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Talking Quotes (76 quotes)

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, “I refute it thus.”
In Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1820), Vol. 1, 218.
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An engineer passing a pond heard a frog say, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.” He picked up the frog, looked at it, and put it in his pocket. The frog said, “Why didn’t you kiss me?” Replied the engineer, “Look, I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is cool.”
Anonymous
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As physicists have arranged an extensive series of effects under the general term of Heat, so they have named another series Light, and a third they have called Electricity. We find ... that all these principles are capable of being produced through the medium of living bodies, for nearly all animals have the power of evolving heat; many insects, moreover, can voluntarily emit light; and the property of producing electricity is well evinced in the terrible shock of the electric eel, as well as in that of some other creatures. We are indeed in the habit of talking of the Electric fluid, or the Galvanic fluid, but this in reality is nothing but a licence of expression suitable to our finite and material notions.
In the Third Edition of Elements of Electro-Metallurgy: or The Art of Working in Metals by the Galvanic Fluid (1851), 1.
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As to Bell’s talking telegraph, it only creates interest in scientific circles, and, as a toy it is beautiful; but … its commercial value will be limited.
Letter to William D. Baldwin, his attorney (1 Nov 1876). Telephone Investigating Committee, House of Representatives, United States 49th Congress, 1st Session, Miscellaneous Documents (1886), No. 355, 1186.
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At first, the people talking about ecology were only defending the fishes, the animals, the forest, and the river. They didn’t realize that human beings were in the forest—and that these humans were the real ecologists, because they couldn’t live without the forest and the forest couldn’t be saved without them.
Quoted in Andrew Revkin, The Burning Season
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Can imagination picture what the future of this invention is to be! … We may talk by light to any visible distance without any conducting wire.
Letter to his father (26 Feb 1880), describing his photophone research. Transcript with Bell Papers, Library of Congress.
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Consciousness… does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as “chain” or “train” do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A “river” or a “stream” are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life.
Source of the expression “stream of consciousness”.
The Principles of Psychology (1890), Vol. 1, 239.
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Don’t let me catch anyone talking about the Universe in my department.
Quoted in Sage: A Life of J. D. Bernal (1980), 160.
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Four years ago nobody but nuclear physicists had ever heard of the Internet. Today even my cat, Socks, has his own web page. I’m amazed at that. I meet kids all the time, been talking to my cat on the Internet.
Referring to the Next Generation Internet initiative in Remarks at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio (29 Oct 1996). American Presidency Project web page. [Clinton took office 20 Jan 1993, and signed the Next Generation Internet Research Act of 1998 on 28 Oct 1998.]
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Gel’fand amazed me by talking of mathematics as though it were poetry. He once said about a long paper bristling with formulas that it contained the vague beginnings of an idea which could only hint at and which he had never managed to bring out more clearly. I had always thought of mathematics as being much more straightforward: a formula is a formula, and an algebra is an algebra, but Gel’fand found hedgehogs lurking in the rows of his spectral sequences!
In '1991 Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize', Notices of the American Mathematical Society (Mar 1991), 38, No. 3, 186. This is from her acceptance of the 1991 Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize.
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His [J.J. Sylvester’s] lectures were generally the result of his thought for the preceding day or two, and often were suggested by ideas that came to him while talking. The one great advantage that this method had for his students was that everything was fresh, and we saw, as it were, the very genesis of his ideas. One could not help being inspired by such teaching.
As quoted by Florian Cajori, in Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890), 267-268.
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Homo sapiens is a compulsive communicator. Look at the number of people you see walking around talking on mobile phones. We seem to have an infinite capacity for communicating and being communicated with. I’m not sure how admirable it is, but it certainly demonstrates that we are social organisms.
From interview with Michael Bond, 'It’s a Wonderful Life', New Scientist (14 Dec 2002), 176, No. 2373, 48.
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I admired Bohr very much. We had long talks together, long talks in which Bohr did practically all the talking.
Recalling his Sep 1926-Feb 1927 stay in Copenhagen.
In History of Twentieth Century Physics (1977), 109. In A. Pais, 'Playing With Equations, the Dirac Way'. Behram N. Kursunoglu (Ed.) and Eugene Paul Wigner (Ed.), Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac: Reminiscences about a Great Physicist (1990), 94.
