From The Artful Universe by John D. Barrow (Oxford University Press, 1995):
The planner is my shepherd[Chapter 3, p. 95]
He maketh me to walk; through dark tunnels and underpasses he forces me to go.
He maketh concrete canyons tower above me.
By the rivers of traffic he maketh me walk.
He knocketh down all that is good, he maketh straight the curves.
He maketh of the city a wasteland and car park.
As I look around the room I'm working in, man-made colour shouts back at me from every surface: books, cushions, a rug on the floor, a coffee-cup, a box of staples -- bright blues, reds, yellows greens. There is as much colour here as in any tropical forest. Yet while almost every colour in the forest would be meaningful, here in my study almost nothing is. Colour anarchy has taken over. This has dulled our response to colour. From the first moment a baby is given a string of multi-coloured -- but otherwise identical -- beads to play with he is unwittingly being taught to ignore colour as a signal. [source of quote unknown, possibly N. Humphrey, A History of the Mind (Vintage, 1993) or N. Humphrey, Consciousness Regained (Oxford University Press, 1979)][Chapter 4, p. 184]
Art does not aim at beauty; it uses beauty -- occasionally; on other occasions it uses ugliness. Art -- no less than philosophy or science or religion, or any other of the higher endeavours of the human mind -- aims ultimately at knowledge; at truth. [source of quote unknown, possibly V. Zuckerkandl, Sound and Symbol Vol. 2 (Pantheon, 1956)][Chapter 5, p. 192]
not only do I not see how the feelings transmitted by the work could unite people not specially trained to submit themselves to its complex hypnotism, but I am unable to imagine to myself a crowd of normal people who could understand anything of this long, confused, and artificial production, except short snatches which are lost in a sea of what is comprehensible. And therefore, whether I like it or not, I am compelled to conclude that this work belongs to the ranks of bad art ... [as does] ... almost all [Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner], by its subject matter devoted to the expression of feelings accessible to people who have developed in themselves an unhealthy, nervous irritation evoked by this exclusive, artificial and complex music. [Tolstoy, What is Art? (translated by A. Mande), Liberal Arts Press, 1960]
[Chapter 5, p. 196-197]
The perception of musical sound is also influenced by the arena in which it is heard. This environmental effect is familiar to us: we all think we sing rather well in the bath, but not so well in the open air. Sound reflects well from the hard, smooth walls of the shower room, and there is considerable reverberation, which makes your sound-level rival Pavarotti's. Moreover, many natural frequencies of vibration are available within the air along all three perpendicular directions between the two pairs of facing walls, and between the floor and ceiling (whereas a stringed instrument can take advantage only of waves along the direction of the string). These can be excited by a singer. Many of these frequencies lie close together, within the frequency range of the human voice; the bathroom singer thus receives impressive background support from many naturally occurring resonances.
[Chapter 5, p. 226-227]
From At Home In The Universe - The Search for Laws of Complexity by Stuart Kauffman (Penguin Books, 1995):
From Michael White, Leonardo, The First Scientist:
--[White, p. 16]
--[White, p. 47]
Angered, Ludovico summoned Leonardo to account for the delay. According to a contemporary account, Leonardo replied:
Your Excellency is aware that only the head of Judas remains to be done, and he was, as everyone knows, an egregious villain. Therefore he should be given a physiognomy fitting his wickedness. To this end, for about a year if not more, night and morning I have been going every day to the Borghetto where Your Excellency knows that all the ruffians of the city live. But I have not yet been able to discover a villain's face corresponding to what I have in mind. Once I have found that face, I will finish the painting in a day. But, if my research remains fruitless, I shall take the features of the prior who came to complain about me to You Excellency and who would fit the requirements perfectly. [R. Marcolonga, Studi Vinciani. Memorie sulla geometrica e sulla meccanica di Leonardo da Vinci, Naples, 1937]This quip amused Ludovico that in spite of the obvious weakness of Leonardo's claims he sided with the artist against the prior's arguments. As Vasari tells it: 'This thing moved the Duke wondrously to laughter, and said that Leonardo had a thousand reasons on his side. And the poor prior, in confusion, left Leonardo in peace'. [Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Random House, London, 1996, pp 632]
--[White, p. 151-152]
The painter may have been merely the slave of an archaic smile, as some have fancied, but whenever I pass into the cool galleries of the Palace of the Louvre, and stand before that strange figure 'set in its marble chair in the cirque of fantastic rocks, as in some faint light under the sea', I murmur to myself, 'She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as St Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.' And I say to my friend, 'The presence that thus so strangely rose beside the water is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years man had come to desire'; and he answers me, 'Hers is the head upon which all "the ends of the world will come", and the eyelids are a little weary.' And so the picture becomes more wonderful to us than it really is, and reveals to us a secret of which, in truth, it knows nothing, and the music of the mystical prose is as sweet in our ears as was that flute-player's music that lent to the lips of La Gioconda those subtle and poisonous curves. [Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist, 1890]
--[White, p. 245-246]
From Genius : The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
Quotes from "Strange Brains and Genius - The Secret Life of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen" by Clifford A. Pickover, 1998, Plenum Press, NY:
Quotes from Faster by James Gleick:
[* Arthur T. Winfree, The Timing of Biological Clocks, New York: Scientific American, 1986 p.5]
From Stephen Jay Gould, The Lying Stones of Marakech:
From Dawkins vs. Gould by Kim Sterelny:
From Hal Hellman, Great Feuds in Science:
From Edmund Blair Bolles, Galileo's Commandment - 2500 Years of Great Science Writing:
The enthusiasm geologists show for adding new words to their conversation is, if anything, exceeded by their affection for the old. They are not about to drop granite. They say granodiorite when they are in church and granite the rest of the week.
-- From John McPhee, 'Naming the Rocks' in Basin and Range
-- Francis Bacon, Idols of the Tribe, from Novum Organum (1620)
-- From James Clerk Maxwell, Molecules (1873)
-- From Bertrand Russell, 'What Einstein Did', in The ABC of Relativity (1925)
-- From Fred Hoyle, 'The Expanding Universe' in The Nature of the Universe (1950)
But there was the pattern: the ape and the man with their bone-by-bone correspondence. The very fact that one can add a plural to the word reptile and so suggest anything from a Brontosaurus to a garter snake shows that a pattern exists. Birds all have feathers, wings and claws; they are a common class despite their diversities. They have been pulled into many shapes, but there is still an eternal "birdliness" about them. They are built on a common plan just as I share mammalian characters with a small mouse who inhabits my desk drawer. This is hard to account for in a disordered world, so that recently, when I came upon this mouse, trapped and terrified in the wastebasket, his similarity to myself rendered me helpless, and out of sheer embarrassment I connived in his escape.
In the modern literature on space travel I have read about cabbage men and bird men; I have investigated the loves of the lizard men and tree men, but in each case I have laboured under no illusion. I have been reading about a man, Homo sapiens, that common earthling, clapped into an ill-fitting coat of feathers and retaining all his basic human attributes including an eye for the pretty girl who has just emerged from the space ship. His lechery and miscegenating proclivities have an oddly human ring, and if this is all we are going to find on other planets, I, for one, am going to be content to stay at home. There is quite enough of that sort of thing down here, without encouraging it throughout the starry systems.
-- From Loren C. Eiseley, 'Little Men and Flying Saucers' in Harper's (1953)
When we begin the study of any science, we are in a situation, respecting that science, similar to that of children; and the course by which we have to advance is precisely the same which Nature follows in the formation of their ideas. In a child, the idea is merely an effect produced by a sensation; and, in the same manner, in commencing the study of a physical science, we ought to form no idea but what is a necessary consequence, and immediate effect, of an experiment or observation. Besides, he that enters upon the career of science, is in a less advantageous situation than a child who is acquiring his first ideas. To the child, Nature gives various means of rectifying any mistakes he may commit respecting the salutary or hurtful qualities of the objects which surround him. On every occasion his judgments are corrected by experience; want and pain are the necessary consequences arising from false judgment; gratification and pleasure are produced by judging aright. Under such masters, we cannot fail to become well informed; and we soon learn to reason justly, when want and pain are the necessary consequences of a contrary conduct.
In the study and practice of the sciences it is quite different; the false judgments we form neither affect our existence not our welfare; and we are not forced by any physical necessity to correct them. Imagination, on the contrary, which is ever wandering beyond the bounds of truth, joined to self-love and that self-confidence we are so apt to indulge, prompt us to draw conclusions which are not immediately derived from facts; so that we become in some measure interested in deceiving ourselves. Hence it is by no means to be wondered, that, in the science of physics in general, men have often made suppositions, instead of forming conclusions. These suppositions, handed down from one age to another, acquire additional weight from the authorities by which they are supported, till at last they are received, even by men of genius, as fundamental truths.
-- From Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, Preface in The Elements of Chemistry (1789)
-- From J. B. S. Haldane, 'Food Control in Insect Societies' in Possible Worlds (1928)
-- From Rachel Carson, 'The Long Snowfall' in The Sea Around Us (1951)
-- Opening words to Bolles' introduction to the article by Preston
-- Richard Preston, 'Dark Time' in First Light (1987)
From David Ruelle, Chance and Chaos:
From John Emsley, The Shocking History of Phosphorus:
From John D. Barrow, Impossibility - The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits:
From Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex by Olivia Judson (Chatto & Windus, 2002):
I'm a queen bee, and I'm worried. All my lovers leave their genitals inside me and then drop dead. Is this normal?
-- Perplexed in Cloverhill
For you lovers, this is the way the world ends - with a bang, not a whimper. When a male honeybee reaches his climax, he explodes, his genitals ripped from his body with a loud snap. I can see why you find it unnerving.
