Quotations about   discovery

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The things which we understand least are the quasars, but I don’t want to get into a technical discussion. But these are the most violent and most energetic objects in the universe, and they’re totally, still totally, mysterious, really. I mean, we know that they’re there, that’s all, and they’re not only there, they’re rather frequent; and nobody ever dreamed that they existed, until they were found. And even after they were found it took a long time before people took them seriously. Nature’s imagination is always richer than ours.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Freeman Dyson: In Praise of Diversity,” Interview on A Glorious Accident, VPRO (Netherlands) (30 Aug 2016)
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Added on 22-Aug-22 | Last updated 22-Aug-22
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There is an enormous variety of things we’ve discovered that we never dreamed of, like, for example, black holes, pulsars, quasars, all these unbelievably active goings-on in the universe. Which in Aristotle’s time the universe, the sky, was supposed to be quiescent, it was supposed to be perfect and peaceful, and nothing ever happened in the celestial sphere; and that remained true, actually, throughout all of the revolutions. It remained the general view of astronomers right through Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and everybody else, still, the universe looked very quiescent — until just the last thirty years, and now we know it’s not like that at all. In fact the universe is full of violent events, and fantastic, strong gravitational fields, and collapsed objects, and huge outpourings of energy. All these things were discovered in the last thirty years.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Freeman Dyson: In Praise of Diversity,” Interview on A Glorious Accident, VPRO (Netherlands) (30 Aug 2016)
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Added on 15-Aug-22 | Last updated 15-Aug-22
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The biggest breakthrough in the next 50 years will be the discovery of extraterrestrial life. We have been searching for it for 50 years and found nothing. That proves life is rarer than we hoped, but does not prove that the universe is lifeless.

Freeman Dyson
Freeman Dyson (1923-2020) English-American theoretical physicist, mathematician, futurist
“Freeman Dyson forecasts the future,” New Scientist (15 Nov 2006)
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Added on 11-Jul-22 | Last updated 11-Jul-22
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If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) American stage magician, actor, musician, author
“Passing Down the Joy of Not Collecting Stamps,” God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (2011)
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Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) Canadian philosopher, communication theorist, educator
Take Today: The Executive as Dropout, ch. 2 (1972)
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Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 2-Apr-21
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People think that you have these things called ideas and that writing is a matter of imposing them on the subject material, whereas it’s only in the writing that I discover what it is that I think.

Anthony Lane (b. 1962) British journalist, film critic
“A Writer’s Life,” interview by Will Cohu, The Telegraph (14 Dec 2003)
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Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 2-Apr-21
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I want to tell people approaching and perhaps fearing old age that it is a time of discovery. If they say, “Of what?” I can only answer, “We must find out for ourselves, otherwise it wouldn’t be discovery.”

Florida Scott-Maxwell (1883-1979) American-British playwright, author, psychologist
(Attributed)
 
Added on 30-Nov-20 | Last updated 30-Nov-20
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It is a mark of genius not to astonish but to be astonished.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
The Prevalence of Witches, ch. 4 (1947)
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Added on 26-Aug-20 | Last updated 26-Aug-20
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I like handling newborn animals. Fallen into life from an unmappable world, they are the ultimate immigrants, full of wonder and confusion.

Diane Ackerman (b. 1948) American poet, author, naturalist
The Moon by Whale Light, ch. 4 “White Lanterns” (1991)
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Added on 14-Apr-20 | Last updated 14-Apr-20
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Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Scott Adams (b. 1957) American cartoonist
Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain, Appendix B (2007)
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Added on 10-Oct-19 | Last updated 10-Oct-19
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Youth finds no value in the views it disagrees with, but maturity includes discovering that even an opinion contrary to ours may contain a vein of truth we could profitably assimilate to our own views.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Pieces of Eight (1982)
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Added on 27-May-19 | Last updated 27-May-19
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The only real argument for marriage is that it remains the best method for getting acquainted.

