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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Table Quotes (105 quotes)

...it would be a simple way of solving the goiter problem. And in addition to that it would be the biggest thing in a medical proposition to be carried out in the state of Michigan, and Michigan is a large place. And as I thought of the thing the more convinced I became that this oughtn't to be a personal thing, This ought to be something done by the Michigan State Medical Society as a body.
Recommending the addition of a trace of iodine to table salt.
Opening address to the Medical Department of the University of Michigan, Sep 1914. Quoted by Howard Markel in 'When it Rains it Pours' : Endemic Goiter, Iodized Salt, and David Murray Cowie, M.D. American Journal of Public Health, Feb 1987, vol.77, No.2, page 222.
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[After the flash of the atomic bomb test explosion] Fermi got up and dropped small pieces of paper … a simple experiment to measure the energy liberated by the explosion … [W]hen the front of the shock wave arrived (some seconds after the flash) the pieces of paper were displaced a few centimeters in the direction of propagation of the shock wave. From the distance of the source and from the displacement of the air due to the shock wave, he could calculate the energy of the explosion. This Fermi had done in advance having prepared himself a table of numbers, so that he could tell immediately the energy liberated from this crude but simple measurement. … It is also typical that his answer closely approximated that of the elaborate official measurements. The latter, however, were available only after several days’ study of the records, whereas Fermi had his within seconds.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 147-148.
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[Blackett] came one morning, deep in thought, into the G (technical) Office at Stanmore. It was a bitterly cold day, and the staff were shivering in a garret warmed over only with an oil-stove. Without a word of greeting, Blackett stepped silently up on to the table and stood there pondering with his feet among the plans. After ten minutes somebody coughed uneasily and said, diffidently: “Wouldn’t you like a chair, sir … or something?” “No, thank you,” said Professor Blackett, “it is necessary to apply scientific methods. Hot air rises. The warmest spot in this room, therefore, will be near the ceiling.” At this, Colonel Krohn, my technical G.S.O., stepped up on the table beside the Professor, and for the next half-hour, the two stayed there in silence. At the end of this period Professor Blackett stepped down from the table saying: “Well! That’s that problem solved.” And so it was.
Anecdote as told by General Sir Frederick Pile, in Frederick Pile, Ack-Ack: Britain’s Defence Against Air Attack During Second World War (1949), 161. As cited by Maurice W. Kirby and Jonathan Rosenhead, 'Patrick Blackett (1897)' in Arjang A. Assad (ed.) and Saul I. Gass (ed.),Profiles in Operations Research: Pioneers and Innovators (2011), 7.
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[T]he 47th proposition in Euclid might now be voted down with as much ease as any proposition in politics; and therefore if Lord Hawkesbury hates the abstract truths of science as much as he hates concrete truth in human affairs, now is his time for getting rid of the multiplication table, and passing a vote of censure upon the pretensions of the hypotenuse.
In 'Peter Plymley's Letters', Essays Social and Political (1877), 530.
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[The screw machine] was on the principle of the guage or sliding lathe now in every workshop throughout the world; the perfection of which consists in that most faithful agent gravity, making the joint, and that almighty perfect number three, which is in harmony itself. I was young when I learned that principle. I had never seen my grandmother putting a chip under a three-legged milking-stool; but she always had to put a chip under a four-legged table, to keep it steady. I cut screws of all dimensions by this machine, and did them perfectly. (1846)
Quoted in ASME International and Heritage Committee, Landmarks in Mechanical Engineering.
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[The] structural theory is of extreme simplicity. It assumes that the molecule is held together by links between one atom and the next: that every kind of atom can form a definite small number of such links: that these can be single, double or triple: that the groups may take up any position possible by rotation round the line of a single but not round that of a double link: finally that with all the elements of the first short period [of the periodic table], and with many others as well, the angles between the valencies are approximately those formed by joining the centre of a regular tetrahedron to its angular points. No assumption whatever is made as to the mechanism of the linkage. Through the whole development of organic chemistry this theory has always proved capable of providing a different structure for every different compound that can be isolated. Among the hundreds of thousands of known substances, there are never more isomeric forms than the theory permits.
Presidential Address to the Chemical Society (16 Apr 1936), Journal of the Chemical Society (1936), 533.
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Conclusions
I. A curve has been found representing the frequency distribution of standard deviations of samples drawn from a normal population.
II. A curve has been found representing the frequency distribution of values of the means of such samples, when these values are measured from the mean of the population in terms of the standard deviation of the sample…
IV. Tables are given by which it can be judged whether a series of experiments, however short, have given a result which conforms to any required standard of accuracy or whether it is necessary to continue the investigation.
'The Probable Error of a Mean', Biometrika, 1908, 6, 25.
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Der bis zur Vorrede, die ihn abweist, gelangte Leser hat das Buch für baares Geld gekauft und frägt, was ihn schadlos hält? – Meine letzte Zuflucht ist jetzt, ihn zu erinnern, daß er ein Buch, auch ohne es gerade zu lesen, doch auf mancherlei Art zu benutzen weiß. Es kann, so gut wie viele andere, eine Lücke seiner Bibliothek ausfüllen, wo es sich, sauber gebunden, gewiß gut ausnehmen wird. Oder auch er kann es seiner gelehrten Freundin auf die Toilette, oder den Theetisch legen. Oder endlich er kann ja, was gewiß das Beste von Allem ist und ich besonders rathe, es recensiren.
The reader who has got as far as the preface and is put off by that, has paid money for the book, and wants to know how he is to be compensated. My last refuge now is to remind him that he knows of various ways of using a book without precisely reading it. It can, like many another, fill a gap in his library, where, neatly bound, it is sure to look well. Or he can lay it on the dressing-table or tea-table of his learned lady friend. Or finally he can review it; this is assuredly the best course of all, and the one I specially advise.
In Preface, written at Dresden in August 1818, first German edition, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 4 Bücher nebst einem Anhange der die Kritik der Kentischen Philosophie (1819), xv-xvi. As translated by E.F.J. Payne in The World as Will and Representation (1958, 1969), Vol. 1, xvii. In the preface, Schopenhauer is joking that some readers of his book may find his work does not interest them.
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Mathematical truth has validity independent of place, personality, or human authority. Mathematical relations are not established, nor can they be abrogated, by edict. The multiplication table is international and permanent, not a matter of convention nor of relying upon authority of state or church. The value of π is not amenable to human caprice. The finding of a mathematical theorem may have been a highly romantic episode in the personal life of the discoverer, but it cannot be expected of itself to reveal the race, sex, or temperament of this discoverer. With modern means of widespread communication even mathematical notation tends to be international despite all nationalistic tendencies in the use of words or of type.
In 'Light Thrown on the Nature of Mathematics by Certain Aspects of Its Development', Mathematics in General Education (1940), 256. This is the Report of the Committee on the Function of Mathematics in General Education of the Commission on Secondary School Curriculum, which was established by the Executive Board of the Progressive Education Association in 1932.
