The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the
source of all true art and science.
Some people seek meaning in life through personal gain, through personal
relationships, or through personal experience. However, it seems to me that
being blessed with the intellect to divine the ultimate secrets of nature
gives meaning enough to life.
Michio Kaku, Hyperspace
Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine
things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things
which are there.
The simplicities of natural laws arise through the complexities of the
language we use for their expression.
It is the theory that decides what can be observed.
The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.... The fact
that it is comprehensible is a miracle.
You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degres of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here....
I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not
knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any
purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It
doesn't frighten me.
I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.
... Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it,
'But how can it be like that?' because you will get 'down the drain',
into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows
how it can be like that.
Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law
Now my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than
we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
J. B. S. Haldane
The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for
the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we
neither understand nor deserved.
The burden of (this) lecture is just to emphasize the fact that it is
impossible to explain honestly the beauties of the laws of nature in a
way that people can feel, without their having some deep understanding
Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law
Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.
If sex evolved so that your children are not condemned to be just like you,
intelligence evolved so that you are not condemned to be just like yourself.
We especially need imagination in science. It is not all
mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.
For every difficult question there is a simple answer -- and it's
H. L. Mencken
There is a real world independent of our senses; the laws of nature were
not invented by man, but forced on him by the natural world. They are the
expression of a natural world order.
Scientifically speaking, a butterfly is at least as mysterious
as a superstring. When something ceases to be mysterious, it
ceases to be of absorbing concern to scientists. Almost all the
things scientists think and dream about are mysterious.
Freeman J. Dyson
If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research,
People often think of research as a form of development -- that it's about
doing exactly what you planned, doing it on time, and doing it with resources
that you said you'd use. But if you're going to do that,
you have to know what you are doing, and if you know what you are doing,
it isn't really research.
Dave Liddle, The New Yorker, Feb. 23/Mar.2, 1998, p 84
The Next Big Idea, John Heilemann
For the real amazement, if you wish to be amazed, is this process.
You start out as a single cell derived from the coupling of a sperm and
egg; this divides in two, then four, then eight and so on, and at a
certain stage there emerges a single cell which has as all its progeny
the human brain. The mere existence of such a cell should be one of the
great astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all
day, all through their waking hours calling to each other in endless
wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell.
Studying the universe engages us in something bigger than ourselves.
Science tries to describe, in terms we can only grasp intuitively,
things that are beyond our intuition. . . . all we can hope for is that
our physical descriptions, like a song or a good painting, are a
faithful evocation of some ineffable truth.
Guy Consolmagno, The Way to the Dwelling of Light
Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness
akin to rapture, as they unfolded to me, are among the earliest
sensations I can remember.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Philosophy is written in that great book which ever lies before our
gaze -- I mean the universe -- but we cannot understand if we do not
first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written.
The book is written in the mathematical language, and the symbols
are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without the
help of which it is impossible to conceive a single word of it,
and without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.
One cannot escape the feeling that these mathematical formulas have an
independent existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are
wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more
out of them than was originally put into them.
To do any important work in physics a very good mathematical ability
and aptitude are required. Some work in applications can be done without
this, but it will not be very inspired. If you must satisfy your
"personal curiosity concerning the mysteries of nature" what will
happen if these mysteries turn out to be laws expressed in mathematical
terms (as they do turn out to be)? You cannot understand the physical
world in any deep or satisfying way without using mathematical
reasoning with facility.
There are no solved problems. There are only more-or-less solved
Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved