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Unfortunately Quotes (38 quotes)

A week or so after I learned that I was to receive the Miller Award, our president, Marty Morton, phoned and asked me if I would utter a few words of scientific wisdom as a part of the ceremony. Unfortunately for me, and perhaps for you, I agreed to do so. In retrospect I fear that my response was a serious error, because I do not feel wise. I do not know whether to attribute my response to foolhardiness, to conceit, to an inordinate susceptibility to flattery, to stupidity, or to some combination of these unfortunate attributes all of which I have been told are recognizable in my personality. Personally, I tend to favor stupidity, because that is a condition over which I have little control.
Bartholomew, April 1993, unpublished remarks when receiving the Miller Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society.
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As we discern a fine line between crank and genius, so also (and unfortunately) we must acknowledge an equally graded trajectory from crank to demagogue. When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.
…...
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Children are told that an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and he was led to state the law of gravity. This, of course, is pure foolishness. What Newton discovered was that any two particles in the universe attract each other with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is not learned from a falling apple, but by observing quantities of data and developing a mathematical theory that can be verified by additional data. Data gathered by Galileo on falling bodies and by Johannes Kepler on motions of the planets were invaluable aids to Newton. Unfortunately, such false impressions about science are not universally outgrown like the Santa Claus myth, and some people who don’t study much science go to their graves thinking that the human race took until the mid-seventeenth century to notice that objects fall.
In How to Tell the Liars from the Statisticians (1983), 127.
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Common sense … has the very curious property of being more correct retrospectively than prospectively. It seems to me that one of the principal criteria to be applied to successful science is that its results are almost always obvious retrospectively; unfortunately, they seldom are prospectively. Common sense provides a kind of ultimate validation after science has completed its work; it seldom anticipates what science is going to discover.
Quoted in A. De Reuck, M. Goldsmith and J. Knight (eds.), Decision Making in National Science Policy (1968), 96.
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Experience is the great teacher; unfortunately, experience leaves mental scars, and scar tissue contracts.
From speech 'In the Time of Henry Jacob Bigelow', given to the Boston Surgical Society, Medalist Meeting (6 Jun 1921). Printed in Journal of the Medical Association (1921), 77, 599.
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Four college students taking a class together, had done so well through the semester, and each had an “A”. They were so confident, the weekend before finals, they went out partying with friends. Consequently, on Monday, they overslept and missed the final. They explained to the professor that they had gone to a remote mountain cabin for the weekend to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The professor kindly agreed they could make up the final the following day. When they arrived the next morning, he placed them each in separate rooms, handed each one a test booklet, and told them to begin. The the first problem was simple, worth 5 points. Turning the page they found the next question, written: “(For 95 points): Which tire?”
Anonymous
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Games are among the most interesting creations of the human mind, and the analysis of their structure is full of adventure and surprises. Unfortunately there is never a lack of mathematicians for the job of transforming delectable ingredients into a dish that tastes like a damp blanket.
In J.R. Newman (ed.), 'Commentary on Games and Puzzles', The World of Mathematics (1956), Vol. 4, 2414.
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In all chemical investigations, it has justly been considered an important object to ascertain the relative weights of the simples which constitute a compound. But unfortunately the enquiry has terminated here; whereas from the relative weights in the mass, the relative weights of the ultimate particles or atoms of the bodies might have been inferred, from which their number and weight in various other compounds would appear, in order to assist and to guide future investigations, and to correct their results. Now it is one great object of this work, to shew the importance and advantage of ascertaining the relative weights of the ultimate particles, both of simple and compound bodies, the number of simple elementary particles which constitute one compound particle, and the number of less compound particles which enter into the formation of one more compound particle.
If there are two bodies, A and B, which are disposed to combine, the following is the order in which the combinations may take place, beginning with the most simple: namely,
1 atom of A + 1 atom of B = 1 atom of C, binary
1 atom of A + 2 atoms of B = 1 atom of D, ternary
2 atoms of A + 1 atom of B = 1 atom of E, ternary
1 atom of A + 3 atoms of B = 1 atom of F, quaternary
3 atoms of A and 1 atom of B = 1 atom of G, quaternary
A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808), Vol. 1, 212-3.
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In my experience most mathematicians are intellectually lazy and especially dislike reading experimental papers. He (René Thom) seemed to have very strong biological intuitions but unfortunately of negative sign.
In What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), 136.
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In studying the fate of our forest king, we have thus far considered the action of purely natural causes only; but, unfortunately, man is in the woods, and waste and pure destruction are making rapid headway. If the importance of the forests were even vaguely understood, even from an economic standpoint, their preservation would call forth the most watchful attention of government
John Muir
In The Mountains of California (1894), 198.
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It has been long considered possible to explain the more ancient revolutions on... [the Earth's] surface by means of these still existing causes; in the same manner as it is found easy to explain past events in political history, by an acquaintance with the passions and intrigues of the present day. But we shall presently see that unfortunately this is not the case in physical history:—the thread of operation is here broken, the march of nature is changed, and none of the agents that she now employs were sufficient for the production of her ancient works.
