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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index W > Category: Worth

Worth Quotes (169 quotes)

'[R]eductionism' is one of those things, like sin, that is only mentioned by people who are against it. To call oneself a reductionist will sound, in some circles, a bit like admitting to eating babies. But, just as nobody actually eats babies, so nobody is really a reductionist in any sense worth being against.
The Blind Watchmaker (1996), 13.
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Alles Gescheite ist schon gedacht worden; man muss nur versuchen, es noch einmal zu denken.
Everything that is worth thinking has already been thought; one must only try to think it again.
As translated in William Francis Henry King (ed.), Classical and Foreign Quotations: A Polyglot Manual of Historical (1904), 234.
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Le savant n’étudie pas la nature parce que cela est utile; il l’étudie parce qu’il y prend plaisir et il y prend plaisir parce qu’elle est belle. Si la nature n’était pas belle, elle ne vaudrait pas la peine d’être connue, la vie ne vaudrait pas la peine d’être vécue.
The scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it, and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp.
In Science et Méthode (1920), 48, as translated by Francis Maitland, in Science and Method (1908, 1952), 15.
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A diagram is worth a thousand proofs.
In Mathematics Made Difficult (1971). As quoted in Michael Stueben and ‎Diane Sandford, Twenty Years Before the Blackboard (1998), 131.
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A fateful process is set in motion when the individual is released “to the freedom of his own impotence” and left to justify his existence by his own efforts. The autonomous individual, striving to realize himself and prove his worth, has created all that is great in literature, art, music, science and technology. The autonomous individual, also, when he can neither realize himself nor justify his existence by his own efforts, is a breeding call of frustration, and the seed of the convulsions which shake our world to its foundations.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 18.
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A good scare is worth more to a man than advice.
Seen, for example, in Edgar Watson Howe, Country Town Sayings: A Collection of Paragraphs From the Atchison Globe (1911), 141. It is not made clear in the book, whether Howe originated this, or collected it as a saying.
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A lot of people ask, “Do you think humans are parasites?” It’s an interesting idea and one worth thinking about. People casually refer to humanity as a virus spreading across the earth. In fact, we do look like some strange kind of bio-film spreading across the landscape. A good metaphor? If the biosphere is our host, we do use it up for our own benefit. We do manipulate it. We alter the flows and fluxes of elements like carbon and nitrogen to benefit ourselves—often at the expense of the biosphere as a whole. If you look at how coral reefs or tropical forests are faring these days, you’ll notice that our host is not doing that well right now. Parasites are very sophisticated; parasites are highly evolved; parasites are very successful, as reflected in their diversity. Humans are not very good parasites. Successful parasites do a very good job of balancing—using up their hosts and keeping them alive. It’s all a question of tuning the adaptation to your particular host. In our case, we have only one host, so we have to be particularly careful.
Talk at Columbia University, 'The Power of Parasites'.
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A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.
In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), 14.
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A man who sets out to justify his existence and his activities has to distinguish two different questions. The first is whether the work which he does is worth doing; and the second is why he does it (whatever its value may be).
In A Mathematician's Apology (1940, 2012), 66.
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A million years is a short time—the shortest worth messing with for most problems. You begin tuning your mind to a time scale that is the planet’s time scale. For me, it is almost unconscious now and is a kind of companionship with the earth.
In Basin and Range (1981), 134.
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A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.
In 'Iris, Her Book', The Professor at the Breakfast-Table (1860, 1892), 239.
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A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.
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A sign of a celebrity is often that his name is worth more than his services.
In The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961), 220.
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A slave world is not worth preserving. Better be lifeless like the cold moon, or primitively vegetal like desolate Mars, than be a planet populated by social robots.
From speech (Oct 1947), 'Peace or Pieces: or Who Amends the Golden Rule'. As reprinted in Henry Goddard Leach (ed.), The American-Scandinavian Review (1950), 37-38, 34. As quoted in 'Dr. Harlow Shapley Dies at 86; Dean of American Astronomers', New York Times (21 Oct 1972), 69.
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A smattering of everything is worth little. It is a fallacy to suppose that an encyclopaedic knowledge is desirable. The mind is made strong, not through much learning, but by the thorough possession of something.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an “intellectual”—find out how he feels about astrology.
In Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (1973), 268.
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A wise man’s day is worth a fool’s life
Anonymous
Arabic proverb. In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 27
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About medications that are drunk or applied to wounds it is worth learning from everyone; for people do not discover these by reasoning but by chance, and experts not more than laymen.
Affections, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1988), Vol. 5, 69. Littré VI, 254.
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Adam is fading out. It is on account of Darwin and that crowd. I can see that he is not going to last much longer. There's a plenty of signs. He is getting belittled to a germ—a little bit of a speck that you can't see without a microscope powerful enough to raise a gnat to the size of a church. They take that speck and breed from it: first a flea; then a fly, then a bug, then cross these and get a fish, then a raft of fishes, all kinds, then cross the whole lot and get a reptile, then work up the reptiles till you've got a supply of lizards and spiders and toads and alligators and Congressmen and so on, then cross the entire lot again and get a plant of amphibiums, which are half-breeds and do business both wet and dry, such as turtles and frogs and ornithorhyncuses and so on, and cross-up again and get a mongrel bird, sired by a snake and dam'd by a bat, resulting in a pterodactyl, then they develop him, and water his stock till they've got the air filled with a million things that wear feathers, then they cross-up all the accumulated animal life to date and fetch out a mammal, and start-in diluting again till there's cows and tigers and rats and elephants and monkeys and everything you want down to the Missing Link, and out of him and a mermaid they propagate Man, and there you are! Everything ship-shape and finished-up, and nothing to do but lay low and wait and see if it was worth the time and expense.
'The Refuge of the Derelicts' collected in Mark Twain and John Sutton Tuckey, The Devil's Race-Track: Mark Twain's Great Dark Writings (1980), 340-41. - 1980
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An old foundation is worthy of all respect, but it must not take from us the right to build afresh wherever we will.
In The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe (1906), 188.
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An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure.
Anonymous
In Robert Harling, Steel Magnolias (1988), 18. The play was first presented on 22 Mar 1987.
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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Perhaps an older adage, but an example of its use appears in Pennsylvania Gazette (4 Feb 1734-5), about fire prevention, including taking care, moving live coals from a fireplace between rooms, for safety in a closed warming-pan. A midnight fire from a spilled ember might set your stairs on fire: “You may be forced, as I once was, to leap out of your windows, and hazard your necks to avoid being over-roasted.” As cited in Benjamin Franklin and J. Sparks (ed.), The Works of Benjamin Franklin (1840), Vol. 1, 134, footnote.
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And as for other men, who worked in tank-rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out into the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard! This contributed to the passing of the Pure Food Act of 1906.
The Jungle (1906), 117.
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Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.
[In reference to concentration and hard work.]
Quoted in New York Times (2 Mar 1991), 29.
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Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, the first time quick and dirty and the second time the best way you can.
As quoted in Steven Chu and Charles H. Townes, 'Arthur Schawlow', Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (2003), Vol. 83, 201.
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As history proves abundantly, mathematical achievement, whatever its intrinsic worth, is the most enduring of all.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 80.
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As to rocket ships flying between America and Europe, I believe it is worth seriously trying for. Thirty years ago persons who were developing flying were laughed at as mad, and that scorn hindered aviation. Now we heap similar ridicule upon stratoplane or rocket ships for trans-Atlantic flights.
