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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index W > Category: Write

Write Quotes (117 quotes)
Wrote Quotes

Nulla (enim) res tantum ad dicendum proficit, quantum scriptio
Nothing so much assists learning as writing down what we wish to remember.
In Jon R. Stone, The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), 78.
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A doctor is a man who writes prescriptions till the patient either dies or is cured by nature.
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Algebra is but written geometry and geometry is but figured algebra.
From Mémoire sur les Surfaces Élastiques. As quoted and cited in Robert Édouard Moritz, Memorabilia Mathematica; Or, The Philomath’s Quotation-book (1914), 276.
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All versions written for nonscientists speak of fused males as the curious tale of the anglerfish–just as we so often hear about the monkey swinging through the trees, or the worm burrowing through soil. But if nature teaches us any lesson, it loudly proclaims life’s diversity. There ain’t no such abstraction as the clam, the fly, or the anglerfish. Ceratioid anglerfishes come in nearly 100 species, and each has its own peculiarity.
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Among all the occurrences possible in the universe the a priori probability of any particular one of them verges upon zero. Yet the universe exists; particular events must take place in it, the probability of which (before the event) was infinitesimal. At the present time we have no legitimate grounds for either asserting or denying that life got off to but a single start on earth, and that, as a consequence, before it appeared its chances of occurring were next to nil. ... Destiny is written concurrently with the event, not prior to it.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 145.
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Anton Chekhov wrote that ‘one must not put a loaded rifle on stage if no one is thinking of firing it.’ Good drama requires spare and purposive action, sensible linking of potential causes with realized effects. Life is much messier; nothing happens most of the time. Millions of Americans (many hotheaded) own rifles (many loaded), but the great majority, thank God, do not go off most of the time. We spend most of real life waiting for Godot, not charging once more unto the breach.
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Anyone who writes about science must know about science, which cuts down competition considerably.
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 262.
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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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Chief Seattle, of the Indians that inhabited the Seattle area, wrote a wonderful paper that has to do with putting oneself in tune with the universe. He said, “Why should I lament the disappearance of my people! All things end, and the white man will find this out also.” And this goes for the universe. One can be at peace with that. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t participate in efforts to correct the situation. But underlying the effort to change must be an “at peace.” To win a dog sled race is great. To lose is okay too.
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Ever since I was a boy, I've been fascinated by crazy science and such things as perpetual motion machines and logical paradoxes. I’ve always enjoyed keeping up with those ideas. I suppose I didn’t get into it seriously until I wrote my first book, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. I was influenced by the Dianetics movement, now called Scientology, which was then promoted by John Campbell in Astounding Science Fiction. I was astonished at how rapidly the thing had become a cult.
In Scot Morris, 'Interview: Martin Gardner', Omni, 4, No. 4 (Jan 1982), 68.
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Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
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Everything that is written merely to please the author is worthless.
Quoted without citation in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 279. Webmaster has tried without success to locate a primary source. Can you help?
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Gardner writes about various kinds of cranks with the conscious superiority of the scientist…. He asserts that the scientist, unlike the crank, does his best to remain open-minded, so how can he be so sure that no sane person has ever seen a flying saucer…? … A.J. Ayer once remarked wryly “I wish I was as certain of anything as he seems to be about everything”.
In The Quest For Wilhelm Reich (1981), 2.
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George Sears, called Nessmuk, whose “Woodcraft,” published in 1884, was the first American book on forest camping, and is written with so much wisdom, wit, and insight that it makes Henry David Thoreau seem alien, humorless, and French.
Coming into the Country
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Historians constantly rewrite history, reinterpreting (reorganizing) the records of the past. So, too, when the brain's coherent responses become part of a memory, they are organized anew as part of the structure of consciousness. What makes them memories is that they become part of that structure and thus form part of the sense of self; my sense of self derives from a certainty that my experiences refer back to me, the individual who is having them. Hence the sense of the past, of history, of memory, is in part the creation of the self.
The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (1995), 87.