[Chapter 1, p. 16-17]
It's a fiasco. I'm a hopeless three-spined stickleback. I was watching my eggs when I heard a sudden noise. I turned to look - just for a second - and when I turned back, all my eggs had been stolen. Who would do such a terrible thing, and how can I prevent its happening again?
-- Want My Eggs Back in Vancouver
Egg Pirates. It's an old problem. All you can do is remain vigilant. The trouble is, in many fish species females prefer to lay eggs in a nest that already contains some. They take the presence of other eggs as proof that the nest is safe, that the male who owns it is particularly manly or that he's a good parent and unlikely to eat his babies. Success spawns success, you might say.
And in sticklebacks, it often spawns a black market in eggs. [...] the thief keeps the eggs for himself, taking them to his own nest so he can pretend he's a breed of superdad. Why are sticklebacks particularly vulnerable to egg theft? We don't know for sure. It may be that the eggs are easy to heist: unlike the eggs of most fish species, stickleback eggs stick to each other in convenient, portable clumps.
Something like this goes on [with bowerbirds] Because they are quite big, bowerbirds are easily able to monopolize fruit trees, scattering smaller birds out of their way. Thus, like aristocrats everywhere, most of these birds have lots of free time. An so, naturally, they have a hobby. It's art.
Male bowerbirds spend weeks building and decorating elaborate "bowers". [...] Artistic styles differ greatly among populations - even populations of the same species - so that whereas flowers might be fashionable in one area, beetle wings will be all the rage in the next. Moreover, this is no random collection of junk: the objects are selected and placed with great care. If you intrude into a bower and move things around, the artist will put them back again after you've gone. If you add objects that weren't there before, he'll take them away. [...]
Why do they do this? To impress girls, of course. Females come to the bowers to mate. And one way to make your bower look even better than a rival's is to resort to theft and vandalism. Yes, I'm afraid bowerbirds are not above foul play to further their own ends. Stealing is rife. Rare or fashionable objects vanish from one bower only to appear in another. And some bowers are regularly vandalised or completely destroyed. Vandals, like the egg pirates or any other common criminal, approach stealthily, tiptoeing through the undergrowth and freezing at the slightest sound.
Worst of all, such behaviour is often rewarded. In species like yours or theirs, females don't seem to care how a male filled his nest with eggs or why he's the only one with a collection of unusual feathers. They just go for the fellow with the most lavish display. In these species, as in so many others, I'm afraid that nice guys finish last.
[Chapter 1, p. 72-74]
[Chapter 1, p. 169]
I'm a slime mold -- Physarum polycephalum -- and I don't see how I'm every going to marry and have children. I can only ooze along, so finding partners is difficult. I haven't met one yet. Worse, whereas every other species I've heard of has two sexes, my species has thirteen, and I gather that before you can make babies you have to convene them all. I don't see how this is possible, and I'm worried I'm going to end up a dreary old mold? Why are slime molds so oversexed?
-- Looking for a Baker's Dozen in the Forests of Romania
Thirteen sexes? My poor dear, you are seriously deluded: your species has more than five hundred! But don't panic - you don't need to convene them all. Frankly, I think you need a quick lesson in the slime mold facts of life. [...]
[Chapter 1, p. 187-188]
[Chapter 1, p. 204]
From Longitude by Dava Sobel:
The daft idea to apply to Digby's powder to the longitude problem follows naturally enough to the prepared mind: Send abroad a wounded dog as a ship sets sail. Leave ashore a trusted individual to dip the dog's bandage into the sympathy solution every day at noon. The dog would perforce yelp in reaction, and thereby provide the captain with a time cue. The dog's cry would mean, "The Sun is upon the Meridian in London." The captain could then compare that hour to the local time on ship and figure the longitude accordingly. One had to hope, of course, that the powder really held the power to be felt many thousand leagues over the sea, and yet -- and this is very important -- fail to heal the telltale wound over the course of several months.
[Another problem is determining just which of the dog's yelps were the time signal -- Fred]
From The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges:
In Alexandria over five hundred years later, Origen, one of the Fathers of the Church, taught that the blessed would come back to life in the form of spheres and would enter rolling into heaven.
From Dreams of a Final Theory by Steven Weinberg (Hutchinson, 1993; page numbers are given for the standard hardcover / large-print editions):
This is a tricky point in part because it is awkward to talk about one fact explaining another without real people actually doing the deductions. But I think that we have to talk this way because this is what our science is about: the discovery of explanations built into the logical structure of nature. Of course we become much more confident that we have the correct explanation when we are able to actually carry out some calculations and compare the results with observation: if not of the chemistry of proteins, then at least of the chemistry of hydrogen.
[Chapter 1, p. 6 / p. 9-10]
Talk of more fundamental truths makes philosophers nervous. We can say that the more fundamental truths are those that are in some sense more comprehensive, but about this, too, it is difficult to be precise. But scientists would be in a bad way if they had to limit themselves to notions that had been satisfactorily formulated by philosophers. No working physicist doubts that Newton's laws are more fundamental than Kepler's or that Einstein's theory of photons is more fundamental than Planck's theory of heat radiation.
A scientific explanation can also be something less than a deduction, for we may say that a fact is explained by some principle even though we cannot deduce it from that principle. [...] no one actually solves the equations of quantum mechanics to deduce the detailed wave function or the precise energy of really complicated molecules, such as proteins. Nevertheless, we have no doubt that the rules of quantum mechanics "explain" the properties of such molecules. This is partly because we can use quantum mechanics to deduce the detailed properties of simpler systems like hydrogen molecules and also because we have mathematical rules to allow us to calculate all the properties of any molecule to any desired precision if we had a large enough computer and enough computer time.
[...] Ludwig Wittgenstein, denying even the possibility of explaining any fact on the basis of any other fact, warned that "at the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena." Such warnings leave me cold. To tell a physicist that the laws of nature are not explanations of natural phenomena is like telling a tiger stalking prey that all flesh is grass. The fact that we scientists do not know how to state in a way that philosophers would approve what it is that we are doing in searching for scientific explanations does not mean that we are not doing something worthwhile. We could use help from professional philosophers in understanding what it is that we are doing, but with or without their help we shall keep at it.
[Chapter 2, p. 20-22 / p. 26-29]
Of course whatever determinism survives in principle does not help us very much when we have to deal with real systems that are not simple, like the stock market or life on earth. The intrusion of historical accidents sets permanent limits on what we can ever hope to explain. Any explanation of the present forms of life on earth must take into account the extinction of the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago, which is currently explained by the impact of a comet, but no one will ever be able to explain why a comet happened to hit the earth at just that time. The most extreme hope for science is that we will be able to trace all the explanations of all natural phenomena to final laws and historical accidents.
The intrusion of historical accidents into science means also that we have to be careful what sort of explanations we demand from our final laws. For instance, when Newton first proposed his laws of motion and gravitation the objection was raised that these laws did not explain one of the outstanding regularities of the solar system, that all the planets are going around the sun in the same direction. Today we understand that this is a matter of history. The way that the planets revolve around the sun is a consequence of the particular way that the solar system condensed out of a rotating disk of gas. We could not expect to be able to deduce it from the laws of motion and gravitation alone. The separation of law and history is a delicate business, one we are continually learning how to do as we go along.
I have so far confessed to two problems in the notion of chains of explanation that lead down to final laws: the intrusion of historical accidents and the complexity that prevents our being actually able to explain everything even when we consider only universals, free of the element of history. There is one other problem that must be confronted, one associated with the buzzword "emergence". As we look at nature at levels of greater and greater complexity, we see phenomena emerging that have no counterpart at the simpler levels, least of all at the level of elementary particles. For instance, there is nothing like intelligence on the level of individual living cells, and nothing like life on the level of atoms and molecules. [...] The emergence of new phenomena at high levels of complexity is most obvious in biology and the behavioral sciences, but it is important to recognize that such emergence does not represent something special about life or human affairs; it also happens in physics itself.
The example of emergence that has been historically most important in physics is thermodynamics, the science of heat. As originally formulated in the nineteenth century by Carnot, Clausius, and others, thermodynamics was an autonomous science, not deduced from the mechanics of particles and forces but built on concepts like entropy and temperature that have no counterpart in mechanics. Only the first law of thermodynamics, the conservation of energy, provided a bridge between mechanics and thermodynamics. The central principle of thermodynamics was the second law, according to which (in one formulation) physical systems possess not only an energy and a temperature but also a certain quantity called entropy, which always increases with time in any closed system and reaches a maximum when the system is in equilibrium. This is the principle that forbids the Pacific Ocean from spontaneously transferring so much energy to the Atlantic that the Pacific freezes and the Atlantic boils; such a cataclysm need not violate the conservation of energy, but it is forbidden because it would decrease the entropy.
Nineteenth-century physicists generally took the second law of thermodynamics as an axiom, derived from experience, as fundamental as any other law of nature. At the time this was not unreasonable. Thermodynamics was seen to work in vastly different contexts, from the behaviour of steam [...] to freezing and boiling and chemical reactions. (Today we would add more exotic examples; [...] the clouds of stars in globular clusters in our own and other galaxies behave like gases with definite temperatures, and [...] a black hole has entropy proportional to its surface area.) If thermodynamics is this universal, how can it be logically related to the physics of specific types of particles and forces?
Then in the second half of the nineteenth century [...] theoretical physicists [...] showed that the principles of thermodynamics could in fact be deduced mathematically [...]. In this statistical mechanics, the heat energy of a gas is just the kinetic energy of its particles; the entropy is a measure of the disorder of the system; and the second law of thermodynamics expresses the tendency of isolated systems to become more disorderly. The flow of all heat of the oceans into the Atlantic would represent an increase in order, which is why it does not happen.