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I am entitled to say, if I like, that awareness exists in all the individual creatures on the planet—worms, sea urchins, gnats, whales, subhuman primates, superprimate humans, the lot. I can say this because we do not know what we are talking about: consciousness is so much a total mystery for our own species that we cannot begin to guess about its existence in others.
In Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony(1984), 223.
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I did enjoy the [CCNY geology] field trips. We went upstate and clambered over formations of synclines and anticlines. We had to diagram them, and figure out their mirror images. If you had an anticline here, you should be able to predict a complementing syncline bulging out somewhere else. Very satisfying when I got it right. Geology allowed me to display my brilliance to my non-college friends. “You know, the Hudson really isn't a river.” “What are you talking about? … Everybody knows the Hudson River's a river.” I would explain that the Hudson was a “drowned” river, up to about Poughkeepsie. The Ice Age had depressed the riverbed to a depth that allowed the Atlantic Ocean to flood inland. Consequently, the lower Hudson was really a saltwater estuary.[Powell graduated with a B.S. degree in Geology.]
My American Journey (1996), 30-31.
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I do not think that G. H. Hardy was talking nonsense when he insisted that the mathematician was discovering rather than creating, nor was it wholly nonsense for Kepler to exult that he was thinking God's thoughts after him. The world for me is a necessary system, and in the degree to which the thinker can surrender his thought to that system and follow it, he is in a sense participating in that which is timeless or eternal.
'Reply to Lewis Edwin Hahn', The Philosophy of Brand Blanshard (1980), 901.
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I know, indeed, and can conceive of no pursuit so antagonistic to the cultivation of the oratorical faculty … as the study of Mathematics. An eloquent mathematician must, from the nature of things, ever remain as rare a phenomenon as a talking fish, and it is certain that the more anyone gives himself up to the study of oratorical effect the less will he find himself in a fit state to mathematicize.
In Address (22 Feb 1877) for Commemoration Day at Johns Hopkins University. Published as a pamphlet, and reprinted in The Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester: (1870-1883) (1909), Vol. 3, 72. https://books.google.com/books?id=wgVbAAAAQAAJ James Joseph Sylvester - 1877
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I never said a word against eminent men of science. What I complain of is a vague popular philosophy which supposes itself to be scientific when it is really nothing but a sort of new religion and an uncommonly nasty one. When people talked about the fall of man, they knew they were talking about a mystery, a thing they didn’t understand. Now they talk about the survival of the fittest: they think they do understand it, whereas they have not merely no notion, they have an elaborately false notion of what the words mean.
In The Club of Queer Trades (1903, 1905), 241.
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Thomas Edison quote “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, recording track background+colorized photo of Edison & a later tinfoil phonograph
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I told [Kruesi] I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd. However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then shouted “Mary had a little lamb,” etc. I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly.
On first words spoken on a phonograph.
Byron M. Vanderbilt, Thomas Edison, Chemist (1971), 99.
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I, however, believe that for the ripening of experience the light of an intelligent theory is required. People are amused by the witticism that the man with a theory forces from nature that answer to his question which he wishes to have but nature never answers unless she is questioned, or to speak more accurately, she is always talking to us and with a thousand tongues but we only catch the answer to our own question.
Quoted in Major Greenwood, Epidemiology Historical and Experimental. The Herter Lectures for 1931 (1932), 13.
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If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.
In Philosophical Investigations (1953), trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, 223.
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If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
In unpublished manuscript, 'Is There a God', (5 Mar 1952) written for the magazine, Illustrated. Collected in Bertrand Russell, John G. Slater (ed.) and Peter Köllner (ed.) The Collected Papers of Bertran Russell: Volume II: Last Philosophical Testament: 1943-68 (1997), 547-548.
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If we can get kids talking about conservation and doing it, they can have a great influence on their parents by lecturing them and pointing the finger.
…...
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If you ask me whether science has solved, or is likely to solve, the problem of this universe, I must shake my head in doubt. We have been talking of matter and force; but whence came matter, and whence came force? You remember the first Napoleon’s question, when the savans who accompanied him to Egypt discussed in his presence the problem of the universe, and solved it to their apparent satisfaction. He looked aloft to the starry heavens, and said—“It is all very well, gentlemen, but who made all these!” That question still remains unanswered, and science makes no attempt to answer it.
