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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Turn Quotes (447 quotes)

... I should think that anyone who considered it more reasonable for the whole universe to move in order to let the Earth remain fixed would be more irrational than one who should climb to the top of your cupola just to get a view of the city and its environs, and then demand that the whole countryside should revolve around him so that he would not have to take the trouble to turn his head.
In Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632).
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Between the frontiers of the three super-states Eurasia, Oceania, and Eastasia, and not permanently in possession of any of them, there lies a rough quadrilateral with its corners at Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hongkong. These territories contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labour. Whichever power controls equatorial Africa, or the Middle East or Southern India or the Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of hundreds of millions of ill-paid and hardworking coolies, expended by their conquerors like so much coal or oil in the race to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, to control more labour, to turn out more armaments, to capture more territory, to control…
Thus George Orwell—in his only reference to the less-developed world.
I wish I could disagree with him. Orwell may have erred in not anticipating the withering of direct colonial controls within the “quadrilateral” he speaks about; he may not quite have gauged the vehemence of urges to political self-assertion. Nor, dare I hope, was he right in the sombre picture of conscious and heartless exploitation he has painted. But he did not err in predicting persisting poverty and hunger and overcrowding in 1984 among the less privileged nations.
I would like to live to regret my words but twenty years from now, I am positive, the less-developed world will be as hungry, as relatively undeveloped, and as desperately poor, as today.
'The Less-Developed World: How Can We be Optimists?' (1964). Reprinted in Ideals and Realities (1984), xv-xvi. Referencing a misquote from George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), Ch. 9.
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Copernicus, who rightly did condemn
This eldest systeme, form’d a wiser scheme;
In which he leaves the Sun at Rest, and rolls
The Orb Terrestial on its proper Poles;
Which makes the Night and Day by this Career,
And by its slow and crooked Course the Year.
The famous Dane, who oft the Modern guides,
To Earth and Sun their Provinces divides:
The Earth's Rotation makes the Night and Day,
The Sun revolving through th'Eccliptic Way
Effects the various seasons of the Year,
Which in their Turn for happy Ends appear.
This Scheme or that, which pleases best, embrace,
Still we the Fountain of their Motion trace.
Kepler asserts these Wonders may be done
By the Magnetic Vertue of the Sun,
Which he, to gain his End, thinks fit to place
Full in the Center of that mighty Space,
Which does the Spheres, where Planets roll, include,
And leaves him with Attractive Force endu'd.
The Sun, thus seated, by Mechanic Laws,
The Earth, and every distant Planet draws;
By which Attraction all the Planets found
Within his reach, are turn'd in Ether round.
In Creation: A Philosophical Poem in Seven Books (1712), book 2, l. 430-53, p.78-9.
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Dass die bis jetzt unzerlegten chemischen Elemente absolut unzerlegbare Stoffe seien, ist gegenwärtig mindestens sehr unwahrscheinlich. Vielmehr scheint es, dass die Atome der Elemente nicht die letzten, sondern nur die näheren Bestandtheile der Molekeln sowohl der Elemente wie der Verbindungen bilden, die Molekeln oder Molecule als Massentheile erster, die Atome als solche zweiter Ordnung anzusehen sind, die ihrerseits wiederum aus Massentheilchen einer dritten höheren Ordnung bestehen werden.
That the as yet undivided chemical elements are absolutely irreducible substances, is currently at least very unlikely. Rather it seems, that the atoms of elements are not the final, but only the immediate constituents of the molecules of both the elements and the compounds—the Molekeln or molecule as foremost division of matter, the atoms being considered as second order, in turn consisting of matter particles of a third higher order.
[Speculating in 1870, on the existence of subatomic particles, in opening remark of the paper by which he became established as co-discoverer of the Periodic Law.]
'Die Natur der chemischen Elemente als Function ihrer Atomgewichte' ('The Nature of the Chemical Elements as a Function of their Atomic Weight'), Annalen der Chemie (1870), supp. b, 354. Original German paper reprinted in Lothar Meyer and Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev, Das natürliche System der chemischen Elemente: Abhandlungen (1895), 9. Translation by Webmaster, with punctuation faithful to the original, except a comma was changed to a dash to improve readability.
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Dinosaur: I plan to use punctuated equilibrium to turn this zit into a third eye.
Catbert: That's not a natural advantage. You'd better stay away from the fitter dinosaurs.
Dilbert comic strip (30 Aug 2002).
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Naturae vero rerum vis atque maiestas in omnibus momentis fide caret si quis modo partes eius ac non totam conplectatur animo.
The power and majesty of the nature of the universe at every turn lacks credence if one’s mind embraces parts of it only and not the whole.
In Pliny: Natural History (1947), Vol. 2, Book 7, 511, as translated by H. Rackham
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Nautae etiam mare legentes, cum beneficium claritatis solis in tempore nubilo non sentiunt, aut etiam cum caligne nocturnarum tenebrarum mundus obvolvitur, et ignorant in quem mundi cardinem prora tendat, acum super mangentem ponunt, quae circulariter circumvolvitur usque dum, ejus motu cessante.
Mariners at sea, when, through cloudy weather in the day which hides the sun, or through the darkness of night, they lose knowlege of the quarter of the world to which they are sailing, touch a needle with a magnet, which will turn round till, on its motion ceasing, its point will be directed towards the north.
De naturis rerum. Original Latin text quoted in Thomas Wright, A Volume of Vocabularies... (1873), 114. Translation from Lloyd A Brown, The Story of Maps (1980), 127.
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Quelquefois, par exemple, je me figure que je suis suspendu en l’air, et que j’y demeure sans mouvement, pendant que la Terre tourne sous moi en vingt-quatre heures. Je vois passer sous mes yeux tous ces visages différents, les uns blancs, les autres noirs, les autres basanés, les autres olivâtres. D’abord ce sont des chapeaux et puis des turbans, et puis des têtes chevelues, et puis des têtes rasées; tantôt des villes à clochers, tantôt des villes à longues aiguilles qui ont des croissants, tantôt des villes à tours de porcelaine, tantôt de grands pays qui n’ont que des cabanes; ici de vastes mers, là des déserts épouvantables; enfin, toute cette variété infinie qui est sur la surface de la Terre.
Sometimes, for instance, I imagine that I am suspended in the air, and remain there motionless, while the earth turns under me in four-and-twenty hours. I see pass beneath me all these different countenances, some white, others black, others tawny, others olive-colored. At first they wear hats, and then turbans, then heads with long hair, then heads shaven; sometimes towns with steeples, sometimes towns with long spires, which have crescents, sometimes towns with porcelain towers, sometimes extensive countries that have only huts; here wide seas; there frightful deserts; in short, all this infinite variety on the surface of the earth.
In 'Premier Soir', Entretiens Sur La Pluralité Des Mondes (1686, 1863), 43. French and translation in Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from French and Italian Authors (1866), 117-118.
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Qui ergo munitam vult habere navem habet etiam acum jaculo suppositam. Rotabitur enim et circumvolvetur acus, donec cuspis acus respiciat orientem sicque comprehendunt quo tendere debeant nautaw cum Cynosura latet in aeris turbatione; quamvis ad occasum numquam tendat, propter circuli brevitatem.
If then one wishes a ship well provided with all things, then one must have also a needle mounted on a dart. The needle will be oscillated and turn until the point of the needle directs itself to the East* [North], thus making known to sailors the route which they should hold while the Little Bear is concealed from them by the vicissitudes of the atmosphere; for it never disappears under the horizon because of the smallness of the circle it describes.
Latin text from Thomas Wright, 'De Utensilibus', A Volume of Vocabularies, (1857) as cited with translation in Park Benjamin, The Intellectual Rise in Electricity: A History (1895), 129.
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Sed tamen salis petrae. VI. Part V. NOV. CORVLI. ET V. sulphuris, et sic facies toniitrum et coruscationem: sic facies artificium.
But, however, of saltpetre take six parts, live of young willow (charcoal), and five of sulphur, and so you will make thunder and lightning, and so you will turn the trick.
Bacon’s recipe for Gunpowder, partly expressed as an anagram in the original Latin.
Roger Bacon's Letter Concerning the Marvelous Power of Art and of Nature and Concerning the Nullity of Magic, trans. T. L. Davis (1922), 48.
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A bewildering assortment of (mostly microscopic) life-forms has been found thriving in what were once thought to be uninhabitable regions of our planet. These hardy creatures have turned up in deep, hot underground rocks, around scalding volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, in the desiccated, super-cold Dry Valleys of Antarctica, in places of high acid, alkaline, and salt content, and below many meters of polar ice. ... Some deep-dwelling, heat-loving microbes, genetic studies suggest, are among the oldest species known, hinting that not only can life thrive indefinitely in what appear to us totally alien environments, it may actually originate in such places.
In Life Everywhere: the Maverick Science of Astrobiology (2002), xi.
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A closer look at the course followed by developing theory reveals for a start that it is by no means as continuous as one might expect, but full of breaks and at least apparently not along the shortest logical path. Certain methods often afforded the most handsome results only the other day, and many might well have thought that the development of science to infinity would consist in no more than their constant application. Instead, on the contrary, they suddenly reveal themselves as exhausted and the attempt is made to find other quite disparate methods. In that event there may develop a struggle between the followers of the old methods and those of the newer ones. The former's point of view will be termed by their opponents as out-dated and outworn, while its holders in turn belittle the innovators as corrupters of true classical science.
In 'On the Development of the Methods of Theoretical Physics in Recent Times', Populäre Schriften, Essay 14. Address (22 Sep 1899) to the Meeting of Natural Scientists at Munich. Collected in Brian McGuinness (ed.), Ludwig Boltzmann: Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, Selected Writings (1974), 79.
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A country grows in history not only because of the heroism of its troops on the field of battle, it grows also when it turns to justice and to right for the conservation of its interests.
…...
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A discovery is like falling in love and reaching the top of a mountain after a hard climb all in one, an ecstasy not induced by drugs but by the revelation of a face of nature that no one has seen before and that often turns out to be more subtle and wonderful than anyone had imagined.
'True Science', review of Peter Medawar, Advice to a Young Scientist (1980). In The London Review of Books (Mar 1981), 6.
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A discussion between Haldane and a friend began to take a predictable turn. The friend said with a sigh, “It’s no use going on. I know what you will say next, and I know what you will do next.” The distinguished scientist promptly sat down on the floor, turned two back somersaults, and returned to his seat. “There,” he said with a smile. “That’s to prove that you’re not always right.”
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 253.
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A fear of intellectual inadequacy, of powerlessness before the tireless electronic wizards, has given rise to dozens of science-fiction fantasies of computer takeovers. ... Other scientists too are apprehensive. D. Raj Reddy, a computer scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University, fears that universally available microcomputers could turn into formidable weapons. Among other things, says Reddy, sophisticated computers in the wrong hands could begin subverting a society by tampering with people’s relationships with their own computers—instructing the other computers to cut off telephone, bank and other services, for example.
Magazine
An early prediction of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), viruses and worms like Stuxnet. As stated, without further citation, in 'The Age of Miracle Chips', Time (20 Feb 1978), 44. The article introduces a special section on 'The Computer Society.' Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
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A fire-mist and a planet,
A crystal and a cell,
A jellyfish and a saurian,
And caves where the cavemen dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod—
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.
'Each in his Own Tongue', in Kansas in Literature: Part One, Poetry (1900), 83.
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A game is on, at the other end of this infinite distance, and heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason you cannot leave either; according to reason you cannot leave either undone... Yes, but wager you must; there is no option, you have embarked on it. So which will you have. Come. Since you must choose, let us see what concerns you least. You have two things to lose: truth and good, and two things to stake: your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness. And your nature has two things to shun: error and misery. Your reason does not suffer by your choosing one more than the other, for you must choose. That is one point cleared. But your happiness? Let us weigh gain and loss in calling heads that God is. Reckon these two chances: if you win, you win all; if you lose, you lose naught. Then do not hesitate, wager that He is.
Pensées (1670), Section I, aphorism 223. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal's Pensées (1950), 117-119.
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A good deal of my research in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problem, but simply examining mathematical quantities of a kind that physicists use and trying to fit them together in an interesting way, regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later to have an application. Then one has good luck. At age 78.
International Journal of Theoretical Physics (1982), 21, 603. 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), 110.
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A historical fact is rather like the flamingo that Alice in Wonderland tried to use as a croquet mallet. As soon as she got its neck nicely straightened out and was ready to hit the ball, it would turn and look at her with a puzzled expression, and any biographer knows that what is called a “fact” has a way of doing the same.
From 'Getting at the Truth', The Saturday Review (19 Sep 1953), 36, No. 38, 11. Excerpted in Meta Riley Emberger and Marian Ross Hall, Scientific Writing (1955), 399.
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A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
First sentences in When Prophecy Fails (1956), 3.
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Absolute space, that is to say, the mark to which it would be necessary to refer the earth to know whether it really moves, has no objective existence…. The two propositions: “The earth turns round” and “it is more convenient to suppose the earth turns round” have the same meaning; there is nothing more in the one than in the other.
From La Science et l’Hypothèse (1908), 141, as translated by George Bruce Halsted in Science and Hypothesis (1905), 85-86. From the original French, “L’espace absolu, c’est-à-dire le repère auquel il faudrait rapporter la terre pour savoir si réellement elle tourne, n’a aucune existence objective. … Ces deux propositions: ‘la terre tourne’, et: ‘il est plus commode de supposer que la terre tourne’, ont un seul et même sens; il n’y a rien de plus dans l’une que dans l’autre.”
