Quotations about   research

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The flip side … the flip side is that scientific research is a bottomless money pit. You can approximate Doing Science to standing on the Crack of Doom throwing banknotes down it by the double-handful, in the hope that if you choke the volcano with enough paper it will cough up the One Ring. Unless you’re doing pure mathematics or philosophy, of course, in which case it’s HB pencils and ruled A4 notepads all the way down.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Annihilation Score (2015)
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Added on 20-Jun-17 | Last updated 20-Jun-17
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Plagiarize,
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize —
Only be sure always to call it, please, “research.”

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“Lobachevsky”
Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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Don’t say that he’s hypocritical,
Say rather that he’s apolitical.
“Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“Wernher Von Braun,” That Was the Year That Was (1965)
Added on 31-Mar-16 | Last updated 31-Mar-16
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Do you remember the ’60s and ’70s? You didn’t have to go more than a week before there was an article in Life magazine — “The Home of Tomorrow,” “The City of Tomorrow,” “Transportation of Tomorrow.” All that ended. In the 1970s, after we stopped going to the Moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming. And so I worry that decisions that Congress makes doesn’t factor in the consequences of those decisions on tomorrow. Tomorrow’s gone. They’re playing for the quarterly report, they’re playing for the next election cycle, and that is mortgaging the actual future of this nation, and the rest of the world is going to pass us by.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958) American astrophysicist, author, orator
Real Time with Bill Maher, Ep. 223 (5 Aug 2011)
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Added on 19-Feb-16 | Last updated 19-Feb-16
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Plagiarize,
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize —
Only be sure always to call it, please, “research”.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“Lobachevsky,” Songs by Tom Lehrer (1953)
Added on 11-Feb-16 | Last updated 11-Feb-16
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The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
Hadith
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In Syed Ameer Ali, A Critical Examination of the Life and Teachings of Mohammed (1873), cited to The Kitâb-ul-Mustarif, ch. 2, and The Mishkât, Bk 22, ch. 18, pt. 3 (from Abu Hurairah)
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 7-Jan-16
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PASTORE: Is there anything connected in the hopes of this accelerator that in any way involves the security of this country?

WILSON: No sir; I do not believe so.

PASTORE: Nothing at all?

WILSON: Nothing at all.

PASTORE: It has no value in that respect?

WILSON: It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things. It has nothing to do with the military, I am sorry.

PASTORE: Don’t be sorry for it.

WILSON: I am not, but I cannot in honesty say it has any such application.

PASTORE: Is there anything here that projects us in a position of being competitive with the Russians, with regard to this race?

WILSON: Only from a long-range point of view, of a developing technology. Otherwise, it has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. In that sense, this new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country, except to make it worth defending.

Robert R. Wilson (1914-2000) American physicist
Testimony, Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (17 Apr 1969)

Dialog between Senator John Pastore (D-RI) and Wilson regarding the funding for FY 1970 of Fermilab's first particle accelerator. Pastore was actually a proponent of Fermilab, but was seeking arguments to use with some of his colleagues.

The exchange is frequently portrayed as more hostile, and Wilson's answer is often paraphrased / elided as: "It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending."

See here for more background.

Added on 15-Dec-15 | Last updated 15-Dec-15
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If I want to stop a research program I can always do it by getting a few experts to sit in on the subject, because they know right away that it was a fool thing to try in the first place.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
(Attributed)
Added on 25-Sep-15 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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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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I often say that research is a way of finding out what you are going to do when you can’t keep on doing what you are doing now.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958) American inventor, engineer, researcher, businessman
“Industrial Prospecting,” Speech, Founder Societies of Engineers (20 May 1935)
Added on 19-Jun-15 | Last updated 19-Jun-15
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If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnson, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)
Added on 7-Apr-15 | Last updated 7-Apr-15
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Every great study is not only an end in itself, but also a means of creating and sustaining a lofty habit of the mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Study of Mathematics,” Mysticism and Logic (1918)
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Added on 22-Jan-15 | Last updated 22-Jan-15
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Ardent desire for knowledge, in fact, is the one motive attracting and supporting investigators in their efforts; and just this knowledge, really grasped and yet always flying before them, becomes at once their sole torment and their sole happiness …. A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science.

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) French physiologist, scientist
An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine [Introduction à l’Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale] (1865)
Added on 19-Dec-14 | Last updated 19-Dec-14
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Crafty men condemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Studies,” Essays, No. 50 (1625)
Added on 4-Dec-14 | Last updated 16-May-16
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Be sure of the fact before you lose time in searching for a cause.

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 11-Sep-14 | Last updated 11-Sep-14
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You can “just listen” to the Brahms violin concerto and enjoy it keenly. But if you read about Brahms’ life, you appreciate it more. And, if you’ve listened to recordings of it, you will appreciate it ten times as much.

Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987) Lithuanian-American violinist
(Unsourced)

Quoted on his official web page.
Added on 30-Dec-13 | Last updated 30-Dec-13
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To avoid the various foolish opinions to which mankind are prone, no superhuman genius is required. A few simple rules will keep you, not from all error, but from silly error. If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself. Aristotle could have avoided the mistake of thinking that women have fewer teeth than men, by the simple device of asking Mrs. Aristotle to keep her mouth open while he counted. He did not do so because he thought he knew. Thinking that you know when in fact you don’t is a fatal mistake, to which we are all prone. I believe myself that hedgehogs eat black beetles, because I have been told that they do; but if I were writing a book on the habits of hedgehogs, I should not commit myself until I had seen one enjoying this unappetizing diet.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” Unpopular Essays (1950)
Added on 15-Mar-12 | Last updated 2-Jul-15
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For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 49 (1620)

Alt. trans.: "Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." [Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.] See Demosthenes.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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