Theoretical Quotes (27 quotes)
[Edison] definitely ended the distinction between the theoretical man of science and the practical man of science, so that today we think of scientific discoveries in connection with their possible present or future application to the needs of man. He took the old rule-of-thumb methods out of industry and substituted exact scientific knowledge, while, on the other hand, he directed scientific research into useful channels.
~~[Need source]~~ All theoretical chemistry is really physics; and all theoretical chemists know it.
1. Universal CHEMISTRY is the Art of resolving mixt, compound, or aggregate Bodies into their Principles; and of composing such Bodies from those Principles. 2. It has for its Subject all the mix’d, compound, and aggregate Bodies that are and resolvable and combinable and Resolution and Combination, or Destruction and Generation, for its Object. 3. Its Means in general, are either remote or immediate; that is, either Instruments or the Operations themselves. 4. Its End is either philosophical and theoretical; or medicinal, mechanical, œconomical, and practical. 5. Its efficient Cause is the Chemist.
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.
At the present time there exist problems beyond our ability to solve, not because of theoretical difficulties, but because of insufficient means of mechanical computation.
By the nineteenth century … new circumstances called for new conformity enforcers… The government locked you in a house of penitence—a penitentiary—where your feelings of remorse would theoretically pummel you without cease.
Common-sense contents itself with the unreconciled contradiction, laughs when it can, and weeps when it must, and makes, in short, a practical compromise, without trying a theoretical solution.
He [Heinrich Rose] looked upon the various substances that he was manipulating, as well as their reactions, under a thoroughly familial point of view: they were like so many children entrusted to his tutelage. Every time he explained simple, clear, well-defined phenomena, he assumed a jovial and smiling countenance; on the other hand, he almost got angry at certain mischievous bodies, the properties of which did not obey ordinary laws and troubled general theoretical views; in his eyes, this was unruly behavior.
I do not see any reason to assume that the heuristic significance of the principle of general relativity is restricted to gravitation and that the rest of physics can be dealt with separately on the basis of special relativity, with the hope that later on the whole may be fitted consistently into a general relativistic scheme. I do not think that such an attitude, although historically understandable, can be objectively justified. The comparative smallness of what we know today as gravitational effects is not a conclusive reason for ignoring the principle of general relativity in theoretical investigations of a fundamental character. In other words, I do not believe that it is justifiable to ask: What would physics look like without gravitation?
I have a boundless admiration for the solitary genius which enabled [Hermann Oberth] to bring into focus all of the essential elements of a gigantic concept, together with the human greatness which allowed him, in shy reserve, to bear with equanimity the “crucify hims” as well as the “hosannas” of public opinion. I myself owe him a debt of gratitude not only for being the guiding light of my life, but also for my first contact with the theoretical and practical aspects of rocket technology and space travel.
I think she [Rosalind Franklin] was a good experimentalist but certainly not of the first rank. She was simply not in the same class as Eigen or Bragg or Pauling, nor was she as good as Dorothy Hodgkin. She did not even select DNA to study. It was given to her. Her theoretical crystallography was very average.
In the world of science different levels of esteem are accorded to different kinds of specialist. Mathematicians have always been eminently respectable, and so are those who deal with hard lifeless theories about what constitutes the physical world: the astronomers, the physicists, the theoretical chemists. But the more closely the scientist interests himself in matters which are of direct human relevance, the lower his social status. The real scum of the scientific world are the engineers and the sociologists and the psychologists. Indeed, if a psychologist wants to rate as a scientist he must study rats, not human beings. In zoology the same rules apply. It is much more respectable to dissect muscle tissues in a laboratory than to observe the behaviour of a living animal in its natural habitat.
It has been a fortunate fact in the modern history of physical science that the scientist constructing a new theoretical system has nearly always found that the mathematics he required for his system had already been worked out by pure mathematicians for their own amusement. … The moral for statesmen would seem to be that, for proper scientific “planning”, pure mathematics should be endowed fifty years ahead of scientists.
It is a common rule in theoretical physics, one accepted by many physicists, that anything not forbidden by the basic laws of nature must take place.
It is no paradox to say that in our most theoretical moods we may be nearest to our most practical applications.
One of the principal objects of theoretical research in my department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity.
Research is an effort of the mind to comprehend relationships no one has previously known; and it is practical as well as theoretical.
Science can be defined as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.”
