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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, ... finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell ... whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
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Suddenly Quotes (88 quotes)

“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me touch the axis.” So saying, with extended arm, he grasped the three level, radiating lances at their crossed centre; while so doing, suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile, glancing intently from Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless, interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright.
“In vain!&rsdquo; cried Ahab; “but, maybe, 'tis well. For did ye three but once take the full-forced shock, then mine own electric thing, that had perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye dead. ...”
[Commentary by Henry Schlesinger: Electricity—mysterious and powerful as it seemed at the time—served as a perfect metaphor for Captain Ahab's primal obsession and madness, which he transmits through the crew as if through an electrical circuit in Moby-Dick.]
Extract from Herman Melville, Moby-Dick and comment by Henry Schlesinger in The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution (2010), 64.
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[When recording electrical impulses from a frog nerve-muscle preparation seemed to show a tiresomely oscillating electrical artefact—but only when the muscle was hanging unsupported.] The explanation suddenly dawned on me ... a muscle hanging under its own weight ought, if you come to think of it, to be sending sensory impulses up the nerves coming from the muscle spindles ... That particular day’s work, I think, had all the elements that one could wish for. The new apparatus seemed to be misbehaving very badly indeed, and I suddenly found it was behaving so well that it was opening up an entire new range of data ... it didn’t involve any particular hard work, or any particular intelligence on my part. It was just one of those things which sometimes happens in a laboratory if you stick apparatus together and see what results you get.
From 'Memorable experiences in research', Diabetes (1954), 3, 17-18. As cited in Alan McComa, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse (2011), 102-103.
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A closer look at the course followed by developing theory reveals for a start that it is by no means as continuous as one might expect, but full of breaks and at least apparently not along the shortest logical path. Certain methods often afforded the most handsome results only the other day, and many might well have thought that the development of science to infinity would consist in no more than their constant application. Instead, on the contrary, they suddenly reveal themselves as exhausted and the attempt is made to find other quite disparate methods. In that event there may develop a struggle between the followers of the old methods and those of the newer ones. The former's point of view will be termed by their opponents as out-dated and outworn, while its holders in turn belittle the innovators as corrupters of true classical science.
In 'On the Development of the Methods of Theoretical Physics in Recent Times', Populäre Schriften, Essay 14. Address (22 Sep 1899) to the Meeting of Natural Scientists at Munich. Collected in Brian McGuinness (ed.), Ludwig Boltzmann: Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, Selected Writings (1974), 79.
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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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After long reflection in solitude and meditation, I suddenly had the idea, during the year 1923, that the discovery made by Einstein in 1905 should be generalised by extending it to all material particles and notably to electrons.
Preface to his re-edited 1924 Ph.D. Thesis, Recherches sur la théorie des quanta (1963), 4. In Steve Adams, Frontiers (2000), 13.
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As far as the meaning of life in general, or in the abstract, as far as I can see, there is none. If all of life were suddenly to disappear from earth and anywhere else it may exist, or if none had ever formed in the first place, I think the Universe would continue to exist without perceptible change. However, it is always possible for an individual to invest his own life with meaning that he can find significant. He can so order his life that he may find as much beauty and wisdom in it as he can, and spread as much of that to others as possible.
In a book proposal for The Meaning of Life edited by Hugh S. Moorhead, 1989.
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As one recalls some of the monstrous situations under which human beings have lived and live their lives, one marvels at man’s meekness and complacency. It can only be explained by the quality of flesh to become calloused to situations that if faced suddenly would provoke blisters and revolt.
From Why We Behave Like Human Beings (1925), 469
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As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
In The Symbiotic Universe: Life and Mind in the Cosmos (1988), 27.
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At a distance in the meadow I hear still, at long intervals, the hurried commencement of the bobolink s strain, the bird just dashing into song, which is as suddenly checked, as it were, by the warder of the seasons, and the strain is left incomplete forever. Like human beings they are inspired to sing only for a short season.
(29 Jun 1851). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: II: 1850-September 15, 1851 (1906), 275.
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At a given instant everything the surgeon knows suddenly becomes important to the solution of the problem. You can't do it an hour later, or tomorrow. Nor can you go to the library and look it up.
Quoted in 'The Best Hope of All', Time (3 May 1963)
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Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of its own accord? I can't believe that. … Some power put all this into orbit and keeps it there.
Reflecting on the orderliness of the whole universe, printed in Reader’s Digest (Jul 1962), 38. As cited in Tiebet Joshua, Bible Versus Science: Which is More Authentic? (2015), Sec. 4.1.
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Cuvier … brings the void to life again, without uttering abracadabras, he excavates a fragment of gypsum, spies a footprint and shouts: “Look!” And suddenly the marbles are teeming with creatures, the dead come to life again, the world turns!
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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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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Every time a significant discovery is being made one sets in motion a tremendous activity in laboratories and industrial enterprises throughout the world. It is like the ant who suddenly finds food and walks back to the anthill while sending out material called food attracting substance. The other ants follow the path immediately in order to benefit from the finding and continue to do so as long as the supply is rich.
Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1982). In Wilhelm Odelberg (ed.), Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1982 (1983)
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Everything that we call Invention or Discovery in the higher sense of the word is the serious exercise and activity of an original feeling for truth, which, after a long course of silent cultivation, suddenly flashes out into fruitful knowledge.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 193.
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Extinction has only separated groups: it has by no means made them; for if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear, though it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would blend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties, nevertheless a natural classification, or at least a natural arrangement, would be possible.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1860), 431.
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Firefly meteorites blazed against a dark background, and sometimes the lightning was frighteningly brilliant. Like a boy, I gazed open-mouthed at the fireworks, and suddenly, before my eyes, something magical occurred. A greenish radiance poured from Earth directly up to the station, a radiance resembling gigantic phosphorescent organ pipes, whose ends were glowing crimson, and overlapped by waves of swirling green mist.
“Consider yourself very lucky, Vladimir,” I said to myself, “to have watched the northern lights.”
…...
