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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index V > Category: Vast

Vast Quotes (177 quotes)

The Mighty Task is Done

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.

On its broad decks in rightful pride,
The world in swift parade shall ride,
Throughout all time to be;
Beneath, fleet ships from every port,
Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,
And dwarfing all the sea.

To north, the Redwood Empires gates;
To south, a happy playground waits,
In Rapturous appeal;
Here nature, free since time began,
Yields to the restless moods of man,
Accepts his bonds of steel.

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,
Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,
Yet Neer its course was stayed,
But ask of those who met the foe
Who stood alone when faith was low,
Ask them the price they paid.

Ask of the steel, each strut and wire,
Ask of the searching, purging fire,
That marked their natal hour;
Ask of the mind, the hand, the heart,
Ask of each single, stalwart part,
What gave it force and power.

An Honored cause and nobly fought
And that which they so bravely wrought,
Now glorifies their deed,
No selfish urge shall stain its life,
Nor envy, greed, intrigue, nor strife,
Nor false, ignoble creed.

High overhead its lights shall gleam,
Far, far below lifes restless stream,
Unceasingly shall flow;
For this was spun its lithe fine form,
To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
For Fate had meant it so.

Written upon completion of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, May 1937. In Allen Brown, Golden Gate: biography of a Bridge (1965), 229.
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Ce qui est admirable, ce n'est pas que le champ des étoiles soit si vaste, c'est que l'homme l'ait mesuré.
The wonder is, not that the field of the stars is so vast, but that man has measured it.
The Garden of Epicurus (1894) translated by Alfred Allinson, in The Works of Anatole France in an English Translation (1920), 16.
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Changements arrivées dans le globe: Quand on a vu de ses yeux une montagne s’avancer dans une plaine, c’est-à-dire un immense rocher de cette montagne se détacher et couvrir des champs, un château tout entier enfoncé dans la terre, un fleuve englouti qui sort ensuite de son abîme, des marques indubitables qu’un vaste amas d’eau inondait autrefois un pays habité aujourd’hui, et cent vestiges d’autres révolutions, on est alors plus disposé à croire les grands changements qui ont altéré la face du monde, que ne l’est une dame de Paris qui sait seulement que la place où est bâtie sa maison était autrefois un champ labourable. Mais une dame de Naples, qui a vu sous terre les ruines d’Herculanum, est encore moins asservie au préjugé qui nous fait croire que tout a toujours été comme il est aujourd’hui.
Changes That Have Occurred in the Globe: When we have seen with our own eyes a mountain progressing into a plain; that is to say, an immense boulder separating from this mountain and covering the fields; an entire castle broken into pieces over the ground; a river swallowed up which then bursts out from its abyss; clear marks of a vast amount of water having once flooded regions now inhabited, and a hundred vestiges of other transformations, then we are much more willing to believe that great changes altered the face of the earth, than a Parisian lady who knows only that the place where her house was built was once a cultivated field. However, a lady from Naples who has seen the buried ruins of Herculaneum, is much less subject to the bias which leads us to believe that everything has always been as it is today.
From article 'Changements arrivées dans le globe', in Dictionnaire philosophique (1764), collected in Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire (1878), Vol. 2, 427-428. Translated by Ian Ellis.
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A cosmic mystery of immense proportions, once seemingly on the verge of solution, has deepened and left astronomers and astrophysicists more baffled than ever. The crux ... is that the vast majority of the mass of the universe seems to be missing.
[Reporting a Nature article discrediting explanation of invisible mass being due to neutrinos]
In 'If Theory is Right, Most of Universe is Still “Missing”', New York Times (11 Sep 1984).
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A discovery in science, or a new theory, even when it appears most unitary and most all-embracing, deals with some immediate element of novelty or paradox within the framework of far vaster, unanalysed, unarticulated reserves of knowledge, experience, faith, and presupposition. Our progress is narrow; it takes a vast world unchallenged and for granted. This is one reason why, however great the novelty or scope of new discovery, we neither can, nor need, rebuild the house of the mind very rapidly. This is one reason why science, for all its revolutions, is conservative. This is why we will have to accept the fact that no one of us really will ever know very much. This is why we shall have to find comfort in the fact that, taken together, we know more and more.
Science and the Common Understanding (1954), 53-4.
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A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
In 'A Noiseless Patient Spider', Broadway: A London Magazine (1868), reprinted in Leaves of Grass (5th ed., 1871, 1888), 343.
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A star is drawing on some vast reservoir of energy by means unknown to us. This reservoir can scarcely be other than the subatomic energy which, it is known exists abundantly in all matter; we sometimes dream that man will one day learn how to release it and use it for his service. The store is well nigh inexhaustible, if only it could be tapped. There is sufficient in the Sun to maintain its output of heat for 15 billion years.
Address to the British Association in Cardiff, (24 Aug 1920), in Observatory (1920), 43 353. Reprinted in Foreward to Arthur S. Eddington, The Internal Constitution of the Stars (1926, 1988), x.
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A vast number, perhaps the numerical majority, of animal forms cannot be shown unequivocally to possess mind.
In 'The Brain Collaborates With Psyche', Man On His Nature: The Gifford Lectures, Edinburgh 1937-8 (1940), 284.
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A vast technology has been developed to prevent, reduce, or terminate exhausting labor and physical damage. It is now dedicated to the production of the most trivial conveniences and comfort.
Reflections on Behaviorism and Society (1978), 6.
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All knowledge and understanding of the Universe was no more than playing with stones and shells on the seashore of the vast imponderable ocean of truth.
…...
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Almost everyone... seems to be quite sure that the differences between the methodologies of history and of the natural sciences are vast. For, we are assured, it is well known that in the natural sciences we start from observation and proceed by induction to theory. And is it not obvious that in history we proceed very differently? Yes, I agree that we proceed very differently. But we do so in the natural sciences as well.
In both we start from myths—from traditional prejudices, beset with error—and from these we proceed by criticism: by the critical elimination of errors. In both the role of evidence is, in the main, to correct our mistakes, our prejudices, our tentative theories—that is, to play a part in the critical discussion, in the elimination of error. By correcting our mistakes, we raise new problems. And in order to solve these problems, we invent conjectures, that is, tentative theories, which we submit to critical discussion, directed towards the elimination of error.
The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality (1993), 140.
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And, in this case, science could learn an important lesson from the literati–who love contingency for the same basic reason that scientists tend to regard the theme with suspicion. Because, in contingency lies the power of each person, to make a difference in an unconstrained world bristling with possibilities, and nudgeable by the smallest of unpredictable inputs into markedly different channels spelling either vast improvement or potential disaster.
…...
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As Crystallography was born of a chance observation by Haüy of the cleavage-planes of a single fortunately fragile specimen, … so out of the slender study of the Norwich Spiral has sprung the vast and interminable Calculus of Cyclodes, which strikes such far-spreading and tenacious roots into the profoundest strata of denumeration, and, by this and the multitudinous and multifarious dependent theories which cluster around it, reminds one of the Scriptural comparison of the Kingdom of Heaven “to a grain of mustard-seed which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and waxed a great tree, and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.”
From 'Outline Trace of the Theory of Reducible Cyclodes', Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society (1869), 2, 155, collected in Collected Mathematical Papers of James Joseph Sylvester (1908), Vol. 2, 683-684.
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As geologists, we learn that it is not only the present condition of the globe that has been suited to the accommodation of myriads of living creatures, but that many former states also have been equally adapted to the organization and habits of prior races of beings. The disposition of the seas, continents, and islands, and the climates have varied; so it appears that the species have been changed, and yet they have all been so modelled, on types analogous to those of existing plants and animals, as to indicate throughout a perfect harmony of design and unity of purpose. To assume that the evidence of the beginning or end of so vast a scheme lies within the reach of our philosophical inquiries, or even of our speculations, appears to us inconsistent with a just estimate of the relations which subsist between the finite powers of man and the attributes of an Infinite and Eternal Being.
Concluding remark, Principles of Geology(1833), Vol. 3, 384-5.
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As soon as somebody demonstrates the art of flying, settlers from our species of man will not be lacking [on the moon and Jupiter]… Given ships or sails adapted to the breezes of heaven, there will be those who will not shrink from even that vast expanse.
(1610) As translated by Edward Rosen in Kepler’s Conversation with Galileo’s Sidereal Messenger (1965), 39.
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Astronomy is the most ancient of all the sciences, and has been the introducer of vast knowledge.
In W. Hazlitt (trans.), 'Of Astronomy and Astrology', The Table Talk or Familiar Discourse of Martin Luther (1848), 341.
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Bertrand Russell had given a talk on the then new quantum mechanics, of whose wonders he was most appreciative. He spoke hard and earnestly in the New Lecture Hall. And when he was done, Professor Whitehead, who presided, thanked him for his efforts, and not least for “leaving the vast darkness of the subject unobscured.”
Quoted in Robert Oppenheimer, The Open Mind (1955), 102.
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Beyond lonely Pluto, dark and shadowless, lies the glittering realm of interstellar space, the silent ocean that rolls on and on, past stars and galaxies alike, to the ends of the Universe. What do men know of this vast infinity, this shoreless ocean? Is it hostile or friendly–or merely indifferent?
…...
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Beyond these are other suns, giving light and life to systems, not a thousand, or two thousand merely, but multiplied without end, and ranged all around us, at immense distances from each other, attended by ten thousand times ten thousand worlds, all in rapid motion; yet calm, regular and harmonious—all space seems to be illuminated, and every particle of light a world. ... all this vast assemblages of suns and worlds may bear no greater proportion to what lies beyond the utmost boundaries of human vision, than a drop of water to the ocean.
In The Geography of the Heavens and Class-Book of Astronomy (1874), 148 That knowledge is not happiness.
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But the nature of our civilized minds is so detached from the senses, even in the vulgar, by abstractions corresponding to all the abstract terms our languages abound in, and so refined by the art of writing, and as it were spiritualized by the use of numbers, because even the vulgar know how to count and reckon, that it is naturally beyond our power to form the vast image of this mistress called ‘Sympathetic Nature.’