Predicting high-altitude jet aircraft for routine long-distance travel. As quoted by Gobind Behari Lal, Universal Service Science Editor, as printed in 'Prof. Piccard Reaches U.S.', Syracuse Journal (13 Jan 1933), 4.
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Building goes on briskly at the therapeutic Tower of Babel; what one recommends another condemns; what one gives in large doses another scarce dares to prescribe in small doses; and what one vaunts as a novelty another thinks not worth rescuing from merited oblivion. All is confusion, contradiction, inconceivable chaos. Every country, every place, almost every doctor, have their own pet remedies, without which they imagine their patients can not be cured; and all this changes every year, aye every mouth.
Weekly Medical Gazette, of Vienna
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But the dreams about the modes of creation, enquiries whether our globe has been formed by the agency of fire or water, how many millions of years it has cost Vulcan or Neptune to produce what the fiat of the Creator would effect by a single act of will, is too idle to be worth a single hour of any man’s life.
Letter (2 May 1826) to Doctor John P. Emmet. Collected in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1854), Vol. 7, 443.
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By the fruit one judges the tree; the tree of science grows exceedingly slowly; centuries elapse before one can pluck the ripe fruits; even today it is hardly possible for us to shell and appraise the kernel of the teachings that blossomed in the seventeenth century. He who sows cannot therefore judge the worth of the corn. He must have faith in the fruitfulness of the seed in order that he may follow untiringly his chosen furrow when he casts his ideas to the four winds of heaven.
As quoted in Philipp Frank, Modern Science and its Philosophy (1949), 62, which cites Évolution de la Mécanique (1903).
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Christianity possesses the source of its justification within itself and does not expect science to constitute its primary apologetic. Science must bear witness to its own worth.
In Letter (1 Jun 1988) to Father George V. Coyne, Director of the Vatican Observatory. On vatican.va website.
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Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.
In Notes Toward a Definition of Culture (1948, 2014), 26.
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Each nerve cell receives connections from other nerve cells at six sites called synapses. But here is an astonishing fact—there are about one million billion connections in the cortical sheet. If you were to count them, one connection (or synapse) per second, you would finish counting some thirty-two million years after you began. Another way of getting a feeling for the numbers of connections in this extraordinary structure is to consider that a large match-head’s worth of your brain contains about a billion connections. Notice that I only mention counting connections. If we consider how connections might be variously combined, the number would be hyperastronomical—on the order of ten followed by millions of zeros. (There are about ten followed by eighty zero’s worth of positively charged particles in the whole known universe!)
Bright and Brilliant Fire, On the Matters of the Mind (1992), 17.
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Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
In his dialogue 'The Critic As Artist', collected in Intentions (1904), 101.
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Even happiness itself may become habitual. There is a habit of looking at the bright side of things, and also of looking at the dark side. Dr. Johnson has said that the habit of looking at the best side of a thing is worth more to a man than a thousand pounds a year. And we possess the power, to a great extent, of so exercising the will as to direct the thoughts upon objects calculated to yield happiness and improvement rather than their opposites.
In Self-help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859, 1861), 405-406.
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Every mathematical book that is worth reading must be read “backwards and forwards”, if I may use the expression. I would modify Lagrange’s advice a little and say, “Go on, but often return to strengthen your faith.” When you come on a hard or dreary passage, pass it over; and come back to it after you have seen its importance or found the need for it further on.
In Algebra, Part 2 (1889), Preface, viii.
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Every situation, every moment—is of infinite worth; for it is the representative of a whole eternity.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 166
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Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
From Address (7 Sep 1903), at the State Fair, Syracuse, N.Y., collected in Addresses and Presidential Messages of Theodore Roosevelt, 1902-1904 (1907), Vol. 1, 241.
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Fortunately, a scientist’s worth is judged on the basis of his accomplishments, not the tidiness of his work habits.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 231.
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Four college students taking a class together, had done so well through the semester, and each had an “A”. They were so confident, the weekend before finals, they went out partying with friends. Consequently, on Monday, they overslept and missed the final. They explained to the professor that they had gone to a remote mountain cabin for the weekend to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final. The professor kindly agreed they could make up the final the following day. When they arrived the next morning, he placed them each in separate rooms, handed each one a test booklet, and told them to begin. The the first problem was simple, worth 5 points. Turning the page they found the next question, written: “(For 95 points): Which tire?”
Anonymous
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Generality of points of view and of methods, precision and elegance in presentation, have become, since Lagrange, the common property of all who would lay claim to the rank of scientific mathematicians. And, even if this generality leads at times to abstruseness at the expense of intuition and applicability, so that general theorems are formulated which fail to apply to a single special case, if furthermore precision at times degenerates into a studied brevity which makes it more difficult to read an article than it was to write it; if, finally, elegance of form has well-nigh become in our day the criterion of the worth or worthlessness of a proposition,—yet are these conditions of the highest importance to a wholesome development, in that they keep the scientific material within the limits which are necessary both intrinsically and extrinsically if mathematics is not to spend itself in trivialities or smother in profusion.
In Die Entwickdung der Mathematik in den letzten Jahrhunderten (1884), 14-15.
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Good sense, which only is the gift of Heaven,
And though no science, fairly worth the seven.
Moral Essays. Epistle iv. Line 43. In The Works of Alexander Pope (1824), Vol. 5, 385.
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Good work is no done by “humble” men. It is one of the first duties of a professor, for example, in any subject, to exaggerate a little both the importance of his subject and his own importance in it. A man who is always asking “Is what I do worth while?” and “Am I the right person to do it?” will always be ineffective himself and a discouragement to others. He must shut his eyes a little and think a little more of his subject and himself than they deserve. This is not too difficult: it is harder not to make his subject and himself ridiculous by shutting his eyes too tightly.
In A Mathematician’s Apology (1940, 1967), 66.
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Half the joy of life is in little things taken on the run… but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open that nothing worth our while shall escape us. That nothing worth our while shall escape us. And everything is worth its while if we only grasp it and its significance.
Found quoted without source in The American Journal of Clinical Medicine (1907), 14, 150, and several other publications of that time period. Webmaster invites help pinpointing the primary text.
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Hell, if I could explain it to the average person, it wouldn't have been worth the Nobel prize.
After being awarded a Nobel Prize, he was frequently asked to explain what he had done, and would would give this answer. As stated in Lee Dye, 'Nobel Physicist R.P. Feynman of Caltech Dies', Los Angeles Times (16 Feb 1988). About this answer, the articles also states that, “Feynman once said, claiming he was told that by a New York cab driver.”
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His mother’s favorite, he [Freud] possessed the self-confidence that told him he would achieve something worth while in life, and the ambition to do so, though for long the direction this would take remained uncertain.
In The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud: The Formative Years and the Great Discoveries, 1856-1900 (1957), 15.
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History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.
As quoted in interview by Charles Wheeler, Chicago Tribune (25 May 1916). Often misquoted, and misunderstood out of context, as “History is bunk”. There is much important context needed to interpret what Ford really meant by it. Articles have been written on that subject, for example, Roger Butterfield, 'Henry Ford, the Wayside Inn, and the Problem of “History Is Bunk”', Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1965), 3rd Series, 77, 53-66.
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History without the history of science, to alter slightly an apothegm of Lord Bacon, resembles a statue of Polyphemus without his eye—that very feature being left out which most marks the spirit and life of the person. My own thesis is complementary: science taught ... without a sense of history is robbed of those very qualities that make it worth teaching to the student of the humanities and the social sciences.