Lecture 'On Matter and Force', to nearly 3,000 working men, at the Dundee Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Sep 1867), reported in 'Dundee Meeting, 1867', Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science (Nov 1867)
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In this country all a man need to do is to attain a little eminence and immediately he begins to talk. Usually his eminence is financial, and the greater this eminence the more he talks and the further his voice reaches. I don't blame the rich people for talking; many of them don’t know what else to do with themselves. The fault is with these who listen. If no one would listen no harm would he done. But the American people are willing to listen to any one who has attained prominence. The main fact is that we've heard a man's name a great many times; that makes us ready to accept whatever he says. … We listen to the one who talks the most and loudest.
As quoted in 'Electricity Will Keep The World From Freezing Up', New York Times (12 Nov 1911), SM4.
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It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about bombs or the intelligence quotients of one race as against another; if a man is a scientist, like me, he’ll always say “Publish and be damned.”
Quoted by George Steiner giving the first Bronowski Memorial Lecture, 'Has Truth a Future?' (1978) in London. As cited in Robert Andrews (ed.), The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 812.
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It is a safe rule to apply that, when a mathematical or philosophical author writes with a misty profoundity, he is talking nonsense.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 227.
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It is hard to know what you are talking about in mathematics, yet no one questions the validity of what you say. There is no other realm of discourse half so queer.
In J.R. Newman (ed.), 'Commentary on The Foundations of Mathematics', The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 3, 1614.
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It [an ethical problem with in vitro fertilization] depends on whether you're talking ethics from the standpoint of some religious denomination or from just truly religious people. The Jewish or Catholic faiths, for example, have their own rules. But just religious people, who will make very devoted parents, have no problem with in vitro fertilization.
From address to the annual meeeting of the American Fertility Society in San Francisco (5 Feb 1979), as quoted in a UPI news article, reprinted in, for example, 'Steptoe Discusses Test Tube Ethics', The Milwaukee Journal (6 Feb 1979), 5. As reported, each sentence was separated in its own quote marks, separated by “Dr. Patrick Steptoe said” and “he said,” so the quote may not have been delivered as a single statement.
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Isaac Asimov quote It’s the bees and the flowers.
Macro photo of bee by Forest Wander (cc by-sa 2.0) (source)
I’m tired of that stupid phrase, “the birds and the bees” which is supposed to represent “the facts of life” or the beginnings of the sex instruction of the young. … Well for heaven’s sake, has anyone ever tried to explain sex by talking about the birds and the bees? What have the birds and the bees to do with it? IT’S THE BEES AND THE FLOWERS. Will you get that through your head? IT’S THE BEES AND THE FLOWERS. The bee travels to one flower and picks up pollen from the stamens. The pollen contains the male sex cells of the plant. The bee then travels to another flower (of the same species) and the pollen brushes off onto the pistil, which contains the female sex cells of the plant. … Now in the human being … we don’t rely on bees to do it for us.
From Isaac Asimov’s letter in 'Hue and Cry' letter column in magazine, James L. Quinn (ed.), IF: Worlds of Science Fiction (Dec 1957), 7, No. 6, 119
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Man must at all costs overcome the Earth’s gravity and have, in reserve, the space at least of the Solar System. All kinds of danger wait for him on the Earth… We are talking of disaster that can destroy the whole of mankind or a large part of it… For instance, a cloud of bolides [meteors] or a small planet a few dozen kilometers in diameter could fall on the Earth, with such an impact that the solid, liquid or gaseous blast produced by it could wipe off the face of the Earth all traces of man and his buildings. The rise of temperature accompanying it could alone scorch or kill all living beings… We are further compelled to take up the struggle against gravity, and for the utilization of celestial space and all its wealth, because of the overpopulation of our planet. Numerous other terrible dangers await mankind on the Earth, all of which suggest that man should look for a way into the Cosmos. We have said a great deal about the advantages of migration into space, but not all can be said or even imagined.