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For the first time I saw a medley of haphazard facts fall into line and order. All the jumbles and recipes and Hotchpotch of the inorganic chemistry of my boyhood seemed to fit into the scheme before my eyes-as though one were standing beside a jungle and it suddenly transformed itself into a Dutch garden. “But it’s true,” I said to myself “It’s very beautiful. And it’s true.”
How the Periodic Table was explained in a first-term university lecture to the central character in the novel by C.P. Snow, The Search (1935), 38.
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For, every time a certain portion is destroyed, be it of the brain or of the spinal cord, a function is compelled to cease suddenly, and before the time known beforehand when it would stop naturally, it is certain that this function depends upon the area destroyed. It is in this way that I have recognized that the prime motive power of respiration has its seat in that part of the medulla oblongata that gives rise to the nerves of the eighth pair [vagi]; and it is by this method that up to a certain point it will be possible to discover the use of certain parts of the brain.
Expériences sur le Principe de la Vie, Notamment sur celui des Mouvements du Coeur, et sur le Siege de ce Principe (1812), 148-149. Translated in Edwin Clarke and L. S. Jacyna, Nineteenth Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts (1987), 247.
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Has anyone ever given credit to the Black Death for the Renaissance—in other words, for modern civilization? … [It] exterminated such huge masses of the European proletariat that the average intelligence and enterprise of the race were greatly lifted, and that this purged and improved society suddenly functioned splendidly. … The best brains of the time, thus suddenly emancipated, began to function freely and magnificently. There ensued what we call the Renaissance.
From American Mercury (Jun 1924), 188-189. Collected in 'Eugenic Note', A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 376-377.
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I mean, if 10 years from now, when you are doing something quick and dirty, you suddenly visualize that I am looking over your shoulders and say to yourself ‘Dijkstra would not have liked this’, well, that would be enough immortality for me.
…...
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I shall never forget my first encounter with gorillas. Sound preceded sight. Odor preceded sound in the form of an overwhelming, musky-barnyard, humanlike scent. The air was suddenly rent by a high-pitched series of screams followed by the rhythmic rondo of sharp pok-pok chestbeats from a great silverbacked male obscured behind what seemed an impenetrable wall of vegetation.
Describing her 1963 trip to Kabara in Gorillas in the Mist (1983), 3. (The screams and chest-beating were of alarm, not ferocity.)
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I suddenly realized that no one knew anything. … From that moment I began to think for myself or rather knew that I could.
In Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff (1972), 1741.
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I was suffering from a sharp attack of intermittent fever, and every day during the cold and succeeding hot fits had to lie down for several hours, during which time I had nothing to do but to think over any subjects then particularly interesting me. One day something brought to my recollection Malthus's 'Principles of Population', which I had read about twelve years before. I thought of his clear exposition of 'the positive checks to increase'—disease, accidents, war, and famine—which keep down the population of savage races to so much lower an average than that of more civilized peoples. It then occurred to me that these causes or their equivalents are continually acting in the case of animals also; and as animals usually breed much more rapidly than does mankind, the destruction every year from these causes must be enormous in order to keep down the numbers of each species, since they evidently do not increase regularly from year to year, as otherwise the world would long ago have been densely crowded with those that breed most quickly. Vaguely thinking over the enormous and constant destruction which this implied, it occurred to me to ask the question, Why do some die and some live? The answer was clearly, that on the whole the best fitted live. From the effects of disease the most healthy escaped; from enemies, the strongest, swiftest, or the most cunning; from famine, the best hunters or those with the best digestion; and so on. Then it suddenly flashed upon me that this self-acting process would necessarily improve the race, because in every generation the inferior would inevitably be killed off and the superior would remain—that is, the fittest would survive.
[The phrase 'survival of the fittest,' suggested by the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus, was expressed in those words by Herbert Spencer in 1865. Wallace saw the term in correspondence from Charles Darwin the following year, 1866. However, Wallace did not publish anything on his use of the expression until very much later, and his recollection is likely flawed.]
My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions (1905), Vol. 1, 361-362, or in reprint (2004), 190.
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If a hundred or a thousand people, all of the same age, of the same constitution and habits, were suddenly seized by the same illness, and one half of them were to place themselves under the care of doctors, such as they are in our time, whilst the other half entrusted themselves to Nature and to their own discretion, I have not the slightest doubt that there would be more cases of death amongst the former, and more cases of recovery among the latter.
…...
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If in a community of the blind one man suddenly received the gift of sight, he would have much to tell which would not be at all scientific.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 79.
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In early times, when the knowledge of nature was small, little attempt was made to divide science into parts, and men of science did not specialize. Aristotle was a master of all science known in his day, and wrote indifferently treatises on physics or animals. As increasing knowledge made it impossible for any one man to grasp all scientific subjects, lines of division were drawn for convenience of study and of teaching. Besides the broad distinction into physical and biological science, minute subdivisions arose, and, at a certain stage of development, much attention was, given to methods of classification, and much emphasis laid on the results, which were thought to have a significance beyond that of the mere convenience of mankind.
But we have reached the stage when the different streams of knowledge, followed by the different sciences, are coalescing, and the artificial barriers raised by calling those sciences by different names are breaking down. Geology uses the methods and data of physics, chemistry and biology; no one can say whether the science of radioactivity is to be classed as chemistry or physics, or whether sociology is properly grouped with biology or economics. Indeed, it is often just where this coalescence of two subjects occurs, when some connecting channel between them is opened suddenly, that the most striking advances in knowledge take place. The accumulated experience of one department of science, and the special methods which have been developed to deal with its problems, become suddenly available in the domain of another department, and many questions insoluble before may find answers in the new light cast upon them. Such considerations show us that science is in reality one, though we may agree to look on it now from one side and now from another as we approach it from the standpoint of physics, physiology or psychology.
In article 'Science', Encyclopedia Britannica (1911), 402.
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In my work I now have the comfortable feeling that I am so to speak on my own ground and territory and almost certainly not competing in an anxious race and that I shall not suddenly read in the literature that someone else had done it all long ago. It is really at this point that the pleasure of research begins, when one is, so to speak, alone with nature and no longer worries about human opinions, views and demands. To put it in a way that is more learned than clear: the philological aspect drops out and only the philosophical remains.