The New Science, bk. 2, para. 378 (1744, trans. 1984).
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Combining in our survey then, the whole range of deposits from the most recent to the most ancient group, how striking a succession do they present:– so various yet so uniform–so vast yet so connected. In thus tracing back to the most remote periods in the physical history of our continents, one system of operations, as the means by which many complex formations have been successively produced, the mind becomes impressed with the singleness of nature's laws; and in this respect, at least, geology is hardly inferior in simplicity to astronomy.
The Silurian System (1839), 574.
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Computers are composed of nothing more than logic gates stretched out to the horizon in a vast numerical irrigation system.
In State of the Art: A Photographic History of the Integrated Circuit (1983), vii.
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Considered as a mere question of physics, (and keeping all moral considerations entirely out of sight,) the appearance of man is a geological phenomenon of vast importance, indirectly modifying the whole surface of the earth, breaking in upon any supposition of zoological continuity, and utterly unaccounted for by what we have any right to call the laws of nature.
'Address to the Geological Society, delivered on the Evening of the 18th of February 1831', Proceedings of the Geological Society (1834), 1, 306.
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Doubtless the reasoning faculty, the mind, is the leading and characteristic attribute of the human race. By the exercise of this, man arrives at the properties of the natural bodies. This is science, properly and emphatically so called. It is the science of pure mathematics; and in the high branches of this science lies the truly sublime of human acquisition. If any attainment deserves that epithet, it is the knowledge, which, from the mensuration of the minutest dust of the balance, proceeds on the rising scale of material bodies, everywhere weighing, everywhere measuring, everywhere detecting and explaining the laws of force and motion, penetrating into the secret principles which hold the universe of God together, and balancing worlds against worlds, and system against system. When we seek to accompany those who pursue studies at once so high, so vast, and so exact; when we arrive at the discoveries of Newton, which pour in day on the works of God, as if a second fiat had gone forth from his own mouth; when, further, we attempt to follow those who set out where Newton paused, making his goal their starting-place, and, proceeding with demonstration upon demonstration, and discovery upon discovery, bring new worlds and new systems of worlds within the limits of the known universe, failing to learn all only because all is infinite; however we may say of man, in admiration of his physical structure, that “in form and moving he is express and admirable,” it is here, and here without irreverence, we may exclaim, “In apprehension how like a god!” The study of the pure mathematics will of course not be extensively pursued in an institution, which, like this [Boston Mechanics’ Institute], has a direct practical tendency and aim. But it is still to be remembered, that pure mathematics lie at the foundation of mechanical philosophy, and that it is ignorance only which can speak or think of that sublime science as useless research or barren speculation.
In Works (1872), Vol. 1, 180.
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During the first half of the present century we had an Alexander von Humboldt, who was able to scan the scientific knowledge of his time in its details, and to bring it within one vast generalization. At the present juncture, it is obviously very doubtful whether this task could be accomplished in a similar way, even by a mind with gifts so peculiarly suited for the purpose as Humboldt's was, and if all his time and work were devoted to the purpose.
In Hermann von Helmholtz and Edmund Atkinson (trans.), 'The Aim and Progress of Physical Science', Popular Scientific Lectures on Scientific Subjects (1873), 363.
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Each pregnant Oak ten thousand acorns forms
Profusely scatter’d by autumnal storms;
Ten thousand seeds each pregnant poppy sheds
Profusely scatter’d from its waving heads;
The countless Aphides, prolific tribe,
With greedy trunks the honey’d sap imbibe;
Swarm on each leaf with eggs or embryons big,
And pendent nations tenant every twig ...
—All these, increasing by successive birth,
Would each o’erpeople ocean, air, and earth.
So human progenies, if unrestrain’d,
By climate friended, and by food sustain’d,
O’er seas and soils, prolific hordes! would spread
Erelong, and deluge their terraqueous bed;
But war, and pestilence, disease, and dearth,
Sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth...
The births and deaths contend with equal strife,
And every pore of Nature teems with Life;
Which buds or breathes from Indus to the Poles,
And Earth’s vast surface kindles, as it rolls!
The Temple of Nature (1803), canto 4, lines 347-54, 367-74, 379-82, pages 156-60.
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Etna presents us not merely with an image of the power of subterranean heat, but a record also of the vast period of time during which that power has been exerted. A majestic mountain has been produced by volcanic action, yet the time of which the volcanic forms the register, however vast, is found by the geologist to be of inconsiderable amount, even in the modern annals of the earth's history. In like manner, the Falls of Niagara teach us not merely to appreciate the power of moving water, but furnish us at the same time with data for estimating the enormous lapse of ages during which that force has operated. A deep and long ravine has been excavated, and the river has required ages to accomplish the task, yet the same region affords evidence that the sum of these ages is as nothing, and as the work of yesterday, when compared to the antecedent periods, of which there are monuments in the same district.
Travels in North America (1845), Vol. 1, 28-9.
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Even in the vast and mysterious reaches of the sea we are brought back to the fundamental truth that nothing lives to itself.
Silent Spring, Introduction.
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Food is at present obtained almost entirely from the energy of the sunlight. The radiation from the sun produces from the carbonic acid in the air more or less complicated carbon compounds which serve us in plants and vegetables. We use the latent chemical energy of these to keep our bodies warm, we convert it into muscular effort. We employ it in the complicated process of digestion to repair and replace the wasted cells of our bodies. … If the gigantic sources of power become available, food would be produced without recourse to sunlight. Vast cellars, in which artificial radiation is generated, may replace the cornfields and potato patches of the world.
From 'Fifty Years Hence', Strand Magazine (Dec 1931). Reprinted in Popular Mechanics (Mar 1932), 57, No. 3, 396-397.
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For nature is a perpetuall circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, and solids out of fluids, fixed things out of volatile, & volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, & gross out of subtile, Some things to ascend & make the upper terrestriall juices, Rivers and the Atmosphere; & by consequence others to descend for a Requitall to the former. And as the Earth, so perhaps may the Sun imbibe this spirit copiously to conserve his Shineing, & keep the Planets from recedeing further from him. And they that will, may also suppose, that this Spirit affords or carryes with it thither the solary fewell & materiall Principle of Light; And that the vast aethereall Spaces between us, & the stars are for a sufficient repository for this food of the Sunn and Planets.
Letter to Oldenburg (7 Dec 1675). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 366.
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From my father I learned to build things, to take them apart, and to fix mechanical and electrical equipment in general. I spent vast hours in a woodworking shop he maintained in the basement of our house, building gadgets, working both with my father and alone, often late into the night. … This play with building, fixing, and designing was my favorite activity throughout my childhood, and was a wonderful preparation for my later career as an experimentalist working on the frontiers of chemistry and physics.
From 'Richard E. Smalley: Biographical', collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
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Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings which compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.
Introduction to Oeuvres vol. VII, Theorie Analytique de Probabilites (1812-1820). As translated by Frederick Wilson Truscott and Frederick Lincoln Emory in A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902), 4. [LaPlace is here expressing his belief in causal determinism.] From the original French, “Une intelligence qui, pour un instant donné, connaîtrait toutes les forces dont la nature est animée, et la situation respective des êtres qui la composent, si d’ailleurs elle était assez vaste pour soumettre ces données a l’analyse, embrasserait dans la même formula les mouvements des plus grand corps de l’univers et ceux du plus léger atome: rien ne serait incertain pour elle, et l’avenir comme le passé serait présent à ses yeux.”
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He who studies it [Nature] has continually the exquisite pleasure of discerning or half discerning and divining laws; regularities glimmer through an appearance of confusion, analogies between phenomena of a different order suggest themselves and set the imagination in motion; the mind is haunted with the sense of a vast unity not yet discoverable or nameable. There is food for contemplation which never runs short; you are gazing at an object which is always growing clearer, and yet always, in the very act of growing clearer, presenting new mysteries.
From 'Natural History', Macmillan's Magazine (1875), 31, 366.
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Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that, culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.
Remarking how society becomes divorces individuals from nature. In essay, Walking (1862). Collected in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1893), Vol. 9, 291.
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How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them. A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.
…...
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Human societies are everywhere complex, for living at peace with ourselves requires a vast multiplicity of rules.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 18.
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I am not insensible to natural beauty, but my emotional joys center on the improbable yet sometimes wondrous works of that tiny and accidental evolutionary twig called Homo sapiens. And I find, among these works, nothing more noble than the history of our struggle to understand nature—a majestic entity of such vast spatial and temporal scope that she cannot care much for a little mammalian afterthought with a curious evolutionary invention, even if that invention has, for the first time in so me four billion years of life on earth, produced recursion as a creature reflects back upon its own production and evolution. Thus, I love nature primarily for the puzzles and intellectual delights that she offers to the first organ capable of such curious contemplation.
…...
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I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature… the belief has been forced upon me…
Firstly: Owing to some peculiarity in my nervous system, I have perceptions of some things, which no one else has… and intuitive perception of… things hidden from eyes, ears, & ordinary senses…
Secondly: my sense reasoning faculties;
Thirdly: my concentration faculty, by which I mean the power not only of throwing my whole energy & existence into whatever I choose, but also of bringing to bear on anyone subject or idea, a vast apparatus from all sorts of apparently irrelevant & extraneous sources…
Well, here I have written what most people would call a remarkably mad letter; & yet certainly one of the most logical, sober-minded, cool, pieces of composition, (I believe), that I ever framed.
Lovelace Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford University, 42, folio 12 (6 Feb 1841). As quoted and cited in Dorothy Stein (ed.), 'This First Child of Mine', Ada: A Life and a Legacy (1985), 86.
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I confess that I have as vast contemplative ends, as I have moderate civil ends: for I have taken all knowledge to be my province.
Letter (age 31) to his uncle Lord Burleigh. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding (ed.) et al., Works of Francis Bacon (1862) Vol. 6, 109.
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I have divers times examined the same matter (human semen) from a healthy man... not from a sick man... nor spoiled by keeping... for a long time and not liquefied after the lapse of some time... but immediately after ejaculation before six beats of the pulse had intervened; and I have seen so great a number of living animalcules... in it, that sometimes more than a thousand were moving about in an amount of material the size of a grain of sand... I saw this vast number of animalcules not all through the semen, but only in the liquid matter adhering to the thicker part.