'The History of Science and the Teaching of Science', in I. Bernard Cohen and Fletcher G. Watson (eds.), General Education in Science (1952), 71.
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I believe the statement that in this war a hundred physicists are worth a million soldiers originated in England.
From First Richtmyer Memorial Lecture (30 Dec 1941) to the American Physical Society, Princeton, printed in 'War Problems of the Physics Teacher', American Journal of Physics (1942), 10, 92. Also reprinted in 'War problems of the Physics Teacher', The Scientific Monthly (Apr 1942), 54, No. 4, 370.
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I do not know whether you are fond of chemical reading. There are some things in this science worth reading.
Letter to Mr. Rittenhouse (Paris, 1786). In Thomas Jefferson and John P. Foley (ed.), The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia (1900), 135. From H.A. Washington, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1853-54). Vol 1, 517.
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I had always looked upon the search for the absolute as the noblest and most worth while task of science.
'A Scientific Autobiography' (1948), in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. Frank Gaynor (1950), 46.
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I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world... Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value.
A Mathematician's Apology (1940), 90-1.
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I have never done anything “useful.” No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world... Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of complete triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value. [The things I have added to knowledge do not differ from] the creations of the other artists, great or small, who have left some kind of memorial beind them.
Concluding remarks in A Mathmatician's Apology (1940, 2012), 150-151.
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I hope that in due time the chemists will justify their proceedings by some large generalisations deduced from the infinity of results which they have collected. For me I am left hopelessly behind and I will acknowledge to you that through my bad memory organic chemistry is to me a sealed book. Some of those here, [August] Hoffman for instance, consider all this however as scaffolding, which will disappear when the structure is built. I hope the structure will be worthy of the labour. I should expect a better and a quicker result from the study of the powers of matter, but then I have a predilection that way and am probably prejudiced in judgment.
Letter to Christian Schönbein (9 Dec 1852), The Letters of Faraday and Schoenbein, 1836-1862 (1899), 209-210.
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I like to look at mathematics almost more as an art than as a science; for the activity of the mathematician, constantly creating as he is, guided though not controlled by the external world of the senses, bears a resemblance, not fanciful I believe but real, to the activity of an artist, of a painter let us say. Rigorous deductive reasoning on the part of the mathematician may be likened here to technical skill in drawing on the part of the painter. Just as no one can become a good painter without a certain amount of skill, so no one can become a mathematician without the power to reason accurately up to a certain point. Yet these qualities, fundamental though they are, do not make a painter or mathematician worthy of the name, nor indeed are they the most important factors in the case. Other qualities of a far more subtle sort, chief among which in both cases is imagination, go to the making of a good artist or good mathematician.
From 'Fundamental Conceptions and Methods in Mathematics', Bulletin American Mathematical Society (1904), 9, 133. As cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-Book (1914), 182.
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I never did anything worth doing entirely by accident and none of my inventions came about totally by accident. They came about by hard work.
…...
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I respect Kirkpatrick both for his sponges and for his numinous nummulosphere. It is easy to dismiss a crazy theory with laughter that debars any attempt to understand a man’s motivation–and the nummulosphere is a crazy theory. I find that few men of imagination are not worth my attention. Their ideas may be wrong, even foolish, but their methods often repay a close study ... The different drummer often beats a fruitful tempo.
…...
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I submit a body of facts which cannot be invalidated. My opinions may be doubted, denied, or approved, according as they conflict or agree with the opinions of each individual who may read them; but their worth will be best determined by the foundation on which they rest—the incontrovertible facts.
Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion (1833), Preface.
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I trust and believe that the time spent in this voyage … will produce its full worth in Natural History; and it appears to me the doing what little we can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life, as one can in any likelihood pursue.
In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888), 245.
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If a research project is not worth doing at all, it is not worth doing properly.
Anonymous
Saying.
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If in our withered leaves you see
Hint of your own mortality:—
Think how, when they have turned to earth,
New loveliness from their rich worth
Shall spring to greet the light; then see
Death as the keeper of eternity,
And dying Life’s perpetual re-birth !
Anonymous
Poem attributed with initials W.L., epigraph for chapter on 'The Nitrogen Cycle', in Arthur E. Shipley, Life: A Book for Elementary Students (1925, 2013), 37.
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If the words of a wise man are few, they are nevertheless worth listening to.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 242.
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If we die, we want people to accept it. We’re in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
As quoted in John Andrews Barbour, Footprints on the Moon (1969), 125.
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If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.
In 'If', Rewards and Fairies (1910), 182.
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If you do something, it’s worth doing well; except to bureaucrats. to them, if you do something, it’s worth doing cheaply.
Aphorism as given by the fictional character Dezhnev Senior, in Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain (1987), 170.
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If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don't think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; if you think of, detail by detail, what you have to do next, it is a wonderful dream even though the end is a long way off, for there are about five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and [when you] start taking the first ten, and ... twenty after that, it is amazing how quickly you get through through the four thousand [nine hundred] and ninety. The last ten steps you never seem to work out. But you keep on coming nearer to giving the world something.
Victor K. McElheny, Insisting on the Impossible (1999), 1.
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If you want to achieve conservation, the first thing you have to do is persuade people that the natural world is precious, beautiful, worth saving and complex. If people don’t understand that and don’t believe that in their hearts, conservation doesn't stand a chance. That’s the first step, and that is what I do.
From interview with Michael Bond, 'It’s a Wonderful Life', New Scientist (14 Dec 2002), 176, No. 2373, 48.
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If you were going to risk all that, not just risk the hardship and the pain but risk your life. Put everything on line for a dream, for something that’s worth nothing, that can’t be proved to anybody. You just have the transient moment on a summit and when you come back down to the valley it goes. It is actually a completely illogical thing to do. It is not justifiable by any rational terms. That’s probably why you do it.
The Beckoning Silence
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If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten
Either write things worth reading,
Or do things worth the writing.
Collected in Poor Richard's Almanack (1914), 32, No. 285.
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In general, a fact is worth more than theories in the long run. The theory stimulates, but the fact builds. The former in due time is replaced by one better but the fact remains and becomes fertile.
Letter to Dr. E. B. Krumhaar (11 Oct 1933), in Journal of Bacteriology (Jan 1934), 27, No. 1, 20.
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In geologists’ own lives, the least effect of time is that they think in two languages, function on two different scales. … “A million years is a short time—the shortest worth messing with for most problems.”
In Basin and Range (1981), 134.
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In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.
(1632). Attributed by F. Arago.
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In science its main worth is temporary, as a stepping-stone to something beyond. Even the Principia, as Newton with characteristic modesty entitled his great work, is truly but the beginning of a natural philosophy, and no more an ultimate work, than Watt’s steam-engine, or Arkwright's spinning-machine.
Co-author with his brother Augustus William Hare Guesses At Truth, By Two Brothers: Second Edition: With Large Additions (1848), Second Series, 46. (The volume is introduced as “more than three fourths new.” This quote is identified as by Julius; Augustus had died in 1833.)
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In science men have discovered an activity of the very highest value in which they are no longer, as in art, dependent for progress upon the appearance of continually greater genius, for in science the successors stand upon the shoulders of their predecessors; where one man of supreme genius has invented a method, a thousand lesser men can apply it. … In art nothing worth doing can be done without genius; in science even a very moderate capacity can contribute to a supreme achievement.
Essay, 'The Place Of Science In A Liberal Education.' In Mysticism and Logic: and Other Essays (1919), 41.