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Mathematical economics is old enough to be respectable, but not all economists respect it. It has powerful supporters and impressive testimonials, yet many capable economists deny that mathematics, except as a shorthand or expository device, can be applied to economic reasoning. There have even been rumors that mathematics is used in economics (and in other social sciences) either for the deliberate purpose of mystification or to confer dignity upon commonplaces as French was once used in diplomatic communications. …. To be sure, mathematics can be extended to any branch of knowledge, including economics, provided the concepts are so clearly defined as to permit accurate symbolic representation. That is only another way of saying that in some branches of discourse it is desirable to know what you are talking about.
In J.R. Newman (ed.), Commentary on Cournot, Jevons and the Mathematics of Money', The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 2, 1200.
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Mathematicians are only dealing with the structure of reasoning, and they do not really care what they are talking about. They do not even need to know what they are talking about … But the physicist has meaning to all his phrases. … In physics, you have to have an understanding of the connection of words with the real world.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965), 55.
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Mathematics may be defined as the the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, not whether what we are saying is true.
In 'Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics', International Monthly (1901), 4, 84. This sentence is part of a longer quote that begins, “Pure mathematics consists entirely…”, on the Bertrand Russell Quotes page of this website.
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Men have been talking now for a week at the post office about the age of the great elm, as a matter interesting but impossible to be determined. The very choppers and travelers have stood upon its prostrate trunk and speculated upon its age, as if it were a profound mystery. I stooped and read its years to them (127 at nine and a half feet), but they heard me as the wind that once sighed through its branches. They still surmised that it might be two hundred years old, but they never stooped to read the inscription. Truly they love darkness rather than light. One said it was probably one hundred and fifty, for he had heard somebody say that for fifty years the elm grew, for fifty it stood still, and for fifty it was dying. (Wonder what portion of his career he stood still!) Truly all men are not men of science. They dwell within an integument of prejudice thicker than the bark of the cork-tree, but it is valuable chiefly to stop bottles with. Tied to their buoyant prejudices, they keep themselves afloat when honest swimmers sink.
(26 Jan 1856). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: VIII: November 1, 1855-August 15, 1856 (1906), 145-146.
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My interest in the biology of tissue and organ transplantation arose from my [WW II] military experience at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania … a major plastic surgical center. While there, I spent all my available spare time on the plastic surgical wards which were jammed with hundreds of battle casualties. I enjoyed talking to the patients, helping with dressings, and observing the results of the imaginative reconstructive surgical operations.
As a First Lieutenant with only a nine-month surgical internship, randomly assigned to VFGH to await overseas duty. In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 556.
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Neil and Buzz, I am talking to you by telephone from the Oval Office at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. As you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth.
…...
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Now, at Suiattle Pass, Brower was still talking about butterflies. He said he had raised them from time to time and had often watched them emerge from the chrysalis—first a crack in the case, then a feeler, and in an hour a butterfly. He said he had felt that he wanted to help, to speed them through the long and awkward procedure; and he had once tried. The butterflies came out with extended abdomens, and their wings were balled together like miniature clenched fists. Nothing happened. They sat there until they died. ‘I have never gotten over that,’ he said. ‘That kind of information is all over in the country, but it’s not in town.”
…...
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On one occasion committee members were asked by the chairman, who was also in charge of the project, to agree that a certain machine be run at a power which was ten percent lower than the design value. [Franz Eugen] Simon objected, arguing that “design value” should mean what it said. Thereupon the chairman remarked, “Professor Simon, don’t you see that we are not talking about science, but about engineering, which is an art.” Simon was persistent: “What would happen if the machine were run at full power?” “It might get too hot.” “But, Mr. Chairman,” came Simon’s rejoinder, “Can’t artists use thermometers?”
(1908). From N. Kurti, 'Franz Eugen Simon', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 1958), 4, 247.
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One day at Fenner's (the university cricket ground at Cambridge), just before the last war, G. H. Hardy and I were talking about Einstein. Hardy had met him several times, and I had recently returned from visiting him. Hardy was saying that in his lifetime there had only been two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. For those not familiar with cricket, or with Hardy's personal idiom, I ought to mention that “the Bradman class” denoted the highest kind of excellence: it would include Shakespeare, Tolstoi, Newton, Archimedes, and maybe a dozen others. Well, said Hardy, there had only been two additions in his lifetime. One was Lenin and the other Einstein.