Heywood Broun (1888-1939) American journalist, author
It Seems To Me, 1925–35 (1935)
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Added on 13-Dec-17 | Last updated 13-Dec-17
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There is no harm in being sometimes wrong — especially if one is promptly found out.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Alfred Marshall,” The Economic Journal (Sep 1924)
 
Added on 1-Mar-17 | Last updated 1-Mar-17
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Again, we should notice the force, effect, and consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world; first in literature, then in warfare, and lastly in navigation: and innumerable changes have been thence derived, so that no empire, sect, or star, appears to have exercised a greater power and influence on human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 2, Aphorism 129 (1620)
 
Added on 18-Aug-16 | Last updated 18-Aug-16
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The Earth does not want new continents, but new men.

[Ce ne sont pas de nouveaux continents qu’il faut à la terre, mais de nouveaux hommes!]

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Part 1, ch. 18 “Vanikoro” (1870) [tr. Smith & Co. (1873)]
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Ch. 19 in the French text.

Alt. trans.: "The planet doesn't need new continents, it needs new men." [Miller (1966)]
 
Added on 8-Apr-16 | Last updated 8-Apr-16
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Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
 
Added on 4-Sep-15 | Last updated 4-Sep-15
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No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
In “Looking ahead with Boss Ket,” Popular Mechanics (Feb 1935)
 
Added on 26-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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All of life is a foreign country.

Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) Canadian-American novelist and poet
Letter to John Clellon Holmes (24 Jun 1949)
 
Added on 3-Jun-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-15
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To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (1934) [tr. Hull (1959)]
 
Added on 23-Mar-15 | Last updated 23-Mar-15
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Now because 18 months ago the first dawn, three months ago broad daylight, but a very few days ago the full sun of the most highly remarkable spectacle has risen — nothing holds me back. I can give myself up to the sacred frenzy, I can have the insolence to make a full confession to mortal men that I have stolen the golden vessel of the Egyptians to make from them a tabernacle for my God far from the confines of the land of Egypt. If you forgive me I shall rejoice; if you are angry, I shall bear it; I am indeed casting the die and writing the book, either for my contemporaries or for posterity to read, it matters not which: let the book await its reader for a hundred years; God himself has waited six thousand years for his work to be seen.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German astronomer
The Harmonies of the World [Harmonices Mundi], Book 5, Introduction (1618)


Alt. trans.:
  • "It may well wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer." [in David Brewster, The Martyrs of Science; or, the Lives of Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler (1841)]
  • "It may be well to wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer."
  • "I feel carried away and possessed by an unutterable rapture over the divine spectacle of heavenly harmony ... I write a book for the present time, or for posterity. It is all the same to me. It may wait a hundred years for its readers, as God has also waited six thousand years for an onlooker." [in S Krantz and B Blank, Calculus: Multivariable (2006)]
  • "I am stealing the golden vessels of the Egyptians to build a tabernacle to my God from them, far far away from the boundaries of Egypt. If you forgive me, I shall rejoice.; if you are enraged with me, I shall bear it. See, I cast the die, and I write the book. Whether it is to be read by the people of the present or of the future makes no difference: let it await its reader for a hundred years, if God himself has stood ready for six thousand years for one to study him."
 
Added on 18-Feb-15 | Last updated 18-Feb-15
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In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent: so you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.

James Burgh (1714-1775) British politician and writer
The Dignity of Human Nature, Sec. 5 “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Prudence in Conversation” (1754)
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Added on 2-Oct-14 | Last updated 2-Oct-14
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Life would be unbearably dull if we had answers to all our questions.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Death Masks (2003)
 
Added on 18-Feb-14 | Last updated 18-Feb-14
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Reforms and discoveries are like offenses; they must needs come, but woe unto that man through whom they come.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Further Extracts from the Note-Books of Samuel Butler, ch. 1 (1934)
 
Added on 15-Aug-13 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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History, like beauty, depends largely on the beholder, so when you read that, for example, David Livingstone discovered the Victoria Falls, you might be forgiven for thinking that there was nobody around the Falls until Livingstone arrived on the scene.

Desmond Tutu (1931-2021) South African cleric, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Nobel Laureate
“Fortieth Anniversary of the Republic,” speech (1981)
 
Added on 28-Nov-11 | Last updated 14-Jan-15
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No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new Heaven to the human spirit.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism” (1903)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Feb-15
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The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny…”

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)


Unsourced. More information here.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-Mar-15
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