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Abstruse mathematical researches … are … often abused for having no obvious physical application. The fact is that the most useful parts of science have been investigated for the sake of truth, and not for their usefulness. A new branch of mathematics, which has sprung up in the last twenty years, was denounced by the Astronomer Royal before the University of Cambridge as doomed to be forgotten, on account of its uselessness. Now it turns out that the reason why we cannot go further in our investigations of molecular action is that we do not know enough of this branch of mathematics.
In 'Conditions of Mental Development', Lectures and Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 115.
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After two days in the hospital, I took a turn for the nurse.
Attributed.
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Again the message to experimentalists is: Be sensible but don’t be impressed too much by negative arguments. If at all possible, try it and see what turns up. Theorists almost always dislike this sort of approach.
What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 113.
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Alas! That partial Science should approve
The sly rectangle’s too licentious love!
From three bright Nymphs the wily wizard burns;-
Three bright-ey’d Nymphs requite his flame by turns.
Strange force of magic skill! Combined of yore.
Anonymous
'The Loves of the Triangles. A Mathematical and Philosophical Poem', in The Anti-Jacobean or Weekly Examiner, Monday 16 April 1798, 182. [Written by George Canning, Hookham Frere, and George Ellis].
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All frescoes are as high finished as miniatures or enamels, and they are known to be unchangeable; but oil, being a body itself, will drink or absorb very little colour, and changing yellow, and at length brown, destroys every colour it is mixed with, especially every delicate colour. It turns every permanent white to a yellow and brown putty, and has compelled the use of that destroyer of colour, white lead, which, when its protecting oil is evaporated, will become lead again. This is an awful thing to say to oil painters ; they may call it madness, but it is true. All the genuine old little pictures, called cabinet pictures, are in fresco and not in oil. Oil was not used except by blundering ignorance till after Vandyke’s time ; but the art of fresco painting being lost, oil became a fetter to genius and a dungeon to art.
In 'Opinions', The Poems: With Specimens of the Prose Writings of William Blake (1885), 276-277.
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All interesting issues in natural history are questions of relative frequency, not single examples. Everything happens once amidst the richness of nature. But when an unanticipated phenomenon occurs again and again–finally turning into an expectation–then theories are overturned.
…...
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All knowledge is good. It is impossible to say any fragment of knowledge, however insignificant or remote from one’s ordinary pursuits, may not some day be turned to account.
'Address on University Education' (12 Sep 1876) delivered at the formal opening of the Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore. Collected in Science and Education: Essays (1897), 248.
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All our knowledge merely helps us to die a more painful death than the animals that know nothing. A day will come when science will turn upon its error and no longer hesitate to shorten our woes. A day will come when it will dare and act with certainty; when life, grown wiser, will depart silently at its hour, knowing that it has reached its term.
Our Eternity, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (1913), 24.
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All the different classes of beings which taken together make up the universe are, in the ideas of God who knows distinctly their essential gradations, only so many ordinates of a single curve so closely united that it would be impossible to place others between any two of them, since that would imply disorder and imperfection. Thus men are linked with the animals, these with the plants and these with the fossils which in turn merge with those bodies which our senses and our imagination represent to us as absolutely inanimate. And, since the law of continuity requires that when the essential attributes of one being approximate those of another all the properties of the one must likewise gradually approximate those of the other, it is necessary that all the orders of natural beings form but a single chain, in which the various classes, like so many rings, are so closely linked one to another that it is impossible for the senses or the imagination to determine precisely the point at which one ends and the next begins?all the species which, so to say, lie near the borderlands being equivocal, at endowed with characters which might equally well be assigned to either of the neighboring species. Thus there is nothing monstrous in the existence zoophytes, or plant-animals, as Budaeus calls them; on the contrary, it is wholly in keeping with the order of nature that they should exist. And so great is the force of the principle of continuity, to my thinking, that not only should I not be surprised to hear that such beings had been discovered?creatures which in some of their properties, such as nutrition or reproduction, might pass equally well for animals or for plants, and which thus overturn the current laws based upon the supposition of a perfect and absolute separation of the different orders of coexistent beings which fill the universe;?not only, I say, should I not be surprised to hear that they had been discovered, but, in fact, I am convinced that there must be such creatures, and that natural history will perhaps some day become acquainted with them, when it has further studied that infinity of living things whose small size conceals them for ordinary observation and which are hidden in the bowels of the earth and the depth of the sea.
Lettre Prétendue de M. De Leibnitz, à M. Hermann dont M. Koenig a Cité le Fragment (1753), cxi-cxii, trans. in A. O. Lovejoy, Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea (1936), 144-5.
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All the summer long is the swallow a most instructive pattern of unwearied industry and affection; for, from morning to night, while there is a family to be supported, she spends the whole day in skimming close to the ground, and exerting the most sudden turns and quick evolutions. Avenues, and long walks under hedges, and pasture-fields, and mown meadows where cattle graze, are her delight, especially if there are trees interspersed; because in such spots insects most abound. When a fly is taken a smart snap from her bill is heard, resembling the noise at the shutting of a watch case; but the motion of the mandibles are too quick for the eye.
In Letter to Daines Barrington (29 Jan 1774), in In The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), 169-170.
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America’s technology has turned in upon itself; its corporate form makes it the servant of profits, not the servant of human needs.
quoted in Robin Morgan, Sisterhood is Powerful (1970).
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Among those whom I could never pursuade to rank themselves with idlers, and who speak with indignation of my morning sleeps and nocturnal rambles, one passes the day in catching spiders, that he may count their eyes with a microscope; another exhibits the dust of a marigold separated from the flower with a dexterity worthy of Leuwenhoweck himself. Some turn the wheel of electricity; some suspend rings to a lodestone, and find that what they did yesterday, they can do again to-day.—Some register the changes of the wind, and die fully convinced that the wind is changeable.—There are men yet more profound, who have heard that two colorless liquors may produce a color by union, and that two cold bodies will grow hot of they are mingled: they mingle them, and produce the effect expected, say it is strange, and mingle them again.
In Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 243.
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An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious—just dead wrong.
'Sunday Observer: Terminal Education', New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1980), 8.
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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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An invention that is quickly accepted will turn out to be a rather trivial alteration of something that has already existed.
Speaking at a shareholders’ meeting (1975). As quoted by Victor K. McElheny, in Insisting On The Impossible: The Life Of Edwin Land (1999), 403.
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And this is a miracle of nature in part known, namely, that iron follows the part of a magnet that touches it, and flies from the other part of the same magnet. And the iron turns itself after moving to the part of the heavens conformed to the part of the magnet which it touched.
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Andrade [who was looking after wartime inventions] is like an inverted Micawber, waiting for something to turn down.
As quoted by C.P. Snow in his Lectures at Harvard University (1960), in which he spoke extensively about Henry Tizard. Collected in print as Science and Government (1960), 6. Snow gave this quote to exemplify what he called Tizard's “lively satirical tongue,” but Tizard probably did not originate the epigram. The article 'A Spectator's Notebook' The Spectator (21 Dec 1944), 4, states it was coined by Philip Guedalla, “unless, indeed, which is unlikely, it goes back farther still.” As early as during the first World War, Guedalla “applied it to the Inventions Board under Lord Fisher, sitting in an office in Cockspur Street, and ‘waiting like a kind of inverted Mr. Micawber, for something to turn down.’” Webmaster assumes Tizard's quote refers to Edward Neville da Costa Andrade, also a wartime science consultant.
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Any experiment may be regarded as forming an individual of a 'population' of experiments which might be performed under the same conditions. A series of experiments is a sample drawn from this population.
Now any series of experiments is only of value in so far as it enables us to form a judgment as to the statistical constants of the population to which the experiments belong. In a great number of cases the question finally turns on the value of a mean, either directly, or as the mean difference between the two qualities.
If the number of experiments be very large, we may have precise information as to the value of the mean, but if our sample be small, we have two sources of uncertainty:— (I) owing to the 'error of random sampling' the mean of our series of experiments deviates more or less widely from the mean of the population, and (2) the sample is not sufficiently large to determine what is the law of distribution of individuals.
'The Probable Error of a Mean', Biometrika, 1908, 6, 1.
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Any one who has studied the history of science knows that almost every great step therein has been made by the “anticipation of Nature,” that is, by the invention of hypotheses, which, though verifiable, often had very little foundation to start with; and, not unfrequently, in spite of a long career of usefulness, turned out to be wholly erroneous in the long run.
In 'The Progress of Science 1837-1887' (1887), Collected Essays (1901), Vol. 1, 62.
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Any urine that turns black is so extremely malignant that I do not know anyone who has micturated black urine and survived.
As quoted in Robert Taylor, White Coat Tales: Medicine's Heroes, Heritage, and Misadventures (2010), 125.
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Apart from the hostile influence of man, the organic and the inorganic world are … bound together by such mutual relations and adaptations as secure, if not the absolute permanence and equilibrium of both … at least a very slow and gradual succession of changes in those conditions. But man is everywhere a disturbing agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords.
In Man and Nature, (1864), 35-36.
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ARSENIC, n. A kind of cosmetic greatly affected by the ladies, whom it greatly affects in turn.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  26.
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As evolutionary time is measured, we have only just turned up and have hardly had time to catch breath, still marveling at our thumbs, still learning to use the brand-new gift of language. Being so young, we can be excused all sorts of folly and can permit ourselves the hope that someday, as a species, we will begin to grow up.
From 'Introduction' written by Lewis Thomas for Horace Freeland Judson, The Search for Solutions (1980, 1987), xvii.
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As for the earth, out of it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold.
Bible
Bible: English Standard Version, Job Chap 28, verses 5-6.
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As historians, we refuse to allow ourselves these vain speculations which turn on possibilities that, in order to be reduced to actuality, suppose an overturning of the Universe, in which our globe, like a speck of abandoned matter, escapes our vision and is no longer an object worthy of our regard. In order to fix our vision, it is necessary to take it such as it is, to observe well all parts of it, and by indications infer from the present to the past.
'Second Discours: Histoire et Theorie de la Terre', Histoire Naturelle, Ginerale et Particulière, Avec la Description du Cabinet du Roi (1749), Vol. 1, 98-9. Trans. Phillip R. Sloan.
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As scientists the two men were contrasting types—Einstein all calculation, Rutherford all experiment ... There was no doubt that as an experimenter Rutherford was a genius, one of the greatest. He worked by intuition and everything he touched turned to gold. He had a sixth sense.
(Reminiscence comparing his friend, Ernest Rutherford, with Albert Einstein, whom he also knew.)
Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizman (1949), 118. Quoted in A Force of Nature: The Frontier Genius of Ernest Rutherford (2007), 65-66.
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Astronomy and Pure Mathematics are the magnetic poles toward which the compass of my mind ever turns.
In Letter to Bolyai (30 Jun 1803), in Franz Schmidt and Paul Stäckel, Briefwechsel zwischen Carl Friedrich Gauss und Wolfgang Bolyai, (1899), Letter XXIII , 55.
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Astronomy teaches the correct use of the sun and the planets. These may be put on a frame of little sticks and turned round. This causes the tides. Those at the ends of the sticks are enormously far away. From time to time a diligent searching of the sticks reveals new planets. The orbit of the planet is the distance the stick goes round in going round. Astronomy is intensely interesting; it should be done at night, in a high tower at Spitzbergen. This is to avoid the astronomy being interrupted. A really good astronomer can tell when a comet is coming too near him by the warning buzz of the revolving sticks.
In Literary Lapses (1928), 128.
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At night I would return home, set out a lamp before me, and devote myself to reading and writing. Whenever sleep overcame me or I became conscious of weakening, I would turn aside to drink a cup of wine, so that my strength would return to me. Then I would return to reading. And whenever sleep seized me I would see those very problems in my dream; and many questions became clear to me in my sleep. I continued in this until all of the sciences were deeply rooted within me and I understood them as is humanly possible. Everything which I knew at the time is just as I know it now; I have not added anything to it to this day. Thus I mastered the logical, natural, and mathematical sciences, and I had now reached the science.
Avicenna
W. E. Gohhnan, The Life of Ibn Sina: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation (1974), 29-31.
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Available energy is energy which we can direct into any desired channel. Dissipated energy is energy which we cannot lay hold of and direct at pleasure, such as the energy of the confused agitation of molecules which we call heat. Now, confusion, like the correlative term order, is not a property of material things in themselves, but only in relation to the mind which perceives them. A memorandum-book does not, provided it is neatly written, appear confused to an illiterate person, or to the owner who understands it thoroughly, but to any other person able to read it appears to be inextricably confused. Similarly the notion of dissipated energy could not occur to a being who could not turn any of the energies of nature to his own account, or to one who could trace the motion of every molecule and seize it at the right moment. It is only to a being in the intermediate stage, who can lay hold of some forms of energy while others elude his grasp, that energy appears to be passing inevitably from the available to the dissipated state.
'Diffusion', Encyclopaedia Britannica (1878). In W. D. Niven (ed.), The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1890), Vol. 2, 646.
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Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. ... There is not a piece of science, but its flank may be turned to-morrow.
From 'Circles', collected in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), 308.