In Davis Baird, R.I.G. Hughes and Alfred Nordmann, Heinrich Hertz: Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher (1998), 157.
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In scientific investigations it is grievously wrong to pander to the public’s impatience for results, or to let them think that for discovery it is necessary only to set up a great manufactory and a system of mass production. If in treatment team work is effective, in research it is the individual who counts first and above all. No great thought has ever sprung from anything but a single mind, suddenly conceiving. Throughout the whole world there has been too violent a forcing of the growth of ideas; too feverish a rush to perform experiments and publish conclusions. A year of vacation for calm detachment with all the individual workers thinking it all over in a desert should be proclaimed.
In Viewless Winds: Being the Recollections and Digressions of an Australian Surgeon (1939), 286.
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In that memorable year, 1822: Oersted, a Danish physicist, held in his hands a piece of copper wire, joined by its extremities to the two poles of a Volta pile. On his table was a magnetized needle on its pivot, and he suddenly saw (by chance you will say, but chance only favours the mind which is prepared) the needle move and take up a position quite different from the one assigned to it by terrestrial magnetism. A wire carrying an electric current deviates a magnetized needle from its position. That, gentlemen, was the birth of the modern telegraph.
Le hasard favorise l’esprit preparé
Inaugural Address as newly appointed Professor and Dean (Sep 1854) at the opening of the new Faculté des Sciences at Lille (7 Dec 1854). In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, translated by Mrs. R. L. Devonshire (1919), 76.
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In that same year [1932], the number of [known] particles was suddenly doubled. In two beautiful experiments, Chadwick showed that the neutron existed, and Anderson photographed the first unmistakable positron track.
In Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1968), 'Recent Developments in Particle Physics', collected in Nobel Lectures: Physics 1963-1970 (1972), 241.
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In the benzene nucleus we have been given a soil out of which we can see with surprise the already-known realm of organic chemistry multiply, not once or twice but three, four, five or six times just like an equivalent number of trees. What an amount of work had suddenly become necessary, and how quickly were busy hands found to carry it out! First the eye moves up the six stems opening out from the tremendous benzene trunk. But already the branches of the neighbouring stems have become intertwined, and a canopy of leaves has developed which becomes more spacious as the giant soars upwards into the air. The top of the tree rises into the clouds where the eye cannot yet follow it. And to what an extent is this wonderful benzene tree thronged with blossoms! Everywhere in the sea of leaves one can spy the slender hydroxyl bud: hardly rarer is the forked blossom [Gabelblüte] which we call the amine group, the most frequent is the beautiful cross-shaped blossom we call the methyl group. And inside this embellishment of blossoms, what a richness of fruit, some of them shining in a wonderful blaze of color, others giving off an overwhelming fragrance.
A. W. Hofmann, after-dinner speech at Kekulé Benzolfest (Mar 1890). Trans. in W. H. Brock, O. Theodor Benfrey and Susanne Stark, 'Hofmann's Benzene Tree at the Kekulé Festivities', Journal of Chemical Education (1991), 68, 887-8.
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In the early days of dealing with climate change, I wouldn’t go out on a limb one way or another, because I don’t have the qualifications there. But I do have the qualifications to measure the scientific community and see what the consensus is about climate change. I remember the moment when I suddenly thought it was incontrovertible. There was a lecture given by a distinguished American expert in atmospheric science and he showed a series of graphs about the temperature changes in the upper atmosphere. He plotted time against population growth and industrialisation. It was incontrovertible, and once you think it’s really totally incontrovertible, then you have a responsibility to say so.
From interview with Brian Cox and Robert Ince, in 'A Life Measured in Heartbeats', New Statesman (21 Dec 2012), 141, No. 5138, 32.
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In the fall of 1967, [I was invited] to a conference … on pulsars. … In my talk, I argued that we should consider the possibility that the center of a pulsar is a gravitationally completely collapsed object. I remarked that one couldn't keep saying “gravitationally completely collapsed object” over and over. One needed a shorter descriptive phrase. “How about black hole?” asked someone in the audience. I had been searching for the right term for months, mulling it over in bed, in the bathtub, in my car, whenever I had quiet moments. Suddenly this name seemed exactly right. When I gave a more formal Sigma Xi-Phi Beta Kappa lecture … on December 29, 1967, I used the term, and then included it in the written version of the lecture published in the spring of 1968. (As it turned out, a pulsar is powered by “merely” a neutron star, not a black hole.)
[Although John Wheeler is often identified as coining the term “black hole,” he in fact merely popularized the expression. In his own words, this is his explanation of the true origin: a suggestion from an unidentified person in a conference audience.]
In Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (2000), 296-297.
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It is the middle of the night when a glittering theatre of light suddenly appears in front of the Dhaka. Where, moments before there was only darkness, suddenly there are hundreds of columns of light. The sound of helicopters and car horns carry across to the ship on the breeze. There is the scent of rain after it has evaporated from warm streets. This is unmistakably Singapore, the small city-state at the most southern point of the Asiatic mainland. Singapore was built as a centre for world trade by the British over 250 years ago, and today, Singapore has the largest container harbour in the world. This is where the axes of world trade cross paths: from the Far East to Europe, from the Far East to Southeast Asia/the East, and from the Far East to Australia. Everything runs like clockwork here. Within five hours the Dhaka has been unloaded.
Made on Earth
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It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
…...
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It was shortly after midday on December 12, 1901, [in a hut on the cliffs at St. John's, Newfoundland] that I placed a single earphone to my ear and started listening. The receiver on the table before me was very crude—a few coils and condensers and a coherer—no valves [vacuum tubes], no amplifiers, not even a crystal. I was at last on the point of putting the correctness of all my beliefs to test. ... [The] answer came at 12:30. ... Suddenly, about half past twelve there sounded the sharp click of the “tapper” ... Unmistakably, the three sharp clicks corresponding to three dots sounded in my ear. “Can you hear anything, Mr. Kemp?” I asked, handing the telephone to my assistant. Kemp heard the same thing as I. ... I knew then that I had been absolutely right in my calculations. The electric waves which were being sent out from Poldhu [Cornwall, England] had travelled the Atlantic, serenely ignoring the curvature of the earth which so many doubters considered a fatal obstacle. ... I knew that the day on which I should be able to send full messages without wires or cables across the Atlantic was not far distant.