Letter to W. Brouncker, President of the Royal Society, undated, Nov 1677. In The Collected Letters of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1957), Vol. 2, 283-4.
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I have no doubt that certain learned men, now that the novelty of the hypotheses in this work has been widely reported—for it establishes that the Earth moves, and indeed that the Sun is motionless in the middle of the universe—are extremely shocked, and think that the scholarly disciplines, rightly established once and for all, should not be upset. But if they are willing to judge the matter thoroughly, they will find that the author of this work has committed nothing which deserves censure. For it is proper for an astronomer to establish a record of the motions of the heavens with diligent and skilful observations, and then to think out and construct laws for them, or rather hypotheses, whatever their nature may be, since the true laws cannot be reached by the use of reason; and from those assumptions the motions can be correctly calculated, both for the future and for the past. Our author has shown himself outstandingly skilful in both these respects. Nor is it necessary that these hypotheses should be true, nor indeed even probable, but it is sufficient if they merely produce calculations which agree with the observations. … For it is clear enough that this subject is completely and simply ignorant of the laws which produce apparently irregular motions. And if it does work out any laws—as certainly it does work out very many—it does not do so in any way with the aim of persuading anyone that they are valid, but only to provide a correct basis for calculation. Since different hypotheses are sometimes available to explain one and the same motion (for instance eccentricity or an epicycle for the motion of the Sun) an astronomer will prefer to seize on the one which is easiest to grasp; a philosopher will perhaps look more for probability; but neither will grasp or convey anything certain, unless it has been divinely revealed to him. Let us therefore allow these new hypotheses also to become known beside the older, which are no more probable, especially since they are remarkable and easy; and let them bring with them the vast treasury of highly learned observations. And let no one expect from astronomy, as far as hypotheses are concerned, anything certain, since it cannot produce any such thing, in case if he seizes on things constructed for another other purpose as true, he departs from this discipline more foolish than he came to it.
Although this preface would have been assumed by contemporary readers to be written by Copernicus, it was unsigned. It is now believed to have been written and added at press time by Andreas Osiander (who was then overseeing the printing of the book). It suggests the earth’s motion as described was merely a mathematical device, and not to be taken as absolute reality. Text as given in 'To the Reader on the Hypotheses in this Work', Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), translated by ‎Alistair Matheson Duncan (1976), 22-3. By adding this preface, Osiander wished to stave off criticism by theologians. See also the Andreas Osiander Quotes page of this website.
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I have said that mathematics is the oldest of the sciences; a glance at its more recent history will show that it has the energy of perpetual youth. The output of contributions to the advance of the science during the last century and more has been so enormous that it is difficult to say whether pride in the greatness of achievement in this subject, or despair at his inability to cope with the multiplicity of its detailed developments, should be the dominant feeling of the mathematician. Few people outside of the small circle of mathematical specialists have any idea of the vast growth of mathematical literature. The Royal Society Catalogue contains a list of nearly thirty- nine thousand papers on subjects of Pure Mathematics alone, which have appeared in seven hundred serials during the nineteenth century. This represents only a portion of the total output, the very large number of treatises, dissertations, and monographs published during the century being omitted.
In Presidential Address British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sheffield, Section A, Nature (1 Sep 1910), 84, 285.
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I have seen a thousand sunsets and sunrises, on land where it floods forest and mountains with honey coloured light, at sea where it rises and sets like a blood orange in a multicoloured nest of cloud, slipping in and out of the vast ocean. I have seen a thousand moons: harvest moons like gold coins, winter moons as white as ice chips, new moons like baby swans’ feathers.
Letter to Lee McGeorge (31 Jul 1978). Collected in Letters of Note: Volume 2: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence (2016), 76.
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I picture the vast realm of the sciences as an immense landscape scattered with patches of dark and light. The goal towards which we must work is either to extend the boundaries of the patches of light, or to increase their number. One of these tasks falls to the creative genius; the other requires a sort of sagacity combined with perfectionism.
Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature and Other Philosophical Works (1753/4), ed. D. Adams (1999), Section XIV, 42.
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I said that there is something every man can do, if he can only find out what that something is. Henry Ford has proved this. He has installed in his vast organization a system for taking hold of a man who fails in one department, and giving him a chance in some other department. Where necessary every effort is made to discover just what job the man is capable of filling. The result has been that very few men have had to be discharged, for it has been found that there was some kind of work each man could do at least moderately well. This wonderful system adopted by my friend Ford has helped many a man to find himself. It has put many a fellow on his feet. It has taken round pegs out of square holes and found a round hole for them. I understand that last year only 120 workers out of his force of 50,000 were discharged.
As quoted from an interview by B.C. Forbes in The American Magazine (Jan 1921), 10.
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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it,
Time, in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.
In 'The World', in Silex Scintillans (1650), 91.
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I should like to compare this rearrangement which the proteins undergo in the animal or vegetable organism to the making up of a railroad train. In their passage through the body parts of the whole may be left behind, and here and there new parts added on. In order to understand fully the change we must remember that the proteins are composed of Bausteine united in very different ways. Some of them contain Bausteine of many kinds. The multiplicity of the proteins is determined by many causes, first through the differences in the nature of the constituent Bausteine; and secondly, through differences in the arrangement of them. The number of Bausteine which may take part in the formation of the proteins is about as large as the number of letters in the alphabet. When we consider that through the combination of letters an infinitely large number of thoughts may be expressed, we can understand how vast a number of the properties of the organism may be recorded in the small space which is occupied by the protein molecules. It enables us to understand how it is possible for the proteins of the sex-cells to contain, to a certain extent, a complete description of the species and even of the individual. We may also comprehend how great and important the task is to determine the structure of the proteins, and why the biochemist has devoted himself with so much industry to their analysis.
'The Chemical Composition of the Cell', The Harvey Lectures (1911), 7, 45.
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I shuddered when I saw a crimson flame through the porthole instead of the usual starry sky at the night horizon of the planet. Vast pillars of light were bursting into the sky, melting into it, and flooding over with all the colors of the rainbow. An area of red luminescence merged smoothly into the black of the cosmos. The intense and dynamic changes in the colors and forms of the pillars and garlands made me think of visual music. Finally, we saw that we had entered directly into the aurora borealis.
…...
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I will not now discuss the Controversie betwixt some of the Modern Atomists, and the Cartesians; the former of whom think, that betwixt the Earth and the Stars, and betwixt these themselves there are vast Tracts of Space that are empty, save where the beams of Light do pass through them; and the later of whom tell us, that the Intervals betwixt the Stars and Planets (among which the Earth may perhaps be reckon'd) are perfectly fill'd, but by a Matter far subtiler than our Air, which some call Celestial, and others Æther. I shall not, I say, engage in this controversie, but thus much seems evident, That If there be such a Celestial Matter, it must ' make up far the Greatest part of the Universe known to us. For the Interstellar part of the world (If I may so stile it) bears so very great a proportion to the Globes, and their Atmospheres too, (If other Stars have any as well as the Earth,) that It Is almost incomparably Greater in respect of them, than all our Atmosphere is in respect of the Clouds, not to make the comparison between the Sea and the Fishes that swim in it.
A Continuation of New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring and Weight of the Air, and their Effects (1669), 127.
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I would proclaim that the vast majority of what [say, Scientific American] is true—yet my ability to defend such a claim is weaker than I would like. And most likely the readers, authors, and editors of that magazine would be equally hard pressed to come up with cogent, non-technical arguments convincing a skeptic of this point, especially if pitted against a clever lawyer arguing the contrary. How come Truth is such a slippery beast?
Metamagical Themas (1985), 93.
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Ideologues of all persuasions think they know how the economy will respond to the Administration’s strange mixture of Lafferism and monetarism. Indeed, their self-confidence is so vast, and their ability to rationalize so crafty, that one cannot imagine a scenario for the next few years, that they would regard as falsifying their dogma. The failure of any prediction can always be blamed on quirky political decisions or unforeseen historical events.
In 'Mathematical Games: The Laffer Curve', Scientific American (Dec 1981), 245, No. 6, 30. Collected in The Night Is Large: Collected Essays, 1938-1995 (1997), 135.
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If you want to build a ship, don’t recruit the men to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for vast and endless sea.
Not found as such in a work by Saint-Exupéry. Probably an anonymous paraphrase of a related passage in Citadelle (1948), section 75, 687. See the quote beginning, “One will weave the canvas…” on the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Quotes page of this website.
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In neurophysiology we have none of those vast tidal waves of discovery which shake the world to its foundations and which have such incalculable consequences for good or evil.
From Speech (10 Dec 1963) at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, Sweden. Collected inGöran Liljestrand (ed.), Les Prix Nobel en 1963, (1964).
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In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense—not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress. The mutual protection which is obtained in this case, the possibility of attaining old age and of accumulating experience, the higher intellectual development, and the further growth of sociable habits, secure the maintenance of the species, its extension, and its further progressive evolution. The unsociable species, on the contrary, are doomed to decay.
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), 293.
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In the case of the Sun, we have a new understanding of the cosmological meaning of sacrifice. The Sun is, with each second, transforming four million tons of itself into light—giving itself over to become energy that we, with every meal, partake of. The Sun converts itself into a flow of energy that photosynthesis changes into plants that are consumed by animals. Humans have been feasting on the Sun’s energy stored in the form of wheat or maize or reindeer as each day the Sun dies as Sun and is reborn as the vitality of Earth. These solar flares are in fact the very power of the vast human enterprise. Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: she is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy.
In The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story (1996), 40-41.
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In the vast cosmical changes, the universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities ... sowing an animalcule here, crumbling a star there, oscillating and winding, ... entangling, from the highest to the lowest, all activities in the obscurity of a dizzying mechanism, hanging the flight of an insect upon the movement of the earth... Enormous gearing, whose first motor is the gnat, and whose last wheel is the zodiac.
Victor Hugo and Charles E. Wilbour (trans.), Les Misérables (1862), 41.