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Biology is a science of three dimensions. The first is the study of each species across all levels of biological organization, molecule to cell to organism to population to ecosystem. The second dimension is the diversity of all species in the biosphere. The third dimension is the history of each species in turn, comprising both its genetic evolution and the environmental change that drove the evolution. Biology, by growing in all three dimensions, is progressing toward unification and will continue to do so.
In 'Systematics and the Future of Biology', Systematics and the Origin of Species: on Ernst Mayr's 100th anniversary, Volume 102, Issues 22-26 (2005), 1.
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But when you come right down to it, the reason that we did this job is because it was an organic necessity. If you are a scientist you cannot stop such a thing. If you are a scientist you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are; that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and values.
Regarding the atomic bomb project.
From speech at Los Alamos (17 Oct 1945). Quoted in David C. Cassidy, J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century (2009), 214.
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But, as Bacon has well pointed out, truth is more likely to come out of error, if this is clear and definite, than out of confusion, and my experience teaches me that it is better to hold a well-understood and intelligible opinion, even if it should turn out to be wrong, than to be content with a muddle-headed mixture of conflicting views, sometimes miscalled impartiality, and often no better than no opinion at all.
Principles of General Physiology (1915), x.
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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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By a recent estimate, nearly half the bills before the U.S. Congress have a substantial science-technology component and some two-thirds of the District of Columbia Circuit Court’s case load now involves review of action by federal administrative agencies; and more and more of such cases relate to matters on the frontiers of technology.
If the layman cannot participate in decision making, he will have to turn himself over, essentially blind, to a hermetic elite. … [The fundamental question becomes] are we still capable of self-government and therefore freedom?
Margaret Mead wrote in a 1959 issue of Daedalus about scientists elevated to the status of priests. Now there is a name for this elevation, when you are in the hands of—one hopes—a benevolent elite, when you have no control over your political decisions. From the point of view of John Locke, the name for this is slavery.
Quoted in 'Where is Science Taking Us? Gerald Holton Maps the Possible Routes', The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 May 1981). In Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (1982), 80.
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Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.
'Essays or Counsels: Civil and Moral. I. Of Truth'. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 6, 378.
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Consider the hateful brew compounded with gleaming, deadly white lead whose fresh colour is like milk…. Over the victim’s jaws and in the grooves of the gums is plastered an astringent froth, and the furrow of the tongue turns rough on either side, and the depth of the throat grows somewhat dry, and from the pernicious venom follows a dry retching and hawking, for this affliction is severe; meanwhile his spirit sickens and he is worn out with mortal suffering. His body too grows chill, while sometimes his eyes behold strange illusions or else he drowses; nor can he bestir his limbs as heretofore, and he succumbs to the overmastering fatigue.
Nicander
As translated by A.S.F. Gow and A.F. Scholfield in Nicander: The Poems and Portical Fragments (1953), 99.
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Cuvier … brings the void to life again, without uttering abracadabras, he excavates a fragment of gypsum, spies a footprint and shouts: “Look!” And suddenly the marbles are teeming with creatures, the dead come to life again, the world turns!
From 'La Peau de Chagrin' (1831). As translated as by Helen Constantine The Wild Ass’s Skin (2012), 19.
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Data isn't information. ... Information, unlike data, is useful. While there’s a gulf between data and information, there’s a wide ocean between information and knowledge. What turns the gears in our brains isn't information, but ideas, inventions, and inspiration. Knowledge—not information—implies understanding. And beyond knowledge lies what we should be seeking: wisdom.
In High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian (2000), 185-186.
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During a conversation with the writer in the last weeks of his life, Sylvester remarked as curious that notwithstanding he had always considered the bent of his mind to be rather analytical than geometrical, he found in nearly every case that the solution of an analytical problem turned upon some quite simple geometrical notion, and that he was never satisfied until he could present the argument in geometrical language.
In Proceedings London Royal Society, 63, 17.
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Each of us has read somewhere that in New Guinea pidgin the word for 'piano' is (I use English spelling) 'this fellow you hit teeth belonging to him he squeal all same pig'. I am inclined to doubt whether this expression is authentic; it looks just like the kind of thing a visitor to the Islands would facetiously invent. But I accept 'cut grass belong head belong me' for 'haircut' as genuine... Such phrases seem very funny to us, and make us feel very superior to the ignorant foreigners who use long winded expressions for simple matters. And then it is our turn to name quite a simple thing, a small uncomplicated molecule consisting of nothing more than a measly 11 carbons, seven hydrogens, one nitrogen and six oxygens. We sharpen our pencils, consult our rule books and at last come up with 3-[(1, 3- dihydro-1, 3-dioxo-2H-isoindol-2-yl) oxy]-3-oxopropanoic acid. A name like that could drive any self-respecting Papuan to piano-playing.
The Chemist's English (1990), 3rd Edition, 57.
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Early in my school career, I turned out to be an incorrigible disciplinary problem. I could understand what the teacher was saying as fast as she could say it, I found time hanging heavy, so I would occasionally talk to my neighbor. That was my great crime, I talked in school.
In In Memory Yet Green: the Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954 (1979), 73.
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Edward [Teller] isn’t the cloistered kind of scientist. He gets his ideas in conversation and develops them by trying them out on people. We were coming back from Europe on the Ile de France and I was standing in the ship’s nightclub when he came up and said, 'Freddie, I think I have an idea.’ It was something he’d just thought of about magnetohydrodynamics. I was a bachelor then and I’d located several good-looking girls on the ship, but I knew what I had to do, so I disappeared and started working on the calculations. I’d get something finished and start prowling on the deck again when Edward would turn up out of the night and we’d walk the deck together while he talked and I was the brick wall he was bouncing these things off of. By the end of the trip we had a paper. He’d had the ideas, and I’d done some solving of equations. But he insisted that we sign in alphabetical order, which put my name first.
As quoted in Robert Coughlan, 'Dr. Edward Teller’s Magnificent Obsession', Life (6 Sep 1954), 61-62.
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Einstein’s 1905 paper came out and suddenly changed people’s thinking about space-time. We’re again [2007] in the middle of something like that. When the dust settles, time—whatever it may be—could turn out to be even stranger and more illusory than even Einstein could imagine.
Quoted by Tim Folger in 'Newsflash: Time May Not Exist', Discover Magazine (Jun 2007).
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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.
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, 92.
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Electricity is often called wonderful, beautiful; but it is so only in common with the other forces of nature. The beauty of electricity or of any other force is not that the power is mysterious, and unexpected, touching every sense at unawares in turn, but that it is under law, and that the taught intellect can even govern it largely. The human mind is placed above, and not beneath it, and it is in such a point of view that the mental education afforded by science is rendered super-eminent in dignity, in practical application and utility; for by enabling the mind to apply the natural power through law, it conveys the gifts of God to man.
Notes for a Friday Discourse at the Royal Institution (1858).
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England and all civilised nations stand in deadly peril of not having enough to eat. As mouths multiply, food resources dwindle. Land is a limited quantity, and the land that will grow wheat is absolutely dependent on difficult and capricious natural phenomena... I hope to point a way out of the colossal dilemma. It is the chemist who must come to the rescue of the threatened communities. It is through the laboratory that starvation may ultimately be turned into plenty... The fixation of atmospheric nitrogen is one of the great discoveries, awaiting the genius of chemists.
Presidential Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science 1898. Published in Chemical News, 1898, 78, 125.
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Environmentalists may get off on climate porn, but most people just turn away. 'If it was really so bad, they'd do something,' says one colleague, without specifying who 'they' are. The human tendency to convince yourself that everything is OK, because no one else is worried, is deeply ingrained.
'Wake up and smell the smoke of disaster', The Times (8 Nov 2007).
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Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare.
He turned away at once;
Far too polite to stare.
Parody after Edna St. Vincent Millay. In The Mathematical Intelligencer (Fall 1994), 16, No. 4, 20.
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Everything around us is filled with mystery and magic. I find this no cause for despair, no reason to turn for solace to esoteric formulae or chariots of gods. On the contrary, our inability to find easy answers fills me with a fierce pride in our ambivalent biology ... with a constant sense of wonder and delight that we should be part of anything so profound.
…...
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Everything is like a purse—there may be money in it, and we can generally say by the feel of it whether there is or is not. Sometimes, however, we must turn it inside out before we can be quite sure whether there is anything in it or no. When I have turned a proposition inside out, put it to stand on its head, and shaken it, I have often been surprised to find how much came out of it.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 222.
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Evolution triumphs because it turns to natural selection, the plodding accumulation of error.
Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated (1999), 9.
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Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema
I turn the handle and the story starts:
Reel after reel is all astronomy,
Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky,
Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.
Life leaves the slime and through all ocean darts;
She conquers earth, and raises wings to fly;
Then spirit blooms, and learns how not to die,-
Nesting beyond the grave in others' hearts.
I turn the handle: other men like me
Have made the film: and now I sit and look
In quiet, privileged like Divinity
To read the roaring world as in a book.
If this thy past, where shall they future climb,
O Spirit, built of Elements and Time?
'Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema' (1922), in The Captive Shrew and Other Poems of a Biologist (1932), 55.
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First, there is the power of the Wind, constantly exerted over the globe.... Here is an almost incalculable power at our disposal, yet how trifling the use we make of it! It only serves to turn a few mills, blow a few vessels across the ocean, and a few trivial ends besides. What a poor compliment do we pay to our indefatigable and energetic servant!
In 'Paradise (To Be) Regained', Democratic Review (Nov 1848). Collected in A Yankee in Canada: with Anti-slavery and Reform Papers (1866), 188-89.
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For many centuries chemists labored to change lead into precious gold, and eventually found that precious uranium turned to lead without any human effort at all.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 43.
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For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again, for so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.
'The Black Cottage'. In Edward Connery Latham (ed.), The Poetry of Robert Frost (1971), 77.
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Formula for breakthroughs in research: Take young researchers, put them together in virtual seclusion, give them an unprecedented degree of freedom and turn up the pressure by fostering competitiveness.
In James Beasley Simpson, Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (1988), 145.
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Fractal is a word invented by Mandelbrot to bring together under one heading a large class of objects that have [played] … an historical role … in the development of pure mathematics. A great revolution of ideas separates the classical mathematics of the 19th century from the modern mathematics of the 20th. Classical mathematics had its roots in the regular geometric structures of Euclid and the continuously evolving dynamics of Newton. Modern mathematics began with Cantor’s set theory and Peano’s space-filling curve. Historically, the revolution was forced by the discovery of mathematical structures that did not fit the patterns of Euclid and Newton. These new structures were regarded … as “pathological,” .… as a “gallery of monsters,” akin to the cubist paintings and atonal music that were upsetting established standards of taste in the arts at about the same time. The mathematicians who created the monsters regarded them as important in showing that the world of pure mathematics contains a richness of possibilities going far beyond the simple structures that they saw in Nature. Twentieth-century mathematics flowered in the belief that it had transcended completely the limitations imposed by its natural origins.
Now, as Mandelbrot points out, … Nature has played a joke on the mathematicians. The 19th-century mathematicians may not have been lacking in imagination, but Nature was not. The same pathological structures that the mathematicians invented to break loose from 19th-century naturalism turn out to be inherent in familiar objects all around us.
From 'Characterizing Irregularity', Science (12 May 1978), 200, No. 4342, 677-678. Quoted in Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977, 1983), 3-4.
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From an entertainment point of view, the Solar System has been a bust. None of the planets turns out to have any real-estate potential, and most of them are probably even useless for filming Dune sequels.
From essay 'First Person Secular: Blocking the Gates to Heaven', Mother Jones Magazine (Jun 1986), 48. Collected in The Worst Years of our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1995), 267.
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From that night on, the electron—up to that time largely the plaything of the scientist—had clearly entered the field as a potent agent in the supplying of man's commercial and industrial needs… The electronic amplifier tube now underlies the whole art of communications, and this in turn is at least in part what has made possible its application to a dozen other arts. It was a great day for both science and industry when they became wedded through the development of the electronic amplifier tube.
The Autobiography of Robert A. Millikan (1951), 136.
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Genetics has always turned out to be much more complicated than it seemed reasonable to imagine. Biology is not like physics. The more we know, the less it seems that there is one final explanation waiting to be discovered.
John Mitchinson and John Lloyd, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 275.
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Genetics has enticed a great many explorers during the past two decades. They have labored with fruit-flies and guinea-pigs, with sweet peas and corn, with thousands of animals and plants in fact, and they have made heredity no longer a mystery but an exact science to be ranked close behind physics and chemistry in definiteness of conception. One is inclined to believe, however, that the unique magnetic attraction of genetics lies in the vision of potential good which it holds for mankind rather than a circumscribed interest in the hereditary mechanisms of the lowly species used as laboratory material. If man had been found to be sharply demarcated from the rest of the occupants of the world, so that his heritage of physical form, of physiological function, and of mental attributes came about in a superior manner setting him apart as lord of creation, interest in the genetics of the humbler organisms—if one admits the truth—would have flagged severely. Biologists would have turned their attention largely to the ways of human heredity, in spite of the fact that the difficulties encountered would have rendered progress slow and uncertain. Since this was not the case, since the laws ruling the inheritance of the denizens of the garden and the inmates of the stable were found to be applicable to prince and potentate as well, one could shut himself up in his laboratory and labor to his heart's content, feeling certain that any truth which it fell to his lot to discover had a real human interest, after all.