For a while during the 1880s and 1890s a battle was fought between the supporters of the new statistical mechanics and those [...] who continued to maintain the logical independence of thermodynamics. [...] This battle was won by statistical mechanics, after the reality of atoms and molecules became generally accepted early in this century. Nevertheless, even though thermodynamics has been explained in terms of particles and forces, it continues to deal with concepts like temperature and entropy that lose all meaning on the level of individual particles.
Thermodynamics is more like a mode of reasoning than a body of universal physical law; whenever it applies it always allows us to justify the use of the same principles, but the explanation of why thermodynamics does apply to any particular system takes the form of a deduction using the methods of statistical mechanics from the details of what the system contains, and this inevitably leads us down to the level of elementary particles. In terms of the image of arrows of explanation that I invoked earlier, we can think of thermodynamics as a certain pattern of arrows that occurs again and again in very different physical contexts, but, wherever this pattern of explanation occurs, the arrows can be traced back by the methods of statistical mechanics to deeper laws and ultimately the principles of elementary particle physics. As this example shows, the fact that a scientific theory finds applications to a wide variety of different phenomena does not imply anything about the autonomy of this theory from deeper physical laws.
The same maxim applies to other areas of physics, such as the related topics of chaos and turbulence. [...] we still have to explain why [the universal properties of turbulence] apply to any particular turbulent fluid, and this question will inevitably be answered in terms of accidents (the speed of the tidal flow and the shape of the channel) and universals (the laws of fluid motion and the properties of water) that in turn must be explained by deeper laws.
Similar remarks apply to biology. Here most of what we see depends on historical accidents, bit there are some roughly universal patterns, like the rule of population biology that dictates that males and females tend to be born in roughly equal numbers. (In 1930 the geneticist Ronald Fisher explained that once a species develops a tendency to produce, say, more males than females, any gene that gives individuals a tendency to produce more females than males spreads through the population, because the female offspring of individuals carrying this gene encounter less competition in finding a mate.) Rules like this apply to a wide variety of species and might be expected to apply even to life discovered on other planets if it reproduced sexually. The reasoning that leads to these rules is the same whether it is applied to humans or birds or extraterrestrials.
[...] in the actual work of thermodynamics or fluid dynamics or population biology, scientists use languages that are special to their own fields, speaking of entropy or eddies or reproductive strategies and not the language of elementary particles. This is not only because we are unable to use our first principles actually to calculate complicated phenomena; it is also a reflection on the question we want to ask about these phenomena. Even if we had an enormous computer that could follow the history of every elementary particle in a tidal flow or a fruit fly, this mountain of computer printout would not be of much use to someone who wanted to know whether the water was turbulent or the fly was alive.
Of all the areas of experience that we try to link to the principles of physics by arrows of explanation, it is consciousness that presents us with the greatest difficulty. [...] (By "explained" I do not necessarily mean that we will be able to predict everything or even very much, but that we will understand why smiles and brain waves and hormones work the way they do, in the same sense that, although we cannot predict next month's weather, still we understand why the weather works the way it does.)
[...] I am concerned here not so much with what scientists do, because this inevitably reflects both human limitations and human interests, as I am with the logical order built into nature itself. It is in this sense that branches of physics like thermodynamics and other sciences like chemistry and biology may be said to rest on deeper laws, and in particular on the laws of elementary particle physics.
In speaking here of a logical order of nature I have been tacitly taking what a historian of philosophy would call a "realist" position -- realist not in the everyday modern sense of being hardheaded and without illusions, but in a much older sense, of believing in the reality of abstract ideas. A medieval realist believed in the reality of universals like Plato's forms, in opposition to nominalists like William of Ockham, who declared them the be mere names. [...] I certainly do not want to enter this debate on the side of Plato. My argument here is for the reality of the laws of nature, in opposition to the modern positivists who accept the reality only of that which can be directly observed.
When we say a thing is real we are simply expressing a sort of respect. We mean that the thing must be taken seriously because it can affect us in ways that are not entirely in our control and because we cannot learn about it without making an effort that goes beyond our own imagination. This must is true for instance of that chair on which I sit (to take a favourite example of philosophers) and does not so much constitute evidence that the chair is real but is rather just what we mean when we say the chair is real. As a physicist I perceive scientific explanations and laws as things that are what they are and cannot be made up as I go along, so my relation to these laws is no so different from my relation to my chair, and I therefore accord the laws of nature (to which our present laws are an approximation) the honor of being real. This impression is reinforced when it turns out that some law of nature is not what we thought it was, an experience similar to finding that a chair is not in place when one sits down. But I have to admit that my willingness to grant the title "real" is a little like Lloyd George's willingness to grant titles of nobility; it is a measure of how little difference I think the title makes.
[Chapter 2, p. 28-36 / p. 37-45]
So irrelevant is the philosophy of quantum mechanics to its use, that one begins to suspect that all the deep questions about the meaning of measurement are really empty, forced on us by our language, a language that evolved in a world governed very nearly by classical physics. But I admit to some discomfort in working all my life in a theoretical framework that no one fully understands.
[Chapter 4, p. 66 / p. 84-85]
The anomaly in the orbit of Mercury and the deflection of light were of course part of the story. But, like everything in the history of science (or I suppose in the history of anything else), the simplicity of the story dissolves when we look at it more closely.
Consider the conflict between Newton's theory and the observed motion of Mercury. Even without general relativity, didn't this show clearly that something was wrong with Newton's theory of gravity? Not necessarily. Any theory like Newton's theory of gravitation that has an enormous scope of application is always plagued by experimental anomalies. There is no theory that is not contradicted by some experiment. Newton's theory of the solar system was contradicted by various astronomical observations continually through its history. By 1916, these discrepancies included not only anomaly in Mercury's orbit but also anomalies in the motion of Halley's and Encke's comets and in the motion of the moon. All these showed behaviour that did not fit Newton's theory. We now know that the explanation of the anomalies in the motion of the comets and the moon had nothing to do with the fundamentals of the theory of gravitation. Halley's and Encke's comets do not behave as had been expected from calculations using Newton's theory because in these calculations one did not know the correct way to take into account the pressure exerted by gases escaping the rotating comets when the comets are heated as they pass close to the sun. And, similarly, the motion of the moon is very complicated because the moon is a rather large object and therefore subject to all sorts of complicated tidal forces. With hindsight, it is not surprising that there appeared to be discrepancies in the application of Newton's theory to these phenomena. Similarly, there were several suggestions of how the anomaly in the motion of Mercury could be explained within Newtonian theory. One possibility that was being taken seriously at the beginning of this century was that there might be some kind of matter between Mercury and the sun that causes a slight perturbation to the sun's gravitational field. There is nothing in any single disagreement between theory and experiment that stands up and waves a flag and says, "I am an important anomaly." There was no sure way that a scientist looking critically at the data in the latter part of the nineteenth century could have concluded that there was anything important about any of these solar anomalies. It took theory to explain which were the important observations.
[Chapter 4, p. 73-74 / p. 92-94]
A few years ago Frank Wilczek and I independently predicted a new kind of particle. We agreed to call this particle the axion, not aware that this was also the name of a brand of detergent. Experimentalists looked for the axion and did not find it -- at least not with the properties we had anticipated. The idea either is incorrect or needs modification. I did once receive a message from a group of physicists meeting at Aspen proclaiming, "We found it!" but the message was attached to a box of the detergent.
[Chapter 5, p. 101 / p. 128]
Even where they do not attempt to formulate a science of war, military historians often write as if generals lose battles because they do not follow some well-established rules of military intelligence. For instance, two generals of the Union Army in the Civil War that come in for pretty wide disparagement are George McClellan and Ambrose Burnside. McClellan is generally blamed for not being willing to come to grips with the enemy, Lee's Army of North Virginia. Burnside is blamed for squandering the lives of his troops in a headlong assault on a well-entrenched opponent at Fredericksburg. It will not escape your attention that McClellan is criticised for not acting like Burnside, and Burnside is criticised for not acting like McClellan. Both Burnside and McClellan were deeply flawed generals, but not because they failed to obey established rules of military science.
The best military historians in fact do recognize the difficulty in stating rules of generalship. They do not speak of a science of war, but rather a pattern of military behaviour that cannot be taught or stated precisely but that somehow or other sometimes helps in winning battles. This is called the art of war. In the same spirit I think that one should not hope for a science of science, the formulation of any definite rules about how scientists do or ought to behave, but only aim at a description of the sort of behaviour that historically has led to scientific progress -- an art of science.
[Chapter 5, p. 103-104 / p. 130-131]
This is less true of Newton's theory of gravitation. Newton could have supposed that the gravitational force decreases with the inverse cube of the distance rather than the inverse square if that is what the astronomical data had demanded, but Einstein could not have incorporated an inverse-cube law in his theory without scrapping its conceptual basis. Thus Einstein's fourteen equations have an inevitability and hence beauty the Newton's three equations lack. I think that this is what Einstein meant when he referred to the side of the equations that involve the gravitational field in his general theory of relativity as beautiful, as if made of marble, in contrast with the other side of the equations, referring to matter, which he said were still ugly, as if made of mere wood. The way that the gravitational field enters Einstein's equations is almost inevitable, but nothing in general relativity explained why matters takes the form it does.
The same sense of inevitability can be found (again, only in part) in our modern standard model of the strong and electroweak forces that act on elementary particles. There is one common feature that gives both general relativity and the standard model most of their sense of inevitability and simplicity: they obey principles of symmetry.