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In this great celestial creation, the catastrophy of a world, such as ours, or even the total dissolution of a system of worlds, may possibly be no more to the great Author of Nature, than the most common accident in life with us, and in all probability such final and general Doomsdays may be as frequent there, as even Birthdays or mortality with us upon the earth. This idea has something so cheerful in it, that I know I can never look upon the stars without wondering why the whole world does not become astronomers; and that men endowed with sense and reason should neglect a science they are naturally so much interested in, and so capable of enlarging their understanding, as next to a demonstration must convince them of their immortality, and reconcile them to all those little difficulties incident to human nature, without the least anxiety. All this the vast apparent provision in the starry mansions seem to promise: What ought we then not to do, to preserve our natural birthright to it and to merit such inheritance, which alas we think created all to gratify alone a race of vain-glorious gigantic beings, while they are confined to this world, chained like so many atoms to a grain of sand.
In The Universe and the Stars: Being an Original Theory on the Visible Creation, Founded on the Laws of Nature (1750, 1837), 132.
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In this model, the sun is a very tiny speck of dust indeed—a speck less than a three-thousandth of an inch in diameter ... Think of the sun as something less than a speck of dust in a vast city, of the earth as less than a millionth part of such a speck of dust, and we have perhaps as vivid a picture as the mind can really grasp of the relation of our home in space to the rest of the universe.
In The Universe Around Us (1953), 96.
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It certainly strikes the beholder with astonishment, to perceive what vast difficulties can be overcome by the pigmy arms of little mortal man, aided by science and directed by superior skill.
About his visit to Lockport on the Erie Canal, in Letter IX, to a friend in England from Lockport, New York (25 Jul 1831), collected in Narrative of a Tour in North America (1834), Vol. 1, 233-234,
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It had the old double keyboard, an entirely different set of keys for capitals and figures, so that the paper seemed a long way off, and the machine was as big and solid as a battle cruiser. Typing was then a muscular activity. You could ache after it. If you were not familiar with those vast keyboards, your hand wandered over them like a child lost in a wood. The noise might have been that of a shipyard on the Clyde. You would no more have thought of carrying one of those grim structures as you would have thought of travelling with a piano.
[About his first typewriter.]
English Journey (1934), 122-123.
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It has become a cheap intellectual pastime to contrast the infinitesimal pettiness of man with the vastnesses of the stellar universes. Yet all such comparisons are illicit. We cannot compare existence and meaning; they are disparate. The characteristic life of a man is itself the meaning of vast stretches of existences, and without it the latter have no value or significance. There is no common measure of physical existence and conscious experience because the latter is the only measure there is of the former. The significance of being, though not its existence, is the emotion it stirs, the thought it sustains.
Philosophy and Civilization (1931), reprinted in David Sidorsky (ed.), John Dewey: The Essential Writings (1977), 7.
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It is a sign of our power, and our criminal folly, that we can pollute the vast ocean and are doing so.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 186.
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It is because simplicity and vastness are both beautiful that we seek by preference simple facts and vast facts; that we take delight, now in following the giant courses of the stars, now in scrutinizing the microscope that prodigious smallness which is also a vastness, and now in seeking in geological ages the traces of a past that attracts us because of its remoteness.
…...
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It is certain that as a nation we are all smoking a great deal too much ... Smoking among boys—to whom it cannot possibly do any kind of good, while it may do a vast amount of active harm—is becoming prevalent to a most pernicious extent. ... It would be an excellent thing for the morality of the people could the use of “intoxicants and tobacco” be forbidden to all persons under twenty years of age. (1878)
In London Daily Telegraph (22 Jan 1878). Reprinted in English Anti-Tobacco Society and Anti-Narcotic League, Monthly letters of the Committee of the English Anti-Tobacco Society and Anti-Narcotic League 1878, 1879, 1880, (1 Feb 1878), 85.
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It is difficult to give an idea of the vast extent of modern mathematics. The word “extent” is not the right one: I mean extent crowded with beautiful detail—not an extent of mere uniformity such as an objectless plain, but of a tract of beautiful country seen at first in the distance, but which will bear to be rambled through and studied in every detail of hillside and valley, stream, rock, wood, and flower.
President’s address (1883) to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in The Collected Mathematical Papers (1895), Vol. 8, xxii.
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It is given to but few men to achieve immortality, still less to achieve Olympian rank, during their own lifetime. In a generation that witnesses one of the greatest revolutions in the entire history of science [Ernest Rutherford] was universally acknowledged as the leading explorer of the vast infinitely complex universe within the atom, a universe that he was first to penetrate.
(Rutherford's death was front page news in the New York Times.)
William L. Lawrence, New York Times (20 Oct 1937), 18.
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It is in the exploration of this vast deep-sea region that the finest field for submarine discovery yet remains.
In The Natural History of the European Seas (1859), 27.
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It is no small comfort when I reflect that we should not so much marvel at the vast and almost infinite breadth of the most distant heavens but much more at the smallness of us manikins and the smallness of this our tiny ball of earth and also of all the planets.
From Letter to Johann Herwart (1598), as quoted in Murray Roston, Milton and the Baroque (1980), 17.
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It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and literacy, of superstition and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people. ... The future belongs to science and to those who make friends with science.
Address to the Indian Institute of Science, Proceedings of the National Institute of Science of India (1960), 27, 564, cited in Mary Midgley, The myths We live By (2004), 14., x. In Vinoth Ramachandra, Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping our World (2008), 172.
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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 often happens that men, even of the best understandings and greatest circumspection, are guilty of that fault in reasoning which the writers on logick call the insufficient, or imperfect enumeration of parts, or cases: insomuch that I will venture to assert, that this is the chief, and almost the only, source of the vast number of erroneous opinions, and those too very often in matters of great importance, which we are apt to form on all the subjects we reflect upon, whether they relate to the knowledge of nature, or the merits and motives of human actions. It must therefore be acknowledged, that the art which affords a cure to this weakness, or defect, of our understandings, and teaches us to enumerate all the possible ways in which a given number of things may be mixed and combined together, that we may be certain that we have not omitted anyone arrangement of them that can lead to the object of our inquiry, deserves to be considered as most eminently useful and worthy of our highest esteem and attention. And this is the business of the art, or doctrine of combinations ... It proceeds indeed upon mathematical principles in calculating the number of the combinations of the things proposed: but by the conclusions that are obtained by it, the sagacity of the natural philosopher, the exactness of the historian, the skill and judgement of the physician, and the prudence and foresight of the politician, may be assisted; because the business of all these important professions is but to form reasonable conjectures concerning the several objects which engage their attention, and all wise conjectures are the results of a just and careful examination of the several different effects that may possibly arise from the causes that are capable of producing them.
Ars conjectandi (1713). In F. Maseres, The Doctrine of Permutations and Combinations (1795), 36.
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It will be a vast boon to mankind when we learn to prophesy the precise dates when cycles of various kinds will reach definite stages.
Mainsprings of Civilization (1945), 458.
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I’m just a speck, standing on this big planet. … The Earth is orbiting the Sun, and the Sun is a huge star. And our star may be a big deal to us, but, my friends, our star is just another speck. … It’s not really in downtown Milky Way, it’s way out on the side. … I'm a speck, living on a speck, orbiting a speck in the middle of specklessness. But … I have this brain … to think about all of this. To think about the vast emptiness of space. I can reason that I'm a speck on a speck in the middle of specklessness. And that’s cool. That’s worthy of respect.
Bill Nye
From narration to PBS TV program, 'Astrobiology', The Eyes of Nye (2005), Ep. 1, Introduction before titles. Also seen quoted as: “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.”
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Krill, a vital food sources for sea life, is being snatched in vast quantities, with trawlers traveling halfway around the globe, generating ruinous carbon emissions in the form of global supply chains.
In 'Can We Stop Killing Our Oceans Now, Please?', Huffington Post (14 Aug 2013).
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Let him look at that dazzling light hung aloft as an eternal lamp to lighten the universe; let him behold the earth, a mere dot compared with the vast circuit which that orb describes, and stand amazed to find that the vast circuit itself is but a very fine point compared with the orbit traced by the stars as they roll their course on high. But if our vision halts there, let imagination pass beyond; it will fail to form a conception long before Nature fails to supply material. The whole visible world is but an imperceptible speck in the ample bosom of Nature. No notion comes near it. Though we may extend our thought beyond imaginable space, yet compared with reality we bring to birth mere atoms. Nature is an infinite sphere whereof the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short, imagination is brought to silence at the thought, and that is the most perceptible sign of the all-power of God.
Let man reawake and consider what he is compared with the reality of things; regard himself lost in this remote corner of Nature; and from the tiny cell where he lodges, to wit the Universe, weigh at their true worth earth, kingdoms, towns, himself. What is a man face to face with infinity?
Pensées (1670), Section 1, aphorism 43. In H. F. Stewart (ed.), Pascal’s Pensées (1950), 19.
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Let us ... consider the ovum [egg] as a physical system. Its potentialities are prodigious and one's first impulse is to expect that such vast potentialities would find expression in complexity of structure. But what do we find? The substance is clouded with particles, but these can be centrifuged away leaving it optically structureless but still capable of development.... On the surface of the egg there is a fine membrane, below it fluid of high viscosity, next fluid of relatively low viscosity, and within this the nucleus, which in the resting stage is simply a bag of fluid enclosed in a delicate membrane.... The egg's simplicity is not that of a machine or a crystal, but that of a nebula. Gathered into it are units relatively simple but capable by their combinations of forming a vast number of dynamical systems...
As guest of honour, closing day address (Jun 1928), Sixth Colloid Symposium, Toronto, Canada, 'Living Matter', printed in Harry Boyer Weiser (ed.), Colloid Symposium Monograph (1928), Vol. 6, 15. Quoted in Joseph Needham, Chemical Embryology (1931), Vol. 1, 612-613.
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Let us then suppose the Mind to be, as we say, white Paper, void of all Characters, without any Ideas; How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store, which the busy and boundless Fancy of Man has painted on it, with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of Reason and Knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from Experience: In that, all our Knowledge is founded; and from that it ultimately derives it self. Our Observation employ’d either about external, sensible Objects; or about the internal Operations of our Minds, perceived and reflected on by our selves, is that, which supplies our Understandings with all the materials of thinking.