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Human language is in some ways similar to, but in other ways vastly different from, other kinds of animal communication. We simply have no idea about its evolutionary history, though many people have speculated about its possible origins. There is, for instance, the “bow-bow” theory, that language started from attempts to imitate animal sounds. Or the “ding-dong” theory, that it arose from natural sound-producing responses. Or the “pooh-pooh” theory, that it began with violent outcries and exclamations.
We have no way of knowing whether the kinds of men represented by the earliest fossils could talk or not…
Language does not leave fossils, at least not until it has become written.
Man in Nature (1961), 10.
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I am paid by the word, so I always write the shortest words possible.
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I am particularly fond of (Emmanuel Mendes da Costa’s) Natural History of Fossils because treatise, more than any other work written in English, records a short episode expressing one of the grand false starts in the history of natural science–and nothing can be quite so informative and instructive as a juicy mistake.
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I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this usefull invention [smallpox inoculation] into fashion in England, and I should not fail to write to some of our Doctors very particularly about it, if I knew anyone of 'em that I thought had Virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of Revenue for the good of Mankind, but that Distemper is too beneficial to them not to expose to all their Resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it.
Letter to Sarah Chiswell (1 Apr 1717). In Robert Halsband (ed.), The Complete Letters of the Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1965), Vol. 1, 339.
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I am trying to get the hang of this new fangled writing machine, but I am not making a shining success of it. However, this is the first attempt I have ever made & yet I perceive I shall soon & easily acquire a fine facility in its use. … The machine has several virtues. I believe it will print faster than I can write. One may lean back in his chair & work it. It piles an awful stack of words on one page. It don't muss things or scatter ink blots around. Of course it saves paper.
Letter (9 Dec 1874). Quoted in B. Blivens, Jr., The Wonderful Writing Machine (1954), 61.
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I could burn my fingers that I wrote that first letter to Roosevelt.
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I have long recognized the theory and aesthetic of such comprehensive display: show everything and incite wonder by sheer variety. But I had never realized how power fully the decor of a cabinet museum can promote this goal until I saw the Dublin [Natural History Museum] fixtures redone right ... The exuberance is all of one piece–organic and architectural. I write this essay to offer my warmest congratulations to the Dublin Museum for choosing preservation–a decision not only scientifically right, but also ethically sound and decidedly courageous. The avant-garde is not an exclusive locus of courage; a principled stand within a reconstituted rear unit may call down just as much ridicule and demand equal fortitude. Crowds do not always rush off in admirable or defendable directions.
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I have to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and stubborn facts.
Letter to his brother Henry James, while William was writing his Principles of Psychology. As quoted in 'The Origins of Modern Science', Science and the Modern World (1926, 2011), 3.
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I have written many direct and indirect arguments for the Copernican view, but until now I have not dared to publish them, alarmed by the fate of Copernicus himself, our master. He has won for himself undying fame in the eyes of a few, but he has been mocked and hooted at by an infinite multitude (for so large is the number of fools). I would dare to come forward publicly with my ideas if there were more people of your [Johannes Kepler’s] way of thinking. As this is not the case, I shall refrain.
Letter to Kepler (4 Aug 1597). In James Bruce Ross (ed.) and Mary Martin (ed., trans.), 'Comrades in the Pursuit of Truth', The Portable Renaissance Reader (1953, 1981), 597-599. As quoted and cited in Merry E. Wiesner, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (2013), 377.
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I love to read the dedications of old books written in monarchies–for they invariably honor some (usually insignificant) knight or duke with fulsome words of sycophantic insincerity, praising him as the light of the universe (in hopes, no doubt, for a few ducats to support future work); this old practice makes me feel like such an honest and upright man, by comparison, when I put a positive spin, perhaps ever so slightly exaggerated, on a grant proposal.
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I refrained from writing another one, thinking to myself: Never mind, I will prove that I am able to become a greater scientist than some of you, even without the title of doctor.
Reaction when his thesis (1922) on rocket experiments was rejected as too cursory. In Astronautics (1959), 4, No. 6, 103.
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I sort of kept my hand in writing and went to work for the Sierra Club in ‘52, walked the plank there in ‘69, founded Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters after that.
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I think of myself as a journalist who writes mainly about math and science, and a few other fields of interest.