Variety of Men (1966), 87.
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Our ability to live and work on other places in the solar system will end up giving us the science and technology that we need to save the species. I’m talking about human beings. I’d hate to miss all that fun.
Told to Associated Press. As reported in Richard Goldstein, 'John Young, Who Led First Space Shuttle Mission, Dies at 87', New York Times (6 Jan 2018).
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People do more talking than listening: under the law of gravity, it takes more energy to shut one's mouth than to open it.
Anonymous
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 267.
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People make the mistake of talking about ‘natural laws’. There are no natural laws. There are only temporary habits of nature.
In Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, as recorded by Lucien Price (1954), 367. As cited in G. Debrock (ed.), Process Pragmatism: Essays on a Quiet Philosophical Revolution (2003), 94.
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People make the mistake of talking about “natural laws.” There are no natural laws. There are only temporary habits of nature.
In Alfred North Whitehead and ‎Lucien Price (ed.), Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead (1954), 267.
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People who wouldn’t think of talking with their mouths full often speak with their heads empty.
In Wolfgang Mieder, Wolfgang Mieder, Stewart A. Kingsbury (eds.), A Dictionary of American Proverbs (1992), 472.
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Pure mathematics consists entirely of such asseverations as that, if such and such is a proposition is true of anything, then such and such another propositions is true of that thing. It is essential not to discuss whether the first proposition is really true, and not to mention what the anything is of which it is supposed to be true. Both these points would belong to applied mathematics. … If our hypothesis is about anything and not about some one or more particular things, then our deductions constitute mathematics. Thus mathematics may be defined as the the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, not whether what we are saying is true. People who have been puzzled by the beginnings of mathematics will, I hope, find comfort in this definition, and will probably agree that it is accurate.
In 'Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics', International Monthly (1901), 4, 84.
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Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself; Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done, and people who make fun of science fiction writers don’t know what they’’re talking about
…...
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Some of my youthful readers are developing wonderful imaginations. This pleases me. Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams—day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing—are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.
Opening paragraph of preface, 'To My Readers', The Lost Princess of Oz (1917), 13.
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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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Take the living human brain endowed with mind and thought. …. The physicist brings his tools and commences systematic exploration. All that he discovers is a collection of atoms and electrons and fields of force arranged in space and time, apparently similar to those found in inorganic objects. He may trace other physical characteristics, energy, temperature, entropy. None of these is identical with thought. … How can this collection of ordinary atoms be a thinking machine? … The Victorian physicist felt that he knew just what he was talking about when he used such terms as matter and atoms. … But now we realize that science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom. The physical atom is, like everything else in physics, a schedule of pointer readings.
From a Gifford Lecture, University of Edinburgh (1927), published in 'Pointer Readings: Limits of Physical Knowledge', The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 258-259.
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The analogies between science and art are very good as long as you are talking about the creation and the performance. The creation is certainly very analogous. The aesthetic pleasure of the craftsmanship of performance is also very strong in science.
As quoted in Robert S. Root-Bernstein, Michele M. Root-Bernstein, Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People (2013), 11.
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The Darwinian movement has made no difference to mankind, except that, instead of talking unphilosophically about philosophy, they now talk unscientifically about science.
In The Club of Queer Trades (1903, 1905), 241.
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The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine. … We hope in the next few years to get some idea of what these atoms are, how they are made, and the way they are worked.
Address at Leicester (11 Sep 1933). Cited as 'Atom Powered World Absurd, Scientists Told: Lord Rutherford Scoffs at Theory of Harnessing Energy in Laboratories', New York Herald Tribune (12 Sep 1933), in Jacqueline D. Spears and Dean Zollman, The Fascination of Physics, (1985), 508.
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The gold rush in Madre de Dios, Peru, exceeds the combined effects of all other causes of forest loss in the region, including from logging, ranching and agriculture. This is really important because we’re talking about a global biodiversity hotspot. The region’s incredible flora and fauna is being lost to gold fever.
As quoted by Rhett A. Butler in article 'Gold mining in the Amazon rainforest surges 400%' on monabay.com website (28 Oct 2013).