Mankind at the Crossroads (1923), v-vi.
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Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn have, greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
[He was imitating: 'So, naturalists observe, a flea Has smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite 'em; And so proceed ad infinitum.' Poetry, a Rhapsody, by Jonathan Swift.]
A Budget of Paradoxes (1915), first published 1872, Vol. 2, 191.
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Groups do not have experiences except insofar as all their members do. And there are no experiences... that all the members of a scientific community must share in the course of a [scientific] revolution. Revolutions should be described not in terms of group experience but in terms of the varied experiences of individual group members. Indeed, that variety itself turns out to play an essential role in the evolution of scientific knowledge.
Thomas S. Kuhn's Foreword to Paul Hoyningen-Huene, Reconstructing Scientific Revolutions: Thomas S Kuhn's Philosophy of Science (1993), xiii.
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Hence dusky Iron sleeps in dark abodes,
And ferny foliage nestles in the nodes;
Till with wide lungs the panting bellows blow,
And waked by fire the glittering torrents flow;
Quick whirls the wheel, the ponderous hammer falls,
Loud anvils ring amid the trembling walls,
Strokes follow strokes, the sparkling ingot shines,
Flows the red slag, the lengthening bar refines;
Cold waves, immersed, the glowing mass congeal,
And turn to adamant the hissing Steel.
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Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time ants show up in the potato salad. The 8,800 known species of the family Formicidae make up from 10% to 15% of the world's animal biomass, the total weight of all fauna. They are the most dominant social insect in the world, found almost everywhere except in the polar regions. Ants turn more soil than earthworms; they prune, weed and police most of the earth's carrion. Among the most gregarious of creatures, they are equipped with a sophisticated chemical communications system. To appreciate the strength and speed of this pesky invertebrate, consider that a leaf cutter the size of a man could run repeated four-minute miles while carrying 750 lbs. of potato salad.
From book review, 'Nature: Splendor in The Grass', Time (3 Sep 1990).
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His Majesty has, with great skill, constructed a cart, containing a corn mill, which is worked by the motion of the carriage. He has also contrived a carriage of such a magnitude as to contain several apartments, with a hot bath; and it is drawn by a single elephant. This movable bath is extremely useful, and refreshing on a journey. … He has also invented several hydraulic machines, which are worked by oxen. The pulleys and wheels of some of them are so adjusted that a single ox will at once draw water out of two wells, and at the same time turn a millstone.
From Ain-i-Akbery (c.1590). As translated from the original Persian, by Francis Gladwin in 'Akbar’s Conduct and Administrative Rules', 'Of Machines', Ayeen Akbery: Or, The Institutes of the Emperor Akber (1783), Vol. 1, 284. Note: Akbar (Akber) was a great ruler and enlightened statesman.
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His [Edison’s] greatest invention was that of the industrial research laboratory, turning out inventions as a business.
In The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1950), 127.
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History is primarily a socio-psychological science. In the conflict between the old and the new tendencies in historical investigation... we are at the turn of the stream, the parting of the ways in historical science.
Historical Development and Present Character of the Science of History (1906), 111.
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How to start on my adventure—how to become a forester—was not so simple. There were no schools of Forestry in America. … Whoever turned his mind toward Forestry in those days thought little about the forest itself and more about its influences, and about its influence on rainfall first of all. So I took a course in meteorology, which has to do with weather and climate. and another in botany, which has to do with the vegetable kingdom—trees are unquestionably vegetable. And another in geology, for forests grow out of the earth. Also I took a course in astronomy, for it is the sun which makes trees grow. All of which is as it should be, because science underlies the forester’s knowledge of the woods. So far I was headed right. But as for Forestry itself, there wasn’t even a suspicion of it at Yale. The time for teaching Forestry as a profession was years away.
In Breaking New Ground (1947, 1998), 3.
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Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. A mystery is a phenomenon that people don't know how to think about—yet. There have been other great mysteries: the mystery of the origin of the universe, the mystery of life and reproduction, the mystery of the design to be found in nature, the mysteries of time, space, and gravity. These were not just areas of scientific ignorance, but of utter bafflement and wonder. We do not yet have the final answers to any of the questions of cosmology and particle physics, molecular genetics and evolutionary theory, but we do know how to think about them. The mysteries haven't vanished, but they have been tamed. They no longer overwhelm our efforts to think about the phenomena, because now we know how to tell the misbegotten questions from the right questions, and even if we turn out to be dead wrong about some of the currently accepted answers, we know how to go about looking for better answers. With consciousness, however, we are still in a terrible muddle. Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. And, as with all the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist—and hope—that there will never be a demystification of consciousness.
Consciousness Explained (1991), 21-22.
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I am aware that those hateful persons called Original Researchers now maintain that Raleigh was not the man; but to them I turn a deaf ear.
On who offered his coat for Queen Elizabeth I.
My Lady Nicotine (1890), 107.
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I am turned into a sort of machine for observing facts and grinding out conclusions.
As quoted in Adrian J. Desmond and James Richard Moore, Darwin (1994), 644. Described by the authors as a remark Darwin was heard to sigh, suspecting that his largest botany book, the 600-page Movement in Plants, was as dull as ditchwater.
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I argued that it was important not to place too much reliance on any single piece of experimental evidence. It might turn out to be misleading, as the 5.1 Å reflection undoubtedly was. Jim was a little more brash, stating that no good model ever accounted for all the facts, since some data was bound to be misleading if not plain wrong. A theory that did fit all the data would have been “carpentered” to do so and would thus be open to suspicion.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 59-60.
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I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.
About his proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, later to be known as 'Star Wars.')
National address (23 Mar 1983)
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I called it ignose, not knowing which carbohydrate it was. This name was turned down by my editor. 'God-nose' was not more successful, so in the end 'hexuronic acid' was agreed upon. To-day the substance is called 'ascorbic acid' and I will use this name.
Studies on Biological Oxidation and Some of its Catalysts (C4 Dicarboxylic Acids, Vitamin C and P Etc.) (1937), 73.
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I don’t know whether there is a finite set of basic laws of physics or whether there are infinite sets of structure like an infinite set of Chinese boxes. Will the electron turn out to have an interior structure? I wish I knew!
In Kendrick Frazier, 'A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner', Skeptical Inquirer (Mar/Apr 1998), 37.
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I feel, sometimes, as the renaissance man must have felt in finding new riches at every point and in the certainty that unexplored areas of knowledge and experience await at every turn.
Address to the University Students (10 Dec 1956 ) in Göran Liljestrand (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1955 (1956).
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I grew up in love with science, asking the same questions all children ask as they try to codify the world to find out what makes it work. “Who is the smartest person in the world?” and “Where is the tallest mountain in the world?” turned into questions like, “How big is the universe?” and “What is it that makes us alive?”
In Introduction to Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), xix.
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I had a Meccano set with which I “played” endlessly. Meccano which was invented by Frank Hornby around 1900, is called Erector Set in the US. New toys (mainly Lego) have led to the extinction of Meccano and this has been a major disaster as far as the education of our young engineers and scientists is concerned. Lego is a technically trivial plaything and kids love it partly because it is so simple and partly because it is seductively coloured. However it is only a toy, whereas Meccano is a real engineering kit and it teaches one skill which I consider to be the most important that anyone can acquire: This is the sensitive touch needed to thread a nut on a bolt and tighten them with a screwdriver and spanner just enough that they stay locked, but not so tightly that the thread is stripped or they cannot be unscrewed. On those occasions (usually during a party at your house) when the handbasin tap is closed so tightly that you cannot turn it back on, you know the last person to use the washroom never had a Meccano set.
Nobel laureate autobiography in Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures 1996 (1997), 189.
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I have never seen the Philosopher's Stone that turns lead into Gold, but I have known the pursuit of it turn a Man's Gold into Lead.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1738).
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I have turned my attention from technological progress to life, from the civilized to the wild.
In Autobiography of Values (1976), p. 358.
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I heard … xenon was a good anesthesia. … I thought, “How can xenon, which doesn’t form any chemical compounds, serve as a general anesthetic? … I lay awake at night for a few minutes before going to sleep, and during the next couple of weeks each night I would think, “…how do anesthetic agents work?" Then I forgot to do it after a while, but I’d trained my unconscious mind to keep this question alive and to call [it] to my consciousness whenever a new idea turned up…. So seven years went by. [One day I] put my feet up on the desk and started reading my mail, and here was a letter from George Jeffrey … an x-ray crystallographer, on his determination of the structure of a hydrate crystal. Immediately I sat up, took my feet off the desk, and said, “I understand anesthesia!” … I spent a year [and] determined the structure of chloroform hydrate, and then I wrote my paper published in June of 1961.
Interview with George B. Kauffman and Laurie M. Kauffman, in 'Linus Pauling: Reflections', American Scientist (Nov-Dec 1994), 82, No. 6, 522-523.
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I know well there are those who would have the Study of Nature restrained wholly to Observations; without ever proceeding further. But due Consideration, and a deeper Insight into Things, would soon have undeceived and made them sensible of their error. Assuredly, that man who should spend his whole life in amassing together stone, timber, and other materials for building, without ever at the making any use, or raising any fabrick out of them, might well be reputed very fantastic and extravagant. And a like censure would be his due, who should be perpetually heaping up of natural collections without design. building a structure of philosophy out of them, or advancing some propositions that might turn to the benefit and advantage of the world. This is in reality the true and only proper end of collections, of observations, and natural history: and they are of no manner of use or value without it.
In An Attempt Toward a Natural History of the Fossils of England (1729), xiii-xiv.
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I noticed affixed to a laboratory door the following words: “Les théories passent. Le Grenouille reste. [The theories pass. The frog remains.] &mdashJean Rostand, Carnets d’un biologiste.” There is a risk that in the less severe discipline of criticism the result may turn out to be different; the theories will remain but the frog may disappear.
In An Appetite for Poetry (1989), 5.
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I recall my own emotions: I had just been initiated into the mysteries of the complex number. I remember my bewilderment: here were magnitudes patently impossible and yet susceptible of manipulations which lead to concrete results. It was a feeling of dissatisfaction, of restlessness, a desire to fill these illusory creatures, these empty symbols, with substance. Then I was taught to interpret these beings in a concrete geometrical way. There came then an immediate feeling of relief, as though I had solved an enigma, as though a ghost which had been causing me apprehension turned out to be no ghost at all, but a familiar part of my environment.
In Tobias Dantzig and Joseph Mazur (ed.), 'The Two Realities', Number: The Language of Science (1930, ed. by Joseph Mazur 2007), 254.
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I remember my father had a sermon he used to preach when we were in Florida, in which he gave a reference to the Southern Cross—about the stars, the colors, in the Southern Cross, which thrilled me very much. I must have been around 5 years old. ... Now, it turns out that the Southern Cross itself does have one red star, together with three blue ones.
'Oral History Transcript: Dr. William Wilson Morgan' (8 Aug 1978) in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives.
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I searched along the changing edge
Where, sky-pierced now the cloud had broken.
I saw no bird, no blade of wing,
No song was spoken.
I stood, my eyes turned upward still
And drank the air and breathed the light.
Then, like a hawk upon the wind,
I climbed the sky, I made the flight.
…...
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I shall never forget the sight. The vessel of crystallization was three quarters full of slightly muddy water—that is, dilute water-glass—and from the sandy bottom there strove upwards a grotesque little landscape of variously colored growths: a confused vegetation of blue, green, and brown shoots which reminded one of algae, mushrooms, attached polyps, also moss, then mussels, fruit pods, little trees or twigs from trees, here, and there of limbs. It was the most remarkable sight I ever saw, and remarkable not so much for its profoundly melancholy nature. For when Father Leverkühn asked us what we thought of it and we timidly answered him that they might be plants: “No,” he replied, “they are not, they only act that way. But do not think the less of them. Precisely because they do, because they try as hard as they can, they are worthy of all respect.”
It turned out that these growths were entirely unorganic in their origin; they existed by virtue of chemicals from the apothecary's shop.
Description of a “chemical garden” in Doktor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend, (1947), 19.
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I talk to myself through the computer. I ask myself questions, leave things to be looked at again, things that you would do with a notepad. It turns out today that it’s much better today to do with a personal computer rather than a notepad.
In transcript of a video history interview with Seymour Cray by David K. Allison at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, (9 May 1995), 30.
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I think people get it upside down when they say the unambiguous is the reality and the ambiguous is merely uncertainty about what is really unambiguous. Let’s turn it around the other way: the ambiguous is the reality and the unambiguous is merely a special case of it, where we finally manage to pin down some very special aspect.
In William Byers, How Mathematicians Think (2007), 25.
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I think that the formation of [DNA's] structure by Watson and Crick may turn out to be the greatest developments in the field of molecular genetics in recent years.
‘Discussion des rapports de M Pauling’, Rep. Institut International de Chemie Solvay: Conference on Proteins, 6-14 April 1953 (1953), 113.
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I think this case will be remembered because it is the first case of this sort since we stopped trying people in America for witchcraft, because here we have done our best to turn back the tide that has sought to force itself upon this modern world, of testing every fact in science by a religious dictum.