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In the end, science as we know it has two basic types of practitioners. One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail’s eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle, to intangibles not worth troubling one’s head about.
In 'Science and the Sense of the Holy,' The Star Thrower (1978), 190.
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In the sick room, ten cents’ worth of human understanding equals ten dollars' worth of medical science.
Martin H. Fischer, Howard Fabing (ed.) and Ray Marr (ed.), Fischerisms (1944).
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In your letter you apply the word imponderable to a molecule. Don’t do that again. It may also be worth knowing that the aether cannot be molecular. If it were, it would be a gas, and a pint of it would have the same properties as regards heat, etc., as a pint of air, except that it would not be so heavy.
Letter to Lewis Campbell (Sep 1874). In Lewis Campbell and William Garnett, The Life of James Clerk Maxwell (1882), 391.
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It be urged that the wild and uncultivated tree, hitherto yielding sour and bitter fruit only, can never be made to yield better; yet we know that the grafting art implants a new tree on the savage stock, producing what is most estimable in kind and degree. Education, in like manner, engrafts a new man on the native stock, and improves what in his nature was vicious and perverse into qualities of virtue and social worth.
From paper 'Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Fix the Site of the University of Virginia', included in Annual Report of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia for the Fiscal Year Ending May 31, 1879 (1879), 10. Collected in Commonwealth of Virginia, Annual Reports of Officers, Boards, and Institutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for the Year Ending September 30, 1879 (1879).
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It is better to have a few forms well known than to teach a little about many hundred species. Better a dozen specimens thoroughly studied as the result of the first year’s work, than to have two thousand dollars’ worth of shells and corals bought from a curiosity-shop. The dozen animals would be your own.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 147.
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It is better to teach the child arithmetic and Latin grammar than rhetoric and moral philosophy, because they require exactitude of performance it is made certain that the lesson is mastered, and that power of performance is worth more than knowledge.
In Lecture on 'Education'. Collected in J.E. Cabot (ed.), The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883), 145.
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It is not always worth the discomforts of major surgery to get minor recovery.
A Sense of Asher (1972), 86.
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It is not worth a first class man’s time to express a majority opinion. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
Quoted in the foreward to A Mathematician's Apology (1941, reprint with Foreward by C.P. Snow 1992), 46.
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It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists’ minds, when they speak of “species”; in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight—in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea—in some, descent is the key,—in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the undefinable.
Letter to J. D. Hooker (24 Dec 1856). In Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1888), 446.
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It is the business of science to offer rational explanations for all the events in the real world, and any scientist who calls on God to explain something is falling down on his job. This applies as much to the start of the expansion as to any other event. If the explanation is not forthcoming at once, the scientist must suspend judgment: but if he is worth his salt he will always maintain that a rational explanation will eventually be found. This is the one piece of dogmatism that a scientist can allow himself—and without it science would be in danger of giving way to superstition every time that a problem defied solution for a few years.
The Mystery of the Expanding Universe (1964), 122.
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It is the constant attempt in this country [Canada] to make fundamental science responsive to the marketplace. Because technology needs science, it is tempting to require that scientific projects be justified in terms of the worth of the technology they can be expected to generate. The effect of applying this criterion is, however, to restrict science to developed fields where the links to technology are most evident. By continually looking for a short-term payoff we disqualify the sort of science that … attempts to answer fundamental questions, and, having answered them, suggests fundamentally new approaches in the realm of applications.
'A Scientist and the World He Lives In', Speech to the Empire Club of Canada (27 Nov 1986) in C. Frank Turner and Tim Dickson (eds.), The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1986-1987 (1987), 149-161.
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It is true that M. Fourier believed that the main aim of mathematics was public utility and the explanation of natural phenomena; but a philosopher of his ability ought to have known that the sole aim of science is the honour of the human intellect, and that on this ground a problem in numbers is as important as a problem on the system of the world.
In Letter to Legendre, as quoted in an Address by Emile Picard to the Congress of Science and Art, St. Louis (22 Sep 1904), translated in 'Development of Mathematical Analysis', The Mathematical Gazette (Jul 1905), 3, No. 52, 200. A different translation begins, “It is true that Fourier had the opinion…” on the Karl Jacobi Quotes web page on this site.
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It is worth noting that the notation facilitates discovery. This, in a most wonderful way, reduces the mind's labour.
In Eberhard Zeidler, Applied Functional Analysis: main principles and their applications (1995), 225.
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It is worth remembering (though there is nothing that we can do about it) that the world as it really is may easily be a far nastier place than it would be if scientific materialism were the whole truth and nothing but the truth about it.
Lectures on Psychical Research, Incorporating the Perrot Lectures Given in Cambridge University in 1959 and 1960 (1962), 430.
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It really is worth the trouble to invent a new symbol if we can thus remove not a few logical difficulties and ensure the rigour of the proofs. But many mathematicians seem to have so little feeling for logical purity and accuracy that they will use a word to mean three or four different things, sooner than make the frightful decision to invent a new word.
Grundgesetz der Arithmetik(1893), Vol. 2, Section 60, In P. Greach and M. Black (eds., Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege (1952), 144.
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Louis Agassiz quote: Lay aside all conceit Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have fol
Lay aside all conceit. Learn to read the book of Nature for yourself. Those who have succeeded best have followed for years some slim thread which once in a while has broadened out and disclosed some treasure worth a life-long search.
Lecture at a teaching laboratory on Penikese Island, Buzzard's Bay. Quoted from the lecture notes by David Starr Jordan, Science Sketches (1911), 145.
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Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before. Of course, it will be a little thing, but do not ignore it. Follow it up, explore all around it: one discovery will lead to another, and before you know it, you will have something worth thinking about to occupy your mind. All really big discoveries are the results of thought.
Address (22 May 1914) to the graduating class of the Friends’ School, Washington, D.C. Printed in 'Discovery and Invention', The National Geographic Magazine (1914), 25, 650.
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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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Like all things of the mind, science is a brittle thing: it becomes absurd when you look at it too closely. It is designed for few at a time, not as a mass profession. But now we have megascience: an immense apparatus discharging in a minute more bursts of knowledge than humanity is able to assimilate in a lifetime. Each of us has two eyes, two ears, and, I hope, one brain. We cannot even listen to two symphonies at the same time. How do we get out of the horrible cacophony that assails our minds day and night? We have to learn, as others did, that if science is a machine to make more science, a machine to grind out so-called facts of nature, not all facts are equally worth knowing. Students, in other words, will have to learn to forget most of what they have learned. This process of forgetting must begin after each exam, but never before. The Ph.D. is essentially a license to start unlearning.
Voices In the Labyrinth: Nature, Man, and Science (1979), 2.
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Look round this universe. What an immense profusion of beings, animated and organized, sensible and active! You admire this prodigious variety and fecundity. But inspect a little more narrowly these living existences, the only beings worth regarding. How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind Nature, inpregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children.
In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), 219-220.
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Men of Science. If they are worthy of the name they are indeed about God's path and about his bed and spying out all his ways.
Samuel Butler, Henry Festing Jones (ed.), The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1917), 219.
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Most American citizens think that life without the telephone is scarcely worth living. The American public telephone system is therefore enormous. Moreover the system belongs to an organization, the Bell companies, which can both control it and make the equipment needed. There is no surer way of getting efficient functional design than having equipment designed by an organization which is going to have to use it. Humans who would have to live with their own mistakes tend to think twice and to make fewer mistakes.