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The McCarthy period came along … and many of the other scientists who had been working on these same lines gave up. Probably saying “Why should I sacrifice myself? I am a scientist, I am supposed to be working on scientific things, so I don’t need to put myself at risk by talking about these possibilities.” And I have said that perhaps I’m just stubborn… I have said “I don’t like anybody to tell me what to do or to think, except Mrs. Pauling.”
From interview (11 Nov 1990) with Wayne Reynolds, website of the American Academy of Achievement.
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The point of mathematics is that in it we have always got rid of the particular instance, and even of any particular sorts of entities. So that for example, no mathematical truths apply merely to fish, or merely to stones, or merely to colours. So long as you are dealing with pure mathematics, you are in the realm of complete and absolute abstraction. … Mathematics is thought moving in the sphere of complete abstraction from any particular instance of what it is talking about.
In Science and the Modern World: Lowell Lectures, 1925 (1925), 31.
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The point of mathematics is that in it we have always got rid of the particular instance, and even of any particular sorts of entities. So that for example, no mathematical truths apply merely to fish, or merely to stones, or merely to colours. … Mathematics is thought moving in the sphere of complete abstraction from any particular instance of what it is talking about.
In 'Mathematics', Science and the Modern World (1926, 2011), 27.
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The scientist is not much given to talking of the riddle of the universe. “Riddle” is not a scientific term. The conception of a riddle is “something which can he solved.” And hence the scientist does not use that popular phrase. We don’t know the why of anything. On that matter we are no further advanced than was the cavedweller. The scientist is contented if he can contribute something toward the knowledge of what is and how it is.
As quoted in 'Electricity Will Keep The World From Freezing Up', New York Times (12 Nov 1911), SM4.
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The whole biological community needs to be talking to one another so that people can get a comprehension of the turmoil in which our planet is involved at the moment, which is a biological turmoil above anything else.
In short extract from interview with Alice Roberts for the Biology: Changing the World project, 'Attenborough: The Earth is in “Biological Turmoil”', The Biologist (Apr/May 2015), 62, No. 2, 4.
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There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. It is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you.
In Jean Baudrillard and Chris Turner (trans.), America (1989), 50.
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Three thousand stadia from the earth to the moon,—the first station. From thence to the sun about five hundred parasangs. ... Marvel not, my comrade, if I appear talking to you on super-terrestrial and aerial topics. The long and the short of the matter is that I am running over the order of a Journey I have lately made. ... I have travelled in the stars.
One of the earliest examples of what might be regarded as science fiction.
Icaromennipus, or the Aerial Jaunt in Ainsworth Rand Spofford (ed.), Rufus Edmonds Shapley (ed.) The Library of Wit and Humor, Prose and Poetry, Selected from the Literature of all Times and Nations (1894), vol. 4, 282-283. A shortened quote is on the title page of H. G. Wells, The First Men in the Moon (1901).
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Time is that which is measured by a clock. This is a sound way of looking at things. A quantity like time, or any other physical measurement, does not exist in a completely abstract way. We find no sense in talking about something unless we specify how we measure it. It is the definition by the method of measuring a quantity that is the one sure way of avoiding talking nonsense about this kind of thing.
From Relativity and Common Sense: A New Approach to Einstein (1980), 65.
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To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behaviour of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. And yet those with the courage to tread this path to real discovery are not only offered practically no guidance on how to do so, they are actively discouraged and have to set about it in secret, pretending meanwhile to be diligently engaged in the frantic diversions and to conform with the deadening personal opinions which are continually being thrust upon them.
In 'Appendix 1', The Laws of Form (1969), 110.
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We are not talking about what to teach; we are talking about what science is. It is not science to know how to change Centigrade to Fahrenheit. It’s necessary, but it is not exactly science.
From address to the National Science Teachers’ Association convention (Apr 1966), 'What Is Science?', collected in Richard Phillips Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins (ed.), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (1999, 2005), 179.
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We can’t define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: “You don’t know what you are talking about!” The second one says: “What do you mean by know? What do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you?
In 'Motion', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 8-2.
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We don't know what we are talking about. Many of us believed that string theory was a very dramatic break with our previous notions of quantum theory. But now we learn that string theory, well, is not that much of a break. The state of physics today is like it was when we were mystified by radioactivity. They were missing something absolutely fundamental. We are missing perhaps something as profound as they were back then.
