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Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
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Thumbnail of Sir Martin Rees (source)
Sir Martin Rees
(23 Jun 1942 - )

English cosmologist and astrophysicist who became Astronomer Royal in 1995. He studied the distribution of quasars, which he proposed drew their power from huge black holes.


Martin Rees - Context of quote “The physicist is like someone who's watching people playing chess”

Illustrated Quote - Large (800 x 600 px)

“The physicist is like someone who's watching people playing chess and, after watching a few games, he may have worked out what the moves in the game are.”
— Martin Rees
From BBC radio interview transcript published in A Passion For Science.

More Martin Rees quotes on science >>

This quote by Martin Rees appears in a collection of editted transcripts from a series of programmes broadcast on BBC Radio 3, in which Lewis Wolpert interviewed scientists from diverse fields. Each spoke vividly on their personal view of science, why they became scientists, and the rewards they found in their research. In their conversations, each scientist described their scientific work in a way easily understandable for the general listener.

Martin Rees outlined the activities of a physicist thus:

The physicist is like someone who’s watching people playing chess and, after watching a few games, he may have worked out what the moves in the game are. But understanding the rules is just a trivial preliminary on the long route from being a novice to being a grand master. So even if we understand all the laws of physics, then exploring their consequences in the everyday world where complex structures can exist is a far more daunting task, and that’s an inexhaustible one I'm sure.


In Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards, A Passion For Science (1988), 37.


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Sir Martin Rees.
  • 23 Jun - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Rees's birth.
  • Video: Earth in its Final Century - Martin Rees talk (2005, 18 min).
  • Martin Rees - context of quote The physicist is like someone who's watching people playing chess - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Martin Rees - context of quote Cosmos…laboratory…to test new ideas on particle physics - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Martin Rees - context of quote Cosmos…laboratory…to test new ideas on particle physics - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning, by Martin Rees. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Martin Rees.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: 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) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


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