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

Sunlight Quotes (14 quotes)

At Gabriel College there was a very holy object on the high altar of the Oratory, covered with a black velvet cloth... At the height of the invocation the Intercessor lifted the cloth to reveal in the dimness a glass dome inside which there was something too distant to see, until he pulled a string attached to a shutter above, letting a ray of sunlight through to strike the dome exactly. Then it became clear: a little thing like a weathervane, with four sails black on one side and white on the other, began to whirl around as the light struck it. It illustrated a moral lesson, the Intercessor explained, for the black of ignorance fled from the light, whereas the wisdom of white rushed to embrace it.
[Alluding to Crookes's radiometer.]
Northern Lights (2001), 149.
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By blending water and minerals from below with sunlight and CO2 from above, green plants link the earth to the sky. We tend to believe that plants grow out of the soil, but in fact most of their substance comes from the air. The bulk of the cellulose and the other organic compounds produced through photosynthesis consists of heavy carbon and oxygen atoms, which plants take directly from the air in the form of CO2. Thus the weight of a wooden log comes almost entirely from the air. When we burn a log in a fireplace, oxygen and carbon combine once more into CO2, and in the light and heat of the fire we recover part of the solar energy that went into making the wood.
The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems (1997), 178.
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Food is at present obtained almost entirely from the energy of the sunlight. The radiation from the sun produces from the carbonic acid in the air more or less complicated carbon compounds which serve us in plants and vegetables. We use the latent chemical energy of these to keep our bodies warm, we convert it into muscular effort. We employ it in the complicated process of digestion to repair and replace the wasted cells of our bodies. … If the gigantic sources of power become available, food would be produced without recourse to sunlight. Vast cellars, in which artificial radiation is generated, may replace the cornfields and potato patches of the world.
From 'Fifty Years Hence', Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57, No. 3, 396-397.
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Four elements, Hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, also provide an example of the astonishing togetherness of our universe. They make up the “organic” molecules that constitute living organisms on a planet, and the nuclei of these same elements interact to generate the light of its star. Then the organisms on the planet come to depend wholly on that starlight, as they must if life is to persist. So it is that all life on the Earth runs on sunlight. [Referring to photosynthesis]
In lecture, 'Life and Mind in the Universe', versions of which George Wald delivered throughout the 1980s. On the website of his son, Elijah Wald, who states it was the last of his father's major lectures.
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Heat energy of uniform temperature [is] the ultimate fate of all energy. The power of sunlight and coal, electric power, water power, winds and tides do the work of the world, and in the end all unite to hasten the merry molecular dance.
Matter and Energy (1911), 140.
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I have enjoyed the trees and scenery of Kentucky exceedingly. How shall I ever tell of the miles and miles of beauty that have been flowing into me in such measure? These lofty curving ranks of lobing, swelling hills, these concealed valleys of fathomless verdure, and these lordly trees with the nursing sunlight glancing in their leaves upon the outlines of the magnificent masses of shade embosomed among their wide branches—these are cut into my memory to go with me forever.
John Muir
Letter, written “among the hills of Bear Creek, seven miles southeast of Burkesville, Kentucky” (Sep 1867). In John Muir and William Frederick Badé (Ed.), A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), xix. This was by far Muir's longest botanical excursion made in his earlier years.
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I have heard articulate speech produced by sunlight I have heard a ray of the sun laugh and cough and sing! … I have been able to hear a shadow, and I have even perceived by ear the passage of a cloud across the sun's disk.
Letter to his father (26 Feb 1880), describing his photophone research. Transcript with Bell Papers, Library of Congress.
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I would like to start by emphasizing the importance of surfaces. It is at a surface where many of our most interesting and useful phenomena occur. We live for example on the surface of a planet. It is at a surface where the catalysis of chemical reactions occur. It is essentially at a surface of a plant that sunlight is converted to a sugar. In electronics, most if not all active circuit elements involve non-equilibrium phenomena occurring at surfaces. Much of biology is concerned with reactions at a surface.
'Surface properties of semiconductors', Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1956). In Nobel Lectures, Physics 1942-1962 (1967), 377.
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It is sunlight in modified form which turns all the windmills and water wheels and the machinery which they drive. It is the energy derived from coal and petroleum (fossil sunlight) which propels our steam and gas engines, our locomotives and automobiles. ... Food is simply sunlight in cold storage.
In New Dietetics: What to Eat and How (1921), 29.
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Japan’s only natural resources are water, fish, sunlight and brains. We must create or die.
As quoted by Franz Lidz in 'Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name', Smithsonian Magazine (Dec 2012).
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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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Populations of bacteria live in the spumes of volcanic thermal vents on the ocean floor, multiplying in water above the boiling point. And far beneath Earth's surface, to a depth of 2 miles (3.2 km) or more, dwell the SLIMES (subsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems), unique assemblages of bacteria and fungi that occupy pores in the interlocking mineral grains of igneous rock and derive their energy from inorganic chemicals. The SLIMES are independent of the world above, so even if all of it were burned to a cinder, they would carry on and, given enough time, probably evolve new life-forms able to re-enter the world of air and sunlight.
'Vanishing Before Our Eyes', Time (26 Apr 2000).
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The fact that this chain of life existed [at volcanic vents on the seafloor] in the black cold of the deep sea and was utterly independent of sunlight—previously thought to be the font of all Earth's life—has startling ramifications. If life could flourish there, nurtured by a complex chemical process based on geothermal heat, then life could exist under similar conditions on planets far removed from the nurturing light of our parent star, the Sun.
Quoted in Peter Douglas Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe (2000), 1, without citation.
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You have probably heard or said at some point, “I could not live without my cell phone.” Well, the world cannot live without the Arctic; it affects every living thing on Earth and acts as a virtual thermostat, reflecting sunlight and cooling the planet.
In 'What do the Arctic, a Thermostat and COP15 Have in Common?', Huffington Post (18 Mar 2010).
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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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