Closing address to the 23rd Solvay Conference in Physics, Brussels, Belgium (Dec 2005). Quoted in Ashok Sengupta, Chaos, Nonlinearity, Complexity: The Dynamical Paradigm of Nature (2006), vii. Cite in Alfred B. Bortz, Physics: Decade by Decade (2007), 206.
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We find no sense in talking about something unless we specify how we measure it; a definition by the method of measuring a quantity is the one sure way of avoiding talking nonsense...
in Relativity and Common Sense (1964)
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When people talk of atoms obeying fixed laws, they are either ascribing some kind of intelligence and free will to atoms or they are talking nonsense. There is no obedience unless there is at any rate a potentiality of disobeying.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 72.
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When you're talking deaths in clinical trials, mistakes are not an option. It's just an area where we have to have absolute, foolproof reporting in place.
Stephanie Saul, 'U.S. Not Told of 2 Deaths During Study of Heart Drug ', New York Times (4 Jan 2006).
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Words learned by rote a parrot may rehearse,
But talking is not always to converse;
Not more distinct from harmony divine,
The constant creaking of a country sign.
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[1665-10-16] But Lord, how empty the streets are, and melancholy, so many poor sick people in the streets, full of sores, and so many sad stories overheard as I walk, everybody talking of this dead, and that man sick, and so many in this place, and so many in that. And they tell me that in Westminster there is never a physitian, and but one apothecary left, all being dead - but that there are great hopes of a great decrease this week. God send it.
Diary of Samuel Pepys (16 Oct 1665)
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[A key to success] is being able to talk to camera without a teleprompter. … If you believe something and want to make clear what you are talking about, you ought to be able to articulate it without a teleprompter.
From interview with Michael Bond, 'It’s a Wonderful Life', New Scientist (14 Dec 2002), 176, No. 2373, 48.
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[De Morgan relates that some person had made up 800 anagrams on his name, of which he had seen about 650. Commenting on these he says:]
Two of these I have joined in the title-page:
[Ut agendo surgamus arguendo gustamus.]
A few of the others are personal remarks.
Great gun! do us a sum!
is a sneer at my pursuit; but,
Go! great sum! [integral of a to the power u to the power n with respect to u] is more dignified. …
Adsum, nugator, suge!
is addressed to a student who continues talking after the lecture has commenced: …
Graduatus sum! nego
applies to one who declined to subscribe for an M.A. degree.
In Budget of Paradoxes (1872), 82. [The Latin phrases translate as, respectively, “Such action will start arguing with taste”, “Here babbler suck!” and “I graduate! I reject.” —Webmaster]
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[Experimental Physicist] Phys. I know that it is often a help to represent pressure and volume as height and width on paper; and so geometry may have applications to the theory of gases. But is it not going rather far to say that geometry can deal directly with these things and is not necessarily concerned with lengths in space?
[Mathematician] Math. No. Geometry is nowadays largely analytical, so that in form as well as in effect, it deals with variables of an unknown nature. …It is literally true that I do not want to know the significance of the variables x, y, z, t that I am discussing. …
Phys. Yours is a strange subject. You told us at the beginning that you are not concerned as to whether your propositions are true, and now you tell us you do not even care to know what you are talking about.
Math. That is an excellent description of Pure Mathematics, which has already been given by an eminent mathematician [Bertrand Russell].
In Space, Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (1920, 1921), 14.
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~~[No source found]~~ There’s no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about.
Webmaster has looked for, but so far has been unable to find, a primary source with this wording. Please help if you can. Meanwhile it is included here to note its status.
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“Daddy,” she says, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
Steadfastly, even desperately, we have been refusing to commit ourselves. But our questioner is insistent. The truth alone will satisfy her. Nothing less. At long last we gather up courage and issue our solemn pronouncement on the subject: “Yes!”
So it is here.
“Daddy, is it a wave or a particle?”
“Yes.”
“Daddy, is the electron here or is it there?”
“Yes.”
“Daddy, do scientists really know what they are talking about?”
“Yes!”
The Strange Story of the Quantum (1947), 156-7.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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