Quoted in Degna Marconi, My Father, Marconi (2000), 93.
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Looking at the thunder machine which had been set up, I saw not the slightest indication of the presence of electricity. However, while they were putting the food on the table, I obtained extraordinary electric sparks from the wire. My wife and others approached from it, for the reason that I wished to have witnesses see the various colors of fire about which the departed Professor Richmann used to argue with me. Suddenly it thundered most violently at the exact time that I was holding my hand to the metal, and sparks crackled. All fled away from me, and my wife implored that I go away. Curiosity kept me there two or three minutes more, until they told me that the soup was getting cold. By that time the force of electricity greatly subsided. I had sat at table only a few minutes when the man servant of the departed Richmann suddenly opened the door, all in tears and out of breath from fear. I thought that some one had beaten him as he was on his way to me, but he said, with difficulty, that the professor had been injured by thunder… . Nonetheless, Mr. Richmann died a splendid death, fulfilling a duty of his profession.
As quoted in Boris Menshutkin, 'Lomonosov: Excerpts', collected in Thomas Riha (ed.), Readings for Introduction to Russian Civilization (1963), Vol. 2, 30.
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.
In The Time Machine (1898), 144.
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Looking back over the last thousand years, one can divide the development of the machine and the machine civilization into three successive but over-lapping and interpenetrating phases: eotechnic, paleotechnic, neotechnic … Speaking in terms of power and characteristic materials, the eotechnic phase is a water-and-wood complex: the paleotechnic phase is a coal-and-wood complex… The dawn-age of our modern technics stretches roughly from the year 1000 to 1750. It did not, of course, come suddenly to an end in the middle of the eighteenth century. A new movement appeared in industrial society which had been gathering headway almost unnoticed from the fifteenth century on: after 1750 industry passed into a new phase, with a different source of power, different materials, different objectives.
Technics and Civilisation (1934), 109.
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On one occasion, when he was giving a dinner to some friends at the university, he left the table to get them a bottle of wine; but, on his way to the cellar, he fell into reflection, forgot his errand and his company, went to his chamber, put on his surplice, and proceeded to the chapel. Sometimes he would go into the street half dressed, and on discovering his condition, run back in great haste, much abashed. Often, while strolling in his garden, he would suddenly stop, and then run rapidly to his room, and begin to write, standing, on the first piece of paper that presented itself. Intending to dine in the public hall, he would go out in a brown study, take the wrong turn, walk a while, and then return to his room, having totally forgotten the dinner. Once having dismounted from his horse to lead him up a hill, the horse slipped his head out of the bridle; but Newton, oblivious, never discovered it till, on reaching a tollgate at the top of the hill, he turned to remount and perceived that the bridle which he held in his hand had no horse attached to it. His secretary records that his forgetfulness of his dinner was an excellent thing for his old housekeeper, who “sometimes found both dinner and supper scarcely tasted of, which the old woman has very pleasantly and mumpingly gone away with”. On getting out of bed in the morning, he has been discovered to sit on his bedside for hours without dressing himself, utterly absorbed in thought.
In 'Sir Isaac Newton', People’s Book of Biography: Or, Short Lives of the Most Interesting Persons of All Ages and Countries (1868), 257.
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On Tuesday evening at Museum, at a ball in the gardens. The night was chill, I dropped too suddenly from Differential Calculus into ladies’ society, and could not give myself freely to the change. After an hour’s attempt so to do, I returned, cursing the mode of life I was pursuing; next morning I had already shaken hands, however, with Diff. Calculus, and forgot the ladies….
From his diary for 10 Aug 1851, as quoted in J. Helen Gardner and Robin J. Wilson, 'Thomas Archer Hirst—Mathematician Xtravagant II: Student Days in Germany', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jun-Jul 1993), 6, No. 100, 534.
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One day when the whole family had gone to a circus to see some extraordinary performing apes, I remained alone with my microscope, observing the life in the mobile cells of a transparent star-fish larva, when a new thought suddenly flashed across my brain. It struck me that similar cells might serve in the defence of the organism against intruders. Feeling that there was in this something of surpassing interest, I felt so excited that I began striding up and down the room and even went to the seashore in order to collect my thoughts.
I said to myself that, if my supposition was true, a splinter introduced into the body of a star-fish larva, devoid of blood-vessels or of a nervous system, should soon be surrounded by mobile cells as is to be observed in a man who runs a splinter into his finger. This was no sooner said than done.
There was a small garden to our dwelling, in which we had a few days previously organised a 'Christmas tree' for the children on a little tangerine tree; I fetched from it a few rose thorns and introduced them at once under the skin of some beautiful star-fish larvae as transparent as water.
I was too excited to sleep that night in the expectation of the result of my experiment, and very early the next morning I ascertained that it had fully succeeded.
That experiment formed the basis of the phagocyte theory, to the development of which I devoted the next twenty-five years of my life.
In Olga Metchnikoff, Life of Elie Metchnikoff 1845-1916 (1921), 116-7.