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A few days afterwards, I went to him [the same actuary referred to in another quote] and very gravely told him that I had discovered the law of human mortality in the Carlisle Table, of which he thought very highly. I told him that the law was involved in this circumstance. Take the table of the expectation of life, choose any age, take its expectation and make the nearest integer a new age, do the same with that, and so on; begin at what age you like, you are sure to end at the place where the age past is equal, or most nearly equal, to the expectation to come. “You don’t mean that this always happens?”—“Try it.” He did try, again and again; and found it as I said. “This is, indeed, a curious thing; this is a discovery!” I might have sent him about trumpeting the law of life: but I contented myself with informing him that the same thing would happen with any table whatsoever in which the first column goes up and the second goes down.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 172.
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About the year 1821, I undertook to superintend, for the Government, the construction of an engine for calculating and printing mathematical and astronomical tables. Early in the year 1833, a small portion of the machine was put together, and was found to perform its work with all the precision which had been anticipated. At that period circumstances, which I could not control, caused what I then considered a temporary suspension of its progress; and the Government, on whose decision the continuance or discontinuance of the work depended, have not yet communicated to me their wishes on the question.
In The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise: A Fragment (1838), 186.
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Adam Smith says that nobody ever imagined a god of weight—and he might have added, of the multiplication table either. It may be that the relations of Nature are all as inevitable as that twice two are four.
From chapter 'Jottings from a Note-book', in Canadian Stories (1918), 178.
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After some experiments made one day at my house upon the phosphorus, a little piece of it being left negligently upon the table in my chamber, the maid making the bed took it up in the bedclothes she had put on the table, not seeing the little piece. The person who lay afterwards in the bed, waking at night and feeling more than ordinary heat, perceived that the coverlet was on fire.
Quoted in John Emsley, The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus (2000), 11.
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All possible truth is practical. To ask whether our conception of chair or table corresponds to the real chair or table apart from the uses to which they may be put, is as utterly meaningless and vain as to inquire whether a musical tone is red or yellow. No other conceivable relation than this between ideas and things can exist. The unknowable is what I cannot react upon. The active part of our nature is not only an essential part of cognition itself, but it always has a voice in determining what shall be believed and what rejected.
The Muscular Perception of Space (1878), 446.
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Although with the majority of those who study and practice in these capacities [engineers, builders, surveyors, geographers, navigators, hydrographers, astronomers], secondhand acquirements, trite formulas, and appropriate tables are sufficient for ordinary purposes, yet these trite formulas and familiar rules were originally or gradually deduced from the profound investigations of the most gifted minds, from the dawn of science to the present day. … The further developments of the science, with its possible applications to larger purposes of human utility and grander theoretical generalizations, is an achievement reserved for a few of the choicest spirits, touched from time to time by Heaven to these highest issues. The intellectual world is filled with latent and undiscovered truth as the material world is filled with latent electricity.
In Orations and Speeches, Vol. 3 (1870), 513.
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An article in Bioscience in November 1987 by Julie Ann Miller claimed the cortex was a “quarter-meter square.” That is napkin-sized, about ten inches by ten inches. Scientific American magazine in September 1992 upped the ante considerably with an estimate of 1½ square meters; that’s a square of brain forty inches on each side, getting close to the card-table estimate. A psychologist at the University of Toronto figured it would cover the floor of his living room (I haven’t seen his living room), but the prize winning estimate so far is from the British magazine New Scientist’s poster of the brain published in 1993 which claimed that the cerebral cortex, if flattened out, would cover a tennis court. How can there be such disagreement? How can so many experts not know how big the cortex is? I don’t know, but I’m on the hunt for an expert who will say the cortex, when fully spread out, will cover a football field. A Canadian football field.
In The Burning House: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain (1994, 1995), 11.
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Arithmetic is where you have to multiply—and you carry the multiplication table in your head and hope you won’t lose it.
From 'Arithmetic', Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960), 116.
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As a second year high school chemistry student, I still have a vivid memory of my excitement when I first saw a chart of the periodic table of elements. The order in the universe seemed miraculous, and I wanted to study and learn as much as possible about the natural sciences.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 555.
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As an undergraduate who believed himself destined to be a mathematician I happened upon “Man and Superman” and as I read it at a library table I felt like Saul of Tarsus when the light broke. “If literature,” I said to myself, “can be like this then literature is the stuff for me.” And to this day I never see a differential equation written out without breathing a prayer of thanks.
In 'An Open Letter to George Bernard Shaw', Saturday Review (21 Jul 1956), 39, 12. ollected in If You Don't Mind My Saying So: Essays on Man and Nature (1964), 391.
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But, contrary to the lady’s prejudices about the engineering profession, the fact is that quite some time ago the tables were turned between theory and applications in the physical sciences. Since World War II the discoveries that have changed the world are not made so much in lofty halls of theoretical physics as in the less-noticed labs of engineering and experimental physics. The roles of pure and applied science have been reversed; they are no longer what they were in the golden age of physics, in the age of Einstein, Schrödinger, Fermi and Dirac.
'The Age of Computing: a Personal Memoir', Daedalus (1992), 121, 120.
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Capitalism, though it may not always give the scientific worker a living wage, will always protect him, as being one of the geese which produce golden eggs for its table.
Daedalus or Science and the Future (1924), 6.
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Wellington College. CC by-NC 2.0 (source)
Chlorine is a deadly poison gas employed on European battlefields in World War I. Sodium is a corrosive metal which burns upon contact with water. Together they make a placid and unpoisonous material, table salt. Why each of these substances has the properties it does is a subject called chemistry.
In Broca's Brain: The Romance of Science (1979), 18, footnote.
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Copernicus, the most learned man whom we are able to name other than Atlas and Ptolemy, even though he taught in a most learned manner the demonstrations and causes of motion based on observation, nevertheless fled from the job of constructing tables, so that if anyone computes from his tables, the computation is not even in agreement with his observations on which the foundation of the work rests. Therefore first I have compared the observations of Copernicus with those of Ptolemy and others as to which are the most accurate, but besides the bare observations, I have taken from Copernicus nothing other than traces of demonstrations. As for the tables of mean motion, and of prosthaphaereses and all the rest, I have constructed these anew, following absolutely no other reasoning than that which I have judged to be of maximum harmony.
Dedication to the Duke of Prussia, Prutenicae Tabulae (1551), 1585 edition, as quoted in Owen Gingerich, The Eye of Heaven: Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler (1993), 227.
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Daniel Bernoulli used to tell two little adventures, which he said had given him more pleasure than all the other honours he had received. Travelling with a learned stranger, who, being pleased with his conversation, asked his name; “I am Daniel Bernoulli,” answered he with great modesty; “and I,” said the stranger (who thought he meant to laugh at him) “am Isaac Newton.” Another time, having to dine with the celebrated Koenig, the mathematician, who boasted, with some degree of self-complacency, of a difficult problem he had solved with much trouble, Bernoulli went on doing the honours of his table, and when they went to drink coffee he presented Koenig with a solution of the problem more elegant than his own.
