every nation will use every means that is at their disposal; and in spite of all promises they make, they will do it.
…...
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The problems of the infinite have challenged man’s mind and have fired his imagination as no other single problem in the history of thought. The infinite appears both strange and familiar, at times beyond our grasp, at times easy and natural to understand. In conquering it, man broke the fetters that bound him to earth. All his faculties were required for this conquest—his reasoning powers, his poetic fancy, his desire to know.
With co-author James R Newman, in 'Beyond the Google', Mathematics and the Imagination (1940), 35.
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The strangest thing of all is that our ulama these days have divided science into two parts. One they call Muslim science, and one European science. Because of this they forbid others to teach some of the useful sciences. They have not understood that science is that noble thing that has no connection with any nation, and is not distinguished by anything but itself. Rather, everything that is known is known by science, and every nation that becomes renowned becomes renowned through science. Men must be related to science, not science to men. How very strange it is that the Muslims study those sciences that are ascribed to Aristotle with the greatest delight, as if Aristotle were one of the pillars of the Muslims. However, if the discussion relates to Galileo, Newton, and Kepler, they consider them infidels. The father and mother of science is proof, and proof is neither Aristotle nor Galileo. The truth is where there is proof, and those who forbid science and knowledge in the belief that they are safeguarding the Islamic religion are really the enemies of that religion. Lecture on Teaching and Learning (1882).
In Nikki R. Keddie, An Islamic Response to Imperialism (1983), 107.
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The swift metamorphosis and the onward march of civilization, sweeping ever westward and transforming and taming our wilderness, fills us with a strange regret, and we rejoice that parts of that wilderness will yet remain to us unchanged
…...
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The universe does not exist “out there,” independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators. In some strange sense, this is a participatory universe. Physics is no longer satisfied with insights only into particles, fields of force, into geometry, or even into time and space. Today we demand of physics some understanding of existence itself.
Quoted in Denis Brian, The Voice Of Genius: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries, 127.
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The universe seems to me infinitely strange and foreign. At such a moment I gaze upon it with a mixture of anguish and euphoria; separate from the universe, as though placed at a certain distance outside it; I look and I see pictures, creatures that move in a kind of timeless time and spaceless space, emitting sounds that are a kind of language I no longer understand or ever register.
‘Interviews: Brief Notes for Radio’, Notes and Counter-Notes: Writings on the Theatre (1964), 136.
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Then I had shown, in the same place, what the structure of the nerves and muscles of the human body would have to be in order for the animal spirits in the body to have the power to move its members, as one sees when heads, soon after they have been cut off, still move and bite the ground even though they are no longer alive; what changes must be made in the brain to cause waking, sleep and dreams; how light, sounds, odours, tastes, warmth and all the other qualities of external objects can impress different ideas on it through the senses; how hunger, thirst, and the other internal passions can also send their ideas there; what part of the brain should be taken as “the common sense”, where these ideas are received; what should be taken as the memory, which stores the ideas, and as the imagination, which can vary them in different ways and compose new ones and, by the same means, distribute the animal spirits to the muscles, cause the limbs of the body to move in as many different ways as our own bodies can move without the will directing them, depending on the objects that are present to the senses and the internal passions in the body. This will not seem strange to those who know how many different automata or moving machines can be devised by human ingenuity, by using only very few pieces in comparison with the larger number of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins and all the other parts in the body of every animal. They will think of this body like a machine which, having been made by the hand of God, is incomparably better structured than any machine that could be invented by human beings, and contains many more admirable movements.
Discourse on Method in Discourse on Method and Related Writings (1637), trans. Desmond M. Clarke, Penguin edition (1999), Part 5, 39-40.
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There are many strange and wonderful things, but nothing more strangely wonderful than man.
Sophocles
First line of a choral ode in Antigone, line 332, as translated by Ian Johnson. One of several variations given in Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 3, (2010), 237.
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There is a strange disparity between the sciences of inert matter and those of life. Astronomy, mechanics, and physics are based on concepts which can be expressed, tersely and elegantly, in mathematical language. They have built up a universe as harmonious as the monuments of ancient Greece. They weave about it a magnificent texture of calculations and hypotheses. They search for reality beyond the realm of common thought up to unutterable abstractions consisting only of equations of symbols. Such is not the position of biological sciences. Those who investigate the phenomena of life are as if lost in an inextricable jungle, in the midst of a magic forest, whose countless trees unceasingly change their place and their shape. They are crushed under a mass of facts, which they can describe but are incapable of defining in algebraic equations.
Man the Unknown (1935), 1.
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There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. It is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you.
In Jean Baudrillard and Chris Turner (trans.), America (1989), 50.
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This is true of all science. Successes were largely due to forgetting completely about what one ultimately wanted, or whether one wanted anything ultimately; in refusing to investigate things which profit, and in relying solely on guidance by criteria of intellectual elegance. … And I think it extremely instructive to watch the role of science in everyday life, and to note how in this area the principle of laissez faire has led to strange and wonderful results.