In Kendrick Frazier, 'A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner', Skeptical Inquirer (Mar/Apr 1998), 22, No. 2, 36.
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I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.
As given in United States Committee for Cooperation with the Japan Council Against A and H Bombs, Report from Hiroshima (1961), 48. The report says Sadako murmured these (translated) words while on her deathbed, holding one of the paper cranes she had folded.
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I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn't, I would die.
Isaac Asimov, Stanley Asimov (ed.), Yours, Isaac Asimov: a Lifetime of Letters (1995), 8.
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I write to discover what I think. After all, the bars aren’t open that early.
On his habit of writing in the early morning hours. As quoted in Wall Street Journal (31 Dec 1985).
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I wrote a fair amount of poetry in college. It was really, really bad. I mean, bad. And that’s how I found out—by doing it.
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If a given scientist had not made a given discovery, someone else would have done so a little later. Johann Mendel dies unknown after having discovered the laws of heredity: thirty-five years later, three men rediscover them. But the book that is not written will never be written. The premature death of a great scientist delays humanity; that of a great writer deprives it.
Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939). Translated in The Substance of Man (1962), 89.
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If a person sweeps streets for a living, he should sweep them as Michelangelo painted, as Beethoven composed music, as Shakespeare wrote his plays.
As quoted, without citation, in Patricia J. Raskin, Pathfinding: Seven Principles for Positive Living (2002), 102.
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If the world goes crazy for a lovely fossil, that's fine with me. But if that fossil releases some kind of mysterious brain ray that makes people say crazy things and write lazy articles, a serious swarm of flies ends up in my ointment.
Criticism of excessive media hype about a fossil discovery, from blog 'The Loom' (19 May 2009) on Discover magazine website.
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If you ask mathematicians what they do, you always get the same answer. They think. They think about difficult and unusual problems. (They never think about ordinary problems—they just write down the answers.)
As translated from Russian in 'A byl li brak?', Literaturnaya Gazeta (5 Dec 1979), 49, 12, as quoted and cited in The American Mathematical Monthly (Nov 1980), 87, No. 97, 696.
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If you fix a piece of solid phosphorus in a quill, and write with it upon paper, the writing in a dark room will appear beautifully luminous.
From 'Artist and Mechanic', The artist & Tradesman’s Guide: embracing some leading facts & principles of science, and a variety of matter adapted to the wants of the artist, mechanic, manufacturer, and mercantile community (1827), 15.
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If you look over my Scientific American columns you will see that they get progressively more sophisticated as I began reading math books and learning more about the subject. There is no better way to learn anything than to write about it!
In Kendrick Frazier, 'A Mind at Play: An Interview with Martin Gardner', Skeptical Inquirer (Mar/Apr 1998), 22, No. 2, 36.
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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 fields of air he writes his name,
And treads the chambers of the sky;
He reads the stars, and grasps the flame
That quivers in the realms on high.
In poem 'Art', collected in Samuel Kettell (ed.), Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices (1829), Vol. 3, 198.
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It is so hard for an evolutionary biologist to write about extinction caused by human stupidity ... Let me then float an unconventional plea, the inverse of the usual argument ... The extinction of Partula is unfair to Partula. That is the conventional argument, and I do not challenge its primacy. But we need a humanistic ecology as well, both for the practical reason that people will always touch people more than snails do or can, and for the moral reason that humans are legitimately the measure of all ethical questions–for these are our issues, not nature’s.
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It may truly be said that the eye as much touches the most distant star as that my fingers touch the pen with which I write.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xlviii.
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It took me so long to understand what I was writing about, that I knew how to write about it so most readers would understand it.
As quoted in Alex Bellos, 'Martin Gardner Obituary', The Guardian (27 May 2010)
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I’m gradually managing to cram my mind more and more full of things. I’ve got this beautiful mind and it’s going to die, and it’ll all be gone. And then I say, not in my case. Every idea I’ve ever had I’ve written down, and it’s all there on paper. And I won’t be gone; it’ll be there.
'Isaac Asimov Speaks' with Bill Moyers in The Humanist (Jan/Feb 1989), 49. Reprinted in Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), 139.