In A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary (1815), 1, 226.
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Despite rapid progress in the right direction, the program of the average elementary school has been primarily devoted to teaching the fundamental subjects, the three R’s, and closely related disciplines… Artificial exercises, like drills on phonetics, multiplication tables, and formal writing movements, are used to a wasteful degree. Subjects such as arithmetic, language, and history include content that is intrinsically of little value. Nearly every subject is enlarged unwisely to satisfy the academic ideal of thoroughness… Elimination of the unessential by scientific study, then, is one step in improving the curriculum.
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Dirichlet was not satisfied to study Gauss’ Disquisitiones arithmetical once or several times, but continued throughout life to keep in close touch with the wealth of deep mathematical thoughts which it contains by perusing it again and again. For this reason the book was never placed on the shelf but had an abiding place on the table at which he worked. … Dirichlet was the first one, who not only fully understood this work, but made it also accessible to others.
In Dirichlet, Werke, Bd. 2, 315. As translated in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 159.
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Do the day’s work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don’t be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don’t be a demagogue. Don’t hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don’t hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don’t hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.
Speech (7 Jan 1914), to the State Senate of Massachusetts upon election as its president. Collected in Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts (1919, 2004), 7-8.
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Don’t hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don’t hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table.
Speech (7 Jan 1914), to the State Senate of Massachusetts upon election as its president. Collected in Calvin Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts (1919, 2004), 7-8.
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EMBALM, v.t. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor's lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutæus maximus.
The Cynic's Word Book (1906), 90. Also published later as The Devil's Dictionary.
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'Experiments and Calculations Relative to Physical Optics' (read in 1803), Philosophical Transactions (1804), 94, 2-3.
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Fish does not now—nor can it ever—feed the world. … Many developed, wealthy nations … dine on seafood more for taste than for necessity. … not one would on average incur any protein deficiency even if fish were completely removed from its dinner tables.
In Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World (2007), 153.
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For centuries knowledge meant proven knowledge…. Einstein’s results again turned the tables and now very few philosophers or scientists still think that scientific knowledge is, or can be, proven knowledge. But few realize that with this the whole classical structure of intellectual values falls in ruins and has to be replaced.
In 'Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes', in I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.), Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge: Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London 1965 (1970), Vol. 4, 91-92.
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For me too, the periodic table was a passion. ... As a boy, I stood in front of the display for hours, thinking how wonderful it was that each of those metal foils and jars of gas had its own distinct personality.
[Referring to the periodic table display in the Science Museum, London, with element samples in bottles]
Letter to Oliver Sacks. Quoted in Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001), footnote, 203.
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For the evolution of science by societies the main requisite is the perfect freedom of communication between each member and anyone of the others who may act as a reagent.
The gaseous condition is exemplified in the soiree, where the members rush about confusedly, and the only communication is during a collision, which in some instances may be prolonged by button-holing.
The opposite condition, the crystalline, is shown in the lecture, where the members sit in rows, while science flows in an uninterrupted stream from a source which we take as the origin. This is radiation of science. Conduction takes place along the series of members seated round a dinner table, and fixed there for several hours, with flowers in the middle to prevent any cross currents.
The condition most favourable to life is an intermediate plastic or colloidal condition, where the order of business is (1) Greetings and confused talk; (2) A short communication from one who has something to say and to show; (3) Remarks on the communication addressed to the Chair, introducing matters irrelevant to the communication but interesting to the members; (4) This lets each member see who is interested in his special hobby, and who is likely to help him; and leads to (5) Confused conversation and examination of objects on the table.
I have not indicated how this programme is to be combined with eating.
Letter to William Grylls Adams (3 Dec 1873). In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1995), Vol. 2, 1862-1873, 949-50.
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Had that wordy vacuum skull thought what this would do to every critical figure in science and engineering? … Throw away every book, table, instrument, and start over? I know that some of my ancestors did that in switching from old English units to MKS—but they did it to make things easier.
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), 160.
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He [Lord Bacon] appears to have been utterly ignorant of the discoveries which had just been made by Kepler’s calculations … he does not say a word about Napier’s Logarithms, which had been published only nine years before and reprinted more than once in the interval. He complained that no considerable advance had been made in Geometry beyond Euclid, without taking any notice of what had been done by Archimedes and Apollonius. He saw the importance of determining accurately the specific gravities of different substances, and himself attempted to form a table of them by a rude process of his own, without knowing of the more scientific though still imperfect methods previously employed by Archimedes, Ghetaldus and Porta. He speaks of the εὕρηκα of Archimedes in a manner which implies that he did not clearly appreciate either the problem to be solved or the principles upon which the solution depended. In reviewing the progress of Mechanics, he makes no mention either of Archimedes, or Stevinus, Galileo, Guldinus, or Ghetaldus. He makes no allusion to the theory of Equilibrium. He observes that a ball of one pound weight will fall nearly as fast through the air as a ball of two, without alluding to the theory of acceleration of falling bodies, which had been made known by Galileo more than thirty years before. He proposed an inquiry with regard to the lever,—namely, whether in a balance with arms of different length but equal weight the distance from the fulcrum has any effect upon the inclination—though the theory of the lever was as well understood in his own time as it is now. … He speaks of the poles of the earth as fixed, in a manner which seems to imply that he was not acquainted with the precession of the equinoxes; and in another place, of the north pole being above and the south pole below, as a reason why in our hemisphere the north winds predominate over the south.
From Spedding’s 'Preface' to De Interpretations Naturae Proœmium, in The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 3, 511-512. [Note: the Greek word “εὕρηκα” is “Eureka” —Webmaster.]
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Here the most sublime scene ever witnessed in the operating room was presented when the patient placed himself voluntarily upon the table, which was to become the altar of future fame. … The heroic bravery of the man who voluntarily placed himself upon the table, a subject for the surgeon’s knife, should be recorded and his name enrolled upon parchment, which should be hung upon the walls of the surgical amphitheatre in which the operation was performed. His name was Gilbert Abbott.
Description of the first public demonstration of ether at the Massachussetts General Hospital (16 Oct 1846).
From the Semi-Centennial of Anesthesia, Massachusetts General Hospital (1897). In Logan Clendening, Source Book of Medical History (1960), 373.
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How can you shorten the subject? That stern struggle with the multiplication table, for many people not yet ended in victory, how can you make it less? Square root, as obdurate as a hardwood stump in a pasture nothing but years of effort can extract it. You can’t hurry the process. Or pass from arithmetic to algebra; you can’t shoulder your way past quadratic equations or ripple through the binomial theorem. Instead, the other way; your feet are impeded in the tangled growth, your pace slackens, you sink and fall somewhere near the binomial theorem with the calculus in sight on the horizon. So died, for each of us, still bravely fighting, our mathematical training; except for a set of people called “mathematicians”—born so, like crooks.
In Too Much College: Or, Education Eating up Life, with Kindred Essays in Education and Humour (1939), 8.
