Thinking Scientifically

Sunday, March 15, 2009 – Thinking Scientifically


I think science has enjoyed an extraordinary success because it has such a limited and narrow realm in which to focus its efforts. Namely, the physical universe. ~ Ken Jenkins


No one should approach the temple of science with the soul of a money changer. ~ Thomas Browne


Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men. ~ Jean Rostand


There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. ~ Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883


Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. ~ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776


Science is a cemetery of dead ideas. ~ Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life, 1913


The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny…” ~ Isaac Asimov


The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment. ~ Celia Green, The Decline and Fall of Science, 1972


A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective. ~ Edward Teller


Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing. ~ Wernher Von Braun


Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind. ~ Marston Bates


Science does not know its debt to imagination. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them. ~ William Lawrence Bragg


That theory is worthless. It isn’t even wrong! ~ Wolfgang Pauli


Great scientific discoveries have been made by men seeking to verify quite erroneous theories about the nature of things. ~ Aldous Huxley, “Wordsworth in the Tropics”


Observations always involve theory. ~ Edwin Hubble


In physics, you don’t have to go around making trouble for yourself – nature does it for you. ~ Frank Wilczek


Physics is imagination in a straight jacket. ~ John Moffat


There are no physicists in the hottest parts of hell, because the existence of a ‘hottest part’ implies a temperature difference, and any marginally competent physicist would immediately use this to run a heat engine and make some other part of hell comfortably cool. This is obviously impossible. ~ Richard Davisson


It would be a poor thing to be an atom in a universe without physicists, and physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is an atom’s way of knowing about atoms. ~ George Wald


The microwave oven is the consolation prize in our struggle to understand physics. ~ Jason Love


I have had my results for a long time: but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them. ~ Karl Friedrich Gauss


Science is the topography of ignorance. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Medical Essays, 1883


Men are probably nearer the central truth in their superstitions than in their science. ~ Henry David Thoreau


Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact. ~ H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebook, 1956


Theory helps us bear our ignorance of facts. ~ George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty, 1896


In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they 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


The improver of natural science absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties: blind faith the one unpardonable sin. ~ Thomas Henry Huxley, Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews, 1871


It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast. It keeps him young. ~ Konrad Lorenz


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


The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination – but the combination is locked up in the safe. ~ Peter DeVries


Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions. ~ Oscar Wilde


Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition. ~ Alan Turing


It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. ~ Albert Einstein


In this house, we OBEY the laws of thermodynamics! ~ Homer Simpson


If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate. ~ Henry J. Tillman