Pithy Sayings


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The physical universe has this really annoying way of being what it is, and not what you want it to be.
[Original author unknown]

Ye cannae change the laws of physics.
[Engineer Scott]

The animal is always right. When in doubt, ask the animal.
[The essence of animal physiology, original author unknown]

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
[Albert Einstein, 1879 to 1955]

Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world.
[Albert Einstein, 1879 to 1955]

Which avenues of thinking are apt to be useful and to help yield the truth depends not on how we might prefer to think about a subject, but rather on the inherent nature of the subject itself.
[From The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, 1961]

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
[From What do you care what people think? by Richard P Feynman, 1988]

To see what none have seen before, you must look where none have looked before.
[Original author unknown]

The Three Laws of Arthur C Clarke, 1917 to 2008
Law 1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist says something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he says it is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Law 2. But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
Law 3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right; for it is not his possession of knowledge, of irrefutable truth, that makes the man of science, but his persistent and reckless critical quest for truth.
[From The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Sir Karl Popper, 1959]

To name a thing can only ever be to point vaguely in its direction.
[Copyright © Kitty Lloyd-Lawrence]

You do not win battles by debating exactly what is meant by the word battle. You need to have good troops, good weapons, a good strategy, and then hit the enemy hard. The same applies to solving a difficult scientific problem.
[From The Astonishing Hypothesis by Francis Crick, 1994]

The difference between science and the "fuzzy subjects" is that science requires reasoning, while those others merely require scholarship.
[Robert Heinlein, 1907 to 1988]

It's not right. It's not even wrong.
[Wolfgang Pauli, 1900 to 1958, describing an article by one of his scientific colleagues]

There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about.
[John von Neumann, 1903 to 1957]

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.
[Original author unknown]

It is my supposition that the Universe is not only queerer than we imagine, is queerer than we can imagine.
[John Burton Sanderson Haldane, 1892 to 1964]

A difference is only a difference if it makes a difference.
[Original author unknown]

The essence of science is skepticism. The essence of religion is faith.
[Original author unknown]

Science is not a set of beliefs, it is a method.
[Original author unknown]

The essence of the scientific method lies in the repeatable result: if you perform an experiment in the same way, nature will do the same thing again. This is the heart of science and is the sign that an observable phenomenon in nature has been found.
[From The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston, 2002]

Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty – some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.
[From The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard P Feynman, 1999]

Establishing the truth requires 'epistemic virtues' like modesty, scepticism, openness to other perspectives, a sprit of collective enquiry, a readiness to confront power, a desire to create better truths, a willingness to let our morals be guided by the facts.
[From A Short History of Truth by Julian Baggini, 2017]

Science does not rest on solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or "given" base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.
[From The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Sir Karl Popper, 1959]

[T]heories must always be challenged.
[From The Janus Point by Julian Barbour, 2020]

If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it.
[Attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus, 535 BC to 475 BC (uncertain), quoted in Extraterrestrial by Avi Loeb, 2021]

[M]ass grips space by telling it how to curve, space grips mass by telling it how to move.
[John Wheeler, 1998, quoted in The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, 2003]

Science is what scientists do.
[Original author unknown]

Anyway, science should have both a conservative bias – which prevents rapid and bewildering shifts of views – and ultimate openness, such that persistent innovators can ultimately triumph if their claims are indeed meritorious.
[From Statistics as Principled Argument by R P Abelson, 1995]

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
[Original author unknown]

Occam's razor: Nunquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necesitate.
Causes shall not be multiplied beyond necessity.
[William of Occam, 1285 to 1349]

Hitchens's razor: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
[Christopher Hitchens, 1949 to 2011, quoted in by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, 2022]

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