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How did I discover saccharin? Well, it was partly by accident and partly by study. I had worked a long time on the compound radicals and substitution products of coal tar... One evening I was so interested in my laboratory that I forgot about my supper till quite late, and then rushed off for a meal without stopping to wash my hands. I sat down, broke a piece of bread, and put it to my lips. It tasted unspeakably sweet. I did not ask why it was so, probably because I thought it was some cake or sweetmeat. I rinsed my mouth with water, and dried my moustache with my napkin, when, to my surprise the napkin tasted sweeter than the bread. Then I was puzzled. I again raised my goblet, and, as fortune would have it, applied my mouth where my fingers had touched it before. The water seemed syrup. It flashed on me that I was the cause of the singular universal sweetness, and I accordingly tasted the end of my thumb, and found it surpassed any confectionery I had ever eaten. I saw the whole thing at once. I had discovered some coal tar substance which out-sugared sugar. I dropped my dinner, and ran back to the laboratory. There, in my excitement, I tasted the contents of every beaker and evaporating dish on the table.
Interview with American Analyst. Reprinted in Pacific Record of Medicine and Surgery (1886), 1, No. 3, 78.
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How far the main herd of metaphysicans are still lagging behind Plato; and how, for near two thousand years, they were almost all content to feed on the crumbs dropt from Aristotle’s table.
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 13. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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I am just laboring in the vineyard. I am at the operating table, and I make my rounds. I believe there is a cross-fertilization between writing and surgery. If I withdraw from surgery, I would not have another word to write. Having become a writer makes me a better doctor.
[Reply to reporter's question whether he would rather be a full-time writer instead of a surgeon.]
Quoted in Thomas Lask, 'Publishing:Surgeon and Incisive Writer', New York Times (28 Sep 1979), C24.
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I had a dislike for [mathematics], and ... was hopelessly short in algebra. ... [One extraordinary teacher of mathematics] got the whole year's course into me in exactly six [after-school] lessons of half an hour each. And how? More accurately, why? Simply because he was an algebra fanatic—because he believed that algebra was not only a science of the utmost importance, but also one of the greatest fascination. ... [H]e convinced me in twenty minutes that ignorance of algebra was as calamitous, socially and intellectually, as ignorance of table manners—That acquiring its elements was as necessary as washing behind the ears. So I fell upon the book and gulped it voraciously. ... To this day I comprehend the binomial theorem.
In Prejudices: third series (1922), 261-262.
For a longer excerpt, see H. L. Mencken's Recollections of School Algebra.
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I have indeed lived and worked to my taste either in art or science. What more could a man desire? Knowledge has always been my goal. There is much that I shall leave behind undone…but something at least I was privileged to leave for the world to use, if it so intends…As the Latin poet said I will leave the table of the living like a guest who has eaten his fill. Yes, if I had another life to spend, I certainly would not waste it. But that cannot be, so why complain?
Letter to R. C. Craw, quoted in Tuatara (1984) Vol. 27 (1): 5-7
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I have presented the periodic table as a kind of travel guide to an imaginary country, of which the elements are the various regions. This kingdom has a geography: the elements lie in particular juxtaposition to one another, and they are used to produce goods, much as a prairie produces wheat and a lake produces fish. It also has a history. Indeed, it has three kinds of history: the elements were discovered much as the lands of the world were discovered; the kingdom was mapped, just as the world was mapped, and the relative positions of the elements came to take on a great significance; and the elements have their own cosmic history, which can be traced back to the stars.
In The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into the Land of the Chemical Elements (1995), Preface, viii.
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I thought that the wisdom of our City had certainly designed the laudable practice of taking and distributing these accompts [parish records of christenings and deaths] for other and greater uses than [merely casual comments], or, at least, that some other uses might be made of them; and thereupon I ... could, and (to be short) to furnish myself with as much matter of that kind ... the which when I had reduced into tables ... so as to have a view of the whole together, in order to the more ready comparing of one Year, Season, Parish, or other Division of the City, with another, in respect of all Burials and Christnings, and of all the Diseases and Casualties happening in each of them respectively...
Moreover, finding some Truths and not-commonly-believed opinions to arise from my meditations upon these neglected Papers, I proceeded further to consider what benefit the knowledge of the same would bring to the world, ... with some real fruit from those ayrie blossoms.
From Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon Bills of Mortality (1662), Preface. Reproduced in Cornelius Walford, The Insurance Cyclopaedia (1871), Vol. 1, 286-287.
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I will give you a “celestial multiplication table.” We start with a star as the unit most familiar to us, a globe comparable to the sun. Then—
A hundred thousand million Stars make one Galaxy;
A hundred thousand million Galaxies make one Universe.
The figures may not be very trustworthy, but I think they give a correct impression.
In The Expanding Universe (1933), 4.
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If it be true, that some Chymists have now and then converted Lead into Gold, it was by just such a hazard, as if a man should let fall a handful of sand upon a table and the particles of it should be so ranged that we could read distinctly on it a whole page of Virgil’s Ænead.
In Traité de Physique, (1671, 1676), Part. 3, Chap. 6, 186. As translated in Rohault’s System of Natural Philosophy (1723), Part 3, Chap. 6, 154. From the original French, “Que s’il est vray que quelques Chymistes ayent autrefois converty du plomb en or, ça esté par un hazard aussi grand, que si ayant laissé tomber de haut une poignée de sable sur une table, ses gains s'estoient tellement rangez, qu'on y pût lire distinctement une page de l'Eneide de Virgile.”
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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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If you could see what I almost daily see in my practice … persons … in the very last stages of wretched existence, emaciated to a skeleton, with both tables of the skull almost completely perforated in many places, half the nose gone, with rotten jaws, ulerated throats, breaths most pestiferous more intolerable than poisonous upas, limbs racked with the pains of the Inquisition, minds as imbecile as the puling babe, a grievous burden to themselves and a disgusting spectacle to others, you would exclaim as I have often done, 'O! the lamentable want of science that dictates the abuse (use) of that noxious drug calomel!'
[Calomel is the mercury compound, Hg2Cl2.]
Quoted in Wooster Beach, A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Health (1848), 177.
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In one department of his [Joseph Black’s] lecture he exceeded any I have ever known, the neatness and unvarying success with which all the manipulations of his experiments were performed. His correct eye and steady hand contributed to the one; his admirable precautions, foreseeing and providing for every emergency, secured the other. I have seen him pour boiling water or boiling acid from a vessel that had no spout into a tube, holding it at such a distance as made the stream’s diameter small, and so vertical that not a drop was spilt. While he poured he would mention this adaptation of the height to the diameter as a necessary condition of success. I have seen him mix two substances in a receiver into which a gas, as chlorine, had been introduced, the effect of the combustion being perhaps to produce a compound inflammable in its nascent state, and the mixture being effected by drawing some string or wire working through the receiver's sides in an air-tight socket. The long table on which the different processes had been carried on was as clean at the end of the lecture as it had been before the apparatus was planted upon it. Not a drop of liquid, not a grain of dust remained.
In Lives of Men of Letters and Science, Who Flourished in the Time of George III (1845), 346-7.