In 'Of Ideas in general, and their Original', An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Book 2, Chap. 1, Sec. 2, 37.
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Life through many long periods has been manifested in a countless host of varying structures, all circumscribed by one general plan, each appointed to a definite place, and limited to an appointed duration. On the whole the earth has been thus more and more covered by the associated life of plants and animals, filling all habitable space with beings capable of enjoying their own existence or ministering to the enjoyment of others; till finally, after long preparation, a being was created capable of the wonderful power of measuring and weighing all the world of matter and space which surrounds him, of treasuring up the past history of all the forms of life, and considering his own relation to the whole. When he surveys this vast and co-ordinated system, and inquires into its history and origin, can he be at a loss to decide whether it be a work of Divine thought and wisdom, or the fortunate offspring of a few atoms of matter, warmed by the anima mundi, a spark of electricity, or an accidental ray of sunshine?
Life on the Earth: Its Origin and Succession (1860), 216-7.
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Lister saw the vast importance of the discoveries of Pasteur. He saw it because he was watching on the heights, and he was watching there alone.
Baron Joseph Lister', The Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), 778.
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Mathematics, including not merely Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and the higher Calculus, but also the applied Mathematics of Natural Philosophy, has a marked and peculiar method or character; it is by preeminence deductive or demonstrative, and exhibits in a nearly perfect form all the machinery belonging to this mode of obtaining truth. Laying down a very small number of first principles, either self-evident or requiring very little effort to prove them, it evolves a vast number of deductive truths and applications, by a procedure in the highest degree mathematical and systematic.
In Education as a Science (1879), 148.
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My kingdom is vast as the universe; and my desire knows no limits. I go on forever,—freeing minds, weighing worlds,—without hatred, without fear, without pity, without love, and without God. Men call me Science!
From La Tentation de Saint-Antoine (1874), as translated by Lafcadio Hearn, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1911), 218-219.
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Nature being capricious and taking pleasure in creating and producing a continuous sucession of lives and forms because she knows that they serve to increase her terrestrial substance, is more ready and swift in her creating than time is in destroying, and therefore she has ordained that many animals shall serve as food one for the other; and as this does not satisfy her desire she sends forth frequently certain noisome and pestilential vapours and continual plagues upon the vast accumulations and herds of animals and especially upon human beings who increase very rapidly because other animals do not feed upon them.
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1 80.
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Nature is a vast tablet, inscribed with signs, each of which has its own significancy, and becomes poetry in the mind when read; and geology is simply the key by which myriads of these signs, hitherto indecipherable, can be unlocked and perused, and thus a new province added to the poetical domain.
Lecture Third, collected in Popular Geology: A Series of Lectures Read Before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, with Descriptive Sketches from a Geologist's Portfolio (1859), 131.
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Never to have seen anything but the temperate zone is to have lived on the fringe of the world. Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer live the majority of all the plant species, the vast majority of the insects, most of the strange ... quadrupeds, all of the great and most of the poisonous snakes and large lizards, most of the brilliantly colored sea fishes, and the strangest and most gorgeously plumaged of the birds.
Exploring For Plants (1930), 329.
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No man can be truly called an entomologist, sir; the subject is too vast for any single human intelligence to grasp.
In 'The Poet at the Breakfast Table: II', The Atlantic Monthly (Feb 1872), 29, 231.
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Now it is a well-known principle of zoological evolution that an isolated region, if large and sufficiently varied in its topography, soil, climate and vegetation, will give rise to a diversified fauna according to the law of adaptive radiation from primitive and central types. Branches will spring off in all directions to take advantage of every possible opportunity of securing food. The modifications which animals undergo in this adaptive radiation are largely of mechanical nature, they are limited in number and kind by hereditary, stirp or germinal influences, and thus result in the independent evolution of similar types in widely-separated regions under the law of parallelism or homoplasy. This law causes the independent origin not only of similar genera but of similar families and even of our similar orders. Nature thus repeats herself upon a vast scale, but the similarity is never complete and exact.
'The Geological and Faunal Relations of Europe and America during the Tertiary Period and the Theory of the Successive Invasions of an African Fauna', Science (1900), 11, 563-64.
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Now when you cut a forest, an ancient forest in particular, you are not just removing a lot of big trees and a few birds fluttering around in the canopy. You are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you. The number of these species may go to tens of thousands. ... Many of them are still unknown to science, and science has not yet discovered the key role undoubtedly played in the maintenance of that ecosystem, as in the case of fungi, microorganisms, and many of the insects.
On Human Nature (2000). In John H. Morgan, Naturally Good (2005), 252.
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Of all man’s works of art, a cathedral is greatest. A vast and majestic tree is greater than that.
In Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887), 8.
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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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One day a math-deficient frog was sitting on a tiny lily pad in a big pond—a lily pad that doubled in size each night—and on this day the pad covered just one-eighth of the pond. The frog still saw the vast majority of his beloved water and so was unconcerned. Then, just three days later, he woke to find the pond had vanished while he slept.
Epigraph, without citation, 'A sad cautionary tale for frogs with their heads in the sand.' in In Praise of Simple Physics: The Science and Mathematics behind Everyday Questions (2016), 11.
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One Science only will one Genius fit;
So vast is Art, so narrow Human Wit.
An Essay on Criticism (1709), 6.
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One way of dealing with errors is to have friends who are willing to spend the time necessary to carry out a critical examination of the experimental design beforehand and the results after the experiments have been completed. An even better way is to have an enemy. An enemy is willing to devote a vast amount of time and brain power to ferreting out errors both large and small, and this without any compensation. The trouble is that really capable enemies are scarce; most of them are only ordinary. Another trouble with enemies is that they sometimes develop into friends and lose a great deal of their zeal. It was in this way the writer lost his three best enemies. Everyone, not just scientists, needs a good few enemies.
Quoted in George A. Olah, A Life of Magic Chemistry (2001), 146.
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Organic Chemistry has become a vast rubbish heap of puzzling and bewildering compounds.
Preface to A. W. Stewart, Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry (1908), xiii.
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Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves, but also to the cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.
…...
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People have noted with admiration how the progress of scientific enquiry is like the growth of a coral reef; each generation of little toilers building a sure foundation on which their successors may build yet further. The simile is apt in many ways, and in one way in particular that is worth considering. When we see how industrious and how prolific are the coral insects, our chief astonishment should be, not how vast are the structures they have built, but how few and scattered. Why is not every coast lined with coral? Why is the abyss if ocean not bridged with it. The answer is that coral only lives under certain limitations; it can only thrive at certain depths, in water of certain temperatures and salinities; outside these limits it languishes and dies. Science is like coral in this. Scientific investigators can only work in certain spots of the ocean of Being, where they are at home, and all outside is unknown to them...
Scientific Method: An Inquiry into the Character and Validy of Natural Law (1923), 195. Quoted in Wilson Gee, Social science research methods (1950), 182.
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People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
In Circulations: Webster's Quotations, Facts and Phrases, 1.
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Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate their subject matters.
In article 'Man', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (1964), 108, 482-85. Collected in Cumulative Record: Definitive Edition (2015).
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Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination—stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern—of which I am a part. … What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the “why?” It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6, footnote.
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Psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century and a terminal product as well—something akin to a dinosaur or zeppelin in the history of ideas, a vast structure of radically unsound design and with no posterity.
'Victims of Psychiatry', The New York Review of Books (23 Jan 1975), 21. Cited in David E. Stannard, Shrinking History: On Freud and the Failure of Psychohistory (1980), 150.
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Put three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars.
In 'Our Home in Space.' In R.C. Prasad (ed.), Modern Essays: Studying Language Through Literature (1987), 26.
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Reality is never skin-deep. The true nature of the earth and its full wealth of hidden treasures cannot be argued from the visible rocks, the rocks upon which we live and out of which we make our living. The face of the earth, with its upstanding continents and depressed ocean-deeps, its vast ornament of plateau and mountain-chain, is molded by structure and process in hidden depths.
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Run the tape again, and let the tiny twig of Homo sapiens expire in Africa. Other hominids may have stood on the threshold of what we know as human possibilities, but many sensible scenarios would never generate our level of mentality. Run the tape again, and this time Neanderthal perishes in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia (as they did in our world). The sole surviving human stock, Homo erectus in Africa, stumbles along for a while, even prospers, but does not speciate and therefore remains stable. A mutated virus then wipes Homo erectus out, or a change in climate reconverts Africa into inhospitable forest. One little twig on the mammalian branch, a lineage with interesting possibilities that were never realized, joins the vast majority of species in extinction. So what? Most possibilities are never realized, and who will ever know the difference? Arguments of this form lead me to the conclusion that biology's most profound insight into human nature, status, and potential lies in the simple phrase, the embodiment of contingency: Homo sapiens is an entity, not a tendency.
Wonderful Life (1989), 320.
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Science is the topography of ignorance. From a few elevated points we triangulate vast spaces, inclosing infinite unknown details. We cast the lead, and draw up a little sand from abysses we may never reach with our dredges.
'Border Lines of Knowledge in Some Provinces of Medical Science', an introductory lecture to the Medical Class of Harvard University (6 Nov 1861). In Works of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1892), 211.
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Science too proceeds by lantern-flashes; it explores nature’s inexhaustible mosaic piece by piece. Too often the wick lacks oil; the glass panes of the lantern may not be clean. No matter: his work is not in vain who first recognizes and shows to others one speck of the vast unknown.
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See, thro' this air, this ocean, and this earth,
All matter quick, and bursting into birth.
Above, how high progressive life may go!
Around, how wide! how deep extend below!
Vast chain of being, which from God began,
Natures ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect! what no eye can see,
No glass can reach! from Infinite to thee,
From thee to Nothing—On superior pow'rs
Were we to press, inferior might on ours:
Or in the full creation leave a void,
Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroy'd:
From Nature's chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike.
'An Essay on Man' (1733-4), Epistle I. In John Butt (ed.), The Poems of Alexander Pope (1965), 513.