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One feature which will probably most impress the mathematician accustomed to the rapidity and directness secured by the generality of modern methods is the deliberation with which Archimedes approaches the solution of any one of his main problems. Yet this very characteristic, with its incidental effects, is calculated to excite the more admiration because the method suggests the tactics of some great strategist who foresees everything, eliminates everything not immediately conducive to the execution of his plan, masters every position in its order, and then suddenly (when the very elaboration of the scheme has almost obscured, in the mind of the spectator, its ultimate object) strikes the final blow. Thus we read in Archimedes proposition after proposition the bearing of which is not immediately obvious but which we find infallibly used later on; and we are led by such easy stages that the difficulties of the original problem, as presented at the outset, are scarcely appreciated. As Plutarch says: “It is not possible to find in geometry more difficult and troublesome questions, or more simple and lucid explanations.” But it is decidedly a rhetorical exaggeration when Plutarch goes on to say that we are deceived by the easiness of the successive steps into the belief that anyone could have discovered them for himself. On the contrary, the studied simplicity and the perfect finish of the treatises involve at the same time an element of mystery. Though each step depends on the preceding ones, we are left in the dark as to how they were suggested to Archimedes. There is, in fact, much truth in a remark by Wallis to the effect that he seems “as it were of set purpose to have covered up the traces of his investigation as if he had grudged posterity the secret of his method of inquiry while he wished to extort from them assent to his results.” Wallis adds with equal reason that not only Archimedes but nearly all the ancients so hid away from posterity their method of Analysis (though it is certain that they had one) that more modern mathematicians found it easier to invent a new Analysis than to seek out the old.
In The Works of Archimedes (1897), Preface, vi.
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One summer day, while I was walking along the country road on the farm where I was born, a section of the stone wall opposite me, and not more than three or four yards distant, suddenly fell down. Amid the general stillness and immobility about me the effect was quite startling. ... It was the sudden summing up of half a century or more of atomic changes in the material of the wall. A grain or two of sand yielded to the pressure of long years, and gravity did the rest.
Under the Apple-Trees (1916), 105.
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Our brains seem to be organised to make random comparisons of the contents of our memories. Daydreaming allows the process to go into free fall. Suddenly, there is a new idea, born with intense excitement. We cannot organise this process but we can distort or even defeat it.
[Commenting that creativity is not a method that can be learnt and taught.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
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Our truest systems of science had small beginnings, gradual and countless contributions, and finally took their place in use, as each of you, from helpless childhood and feeble boyhood, have grown to your present strength and maturity. No such system could be born in a day. It was not as when nature in fitful pulsations of her strength suddenly lifted the land into mountain ranges, but rather, as with small accretions, gathered in during countless years, she builds her islands in the seas.
From Address (1 Aug 1875), 'The Growth of Principles' at Saratoga. Collected in William L. Snyder (ed.), Great Speeches by Great Lawyers: A Collection of Arguments and Speeches (1901), 246.
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Perhaps I can best describe my experience of doing mathematics in terms of a journey through a dark unexplored mansion. You enter the first room of the mansion and it’s completely dark. You stumble around bumping into the furniture, but gradually you learn where each piece of furniture is. Finally, after six months or so, you find the light switch, you turn it on, and suddenly it’s all illuminated. You can see exactly where you were. Then you move into the next room and spend another six months in the dark. So each of these breakthroughs, while sometimes they’re momentary, sometimes over a period of a day or two, they are the culmination of—and couldn’t exist without—the many months of stumbling around in the dark that proceed them.
Quoted in interview for website for PBS TV Nova program, 'The Proof'.
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Standing now in diffused light, with the wind at my back, I experience suddenly a feeling of completeness–not a feeling of having achieved something or of being stronger than everyone who was ever here before, not a feeling of having arrived at the ultimate point, not a feeling of supremacy. Just a breath of happiness deep inside my mind and my breast. The summit seemed suddenly to me to be a refuge, and I had not expected to find any refuge up here. Looking at the steep, sharp ridges below us, I have the impression that to have come later would have been too late. Everything we now say to one another, we only say out of embarrassment. I don’t think anymore. As I pull the tape recorder, trancelike, from my rucksack, and switch it on wanting to record a few appropriate phrases, tears again well into my eyes. “Now we are on the summit of Everest,” I begin, “it is so cold that we cannot take photographs…” I cannot go on, I am immediately shaken with sobs. I can neither talk nor think, feeling only how this momentous experience changes everything. To reach only a few meters below the summit would have required the same amount of effort, the same anxiety and burden of sorrow, but a feeling like this, an eruption of feeling, is only possible on the summit itself.
In Everest: Expedition to the Ultimate (1979), 180.
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Such is the character of mathematics in its profounder depths and in its higher and remoter zones that it is well nigh impossible to convey to one who has not devoted years to its exploration a just impression of the scope and magnitude of the existing body of the science. An imagination formed by other disciplines and accustomed to the interests of another field may scarcely receive suddenly an apocalyptic vision of that infinite interior world. But how amazing and how edifying were such a revelation, if it only could be made.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 6.
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Suddenly there was an enormous explosion, like a violent volcano. The nuclear reactions had led to overheating in the underground burial grounds. The explosion poured radioactive dust and materials high up into the sky. It was just the wrong weather for such a tragedy. Strong winds blew the radioactive clouds hundreds of miles away. It was difficult to gauge the extent of the disaster immediately, and no evacuation plan was put into operation right away. Many villages and towns were only ordered to evacuate when the symptoms of radiation sickness were already quite apparent. Tens of thousands of people were affected, hundreds dying, though the real figures have never been made public. The large area, where the accident happened, is still considered dangerous and is closed to the public.
'Two Decades of Dissidence', New Scientist (4 Nov 1976), 72, No. 72, 265.
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Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.
…...
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Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen. It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way into you. It was a vision which was seen with more than the eye. It was seen to last forever. You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds.
[Witnessing the first atomic bomb test explosion.]
Science: the Center of Culture (1970), 139.
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The age of the earth was thus increased from a mere score of millions [of years] to a thousand millions and more, and the geologist who had before been bankrupt in time now found himself suddenly transformed into a capitalist with more millions in the bank than he knew how to dispose of … More cautious people, like myself, too cautious, perhaps, are anxious first of all to make sure that the new [radioactive] clock is not as much too fast as Lord Kelvin’s was too slow.
1921 British Association for the Advancement of Science symposium on 'The Age of the Earth'. In Nature (1921), 108, 282.
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The bomb took forty-five seconds to drop thirty thousand feet to its detonation point, our three parachute gauges drifting down above. For half that time we were diving away in a two-g turn. Before we leveled off and flew directly away, we saw the calibration pulses that indicated our equipment was working well. Suddenly a bright flash lit the compartment, the light from the explosion reflecting off the clouds in front of us and back through the tunnel. The pressure pulse registered its N-shaped wave on our screen, and then a second wave recorded the reflection of the pulse from the ground. A few moments later two sharp shocks slammed the plane.
Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist (1987), 7.
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The disaster was caused neither by carelessness nor human failure. Unknown natural factors that we are still unable to explain today have made a mockery of all our efforts. The very substance intended to provide food and life to millions of our countrymen and which we have produced and supplied for years has suddenly become a cruel enemy for reasons we are as yet unable to fathom. It has reduced our site to rubble.
From the memorial service for the hundreds of people killed by the explosion of the ammonia fertilizer factory at Oppau, Germany. At the time, the explosive nature of ammonium nitrate was not understood.
BASF corporate history webpage.
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The girls are all giggling, then one girl suddenly remembers
the wild goat. Up there, on the hilltop, in the woods
and rocky ravines, the peasants saw him butting his head
against the trees, looking for the nannies. He’s gone wild,
and the reason why is this: if you don’t make an animal work,
if you keep him only for stud, he likes to hurt, he kills.

From Poem, 'The Goat God', Hard Labor (1936, 1976), 10.
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The growth curves of the famous Hopkins' rats are familiar to anyone who has ever opened a textbook of physiology. One recalls the proud ascendant curve of the milk-fed group which suddenly turns downwards as the milk supplement is removed, and the waning curve of the other group taking its sudden milk-assisted upward spring, until it passes its fellow now abruptly on the decline. 'Feeding experiments illustrating the importance of accessory factors in normal dietaries', Jour. Physiol., 1912, xliv, 425, ranks aesthetically beside the best stories of H. G. Wells.
Vitamins and Other Dietary Essentials (1933), 46.
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The historian of science may be tempted to claim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. even more important, during revolutions, scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. It is rather as if the professional community had been suddenly transported to another planet where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by unfamiliar ones as well.
In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 2nd ed. 1970). Excerpt 'Revolutions as Changes of World View', in Joseph Margolis and Jacques Catudal, The Quarrel between Invariance and Flux (2001), 35-36.
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The history of aëronautic adventure affords a curious illustration of the same [dip of the horizon] principle. The late Mr. Sadler, the celebrated aeronaut, ascended on one occasion in a balloon from Dublin, and was wafted across the Irish Channel, when, on his approach to the Welsh coast, the balloon descended nearly to the surface of the sea. By this time the sun was set, and the shades of evening began to close in. He threw out nearly all his ballast, and suddenly sprang upwards to a great height, and by so doing brought his horizon to dip below the sun, producing the whole phenomenon of a western sunrise. Subsequently descending in Wales, he of course witnessed a second sunset on the same evening.
This describes how a rapidly ascending balloonist can see more of a setting sun, from the top down, as the viewer gradually rises more and thus sees further, beyond the curvature of the earth. The sun gradually appears as if at sunrise. It is the reverse of the view of a ship sailing toward the horizon which disappears from its hull up to the tip of the mast. In Outlines of Astronomy (1849), 20. A similar description appeared earlier, in Astronomy (1833), 36, which also footnoted Herschel's comment that he had this anecdote from Dr. Lardner, who was present at the ascent
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The human understanding is moved by those things most which strike and enter the mind simultaneously and suddenly, and so fill the imagination; and then it feigns and supposes all other things to be somehow, though it cannot see how, similar to those few things by which it is surrounded.
Translation of Novum Organum, XLVII. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 8, 80.
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The invention of the differential calculus marks a crisis in the history of mathematics. The progress of science is divided between periods characterized by a slow accumulation of ideas and periods, when, owing to the new material for thought thus patiently collected, some genius by the invention of a new method or a new point of view, suddenly transforms the whole subject on to a higher level.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 217. Whitehead continued by quoting the poet, Percy Shelley, who compared the slow accumulation of thoughts leading to an avalanche following the laying down of a great truth. See the poetic quote beginning, “The sun-awakened avalanche…” on the Percy Shelley Quotations page.
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The joy of suddenly learning a former secret and the joy of suddenly discovering a hitherto unknown truth are the same to me—both have the flash of enlightenment, the almost incredibly enhanced vision, and the ecstasy and euphoria of released tension.
In I Want to be a Mathematician: An Automathography (1985), 3.
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The majority of evolutive movements are degenerative. Progressive cases are exceptional. Characters appear suddenly that have no meaning in the atavistic series. Evolution in no way shows a general tendency toward progress… . The only thing that could be accomplished by slow changes would be the accumulation of neutral characteristics without value for survival. Only important and sudden mutations can furnish the material which can be utilized by selection.
As quoted in Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 91. Please contact Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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The problem [evolution] presented itself to me, and something led me to think of the positive checks described by Malthus in his Essay on Population, a work I had read several years before, and which had made a deep and permanent impression on my mind. These checks—war, disease, famine, and the like—must, it occurred to me, act on animals as well as man. Then I thought of the enormously rapid multiplication of animals, causing these checks to be much more effective in them than in the case of man; and while pondering vaguely on this fact, there suddenly flashed upon me the idea of the survival of the fittest—that the individuals removed by these checks must be on the whole inferior to those that survived. I sketched the draft of my paper … and sent it by the next post to Mr. Darwin.
In 'Introductory Note to Chapter II in Present Edition', Natural Selection and Tropical Nature Essays on Descriptive and Theoretical Biology (1891, New ed. 1895), 20.
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The publication of the Darwin and Wallace papers in 1858, and still more that of the 'Origin' in 1859, had the effect upon them of the flash of light, which to a man who has lost himself in a dark night, suddenly reveals a road which, whether it takes him straight home or not, certainly goes his way. That which we were looking for, and could not find, was a hypothesis respecting the origin of known organic forms, which assumed the operation of no causes but such as could be proved to be actually at work. We wanted, not to pin our faith to that or any other speculation, but to get hold of clear and definite conceptions which could be brought face to face with facts and have their validity tested. The 'Origin' provided us with the working hypothesis we sought.
'On the Reception of the Origin of Species'. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol 2, 197.