Final remarks to the Court after the jury verdict was read at the Scopes Monkey Trial Eighth day's proceedings (21 Jul 1925) in John Thomas Scopes, The World's Most Famous Court Trial: Tennessee Evolution Case: a Complete Stenographic Report of the Famous Court Test of the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Act, at Dayton, July 10 to 21, 1925, Including Speeches and Arguments of Attorneys (1925), 316.
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I turn my eyes to the schools & universities of Europe
And there behold the loom of Locke whose woof rages dire,
Washed by the water-wheels of Newton. Black the cloth
In heavy wreaths folds over every nation; cruel works
Of many wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other: not as those in Eden, which
Wheel within wheel in freedom revolve, in harmony & peace.
'Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion' (1804-20), First Chapter, Pl.15, lines 14-20. In W. H. Stevenson (ed.), The Poems of William Blake (1971), 654-55.
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I want to turn women loose on the environmental crisis…. Nobody knows more about pollution when detergents back up in the sink.
In Unity, Freedom & Peace: A Blueprint for Tomorrow (1968), 87.
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I was a kind of a one-man army. I could solder circuits together, I could turn out things on the lathe, I could work with rockets and balloons. I’m a kind of a hybrid between an engineer and a physicist and astronomer.
Characterizing the self-reliance of scientists of his day, contrasted to the complexities of scientific undertakings today, when “the pattern is much more a team of people” who are “backed up by a technical staff that does most of these things.” In interview, Rushworth M. Kidder, 'Grounded in Space Science', Christian Science Monitor (22 Dec 1989).
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I was sitting writing at my textbook but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold confirmation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the rest of the hypothesis. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the truth... But let us beware of publishing our dreams till they have been tested by waking understanding.
Kekule at Benzolfest in Berichte (1890), 23, 1302.
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I wasn’t aware of Chargaff’s rules when he said them, but the effect on me was quite electric because I realized immediately that if you had this sort of scheme that John Griffith was proposing, of adenine being paired with thymine, and guanine being paired with cytosine, then you should get Chargaff’s rules.
I was very excited, but I didn’t actually tell Chargaff because it was something I was doing with John Griffith. There was a sort of musical comedy effect where I forgot what the bases were and I had to go to the library to check, and I went back to John Griffith to find out which places he said. Low and behold, it turned out that John Griffith’s ideas fitted in with Chargaff’s rules!
This was very exciting, and we thought “ah ha!” and we realized—I mean what anyone who is familiar with the history of science ought to realize—that when you have one-to-one ratios, it means things go to together. And how on Earth no one pointed out this simple fact in those years, I don’t know.
From Transcript of documentary by VSM Productions, The DNA Story (1973). As excerpted on web page 'Chargaff’s Rules', Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA on website scarc.library.oregonstate.edu
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I work for perfection, for perfection's sake. I don't care what the external reasons are. And it's much more like a ballerina on opening night. You've done what you've got to do. When you go out, the purpose is to turn a perfect turn. You are not thinking about the future of the company, you are not thinking about your future, you're not thinking about the critics, it is you and the perfect turn.
[Describing his task of repairing the Hubble Space Telescope.]
Interview (22 May 1997). On Academy of Achievement website.
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I … decided that the challenge of starting with a completely clean slate and mapping out a program that would influence astronomy for fifty years was just more than I could turn down.
Recalling why she took the opportunity to leave research at the Naval Research Laboratory for a management job at NASA to set up a program in space astronomy (Feb 1958). From interview by Rebecca Wright, 'Oral History Transcript' (15 Sep 2000), on NASA website.
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If any spiritualistic medium can do stunts, there is no more need for special conditions than there is for a chemist to turn down lights, start operations with a hymn, and ask whether there's any chemical present that has affinity with something named Hydrogen.
Lo! (1932). In The Complete Books of Charles Fort (1975), 575.
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If I have a thousand ideas a year, and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.
As quoted by Linus Pauling in Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech (10 Dec 1963). As reported in Göran Liljestrand (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1963, (1964).
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If in our withered leaves you see
Hint of your own mortality:—
Think how, when they have turned to earth,
New loveliness from their rich worth
Shall spring to greet the light; then see
Death as the keeper of eternity,
And dying Life’s perpetual re-birth !
Anonymous
Poem attributed with initials W.L., epigraph for chapter on 'The Nitrogen Cycle', in Arthur E. Shipley, Life: A Book for Elementary Students (1925, 2013), 37.
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If one of these elements, heat, becomes predominant in any body whatsoever, it destroys and dissolves all the others with its violence. …Again if too much moisture enters the channels of a body, and thus introduces disproportion, the other elements, adulterated by the liquid, are impaired, and the virtues of the mixture dissolved. This defect, in turn, may arise from the cooling properties of moist winds and breezes blowing upon the body. In the same way, increase or diminution of the proportion of air or of the earthy which is natural to the body may enfeeble the other elements.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 4, Sec. 6. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 18-19.
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If our so-called facts are changing shadows, they are shadows cast by the light of constant truth. So too in religion we are repelled by that confident theological doctrine… but we need not turn aside from the measure of light that comes into our experience showing us a Way through the unseen world.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 91.
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If seeds in the black Earth can turn into such beautiful roses what might not the heart of man become in its long journey towards the stars?
…...
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If some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the offer.
'On Descartes' "Discourse Touching the Method of Using One's Reason Rightly and of Seeking Scientific Truth'" (1870). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 1, 192-3.
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If some nuclear properties of the heavy elements had been a little different from what they turned out to be, it might have been impossible to build a bomb.
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 149.
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If the 'Principle of Relativity' in an extreme sense establishes itself, it seems as if even Time would become discontinuous and be supplied in atoms, as money is doled out in pence or centimes instead of continuously;—in which case our customary existence will turn out to be no more really continuous than the events on a kinematograph screen;—while that great agent of continuity, the Ether of Space, will be relegated to the museum of historical curiosities.
Continuity: The Presidential Address to the British Association (1913), 40-41.
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If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and would altogether fail to have any meaning at the beginning; they would only begin to have a sensible meaning when the original quantum had been divided into a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct, the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time. I think that such a beginning of the world is far enough from the present order of Nature to be not at all repugnant. It may be difficult to follow up the idea in detail as we are not yet able to count the quantum packets in every case. For example, it may be that an atomic nucleus must be counted as a unique quantum, the atomic number acting as a kind of quantum number. If the future development of quantum theory happens to turn in that direction, we could conceive the beginning of the universe in the form of a unique atom, the atomic weight of which is the total mass of the universe. This highly unstable atom would divide in smaller and smaller atoms by a kind of super-radioactive process.
In 'The Beginning of the World from the Point of View of Quantum Theory', Nature (1931), 127, 706.
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If the world is turning, even the church can’t stop it; if it isn’t turning, nobody can go out and make it turn.
From the play Galileo Galilei (2001) .
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If there is such a thing as luck, then I must be the most unlucky fellow in the world. I’ve never once made a lucky strike in all my life. When I get after something that I need, I start finding everything in the world that I don’t need—one damn thing after another. I find ninety-nine things that I don’t need, and then comes number one hundred, and that—at the very last—turns out to be just what I had been looking for.
In Martin André Rosanoff, 'Edison in His Laboratory', Harper’s Magazine (Sep 1932), 406.
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If we consider that part of the theory of relativity which may nowadays in a sense be regarded as bone fide scientific knowledge, we note two aspects which have a major bearing on this theory. The whole development of the theory turns on the question of whether there are physically preferred states of motion in Nature (physical relativity problem). Also, concepts and distinctions are only admissible to the extent that observable facts can be assigned to them without ambiguity (stipulation that concepts and distinctions should have meaning). This postulate, pertaining to epistemology, proves to be of fundamental importance.
'Fundamental ideas and problems of the theory of relativity', Lecture delivered to the Nordic Assembly of Naturalists at Gothenburg, 11 Jul 1923. In Nobel Physics 1901-1921 (1998), 482.
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If we turn our backs on things as yet untried within our own small realm of reference, we’re guilty of a sin against ourselves: An unwillingness to experiment.
In 'Reactions to Man’s Landing on the Moon Show Broad Variations in Opinions', The New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 6.
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If we turn to the problems to which the calculus owes its origin, we find that not merely, not even primarily, geometry, but every other branch of mathematical physics—astronomy, mechanics, hydrodynamics, elasticity, gravitation, and later electricity and magnetism—in its fundamental concepts and basal laws contributed to its development and that the new science became the direct product of these influences.
Opening of Presidential Address (27 Apr 1907) to the American Mathematical Society, 'The Calculus in Colleges and Technical Schools', published in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (Jun 1907), 13, 449.
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If you are on the side whence the wind is blowing you will see the trees looking much lighter than you would see them on the other sides; and this is due to the fact that the wind turns up the reverse side of the leaves which in all trees is much whiter than the upper side.
…...
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If you have an idea that you wish your audience to carry away, turn it upside down and inside out, rephrasing it from different angles. Remember that the form in which the thing may appear best to you may not impress half your audience.
Advice to the writer of his first paper for presentation at a scientific meeting. As expressed in quotation marks by Charles Thom in 'Robert Almer Harper', National Academy Biographical Memoirs (1948), 25, 233-234. Also, in Thom's words, “[Harper] added that a miscellaneous audience can not he expected to carry away a lot of separate facts but one good idea, well pictured out, will be remembered by some of them.”
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If [in a rain forest] the traveler notices a particular species and wishes to find more like it, he must often turn his eyes in vain in every direction. Trees of varied forms, dimensions, and colors are around him, but he rarely sees any of them repeated. Time after time he goes towards a tree which looks like the one he seeks, but a closer examination proves it to be distinct.
In 'Equitorial Vegetation', Natural Selection and Tropical Nature Essays on Descriptive and Theoretical Biology (1891), 267.
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If, for example, I had some idea, which, as it turned out would, say, be quite wrong, was going off of the tangent, Watson would tell me in no uncertain terms this was nonsense, and vice-versa. If he had some idea I didn’t like and I would say so and this would shake his thinking about it and draw him back again. And in fact, it’s one of the requirements for collaboration of this sort that you must be perfectly candid, one might almost say rude, to the person you are working with. It’s useless, working with somebody who’s either much too junior than yourself, or much too senior, because then politeness creeps in. And this is the end of all real collaboration in science.
As quoted in Robert Olby, The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of the Double Helix, (1974, 1994), 316, citing Transcript of BBC TV program, The Prizewinners (1962).
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In 1808 … Malus chanced to look through a double refracting prism at the light of the setting sun, reflected from the windows of the Luxembourg Palace. In turning the prism round, he was surprised to find that the ordinary image disappeared at two opposite positions of the prism. He remarked that the reflected light behaved like light which had been polarized by passing through another prism.
In Principles of Science (1874), Vols. 1-2, Book IV, Chap. 18, 163.
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In a class I was taking there was one boy who was much older than the rest. He clearly had no motive to work. I told him that, if he could produce for me, accurately to scale, drawings of the pieces of wood required to make a desk like the one he was sitting at, I would try to persuade the Headmaster to let him do woodwork during the mathematics hours—in the course of which, no doubt, he would learn something about measurement and numbers. Next day, he turned up with this task completed to perfection. This I have often found with pupils; it is not so much that they cannot do the work, as that they see no purpose in it.
In Mathematician's Delight (1943), 52.
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In a hundred and fifty years the United States has lost one third of its topsoil. And I think about two hundred fifty million acres are turning into desert because of overgrazing and other mismanagement.
From interview collected in Pamela Weintraub (ed.), The Omni Interviews (1984), 82.
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In a world that is rightly so concerned about climate change and the atmosphere, to be so ignorant and neglectful of our oceans is deeply troubling. However, … having woken up to this living disaster and having realized that there are limits to how much abuse we can inflict, it’s not too late to turn things around.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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In acute diseases the physician must conduct his inquiries in the following way. First he must examine the face of the patient, and see whether it is like the faces of healthy people, and especially whether it is like its usual self. Such likeness will be the best sign, and the greatest unlikeness will be the most dangerous sign. The latter will be as follows. Nose sharp, eyes hollow, temples sunken, ears cold and contracted with their lobes turned outwards, the skin about the face hard and tense and parched, the colour of the face as a whole being yellow or black.
Prognostic, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 9.
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In describing a protein it is now common to distinguish the primary, secondary and tertiary structures. The primary structure is simply the order, or sequence, of the amino-acid residues along the polypeptide chains. This was first determined by Sanger using chemical techniques for the protein insulin, and has since been elucidated for a number of peptides and, in part, for one or two other small proteins. The secondary structure is the type of folding, coiling or puckering adopted by the polypeptide chain: the a-helix structure and the pleated sheet are examples. Secondary structure has been assigned in broad outline to a number of librous proteins such as silk, keratin and collagen; but we are ignorant of the nature of the secondary structure of any globular protein. True, there is suggestive evidence, though as yet no proof, that a-helices occur in globular proteins, to an extent which is difficult to gauge quantitatively in any particular case. The tertiary structure is the way in which the folded or coiled polypeptide chains are disposed to form the protein molecule as a three-dimensional object, in space. The chemical and physical properties of a protein cannot be fully interpreted until all three levels of structure are understood, for these properties depend on the spatial relationships between the amino-acids, and these in turn depend on the tertiary and secondary structures as much as on the primary. Only X-ray diffraction methods seem capable, even in principle, of unravelling the tertiary and secondary structures.