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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 the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. ... The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances.
In The Nature of the Physical World (1928, 2005), xiv-xv.
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It has been asserted … that the power of observation is not developed by mathematical studies; while the truth is, that; from the most elementary mathematical notion that arises in the mind of a child to the farthest verge to which mathematical investigation has been pushed and applied, this power is in constant exercise. By observation, as here used, can only be meant the fixing of the attention upon objects (physical or mental) so as to note distinctive peculiarities—to recognize resemblances, differences, and other relations. Now the first mental act of the child recognizing the distinction between one and more than one, between one and two, two and three, etc., is exactly this. So, again, the first geometrical notions are as pure an exercise of this power as can be given. To know a straight line, to distinguish it from a curve; to recognize a triangle and distinguish the several forms—what are these, and all perception of form, but a series of observations? Nor is it alone in securing these fundamental conceptions of number and form that observation plays so important a part. The very genius of the common geometry as a method of reasoning—a system of investigation—is, that it is but a series of observations. The figure being before the eye in actual representation, or before the mind in conception, is so closely scrutinized, that all its distinctive features are perceived; auxiliary lines are drawn (the imagination leading in this), and a new series of inspections is made; and thus, by means of direct, simple observations, the investigation proceeds. So characteristic of common geometry is this method of investigation, that Comte, perhaps the ablest of all writers upon the philosophy of mathematics, is disposed to class geometry, as to its method, with the natural sciences, being based upon observation. Moreover, when we consider applied mathematics, we need only to notice that the exercise of this faculty is so essential, that the basis of all such reasoning, the very material with which we build, have received the name observations. Thus we might proceed to consider the whole range of the human faculties, and find for the most of them ample scope for exercise in mathematical studies. Certainly, the memory will not be found to be neglected. The very first steps in number—counting, the multiplication table, etc., make heavy demands on this power; while the higher branches require the memorizing of formulas which are simply appalling to the uninitiated. So the imagination, the creative faculty of the mind, has constant exercise in all original mathematical investigations, from the solution of the simplest problems to the discovery of the most recondite principle; for it is not by sure, consecutive steps, as many suppose, that we advance from the known to the unknown. The imagination, not the logical faculty, leads in this advance. In fact, practical observation is often in advance of logical exposition. Thus, in the discovery of truth, the imagination habitually presents hypotheses, and observation supplies facts, which it may require ages for the tardy reason to connect logically with the known. Of this truth, mathematics, as well as all other sciences, affords abundant illustrations. So remarkably true is this, that today it is seriously questioned by the majority of thinkers, whether the sublimest branch of mathematics,—the infinitesimal calculus—has anything more than an empirical foundation, mathematicians themselves not being agreed as to its logical basis. That the imagination, and not the logical faculty, leads in all original investigation, no one who has ever succeeded in producing an original demonstration of one of the simpler propositions of geometry, can have any doubt. Nor are induction, analogy, the scrutinization of premises or the search for them, or the balancing of probabilities, spheres of mental operations foreign to mathematics. No one, indeed, can claim preeminence for mathematical studies in all these departments of intellectual culture, but it may, perhaps, be claimed that scarcely any department of science affords discipline to so great a number of faculties, and that none presents so complete a gradation in the exercise of these faculties, from the first principles of the science to the farthest extent of its applications, as mathematics.
In 'Mathematics', in Henry Kiddle and Alexander J. Schem, The Cyclopedia of Education, (1877.) As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 27-29.
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It has been said that computing machines can only carry out the processes that they are instructed to do. This is certainly true in the sense that if they do something other than what they were instructed then they have just made some mistake. It is also true that the intention in constructing these machines in the first instance is to treat them as slaves, giving them only jobs which have been thought out in detail, jobs such that the user of the machine fully understands what in principle is going on all the time. Up till the present machines have only been used in this way. But is it necessary that they should always be used in such a manner? Let us suppose we have set up a machine with certain initial instruction tables, so constructed that these tables might on occasion, if good reason arose, modify those tables. One can imagine that after the machine had been operating for some time, the instructions would have altered out of all recognition, but nevertheless still be such that one would have to admit that the machine was still doing very worthwhile calculations. Possibly it might still be getting results of the type desired when the machine was first set up, but in a much more efficient manner. In such a case one would have to admit that the progress of the machine had not been foreseen when its original instructions were put in. It would be like a pupil who had learnt much from his master, but had added much more by his own work. When this happens I feel that one is obliged to regard the machine as showing intelligence.
Lecture to the London Mathematical Society, 20 February 1947. Quoted in B. E. Carpenter and R. W. Doran (eds.), A. M. Turing's Ace Report of 1946 and Other Papers (1986), 122-3.
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It is good to be at the head of the table, even if only one other sits with you and there is but a bowl of cabbage soup to share.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 130.
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It is probably no exaggeration to suppose that in order to improve such an organ as the eye at all, it must be improved in ten different ways at once. And the improbability of any complex organ being produced and brought to perfection in any such way is an improbability of the same kind and degree as that of producing a poem or a mathematical demonstration by throwing letters at random on a table.
[Expressing his reservations about Darwin's proposed evolution of the eye by natural selection.]
Opening address to the Belfast Natural History Society, as given in the 'Belfast Northern Whig,' (19 Nov 1866). As cited by Charles Darwin in The Variation of Animals & Plants Under Domestication (1868), 222.
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It seeming impossible in any other manner to properly restrict the use of this powerful agent [calomel, a mercury compound, mercurous chloride], it is directed that it be struck from the supply table, and that no further requisitions for this medicine be approved by Medical Directors. ... modern pathology has proved the impropriety of the use of mercury in very many of those diseases in which it was formerly unfailingly administered. ... No doubt can exist that more harm has resulted from the misuse [of this agent], in the treatment of disease, than benefit from their proper administration.
W.A. Hammond, Surgeon General, Washington D.C., 4 May 1863
'Circular No. 6,', in William Grace, The Army Surgeon's Manual (1864), 121.
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It was found after many troublesome experiments that when the vacuum within the lamp globe was good, and the contact between the carbon and the conductor which supported it sufficient, there was no blackening of the globes, and no appreciable wasting away of the carbons. Thus was swept away a pernicious error, which, like a misleading finger post proclaiming “No road this way,” tended to bar progress along a good thoroughfare. It only remained to perfect the details of the lamp, to find the best material from which to form the carbon, and to fix this material in the lamp in the best manner. These points, I think, I have now satisfactorily settled, and you see the result in the lamp before me on the table.
In Lecture (20 Oct 1880) at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, as quoted in United States Courts of Appeals Reports: Cases Adjudged in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals (1894), Vol. 11, 419-420.
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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.
As quoted in Degna Marconi, My Father, Marconi (2000), 93.