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Since we have no choice but to be swept along by [this] vast technological surge, we might as well learn to surf.
in David Western and Mary C. Pearl, Conservation for the 21st Century (1989).
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Some of my cousins who had the great advantage of University education used to tease me with arguments to prove that nothing has any existence except what we think of it. … These amusing mental acrobatics are all right to play with. They are perfectly harmless and perfectly useless. ... I always rested on the following argument. … We look up to the sky and see the sun. Our eyes are dazzled and our senses record the fact. So here is this great sun standing apparently on no better foundation than our physical senses. But happily there is a method, apart altogether from our physical senses, of testing the reality of the sun. It is by mathematics. By means of prolonged processes of mathematics, entirely separate from the senses, astronomers are able to calculate when an eclipse will occur. They predict by pure reason that a black spot will pass across the sun on a certain day. You go and look, and your sense of sight immediately tells you that their calculations are vindicated. So here you have the evidence of the senses reinforced by the entirely separate evidence of a vast independent process of mathematical reasoning. We have taken what is called in military map-making “a cross bearing.” When my metaphysical friends tell me that the data on which the astronomers made their calculations, were necessarily obtained originally through the evidence of the senses, I say, “no.” They might, in theory at any rate, be obtained by automatic calculating-machines set in motion by the light falling upon them without admixture of the human senses at any stage. When it is persisted that we should have to be told about the calculations and use our ears for that purpose, I reply that the mathematical process has a reality and virtue in itself, and that onie discovered it constitutes a new and independent factor. I am also at this point accustomed to reaffirm with emphasis my conviction that the sun is real, and also that it is hot— in fact hot as Hell, and that if the metaphysicians doubt it they should go there and see.
In My Early Life (1930).
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Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. …
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable … that it may become possible to set up nuclear chain reactions in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable—though much less certain—that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat or exploded in a port, might well destroy the whole port altogether with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
Letter to President Franklin P. Roosevelt, (2 Aug 1939, delivered 11 Oct 1939). In Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (Eds.) Einstein on Peace (1960, reprinted 1981), 294-95.
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Space … is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.
The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979, 1981), 76.
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That hemisphere of the moon which faces us is better known than the earth itself; its vast desert plains have been surveyed to within a few acres; its mountains and craters have been measured to within a few yards; while on the earth's surface there are 30,000,000 square kilometres (sixty times the extent of France), upon which the foot of man has never trod, which the eye of man has never seen.
In 'Mars, by the Latest Observations', Popular Science (Dec 1873), 4, 187.
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The analysis of Nature into its individual parts, the grouping of the different natural processes and natural objects in definite classes, the study of the internal anatomy of organic bodies in their manifold forms—these were the fundamental conditions of the gigantic strides in our knowledge of Nature which have been made during the last four hundred years. But this method of investigation has also left us as a legacy the habit of observing natural objects and natural processes in their isolation, detached from the whole vast interconnection of things; and therefore not in their motion, but in their repose; not as essentially changing, but fixed constants; not in their life, but in their death.
Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (Anti-Dühring), First Publication (1878). Trans. Emile Burns and ed. C.P. Dutt (1935), 27-8.
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The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.”
In 'Introduction', The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for Soul (1994), 3.
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The biologist can push it back to the original protist, and the chemist can push it back to the crystal, but none of them touch the real question of why or how the thing began at all. The astronomer goes back untold million of years and ends in gas and emptiness, and then the mathematician sweeps the whole cosmos into unreality and leaves one with mind as the only thing of which we have any immediate apprehension. Cogito ergo sum, ergo omnia esse videntur. All this bother, and we are no further than Descartes. Have you noticed that the astronomers and mathematicians are much the most cheerful people of the lot? I suppose that perpetually contemplating things on so vast a scale makes them feel either that it doesn’t matter a hoot anyway, or that anything so large and elaborate must have some sense in it somewhere.
As co-author with Robert Eustace, The Documents in the Case (1930), 72.
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The cosmogonist has finished his task when he has described to the best of his ability the inevitable sequence of changes which constitute the history of the material universe. But the picture which he draws opens questions of the widest interest not only to science, but also to humanity. What is the significance of the vast processes it portrays? What is the meaning, if any there be which is intelligible to us, of the vast accumulations of matter which appear, on our present interpretations of space and time, to have been created only in order that they may destroy themselves.
In Astronomy and Cosmogony (1961).
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The discovery of the laws of definite proportions is one of the most important and wonderful among the great and brilliant achievements of modern chemistry. It is sufficient of itself to convince any reasoning mind, that order and system pervade the universe, and that the minutest atoms of matter, and the vast orbs that move round the heavens are equally under the control of the invariable laws of the creator.
Elements of Chemistry (1845), 84.
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The earth and its atmosphere constitute a vast distilling apparatus in which the equatorial ocean plays the part of the boiler, and the chill regions of the poles the part of the condenser. In this process of distillation heat plays quite as necessary a part as cold.
In Forms of Water in Clouds and Rivers, Ice and Glaciers (1872), 21.
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The earth holds a silver treasure, cupped between ocean bed and tenting sky. Forever the heavens spend it, in the showers that refresh our temperate lands, the torrents that sluice the tropics. Every suckling root absorbs it, the very soil drains it down; the rivers run unceasing to the sea, the mountains yield it endlessly… Yet none is lost; in vast convection our water is returned, from soil to sky, and sky to soil, and back gain, to fall as pure as blessing. There was never less; there could never be more. A mighty mercy on which life depends, for all its glittering shifts, water is constant.
In A Cup of Sky (1950), 41.
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The earth in its rapid motion round the sun possesses a degree of living force so vast that, if turned into the equivalent of heat, its temperature would be rendered at least one thousand times greater than that of red-hot iron, and the globe on which we tread would in all probability be rendered equal in brightness to the sun itself.
'On Matter, Living Force, and Heat' (1847). In The Scientific Papers of James Prescott Joule (1884), Vol. 1, 271.
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The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
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The earth itself assures us it is a living entity. Deep below surface one can hear its slow pulse, feel its vibrant rhythm. The great breathing mountains expand and contract. The vast sage desert undulates with almost imperceptible tides like the oceans. From the very beginning, throughout all its cataclysmic upthrusts and deep sea submergences, the planet Earth seems to have maintained an ordered rhythm.
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The education explosion is producing a vast number of people who want to live significant, important lives but lack the ability to satisfy this craving for importance by individual achievement. The country is being swamped with nobodies who want to be somebodies.
From address to employees of the Phillips Petroleum Co. In Bartlesville, Oklahoma, excerpted in the Franklin, Indiana, The Daily Journal (23 Jan 1978), 2.
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The extraordinary development of mathematics in the last century is quite unparalleled in the long history of this most ancient of sciences. Not only have those branches of mathematics which were taken over from the eighteenth century steadily grown, but entirely new ones have sprung up in almost bewildering profusion, and many of them have promptly assumed proportions of vast extent.
In The History of Mathematics in the Nineteenth Century', Congress of Arts and Sciences (1905), Vol. 1, 474. As cited and wuoted in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 110.
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The good news is that Americans will, in increasing numbers, begin to value and protect the vast American Landscape. The bad news is that they may love it to death.
The American Land
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The highest of the world’s mountains, it seems, has to make but a single gesture of magnificence to be the lord of all, vast in unchallenged and isolated supremacy.
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The major gift of science to the world is a mighty increase of power. Did science then create that power? Not a bit of it! Science discovered that power in the universe and set it free. Science found out the conditions, fulfilling which, the endless dynamic forces of the cosmos are liberated. Electricity is none of man’s making, but man has learned how to fulfill the conditions that release it. Atomic energy is a force that man did not create, but that some day man may liberate. Man by himself is still a puny animal; a gorilla is much the stronger. Man's significance lies in another realm—he knows how to fulfill conditions so that universal power not his own is set free. The whole universe as man now sees it is essentially a vast system of power waiting to be released.
In 'When Prayer Means Power', collected in Living Under Tension: Sermons On Christianity Today (1941), 78-79.
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The men you see waiting in the lobbies of doctors’ offices are, in a vast majority of cases, suffering through poisoning caused by an excess of food.
In Love, Life and Work (), 129.
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The most abstract statements or propositions in science are to be regarded as bundles of hypothetical maxims packed into a portable shape and size. Every scientific fact is a short-hand expression for a vast number of practical directions: if you want so-and-so, do so-and-so.
In 'On The Scientific Basis of Morals', Contemporary Review (Sep 1875), collected in Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock (eds.), Lectures and Essays: By the Late William Kingdon Clifford, F.R.S. (1886), 289.
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The next care to be taken, in respect of the Senses, is a supplying of their infirmities with Instruments, and, as it were, the adding of artificial Organs to the natural; this in one of them has been of late years accomplisht with prodigious benefit to all sorts of useful knowledge, by the invention of Optical Glasses. By the means of Telescopes, there is nothing so far distant but may be represented to our view; and by the help of Microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visible World discovered to the understanding. By this means the Heavens are open'd, and a vast number of new Stars, and new Motions, and new Productions appear in them, to which all the ancient Astronomers were utterly Strangers. By this the Earth it self, which lyes so neer us, under our feet, shews quite a new thing to us, and in every little particle of its matter, we now behold almost as great a variety of creatures as we were able before to reckon up on the whole Universe it self.
Micrographia, or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses with Observations and Inquiries thereupon (1665), preface, sig. A2V.
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The open society, the unrestricted access to knowledge, the unplanned and uninhibited association of men for its furtherance—these are what may make a vast, complex, ever growing, ever changing, ever more specialized and expert technological world, nevertheless a world of human community.
'Science and the Common Understanding' (1954), 95. Reprinted in John Dewey and Julius A. Sigler, Classical Selections On Great Issues, Vol. 8, Science, Technology, and Society (1997), 35.