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I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It doe s not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
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I’ve never consciously tried to keep myself out of anything I write, and I’ve always talked clearly when people interview me. I don’t think my life is too interesting. It’s lived mainly inside my brain.
As quoted by Lawrence Toppman, 'Mastermind', The Charlotte Observer (20 Jun 1993), 1E, 6E. As quoted and cited in Dana Richards, 'Martin Gardner: A “Documentary”', collected in Elwyn R. Berlekamp and Tom Rodgers (ed.) The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler: A Collection in Tribute to Martin Gardner (1999), 3.
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I’ve never made a discovery myself, unless by accident. If you write glibly, you fool people. When I first met Asimov, I asked him if he was a professor at Boston University. He said no and … asked me where I got my Ph.D. I said I didn’t have one and he looked startled. “You mean you’re in the same racket I am,” he said, “you just read books by the professors and rewrite them?” That’s really what I do.
Quoted in Sally Helgeson, 'Every Day', Bookletter (6 Dec 1976), 3, No. 8, 3. As quoted and cited in Dana Richards, 'Martin Gardner: A “Documentary”', collected in Elwyn R. Berlekamp and ‎Tom Rodgers (ed.) The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler: A Collection in Tribute to Martin Gardner (1999), 8-9.
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Little Birds are writing
Interesting books.
To be read by cooks:
Read, I say, not roasted—
Letterpress, when toasted,
Loses its good looks.
In Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), 371.
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Mathematics is the language in which God wrote the universe.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 33
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Most Mens Learning is nothing but History duly taken up. If I quote Thomas Aquinas for some Tenet, and believe it, because the School-Men say so, that is but History. Few men make themselves Masters of the things they write or speak.
In John Selden, Richard Milward (ed.), 'Learning', Table-Talk of John Selden (1689, 1856), 85.
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Most writing online is devolving toward SMS and tweets that involve quick, throwaway notes with abbreviations and threaded references. This is not a form of lasting communication. In 2020 there is unlikely to be a list of classic tweets and blog posts that every student and educated citizen should have read.
Written response to the Pew Research Center and Elon University's 'Imagining the Internet' research initiative asking their survey question (2010), “Share your view of the Internet’s influence on the future of knowledge-sharing in 2020.” From 'Imagining the Internet' on elon.edu website.
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My first view - a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and white - was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this Pacific scene in motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close, and beyond, black space. I held my breath, but something was missing - I felt strangely unfulfilled. Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the music of this sphere for ourselves.
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Natural historians tend to avoid tendentious preaching in this philosophical mode (although I often fall victim to such temptations in these essays). Our favored style of doubting is empirical: if I wish to question your proposed generality, I will search for a counterexample in flesh and blood. Such counterexamples exist in abundance, for the form a staple in a standard genre of writing in natural history–the “wonderment of oddity” or “strange ways of the beaver” tradition.
In 'Reversing Established Orders', Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (2011), 394.
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Nature will be reported. Everything in nature is engaged in writing its own history; the planet and the pebble are attended by their shadows, the rolling rock leaves its furrows on the mountain-side, the river its channel in the soil; the animal, its bones in the stratum; the fern and leaf, their modest epitaph in the coal.
In The Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1847, 1872), Vol. 2, 141.
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Newton took no exercise, indulged in no amusements, and worked incessantly, often spending eighteen or nineteen hours out of the twenty-four in writing.
History of Mathematics (3rd Ed., 1901), 358.
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Obviously, what our age has in common with the age of the Reformation is the fallout of disintegrating values. What needs explaining is the presence of a receptive audience. More significant than the fact that poets write abstrusely, painters paint abstractly, and composers compose unintelligible music is that people should admire what they cannot understand; indeed, admire that which has no meaning or principle.
In Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), 62.
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Orthodoxy can be as stubborn in science as in religion. I do not know how to shake it except by vigorous imagination that inspires unconventional work and contains within itself an elevated potential for inspired error. As the great Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto wrote: ‘Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.’ Not to mention a man named Thomas Henry Huxley who, when not in the throes of grief or the wars of parson hunting, argued that ‘irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.’
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People who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing or up to mischief.
Science and Literature in Plato's Republic (1984), 52.