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Just as Americans have discovered the hidden energy costs in a multitude of products—in refrigerating a steak, for example, on its way to the butcher—they are about to discover the hidden water costs. Beginning with the water that irrigated the corn that was fed to the steer, the steak may have accounted for 3,500 gallons. The water that goes into a 1,000-pound steer would float a destroyer. It takes 14,935 gallons of water to grow a bushel of wheat, 60,000 gallons to produce a ton of steel, 120 gallons to put a single egg on the breakfast table.
From 'The Browning of America: Drought, Waste and Pollution Threaten a Water Shortage', Newsweek (23 Feb 1981), 26-30. In long excerpt in William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, History of Soymilk and Other Non-Dairy Milks (1226-2013) (2013), 1126-1127.
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Langmuir is the most convincing lecturer that I have ever heard. I have heard him talk to an audience of chemists when I knew they did not understand more than one-third of what he was saying; but they thought they did. It’s very easy to be swept off one's feet by Langmuir. You remember in [Kipling’s novel] Kim that the water jar was broken and Lurgan Sahib was trying to hypnotise Kim into seeing it whole again. Kim saved himself by saying the multiplication table [so] I have heard Langmuir lecture when I knew he was wrong, but I had to repeat to myself: “He is wrong; I know he is wrong; he is wrong”, or I should have believed like the others.
In 'How to Ripen Time', Journal of Physical Chemistry 1931, 35, 1917.
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Laughter is a most healthful exercise; it is one of the greatest helps to digestion with which I am acquainted; and the custom prevalent among our forefathers, of exciting it at table by jesters and buffoons, was in accordance with true medical principles.
In George Moody, The English Journal of Education (1858), New Series, 12 , 411.
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Laws, written, if not on stone tables, yet on the azure of infinitude, in the inner heart of God’s creation, certain as life, certain as death, are there, and thou shalt not disobey them.
In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 232:11.
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Let us suppose that we have laid on the table... [a] piece of glass... and let us homologize this glass to a whole order of plants or birds. Let us hit this glass a blow in such a manner as but to crack it up. The sectors circumscribed by cracks following the first blow may here be understood to represent families. Continuing, we may crack the glass into genera, species and subspecies to the point of finally having the upper right hand corner a piece about 4 inches square representing a sub-species.
Space, Time, Form: The Biological Synthesis (1962, issued 1964), 209.
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Life is a thin narrowness of taken-for-granted, a plank over a canyon in a fog. There is something under our feet, the taken-for-granted. A table is a table, food is food, we are we—because we don’t question these things. And science is the enemy because it is the questioner. Faith saves our souls alive by giving us a universe of the taken-for-granted.
From a 1923 journal entry. As quoted in The Ghost in the Little House, ch. 7, by William V. Holtz (1993).
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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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Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. … Aristotle, so far as I know, was the first man to proclaim explicitly that man is a rational animal. His reason for this view was … that some people can do sums. … It is in virtue of the intellect that man is a rational animal. The intellect is shown in various ways, but most emphatically by mastery of arithmetic. The Greek system of numerals was very bad, so that the multiplication table was quite difficult, and complicated calculations could only be made by very clever people.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 5. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 45.
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My attitude was: “Just look at all the interesting atoms in that region of the periodic table; certainly the reason that carbon dominates chemistry is our own ignorance.”
Recollection of being unimpressed in high school when taught that carbon, being the basic building block of life, was the most important element in the periodic table. In Chappell Brown, 'A Carbon Copy of the Real Thing', Electronic Engineering Times (28 Dec 1998), 50.
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Now having (I know not by what accident) engaged my thoughts upon the Bills of Mortality, and so far succeeded therein, as to have reduced several great confused Volumes into a few perspicuous Tables, and abridged such Observations as naturally flowed from them, into a few succinct Paragraphs, without any long Series of multiloquious Deductions, I have presumed to sacrifice these my small, but first publish'd, Labours unto your Lordship, as unto whose benign acceptance of some other of my Papers even the birth of these is due; hoping (if I may without vanity say it) they may be of as much use to persons in your Lordships place, as they are of none to me, which is no more than fairest Diamonds are to the Journeymen Jeweller that works them, or the poor Labourer that first digg'd them from Earth.
[An early account demonstrating the value of statistical analysis of public health data. Graunt lived in London at the time of the plague epidemics.]
From Graunt's 'Epistle Dedicatory', for Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index and Made upon Bills of Mortality (1662). Reproduced in Cornelius Walford, The Insurance Cyclopaedia (1871), Vol. 1, 286. (This text used abbreviations for “Mort.” and “vols.”) The italicized words are given as from other sources. Note: bills of mortality are abstracts from parish registers showing the numbers that have died in each week, month or year.
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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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Once early in the morning, at two or three in the morning, when the master was asleep, the books in the library began to quarrel with each other as to which was the king of the library. The dictionary contended quite angrily that he was the master of the library because without words there would be no communication at all. The book of science argued stridently that he was the master of the library for without science there would have been no printing press or any of the other wonders of the world. The book of poetry claimed that he was the king, the master of the library, because he gave surcease and calm to his master when he was troubled. The books of philosophy, the economic books, all put in their claims, and the clamor was great and the noise at its height when a small low voice was heard from an old brown book lying in the center of the table and the voice said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And all of the noise and the clamor in the library ceased, and there was a hush in the library, for all of the books knew who the real master of the library was.
'Ministers of Justice', address delivered to the Eighty-Second Annual Convention of the Tennessee Bar Association at Gatlinburg (5 Jun 1963). In Tennessee Law Review (Fall 1963), 31, No. 1, 19.
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One of the great triumphs of 20th Century astrophysics, was tracing the elements of your body, of all the elements around us, to the actions of stars—that crucible in the centers of stars that cooked basic elements into heavier elements, light elements into heavy elements. (I say “cooked”—I mean thermonuclear fusion.) The heat brings them together, gets you bigger atoms, that then do other interesting chemical things, fleshing out the contents of the Periodic Table.
From interview, The Science Studio video series of The Science Network website, episode 'The Moon, the Tides and why Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Colbert’s God' (20 Jan 2011), time 20:53-21:25.
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Organisms are not billiard balls, propelled by simple and measurable external forces to predictable new positions on life’s pool table. Sufficiently complex systems have greater richness. Organisms have a history that constrains their future in myriad, subtle ways.
In The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (1987, 2010), 16.
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Perhaps in the times of Ahmes the multiplication table was exciting.
In What I Believe (1925), 3.
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Probably if half a kilogram [of radium] were in a bottle on that table it would kill us all. It would almost certainly destroy our sight and burn our skins to such an extent that we could not survive. The smallest bit placed on one’s arm would produce a blister which it would need months to heal.
As quoted in 'Radium', New York Times (22 Feb 1903), 6. Note that X-rays were discovered only a few years before, in 1895, radioactivity in 1896, and the electron in 1897. Full knowledge of the harmful radiation did not exist at the time. Nevertheless, Crookes’ remark, in the words of the reporter, “would seem to indicate that it [radium] emits something more than light. Heat and actinic energy must make up a large part of its radiation. It also emits electrons with [great] velocity…”
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Some of the men stood talking in this room, and at the right of the door a little knot had formed round a small table, the center of which was the mathematics student, who was eagerly talking. He had made the assertion that one could draw through a given point more than one parallel to a straight line; Frau Hagenström had cried out that this was impossible, and he had gone on to prove it so conclusively that his hearers were constrained to behave as though they understood.
