View Full Version : Science Quotes

2005-Oct-06, 12:14 AM
Post your favorite science-oriented quotes here.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny...'
-Isaac Asimov

The cloning of human is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.
-Lewis Thomas

Man is the lowest-cost, 150-pound, nonlinear, all-purpose computer system which can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.
-NASA in 1965

The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience.
-Rachel Carson

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life - so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.
-M. Cartmill

Remember, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the precipitate!
-Eric Desch

It was a misfortune for the living world in particular, many scientists believe, that a carnivorous primate and not some more benign form of animal made the breakthrough.
-Edward O. Wilson

If rats are experimented on they will develop cancer.
-Morton's Law

Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.
-Leonardo da Vinci

The modern physicist is a quantum theorist on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and a student of gravitational theory on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Sunday he is neither, but is praying to his God that someone, preferably himself, will find the reconciliation between the two views.
-Norbert Wiener

The chess board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But we also know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.
-Thomas Huxley

I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
-Abraham Lincoln
[note: although this is not a science quote, I see this as one of the fundamental tenants of science]

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.
-Carl Sagan

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science
-Henri Poincaré

Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives’ mouths.
-Bertrand Russell

For most of human history we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Who are we? What are we? We find that we inhabit an insignificant planet of a hum-drum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. We make our world significant by the courage of our questions, and by the depth of our answers.
-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.
-Carl Sagan

What the founders of modern science...had to do, was not criticize and to combat certain faulty theories, and to correct or to replace them by better ones. They had to do something quite different. They had to destroy one world and replace it by another. The had to reshape the framework of our intellect itself, to restate and to reform its concepts, to evolve a new approach to Being, a new concept of knowledge, and a new concept of science-and even to replace a pretty natural approach, that of common sense, by another which is not natural at all.
-Alexandre Koyre

The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief... that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.
-Walter Lippmann

In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual
-Galileo Galilei

In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
-Stephen Jay Gould

A zygote is a gamete’s way of producing more gametes. This may be the purpose of the universe.
-Robert Heinlein

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

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.
-Albert Einstein

Whatever a scientist is doing—reading, cooking, talking, playing—science thoughts are always there at the edge of the mind. They are the way the world is taking in; all this is seen is filtered through an everpresent scientific musing.
-Vivian Gornick

Do not undertake a scientific career in quest of fame or money. There are easier and better ways to reach them. Undertake it only if nothing else will satisfy you; for nothing is probably what you will receive. Your reward will be the widening of the horizon as you climb. And if you achieve that reward you will ask no other.
-Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin

If I could remember the names of all these particles... I'd be a botanist!
-Enrico Fermi

Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.
-Galileo Galilei

We are a bit of stellar matter gone wrong. We are physical machinery - puppets that strut and talk and laugh and die as the hand of time pulls the strings beneath. But there is one elementary inescapable answer. We are that which asks the question.
-Sir Arthur Eddington

No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.
-Albert Einstein

The fundamental laws necessary for the mathematical treatment of a large part of physics and the whole of chemistry are thus completely known, and the difficulty lies only in the fact that application of these laws leads to equations that are too complex to be solved.
-Paul Dirac

Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal
-Arthur C. Clarke

We have discovered the secret of life!
-Francis Crick, spoken after excitedly bursting into a Cambridge pub with James Watson to celebrate the fact that they had unraveled the structure of DNA

There is no doubt that human survival will continue to depend more and more on human intellect and technology. It is idle to argue whether this is good or bad. The point of no return was passed long ago, before anyone knew it was happening.
-Theodosius Dobzansky

May every young scientist remember and not fail to keep his eyes open for the possibility that an irritating failure of his apparatus to give consistent results may once or twice in a lifetime conceal an important discovery
-Patrick Blackett

Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. That is why science has succeeded where magic failed: because it has looked for no spell to cast on nature.
-Jacob Bronowski

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl.
-Mike Adams

To say that science is logical is like saying that a painting is paint
-Leon Cooper

We live in a scientific age, yet we assume that knowledge of science is the prerogative of only a small number of human beings, isolated and priestlike in their laboratories. This is not true. The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is the way, the how and the why for everything in our experience.
-Rachel Carson

Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know— and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance.
-Isaac Asimov

The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance— the idea that anything is possible
-Ray Bradbury

Remember, then, that it [science] is the guide of action; that the truth which it arrives at is not that which we can ideally contemplate without error, but that which we may act upon without fear; and you cannot fail to see that scientific thought is not an accompaniment or condition of human progress, but human progress itself.
-William Kingdom Clifford

Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.
-Wernher von Braun

How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!
(This is a mnemonic phrase: the number of letters in each word of the phrase is a decimal digit of pi)
-Isaac Asimov

Science has a simple faith, which transcends utility. It is the faith that it is the privilege of man to learn to understand, and this is his mission.
-Vannevar Bush

Those who assert that the mathematical sciences say nothing of the beautiful or the good are in error. For these sciences say and prove a great deal about them; if they do not expressly mention them, but prove attributes which are their results or definitions, it is not true that they tell us nothing about them. The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree.