A symmetry principle is simply a statement that something looks the same from certain different points of view. Of all such symmetries, the simplest is the approximate bilateral symmetry of the human face. Because there is little difference between the two sides of your face, it looks the same whether viewed directly or when left and right are reversed, as when you look in a mirror. It is almost a cliché of filmmaking to let the audience realize suddenly that the actor's face they have been watching has been seen in a mirror; the surprise would be spoiled if people had two eyes on the same side of the face like flounders, and always on the same side.
Some things have more extensive symmetries than the human face. A cube looks the same when viewed from six different directions, all at right angles to each other, as well as when left and right are reversed. Perfect crystals look the same not only when viewed from various different directions but also when we shift our positions by certain amounts in various directions. A sphere looks the same from any direction. Empty space looks the same from all directions and all positions.
Symmetries like these have amused and intrigued artists and scientists for millennia but did not play a central role in science. We know may things about sale, and the fact that it is a cubic crystal and therefore looks the same from six different points of view does not rank among the most important. Certainly bilateral symmetry is not the most interesting thing about a human face. The symmetries that are really important in nature are not the symmetries of things, but the symmetries of laws.
A symmetry of the laws of nature is a statement that when we make certain changes in the point of view from which we observe natural phenomena, the laws of nature we discover do not change. Such symmetries are often called principles of invariance. For instance, the laws of nature that we discover take the same form however our laboratories are oriented; it makes no difference whether we measure directions relative to north or northeast or upward or any direction. This was not so obvious to ancient or medieval natural philosophers; in everyday life there certainly seems to be a difference between up and down and horizontal directions. Only with the birth of modern science in the seventeenth century did it become clear that down seems different from up or north only because below us there happens to be a large mass, the earth, and not (as Aristotle thought) because the natural place of heavy or light things is downward or upward. Note that this symmetry does not say that up is the same as down; observers who measure distances upward or downward from the earth's surface report different descriptions of events such as the fall of an apple, but they discover the same laws, such as the law that apples are attracted by large masses like the earth.
The laws of nature also take the same form wherever our laboratories are located; it makes no difference to our results whether we do our experiments in Texas or Switzerland or on some planet on the other side of the galaxy. The laws of nature take the same form however we set our clocks; it makes no difference whether we date events from the Hegira or the birth of Christ or the beginning of the universe. This does not mean that nothing changes with time or that Texas is just the same as Switzerland, only that the laws discovered at different times and in different places are the same. If it were not for these symmetries the work of science would have to be redone in every new laboratory and in every passing moment.
Any symmetry principle is at the same time a principle of simplicity. If the laws of nature did distinguish among directions like up or down or north, then we would have to put something into our equations to keep track of the orientation of our laboratories, and they would be correspondingly less simple. Indeed, the very notation that is used by mathematicians and physicists to make our equations look as simple and compact as possible has built into it an assumption that all directions in space are equivalent.
There are symmetries of space-time that are less obvious than these simple translations or rotations. The laws of nature also appear to take the same form to observers moving at different constant velocities; it makes no difference whether we do our experiments here in the solar system, whizzing around the centre of the galaxy at hundred of kilometres per second, or in a distant galaxy rushing away from our own at tens of thousands of kilometres per second.
[Chapter 6, p. 107-111 / p. 135-140]
I do not want to draw the lesson here that physics is best done without preconceptions. At any one moment there are so many things that might be done, so many accepted principles that might be challenged, that without some guidance from our preconceptions one could do nothing at all. It is just that philosophical principles have not generally provided us with the right preconceptions. In our hunt for the final theory, physicists are more like hounds than hawks; we have become good at sniffing around on the ground for traces of the beauty we expect in the laws of nature, but we do not seem to be able to see the path to the truth from the heights of philosophy.
Physicists do of course carry around with them a working philosophy. For most of us, it is a rough-and-ready realism, a belief in the objective reality of the ingredients of our scientific theories. But this has been learned through the experience of scientific research and rarely from the teachings of philosophers.
This is not to deny all value to philosophy, much of which has nothing to do with science. I do not even mean to deny all value to the philosophy of science, which at its best seems to me a pleasing gloss on the history and discoveries of science. But we should not expect it to provide today's scientists with any useful guidance about how to go about their work or about what they are likely to find.
I should acknowledge that this is understood by many of the philosophers themselves. After surveying three decades of professional writings in the philosophy of science, the philosopher George Gale concludes ["Science and the Philosophers", Nature 312 (1984) p. 491] that "these almost arcane discussions, verging on the scholastic, could have interested only the smallest number of practicing scientists." Wittgenstein remarked [Culture and Value, Blackwell, 1980] that "nothing seems to me less likely than that a scientist or mathematician who reads me should be seriously influenced in the way he works."
[Chapter 7, p. 132-133 / p. 166-167]
[...] Positivism helped to free Einstein from the notion that there is an absolute sense to a statement that two events are simultaneous; he found that no measurement could provide a criterion for simultaneity that would give the same result for all observers. This concern with what can actually be observed is the essence of positivism. [...] After the First World War, positivism was further developed by Rudolf Carnap and the members of the Vienna Circle of philosophers, who aimed at a reconstruction of science along philosophically satisfactory lines, and did succeed in clearing away much metaphysical rubbish.
[...] In the spirit of positivism, Heisenberg admitted into his version of quantum mechanics only observables, such as the rates at which an atom might spontaneously make a transition from one state to another by emitting a quantum of radiation. [...]
Despite its value to Einstein and Heisenberg, positivism has done as much harm as good. But, unlike the mechanical world-view, positivism has preserved its heroic aura, so that it survives to do damage in the future. George Gale [G. Gale, "Science and the Philosophers"] even blames positivism for much of the current estrangement between physicists and philosophers.
Positivism was at the heart of the opposition to the atomic theory at the turn of the twentieth century. The nineteenth century had seen a wonderful refinement of the old idea of Democritus and Leucippus that all matter is composed of atoms, and the atomic theory had be used by John Dalton and Amadeo Avogadro and their successors to make sense out of the rules of chemistry. Yet the positivist followers of Mach regarded this as a departure from the proper procedure of science because these atoms could not be observed with any technique that was then imaginable. [...] Mach himself never made his peace with the existence of atoms. [...]
The resistance to atomism had a particularly unfortunate effect in retarding the acceptance of statistical mechanics, the reductionist theory that interprets heat in terms of the statistical distribution of the energies of the parts of any system. The development of this theory in the work of Maxwell, Boltzmann, Gibbs, and others was one of the triumphs of nineteenth-century science, and in rejecting it the positivists were making the worst mistake a scientist can make: not recognizing success when it happens.
Positivism did harm in other ways that are less well known. [...] Thomson measured the way the cathode rays are bent by electric and magnetic fields as they pass through the vacuum tube [...]
Yet the same experiment was done in Berlin at just about the same time by Walter Kaufmann. The main difference between Kaufmann's experiment and Thomson's was that Kaufmann's was better. [...] Yet Kaufmann is never listed as a discoverer of the electron because he did not think that he had discovered a new particle. Thomson was working in an English tradition going back to Newton, Dalton, and Prout -- a tradition of speculation about atoms and their constituents. But Kaufmann was a positivist; he did not believe that it was the business of physicists to speculate about things that they could not observe. So Kaufmann did not report that he had discovered a new kind of particle, but only that whatever it is that is flowing in a cathode ray, it carries a certain ratio of electric charge to mass.
The moral of this story is not merely that positivism was bad for Kaufmann's career. Thomson, guided by his belief that he had discovered a fundamental particle, went on and did other experiments to explore its properties. He found evidence of particles with the same ratio of mass to charge emitted in radioactivity and from heated metals, and he carried out an early measurement of the electric charge of the electron. [...] It is the sum of all these experiments that really validates Thomson's claim to be the discoverer of the electron, but he probably would never have done them it he had not been willing to take seriously the idea of a particle that at that time could not be directly observed.
In retrospect the positivism of Kaufmann and the opponents of atomism seems not only obstructive but also naive. What after all does it mean to observe anything? In a narrow sense, Kaufmann did not even observe the deflection of cathode rays in a given magnetic field; he measured the position of a luminous spot on the downside stream of the vacuum tube when wires were wound a certain number of times around a piece of iron near the tube and connected to a certain electric battery and used accepted theory to interpret this in terms of ray trajectories and magnetic fields. Very strictly speaking, he did not even do that: he experienced certain visual and tactile sensations the he interpreted in terms of luminous spots and wires and batteries. It has become a commonplace among historians of science that observation can never be freed of theory.
Heisenberg himself records that Einstein had second thoughts about the positivism of his initial approach to relativity. In a lecture in 1974 Heisenberg recalled a conversation he had with Einstein in Berlin in early 1926 [W. Heisenberg, Encounters with Einstein, and Other Essays on People, Places and Particles, Princeton University Press, 1983, p. 114]:
I pointed out [to Einstein] that we cannot, in fact, observe such a path [of an electron in an atom]; what we actually record are frequencies of light radiated by the atom, intensities and transition probabilities, but no actual path. And since it is but rational to only introduce into a theory only such quantities as can be directly observed, the concept of electron paths ought not, in fact, to figure in the theory. To my astonishment, Einstein was not at all satisfied with this argument. He thought that every theory in fact contains unobservable quantities. The principle of employing only observable quantities cannot be consistently carried out. And when I objected that in this I had merely been applying the type of philosophy that he, too, had made the basis of his special theory of relativity, he answered simply: "Perhaps I did use such philosophy earlier, and also wrote it, but it is nonsense all the same."