Address (Jun 1954) to Princeton Graduate Alumni, 'The Role of Mathematics in the Science and in Society', in Collected Works: Vol. 6: Theory of Games, Astrophysics, Hydrodynamics and Meteorology (1961), Vol. 6, 489. As quoted in Armand Borel, 'On the Place of Mathematics in Culture', in Armand Borel: Śvres: Collected Papers (1983), Vol. 4, 422.
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Thought-economy is most highly developed in mathematics, that science which has reached the highest formal development, and on which natural science so frequently calls for assistance. Strange as it may seem, the strength of mathematics lies in the avoidance of all unnecessary thoughts, in the utmost economy of thought-operations. The symbols of order, which we call numbers, form already a system of wonderful simplicity and economy. When in the multiplication of a number with several digits we employ the multiplication table and thus make use of previously accomplished results rather than to repeat them each time, when by the use of tables of logarithms we avoid new numerical calculations by replacing them by others long since performed, when we employ determinants instead of carrying through from the beginning the solution of a system of equations, when we decompose new integral expressions into others that are familiar,—we see in all this but a faint reflection of the intellectual activity of a Lagrange or Cauchy, who with the keen discernment of a military commander marshalls a whole troop of completed operations in the execution of a new one.
In Populär-wissenschafliche Vorlesungen (1903), 224-225.
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Thus the radio elements formed strange and cruel families in which each member was created by spontaneous transformation of the mother substance: radium was a “descendant” of uranium, polonium a descendant of radium.
Eve Curie
In Eve Curie, Madame Curie: a Biography by Eve Curie (1937, 2007), 197.
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Timorous readers, however, need entertain no feverish fear, on, visiting the Isle of Sheppey, of encountering either wild elephants, crocodiles, sharks, serpents, or man-eating birds of huge dimensions, bearing strange names, and armed with sets of teeth for masticating and digestive purposes, as the author can assure them that they all died out a million or so of years ago, before he undertook to look up their records and write the history of this wonderful little island. Visitors may, however, honestly deplore the absence of the feathery palm trees bearing the luscious date and the lacteous cocoa-nut; but by prosecuting a diligent search they may, at least, be consoled by procuring some of these, rare fossil remains, reminiscent of an incalculable period of time when our particular portion of this hemisphere performed its diurnal revolutions in the immediate zone of the tropics.
Quoted in Augustus A. Daly, History of the Isle of Sheppey (1975), 250.
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To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.
…...
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To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves— the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
In poem, 'Miracles', Leaves of Grass (1867), 336.
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To us, men of the West, a very strange thing happened at the turn of the century; without noticing it, we lost science, or at least the thing that had been called by that name for the last four centuries. What we now have in place of it is something different, radically different, and we don’t know what it is. Nobody knows what it is.
From La Science et Nous (1941), translated as 'Classical Science and After', in Richard Rees (ed.), On Science, Necessity and the Love of God (1968), as quoted and cited in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 809-810. Also seen translated as, “Something happened to the people of the Western world at the beginning of the century, something quite strange: we lost science without even being aware of it, or at least, what had been called science for the last four centuries. What we now have under this name is something else, something radically different, and we do not know what it is. Probably no one knows what it is”, collected in Simone Weil: Late Philosophical Writings (2015), Chap. 10.
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Two lights for guidance. The first, our little glowing atom of community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the stars, symbol of the hypercosmical reality, with its crystal ecstasy. Strange that in this light, in which even the dearest love is frostily asserted, and even the possible defeat of our half-waking world is contemplated without remission of praise, the human crisis does not lose but gains significance. Strange, that it seems more, not less, urgent to play some part in this struggle, this brief effort of animalcules striving to win for their race some increase of lucidity before the ultimate darkness.
…...
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We do not know how the scientists of the next century will define energy or in what strange jargon they will discuss it. But no matter what language the physicists use they will not come into contradiction with Blake. Energy will remain in some sense the lord and giver of life, a reality transcending our mathematical descriptions. Its nature lies at the heart of the mystery of our existence as animate beings in an inanimate universe.
In 'Energy in the Universe,' Scientific American, September 1971 [See William Blake].
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We have found that where science has progressed the farthest, the mind has but regained from nature that which the mind has put into nature.
We have found a strange foot-print on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origin. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the foot-print. And Lo! it is our own.
Concluding sentences in Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1921), 200-201
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We have overcome the notion that mathematical truths have an existence independent and apart from our own minds. It is even strange to us that such a notion could ever have existed.
With co-author James R. Newman, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940), 359.
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We have overcome the notion that mathematical truths have an existence independent and apart from our own minds. It is even strange to us that such a notion could ever have existed. [Coauthor with James R. Newman]
In Edward Kasner and James Newman, Mathematics and the Imagination (1940, 1949), 359.