There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere.
-Isaac Asimov

2005-Oct-06, 01:53 AM
Those are good ones, BlackCat! I'll just offer one for the moment....

"If the calculus comes to vibrant life in celestial mechanics, as it surely does, then this is evidence that the stars in the sheltering sky have a secret mathematical identity, an aspect of themselves that like some tremulous night flower they reveal only when the mathematician whispers." -- David Berlinski

2005-Oct-06, 01:58 AM
OK, another one. You listed....

We have discovered the secret of life!
-Francis Crick, spoken after excitedly bursting into a Cambridge pub with James Watson to celebrate the fact that they had unraveled the structure of DNA

....to which I add....

"According to Max Delbruck, one of the founders of molecular biology, the greatest surprise for everyone was that 'the whole business [of DNA structure] was like a child's toy that you could buy at the dime store all built in this wonderful way that you could explain in Life Magazine, so that really a five-year-old can understand what's going on... there was so simple a trick behind it." -- Howard Kaye

2005-Oct-06, 05:23 AM
"Why are elves chaotic?
Brownian motion..." ---Chuck (attributed)

"I like angles, but only to a degree." ---Chuck (attributed)

2005-Oct-06, 10:15 AM
"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another which states that this has already happened."

-- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

And, of course, anything Feynman ever penned is pure gold. I don't even know where to start with those ones. Maybe "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."

Sock puppet
2005-Oct-06, 01:50 PM
I always liked:
A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a joke or worried to death by a frown on the right person's brow.
--Charles Brower

Big Brother Dunk
2005-Oct-07, 04:51 AM
Good list. Here's one I came across a while back:

There is no gravity. The earth sucks. ~Graffito

2005-Oct-07, 01:58 PM
"I seem to hear repeatedly today that science is somehow disreputable because it is the province of European white bourgeois males (or something such). Mendel was such, he was even an Augustinian monk, but he got it right about the wrinkled peas; and it would not have mattered if he had been a black handicapped Spanish-speaking lesbian atheist." - Robin Fox, Rutgers

Halcyon Dayz
2005-Oct-07, 02:34 PM
Every science has been an outcast.
- Robert G. Ingersoll

If it can't be expressed in numbers,
it is not science; it is opinion.
- Robert A. Heinlein

Science is a wonderful thing if one does
not have to earn one's living at it.
- Albert Einstein

Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak,
men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is
strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.
- Thomas Szasz

Eta C
2005-Oct-07, 04:41 PM
Along those lines:

"I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind. "
William Thompson, 1st Baron Lord Kelvin

Then there's...
"All science is either physics or stamp collecting."
Ernest Rutherford winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

"Physics is not a religion. If it were, we'd have an easier time raising money"
Leon Lederman, Former director of the Fermi National Accelerator Lab. 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics

"I cannot think of a single one, not even intelligence"
Enrico Fermi when asked what characteristics winners of the Nobel Prize in physics had in common.

And on a closing note....
"It was absolutely marvelous working for Pauli. You could ask him anything. There was no worry that he would think a particular question was stupid, since he thought all questions were stupid."
Victor Frederick Weisskopf (1908- ) Austrian physicist.

Which of course leads to...

Dr Nigel
2005-Oct-07, 11:00 PM
"Anyone who fails to be shocked by [quantum mechanics] has clearly not understood it" - Niels Bohr

grant hutchison
2005-Oct-08, 01:31 AM
... the man who has the ability to invent the objects of science and the man who can judge the extent of damage or good that those objects will bring about in those who will use them are not one and the same.
Plato (428-348 BCE)

For as knowledges are now delivered, there is a kind of contract of error between the deliverer and receiver. For he that delivereth knowledge desireth to deliver it in such a form as may be best believed, and not as may be best examined; and he that receiveth knowledge desireth rather present satisfaction than expectant enquiry, and so rather not to doubt than not to err: glory making the author not to lay open his weakness, and sloth making the disciple not to know his strength.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Philosophy is written in this immense book that stands ever open before our eyes (I speak of the Universe), but it cannot be read if one does not first learn the language and recognize the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without the means of which it is humanly impossible to understand a word; without these, philosophy is confused wandering in a dark labyrinth.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) Which should be posted at the head of the ATM section, IMO.

Only small minds want always to be right.
Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) Ditto.

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Grant Hutchison

With apologies to the uncredited translators.

Robert Andersson
2005-Oct-08, 06:39 AM
And, of course, anything Feynman ever penned is pure gold. I don't even know where to start with those ones. Maybe "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."
IMO, perhaps the most scientific quote of all:

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything [...]"

"But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose—which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn't frighten me."

-- Richard P. Feynman