[Chapter 7, p. 139-143 / p. 175-180]
The physicists see themselves as an elite whose membership is determined solely by scientific merit. The assumption is that everyone has a fair start. This is underscored by the rigorously informal dress code, the similarity of their offices, and the "first naming" practices in the community. Competitive individualism is considered both just and effective: the hierarchy is seen as a meritocracy which produces fine physics. American physicists, however, emphasize that science is not democratic: decisions about scientific purposes should not be made by majority rule within the community, nor should there be equal access to a lab's resources. On both these issues, most Japanese physicists assume the opposite.
In the course of such studies, sociologists and anthropologists have discovered that even the process of change in scientific theory is a social one. A recent book on peer review [D.E. Chubin & E.J. Hackett, Peerless Science: Peer Review and US Science Policy, State University of New York Press, 1990; quoted in a book review by Sam Treiman, Physics Today, Oct 1991, p. 115] remarks that "scientific truths are, at bottom, widely quoted social agreements about what is 'real', arrived at through a distinctly 'scientific process' or negotiation." Close observation of scientists at work at the Salk Institute led the French philosopher Bruno Latour and the English sociologist Steve Woolgar to comment [Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts, Sage Publications, 1979, p. 237], "The negotiations as to what counts as a proof or what constitutes a good assay are no more or less disorderly than any argument between lawyers and politicians."
[Chapter 7, p. 147-148 / p. 185-186]
Relativism is only one aspect of a wider, radical, attack on science itself. Feyerabend [P. Feyerabend, "Explanation, Reduction and Empiricism"] called for a formal separation of science and society like the separation of church and state, reasoning that "science is just one of the many ideologies that propel society and it should be treated as such." The philosopher Sandra Harding [The Science Question in Feminism, Cornell University Press, 1986, p. 9] calls modern science (and especially physics) "not only sexist but also racist, classist, and culturally coercive" and argues, "Physics and chemistry, mathematics and logic, bear the fingerprints of their distinctive cultural creators no less than do anthropology and history." Theodore Roszak urges [Where the Wasteland Ends, Doubleday, Anchor Books, 1973, p. 374] that we change "the fundamental sensibility of scientific thought ... even if we must drastically revise the professional character of science and its place in our culture."
I suspect that Gerald Holton ["How to Think About the End of Science," in The End of Science, R. Q. Elvee (editor), University Press of America, 1992] is close to the truth in seeing the radical attack on science as one symptom of a broader hostility to Western civilization that has bedeviled Western intellectuals from Oswald Spengler on. Modern science is an obvious target for this hostility; great art and literature have sprung from many of the world's civilizations, but ever since Galileo scientific research has been overwhelmingly dominated by the West.
This hostility seems to me to be tragically misdirected. Even the most frightening of Western applications of science such as nuclear weapons represent just one more example of mankind's timeless efforts to destroy itself with whatever weapons it can devise. Balancing this against the benign applications of science and its role in liberating the human spirit, I think that modern science, along with democracy and contrapunctal music, is something that the West has given the world in which we should take special pride.
In the end this issue will disappear. Modern scientific methods and knowledge have rapidly diffused to non-Western countries like Japan and India and indeed are spreading throughout the world. We can look forward to the day when science can no longer be identified with the West but is seen as the shared possession of humankind.
[Chapter 7, p. 149-151 / p. 188-190]
[Chapter 11, p. 194 / p. 242]
There is another distinction between religious experience and scientific experiment. The lessons of religious experience can be deeply satisfying, in contrast to the abstract and impersonal worldview gained from scientific investigation. Unlike science, religious experience can suggest a meaning for our lives, a part for us to play in a great cosmic drama of sin and redemption, and it holds out to us a promise of some continuation after death. For just these reasons, the lessons of religious experience seem to me indelibly marked with the stamp of wishful thinking.
[Chapter 11, p. 203-204 / p. 254-255]
One may be put off by the intellectual muzziness of religious liberalism, but it is conservative dogmatic religion that does the harm. Of course it has also made great moral and artistic contributions. This is not the place to argue how we should strike a balance between these contributions of religion on one hand and the long cruel story of crusade and jihad and inquisition and pogrom on the other. But I do want to make the point that in striking this balance, it is not safe to assume that religious persecutions and holy wars are perversions of true religion. To assume that they are seems to me a symptom of a widespread attitude toward religion, consisting of deep respect combined with a profound lack of interest. Many of the great world religions teach that God demands a particular faith and form of worship. It should not be surprising that some of the people who take these teachings seriously should sincerely regard these divine commands as incomparably more important than any merely secular virtues like tolerance or compassion or reason.
Across Asia and Africa the dark forces of religious enthusiasm are gathering strength, and reason and tolerance are not safe even in the secular states of the West. The historian Hugh Trevor-Roper has said [The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, and Other Essays, Harper & Row, 1969] that it was the spread of the spirit of science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that finally ended the burning of witches in Europe. We may need to rely again on the influence of science to preserve a sane world. It is not the certainty of scientific knowledge that fits it for this role, but its uncertainty. Seeing scientists change their minds again and again about matters that can be studied directly in laboratory experiments, how can one take seriously the claims of religious tradition or sacred writings to certain knowledge about matters beyond human experience?
Of course, science has made its own contributions to the world's sorrows, but generally by giving us the means of killing each other, not the motive. Where the authority of science has been invoked to justify horrors, it really has been in terms of perversions of science, like Nazi racism and "eugenics". As Karl Popper has said [The Open Society and Its Enemies, Princeton University Press, 1966], "It is only too obvious that it is irrationalism and not rationalism that has the responsibility for all national hostility and aggression, both before and after the Crusades, but I do not know of any war waged for a 'scientific' aim, and inspired by scientists."
Unfortunately I do not think that it is possible to make the case for scientific modes of reasoning by rational argument. David Hume saw long ago [Treatise on Human Nature, 1739] that in appealing to our past experience of successful science we are assuming the validity of the very mode of reasoning that we are trying to justify. In the same way, all logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically. So we cannot simply dismiss the question why, if we do not find the spiritual comfort we want in the laws of nature, we should not look for it elsewhere -- in spiritual authority of one sort or another, or in an independent leap of faith?
The decision to believe or not is not entirely in our hands. I might be happier if I thought I were descended from the emperors of China, but no effort of will on my part can make me believe it, any more than I can will my heart to stop beating. Yet it seems that many people are able to exert some control over what they believe and choose to believe in what they think makes them good or happy. The most interesting description I know of how this control can work appears in George Orwell's novel 1984. The hero, Winston Smith, has written in his diary that "freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two is four." The inquisitor, O'Brien, takes this as a challenge, and sets out to force Smith to change his mind. Under torture Smith is perfectly willing to say that two plus two is five, but that is not what O'Brien is after. Finally, the pain becomes so unbearable that in order to escape from it Smith manages to convince himself that for an instant that two plus two is five. O'Brien is satisfied for the moment, and the torture is suspended. In much the same way, the pain of confronting the prospect of our own deaths of those we love impels us to adopt beliefs that soften that pain. If we are able to manage to adjust our beliefs in this way, then why not do so?
I can see no scientific or logical reason not to seek consolation by adjustment of our beliefs -- only a moral one, a point of honour. What do we think of someone who has managed to convince himself that he is bound to win a lottery because he desperately needs the money? Some might envy him his brief great expectations, but many others would think that he is failing in his proper role as an adult and rational human being, of looking at things as they are. In the same way that each of us has had to learn in growing up to resist the temptation to wishful thinking about ordinary things like lotteries, so our species has had to learn in growing up that we are not playing a starring role in any sort of grand cosmic drama.
Nevertheless, I do not think for a minute that science will ever provide the consolations that have been offered by religion in facing death. The finest statement of this existential challenge that I know is found in The Ecclesiastical History of the English, written by the Venerable Bede sometime around A.D. 700. Bede tells how King Edwin of Northumbria held a council in A.D. 627 to decide on the religion to be adopted in his kingdom, and gives the following speech to one of the king's chief men:
Your majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting in dinner on a winter's day with your thanes and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing.
It is an almost irresistible temptation to believe with Bede and Edwin that there must be something for us outside the banqueting hall. The honor of resisting this temptation is only a thin substitute for the consolations of religion, but it is not entirely without satisfactions of its own.
[Chapter 11, p. 206-209 / p. 257-261]
[Chapter 12, p. 216 / p. 270]
From The Story of Rats by Samuel Anthony Barnett (Allen & Unwin, 2001):
O, Ashwini. Kill the burrowing rodents which devastate our food grains. Slice their hearts, break their necks, plug their mouths, so that they cannot destroy our food.
Despite the ancient Indian objurgation above, Hinduism is not consistently hostile to rats. A popular deity, Ganesa, who has an elephant's head, is often represented as accompanied by a rat or even riding on one. Ganesa is a god of literacy and learning, who (bless him) insists that everything written should be readily understood. [...] But I am not quite clear why he is so closely associated with rats.
[Chapter 1, p. 3,8]
[Chapter 1, p. 10]
Larousse Gastronomique has an alternative, derived from the practice of coopers in the wine stores of the Gironde. After they had been skinned and cleaned, the rats were seasoned with oil and plenty of shallots and grilled over an open fire.
Both authorities emphasise the excellence of rat flesh; but I am sorry, neither gives the number of rats needed per person.
[Chapter 1, p. 11]
Often doctors could do no more than urge their patients to seek salvation by confessing their sins. Others, however, preferred to emphasise the salutary effects of cheerfulness, instead of preoccupation with sin and death. One famous, or infamous, report concerns the members of a Sanitary Commission of Königsberg in Germany, who, during a tour of inspection, applied this method to themselves. Despite the failure of their treatments, 'with the help of strong Insterburg ale they spent their time in joy and merriment ... drinking, dancing and carousing'. In those circumstances, perhaps it was the best thing to do.