In 'Musical Acoustics Today', New Scientist (1 Nov 1962), 16 No. 311, 256.
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Most of the knowledge and much of the genius of the research worker lie behind his selection of what is worth observing. It is a crucial choice, often determining the success or failure of months of work, often differentiating the brilliant discoverer from an otherwise admirable but entirely unproductive plodder.
The Furtherance of Medical Research (1941), 8.
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My Rainforests Project … has three main elements. Firstly, to determine how much funding the rainforest countries need to re-orientate their economies so that the trees are worth more alive than dead.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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My view of the matter, for what it is worth, is that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. My view may be expressed by saying that every discovery contains an “irrational element,” or “a creative intuition,” in Bergson's sense. In a similar way Einstein speaks of the “search for those highly universal laws … from which a picture of the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path.” he says, “leading to these … laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love (Einfühlung) of the objects of experience.”
In The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Logik Der Forschung (1959, 2002), 8.
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No effect that requires more than 10 percent accuracy in measurement is worth investigating.
…...
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No Geologist worth anything is permanently bound to a desk or laboratory, but the charming notion that true science can only be based on unbiased observation of nature in the raw is mythology. Creative work, in geology and anywhere else, is interaction and synthesis: half-baked ideas from a bar room, rocks in the field, chains of thought from lonely walks, numbers squeezed from rocks in a laboratory, numbers from a calculator riveted to a desk, fancy equipment usually malfunctioning on expensive ships, cheap equipment in the human cranium, arguments before a road cut.
An Urchin in the Storm (1988), 98.
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No paleogeographic map is worth the paper on which it is printed unless it depicts the actual state of affairs for a limited geologic time, say several hundred thousand years.
As quoted in Adolph Knopf, 'Charles Schuchert: 1858-1942)', National Academy Biographical Memoir (1952), Vol. 28, 372.
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Now the American eagle is verging on extinction. Even the polar bear on its ice floes has become easy game for flying sportsmen. A peninsula named Udjung Kulon holds the last two or three dozen Javan rhinoceroses. The last known herd of Arabian oryx has been machine-gunned by a sheik. Blue whales have nearly been harpooned out of their oceans. Pollution ruins bays and rivers. Refuse litters beaches. Dam projects threaten Colorado canyons, Hudson valleys, every place of natural beauty that can be a reservoir for power. Obviously the scientific progress so alluring to me is destroying qualities of greater worth.
In 'The Wisdom of Wilderness', Life (22 Dec 1967), 63, No. 25, 8-9. (Note: the Arabian oryx is no longer listed as extinct.)
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Occurrences that other men would have noted only with the most casual interest became for Whitney exciting opportunities to experiment. Once he became disturbed by a scientist's seemingly endless pursuit of irrelevant details in the course of an experiment, and criticized this as being as pointless as grabbing beans out of a pot, recording the numbers, and then analyzing the results. Later that day, after he had gone home, his simile began to intrigue him, and he asked himself whether it would really be pointless to count beans gathered in such a random manner. Another man might well have dismissed this as an idle fancy, but to Whitney an opportunity to conduct an experiment was not to be overlooked. Accordingly, he set a pot of beans beside his bed, and for several days each night before retiring he would take as many beans as he could grasp in one hand and make a note of how many were in the handful. After several days had passed he was intrigued to find that the results were not as unrewarding as he had expected. He found that each handful contained more beans than the one before, indicating that with practice he was learning to grasp more and more beans. “This might be called research in morphology, the science of animal structure,” he mused. “My hand was becoming webbed … so I said to myself: never label a real experiment useless, it may reveal something unthought of but worth knowing.”
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 358-359.
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Old King Coal was a merry old soul:
“I’ll move the world,” quoth he;
“My England’s high, and rich, and great,
But greater she shall be !”
And he call’d for the pick, and he call’d for the spade,
And he call’d for his miners bold;
“ And it’s dig,” he said, “in the deep, deep earth;
You’ll find my treasures better worth
Than mines of Indian gold!”

Old King Coal was a merry old soul,
Yet not content was he;
And he said, “I’ve found what I’ve desired,
Though ’tis but one of three.”
And he call’d for water, he call’d for fire,
For smiths and workmen true:
“Come, build me engines great and strong ;
We’ll have,” quoth he, “a change ere long;
We’ll try what Steam can do.”

Old King Coal was a merry old soul:
“’Tis fairly done,” quoth he,
When he saw the myriad wheels at work
O’er all the land and sea.
They spared the bones and strength of men,
They hammer’d, wove, and spun;
There was nought too great, too mean, or small,
The giant Steam had power for all;—
His task was never done.
From song, 'Old King Coal' (1846), collected in The Poetical Works of Charles Mackay: Now for the First Time Collected Complete in One Volume (1876), 565. To the melody of 'Old King Cole'.
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One today is worth two tomorrows.
…...
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Only the impossible is worth attempting. In everything else one is sure to fail.
In The Decline and Fall of Science (1976), 1.
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Patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight in cleverness.
…...
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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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Physical scientists probably deserve the reputation they enjoy for incorruptibility and unswerving devotion to pure truth. The reason for this is that it is not worth while to bribe them.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 168-69.
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Pride is a sense of worth derived from something that is not organically part of us, while self-esteem derives from the potentialities and achievements of the self. We are proud when we identify ourselves with an imaginary self, a leader, a holy cause, a collective body or possessions. There is fear and intolerance in pride; it is sensitive and uncompromising. The less promise and potency in the self, the more imperative is the need for pride. The core of pride is self-rejection.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 23.
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Science can tell us what exists; but to compare the worths, both of what exists and of what does not exist, we must consult not science, but what Pascal calls our heart.
'The Will to Believe' (1896). In The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897), 22.
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Science has been seriously retarded by the study of what is not worth knowing and of what is not knowable.
Attributed. In James Wood, Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources (1893), 382:30.
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Science is a collection of stories, linking characters worthy of notice.
From opinion article 'Scientists Depend on the Power of Reason', in the Toronto Star (4 Jan 2015). The article was an abridged version of Polanyi’s opening address at the earlier Polanyi Conference on Science and Social Responsibility at the Munk School of Global Affairs.
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Science is but a feeble means for motivating life. It enlightens men, but fails to arouse them to deeds of self-sacrifice and devotion. … It dispels ignorance, but it never launched a crusade. It gives aid in the struggle with the hard surroundings of life, but it does not inform us to what end we struggle, or whether the struggle is worth while. … Intelligence can do little more than direct.
As quoted by M.G. Mellon in his retiring Presidential Address to the Winter Meeting of the Indiana Academy of Science at the University of Notre Dame (30 Oct 1942), 'Science, Scientists, and Society', printed in Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science (1943), 52, 15. No source citation given.
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Science is teaching man to know and reverence truth, and to believe that only so far as he knows and loves it can he live worthily on earth, and vindicate the dignity of his spirit.
In Where are We and Whither Tending?: Three Lectures on the Reality and Worth of Human Progress (1886), 26.
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Science—we have loved her well, and followed her diligently, what will she do? I fear she is too much in the pay of the counting-houses, and the drill-serjent, that she is too busy, and will for the present do nothing. Yet there are matters which I should have thought easy for her; say, for example, teaching Manchester how to consume its town smoke, or Leeds how to get rid of its superfluous black dye without turning it into the river, which would be as much worth her attention as the production of the heaviest black silks, or the biggest of useless guns.