In Little Herr Friedemann (1961), 25.
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Statistics are far from being the barren array of figures ingeniously and laboriously combined into columns and tables, which many persons are apt to suppose them. They constitute rather the ledger of a nation, in which, like the merchant in his books, the citizen can read, at one view, all of the results of a year or of a period of years, as compared with other periods, and deduce the profit or the loss which has been made, in morals, education, wealth or power.
Statistical View of the United States: A Compendium of the Seventh Census (1854), 9.
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The chairs and tables around us which broadcast to us incessantly those signals which affect our sight and touch cannot in their nature be like unto the signals or to the sensations which the signals awake at the end of their journey.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 36.
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The description of some of the experiments, which are communicated here, was completely worked out at my writing-table, before I had seen anything of the phenomena in question. After making the experiments on the following day, it was found that nothing in the description required to be altered. I do not mention this from feelings of pride, but in order to make clear the extraordinary ease and security with which the relations in question can be considered on the principles of Arrhenius' theory of free ions. Such facts speak more forcibly then any polemics for the value of this theory .
Philosophical Magazine (1891), 32, 156.
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The first nonabsolute number is the number of people for whom the table is reserved. This will vary during the course of the first three telephone calls to the restaurant, and then bear no apparent relation to the number of people who actually turn up, or to the number of people who subsequently join them after the show/match/party/gig, or to the number of people who leave when they see who else has turned up.
The second nonabsolute number is the given time of arrival, which is now known to be one of the most bizarre of mathematical concepts, a recipriversexcluson, a number whose existence can only be defined as being anything other than itself. In other words, the given time of arrival is the one moment of time at which it is impossible that any member of the party will arrive. Recipriversexclusons now play a vital part in many branches of math, including statistics and accountancy and also form the basic equations used to engineer the Somebody Else’s Problem field.
The third and most mysterious piece of nonabsoluteness of all lies in the relationship between the number of items on the check [bill], the cost of each item, the number of people at the table and what they are each prepared to pay for. (The number of people who have actually brought any money is only a subphenomenon of this field.)
Life, the Universe and Everything (1982, 1995), 47-48.
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The geologist, in those tables of stone which form his records, finds no examples of dynasties once passed away again returning. There has no repetition of the dynasty of the fish, of the reptile, of the mammal. The dynasty of the future is to have glorified man for its inhabitant; but it is to be the dynasty—“the kingdom”—not of glorified man made in the image of God, but of God himself in the form man.
The Testimony of the Rocks: or, Geology in Its Bearings on the Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed (1857), 178.
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The lightning fell and the storm raged, and strata were deposited and uptorn and bent back, and Chaos moved from beneath, to create and flavor the fruit on your table to-day.
In 'Perpetual Forces', North American Review (1877), No. 125. Collected in Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Elliot Cabot (ed.), Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 60.
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The picture of scientific method drafted by modern philosophy is very different from traditional conceptions. Gone is the ideal of a universe whose course follows strict rules, a predetermined cosmos that unwinds itself like an unwinding clock. Gone is the ideal of the scientist who knows the absolute truth. The happenings of nature are like rolling dice rather than like revolving stars; they are controlled by probability laws, not by causality, and the scientist resembles a gambler more than a prophet. He can tell you only his best posits—he never knows beforehand whether they will come true. He is a better gambler, though, than the man at the green table, because his statistical methods are superior. And his goal is staked higher—the goal of foretelling the rolling dice of the cosmos. If he is asked why he follows his methods, with what title he makes his predictions, he cannot answer that he has an irrefutable knowledge of the future; he can only lay his best bets. But he can prove that they are best bets, that making them is the best he can do—and if a man does his best, what else can you ask of him?
The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951, 1973), 248-9. Collected in James Louis Jarrett and Sterling M. McMurrin (eds.), Contemporary Philosophy: A Book of Readings (1954), 376.
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The Pleistocene spearhead flaked from pink flint that I display on my coffee table was the high technology of its day, as sophisticated and efficient as a samuri sword or a fighter jet.
In Visions of Technology (1999), 22.
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The same algebraic sum of positive and negative charges in the nucleus, when the arithmetical sum is different, gives what I call “isotopes” or “isotopic elements,” because they occupy the same place in the periodic table. They are chemically identical, and save only as regards the relatively few physical properties which depend upon atomic mass directly, physically identical also. Unit changes of this nuclear charge, so reckoned algebraically, give the successive places in the periodic table. For any one “place” or any one nuclear charge, more than one number of electrons in the outer-ring system may exist, and in such a case the element exhibits variable valency. But such changes of number, or of valency, concern only the ring and its external environment. There is no in- and out-going of electrons between ring and nucleus.
Concluding paragraph of 'Intra-atomic Charge', Nature (1913), 92, 400. Collected in Alfred Romer, Radiochemistry and the Discovery of Isotopes (1970), 251-252.
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The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955, 1996), 68.
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The student should not lose any opportunity of exercising himself in numerical calculation and particularly in the use of logarithmic tables. His power of applying mathematics to questions of practical utility is in direct proportion to the facility which he possesses in computation.
In Study and Difficulties of Mathematics (1902), chap. 12.
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The theory of ramification is one of pure colligation, for it takes no account of magnitude or position; geometrical lines are used, but these have no more real bearing on the matter than those employed in genealogical tables have in explaining the laws of procreation.
From 'On Recent Discoveries in Mechanical Conversion of Motion', Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1873-75), 7, 179-198, reprinted in The Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester: (1870-1883) (1909), Vol. 3, 23.
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The whale that wanders round the Pole
Is not a table fish.
You cannot bake or boil him whole
Nor serve him in a dish.
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The world looks like a multiplication-table, or a mathematical equation, which, turn it how you will, balances itself.
From 'Compensation', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 102.
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There is common misapprehension that the magnitude scale is itself some kind of instrument or apparatus. Visitors will ask to “see the scale,” and are disconcerted by being referred to tables and charts used for applying the scale to readings taken from the seismograms.
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that was on the USGS website.
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There is no national science, just as there is no national multiplication table; what is national is no longer science.
In Anton Chekhov, S. S. Koteliansky (trans.) and Leonard Woolf (trans.), Note-Book of Anton Chekhov (1921), 18.
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This is a classical example of the process which we call, with Tinbergen, a redirected activity. It is characterized by the fact that an activity is released by one object but discharged at another, because the first one, while presenting stimuli specifically eliciting the response, simultaneously emits others which inhibit its discharge. A human example is furnished by the man who is very angry with someone and hits the table instead of the other man's jaw, because inhibition prevents him from doing so, although his pent-up anger, like the pressure within a volcano, demands outlet.
On Aggression, trans. M. Latzke (1966), 145.