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The search [for extra-terrestrial life] is a failure until that moment when it suddenly becomes a success.
Quoted in 'Do Aliens Exist in the Milky Way', PBS web page for WGBH Nova, 'Origins.'
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The work I have done has, already, been adequately rewarded and recognized. Imagination reaches out repeatedly trying to achieve some higher level of understanding, until suddenly I find myself momentarily alone before one new corner of nature’s pattern of beauty and true majesty revealed. That was my reward.
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1965).
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Then I have more than an impression—it amounts to a certainty—that algebra is made repellent by the unwillingness or inability of teachers to explain why we suddenly start using a and b, what exponents mean apart from their handling, and how the paradoxical behavior of + and — came into being. There is no sense of history behind the teaching, so the feeling is given that the whole system dropped down readymade from the skies, to be used only by born jugglers. This is what paralyzes—with few exceptions—the infant, the adolescent, or the adult who is not a juggler himself.
In Teacher in America (1945), 82.
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Till the fifteenth century little progress appears to have been made in the science or practice of music; but since that era it has advanced with marvelous rapidity, its progress being curiously parallel with that of mathematics, inasmuch as great musical geniuses appeared suddenly among different nations, equal in their possession of this special faculty to any that have since arisen. As with the mathematical so with the musical faculty it is impossible to trace any connection between its possession and survival in the struggle for existence.
In 'Darwinism Applied to Man', Darwinism: An Exposition of the Theory of Natural Selection with Some of Its Applications (1901), Chap. 15, 468.
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Until that afternoon, my thoughts on planetary atmospheres had been wholly concerned with atmospheric analysis as a method of life detection and nothing more. Now that I knew the composition of the Martian atmosphere was so different from that of our own, my mind filled with wonderings about the nature of the Earth. If the air is burning, what sustains it at a constant composition? I also wondered about the supply of fuel and the removal of the products of combustion. It came to me suddenly, just like a flash of enlightenment, that to persist and keep stable, something must be regulating the atmosphere and so keeping it at its constant composition. Moreover, if most of the gases came from living organisms, then life at the surface must be doing the regulation.
Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent Scholar (2000), 253.
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We can learn a lot from living organisms. An organism is a pretty complicated thing, which can tolerate surgery, which can tolerate injury, which can tolerate all kinds of perturbation provided they are not too great and do not come too suddenly. There’s something we call trauma, however. We don’t really understand what it is—but organisations can suffer from it too.
From interview with Graham Chedd, 'The Lady Gets Her Way', New Scientist (5 Jul 1973), 59, No. 853, 16.
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We do not live in a time when knowledge can be extended along a pathway smooth and free from obstacles, as at the time of the discovery of the infinitesimal calculus, and in a measure also when in the development of projective geometry obstacles were suddenly removed which, having hemmed progress for a long time, permitted a stream of investigators to pour in upon virgin soil. There is no longer any browsing along the beaten paths; and into the primeval forest only those may venture who are equipped with the sharpest tools.
In 'Mathematisches und wissenschaftliches Denken', Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung, Bd. 11, 55. In Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 91.
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We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.
From Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions (1841), Vol. 1, 1.
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We have now got what seems to be definite proof that an X ray which spreads out in a spherical form from a source as a wave through the aether can when it meets an atom collect up all its energy from all round and concentrate it on the atom. It is as if when a circular wave on water met an obstacle, the wave were all suddenly to travel round the circle and disappear all round and concentrate its energy on attacking the obstacle. Mechanically of course this is absurd, but mechanics have in this direction been for some time a broken reed.
Letter to Margery Moseley (2 Feb 1913). In J. L. Heilbron (ed.), H. G. J. Moseley: The Life and Letters of an English Physicist 1887-1915 (1974), 201.
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We should have positive expectations of what is in the universe, not fears and dreads. We are made with the realization that we’re not Earthbound, and that our acceptance of the universe offers us room to explore and extend outward. It’s like being in a dark room and imagining all sorts of terrors. But when we turn on the light – technology - suddenly it’s just a room where we can stretch out and explore. If the resources here on Earth are limited, they are not limited in the universe. We are not constrained by the limitations of our planet. As children have to leave the security of family and home life to insure growth into mature adults, so also must humankind leave the security and familiarity of Earth to reach maturity and obtain the highest attainment possible for the human race.
…...
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We were flying over America and suddenly I saw snow, the first snow we ever saw from orbit. I have never visited America, but I imagined that the arrival of autumn and winter is the same there as in other places, and the process of getting ready for them is the same. And then it struck me that we are all children of our Earth.
As quoted in Kevin W. Kelley (ed.), The Home Planet (1988). Source cited as “submitted by Lev Demin”.
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What nature does in the course of long periods we do every day when we suddenly change the environment in which some species of living plant is situated.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 226, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 109.
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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 Ramanujan was sixteen, he happened upon a copy of Carr’s Synopsis of Mathematics. This chance encounter secured immortality for the book, for it was this book that suddenly woke Ramanujan into full mathematical activity and supplied him essentially with his complete mathematical equipment in analysis and number theory. The book also gave Ramanujan his general direction as a dealer in formulas, and it furnished Ramanujan the germs of many of his deepest developments.
In Mathematical Circles Squared (1972), 158. George Shoobridge Carr (1837-1914) wrote his Synopsis of Elementary Results in Mathematics in 1886.
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Who does not know Maxwell’s dynamic theory of gases? At first there is the majestic development of the variations of velocities, then enter from one side the equations of condition and from the other the equations of central motions, higher and higher surges the chaos of formulas, suddenly four words burst forth: “Put n = 5.” The evil demon V disappears like the sudden ceasing of the basso parts in music, which hitherto wildly permeated the piece; what before seemed beyond control is now ordered as by magic. There is no time to state why this or that substitution was made, he who cannot feel the reason may as well lay the book aside; Maxwell is no program-musician who explains the notes of his composition. Forthwith the formulas yield obediently result after result, until the temperature-equilibrium of a heavy gas is reached as a surprising final climax and the curtain drops.