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The other book you may have heard of and perhaps read, but it is not one perusal which will enable any man to appreciate it. I have read it through five or six times, each time with increasing admiration. It will live as long as the ‘Principia’ of Newton. It shows that nature is, as I before remarked to you, a study that yields to none in grandeur and immensity. The cycles of astronomy or even the periods of geology will alone enable us to appreciate the vast depths of time we have to contemplate in the endeavour to understand the slow growth of life upon the earth. The most intricate effects of the law of gravitation, the mutual disturbances of all the bodies of the solar system, are simplicity itself compared with the intricate relations and complicated struggle which have determined what forms of life shall exist and in what proportions. Mr. Darwin has given the world a new science, and his name should, in my opinion, stand above that of every philosopher of ancient or modem times. The force of admiration can no further go!!!
Letter to George Silk (1 Sep 1860), in My Life (1905), Vol. I, 372-373.
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The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what is in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence which at a given instant knew all the forces acting in nature and the position of every object in the universe—if endowed with a brain sufficiently vast to make all necessary calculations—could describe with a single formula the motions of the largest astronomical bodies and those of the smallest atoms. To such an intelligence, nothing would be uncertain; the future, like the past, would be an open book.
As quoted in The Fascination of Physics by Jacqueline D. Spears and Dean Zollman (1986). Alternate translation: “The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what is in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence which at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective positions, motions, and general effects of all these entities at any time in the past or future.” In Harry Woolf, The Analytic spirit: essays in the history of science in honor of Henry Guerlac (1981), 91, the author states that “the language Laplace used was obviously borrowed from Concdorset, though now the words were reshuffled to express a new idea.”
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The present state of the system of nature is evidently a consequence of what it was in the preceding moment, and if we conceive of an intelligence that at a given instant comprehends all the relations of the entities of this universe, it could state the respective position, motions, and general affects of all these entities at any time in the past or future. Physical astronomy, the branch of knowledge that does the greatest honor to the human mind, gives us an idea, albeit imperfect, of what such an intelligence would be. The simplicity of the law by which the celestial bodies move, and the relations of their masses and distances, permit analysis to follow their motions up to a certain point; and in order to determine the state of the system of these great bodies in past or future centuries, it suffices for the mathematician that their position and their velocity be given by observation for any moment in time. Man owes that advantage to the power of the instrument he employs, and to the small number of relations that it embraces in its calculations. But ignorance of the different causes involved in the production of events, as well as their complexity, taken together with the imperfection of analysis, prevents our reaching the same certainty about the vast majority of phenomena. Thus there are things that are uncertain for us, things more or less probable, and we seek to compensate for the impossibility of knowing them by determining their different degrees of likelihood. So it was that we owe to the weakness of the human mind one of the most delicate and ingenious of mathematical theories, the science of chance or probability.
'Recherches, 1º, sur l'Intégration des Équations Différentielles aux Différences Finies, et sur leur Usage dans la Théorie des Hasards' (1773, published 1776). In Oeuvres complètes de Laplace, 14 Vols. (1843-1912), Vol. 8, 144-5, trans. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Pierre-Simon Laplace 1749-1827: A Life in Exact Science (1997), 26.
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The rocks have a history; gray and weatherworn, they are veterans of many battles; they have most of them marched in the ranks of vast stone brigades during the ice age; they have been torn from the hills, recruited from the mountaintops, and marshaled on the plains and in the valleys; and now the elemental war is over, there they lie waging a gentle but incessant warfare with time and slowly, oh, so slowly, yielding to its attacks!
In Under the Apple-Trees (1916), 42.
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The science [of mathematics] has grown to such vast proportion that probably no living mathematician can claim to have achieved its mastery as a whole.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 262.
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The sea itself offers a perennial source of power hitherto almost unapplied. The tides, twice in each day, raise a vast mass of water, which might be made available for driving machinery.
In 'Future Prospects', On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1st ed., 1832), chap. 32, 279.
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The study of fish in the sea may be the most necessary of all our oceanographic researches because we shall increasingly be made to turn to the sea as a vast food producer by the increase in the population of the world.
In 'Man Explores the Sea', Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (Sep 1963), 111, No. 5086, 787.
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The swelling and towering omnibuses, the huge trucks and wagons and carriages, the impetuous hansoms and the more sobered four-wheelers, the pony-carts, donkey-carts, hand-carts, and bicycles which fearlessly find their way amidst the turmoil, with foot-passengers winding in and out, and covering the sidewalks with their multitude, give the effect of a single monstrous organism, which writhes swiftly along the channel where it had run in the figure of a flood till you were tired of that metaphor. You are now a molecule of that vast organism.
Describing streets in London, from 'London Films', Harper’s Magazine (), 110, No. 655, 72.
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The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth—never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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The universe, that vast assemblage of every thing that exists, presents only matter and motion: the whole offers to our contemplation, nothing but an immense, an uninterrupted succession of causes and effects.
The System of Nature (1770), trans. Samuel Wilkinson (1820), Vol. 1, 12-13.
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The varieties of chemical substances actually found in living things are vastly more restricted than the possible varieties. A striking illustration is that if one molecule each of all the possible types of proteins were made, they would together weigh more than the observable universe. Obviously there are a fantastically large number of protein types that are not made by living cells.
In The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology (2014).
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The vast outpourings of publications by Professor Djerassi and his cohorts marks him as one of the most prolific scientific writers of our day... a plot of N, the papers published by Professor Djerassi in a given year, against T, the year (starting with 1945, T = 0) gives a good straight-line relationship. This line follows the equation N = 2.413T + 1.690 ... Assuming that the inevitable inflection point on the logistic curve is still some 10 years away, this equation predicts (a) a total of about 444 papers by the end of this year, (b) the average production of one paper per week or more every year beginning in 1966, and (c) the winning of the all-time productivity world championship in 10 years from now, in 1973. In that year Professor Djerassi should surpass the record of 995 items held by ...
Steroids Made it Possible (1990), 11-12.
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The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves, in a sense, responsible for that future.
In 'The Conservation of Natural Resources', The Outlook (), 87, 294.
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The vast spread
Of darkness
That speaks of mystery
The darkness that reveals
The beauty that lies beneath
In the form of glittering
Stars, a countless beauty
That seemed to conceal
A million stories
That can make the mankind
Take a new look at life
And the majestic moon
That silently looks at mankind
Wondering how its serenity
Was disturbed by the little steps
Of a man from the beautiful earth
Yet softly smiling back
And let the world sleep
In its magical glow
A glow that soothes
The world’s senses
And forget the pain of reality
…...
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The world is like a vast sea: mankind like a vessel sailing on its tempestuous bosom. … [T]he sciences serve us for oars.
From concluding paragraph, 'Letters from a Chinese Philosopher', LXXXIII, first published in journal The Public Ledger collected in The Miscellaneous Works of Oliver Goldsmith (1762, 1809), 41.
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The world's forests need to be seen for what they are—giant global utilities, providing essential public services to humanity on a vast scale. They store carbon, which is lost to the atmosphere when they burn, increasing global warming. The life they support cleans the atmosphere of pollutants and feeds it with moisture. They act as a natural thermostat, helping to regulate our climate and sustain the lives of 1.4 billion of the poorest people on this Earth. And they do these things to a degree that is all but impossible to imagine.
Speech (25 Oct 2007) at the World Wildlife Fund gala dinner, Hampton Court Palace, announcing the Prince's Rainforests Project. On the Prince of Wales website.
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There are three distinctions in the kinds of bodies, or three states, which have more especially claimed the attention of philosophical chemists; namely, those which are marked by the terms elastic fluids, liquids, and solids. A very familiar instance is exhibited to us in water, of a body, which, in certain circumstances, is capable of assuming all the three states. In steam we recognise a perfectly elastic fluid, in water, a perfect liquid, and in ice of a complete solid. These observations have tacitly led to the conclusion which seems universally adopted, that all bodies of sensible magnitude, whether liquid or solid, are constituted of a vast number of extremely small particles, or atoms of matter bound together by a force of attraction.
A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808), Vol. 1, 141.
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There are … two fields for human thought and action—the actual and the possible, the realized and the real. In the actual, the tangible, the realized, the vast proportion of mankind abide. The great, region of the possible, whence all discovery, invention, creation proceed, and which is to the actual as a universe to a planet, is the chosen region of genius. As almost every thing which is now actual was once only possible, as our present facts and axioms were originally inventions or discoveries, it is, under God, to genius that we owe our present blessings. In the past, it created the present; in the present, it is creating the future.
In 'Genius', Wellman’s Miscellany (Dec 1871), 4, No. 6, 202.
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There is a place with four suns in the sky—red, white, blue, and yellow; two of them are so close together that they touch, and star-stuff flows between them. I know of a world with a million moons. I know of a sun the size of the Earth—and made of diamond. There are atomic nuclei a few miles across which rotate thirty times a second. There are tiny grains between the stars, with the size and atomic composition of bacteria. There are stars leaving the Milky Way, and immense gas clouds falling into it. There are turbulent plasmas writhing with X- and gamma-rays and mighty stellar explosions. There are, perhaps, places which are outside our universe. The universe is vast and awesome, and for the first time we are becoming a part of it.
Opening paragraph, in 'Introduction' Planetary Exploration (1970), 15.
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There is a single general space, a single vast immensity which we may freely call void: in it are unnumerable globes like this on which we live and grow, this space we declare to be infinite, since neither reason, convenience, sense-perception nor nature assign to it a limit.
Quoted in Joseph Silk, The Big Bang (1997), 89.
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These specimens, which I could easily multiply, may suffice to justify a profound distrust of Auguste Comte, wherever he may venture to speak as a mathematician. But his vast general ability, and that personal intimacy with the great Fourier, which I most willingly take his own word for having enjoyed, must always give an interest to his views on any subject of pure or applied mathematics.
In R. Graves, Life of W. R. Hamilton (1882-89), Vol. 3, 475.
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This relation logical implication is probably the most rigorous and powerful of all the intellectual enterprises of man. From a properly selected set of the vast number of prepositional functions a set can be selected from which an infinitude of prepositional functions can be implied. In this sense all postulational thinking is mathematics. It can be shown that doctrines in the sciences, natural and social, in history, in jurisprudence and in ethics are constructed on the postulational thinking scheme and to that extent are mathematical. Together the proper enterprise of Science and the enterprise of Mathematics embrace the whole knowledge-seeking activity of mankind, whereby “knowledge” is meant the kind of knowledge that admits of being made articulate in the form of propositions.