Co-author with G. Bodo, H. M. Dintzis, R. G. Parrish, H. Wyckoff, and D. C. Phillips
'A Three-Dimensional Model of the Myoglobin Molecule Obtained by X-ray Analysis', Nature (1958) 181, 662.
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In experimenting on the arc, my aim was not so much to add to the large number of isolated facts that had already been discovered, as to form some idea of the bearing of these upon one another, and thus to arrive at a clear conception of what takes place in each part of the arc and carbons at every moment. The attempt to correlate all the known phenomena, and to bind them together into one consistent whole, led to the deduction of new facts, which, when duly tested by experiment, became parts of the growing body, and, themselves, opened up fresh questions, to be answered in their turn by experiment.
In The Electric Arc (1902), Preface, iii. Ayrton described the growth of her published work on the electric arc, from a series of articles in The Electrician in 1895-6, to the full book, which “has attained to its present proportions almost with the growth of an organic body.”
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In geometric and physical applications, it always turns out that a quantity is characterized not only by its tensor order, but also by symmetry.
Epigraph in Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorn and John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation (1970, 1973), 47. Cited as “(1925),” with no source.
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In order to turn natural history into a true science, one would have to devote oneself to investigations capable of telling us not the particular shape of such and such an animal, but the general procedures of nature in the animal's production and preservation.
'Lettre sur le progress des sciences' in Oeuvres de Mr. De Maupertuis (1756), Vol. 2, 386. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 392.
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In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it.
In 'The Anthropic Universe', New Scientist (6 Aug 1987), 46.
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In the beginning was the book of Nature. For eon after eon, the pages of the book turned with no human to read them. No eye wondered at the ignition of the sun, the coagulation of the earth, the birth of the moon, the solidification of a terrestrial continent, or the filling of the seas. Yet when the first primitive algae evolved to float on the waters of this ocean, a promise was born—a hope that someday all the richness and variety of the phenomena of the universe would be read with appreciative eyes.
Opening paragraph in Gary G. Tibbetts, How the Great Scientists Reasoned: The Scientific Method in Action (2012), 1.
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In the course of this short tour, I became convinced that we must turn to the New World if we wish to see in perfection the oldest monuments of the earth’s history, so far at least as relates to its earliest inhabitants.
Travels in North America (1845), Vol. 1, 19.
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In the fall of 1967, [I was invited] to a conference … on pulsars. … In my talk, I argued that we should consider the possibility that the center of a pulsar is a gravitationally completely collapsed object. I remarked that one couldn't keep saying “gravitationally completely collapsed object” over and over. One needed a shorter descriptive phrase. “How about black hole?” asked someone in the audience. I had been searching for the right term for months, mulling it over in bed, in the bathtub, in my car, whenever I had quiet moments. Suddenly this name seemed exactly right. When I gave a more formal Sigma Xi-Phi Beta Kappa lecture … on December 29, 1967, I used the term, and then included it in the written version of the lecture published in the spring of 1968. (As it turned out, a pulsar is powered by “merely” a neutron star, not a black hole.)
[Although John Wheeler is often identified as coining the term “black hole,” he in fact merely popularized the expression. In his own words, this is his explanation of the true origin: a suggestion from an unidentified person in a conference audience.]
In Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam (2000), 296-297.
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In this lecture I would like to conclude with … some characteristics [of] gravity … The most impressive fact is that gravity is simple. It is simple to state the principles completely and not have left any vagueness for anybody to change the ideas of the law. It is simple, and therefore it is beautiful. It is simple in its pattern. I do not mean it is simple in its action—the motions of the various planets and the perturbations of one on the other can be quite complicated to work out, and to follow how all those stars in a globular cluster move is quite beyond our ability. It is complicated in its actions, but the basic pattern or the system beneath the whole thing is simple. This is common to all our laws; they all turn out to be simple things, although complex in their actual actions.
In 'The Law of Gravitation, as Example of Physical Law', the first of his Messenger Lectures (1964), Cornell University. Collected in The Character of Physical Law (1967), 33-34.
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Louis Agassiz quote: In-depth studies have an influence on general ideas, whereas theories, in turn, in order to maintain themse
In-depth studies have an influence on general ideas, whereas theories, in turn, in order to maintain themselves, push their spectators to search for new evidence. The mind’s activity that is maintained by the debates about these works, is probably the source of the greatest joys given to man to experience on Earth.
La théorie des glaciers et ses progrès les plus récents. Bibl. universelle de Geneve, (3), Vol. 41, p. 139. Trans. Karin Verrecchia.
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Incandescent carbon particles, by the tens of millions, leap free of the log and wave like banners, as flame. Several hundred significantly different chemical reactions are now going on. For example, a carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, coming out of the breaking cellulose, may lock together and form methane, natural gas. The methane, burning (combining with oxygen), turns into carbon dioxide and water, which also go up the flue. If two carbon atoms happen to come out of the wood with six hydrogen atoms, they are, agglomerately, ethane, which bums to become, also, carbon dioxide and water. Three carbons and eight hydrogens form propane, and propane is there, too, in the fire. Four carbons and ten hydrogens—butane. Five carbons … pentane. Six … hexane. Seven … heptane. Eight carbons and eighteen hydrogens—octane. All these compounds come away in the breaking of the cellulose molecule, and burn, and go up the chimney as carbon dioxide and water. Pentane, hexane, heptane, and octane have a collective name. Logs burning in a fireplace are making and burning gasoline.
In 'Firewood', Pieces of the Frame (1975), 205-206.
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Index-learning turns no student pale,
Yet holds the eel of Science by the tail.
Index-learning is a term used to mock pretenders who acquire superficial knowledge merely by consulting indexes.
The Dunciad (1728), Book 1, 279. Reference from The Oxford English Dictionary.
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Is time the wheel that turns, or the track it leaves behind?
Kelstar’s Riddle – Epigraph in Robin Hobb, The Tawny Man: Book 1: Fool’s Errand (2002), 1.
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It always bothers me that according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space and no matter how tiny a region of time … I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities. But this speculation is of the same nature as those other people make—“I like it”,“I don't like it”—and it is not good to be too prejudiced about these things.
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 57.
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It did not take atomic weapons to make man want peace. But the atomic bomb was the turn of the screw. The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.
Commencement address (1946). As quoted in book review (of Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb), by William J. Broad, ‘The Men Who Made the Sun Rise', New York Times Book Review (8 Feb 1987), 39. Cited as from 'The Atomic Bomb and College Education' (1946), in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (18th ed., 2014). as quoted, without citation, in . Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
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It follows from the supreme perfection of God, that in creating the universe has chosen the best possible plan, in which there is the greatest variety together with the greatest order; the best arranged ground, place, time; the most results produced in the most simple ways; the most of power, knowledge, happiness and goodness the creatures that the universe could permit. For since all the possibles in I understanding of God laid claim to existence in proportion to their perfections, the actual world, as the resultant of all these claims, must be the most perfect possible. And without this it would not be possible to give a reason why things have turned out so rather than otherwise.
The Principles of Nature and Grace (1714), The Philosophical Works of Leibnitz (1890), ed. G. M. Duncan, 213-4.
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It is a happy world after all. The air, the earth, the water teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon, or a summer evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon my view. “The insect youth are on the wing.” Swarms of new-born flies are trying their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their wanton mazes, their gratuitous activity testify their joy and the exultation they feel in their lately discovered faculties … The whole winged insect tribe, it is probable, are equally intent upon their proper employments, and under every variety of constitution, gratified, and perhaps equally gratified, by the offices which the author of their nature has assigned to them.
Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of The Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802), 490-1.
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It is a peculiar feature in the fortune of principles of such high elementary generality and simplicity as characterise the laws of motion, that when they are once firmly established, or supposed to be so, men turn with weariness and impatience from all questionings of the grounds and nature of their authority. We often feel disposed to believe that truths so clear and comprehensive are necessary conditions, rather than empirical attributes of their subjects: that they are legible by their own axiomatic light, like the first truths of geometry, rather than discovered by the blind gropings of experience.
In An Introduction to Dynamics (1832), x.
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It is a very strange thing to reflect that but for the invention of Professor Haber the Germans could not have continued the War after their original stack of nitrates was exhausted. The invention of this single man has enabled them, utilising the interval in which their accumulations were used up, not only to maintain an almost unlimited supply of explosives for all purposes, but to provide amply for the needs of agriculture in chemical manures. It is a remarkable fact, and shows on what obscure and accidental incidents the fortunes of possible the whole world may turn in these days of scientific discovery.
[During World War I, Fritz Haber and Karl Bosch invented a large scale process to cause the direct combination of hydrogen and nitrogen gases to chemically synthesize ammonia, thus providing a replacement for sodium nitrate in the manufacture of explosives and fertilizers.]
Parliamentary debate (25 Apr 1918). In Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469. by Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth
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It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.
In 'The Exceeding Beauty of the Earth', This Week Magazine (1952). As cited in Karen F. Stein, Rachel Carson: Challenging Authors (2013), 55.
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It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.
…...
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It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be … This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.
In 'My Own View', Robert Holdstock (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1978). As cited in Robert Andrews, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), 129.
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It is high time that laymen abandoned the misleading belief that scientific enquiry is a cold dispassionate enterprise, bleached of imaginative qualities, and that a scientist is a man who turns the handle of discovery; for at every level of endeavour scientific research is a passionate undertaking and the Promotion of Natural Knowledge depends above all on a sortee into what can be imagined but is not yet known.
The Times Literary Supplement (London), 1963 October 25 (p. 850)
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It is impossible not to feel stirred at the thought of the emotions of man at certain historic moments of adventure and discovery—Columbus when he first saw the Western shore, Pizarro when he stared at the Pacific Ocean, Franklin when the electric spark came from the string of his kite, Galileo when he first turned his telescope to the heavens. Such moments are also granted to students in the abstract regions of thought, and high among them must be placed the morning when Descartes lay in bed and invented the method of co-ordinate geometry.
Quoted in James Roy Newman, The World of Mathematics (2000), Vol. 1, 239.
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It is my thesis that the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy through feedback. Both of them have sensory receptors as one stage in their cycle of operation: that is, in both of them there exists a special apparatus for collecting information from the outer world at low energy levels, and for making it available in the operation of the individual or of the machine. In both cases these external messages are not taken neat, but through the internal transforming powers of the apparatus, whether it be alive or dead. The information is then turned into a new form available for the further stages of performance. In both the animal and the machine this performance is made to be effective on the outer world. In both of them, their performed action on the outer world, and not merely their intended aetion, is reported back to the central regulatory apparatus.
In The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1954), 26-27.
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It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully,but in order to begin another. I imagine the world conqueror must feel thus, who, after one kingdom is scarcely conquered, stretches out his arms for others.
Letter to Farkas Wolfgang Bolyai (2 Sep 1808). Quoted in G. Waldo Dunnington, Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004), 416.
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It is one of the laws of life that each acquisition has its cost. No organism can exercise power without yielding up part of its substance. The physiological law of Transfer of Energy is the basis of human success and happiness. There is no action without expenditure of energy and if energy be not expended the power to generate it is lost. This law shows itself in a thousand ways in the life of man. The arm which is not used becomes palsied. The wealth which comes by chance weakens and destroys. The good which is unused turns to evil. The charity which asks no effort cannot relieve the misery she creates.
In The Strength of Being Clean: A Study of the Quest for Unearned Happiness (1900), 6.
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It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people… Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid … the future belongs to science and those who make friends with science.
From address to the Indian Science Congress (26 Dec 1937). As cited in M.J. Vinod and Meena Deshpande, Contemporary Political Theory (2013), 507. An earlier, longer version of the quote is in Atma Ram, 'The Making of Optical Glass in India: Its Lessons for Industrial Development', Proceedings of the National Institute of Sciences of India (1961), 27, 564-5.
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It is sunlight in modified form which turns all the windmills and water wheels and the machinery which they drive. It is the energy derived from coal and petroleum (fossil sunlight) which propels our steam and gas engines, our locomotives and automobiles. ... Food is simply sunlight in cold storage.
In New Dietetics: What to Eat and How (1921), 29.
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It is very difficult to say nowadays where the suburbs of London come to an end and where the country begins. The railways, instead of enabling Londoners to live in the country have turned the countryside into a city.
In The Three Clerks (1857, 1904), 30-31.
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It is … a sign of the times—though our brothers of physics and chemistry may smile to hear me say so—that biology is now a science in which theories can be devised: theories which lead to predictions and predictions which sometimes turn out to be correct. These facts confirm me in a belief I hold most passionately—that biology is the heir of all the sciences.
From Nobel Banquet speech (10 Dec 1960).
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It may be said “In research, if you know what you are doing, then you shouldn't be doing it.” In a sense, if the answer turns out to be exactly what you expected, then you have learned nothing new, although you may have had your confidence increased somewhat.
In Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers (1973), 704.
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It must be admitted that science has its castes. The man whose chief apparatus is the differential equation looks down upon one who uses a galvanometer, and he in turn upon those who putter about with sticky and smelly things in test tubes. But all of these, and most biologists too, join together in their contempt for the pariah who, not through a glass darkly, but with keen unaided vision, observes the massing of a thundercloud on the horizon, the petal as it unfolds, or the swarming of a hive of bees. And yet sometimes I think that our laboratories are but little earthworks which men build about themselves, and whose puny tops too often conceal from view the Olympian heights; that we who work in these laboratories are but skilled artisans compared with the man who is able to observe, and to draw accurate deductions from the world about him.