[Chapter 3, p. 29,33-34]
[Chapter 4, p. 54]
[Chapter 5, p. 67]
[Chapter 5, p. 79]
One outcome was increased care during experiments. If one is comparing two groups of rats, they must each be managed in exactly the same way in every respect, including handling. Students were given distinctly marked rats, taken from two groups, for behavioural experiments. One group, they were told, was much more intelligent than the other. Supervisors then unobtrusively records the behaviour not of the rats but the students. The students tended to take more care of the 'intelligent' rats. (The two lots of rats were in fact identical.) The prejudiced response by the students, which could have influenced their findings, was quite unconscious.
When, therefore, one is attempting certain kinds of rigorous research, the experiments should be performed by assistants ignorant of the hypothesis to be tested. [...]
[Chapter 6, p. 119,121]
[Chapter 7, p. 123]
Rats were trained for many generations; and successive generations improved in the time they took to escape without a shock. It seems that a Lamarckian transmission of an acquired ability had occurred -- that is, a memory had been inherited.
This sensational finding led to violent controversy. McDougall's experiments were minutely examined and flaws were found. W.E. Agar and others, in the University of Melbourne, repeated the experiment: they bred rats for twenty years and 50 generations; and, for the first ten years, they achieved the same result. But they took an essential precaution. They ran a group of exactly similar rats at exactly the same time but did not train them. And these controls improved too, over a similar time. Later, the performance of both groups declined, then improved once again. So, whatever caused the improvement, it was not the training.
The fluctuations, though never fully explained, were attributed to environmental features which could not be held constant. One was the rats' food; another was a seasonal influence on the rats' performance -- perhaps the temperature of the water in which they swam to their goal.
This project, kept going with unfailing tenacity during two decades of depression and world war, does not show how evolutionary change happens, but it does tell us much about the demands of biological research and about the biological variation one meets during experiments over long periods. The findings on rats match those on other animals; in fact all the well designed experiments on 'Lamarckism' tell the same story: they disconfirm Lamarck's ideas about evolutionary change.
Yet Lamarck was right to emphasise the influence of its surroundings on the developing organism. For him, the adaptive features of an organism were the outcome of striving to cope with the environment. He lived, however, before biological experimenting took off and long before the science of heredity was founded. The influence of the early environment, shown so clearly in the work on 'bright' and 'dull' rats, delivers a warning. Changes in complex traits have no simple explanations: they are due to the interaction of many varying genes with many inconstant features of the environment. The latter may be difficult to identify even in a highly simplified laboratory situation. This principle is reinforced when we turn to social behaviour.
[Chapter 7, p. 126-127]
[Chapter 8, p. 134,136]
[Chapter 10, p. 172]
From Science: Myth or Magic? by Samuel Anthony Barnett (Allen & Unwin, 2000):
[Chapter 1, Fashions in Fairy Tales, p. 14]
Magical medicine had a tenacious hold also in England. A historian of science, Charles Singer (1876-1960), tells of a Justice Holt who, before he qualified in law, was a wild youth. On one occasion, penniless near Oxford, he paid for a week's lodging by posing as an apothecary and treating the landlady's feverish daughter: he wrote Greek words on parchment, rolled it up and ordered that it be tied to the girl's wrist until she recovered. Many years later, and old woman, who regularly treated ague (or fever) with a magical parchment, was charged in his court with sorcery. The charm proved to be the Judge's own fragment, well preserved. The Judge confessed and freed the prisoner. We are not told what effect, if any, this had on the local superstitions, but the woman was one of the last to be tried for witchcraft in England.
[Chapter 1, Fashions in Fairy Tales, p. 17-18]
-- Shakespeare, As You Like it
[Quoted at start of Chapter 2, Brain Waves, p. 22]
It is strange that writers, themselves personally agreeable and virtuous, should energetically promote such libels on their own species; and it is still more strange that their logical and biological errors should be taken seriously. As we see in later chapters, their portrayal of the human condition ignores humanity's most prominent features.
[Close of Chapter 3, Ape or Angel, p. 62]
... innate censors and motivators exist in the brain that deeply and unconsciously affect our ethical premises; from these roots, morality evolved as instinct.
The innate censors are an invention: neurophysiology knows nothing of them; the roots are a metaphor which hardly helps understanding; and the last four words quoted, if they have a meaning, imply that our moral principles are fixed, like the form of a spider's web or the route of a migrating bird. This is obviously wrong: moral principles vary greatly in different communities and at different times: they can be rationally debated and, as a result, altered.
[Chapter 4, Intermezzo on Instinct, p. 63-64]
Astral determinism, or astrology [...] makes us "servile to all the skyey influences". Modern genetical destiny is internal and is more like another ancient concept, that of an individual's daemon. F.M. Cornford (quoting from Plato [...]), writes of
the belief in hereditary guilt -- those "taints and troubles which, arising from some ancient wrath, existed in certain families", and were transmitted with the blood to the ruin of one descendant after another.
This credo, too, relieves one of responsibility. In the Middle Ages it was replaced by what Bertrand Russell called the "ferocious doctrine" of original sin, which imposed guilt on those who accepted it. [...]
With the eventual rejection of original sin, Christians were no longer required to accept human distress with resignation. The social causes of misery could be sought and perhaps removed. So another, more acceptable burden was imposed: the need and duty to take action against social ills.
[Chapter 5, Genes and Clones, p. 71-72]
I have lived through most of the twentieth century without, I must add, suffering personal hardship. I remember it only as the most terrible century in Western history.
[Chapter 6, Human Destiny, p. 100]
[Chapter 7, Magician, Explorer, Technician or Bore, p. 109]
[Chapter 8, Are We Nothing But ... ? And, If So, What?, p. 125]
Scientists have to welcome reductionism as a method. But, before we can even attempt reduction, we need as great and as detailed a knowledge as possible of ... what we are trying to reduce. Thus before we can attempt a reduction, we need to work on the level of the thing to be reduced (that is, on the level of "wholes").
That common sense we owe to the philosopher Karl Popper. The fundamental principle is this: explaining by reduction does not, and cannot, do away with what is explained.
Although "Ockham's razor" is sometimes said to be a scientific procedure, it is neither a scientific finding nor a logical principle. It is a metaphysical or psychological directive concerning scientific explanations: it tells scientists what they ought to do. [...]
The bluntness of this ill named razor has [...] been brought out in studies of humanity. To explain what human beings do, we must often go from simple to complex. [...] a nutritionist who tries to reduce people to chemical systems or animals is likely to be ineffective. The refusal to recognise complexity has also let to the errors of intinctivism [...] and to the attempts, by sociobiologists and others, to reduce human beings to animals or bags of genes.
[Chapter 8, Are We Nothing But ... ? And, If So, What?, p. 130]
Today journalists often write that numerical findings are "significant", when in fact this means only that they have been analyzed statistically. Whether they are significant in its primary sense can be decided only by intelligent, critical scrutiny. To quote [Gerd] Gigerenzer again [possibly from the book "The Empire of Chance"], "no amount of mathematical legerdemain can transform uncertainty into certainty."
[Chapter 10, Science and Sums, p. 156]
The academic teacher bent on accuracy of representation found, as he still will find, that his pupil's difficulties were due not only to an inability to copy nature, but also to an inability to see it. [Quote possibly from Gombrich's "Art and Illusion"]
For scientists' accounts of this phenomenon, consult Richard Gregory's The Intelligent Eye and M.L.J. Abercrombie's The Anatomy of Judgment. All we perceive, even if it is quite simple, we interpret. When we are show the Mach corner above, what is before us is a flat page with a few lines and some shading; but what most people see is a figure in three dimensions. And, if it is steadily observed, the figure changes. In this case, our interpretation fluctuates. All paintings and drawings [...] make use of our compulsion to interpret what we observe.
[Chapter 11, Fire From Heaven, p. 168-170]
From Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer (The Free Press, 2000):
[Prologue, p. xi]
[Prologue, p. xii]
[Prologue, p. xxi]
The word made Sukhdeo smile, and at that moment his goatee looked particularly devilish. "It was the high point of my career."
[Chapter 2, Terra Incognita, p. 35]
Because their job is so simple, red blood cells don't need much metabolism. That means they carry few of the necessary proteins for generating energy. Nor do they need to burn fuel and pump out waste. A true cell pumps its fuel in and spits its trash out by means of elaborate channels and bubbles that can shuttle molecules across its outer membrane. A red blood cell has hardly any of this equipment - a couple of channels for water and other essentials - because oxygen and carbon dioxide can diffuse through its membrane without any help. And while other cells have intricate scaffolding inside their membranes to keep them stiff and strong, a red blood cell is the contortionist of the body's cellular circus. It travels three hundred miles in its lifetime, blasted and buffeted by the flow of blood, crashing into vessel walls and getting squeezed through slender capillaries, where it has to travel with other red blood cells in single file, compressed to about a fifth of its normal diameter, bouncing back to its normal size once it's through.
In order to survive the abuse, the red blood cell has a network of proteins undergirding its membrane that are arrayed like the knit of a mesh bag. Each string of proteins making up the mesh is also folded up like a concertina, allowing it to stretch out and squeeze back in response to stress coming from any direction. But as flexible as a red blood cell may be, it can't take this abuse forever. Over time its membrane becomes stiff, and it has a harder time squeezing through the capillaries. It's the spleen's job to keep the body's blood supply young and vibrant. As red blood cells pass through the spleen it inspects them carefully. It can recognize the signs of old age on the surface of red blood cells, like the wrinkles on a face. Only young red blood cells make it out of the spleen; the rest are destroyed.