'Preliminary discourse', to Recherches sur les Ossemens Fossiles (1812), trans. R. Kerr Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1813), 24.
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It is very desirable to have a word to express the Availability for work of the heat in a given magazine; a term for that possession, the waste of which is called Dissipation. Unfortunately the excellent word Entropy, which Clausius has introduced in this connexion, is applied by him to the negative of the idea we most naturally wish to express. It would only confuse the student if we were to endeavour to invent another term for our purpose. But the necessity for some such term will be obvious from the beautiful examples which follow. And we take the liberty of using the term Entropy in this altered sense ... The entropy of the universe tends continually to zero.
Sketch of Thermodynamics (1868), 100-2.
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Money is a stupid measure of achievement, but unfortunately it is the only universal measure we have.
Seen quoted, without citation, since as early as The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life (1950), 486. If you know a primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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Ohm found that the results could be summed up in such a simple law that he who runs may read it, and a schoolboy now can predict what a Faraday then could only guess at roughly. By Ohm's discovery a large part of the domain of electricity became annexed by Coulomb's discovery of the law of inverse squares, and completely annexed by Green's investigations. Poisson attacked the difficult problem of induced magnetisation, and his results, though differently expressed, are still the theory, as a most important first approximation. Ampere brought a multitude of phenomena into theory by his investigations of the mechanical forces between conductors supporting currents and magnets. Then there were the remarkable researches of Faraday, the prince of experimentalists, on electrostatics and electrodynamics and the induction of currents. These were rather long in being brought from the crude experimental state to a compact system, expressing the real essence. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Faraday was not a mathematician. It can scarely be doubted that had he been one, he would have anticipated much later work. He would, for instance, knowing Ampere's theory, by his own results have readily been led to Neumann’s theory, and the connected work of Helmholtz and Thomson. But it is perhaps too much to expect a man to be both the prince of experimentalists and a competent mathematician.
From article 'Electro-magnetic Theory II', in The Electrician (16 Jan 1891), 26, No. 661, 331.
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Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoan to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance.
From Herbert Spencer lecture delivered at Oxford (1914) 'On Scientific Method in Philosophy', collected in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1919), 106.
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Probably every physicist would believe in a creation [of the universe] if the Bible had not unfortunately said something about it many years ago and made it seem old fashioned.
'Continuous Creation and the Edge of Space', New Republic (1951), 124, 21-2.
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Significant inventions are not mere accidents. The erroneous view [that they are] is widely held, and it is one that the scientific and technical community, unfortunately, has done little to dispel. Happenstance usually plays a part, to be sure, but there is much more to invention than the popular notion of a bolt out of the blue. Knowledge in depth and in breadth are virtual prerequisites. Unless the mind is thoroughly charged beforehand, the proverbial spark of genius, if it should manifest itself, probably will find nothing to ignite.
Speech, at award of Perkin Medal. As quoted in 'Introduction', Royston M. Roberts, Serendipity (1989), x.
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Society is itself a kind of organism, an enormously powerful one, but unfortunately not a very wise one.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 301.
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String theorists can explain plausible models of a unified universe, but unfortunately they cannot explain why we inhabit a particular one
In Book Review 'Pulling the Strings,' of Lawrence Krauss's Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Lure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond in Nature (22 Dec 2005), 438, 1082.
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Suppose that you are in love with a lady on Neptune and that she returns the sentiment. It will be some consolation for the melancholy separation if you can say to yourself at some possibly pre-arranged moment, “She is thinking of me now.” Unfortunately a difficulty has arisen because we have had to abolish Now. There is no absolute Now, but only the various relative Nows, differing according to their reckoning of different observers and covering the whole neutral wedge which at the distance of Neptune is about eight hours thick. She will have to think of you continuously for eight hours on end in order to circumvent the ambiguity “Now.”
In The Nature of the Physical World (1929), 49.
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The fundamental hypothesis of genetic epistemology is that there is a parallelism between the progress made in the logical and rational organization of knowledge and the corresponding formative psychological processes. With that hypothesis, the most fruitful, most obvious field of study would be the reconstituting of human history—the history of human thinking in prehistoric man. Unfortunately, we are not very well informed in the psychology of primitive man, but there are children all around us, and it is in studying children that we have the best chance of studying the development of logical knowledge, physical knowledge, and so forth.
'Genetic Epistemology', Columbia Forum (1969), 12, 4.
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The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists. Unfortunately poetry cannot celebrate them because their deeds are concerned with things, not persons, and are, therefore, speechless.
In 'The Poet and the City' (1962), collected in The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays (1965), 81.
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The world, unfortunately, rarely matches our hopes and consistently refuses to behave in a reasonable manner.
…...