The Anatomy of Science (1926), 170- 1.
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It sometimes strikes me that the whole of science is a piece of impudence; that nature can afford to ignore our impertinent interference. If our monkey mischief should ever reach the point of blowing up the earth by decomposing an atom, and even annihilated the sun himself, I cannot really suppose that the universe would turn a hair.
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, ch. 14 (1929, rev 1970).
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It turned out that the buckyball, the soccer ball, was something of a Rosetta stone of an infinite new class of molecules.
From interview with National Public Radio (2000), quoted and cited in Nell GreenfieldBoyce, '‘Buckyball’ Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley Dies', All Things Considered (31 Oct 2005). Transcript on NPR website.
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It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a façade of order—and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.
Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern (1985, 1996), 299.
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It was a dark and stormy night, so R. H. Bing volunteered to drive some stranded mathematicians from the fogged-in Madison airport to Chicago. Freezing rain pelted the windscreen and iced the roadway as Bing drove on—concentrating deeply on the mathematical theorem he was explaining. Soon the windshield was fogged from the energetic explanation. The passengers too had beaded brows, but their sweat arose from fear. As the mathematical description got brighter, the visibility got dimmer. Finally, the conferees felt a trace of hope for their survival when Bing reached forward—apparently to wipe off the moisture from the windshield. Their hope turned to horror when, instead, Bing drew a figure with his finger on the foggy pane and continued his proof—embellishing the illustration with arrows and helpful labels as needed for the demonstration.
In 'R. H. Bing', Biographical Memoirs: National Academy of Sciences (2002), 49. Anecdote based on the recollections of Bing's colleagues, Steve Armentrout and C. E. Burgess. The narrative was given in a memorial tribute at the University of Texas at Austin.
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It was not just the Church that resisted the heliocentrism of Copernicus. Many prominent figures, in the decades following the 1543 publication of De Revolutionibus, regarded the Copernican model of the universe as a mathematical artifice which, though it yielded astronomical predictions of superior accuracy, could not be considered a true representation of physical reality: 'If Nicolaus Copernicus, the distinguished and incomparable master, in this work had not been deprived of exquisite and faultless instruments, he would have left us this science far more well-established. For he, if anybody, was outstanding and had the most perfect understanding of the geometrical and arithmetical requisites for building up this discipline. Nor was he in any respect inferior to Ptolemy; on the contrary, he surpassed him greatly in certain fields, particularly as far as the device of fitness and compendious harmony in hypotheses is concerned. And his apparently absurd opinion that the Earth revolves does not obstruct this estimate, because a circular motion designed to go on uniformly about another point than the very center of the circle, as actually found in the Ptolemaic hypotheses of all the planets except that of the Sun, offends against the very basic principles of our discipline in a far more absurd and intolerable way than does the attributing to the Earth one motion or another which, being a natural motion, turns out to be imperceptible. There does not at all arise from this assumption so many unsuitable consequences as most people think.'
from Letter to Christopher Rothman, 20 Jan 1587
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It’s a good thing to turn your mind upside down now and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the other way.
The Haunted Bookshop (1919), 13.
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It’s amazing how quickly nature consumes human places after we turn our backs on them. Life is a hungry thing.
…...
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It’s funny how worms can turn leaves into silk.
But funnier far is the cow:
She changes a field of green grass into milk
And not a professor knows how.
In Dorothy Caruso, Enrico Caruso: His Life and Death (1963), 42. Written for Michael Pupin, who made a similar statement in prose: “Look at those animals and remember the greatest scientists in the world have never discovered how to make grass into milk.”
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It’s going to be a bummer if Mars turns out to be like us.
…...
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I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.
In epigraph, without citation, in The Great American Sports Book: A Casual But Voluminous Look at American Spectator Sports from the Civil War to the Present Time (1978), 282.
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Judging from our experience upon this planet, such a history, that begins with elementary particles, leads perhaps inevitably toward a strange and moving end: a creature that knows, a science-making animal, that turns back upon the process that generated him and attempts to understand it. Without his like, the universe could be, but not be known, and this is a poor thing. Surely this is a great part of our dignity as men, that we can know, and that through us matter can know itself; that beginning with protons and electrons, out of the womb of time and the vastnesses of space, we can begin to understand; that organized as in us, the hydrogen, the carbon, the nitrogen, the oxygen, those 16-21 elements, the water, the sunlight—all having become us, can begin to understand what they are, and how they came to be.
In 'The Origins of Life', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (1964), 52, 609-110.
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Junior high school seemed like a fine idea when we invented it but it turned out to be an invention of the devil. We’re catching our boys in a net in which they’re socially unprepared. We put them in junior high school with girls who are two years ahead of them. There isn’t a thing they should have to do with girls at this age except growl at them.
As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 147.
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Just as iron rusts from disuse and stagnant water putrefies, or when cold turns to ice, so our intellect wastes unless it is kept in use.
C.A. 289 v. c. In Irma A. Richter and Thereza Wells (eds.), Leonardo da Vinci: Notebooks (1952, 1980), 245. Also translated as “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind,” in Edward McCurdy, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1939), Vol. 1, 89. Translated as “Just as iron rusts unless it is used, and water putrifies or, in cold, turns to ice, so our intellect spoils unless it is kept in use,” in Jean Paul Richter (trans.), The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1888), Note 1177.
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Just as knowing how a magic trick is done spoils its wonder, so let us be grateful that wherever science and reason turn they finally plunge into darkness.
John Mitchinson and John Lloyd, If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People?: Smart Quotes for Dumb Times (2009), 274.
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Just think of the differences today. A young person gets interested in chemistry and is given a chemical set. But it doesn't contain potassium cyanide. It doesn't even contain copper sulfate or anything else interesting because all the interesting chemicals are considered dangerous substances. Therefore, these budding young chemists don't get a chance to do anything engrossing with their chemistry sets. As I look back, I think it is pretty remarkable that Mr. Ziegler, this friend of the family, would have so easily turned over one-third of an ounce of potassium cyanide to me, an eleven-year-old boy.
In Barbara Marinacci, Linus Pauling In His Own Words (1995), 29.
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Knock, And He’ll open the door
Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.
Rumi
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 164
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Knox was engaged in a theological discussion with scientist John Scott Haldane. “In a universe containing millions of planets,” reasoned Haldane, “is it not inevitable that life should appear on at least one of them?”
“Sir,” replied Knox, “if Scotland Yard found a body in your cabin trunk, would you tell them: ‘There are millions of trunks in the world; surely one of them must contain a body?’ I think they would still want to know who put it there.”
Quoted in Clifton Fadiman and André Bernard (eds.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 324. See also Richard Hazelett and Dean Turner, Benevolent Living (1990), 49, citing John J. McAleer
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LEAD, n. A heavy blue-gray metal much used ... as a counterpoise to an argument of such weight that it turns the scale of debate the wrong way. An interesting fact in the chemistry of international controversy is that at the point of contact of two patriotisms lead is precipitated in great quantities.
[Referring to bullets.]
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  187.
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Learn the leading precognita of all things—no need to turn over leaf by leaf, but grasp the trunk hard and you will shake all the branches.
Advice cherished by Samuel Johnson that that, if one is to master any subject, one must first discover its general principles.
Advice from Rev. Cornelius Ford, a distant cousin, quoted in John P. Hardy, Samuel Johnson: A Critical Study (1979), 29.
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Let him [the author] be permitted also in all humility to add … that in consequence of the large arrears of algebraical and arithmetical speculations waiting in his mind their turn to be called into outward existence, he is driven to the alternative of leaving the fruits of his meditations to perish (as has been the fate of too many foregone theories, the still-born progeny of his brain, now forever resolved back again into the primordial matter of thought), or venturing to produce from time to time such imperfect sketches as the present, calculated to evoke the mental co-operation of his readers, in whom the algebraical instinct has been to some extent developed, rather than to satisfy the strict demands of rigorously systematic exposition.
In Philosophic Magazine (1863), 460.
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Let us keep the discoveries and indisputable measurements of physics. But ... A more complete study of the movements of the world will oblige us, little by little, to turn it upside down; in other words, to discover that if things hold and hold together, it is only by reason of complexity, from above.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 43. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Let us not, in the pride of our superior knowledge, turn with contempt from the follies of our predecessors. The study of the errors into which great minds have fallen in the pursuit of truth can never be uninstructive.
From Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions (1841), Vol. 3, 3.
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Let us only imagine that birds had studied their own development and that it was they in turn who investigated the structure of the adult mammal and of man. Wouldn’t their physiological textbooks teach the following? “Those four and two-legged animals bear many resemblances to embryos, for their cranial bones are separated, and they have no beak, just as we do in the first live or six days of incubation; their extremities are all very much alike, as ours are for about the same period; there is not a single true feather on their body, rather only thin feather-shafts, so that we, as fledglings in the nest, are more advanced than they shall ever be … And these mammals that cannot find their own food for such a long time after their birth, that can never rise freely from the earth, want to consider themselves more highly organized than we?”
Über Entwicklungsgeschichte der Thiere: Beobachtung und Reflexion (1828), 203. Trans. Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), 54.
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Life is a five to four decision in the Supreme Court of the Mind. Counteract the hopelessness. You can change that one vote. Sit down and turn blood into ink.
As quoted in 'In memoriam—Jack J. Leedy (1921–2004)', Journal of Poetry Therapy (2004), 17, No. 4, 231.
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Man cannot afford to be a naturalist, to look at Nature directly, but only with the side of his eye. He must look through and beyond her, to look at her is fatal as to look at the head of Medusa. It turns the man of science to stone. I feel that I am dissipated by so many observations. I should be the magnet in the midst of all this dust and filings.
From Journal entry (23 Mar 1953), in Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), Journal (1906), Vol. 5, 45.
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Man has mounted science, and is now run away with. I firmly believe that before many centuries more, science will be the master of men. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. Someday science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide, by blowing up the world. Not only shall we be able to cruise in space, but I’ll be hanged if I see any reason why some future generation shouldn’t walk off like a beetle with the world on its back, or give it another rotary motion so that every zone should receive in turn its due portion of heat and light.
Letter to his brother, Charles Francis Adams Jr., London, (11 Apr 1862). In J. C. Levenson, E. Samuels, C. Vandersee and V. Hopkins Winner (eds.), The Letters of Henry Adams: 1858-1868 (1982), Vol. 1, 290.
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Many people are shrinking from the future and from participation in the movement toward a new, expanded reality. And, like homesick travelers abroad, they are focusing their anxieties on home. The reasons are not far to seek. We are at a turning point in human history... We could turn our attention to the problems that going to the moon certainly will not solve ... But I think this would be fatal to our future... A society that no longer moves forward does not merely stagnate; it begins to die.
…...
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Mathematical research, with all its wealth of hidden treasure, is all too apt to yield nothing to our research: for it is haunted by certain ignes fatui—delusive phantoms, that float before us, and seem so fair, and are all but in our grasp, so nearly that it never seems to need more than one step further, and the prize shall be ours! Alas for him who has been turned aside from real research by one of these spectres—who has found a music in its mocking laughter—and who wastes his life and energy on the desperate chase!
Written without pseudonym as Charles L. Dodgson, in Introduction to A New Theory of Parallels (1888, 1890), xvi. Note: Ignes fatui, the plural of ignes fatuus (foolish fire), refers to a will-o'-the-wisp: something deceptive or deluding.
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Mathematicians are like a certain type of Frenchman: when you talk to them they translate it into their own language, and then it soon turns into something completely different.
Maxims and Reflections (1998), trans. E. Stopp, 162.
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May not subterraneous fire be considered as the great plough (if I may be allowed the expression) which Nature makes use of to turn up the bowels of the earth?
Observations on Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna, and other Volcanoes (1774),161.
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Might one not say that in the chance combination of nature's production, since only those endowed with certain relations of suitability could survive, it is no cause for wonder that this suitability is found in all species that exist today? Chance, one might say, produced an innumerable multitude of individuals; a small number turned out to be constructed in such fashion that the parts of the animal could satisfy its needs; in another, infinitely greater number, there was neither suitability nor order: all of the later have perished; animals without a mouth could not live, others lacking organs for reproduction could not perpetuate themselves: the only ones to have remained are those in which were found order and suitability; and these species, which we see today, are only the smallest part of what blind fate produced.
'Essai de Cosmologie' in Oeuvres de Mr. De Maupertuis (1756), Vol. 1, 11-12. Quoted in Jacques Roger, The Life Sciences in Eighteenth-Century French Thought, ed. Keith R. Benson and trans. Robert Ellrich (1997), 381.
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Montaigne simply turns his mind loose and writes whatever he feels like writing. Mostly, he wants to say that reason is not a special, unique gift of human beings, marking us off from the rest of nature.
In The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974, 1979), 147.
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More than the diamond Koh-i-noor, which glitters among their crown jewels, they prize the dull pebble which is wiser than a man, whose poles turn themselves to the poles of the world, and whose axis is parallel to the axis of the world. Now, their toys are steam and galvanism.
English Traits (1856), 47. The “dull pebble” refers to lodestone and its magnetic properties.