[Chapter 2, Terra Incognita, p. 39-40]
The mother wasp injects her eggs as part of a soupy mix. The eggs depend on the soup for their survival: if you take out the eggs, clean off the soup, and then put them directly into a caterpillar, the host's immune system rages full tilt and mummifies the eggs. The parasite survives thanks to millions of viruses swimming in the soup. These viruses are not much like the ones that we're familiar with - the sort that cause a cold, for example. A cold virus wanders from host to host, invading the cells in the lining of the nose and throat, and then commandeering the cell's own proteins to make new copies of the virus. Other viruses, like HIV, go so far as to stitch their genes into the DNA of their host and make copies of themselves from there. A few go even further: their hosts are born with the virus's DNA already embedded in their own genes and transmit it to their children.
The viruses of parasitic wasps are stranger still. The wasps are born with the virus's genetic code scattered across many of their chromosomes. In males the instructions stay in their scattered form. But as soon as a female begins to take its adult form in her pupa, the virus awakens. In certain cells of her ovary, the pieces of the virus's genome are cut out of the wasp DNA and sewn together, like chapters assembled into a complete viral book. These genes then direct the formation of actual viruses -- strands of DNA encased in a protein shell, in other words -- and these viruses begin to load up inside the nucleus of the ovary cell. When the nucleus is filled to capacity, the entire cell bursts open, and millions of viruses float free in the wasp's ovary.
But they don't make a female wasp sick. The wasp actually uses them as a weapon against the tobacco hornworm. When it injects the viruses into a caterpillar along with its eggs, the viruses start invading the host's cells in a matter of minutes. They commandeer the host's DNA, forcing the cells to make strange new proteins normally never seen inside a hornworm. These proteins destroy the hornworm's immune system. The cells start sticking to one another instead of to the parasites, and then they burst open. [...]
It may seem perverse for a virus to do the dirty work for another organism, even going so far as wiping out a host's immune system only to be wiped out itself. But within every egg that the virus protects, there are instructions for making new viruses that will survive if some viruses attack the host. At the same time, thought, it may be wrong to think of the virus as a separate organism with its own evolutionary ends. The truth may be even more perverse, for the virus's DNA resembles some of the wasp's own genes. The resemblance may actually be hereditary: the virus may descend from a fragment of wasp DNA that mutated into a form that escaped from the normal way genes are copied and stored. It may not be strictly correct to call the viruses viruses at all -- they may represent a new way that wasps package their own DNA. (One scientist has suggested calling the viruses genetic secretions.) If that's the case, then parasitic wasps are managing to insert their own genes into another animal's cells to make it a better place for the wasps to live.
[Chapter 3, The Thirty Years' War, p. 76-78]
When Lafferty started graduate school at Santa Barbara in 1986, his perspective wasn't yet warped. If someone had asked him then to figure out the ecology of this salt marsh, he would have studied the things he could see. He would have measured how much algae the snails could eat, he would have added up the number of eggs a female killifish could lay in a year, he would have recorded the number of clams a bird could eat in a day. He would, he now realizes, have completely missed the real drama of this ecosystem because he would have ignored the parasites.
[...] Ecologists didn't deny that parasites existed, but the thought of them as merely minor hitchhikers. Life could be understood as if it were disease-free. "A lot of ecologists don't like to think about parasites," says Lafferty. "Their vision of the organism stops at the exterior of it."
Few ecologists had bothered to back up their indifference with any data. It didn't matter to them that animals are typically overrun with several different species of parasites. On the other hand, parasitologists had been remiss as well. They had been ogling their parasites in laboratories, but they had no idea what effects they had in the real world.
[Chapter 4, A Precise Horror, p. 102-103]
One of the tapeworm's favorite sites for forming its cyst in the lungs. A moose may carry several in its lungs, each tearing its way through bronchial tubes and blood vessels. As a result, when wolves sweep down on a herd of moose, they're more likely to pick out the slow, wheezing one and kill it. [...] the result is that the tapeworm brings to wolf to the moose so that it can get into the wolf. The thinning of the herd is an illusion, not the service of the predator but the side effect of a tapeworm travelling through its life.
[Chapter 4, A Precise Horror, p. 111]
[Chapter 5, The Great Step Inward, p. 119]
The way virulence works is nicely illustrated by mites that live on the ears of moths. Moths have to be on constant guard against bats, which seek them out with echo-locating squeaks shrieks. When moths hear the bats sending out their ultrasonic signals, they immediately start dodging and weaving through the air to avoid an attack. If the mites colonize the full extent of a moth's ear -- on both its inside and outside -- they will have enough room to produce a lot of offspring. But as they root around, damaging the delicate hairs that the moth uses to hear, they leave the moth deaf in that ear. With one ear out of commission, the moth will have a harder time escaping bats. If both ears shut down, the moth is doomed.
Nature has settled on two solutions to this dilemma. Some species of mites take up residence in the entire ear, both on the outside and on the inside. But they live in only one of the moth's ears, leaving their host with enough hearing to keep it from being devoured. Other species of mites live on the outside of both ears. But because they forgo all the inner-ear real-estate, they reproduce less than the deafening mites and are transmitted more slowly from moth to moth.
[Chapter 5, The Great Step Inward, p. 152-153]
What on Earth could have driven the evolution of an anal cannon? Parasites could. When parasitic wasps home in on a larva such as the leaf-roller caterpillar, one of the best clues is the odor of their host's droppings. Since caterpillars are sedentary, not racing from branch to branch, their droppings will normally accumulate close by them. The intense pressure put on leaf-roller caterpillars by wasps has pushed the evolution of high-pressure fecal firing. By getting their droppings away from them, the caterpillars have a better chance of not being found by wasps.
[...] Owls sometimes catch blind snakes, but rather than tear them apart to feed their chicks, they drop them into their nests. There the snakes act as maids, slinking into the nooks of the nest and eating the parasites they find there.
[...] When a plant is attacked by a parasite, it defends itself with its own version of an immune system by creating poisonous chemicals that the parasite eats as it chews on the plants. But it also fights by sending out cries for help. When a caterpillar bites a leaf, the plant can sense it -- a feeling not carried by nerves but felt nevertheless. And in response, the plant makes a particular kind of molecule that wafts into the air. The odor is like perfume for parasitic wasps; as they fly around searching for a host they are powerfully attracted by the plant's smell. They follow it to the wounded leaf and find the caterpillar there, and they inject it with eggs. These conversations between plants and wasps are not only timely but precise. Somehow the plant can sense exactly which species of caterpillar is dining on it and spray the appropriate molecule into the air. A parasitic wasp will respond only if the plant lets it know that its own species of host sits on a leaf.
[Chapter 6, Evolution from Within, p. 180-181]
Study arms races long enough, and you start to imagine that hosts and parasites could carry each other into the clouds, each driving the evolution of its counterpart so hard that they become all-powerful demigods hurling lightning bolts at each other. But of course the race has limits. [...] Fighting parasites comes at a high cost. It requires energy to make the necessary proteins -- energy that can't be channeled somewhere else. [...] Evolution doesn't have an infinite arsenal to offer hosts, and at some point they have to relent, to accept that parasites are a fact of life.
[Chapter 6, Evolution from Within, p. 184-185]
It's now becoming clear that parasites may have pushed their hosts to become more diverse as well. Parasites don't attack an entire species in the same way. The parasites in a particular region can specialize on the population of hosts, adapting to that local set of host genes. The hosts evolve in response -- but only the hosts in that region, not the species as a whole. This local struggle has produced some of the fastest cases of evolution ever documented -- whether they be yucca moths and the flowers where they lay their eggs, snails and their flukes, or flax and their fungi. And as these populations of hosts fight off their dedicated parasites, they become genetically distinct from the rest of their species.
But this is actually only one way of many that parasites may be able to turn their hosts into new species. [...] The typical fate of a genetic parasite is to explode through its host's genome during the succeeding generations, wedging itself into thousands of sites. As time passes, the hosts that carry it will diverge on their own into separate populations -- not distinct species, but groups that tend to breed among themselves. As they do, the genetic parasite continues to hop from place to place in their DNA. Its hopping will be different in each population, and it will make their genes more and more different from one another. [...] By making it harder for different populations to mix their genes, the genetic parasites encourage them to split into new species.
[Chapter 6, Evolution from Within, p. 187-188]
It takes a strong friendship to flop a bloody fox on someone's floor [...]
[Chapter 8, How to Live in a Parasitic World, p. 235-236]
[Chapter 8, How to Live in a Parasitic World, p. 243]
From A Guide to the End of the World: Everything You Never Wanted to Know, by Bill McGuire (Oxford University Press, 2002):
[How does this square up with estimates of the age of life on Earth of about 3.8 billion years -- when did the first bodies of water appear? -- Fred]
[Chapter 1, A Very Short Introduction the the Earth, p. 8]
[The ridge must wind or branch a lot -- Earth is only 40,000km in circumference -- Fred]
[Chapter 1, A Very Short Introduction the the Earth, p. 14]
[Chapter 1, A Very Short Introduction the the Earth, p. 16]
Notwithstanding a few maverick scientists, oil company representatives, and the president of the world's greatest polluter, the overwhelming consensus amongst those who have a grasp of the facts is that without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions things are going to get very bad indeed. Amazingly, this prospect is still being played down and intentionally hidden behind a veil of obfuscation by some, most recently by the -- in my opinion -- self-deluded Danish statistician, Blom Lomburg. [...]