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Philosophers no longer write for the intelligent, only for their fellow professionals. The few thousand academic philosophers in the world do not stint themselves: they maintain more than seventy learned journals. But in the handful that cover more than one subdivision of philosophy, any given philosopher can hardly follow more than one or two articles in each issue. This hermetic condition is attributed to “technical problems” in the subject. Since William James, Russell, and Whitehead, philosophy, like history, has been confiscated by scholarship and locked away from the contamination of general use.
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Philosophy is written in that great book that lies before our gaze—I mean the universe—but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written.
In Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul (1995), 203.
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Philosophy [the universe] is written in that great book which ever lies before our eyes ... We cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in the mathematical language ... without whose help it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word of it, and without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.
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Physicists are, as a general rule, highbrows. They think and talk in long, Latin words, and when they write anything down they usually include at least one partial differential and three Greek letters.
In 'A Newsman Looks at Physicists', Physics Today (May 1948), 1, No. 1, 15.
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Prize fighters can sometimes read and write when they start - but they can't when they finish.
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Recollections [his autobiographical work] might possibly interest my children or their children. I know that it would have interested me greatly to have read even so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather, written by himself, and what he thought and did, and how he worked. I have attempted to write the following account of myself as if I were a dead man in another world looking back at my own life. Nor have I found this difficult, for life is nearly over with me.
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Science can explain why and how books are written; but it cannot account for the process being accompanied by consciousness.
Letter to E.C. Chapman (29 Jul 1891), Dan H. Laurence (ed.), Collected Letters (1965), Vol. 1, 303.
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Science fiction is no more written for scientists than ghost stories are written for ghosts.
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So why fret and care that the actual version of the destined deed was done by an upper class English gentleman who had circumnavigated the globe as a vigorous youth, lost his dearest daughter and his waning faith at the same time, wrote the greatest treatise ever composed on the taxonomy of barnacles, and eventually grew a white beard, lived as a country squire just south of London, and never again traveled far enough even to cross the English Channel? We care for the same reason that we love okapis, delight in the fossil evidence of trilobites, and mourn the passage of the dodo. We care because the broad events that had to happen, happened to happen in a certain particular way. And something unspeakably holy –I don’t know how else to say this–underlies our discovery and confirmation of the actual details that made our world and also, in realms of contingency, assured the minutiae of its construction in the manner we know, and not in any one of a trillion other ways, nearly all of which would not have included the evolution of a scribe to record the beauty, the cruelty, the fascination, and the mystery.
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Sometimes an idea hangs on, not because it is good, or even seductive, but because it has been around a long time, or constantly repeated. If one wants to verify something written in the newspaper, should one buy 100 more copies of the paper to check it?
As quoted Gordon Younger Craig and John Hewett Hull, James Hutton: Present and Future (1999), 21
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The art of writing history is the art of emphasizing the significant facts at the expense of the insignificant. And it is the same in every field of knowledge. Knowledge is power only if a man knows what facts not to bother about.
In The Orange Tree: A Volume of Essays (1926), 60.
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The authors of literary works may not have intended all the subtleties, complexities, undertones, and overtones that are attributed to them by critics and by students writing doctoral theses.” That’s what God says about geologists, I told him...
Basin and Range
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The difference between myth and science is the difference between divine inspiration of “unaided reason” (as Bertrand Russell put it) on the one hand and theories developed in observational contact with the real world on the other. It is the difference between the belief in prophets and critical thinking, between Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd–Tertullian) and De omnibus est dubitandum (Everything should be questioned–Descartes). To try to write a grand cosmical drama leads necessarily to myth. To try to let knowledge substitute ignorance in increasingly large regions of space and time is science.
In 'Cosmology: Myth or Science?' Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy (1984), 5, 79-98.
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The discovery of the famous original [Rosetta Stone] enabled Napoleon’s experts to begin the reading of Egypt’s ancient literature. In like manner the seismologists, using the difficult but manageable Greek of modern physics, are beginning the task of making earthquakes tell the nature of the earth’s interior and translating into significant speech the hieroglyphics written by the seismograph.