In The Lesser Arts (1878).
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Srinivasa Ramanujan was the strangest man in all of mathematics, probably in the entire history of science. He has been compared to a bursting supernova, illuminating the darkest, most profound corners of mathematics, before being tragically struck down by tuberculosis at the age of 33... Working in total isolation from the main currents of his field, he was able to rederive 100 years’ worth of Western mathematics on his own. The tragedy of his life is that much of his work was wasted rediscovering known mathematics.
In Hyperspace:A Scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension (1994), 172.
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That one must do some work seriously and must be independent and not merely amuse oneself in life—this our mother [Marie Curie] has told us always, but never that science was the only career worth following.
As quoted by Mary Margaret McBride in A Long Way From Missouri (1959), 123.
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That which lies before the human race is a constant struggle to maintain and improve, in opposition to State of Nature, the State of Art of an organized polity; in which, and by which, man may develop a worthy civilization
'Prolegomena', Evolution and Ethics, and Other Essays (1897), 45.
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The belief that mathematics, because it is abstract, because it is static and cold and gray, is detached from life, is a mistaken belief. Mathematics, even in its purest and most abstract estate, is not detached from life. It is just the ideal handling of the problems of life, as sculpture may idealize a human figure or as poetry or painting may idealize a figure or a scene. Mathematics is precisely the ideal handling of the problems of life, and the central ideas of the science, the great concepts about which its stately doctrines have been built up, are precisely the chief ideas with which life must always deal and which, as it tumbles and rolls about them through time and space, give it its interests and problems, and its order and rationality. That such is the case a few indications will suffice to show. The mathematical concepts of constant and variable are represented familiarly in life by the notions of fixedness and change. The concept of equation or that of an equational system, imposing restriction upon variability, is matched in life by the concept of natural and spiritual law, giving order to what were else chaotic change and providing partial freedom in lieu of none at all. What is known in mathematics under the name of limit is everywhere present in life in the guise of some ideal, some excellence high-dwelling among the rocks, an “ever flying perfect” as Emerson calls it, unto which we may approximate nearer and nearer, but which we can never quite attain, save in aspiration. The supreme concept of functionality finds its correlate in life in the all-pervasive sense of interdependence and mutual determination among the elements of the world. What is known in mathematics as transformation—that is, lawful transfer of attention, serving to match in orderly fashion the things of one system with those of another—is conceived in life as a process of transmutation by which, in the flux of the world, the content of the present has come out of the past and in its turn, in ceasing to be, gives birth to its successor, as the boy is father to the man and as things, in general, become what they are not. The mathematical concept of invariance and that of infinitude, especially the imposing doctrines that explain their meanings and bear their names—What are they but mathematicizations of that which has ever been the chief of life’s hopes and dreams, of that which has ever been the object of its deepest passion and of its dominant enterprise, I mean the finding of the worth that abides, the finding of permanence in the midst of change, and the discovery of a presence, in what has seemed to be a finite world, of being that is infinite? It is needless further to multiply examples of a correlation that is so abounding and complete as indeed to suggest a doubt whether it be juster to view mathematics as the abstract idealization of life than to regard life as the concrete realization of mathematics.
In 'The Humanization of Teaching of Mathematics', Science, New Series, 35, 645-46.
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The day will come when some more powerful man will get fame and riches from my invention, but nobody will believe that poor John Fitch can do anything worthy of attention.
Quoted from his manuscript autobiography (cited as in the Franklin Library, Philadelphia), in James T. Lloyd, Lloyd's Steamboat Directory: And Disasters of the Western Waters (1856), 24.
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The fact is that up to now the free society has not been good for the intellectual. It has neither accorded him a superior status to sustain his confidence nor made it easy for him to acquire an unquestioned sense of social usefulness. For he derives his sense of usefulness mainly from directing, instructing, and planning-from minding other people’s business-and is bound to feel superfluous and neglected where people believe themselves competent to manage individual and communal affairs, and are impatient of supervision and regulation. A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual’s sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman’s sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.
In 'Concerning Individual Freedom', The Ordeal of Change (1963), 141.
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The fact that human life can be prolonged with fewer physical problems requires that we give increasing attention to improving the quality of life. As the poet Edwin Markham stated: “We are all fools until we know that in the common plan, nothing is worth the building if it does not build the man; why build these temples glorious, if man unbuilded goes?”
In 'Millenial Musings', Chemical & Engineering News (6 Dec 1999), 77, No. 49, 48.
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The history of acceptance of new theories frequently shows the following steps: At first the new idea is treated as pure nonsense, not worth looking at. Then comes a time when a multitude of contradictory objections are raised, such as: the new theory is too fancy, or merely a new terminology; it is not fruitful, or simply wrong. Finally a state is reached when everyone seems to claim that he had always followed this theory. This usually marks the last state before general acceptance.
In 'Field Theory and the Phase Space', collected in Melvin Herman Marx, Psychological Theory: Contemporary Readings (1951), 299.
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The individual on his own is stable only so long as he is possessed of self-esteem. The maintenance of self-esteem is a continuous task which taxes all of the individual’s powers and inner resources. We have to prove our worth and justify our existence anew each day. When, for whatever reason, self-esteem is unattainable, the autonomous individual becomes a highly explosive entity. He turns away from an unpromising self and plunges into the pursuit of pride—the explosive substitute for self-esteem. All social disturbances and upheavals have their roots in crises of individual self-esteem, and the great endeavor in which the masses most readily unite is basically a search for pride.
In The Passionate State of Mind (1955), 18
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The lessons of science should be experimental also. The sight of a planet through a telescope is worth all the course on astronomy; the shock of the electric spark in the elbow outvalues all theories; the taste of the nitrous oxide, the firing of an artificial volcano, are better than volumes of chemistry.
The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1870), 552.
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The long-range trend toward federal regulation, which found its beginnings in the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and the Sherman Act of 1890, which was quickened by a large number of measures in the Progressive era, and which has found its consummation in our time, was thus at first the response of a predominantly individualistic public to the uncontrolled and starkly original collectivism of big business. In America the growth of the national state and its regulative power has never been accepted with complacency by any large part of the middle-class public, which has not relaxed its suspicion of authority, and which even now gives repeated evidence of its intense dislike of statism. In our time this growth has been possible only under the stress of great national emergencies, domestic or military, and even then only in the face of continuous resistance from a substantial part of the public. In the Progressive era it was possible only because of widespread and urgent fear of business consolidation and private business authority. Since it has become common in recent years for ideologists of the extreme right to portray the growth of statism as the result of a sinister conspiracy of collectivists inspired by foreign ideologies, it is perhaps worth emphasizing that the first important steps toward the modern organization of society were taken by arch-individualists—the tycoons of the Gilded Age—and that the primitive beginning of modern statism was largely the work of men who were trying to save what they could of the eminently native Yankee values of individualism and enterprise.
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The man who has grit enough to bring about the afforestation or the irrigation of a country is not less worthy of honor than its conqueror.
As given in David Starr Jordan, War and the Breed: The Relation of War to the Downfall of Nations (1915), 83.
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The only place where a dollar is still worth one hundred cents today is in the problems in an arithmetic book.
Anonymous
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 509.
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The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it
The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1959), 10.
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The reputation of science which ought to be the most lasting, as synonymous with truth, is often the least so. One discovery supersedes another; and the progress of light throws the past into obscurity. What is become of the Blacks, the Lavoisiers, the Priestleys, in chemistry? … When any set of men think theirs the only science worth studying, and themselves the only infallible persons in it, it is a sign how frail the traces are of past excellence in it.