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We think we understand the regular reflection of light and X rays - and we should understand the reflections of electrons as well if electrons were only waves instead of particles ... It is rather as if one were to see a rabbit climbing a tree, and were to say ‘Well, that is rather a strange thing for a rabbit to be doing, but after all there is really nothing to get excited about. Cats climb trees - so that if the rabbit were only a cat, we would understand its behavior perfectly.’ Of course, the explanation might be that what we took to be a rabbit was not a rabbit at all but was actually a cat. Is it possible that we are mistaken all this time in supposing they are particles, and that actually they are waves?
Franklin Institute Journal Vol. 205, 597. Cited in New Scientist (14 Apr 1977), 66.
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What a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest.
…...
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What strange wonder is this? Our prayer to thee was for water,
Earth! What is this that thou now send’st from thy womb in reply?
In the abyss is there life ? Or hidden under the lava
Dwelleth some race now unknown? Does what hath fled e’er return?
Greeks and Romans, oh come! Oh, see the ancient Pompeii
Here is discover’d again,—Hercules’ town is rebuilt!
Beginning lines of poem, 'Pompeii and Herculaneum', in Edgar A. Bowring (trans.), The Poems of Schiller (1875), 237.
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When living with the Indians in their homes and pursuing my ethnological studies: One day I suddenly realized with a rude shock that, unlike my Indian friends, I was an alien, a stranger in my native land; its fauna and flora had no fond, familiar place amid my mental imagery, nor did any thoughts of human aspiration or love give to its hills and valleys the charm of personal companionship. I was alone, even in my loneliness.
Opening of Preface, Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs (1915), v.
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When we think how narrow and devious this path of nature is, how dimly we can trace it, for all our lamps of science, and how from the darkness which girds it round great and terrible possibilities loom ever shadowly upwards, it is a bold and a confident man who will put a limit to the strange by-oaths into which the human spirit may wander.
Lot No. 249 (1892)
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When you, my dear Father, see them, you will understand; at present I can say nothing except this: that out of nothing I have created a strange new universe. All that I have sent you previously is like a house of cards in comparison with a tower.
Referring to his creation of a non-euclidean geometry, in a letter (3 Nov 1823) to his father, Farkas Bolyai (in Hungarian). Quoted, as a translation, in Marvin J. Greenberg, Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometries: Development and History (1993), 163
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You say a thousand things,
Persuasively,
And with strange passion hotly I agree,
And praise your zest,
And then
A blackbird sings, or fieldfaring men,
Ghostlike, with loaded wain,
Come down the twilit lane
To rest,
And what is all your argument to me.
From poem, 'Politics', collected in Poems, 1908-1919 (1919), 187. As quoted in A.E. Heath, 'The Scope of the Scientific Method', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (1918-1919), 179.
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You speak to me, in your own fashion, of a strange psychology which is able to reconcile the wonders of a master craftsmanship with aberrations due to unfathomable stupidity.
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Your Grace will no doubt have learnt from the weekly reports of one Marco Antonio Bragadini, called Mamugnano. … He is reported to be able to turn base metal into gold… . He literally throws gold about in shovelfuls. This is his recipe: he takes ten ounces of quicksilver, puts it into the fire, and mixes it with a drop of liquid, which he carries in an ampulla. Thus it promptly turns into good gold. He has no other wish but to be of good use to his country, the Republic. The day before yesterday he presented to the Secret Council of Ten two ampullas with this liquid, which have been tested in his absence. The first test was found to be successful and it is said to have resulted in six million ducats. I doubt not but that this will appear mighty strange to your Grace.
Anonymous
'The Famous Alchemist Bragadini. From Vienna on the 1st day of November 1589'. As quoted in George Tennyson Matthews (ed.) News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959), 173. A handwritten collection of news reports (1568-1604) by the powerful banking and merchant house of Fugger in Ausburg.
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[Experimental Physicist] Phys. I know that it is often a help to represent pressure and volume as height and width on paper; and so geometry may have applications to the theory of gases. But is it not going rather far to say that geometry can deal directly with these things and is not necessarily concerned with lengths in space?
[Mathematician] Math. No. Geometry is nowadays largely analytical, so that in form as well as in effect, it deals with variables of an unknown nature. …It is literally true that I do not want to know the significance of the variables x, y, z, t that I am discussing. …
Phys. Yours is a strange subject. You told us at the beginning that you are not concerned as to whether your propositions are true, and now you tell us you do not even care to know what you are talking about.
Math. That is an excellent description of Pure Mathematics, which has already been given by an eminent mathematician [Bertrand Russell].
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 14.
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[Oppenheimer is] tense, dedicated, deeper than deep, somewhat haunted, uncertain, calm, confident, and full, full, full of knowledge, not only of particles and things but of men and motives, and of the basic humanity that may be the only savior we have in this strange world he and his colleagues have discovered.
In Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control by Fred W. Friendly (1967).
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… to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
…...
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 50 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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- 20 -
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