In Mathematics as a Culture Clue: And Other Essays (1947), 127.
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To see the clear, logical ideas gradually being disentangled from vagueness and confusion is vastly more instructive than simply starting with the logical ideas.
In 'Projective Geometery', Prelude to Mathematics (1955), 145.
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Walking home at night, I shine my flashlight up at the sky. I send billions of ... photons toward space. What is their destination? A tiny fraction will be absorbed by the air. An even smaller fraction will be intercepted by the surface of planets and stars. The vast majority ... will plod on forever. After some thousands of years they will leave our galaxy; after some millions of years they will leave our supercluster. They will wander through an even emptier, even colder realm. The universe is transparent in the direction of the future.
Atoms of Silence
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We are consuming our forests three times faster than they are being reproduced. Some of the richest timber lands of this continent have already been destroyed, and not replaced, and other vast areas are on the verge of destruction. Yet forests, unlike mines, can be so handled as to yield the best results of use, without exhaustion, just like grain fields.
Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee (4 Oct 1907), 'Our National Inland Waterways Policy'. In American Waterways (1908), 9.
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We are like the inhabitants of an isolated valley in New Guinea who communicate with societies in neighboring valleys (quite different societies, I might add) by runner and by drum. When asked how a very advanced society will communicate, they might guess by an extremely rapid runner or by an improbably large drum. They might not guess a technology beyond their ken. And yet, all the while, a vast international cable and radio traffic passes over them, around them, and through them... We will listen for the interstellar drums, but we will miss the interstellar cables. We are likely to receive our first messages from the drummers of the neighboring galactic valleys - from civilizations only somewhat in our future. The civilizations vastly more advanced than we, will be, for a long time, remote both in distance and in accessibility. At a future time of vigorous interstellar radio traffic, the very advanced civilizations may be, for us, still insubstantial legends.
…...
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We do whatever we can to deny intuition of the invisible realms. We clog up our senses with smog, jam our minds with media overload. We drown ourselves in alcohol or medicate ourselves into rigidly artificial states... we take pride in our cynicism and detachment. Perhaps we are terrified to discover that our “rationality” is itself a kind of faith, an artifice, that beneath it lies the vast territory of the unknown.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 29
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We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because these things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism… We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe–and would benefit the vast majority–are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.
From This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014), 18.
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We ought then to consider the present state of the universe as the effect of its previous state and as the cause of that which is to follow. An intelligence that, at a given instant, could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings that make it up, if moreover it were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, would encompass in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atoms. For such an intelligence nothing would be uncertain, and the future, like the past, would be open to its eyes.
Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1814), 5th edition (1825), trans. Andrew I. Dale (1995), 2.
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We used to be a source of fuel; we are increasingly becoming a sink. These supplies of foreign liquid fuel are no doubt vital to our industry, but our ever-increasing dependence upon them ought to arouse serious and timely reflection. The scientific utilisation, by liquefaction, pulverisation and other processes, or our vast and magnificent deposits of coal, constitutes a national object of prime importance.
Parliamentary Debate (24 Apr 1928). Quoted in Winston Churchill and Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469.
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What a splendid perspective contact with a profoundly different civilization might provide! In a cosmic setting vast and old beyond ordinary human understanding we are a little lonely, and we ponder the ultimate significance, if any, of our tiny but exquisite blue planet, the Earth… In the deepest sense the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves.
…...
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What we do may be small, but it has a certain character of permanence and to have produced anything of the slightest permanent interest, whether it be a copy of verses or a geometrical theorem, is to have done something utterly beyond the powers of the vast majority of men.
From Inaugural Lecture, Oxford (1920). Recalled in A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 76.
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What we’re dealing with is so vast and so global that it really does need to be energized and kicked into high gear. Basically what’s going on is we are overfishing–the biggest danger–there are lots of things going on with the oceans that are threatening them.
From transcript of PBS TV interview by Tavis Smiley (28 Mar 2011).
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Whatever compass of mind one may have, he is capable of only one great passion.
From Blaise Pascal, O.W. Wright (trans.), 'Discourse on the Passion of Love', collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 418. Also widely found translated as, “However vast a man’s spiritual resources, he is capable of but one great passion.” (Webmaster has not yet found a primary source for the translator of this wording. Can you help?) From the original French, “Quelque étendue d’esprit que l’on ait, l’on n’est capable que d’une grande passion,” Discours sur les passions de l'amour (1653) collected in Œuvres Complètes de Blaise Pascal (1866), Vol. 2, 50.
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When chemists have brought their knowledge out of their special laboratories into the laboratory of the world, where chemical combinations are and have been through all time going on in such vast proportions,—when physicists study the laws of moisture, of clouds and storms, in past periods as well as in the present,—when, in short, geologists and zoologists are chemists and physicists, and vice versa,—then we shall learn more of the changes the world has undergone than is possible now that they are separately studied.
Geological Sketches (1866), 73.
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When physicists speak of “beauty” in their theories, they really mean that their theory possesses at least two essential features: 1. A unifying symmetry 2. The ability to explain vast amounts of experimental data with the most economical mathematical expressions.
In 'Quantum Heresy', Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension (1995), 127.
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When two minds of a high order, interested in kindred subjects, come together, their conversation is chiefly remarkable for the summariness of its allusions and the rapidity of its transitions. Before one of them is half through a sentence the other knows his meaning and replies. ... His mental lungs breathe more deeply, in an atmosphere more broad and vast...
In The Principles of Psychology (1918), Vol. 2, 370.
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When ultra-violet light acts on a mixture of water, carbon dioxide, and ammonia, a vast variety of organic substances are made, including sugars and apparently some of the materials from which proteins are built up…. But before the origin of life they must have accumulated till the primitive oceans reached the consistency of hot dilute soup…. The first living or half-living things were probably large molecules synthesized under the influence of the sun’s radiation, and only capable of reproduction in the particularly favorable medium in which they originated….
In 'The Origin of Life', The Inequality of Man: And Other Essays (1932, 1937), 152.
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Why can the chemist not take the requisite numbers of atoms and simply put them together? The answer is that the chemist never has atoms at his disposal, and if he had, the direct combination of the appropriate numbers of atoms would lead only to a Brobdingnagian potpourri of different kinds of molecules, having a vast array of different structures. What the chemist has at hand always consists of substances, themselves made up of molecules, containing defined numbers of atoms in ordered arrangements. Consequently, in order to synthesize anyone substance, his task is that of combining, modifying, transforming, and tailoring known substances, until the total effect of his manipulations is the conversion of one or more forms of matter into another.
In 'Art and Science in the Synthesis of Organic Compounds: Retrospect and Prospect', in Maeve O'Connor (ed.), Pointers and Pathways in Research (1963), 28.
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Why, then, are we surprised that comets, such a rare spectacle in the universe, are not known, when their return is at vast intervals?. … The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject … And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them …. Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate … Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all. Someday there will be a man who will show in what regions comets have their orbit, why they travel so remote from other celestial bodies, how large they are and what sort they are.
Natural Questions, Book 7. As translated by Thomas H. Corcoran in Seneca in Ten Volumes: Naturales Quaestiones II (1972), 279 and 293.
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Within each of us there is a silence, a silence as vast as the universe. And when we experience that silence, we remember who we are.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 189
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[In the beginning, before creation] There was neither Aught nor Naught, no air nor sky beyond. …
[There was only]
A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.
Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
No gods had yet been born—who then can e’er the truth disclose?
Rigveda
In Rigveda. In John Robson, Hinduism and Its Relations to Christianity (1893), 17.
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[In] the evolution of ideas… New ideas are thrown up spontaneously like mutations; the vast majority of them are useless crank theories, the equivalent of biological freaks without survival-value.
In Epilogue, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe (1959), 515.
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[Man] … his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labour of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…
From 'A Free Man's Worship', Independent Review (Dec 1903). Collected in Mysticism and Logic: And Other Essays (1918), 47-48.
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[When I was a child] I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I was a street kid. … [T]here was one aspect of that environment that, for some reason, struck me as different, and that was the stars. … I could tell they were lights in the sky, but that wasn’t an explanation. I mean, what were they? Little electric bulbs on long black wires, so you couldn’t see what they were held up by? What were they? … My mother said to me, "Look, we’ve just got you a library card … get out a book and find the answer.” … It was in there. It was stunning. The answer was that the Sun was a star, except very far away. … The dazzling idea of a universe vast beyond imagining swept over me. … I sensed awe.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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… just as the astronomer, the physicist, the geologist, or other student of objective science looks about in the world of sense, so, not metaphorically speaking but literally, the mind of the mathematician goes forth in the universe of logic in quest of the things that are there; exploring the heights and depths for facts—ideas, classes, relationships, implications, and the rest; observing the minute and elusive with the powerful microscope of his Infinitesimal Analysis; observing the elusive and vast with the limitless telescope of his Calculus of the Infinite; making guesses regarding the order and internal harmony of the data observed and collocated; testing the hypotheses, not merely by the complete induction peculiar to mathematics, but, like his colleagues of the outer world, resorting also to experimental tests and incomplete induction; frequently finding it necessary, in view of unforeseen disclosures, to abandon one hopeful hypothesis or to transform it by retrenchment or by enlargement:—thus, in his own domain, matching, point for point, the processes, methods and experience familiar to the devotee of natural science.
In Lectures on Science, Philosophy and Art (1908), 26
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“Any specialty, if important, is too important to be left to the specialists.” After all, the specialist cannot function unless he concentrates more or less entirely on his specialty and, in doing so, he will ignore the vast universe lying outside and miss important elements that ought to help guide his judgment. He therefore needs the help of the nonspecialist, who, while relying on the specialist for key information, can yet supply the necessary judgment based on everything else… Science, therefore, has become too important to be left to the scientists.
In 'The Fascination of Science', The Roving Mind (1983), 123. Asimov begins by extending a quote by George Clemenceau: “War is too important to be left to the generals.”
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“Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.
In Self-help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859, 1861), 15.
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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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