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The fertilized germ of one of the higher animals … is perhaps the most wonderful object in nature… . On the doctrine of reversion [atavism] … the germ becomes a far more marvelous object, for, besides the visible changes which it undergoes, we must believe that it is crowded with invisible characters … separated by hundreds or even thousands of generations from the present time: and these characters, like those written on paper with invisible ink, lie ready to be evolved whenever the organization is disturbed by certain known or unknown conditions.
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The Himalayas are the crowning achievement of the Indo-Australian plate. India in the Oligocene crashed head on into Tibet, hit so hard that it not only folded and buckled the plate boundaries but also plowed into the newly created Tibetan plateau and drove the Himalayas five and a half miles into the sky. The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat. When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in a warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as 20,000 feet below the sea floor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth.
If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.
Annals of the Former World
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The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.
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The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put first.
In Pensées (1670), Section 7, No. 29. As translated in Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', No. 19, collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 14. Also seen translated as, “The last thing one knows when writing a book is what to put first.” From the original French, “La dernière chose qu’on trouve en faisant un ouvrage, est de savoir celle qu’il faut mettre la première,” in Ernest Havet (ed.), Pensées de Pascal (1892), 223.
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The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first.
In Pensées. As translated by W.F. Trotter in Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works (1910), 14.
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The new mathematics is a sort of supplement to language, affording a means of thought about form and quantity and a means of expression, more exact, compact, and ready than ordinary language. The great body of physical science, a great deal of the essential facts of financial science, and endless social and political problems are only accessible and only thinkable to those who have had a sound training in mathematical analysis, and the time may not be very remote when it will be understood that for complete initiation as an efficient citizen of the great complex world-wide States that are now developing, it is as necessary to be able to compute, to think in averages and maxima and minima, as it is now to be able to read and write.
Mankind in the Making (1903), 204.
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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 surprising thing about this paper is that a man who could write it would.
In A Mathematician’s Miscellany (1953), reissued as Béla Bollobás (ed.), Littlewood’s Miscellany (1986), 59.
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The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.
Address upon receiving National Book Award at reception, Hotel Commodore, New York (27 Jan 1952). As cited in Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature (1997), 219. She was referring to her book being recognized, The Sea Around Us.
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The word which God has written on the brow of every man is Hope.
Les Miserables. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 142
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The world’s the book where the eternal sense
Wrote his own thoughts; the living temple where,
Painting his very self, with figures fair
He filled the whole immense circumference.
In 'Some Sonnets of Campanella', The Cornhill Magazine (Nov 1877), 36, 549.
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The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.
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There are four subjects which must be taught: reading, writing and arithmetic, and the fear of God. The most difficult of these is arithmetic.
Quoted as a filler, without citation in The Record (3 Nov 1948), 40, No. 8, 2. (Student newspaper of the New York State College for Teachers.)
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There are many different styles of composition. I characterize them always as Mozart versus Beethoven. When Mozart began to write at that time he had the composition ready in his mind. He wrote the manuscript and it was ‘aus einem Guss’ (casted as one). And it was also written very beautiful. Beethoven was an indecisive and a tinkerer and wrote down before he had the composition ready and plastered parts over to change them. There was a certain place where he plastered over nine times and one did remove that carefully to see what happened and it turned out the last version was the same as the first one.
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There came in February the issue of Life saying on the cover “Dr. Teller Refutes 9000 Scientists”… I wrote to Life and said first that Teller hadn’t refuted 9000 scientists and second I felt that they should publish the article that I had written… They sent the article back and said that they didn’t want it and then I offered it to Look. The editor of Look called me and said they couldn’t get into a controversy with Life. Then I offered it to the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal and Readers Digest and none of them were interested in it. And then I thought, “What shall I do? I’ll have to write a book and see if I can’t get it published.”’
As quoted in Ted Goertzel, et al., Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics (1965, 1995), 46.
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There comes a time when every scientist, even God, has to write off an experiment.
P D James
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There is nothing on earth, intended for innocent people, so horrible as a school. It is in some respects more cruel than a prison. In a prison for example, you are not forced to read books written by the warders and the governor.
In 'School', Misalliance: A Debate in One Sitting (1914, 1957), 24.