In Ceremonial Speech (15 Nov 1887) celebrating the 301st anniversary of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. Published as Gustav Robert Kirchhoff: Festrede zur Feier des 301. Gründungstages der Karl-Franzens-Universität zu Graz (1888), 29-30, as translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 187. From the original German, “Wer kennt nicht seine dynamische Gastheorie? – Zuerst entwickeln sich majestätisch die Variationen der Geschwindigkeiten, dann setzen von der einen Seite die Zustands-Gleichungen, von der anderen die Gleichungen der Centralbewegung ein, immer höher wogt das Chaos der Formeln; plötzlich ertönen die vier Worte: „Put n=5.“Der böse Dämon V verschwindet, wie in der Musik eine wilde, bisher alles unterwühlende Figur der Bässe plötzlich verstummt; wie mit einem Zauberschlage ordnet sich, was früher unbezwingbar schien. Da ist keine Zeit zu sagen, warum diese oder jene Substitution gemacht wird; wer das nicht fühlt, lege das Buch weg; Maxwell ist kein Programmmusiker, der über die Noten deren Erklärung setzen muss. Gefügig speien nun die Formeln Resultat auf Resultat aus, bis überraschend als Schlusseffect noch das Wärme-Gleichgewicht eines schweren Gases gewonnen wird und der Vorhang sinkt.” A condensed alternate translation also appears on the Ludwig Boltzmann Quotes page of this website.
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Who … is not familiar with Maxwell’s memoirs on his dynamical theory of gases? … from one side enter the equations of state; from the other side, the equations of motion in a central field. Ever higher soars the chaos of formulae. Suddenly we hear, as from kettle drums, the four beats “put n=5.” The evil spirit v vanishes; and … that which had seemed insuperable has been overcome as if by a stroke of magic … One result after another follows in quick succession till at last … we arrive at the conditions for thermal equilibrium together with expressions for the transport coefficients.
In Ceremonial Speech (15 Nov 1887) celebrating the 301st anniversary of the Karl-Franzens-University Graz. Published as Gustav Robert Kirchhoff: Festrede zur Feier des 301. Gründungstages der Karl-Franzens-Universität zu Graz (1888), 29, as translated in In Michael Dudley Sturge, Statistical and Thermal Physics (2003), 343. A more complete alternate translation also appears on the Ludwig Boltzmann Quotes page of this website.
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Why Become Extinct? Authors with varying competence have suggested that dinosaurs disappeared because the climate deteriorated (became suddenly or slowly too hot or cold or dry or wet), or that the diet did (with too much food or not enough of such substances as fern oil; from poisons in water or plants or ingested minerals; by bankruptcy of calcium or other necessary elements). Other writers have put the blame on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders (slipped vertebral discs, malfunction or imbalance of hormone and endocrine systems, dwindling brain and consequent stupidity, heat sterilization, effects of being warm-blooded in the Mesozoic world), racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth's rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, draining of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of standing room in Noah’s Ark, and palaeoweltschmerz.
'Riddles of the Terrible Lizards', American Scientist (1964) 52, 231.
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You may object that by speaking of simplicity and beauty I am introducing aesthetic criteria of truth, and I frankly admit that I am strongly attracted by the simplicity and beauty of mathematical schemes which nature presents us. You must have felt this too: the almost frightening simplicity and wholeness of the relationship, which nature suddenly spreads out before us.
Letter to Albert Einstein. In Ian Stewart, Why Beauty is Truth (), 278.
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[1665-06-17] It stroke me very deep this afternoon, going with a hackney-coach from my Lord Treasurer's down Holborne - the coachman I found to drive easily and easily; at last stood still, and came down hardly able to stand; and told me that he was suddenly stroke very sick and almost blind. So I light and went into another coach, with a sad heart for the poor man and trouble for myself, lest he should have been stroke with the plague - being at that end of the town that I took him up. But God have mercy upon us all.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (17 Jun 1665)
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[Benjamin Peirce's] lectures were not easy to follow. They were never carefully prepared. The work with which he rapidly covered the blackboard was very illegible, marred with frequent erasures, and not infrequent mistakes (he worked too fast for accuracy). He was always ready to digress from the straight path and explore some sidetrack that had suddenly attracted his attention, but which was likely to have led nowhere when the college bell announced the close of the hour and we filed out, leaving him abstractedly staring at his work, still with chalk and eraser in his hands, entirely oblivious of his departing class.
Writing as a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a former student of Peirce, in 'Benjamin Peirce: II. Reminiscences', The American Mathematical Monthly (Jan 1925), 32, No. 1, 6.
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[L]et us not overlook the further great fact, that not only does science underlie sculpture, painting, music, poetry, but that science is itself poetic. The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. ... On the contrary science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank. Those engaged in scientific researches constantly show us that they realize not less vividly, but more vividly, than others, the poetry of their subjects. Whoever will dip into Hugh Miller's works on geology, or read Mr. Lewes's “Seaside Studies,” will perceive that science excites poetry rather than extinguishes it. And whoever will contemplate the life of Goethe will see that the poet and the man of science can co-exist in equal activity. Is it not, indeed, an absurd and almost a sacrilegious belief that the more a man studies Nature the less he reveres it? Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses anything in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake, does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded. Whoever has not in youth collected plants and insects, knows not half the halo of interest which lanes and hedge-rows can assume. Whoever has not sought for fossils, has little idea of the poetical associations that surround the places where imbedded treasures were found. Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and aquarium, has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are. Sad, indeed, is it to see how men occupy themselves with trivialities, and are indifferent to the grandest phenomena—care not to understand the architecture of the Heavens, but are deeply interested in some contemptible controversy about the intrigues of Mary Queen of Scots!—are learnedly critical over a Greek ode, and pass by without a glance that grand epic written by the finger of God upon the strata of the Earth!
Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1889), 82-83.
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“She can't do sums a bit!” the Queens said together, with great emphasis.
“Can you do sums?” Alice said, turning suddenly on the White Queen, for she didn't like being found fault with so much.
The Queen gasped and shut her eyes. “I can do Addition, if you give me time-but I can do Subtraction, under any circumstances!”
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871, 1897), 191.
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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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