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Most, if not all, of the great ideas of modern mathematics have had their origin in observation. Take, for instance, the arithmetical theory of forms, of which the foundation was laid in the diophantine theorems of Fermat, left without proof by their author, which resisted all efforts of the myriad-minded Euler to reduce to demonstration, and only yielded up their cause of being when turned over in the blow-pipe flame of Gauss’s transcendent genius; or the doctrine of double periodicity, which resulted from the observation of Jacobi of a purely analytical fact of transformation; or Legendre’s law of reciprocity; or Sturm’s theorem about the roots of equations, which, as he informed me with his own lips, stared him in the face in the midst of some mechanical investigations connected (if my memory serves me right) with the motion of compound pendulums; or Huyghen’s method of continued fractions, characterized by Lagrange as one of the principal discoveries of that great mathematician, and to which he appears to have been led by the construction of his Planetary Automaton; or the new algebra, speaking of which one of my predecessors (Mr. Spottiswoode) has said, not without just reason and authority, from this chair, “that it reaches out and indissolubly connects itself each year with fresh branches of mathematics, that the theory of equations has become almost new through it, algebraic geometry transfigured in its light, that the calculus of variations, molecular physics, and mechanics” (he might, if speaking at the present moment, go on to add the theory of elasticity and the development of the integral calculus) “have all felt its influence”.
In 'A Plea for the Mathematician', Nature, 1, 238 in Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, 655-56.
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Mr. Hillaire Belloc has pointed out that science has changed greatly, and for the worse, since it became popular. Some hundred years ago, or more, only very unusual, highly original spirits were attracted to science at all; scientific work was therefore carried out by men of exceptional intelligence. Now, scientists are turned out by mass production in our universities.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 23-24.
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Mr. Thomas A. Edison recently came into this office, placed a little machine on our desk, turned a crank, and the machine enquired as to our health, asked how we liked the phonograph, informed us that it was well, and bid us a cordial good night. These remarks were not only perfectly audible to ourselves, but to a dozen or more persons gathered around.
Scientific American (22 Dec 1877). Quoted in By John Henry Pepper, The Boy's Playbook of Science, Revised (1881), 251.
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My experiments with single traits all lead to the same result: that from the seeds of hybrids, plants are obtained half of which in turn carry the hybrid trait (Aa), the other half, however, receive the parental traits A and a in equal amounts. Thus, on the average, among four plants two have the hybrid trait Aa, one the parental trait A, and the other the parental trait a. Therefore, 2Aa+ A +a or A + 2Aa + a is the empirical simple series for two differing traits.
Letter to Carl Nägeli, 31 Dec 1866. In Curt Stern and Eva R. Sherwood (eds.), The Origin of Genetics: A Mendel Source Book (1966), 63.
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My method consists in allowing the mind to play freely for a very brief period, until a couple or so of ideas have passed through it, and then, while the traces or echoes of those ideas are still lingering in the brain, to turn the attention upon them with a sudden and complete awakening; to arrest, to scrutinise them, and to record their exact appearance... The general impression they have left upon me is like that which many of us have experienced when the basement of our house happens to be under thorough sanitary repairs, and we realise for the first time the complex system of drains and gas and water pipes, flues, bell-wires, and so forth, upon which our comfort depends, but which are usually hidden out of sight, and with whose existence, so long as they acted well, we had never troubled ourselves.
Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (1883),185-6.
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My steamboat voyage to Albany and back, has turned out rather more favorable than I had calculated. The distance from New York to Albany is one hundred and fifty miles; I ran it up in thirty-two hours, and down in thirty. I had a light breeze against me the whole way, both going and coming, and the voyage has been performed wholly by, the power of the steam engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners beating to windward and parted with them as if they had been at anchor. The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved.
Letter to Joel Barlow, Philadelphia, from New York (22 Aug 1807), in The Literary Magazine, and American Register for 1807 (1808), Vol. 8, No. 47, 96.
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My two Jamaican cousins ... were studying engineering. 'That's where the money is,' Mom advised. ... I was to be an engineering major, despite my allergy to science and math. ... Those who preceded me at CCNY include the polio vaccine discoverer, Dr. Jonas Salk ... and eight Nobel Prize winners. ... In class, I stumbled through math, fumbled through physics, and did reasonably well in, and even enjoyed, geology. All I ever looked forward to was ROTC.
Autobiographical comments on his original reason for going to the City College of New York, where he shortly turned to his military career.
My American Journey (1996), 23-26. ROTC is the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) school-based program of the U.S. military. From there, the self-described 'C-average student out of middling Morris High School' went on to become a four-star general.
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Nat Sci 5 has turned more scientists into poets, and more poets into scientists, than any course ever taught on this campus.
Magazine
In the Confidential Guide published by The Harvard Crimson, as quoted on his web page by Elijah Wald about the introductory biology course (Nat Sci 5) taught for decades by his father, George Wald.
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Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath.
'What We Owe to the Trees', Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Apr 1882), 46, No. 383, 686.
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Nevertheless if any skillful Servant of Nature shall bring force to bear on matter, and shall vex it and drive it to extremities as if with the purpose of reducing it to nothing, then will matter (since annihilation or true destruction is not possible except by the omnipotence of God) finding itself in these straits, turn and transform itself into strange shapes, passing from one change to another till it has gone through the whole circle and finished the period.
From 'Proteus; or Matter', De Sapientia Veterum (1609), Sec. 13. As translated in James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (eds.), The Works of Francis Bacon (1857), Vol. 6, 726.
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No matter how we twist and turn we shall always come back to the cell. The eternal merit of Schwann does not lie in his cell theory that has occupied the foreground for so long, and perhaps will soon be given up, but in his description of the development of the various tissues, and in his demonstration that this development (hence all physiological activity) is in the end traceable back to the cell. Now if pathology is nothing but physiology with obstacles, and diseased life nothing but healthy life interfered with by all manner of external and internal influences then pathology too must be referred back to the cell.
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 13-14, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 81.
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No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.
In Living Under Tension Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 206.
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No, Sir, I am not a botanist; and (alluding, no doubt, to his near sightedness) should I wish to become a botanist, I must first turn myself into a reptile.
Quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1820), Vol. 1, 177.
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Nobody knows more than a tiny fragment of science well enough to judge its validity and value at first hand. For the rest he has to rely on views accepted at second hand on the authority of a community of people accredited as scientists. But this accrediting depends in its turn on a complex organization. For each member of the community can judge at first hand only a small number of his fellow members, and yet eventually each is accredited by all. What happens is that each recognizes as scientists a number of others by whom he is recognized as such in return, and these relations form chains which transmit these mutual recognitions at second hand through the whole community. This is how each member becomes directly or indirectly accredited by all. The system extends into the past. Its members recognize the same set of persons as their masters and derive from this allegiance a common tradition, of which each carries on a particular strand.
Personal Knowledge (1958), 163.
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Not only are there meaningless questions, but many of the problems with which the human intellect has tortured itself turn out to be only 'pseudo problems,' because they can be formulated only in terms of questions which are meaningless. Many of the traditional problems of philosophy, of religion, or of ethics, are of this character. Consider, for example, the problem of the freedom of the will. You maintain that you are free to take either the right- or the left-hand fork in the road. I defy you to set up a single objective criterion by which you can prove after you have made the turn that you might have made the other. The problem has no meaning in the sphere of objective activity; it only relates to my personal subjective feelings while making the decision.
The Nature of Physical Theory (1936), 12.
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Not only do the various components of the cells form a living system, in which the capacity to live, react, and reproduce is dependent on the interactions of all the members of the system; but this living system is identical with the genetic system. The form of life is determined not only by the specific nature of the hereditary units but also by the structure and arrangement of the system. The whole system is more than the sum of its parts, and the effect of each of the components depends on and is influenced by all previous reactions, whose sequence is in turn determined by the whole idiotype.
'Cytoplasmic Inheritance in Epilobium and Its Theoretical Significance', Advances in Genetics (1954), 6, 320.
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Nothing is useless for the man of sense; he turns everything to account.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 13.
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Nothing that you do in science is guaranteed to result in benefits for mankind. Any discovery, I believe, is morally neutral and it can be turned either to constructive ends or destructive ends. That’s not the fault of science.
Quoted by Jeremy Pearce in 'Arthur Galston, Agent Orange Researcher, Is Dead at 88', New York Times (23 Jun 2008), B6.
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Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
In The Foundation Trilogy (1951), 155.
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Objections to religious mysticism lose their force if they can equally be turned against natural mysticism.
Swarthmore Lecture (1929) at Friends’ House, London, printed in Science and the Unseen World (1929), 47.
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Oersted would never have made his great discovery of the action of galvanic currents on magnets had he stopped in his researches to consider in what manner they could possibly be turned to practical account; and so we would not now be able to boast of the wonders done by the electric telegraphs. Indeed, no great law in Natural Philosophy has ever been discovered for its practical implications, but the instances are innumerable of investigations apparently quite useless in this narrow sense of the word which have led to the most valuable results.
From Silvanus Phillips Thompson, 'Introductory Lecture to the Course on Natural Philosophy', The Life of Lord Kelvin (1910), Vol. 1, Appendix to Chap. 5, 249.
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Of all regions of the earth none invites speculation more than that which lies beneath our feet, and in none is speculation more dangerous; yet, apart from speculation, it is little that we can say regarding the constitution of the interior of the earth. We know, with sufficient accuracy for most purposes, its size and shape: we know that its mean density is about 5½ times that of water, that the density must increase towards the centre, and that the temperature must be high, but beyond these facts little can be said to be known. Many theories of the earth have been propounded at different times: the central substance of the earth has been supposed to be fiery, fluid, solid, and gaseous in turn, till geologists have turned in despair from the subject, and become inclined to confine their attention to the outermost crust of the earth, leaving its centre as a playground for mathematicians.
'The Constitution of the Interior of the Earth, as Revealed by Earthquakes', Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1906), 62, 456.
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Of course we have no means of staying back for any length of Time, any more than a savage or an animal has of staying six feet above the ground. But a civilized man is better off than the savage in this respect. He can go up against gravitation in a balloon, and why should he not hope that ultimately he may be able to stop or accelerate his drift along the Time-Dimension, or even turn about and travel the other way?
In The Time Machine (1898), 13.
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Of what use is it that your mind has become a vast granary of knowledge, if you have not strength to turn the key?
In Getting on in the World; Or, Hints on Success in Life (1873), 56.
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Often the great scientists, by turning the problem around a bit, changed a defect to an asset. For example, many scientists when they found they couldn't do a problem finally began to study why not. They then turned it around the other way and said, “But of course, this is what it is” and got an important result.
'You and Your Research', Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar, 7 Mar 1986.
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On entering his [John James Audubon] room, I was astonished and delighted to find that it was turned into a museum. The walls were festooned with all kinds of birds’ eggs, carefully blown out and strung on a thread. The chimney-piece was covered with stuffed squirrels, raccoons, and opossums; and the shelves around were likewise crowded with specimens, among which were fishes, frogs, snakes, lizards, and other reptiles. Besides these stuffed varieties, many paintings were arrayed on the walls, chiefly of birds.
In Richard Rhodes, John James Audubon: The Making of an American (2004), 36.
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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 the hatch was opened, I turned the lock handle and bright rays of sunlight burst through it. I opened the hatch and dust from the station flew in like little sparklets, looking like tiny snowflakes on a frosty day. Space, like a giant vacuum cleaner, began to suck everything out. Flying out together with the dust were some little washers and nuts that dad got stuck somewhere; a pencil flew by.
My first impression when I opened the hatch was of a huge Earth and of the sense of unreality concerning everything that was going on. Space is very beautiful. There was the dark velvet of the sky, the blue halo of the Earth and fast-moving lakes, rivers, fields and clouds clusters. It was dead silence all around, nothing whatever to indicate the velocity of the flight… no wind whistling in your ears, no pressure on you. The panorama was very serene and majestic.
…...
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Once when lecturing to a class he [Lord Kelvin] used the word “mathematician,” and then interrupting himself asked his class: “Do you know what a mathematician is?” Stepping to the blackboard he wrote upon it:— [an integral expression equal to the square root of pi]
Then putting his finger on what he had written, he turned to his class and said: “A mathematician is one to whom that is as obvious as that twice two makes four is to you. Liouville was a mathematician.”
In Life of Lord Kelvin (1910), 1139.
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One of the major goals when studying specific genetic diseases is to find the primary gene product, which in turn leads to a better understanding of the biochemical basis of the disorder. The bottom line often reads, 'This may lead to effective prenatal diagnosis and eventual eradication of the disease.' But we now have the ironic situation of being able to jump right to the bottom line without reading the rest of the page, that is, without needing to identify the primary gene product or the basic biochemical mechanism of the disease. The technical capability of doing this is now available. Since the degree of departure from our previous approaches and the potential of this procedure are so great, one will not be guilty of hyperbole in calling it the 'New Genetics'.
'Prenatal Diagnosis and the New Genetics', The American Journal of Human Genetics, 1980, 32:3, 453.
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One wonders whether the rare ability to be completely attentive to, and to profit by, Nature’s slightest deviation from the conduct expected of her is not the secret of the best research minds and one that explains why some men turn to most remarkably good advantage seemingly trivial accidents. Behind such attention lies an unremitting sensitivity.
In The Furtherance of Medical Research (1941), 98.
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One would like to see mankind spend the balance of the century in a total effort to clean up and groom the surface of the globe – wipe out the jungles, turn deserts and swamps into arable land, terrace bar