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There they stand, the innumerable stars, shining in order like a living hymn, written in light.
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Those who nod sagely and quote the tragedy of the commons in relation to environmental problems from pollution of the atmosphere to poaching of national parks tend to forget that Garrett Hardin revised his conclusions many times…. He recognized, most importantly, that anarchy did not prevail on the common pastures of medieval England in the way he had described…. “A managed commons, though it may have other defects, is not automatically subject to the tragic fate of the unmanaged commons,” wrote Hardin…. At sea, where a common exists in most waters… None of Hardin’s requirements for a successfully managed common is fulfilled by high-seas fishery regimes.
In The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and what We Eat (2004), 153-155.
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To excavate is to open a book written in the language that the centuries have spoken into the earth.
In Who Said what (and When, and Where, and How) in 1971 (1972), 9.
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To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by conscious clothes in flesh and bone.
In Teilhard de Chardin and Bernard Wall (trans.), The Phenomenon of Man (1959, 2008), 151. Originally published in French as Le Phénomene Humain (1955).
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Unfortunately, in many cases, people who write science fiction violate the laws of nature, not because they want to make a point, but because they don't know what the laws of nature are.
In Carl Howard Freedman (ed.), Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), back cover.
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Vanity is so anchored in the heart of man … and wishes to have his admirers. … Those who write against it want to have the glory of having written well, and those who read it desire the glory of having read it. I who write this have perhaps this desire, and perhaps those who will read it….
In Pensées (1670), Section 2, No. 3. As translated in Blaise Pascal and W.F. Trotter (trans.), 'Thoughts', No. 150, collected in Charles W. Eliot (ed.), The Harvard Classics (1910), Vol. 48, 60. A similar translation is in W.H. Auden and L. Kronenberger (eds.) The Viking Book of Aphorisms (1966), 40. From the original French, “La vanité est si ancrée dans le cœur de l’homme … et veut avoir ses admirateurs;… Ceux qui écrivent contre veulent avoir la gloire d’avoir bien écrit; et ceux qui le lisent veulent avoir la gloire de l’avoir lu; et moi qui écris ceci, ai peut-être cette envie; et peut-être que ceux qui le liront…” in Ernest Havet (ed.), Pensées de Pascal (1892), 122.
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We are all writing God’s poem.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 8
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We do not inhabit a perfected world where natural selection ruthlessly scrutinizes all organic structures and then molds them for optimal utility. Organisms inherit a body form and a style of embryonic development; these impose constraint s upon future change and adaptation. In many cases, evolutionary pathways reflect inherited patterns more than current environmental demands. These inheritances constrain, but they also provide opportunity. A potentially minor genetic change ... entails a host of complex, nonadaptive consequences ... What ‘play’ would evolution have if each structure were built for a restricted purpose and could be used for nothing else? How could humans learn to write if our brain had not evolved for hunting, social cohesion, or whatever, and could not transcend the adaptive boundaries of its original purpose?
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We have refused to recognize the creativity of youth. We don’t want our children to write poetry or go to the stars. We want them to go steady, get married and have four children.
As quoted in Frances Glennon, 'Student and Teacher of Human Ways', Life (14 Sep 1959), 147.
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We have the hunger for eternity in our souls, the thought of eternity in our hearts, the destination for eternity written on our inmost being.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 5
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When Allah created his creatures Fie wrote above His throne: “Verily, my Compassion overcomes my wrath
Quran
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 143
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When Bonner writes that ‘natural selection for optimal feeding is then presumed to be the cause of non-motility in all forms,’ I can’t help suspecting that some plants might do even better if they could walk from shade to sun–but the inherited constraints of design never permitted a trial of this intriguing option.
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When one considers how hard it is to write a computer program even approaching the intellectual scope of a good paper, and how much greater time and effort have to be put in to make it “almost” formally correct, it is preposterous to claim that mathematics as we practice it is anywhere near formally correct.
In 'On Proof and Progress in Mathematics', For the Learning of Mathematics (Feb 1995), 15, No. 1, 33. Reprinted from Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society (1994), 30, No. 2, 170-171.
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When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in the warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as twenty thousand feet below the seafloor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth. If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.