[Chapter 2, Global Warming, p. 35]
[Chapter 2, Global Warming, p. 45-46]
The [Japanese] national government still maintains that its scientists will detect in advance the warning signs that the "big one" is on its way. Such faith in science is both rare and touching but in this case entirely misplaced. Retrospectively, it has been noted that some earthquakes have been preceded by falls in the water levels in wells and boreholes, and in elevated concentrations of radioactive radon gas issuing from the rock, but this is not always observed. Furthermore, such changes can occur without a following quake, making them notoriously unreliable for prediction purposes. A group of Greek scientists claim that they can detect electrical signals in the crust prior to an earthquake, but there is no convincing evidence for this and the method is derided by most seismologists. On the other hand, there does appear to be something in the idea that animals, birds, and fish behave strangely before a quake, and the Japanese are actually undertaking serious research to find out if catfish - amongst other organisms - can help them forecast the next big one. The problem here is that no one knows how animals can detect a quake before it happens, although it has been suggested that strain in the rocks generates electrical charges in fur and feathers, and perhaps even scales, that trigger small electric shocks, making the animals understandably restless and irritable. But this begs the question, how do you decide whether, for example, a pig is behaving strangely?
In the absence of an alert from a precognizant catfish, it is likely then, that the next great quake will strike the Tokyo region with no warning whatsoever. Recently constructed buildings will fare reasonably well, but many older properties will crumble. Notwithstanding an automatic gas shut-off device that is fitted to some buildings, exploding fuel tanks, fractured gas mains, and oil and chemical spills will ensure no shortage of fires to feed on a million wooden buildings. As in 1923, huge conflagrations are expected to cause at least as much destruction as the quake itself, and to inflate the death toll hugely, which some suggest could easily top the 200,000 of the Great Kanto quake. While it is difficult to estimate in advance the economic losses resulting from the next big one, a modelling company that services the insurance industry has come up with the extraordinary figure of 7 trillion US$. [...]
The impact on the Japanese economy is widely expected to be shattering. [...] It is well within the realms of possibility that as country after country finds itself fighting to cope with the swift unravelling of the global economy, a recession deeper than anything since the 1920s would soon set in. [...] Equally importantly, how long to we have to wait until such a speculative scenario is played out for real? The frightening consensus amongst seismologists is 30 years - at best.
[Chapter 2, The Enemy Within, p. 128-130]
From Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries by Steven Weinberg (Harvard University Press, 2001):
He reach'd a middle height, and at the starsI fear that I may have been talking about science in such exaltedly existentialist tones that I have given the impression that science education is the moral equivalent of tearing up books of fairy stories while standing in a cold shower. Fortunately, there is one aspect of science that makes it attractive as part of a humanistic education. Scientific research is done not by gray angels, but by human beings. I was charmed to read in an issue of ISIS that after Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter and named them the Medician stars to flatter the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he wrote to the duke to reassure him that there were no more new stars to be discovered that might be named after someone else.
Which are the brain of heaven, he look'd and sank.
Around the ancient track march'd, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.
-- [Essay 1, Science as a Liberal Art, p. 5-6]
This brings me to the second lesson. It is that if we are talking about very fundamental phenomena, then ideas of beauty are important in a way that they wouldn't be if we were talking about mere accidents. Planetary orbits don't have to be beautiful curves like circles because planets are not very important on any fundamental level. On the other hand, when we formulate the equations of quantum field theories or string theories we demand a great deal of mathematical elegance, because we believe that the mathematical elegance that must exist at the root of things in nature has to be mirrored at the level where we are working. If the particles and fields we were working on were mere accidents that happened to be important to human beings, but were not in themselves special, then the use of beauty as a criterion in formulating our theories would not be so fruitful.
Finally, the kind of beauty for which we look is special. Beauty of course, is a general and broad and vague word. We find many things beautiful. The human face is beautiful, a grand opera is beautiful, a piano sonata is beautiful. The kind of beauty we are looking for is more like the beauty of a piano sonata than that of a grand opera, in the specific sense that the theories we find beautiful are theories which give us the sense that nothing could be changed. Just as, listening to a piano sonata, we feel that one note must follow from the preceding note - and it could not have been any other note - in the theories we are trying to formulate, we are looking for a sense of uniqueness, for a sense that when we understand the final answer, we will see that it could not have been any other way. My colleague John Wheeler has formulated this as the prediction that when we finally learn the ultimate laws of nature we will wonder why they were not obvious from the beginning.
-- [Essay 3, Newton's Dream, p. 39]
Also, the Standard Model leaves out one rather important ingredient: gravitation. Gravity just doesn't fit into the Standard Model. This is one of the reasons we think that the structures we describe in the Standard Model are not going to be the structures of the next fundamental theory in physics.
In the past twenty years, we physicists have felt, to some extent, as if the earth has moved under out feet. We thought that in quantum field theory we had a firm foundation for future developments in physics, and then we began to realize that we don't. We are gradually awakening to the fact that any theory that satisfies certain fundamental axioms - the axioms of relativity, the axioms of quantum mechanics, and a few others that seem inescapable - looks, at sufficiently large scales of distance, like a quantum field theory. In other words, the success of our quantum field theory doesn't prove that it's really a fundamental theory, because any theory [that satisfies the axioms], when studied at sufficiently large distance scales - for example, those found inside atomic nuclei, which to today's particle physicists seem pretty big - looks like a quantum field theory.
[...] We have known for some years that the pi meson is not a fundamental particle; it's a composite of quarks and antiquarks. But in dealing with nuclear forces, it makes sense to work with a field theory of pi mesons as our starting point, because any theory, whether it's about quarks and antiquarks or whatever, when looked at in terms of the relatively large scale of distances that you find inside atomic nuclei, looks like a field theory, and given certain invariance principles, it must look like a field theory of pi mesons. So we do not interpret the success of this field theory as telling us that the pi meson field would necessarily be an ingredient in a truly fundamental theory. And, by extension, we cannot interpret the success of the Standard Model as indicating that the fields of electrons and quarks and so on are fundamental entities.
This sort of revolution in what we take as fundamental has happened before in the history of physics. When Einstein's General Theory of Relativity replaced Newton's theory of gravity, it didn't replace it by finding small corrections to the inverse square law. It replaced it by eliminating the fundamental conception of Newton's theory: that gravity was a force exerted on one body by another. In General Relativity, you don't talk about force, you talk about a curvature of space and time. The effect of the replacement of Newtonian mechanics by General Relativity on predictions about the solar system was to introduce corrections of less than one part in a million, but Einstein's theory revolutionized our way of describing nature.
-- [Essay 9, Night Thoughts of a Quantum Physicist, p. 97-98]
From Relativity : The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein (Harvard University Press, 2001):
[Chapter 28, Exact Formulation of the General Principle of Relativity, p. 70]
[The original German for this quote follows, taken from "Über die spezielle und die allgemeine Relativitätstheorie", (Friedrich Vieweg & Sohn, 1916) -- Fred]
"Das allgemeine Relativitätsprinzip fordert, daß alle diese Mollusken mit gleichem Rechte und gleichem Erfolge bei der Formulierung der allgemeinen Naturgesetze als Bezugskörper verwendet werden können; die Gesetze sollen von der Molluskenwahl gänzlich unabhängig sein."
[§28, Exakte Formulierung des allgemeinen Relativitätsprinzips]
From Small Wonders: How Microbes Rule Our World by Idan Ben-Barak (Scribe, Australia, 2008):
[Bugs on the Map, p. 17]
What makes P. ubique such a successful reproducer? The brief answer is its streamlining capabilities. [Footnote: The long answer is, well, long.] In addition to being quite small, P. ubique has no dead weight in its genome: it has 1354 genes (humans have about 30,000, and E. coli, 3000, as a comparison) and nothing else. Many other organisms harbour some extra DNA in their genomes -- mostly genes for proteins that are only activated in certain conditions, occasionally an unused copy of a gene, a little ancient viral DNA left over -- like old spare parts in a mechanic's workshop. P. ubique has none of that. There are microbes with smaller genomes, but they're all parasites that rely on their host for many of their functions. P. ubique needs no one but itself: with its minimal genome, it can reproduce quickly and efficiently, which it does.
Extra genes [...] provide flexibility when conditions change. For instance, if a microbes environment suddenly runs out of one kind of foodstuff, a set of genes that enable it to eat another kind of foodstuff is very helpful. P. ubique demonstrates the opposite approach: even if there is suddenly heaps more food available, it cant use the food to grow any quicker. If it runs out of food, it starves. It's a one-trick microbe that bets its existence on the ocean not changing too much. For the last billion years or so, it seems it has kept ahead of the game.
[Bugs on the Sly, p. 83-85]
Life was developed, and is continuously maintained, but a large team of ceaseless, single-celled support staff. It is a simple point, but one that occasionally needs to be hammered in: life on Earth relies completely and utterly on the existence and actions of microbes.
[Bugs on the Job, p. 133]
From Free Radicals - The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks (ISBN 9781846684050, Profile Books, 2011):
[Chapter 5, Sacrilege, p. 160]
[...] Tycho Brahe, a giant of astronomy in Copernicus's later years [...]
[Chapter 6, Fight Club, p. 169]
[Wikipedia has Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 - 24 May 1543) and Tycho Brahe (14 December 1546 - 24 October 1601), so it looks like the first is true -Fred]
From The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac by Graham Farmelo (Faber and Faber, London, 2010, ISBN 9780571222865):
[Chapter 3, p. 44]
[Chapter 14, p. 182]
[Chapter 24, p. 339]
[Chapter 25, p. 353-354]