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Those of us who were familiar with the state of inorganic chemistry in universities twenty to thirty years ago will recall that at that time it was widely regarded as a dull and uninteresting part of the undergraduate course. Usually, it was taught almost entirely in the early years of the course and then chiefly as a collection of largely unconnected facts. On the whole, students concluded that, apart from some relationships dependent upon the Periodic table, there was no system in inorganic chemistry comparable with that to be found in organic chemistry, and none of the rigour and logic which characterised physical chemistry. It was widely believed that the opportunities for research in inorganic chemistry were few, and that in any case the problems were dull and uninspiring; as a result, relatively few people specialized in the subject... So long as inorganic chemistry is regarded as, in years gone by, as consisting simply of the preparations and analysis of elements and compounds, its lack of appeal is only to be expected. The stage is now past and for the purpose of our discussion we shall define inorganic chemistry today as the integrated study of the formation, composition, structure and reactions of the chemical elements and compounds, excepting most of those of carbon.
Inaugural Lecture delivered at University College, London (1 Mar 1956). In The Renaissance of Inorganic Chemistry (1956), 4-5.
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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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Tis evident that all reasonings concerning matter of fact are founded on the relation of cause and effect, and that we can never infer the existence of one object from another, unless they be connected together, either mediately or immediately... Here is a billiard ball lying on the table, and another ball moving toward it with rapidity. They strike; and the ball which was formerly at rest now acquires a motion. This is as perfect an instance of the relation of cause and effect as any which we know, either by sensation or reflection.
An Abstract of A Treatise on Human Nature (1740), ed. John Maynard Keynes and Piero Sraffa (1938), 11.
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To Avogadro and Cannizzaro, as to Couper and Kekulé, the molecules and atoms considered in this great theory were real objects: they were thought of the same way as one thinks of tables and chairs.
On the Operational Interpretation of Classical Chemistry', British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (1955), 6, 32. In Mary Jo Nye, From Chemical Philosophy to Theoretical Chemistry (1993), 58
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We quote not only books and proverbs, but arts, sciences, religion, customs and laws; nay, we quote temples and houses, tables and chairs by imitation.
In Lecture, second in a series given at Freeman Place Chapel, Boston (Mar 1859), 'Quotation and Originality', Letters and Social Aims (1875, 1917), 178-179.
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We should admit in theory what is already very largely a case in practice, that the main currency of scientific information is the secondary sources in the forms of abstracts, reports, tables, &c., and that the primary sources are only for detailed reference by very few people. It is possible that the fate of most scientific papers will be not to be read by anyone who uses them, but with luck they will furnish an item, a number, some facts or data to such reports which may, but usually will not, lead to the original paper being consulted. This is very sad but it is the inevitable consequence of the growth of science. The number of papers that can be consulted is absolutely limited, no more time can be spent in looking up papers, by and large, than in the past. As the number of papers increase the chance of any one paper being looked at is correspondingly diminished. This of course is only an average, some papers may be looked at by thousands of people and may become a regular and fixed part of science but most will perish unseen.
'The Supply of Information to the Scientist: Some Problems of the Present Day', The Journal of Documentation, 1957, 13, 195.
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We started out by giving away [our maps and guides], and it was the wrong principle. The day I found a Michelin guide book used to prop up a wobbly table, we put a price on them.
As quoted by H.M. Davidson, in System: The Magazine of Business (Apr 1922), 41, 446.
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When I behold a fashionable table set out in all its magnificence, I fancy that I see gouts and dropsies, fevers and lethargies, with other innumerable distempers lying in ambuscade among the dishes. Nature delights in the most plain and simple diet. Every animal but man keeps to one dish. Herbs are the food of this species, fish of that, and flesh of a third. Man falls upon everything that comes in his way; not the smallest fruit or excrescence of the earth, scarce a berry or a mushroom can escape him.
Spectator, No. 195. In Samuel Austin Allibone, Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay (1880), 363.
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When I undertake the dissection of a human cadaver I pass a stout rope tied like a noose beneath the lower jaw and through the two zygomas up to the top of the head, either more toward the forehead or more toward the occiput according as I want the cadaver to hang with its head up or down. The longer end of the noose I run through a pulley fixed to a beam in the room so that I may raise or lower the cadaver as it hangs there or may turn it round in any direction to suit my purpose; and should I so wish I can allow it to recline at an angle upon a table, since a table can easily be placed underneath the pulley. This is how the cadaver was suspended for drawing all the muscle tables... though while that one was being drawn the rope was passed around the occiput so as to show the muscles in the neck. If the lower jaw has been removed in the course of dissection, or the zygomas have been broken, the hollows for the temporal muscles will nonetheless hold the noose sufficiently firmly. You must take care not to put the noose around the neck, unless some of the muscles connected to the occipital bone have already been cut away. It is best to suspend the cadaver like this because a human body lying on a table is very difficult to turn over on to its chest or its back.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543), Book II, 268, as translated by William Frank Richardson and John Burd Carman, in 'How the Cadaver Can Be Held Erect While These Muscles are Dissected', On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book II: The Ligaments and Muscles (1998), 234.
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When I was research head of General Motors and wanted a problem solved, I’d place a table outside the meeting room with a sign: “Leave slide rules here.” If I didn’t do that, I'd find someone reaching for his slide rule. Then he’d be on his feet saying, “Boss, you can’t do it.”
In Jacob Morton Braude, Speaker's Desk Book of Quips, Quotes, & Anecdotes (1966), 323.
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While reading in a textbook of chemistry, … I came across the statement, “nitric acid acts upon copper.” I was getting tired of reading such absurd stuff and I determined to see what this meant. Copper was more or less familiar to me, for copper cents were then in use. I had seen a bottle marked “nitric acid” on a table in the doctor’s office where I was then “doing time.” I did not know its peculiarities, but I was getting on and likely to learn. The spirit of adventure was upon me. Having nitric acid and copper, I had only to learn what the words “act upon” meant … I put one of them [cent] on the table, opened the bottle marked “nitric acid”; poured some of the liquid on the copper; and prepared to make an observation. But what was this wonderful thing which I beheld? The cent was already changed, and it was no small change either. A greenish blue liquid foamed and fumed over the cent and over the table. The air in the neighborhood of the performance became colored dark red. A great colored cloud arose. This was disagreeable and suffocating—how should I stop this? I tried to get rid of the objectionable mess by picking it up and throwing it out of the window, which I had meanwhile opened. I learned another fact—nitric acid not only acts upon copper but it acts upon fingers. The pain led to another unpremeditated experiment. I drew my fingers across my trousers and another fact was discovered. Nitric acid acts upon trousers. Taking everything into consideration, that was the most impressive experiment, and, relatively, probably the most costly experiment I have ever performed.
In F.H. Getman, The Life of Ira Remsen (1940), 9.
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Why should the leaders of chemical businesses be held responsible for polluting the marine environment with a few grams of effluent, which is sublethal to marine species, while celebrity chefs are turning out endangered fish at several dozen tables a night without enduring a syllable of criticism?
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and what We Eat (2004), 189.
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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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