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There are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before. … we can't allow our nation to fall behind. Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened. Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we've allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps businesses grow and innovate, to lapse.
Speech to the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting (27 Apr 2009).
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This paper contains much that is new and much that is true. Unfortunately, that which is true is not new and that which is new is not true.
Anonymous
Attribued as a referee’s report in H. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles (1988). Also attributed to a 19th century scientist commenting on one of his competitor’s papers, cited in I. M. Klotz, 'How to become famous by being wrong in science', International Journal of Quantitative Chemistry, 24, 881-890, which is quoted in Frederick Grinnell, Everyday Practice of Science (2008), 86.
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Today scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic partial theories—the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. They are the great intellectual achievements of the first half of this century. The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe, that is, the structure on scales from only a few miles to as large as a million million million million (1 with twenty-four zeros after it) miles, the size of the observable universe. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales, such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch. Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other—they cannot both be correct.
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (1988), 11-2.
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Two years ago 1 tried to appeal to Rockefeller’s conscience about the absurd method of allocating grants, unfortunately without success. Bohr has now gone to see him, in an attempt to persuade him to take some action on behalf of the exiled German scientists.
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Unfortunately the media have trouble distinguishing between real science and propaganda cross-dressed as science.
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Unfortunately what is little recognized is that the most worthwhile scientific books are those in which the author clearly indicates what he does not know; for an author most hurts his readers by concealing difficulties.
As quoted in Nicholas J. Rose, Mathematical Maxims and Minims (1988). Also used as an epigraph without citation in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times (1990), Vol. 2, 752. If you know the primary source, perhaps in French, please contact Webmaster.
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Unfortunately, in many cases, people who write science fiction violate the laws of nature, not because they want to make a point, but because they don't know what the laws of nature are.
In Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), back cover.
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Unfortunately, only a small number of patients with peptic ulcer are financially able to make a pet of an ulcer.
Journal of the American Medical Association (1922).
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Unfortunately, the study of organic remains is beset with two evils, which, though of an opposite character, do not neutralize each other so much as at first sight might be anticipated: the one consisting of a strong desire to find similar organic remains in supposed equivalent deposits, even at great distances; the other being an equally strong inclination to discover new species, often as it would seem for the sole purpose of appending the apparently magical word nobis.
In Geological Manual (1832), Preface, iii.
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Unfortunately, where there is no experiment of exact science to settle the matter, it takes as much time and trouble to pull down a falsehood as to build up a truth.
In Robert Martin (ed.), 'General Remarks on the Practice of Medicine', The Collected Works of Dr. P. M. Latham (1873), Vol. 2, 398.
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Various accounts of Empedocles’ death are given in ancient sources. His enemies said that his desire to be thought a god led him to throw himself into the crater of Mount Etna so that he might vanish from the world completely and thus lead men to believe he had achieved apotheosis. Unfortunately the volcano defeated his design by throwing out one of the philosopher’s sandals.
As described in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 193, citing Oxford Classical Dictionary.
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We live in a world where unfortunately the distinction between true and false appears to become increasingly blurred by manipulation of facts, by exploitation of uncritical minds, and by the pollution of the language.
As attributed in prepared statement by David I. Haberman to Tiselius (1970 Nobel Prize Ceremony) in United States Congress, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations, Multinational Corporations and United States Foreign Policy (1974), 41.
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We profess to teach the principles and practice of medicine, or, in other words, the science and art of medicine. Science is knowledge reduced to principles; art is knowledge reduced to practice. The knowing and doing, however, are distinct. ... Your knowledge, therefore, is useless unless you cultivate the art of healing. Unfortunately, the scientific man very often has the least amount of art, and he is totally unsuccessful in practice; and, on the other hand, there may be much art based on an infinitesimal amount of knowledge, and yet it is sufficient to make its cultivator eminent.
From H.G. Sutton, Abstract of Lecture delivered at Guy's Hospital by Samuel Wilks, 'Introductory to Part of a Course on the Theory and Practice of Medicine', The Lancet (24 Mar 1866), 1, 308
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We should remember that there was once a discipline called natural philosophy. Unfortunately, this discipline seems not to exist today. It has been renamed science, but science of today is in danger of losing much of the natural philosophy aspect.
[Pointing out the increasing specialization of science during the century to explain the resistance to his ideas,]
(1986) Quoted in Anthony L. Peratt, 'Dean of the Plasma Dissidents', Washington Times, supplement: The World and I (May 1988),192.
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When you look at the companies that have really won customers over in technology—say, Apple and Google—you find that they spend billions of dollars on R&D [research and development] each year, often spending that much on a product before they ever make a dime back in profits. Unfortunately, in the environment, I don’t see as much willingness to invest heavily in R&D as I do in consumer technology. And that’s a pity.
From interview with Mark Tercek, 'Q&A With Ramez Naam: Dialogues on the Environment', Huffington Post (1 Jul 2013).
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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