Characteristics: In the Manner of Rochefoucault's Maxims (1837), 148-149.
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The simple fact is that the world is not paying for the services the forests provide. At the moment, they are worth more dead than alive–for soya, for beef, for palm oil and for logging, feeding the demand from other countries. … I think we need to be clear that the drivers of rainforest destruction do not originate in the rainforest nations, but in the more developed countries which, unwittingly or not, have caused climate change.
Presidential Lecture (3 Nov 2008) at the Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia. On the Prince of Wales website.
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The skein of human continuity must often become this tenuous across the centuries (hanging by a thread, in the old cliche’), but the circle remains unbroken if I can touch the ink of Lavoisier’s own name, written by his own hand. A candle of light, nurtured by the oxygen of his greatest discovery, never burns out if we cherish the intellectual heritage of such unfractured filiation across the ages. We may also wish to contemplate the genuine physical thread of nucleic acid that ties each of us to the common bacterial ancestor of all living creatures, born on Lavoisier’s ancienne terre more than 3.5 billion years ago– and never since disrupted, not for one moment, not for one generation. Such a legacy must be worth preserving from all the guillotines of our folly.
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The three most effective incentives to human action may be … classified as creed, greed and dread. … In examining the scientist it is perhaps worth while to examine how far he is moved by these three incentives. I think that, rather peculiarly and rather exceptionally, he is very little moved by dread. … He is in fact essentially a person who has been taught he must be fearless in his dealing with facts.
'Scientist and Citizen', Speech to the Empire Club of Canada (29 Jan 1948), The Empire Club of Canada Speeches (29 Jan 1948), 209-221.
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The true worth of an experimenter consists in his pursuing not only what he seeks in his experiment, but also what he did not seek.
Unverified in these exact words. Contact webmaster if you know the primary source. Perhaps the quote is a summary of a longer passage. Claude lays out his experimental philosophy in An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865).
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The view of the moon that we’ve been having recently is really spectacular. It fills about three-quarters of the hatch window, and of course we can see the entire circumference even though part of it is in complete shadow and part of it is in earthshine. It’s a view worth the price of the trip.
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The worth of a new idea is invariably determined, not by the degree of its intuitiveness—which incidentally, is to a major extent a matter of experience and habit—but by the scope and accuracy of the individual laws to the discovery of which it eventually leads.
In Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968), 109-110.
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Theory is the essence of facts. Without theory scientific knowledge would be only worthy of the madhouse.
From article 'Electro-magnetic Theory II', in The Electrician (16 Jan 1891), 26, No. 661, 331.
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There is a theory that creativity arises when individuals are out of sync with their environment. To put it simply, people who fit in with their communities have insufficient motivation to risk their psyches in creating something truly new, while those who are out of sync are driven by the constant need to prove their worth.
In 'Beyond the Soapsuds Universe', Discover Magazine (1997). The author explains (in a blog found online) that this “idea comes from a theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote a book called Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience. You do need someone to come in from outside. One of the theories about why mathematicians do their best work when they’re young is because they’re not yet educated enough to know what seems obviously wrong. So they try new things.”
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These turdy-facy-nasty-paty-lousy-fartical rogues, with one poor groat's worth of unprepared antimony, finely wrapt up in several scartoccios, are able, very well, to kill their twenty a week, and play; yet, these meagre, started spirits, who have half stopt the organs of their minds with earthy oppilations, want not their favorers among your shrivell’d sallad-eating artizans, who are overjoyed that they may have their half-pe’rth of physic; though it purge them into another world, it makes no matter.
Spoken by character Volpone, disguised as a “mountebank Doctor” in Valpone: or, The Foxe (1605), collected in Ben Jonson and William Gifford, The Works of Ben Johnson (1879), 282.
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This new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.
Explaining the value of building Fermilab’s first accelerator in testimony to Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (17 Apr 1969).
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To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or sea-side stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall. Teach him something of natural history, and you place in his hands a catalogue of those which are worth turning around. Surely our innocent pleasures are not so abundant in this life, that we can afford to despise this or any other source of them.
On the Educational Value of the Natural History Sciences' (1854). In Collected Essays (1893). Vol. 3, 63.
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True and constant vigour of body is the effect of health, which is much better preserved with watery, herbaceous, frugal, and tender food, than with vinous, abundant, hard, and gross flesh (che col cameo vinoso ed unto abundante e duro). And in a sound body, a clear intelligence, and desire to suppress the mischievous inclinations (voglie dannose), and to conquer the irrational passions, produces true worth.
From Dell Vitto Pitagorico (1743), (The Pythagorean Diet: for the Use of the Medical Faculty), as translated quotes in Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet: A Catena of Authorities Deprecatory of the Practice of Flesh-Eating (1883), 158.
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True wisdom is to know what is best worth knowing, and to do what is best worth doing.
In Hialmer Day Gould, New Practical Spelling (1905), 16.
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Upon the whole, Chymistry is as yet but an opening science, closely connected with the usefull and ornamental arts, and worthy the attention of the liberal mind. And it must always become more and more so: for though it is only of late, that it has been looked upon in that light, the great progress already made in Chymical knowledge, gives us a pleasant prospect of rich additions to it. The Science is now studied on solid and rational grounds. While our knowledge is imperfect, it is apt to run into error: but Experiment is the thread that will lead us out of the labyrinth.
In Alexander Law, Notes of Black's Lectures, vol. 3, 88. Cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Volumes 1-2 (1981), 181.
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Very old and wide-spread is the opinion that forests have an important impact on rainfall. ... If forests enhance the amount and frequency of precipitation simply by being there, deforestation as part of agricultural expansion everywhere, must necessarily result in less rainfall and more frequent droughts. This view is most poignantly expressed by the saying: Man walks the earth and desert follows his steps! ... It is not surprising that under such circumstances the issue of a link between forests and climate has ... been addressed by governments. Lately, the Italian government has been paying special attention to reforestation in Italy and its expected improvement of the climate. ... It must be prevented that periods of heavy rainfall alternate with droughts. ...In the Unites States deforestation plays an important role as well and is seen as the cause for a reduction in rainfall. ... committee chairman of the American Association for Advancement of Science demands decisive steps to extend woodland in order to counteract the increasing drought. ... some serious concerns. In 1873, in Vienna, the congress for agriculture and forestry discussed the problem in detail; and when the Prussian house of representatives ordered a special commission to examine a proposed law pertaining to the preservation and implementation of forests for safeguarding, it pointed out that the steady decrease in the water levels of Prussian rivers was one of the most serious consequences of deforestation only to be rectified by reforestation programs. It is worth mentioning that ... the same concerns were raised in Russia as well and governmental circles reconsidered the issue of deforestation.
as quoted in Eduard Brückner - The Sources and Consequences of Climate Change and Climate Variability in Historical Times editted by N. Stehr and H. von Storch (2000)
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We have before us the restoration of that ancient land whose name was a synonym for abundance, prosperity, and grandeur for many generations. Records as old as those of Egypt and as well attested tell of fertile lands and teeming populations, mighty kings and warriors, sages and wise men, over periods of thousands of years. ... A land such as this is worth resuscitating. Once we have apprehended the true cause of its present desolate and abandoned condition, we are on our way to restoring it to its ancient fertility. A land which so readily responded to ancient science, and gave a return which sufficed for the maintenance of a Persian Court in all its splendor, will surely respond to the efforts of modern science and return manifold the money and talent spent on its regeneration.
