Quotable Quotes

Chance favours the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur (pasteurization)

Never fear failure nor crave success for the reward is in the doing.
Wilson Greatbatch (pacemaker)

Obey the biblical injunction: seek and ye shall find.
But seek not to find that for which ye seek.
Michael E. Lipschutz (cosmochemist)

We do not know in advance
what are the right questions to ask,
and we often do not find out
until we are close to an answer.
Steven Weinberg, 2018, Third Thoughts. p. 82.

A basic element of human nature
is that people feel compelled
to belong to groups and,
having joined,
consider them superior
to competing groups.
Edward O. Wilson (sociobiologist)

Technological creativity, like all creativity, is an act of rebellion.
Without it, we would all still live nasty and short lives of toil,
drudgery, and discomfort.
Joel Mokyr, The Lever Of Riches: Technological Creativity
and Economic Progress, 1990
, page viii.

Technology’s greatest contribution
is to permit people to be incompetent
at a larger and larger range of things.
Only by embracing such incompetence
is the human race able to progress.
Theodore Gray, Beginner’s Guide to
Mathematica Version 3
, 1997, p. 308.

Learning is hard work.
If you are not working hard,
you are not learning.
Theodore Gray, ibid. p. 310.

Thinking well
is much harder
than anything we do,
which is why
many of us
will do almost anything
to avoid having actually to think
about what we are doing
and why.
Lee Smolin, In Search of Einstein. My Einstein: Essays by Twenty-four
of the World’s Leading Thinkers on the Man, His Work, and His Legacy
2006, page 119.

Ideas have long-lasting effects on us,
as surely as, if not more than earthquakes,
droughts, rain, sunshine, and other quirks of nature.
Bernd Heinrich, Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death,
2012, page 194

The human brain is an incredible organism. How could a few
pounds of squishy goo be capable of solving puzzles, forming
friendships, writing novels, making decisions, falling in love
and so many other incredible cognitive functions?
It truly boggles the mind.

Brains have other surprising features. They can get fooled by
visual tricks. They can forget things. They can be sure something
happened when it never did. And they can compose intricate
dreams that feel completely real.
Jeffrey S. Rosenthal. Knock On Wood: Luck, chance,
and the Meaning of Everything.
2018, page 235

People who are really serious about software
should make their own hardware.
Alan Kay (computer scientist)

Education is a form of time travel.
Mike Lazaridis (RIM founder)

Science is a way to teach
how something gets to be known,
what is not known,
to what extent things are known
(for nothing is known absolutely),
how to handle doubt and uncertainty,
what the rules of evidence are,
how to think about things
so that judgments can be made,
how to distinguish truth from fraud,
and from show.
Richard Feynman (theoretical physicist)

The world acts on us like a teaching machine,
reinforcing our good ideas with moments of satisfaction.
After centuries we learn about what kinds of understanding
are possible, and how to find them.
We learn not to worry about purpose,
because such worries never lead
to the sort of delight we seek.
We learn to abandon the search for certainty,
because explanations that make us happy
never are certain.
Steven Weinberg, To Explain The World:
The Discovery of Modern Science.
2015. p. 255.

Art is the lie that helps us see the truth.
Pablo Picasso (artist)

We are never alone.
For the first nine months of our lives,
we live inside our mother.
After birth, we share our bodies
with about a hundred trillion microorganisms,
even when we consider ourselves to be clean.
This number is so large that microorganisms outnumber
the human cells of our bodies by about ten to one.
When we die these organisms live on to feed on our remains
and on each other until there is nothing left.
Some of these microbes are mere fellow-travellers,
doing us neither good nor harm,
but many are important to the way that our bodies work,
and we need them because they can perform biochemical tricks
that human cells have never evolved.
Jamie A. Davies (embryologist) Life Unfolding, 2014, page 208.

Our planet,
our solar system,
our galaxy,
our universe:
all of it,
all of us,
are pushed,
set in motion,
and held together
by what we cannot see.
Kathryn Schulz, The Lure of Invisibility
New Yorker, April 13, 2015, 78.

The most complex [system known to us in the universe]
is the individual natural ecosystem, and the collectivity
of ecosystems comprising Earth’s species-level biodiversity.
Each species of plant, animal, fungus, and microorganism
is guided by sophisticated decision devices.
Edward O. Wilson, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life, 2016, page 206

It's hard to know which is more astonishing:
that the visible sliver of the universe
should betray
the unseen structure of the entirety,
or that the human mind,
by studying that sliver,
could begin to reconstruct the rest.
Kathryn Schulz, The Lure of Invisibility
New Yorker, April 13, 2015, 78.

[A] combination of rather unlikely circumstances is required
in order for a planet to become habitable for animal life,
chief of which is the operation of plate tectonics.
And even in the very rare instances in which such conditions
conspire to produce a world
just right for multicellular life to flourish,
biological evolution may be interrupted or terminated
due to unfortunate events such as giant volcanic eruptions,
unwonted arrivals from space,
or the appearance of 'technological species'.
Roy Livermore, 2018, The Tectonic Plates Are Moving! p. 445.

I have no doubt that in reality the future
will be vastly more surprising
than anything anyone can imagine.
Now my own suspicion is that the universe
is not only queerer than we suppose
but queerer than we can suppose.
J.B.S. Haldane, Possible Worlds, 1927

For the last couple of centuries,
people who live more than thirty years or so
have been likely to realize,
suddenly or gradually,
that they are strangers in a changed,
incomprehensible world:
lands of exile for refugees,
cities of ruin for those whose nation suffers war,
a labyrinth of high technology
in which the untrained mind strays bewildered,
a world of wealth
which the poor stare at
through the impenetrable glass of a shopwindow or a TV set.
From the early nineteenth century on,
the whole and single universes of preindustrial societies
changed to a multiverse,
and the pace of change increased continually.
Ursula Le Guin. Wells Worlds. Words Are My Matter:
Writing About Life and Books
2000-2016. p. 184.

We are the mind of the biosphere,
the solar system and –
who can say? –
perhaps the galaxy.
Edward O. Wilson (myrmecologist)