Annals of the Former World
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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 we seek a textbook case for the proper operation of science, the correction of certain error offers far more promise than the establishment of probable truth. Confirmed hunches, of course, are more upbeat than discredited hypotheses. Since the worst traditions of ‘popular’ writing falsely equate instruction with sweetness and light, our promotional literature abounds with insipid tales in the heroic mode, although tough stories of disappointment and loss give deeper insight into a methodology that the celebrated philosopher Karl Popper once labeled as ‘conjecture and refutation.’
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When we think of giving a child a mathematical education we are apt to ask whether he has special aptitudes fitting him to receive it. Do we ask any such questions when we talk of teaching him to read and write?
In 'Mathematics for Children', Popular Science Monthly (Oct 1899), 187, citing “translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique. Also seen paraphrased as “To ask whether a child has an aptitude for mathematics is equivalent to asking whether he has an aptitude for reading and writing,” in William L. Schaaf, 'Memorabilia Mathematica', The Mathematics Teacher (Mar 1957), 50, No. 3, 231.
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Where there is much to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.
In Areopagitica: A speech of Mr John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenced printing to the Parliament of England (23 Nov 1644), 31.
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Write a paper promising salvation, make it a ‘structured’ something or a ‘virtual’ something, or ‘abstract’, ‘distributed’ or ‘higher-order’ or ‘applicative’ and you can almost be certain of having started a new cult.
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Write with the learned, pronounce with the vulgar.
In Poor Richard's Almanack (1914), 62. https://books.google.com/books?id=o6lJAAAAIAAJ Benjamin Franklin - 1914
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You can't really discover the most interesting conflicts and problems in a subject until you've tried to write about them. At that point, one discovers discontinuities in the data, perhaps, or in one's own thinking; then the act of writing forces you to work harder to resolve these contradictions.
From Robert S. Grumet, 'An Interview with Anthony F. C. Wallace', Ethnohistory (Winter 1998), 45, No. 1, 109.
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You can’t just write and write and put things in a drawer. They wither without the warm sun of someone else’s appreciation.
In Locked Rooms and Open Doors (1974), 44.
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You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.
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Young writers find out what kinds of writers they are by experiment. If they choose from the outset to practice exclusively a form of writing because it is praised in the classroom or otherwise carries appealing prestige, they are vastly increasing the risk inherent in taking up writing in the first place.
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[My dream dinner guest is] Charles Darwin. It’s an obvious answer, but it’s the truth. Think of any problem and before you start theorising, just check up whether Charles Darwin mentioned it in one of those green books sitting on your shelf. Whether it’s earthworms, human gestures or the origin of species, the observations that man made are unbelievable. He touched on so many subjects. Then, Alexander von Humboldt, the last polymath. There was no aspect of the natural world that he wasn’t curious about or didn’t write about in Kosmos, an extraordinary book.
From interview with Alice Roberts, 'Attenborough: My Life on Earth', The Biologist (Aug 2015), 62, No. 4, 16.
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[M]y work, which I've done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.
Letter (27 Jun 1716) thanking the University of Louvain for ending him a medal designed in honour of his research. (Leeuwenhoek was then in his 84th year.) As cited by Charles-Edward Amory Winslow in The Conquest of Epidemic Disease: A Chapter in the History of Ideas (), 156.
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[Presently, science undergraduates] do not learn to write clearly and briefly, marshalling their points in due and aesthetically satisfying order, and eliminating inessentials. They are inept at those turns of phrase or happy analogy which throw a flying bridge across a chasm of misunderstanding and make contact between mind and mind.
From essay in Thomas Rice Henn, The Apple and the Spectroscope: Being Lectures on Poetry Designed (in the Main) for Science Students (1951), 142.
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~~[Orphan]~~ When writing about transcendental issues, be transcendentally clear.
Quoted, without citation, in George F. Simmons, Calculus Gems (1992, 2007), 89. It is a bad sign that other quotes on the same page do have sources footnoted, but not for this subject quote. So, Webmaster regards the quote as an orphan (better attributed to anonymous) having so far being unable to locate a primary source. Can you help?
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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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