From The Restoration of the Ancient Irrigation Works on the Tigris: or, The Re-creation of Chaldea (1903), 30.
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We have reason not to be afraid of the machine, for there is always constructive change, the enemy of machines, making them change to fit new conditions.
We suffer not from overproduction but from undercirculation. You have heard of technocracy. I wish I had those fellows for my competitors. I'd like to take the automobile it is said they predicted could be made now that would last fifty years. Even if never used, this automobile would not be worth anything except to a junkman in ten years, because of the changes in men's tastes and ideas. This desire for change is an inherent quality in human nature, so that the present generation must not try to crystallize the needs of the future ones.
We have been measuring too much in terms of the dollar. What we should do is think in terms of useful materials—things that will be of value to us in our daily life.
In 'Quotation Marks: Against Technocracy', New York Times (1 Han 1933), E4.
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We live in a capitalist economy, and I have no particular objection to honorable self-interest. We cannot hope to make the needed, drastic improvement in primary and secondary education without a dramatic restructuring of salaries. In my opinion, you cannot pay a good teacher enough money to recompense the value of talent applied to the education of young children. I teach an hour or two a day to tolerably well-behaved near-adults–and I come home exhausted. By what possible argument are my services worth more in salary than those of a secondary-school teacher with six classes a day, little prestige, less support, massive problems of discipline, and a fundamental role in shaping minds. (In comparison, I only tinker with intellects already largely formed.)
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We never know the worth of water ‘til the well is dry.
English Proverb
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When a community or species has no known worth or other economic value to humanity, it is as dishonest and unwise to trump up weak resource values for it as it is unnecessary to abandon the effort to conserve it.
The Arrogance of Humanism
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When a thing is said to be not worth refuting you may be sure that either it is flagrantly stupid—in which case all comment is superfluous—or it is something formidable, the very crux of the problem.
In Tragic Sense of Life (1913), translated by John Ernest Crawford Flitch (1954), 99.
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When first discovered, [aluminum was a precious metal that] cost about 270 dollars a pound; then it fell to 27 dollars, and today a pound of aluminum is worth about nine dollars.
Answering the question, “Is not aluminum rather expensive?” to a fictional moon shot committee. In Jules Verne, Aaron Parrett (ed.) and Edward Roth (trans.), From the Earth to the Moon (1865, 2005), 50. In the original French edition, the costs were given in francs as about 1500, 150 and 48.75, respectively.
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When the history of our galaxy is written, and for all any of us know it may already have been, if Earth gets mentioned at all it won’t be because its inhabitants visited their own moon. That first step, like a newborn’s cry, would be automatically assumed. What would be worth recording is what kind of civilization we earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out to other parts of the galaxy.
…...
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When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.
In Poor Richard’s Almanac (1757, 1900), 23.
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Whenever a textbook is written of real educational worth, you may be quite certain that some reviewer will say that it will be difficult to teach from it. Of course it will be difficult to teach from it. It it were easy, the book ought to be burned; for it cannot be educational. In education as elsewhere, the broad primrose path leads to a nasty place. This evil path is represented by a book or a set of lectures which will practically enable the student to learn by heart all the questions likely to be asked at the next external examination.
In 'The Aims of Education', The Aims of Education: & Other Essays (1917), 6-7.
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Why don't they have a light bulb that only shines on things worth looking at?
In Napalm and Silly Putty (2002), 103.
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Why, sir, there is every probability that you will soon be able to tax it!
Said to William Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he asked about the practical worth of electricity.
Quoted in R. A. Gregory, Discovery, Or The Spirit and Service of Science (1916), 3.
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You ask me how, with so much study, I manage to retene my health. ... Morpheous is my last companion ; without 8 or 9 hours of him yr correspondent is not worth one scavenger's peruke. My practices did at ye first hurt my stomach, but now I eat heartily enou' as y’ will see when I come down beside you. [On the value of sleep, and harm of eating poorly while intent on study.]
Letter to Dr. Law (15 Dec 1716) as quoted in Norman Lockyer, (ed.), Nature (25 May 1881), 24, 39. The source refers to it as an unpublished letter.
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You have to have a lot of ideas. First, if you want to make discoveries, it’s a good thing to have good ideas. And second, you have to have a sort of sixth sense—the result of judgment and experience—which ideas are worth following up. I seem to have the first thing, a lot of ideas, and I also seem to have good judgment as to which are the bad ideas that I should just ignore, and the good ones, that I’d better follow up.
As quoted by Nancy Rouchette, The Journal of NIH Research (Jul 1990), 2, 63. Reprinted in Linus Pauling, Barclay Kamb, Linus Pauling: Selected Scientific Papers, Vol. 2, Biomolecular Sciences (2001), 1101.
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Your breathing. The beating of your heart. The expansion of your lungs. Your mere presence is all that is needed to establish your worth.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 247
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Rosalind Franklin quote: In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall come nearer
Your theories are those which you and many other people find easiest and pleasantest to believe, but, so far as I can see, they have no foundation other than they lead to a pleasant view of life … I agree that faith is essential to success in life … but I do not accept your definition of faith, i.e. belief in life after death. In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall come nearer to success and that success in our aims (the improvement of the lot of mankind, present and future) is worth attaining … I maintain that faith in this world is perfectly possible without faith in another world.
Letter to her father, Ellis Franklin (undated, summer 1940? while she was an undergraduate at Cambridge). Excerpted in Brenda Maddox, The Dark Lady of DNA (2002), 61.
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[For] men to whom nothing seems great but reason ... nature ... is a cosmos, so admirable, that to penetrate to its ways seems to them the only thing that makes life worth living. These are the men whom we see possessed by a passion to learn ... Those are the natural scientific men; and they are the only men that have any real success in scientific research.
From 'Lessons from the History of Science: The Scientific Attitude' (c.1896), in Collected Papers (1931), Vol. 1, 19.
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[It has been ascertained by statistical observation that in engineering enterprises one man is killed for every million francs that is spent on the works.] Supposing you have to build a bridge at an expense of one hundred million francs, you must be prepared for the death of one hundred men. In building the Eiffel Tower, which was a construction costing six million and a half, we only lost four men, thus remaining below the average. In the construction of the Forth Bridge, 55 men were lost in over 45,000,000 francs’ worth of work. That would appear to be a large number according to the general rule, but when the special risks are remembered, this number shows as a very small one.
As quoted in 'M. Eiffel and the Forth Bridge', The Tablet (15 Mar 1890), 75, 400. Similarly quoted in Robert Harborough Sherard, Twenty Years in Paris: Being Some Recollections of a Literary Life (1905), 169, which adds to the end “, and reflects very great credit on the engineers for the precautions which they took on behalf of their men.” Sherard gave the context that Eiffel was at the inauguration [4 Mar 1890] of the Forth Bridge, and gave this compliment when conversing there with the Prince of Wales.
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[My work as a photographer is a] mission to document endangered species and landscapes in order to show a world worth saving.
On the 'About' page of his web site.
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[Pure research] is worth every penny it costs.
Quoted in 'Moon-Struck Scientist,' New York Times (27 Apr 1961), 42.
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[The natural world cleans water, pollinates plants and provides pharmaceuticals, among many other gifts.] Thirty trillion dollars worth of services, scot-free to humanity, every year.
From transcript of PBS TV program 'Religion and Ethics' (17 Nov 2006).
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‘Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 245
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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