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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Robert W. Wood Quotes

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Robert W. Wood
(2 May 1868 - 11 Aug 1955)

American physicist who researched in optics, spectroscopy, atomic and molecular radiation, supersonics, and improvements in diffraction gratings.



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Quotes by others about Robert W. Wood (2)

In the 1920s, there was a dinner at which the physicist Robert W. Wood was asked to respond to a toast … “To physics and metaphysics.” Now by metaphysics was meant something like philosophy—truths that you could get to just by thinking about them. Wood took a second, glanced about him, and answered along these lines: The physicist has an idea, he said. The more he thinks it through, the more sense it makes to him. He goes to the scientific literature, and the more he reads, the more promising the idea seems. Thus prepared, he devises an experiment to test the idea. The experiment is painstaking. Many possibilities are eliminated or taken into account; the accuracy of the measurement is refined. At the end of all this work, the experiment is completed and … the idea is shown to be worthless. The physicist then discards the idea, frees his mind (as I was saying a moment ago) from the clutter of error, and moves on to something else. The difference between physics and metaphysics, Wood concluded, is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory.
In 'Wonder and Skepticism', Skeptical Enquirer (Jan-Feb 1995), 19, No. 1.
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I conclude therefore that this star [Tycho’s supernova] is not some kind of comet or a fiery meteor, whether these be generated beneath the Moon or above the Moon, but that it is a star shining in the firmament itself—one that has never previously been seen before our time, in any age since the beginning of the world.
In De Stella Nova, as translated in Dagobert D. Runes, A Treasury of World Science (1962), 108.
Science quotes on:  |  Beginning (122)  |  Tycho Brahe (23)  |  Comet (50)  |  Fiery (5)  |  Firmament (12)  |  Meteor (14)  |  Moon (199)  |  Observation (450)  |  Shining (8)  |  Star (336)  |  Supernova (7)


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  • 2 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Wood's birth.

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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