Since the world is what it is, it is clear that valid reasoning from sound principles cannot lead to error; but a principle may be so nearly true as to deserve theoretical respect, and yet may lead to practical consequences which we feel to be absurd. There is therefore a justification for common sense in philosophy, but only as showing that our theoretical principles cannot be quite correct so long as their consequences are condemned by an appeal to common sense which we feel to be irresistible.
The ideas which these sciences, Geometry, Theoretical Arithmetic and Algebra involve extend to all objects and changes which we observe in the external world; and hence the consideration of mathematical relations forms a large portion of many of the sciences which treat of the phenomena and laws of external nature, as Astronomy, Optics, and Mechanics. Such sciences are hence often termed Mixed Mathematics, the relations of space and number being, in these branches of knowledge, combined with principles collected from special observation; while Geometry, Algebra, and the like subjects, which involve no result of experience, are called Pure Mathematics.
The philosopher may very justly be delighted with the extent of his views, the artificer with the readiness of his hands, but let the one remember that without mechanical performance, refined speculation is an empty dream, and the other that without theoretical reasoning, dexterity is little more than brute instinct.
The theoretical understanding of the world, which is the aim of philosophy, is not a matter of great practical importance to animals, or to savages, or even to most civilized men.
There are two kinds of equality, one potential and the other actual, one theoretical and the other practical. We should not be satisfied by merely quoting the doctrine of equality as laid down in the Declaration of Independence, but we should give it practical illustration. We have to do as well as to be. If we had built great ships, sailed around the world, taught the science of navigation, discovered far-off islands, capes, and continents, enlarged the boundaries of human knowledge, improved the conditions of man’s existence, brought valuable contributions of art, science, and literature, revealed great truths, organized great states, administered great governments, defined the laws of the universe, formulated systems of mental and moral philosophy, invented railroads, steam engines, mowing machines, sewing machines, taught the sun to take pictures, the lightning to carry messages, we then might claim, not only potential and theoretical equality, but actual and practical equality.
These sciences, Geometry, Theoretical Arithmetic and Algebra, have no principles besides definitions and axioms, and no process of proof but deduction; this process, however, assuming a most remarkable character; and exhibiting a combination of simplicity and complexity, of rigour and generality, quite unparalleled in other subjects.
We must take the abiding spiritual values which inhere in the deep experiences of religion in all ages and give them new expression in terms of the framework which our new knowledge gives us. Science forces religion to deal with new ideas in the theoretical realm and new forces in the practical realm.
We pass with admiration along the great series of mathematicians, by whom the science of theoretical mechanics has been cultivated, from the time of Newton to our own. There is no group of men of science whose fame is higher or brighter. The great discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, had fixed all eyes on those portions of human knowledge on which their successors employed their labors. The certainty belonging to this line of speculation seemed to elevate mathematicians above the students of other subjects; and the beauty of mathematical relations and the subtlety of intellect which may be shown in dealing with them, were fitted to win unbounded applause. The successors of Newton and the Bernoullis, as Euler, Clairaut, D’Alembert, Lagrange, Laplace, not to introduce living names, have been some of the most remarkable men of talent which the world has seen.
While the method of the natural sciences is... analytic, the method of the social sciences is better described as compositive or synthetic. It is the so-called wholes, the groups of elements which are structurally connected, which we learn to single out from the totality of observed phenomena... Insofar as we analyze individual thought in the social sciences the purpose is not to explain that thought, but merely to distinguish the possible types of elements with which we shall have to reckon in the construction of different patterns of social relationships. It is a mistake... to believe that their aim is to explain conscious action ... The problems which they try to answer arise only insofar as the conscious action of many men produce undesigned results... If social phenomena showed no order except insofar as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only insofar as some sort of order arises as a result of individual action but without being designed by any individual that a problem is raised which demands a theoretical explanation... people dominated by the scientistic prejudice are often inclined to deny the existence of any such order... it can be shown briefly and without any technical apparatus how the independent actions of individuals will produce an order which is no part of their intentions... The way in which footpaths are formed in a wild broken country is such an instance. At first everyone will seek for himself what seems to him the best path. But the fact that such a path has been used once is likely to make it easier to traverse and therefore more likely to be used again; and thus gradually more and more clearly defined tracks arise and come to be used to the exclusion of other possible ways. Human movements through the region come to conform to a definite pattern which, although the result of deliberate decision of many people, has yet not be consciously designed by anyone.