Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.
If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. … We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.
~Stephen Hawking, Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (2010), also quoted in “Stephen Hawking warns over making contact with aliens” at BBC News (25 April 2010).
In any field, find the strangest thing and then explore it.
~John Archibald Wheeler
The questions worth asking, in other words, come not from other people but from nature, and are for the most part delicate things easily drowned out by the noise of everyday life.
~Robert B. Laughlin
Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it − in a decade, a century, or a millennium − we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid?
~John Archibald Wheeler. John Archibald Wheeler (1911 – 2008) was an eminent American theoretical physicist. One of the later collaborators of Albert Einstein, he tried to achieve Einstein’s vision of a unified field theory. He is also known for having coined the terms “black hole” and “wormhole” and the phrase “it from bit.”
I don’t think of myself predicting things. I’m expressing possibilities. Things that could happen. To a large extent it’s a question of how badly people want them to.
~Freeman Dyson. Freeman John Dyson FRS (b. 1923) is a British-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. Dyson is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. For over fifty years he has lived in Princeton, New Jersey.
It has become part of the accepted wisdom to say that the twentieth century was the century of physics and the twenty-first century will be the century of biology.
Even for the physicist the description in plain language will be a criterion of the degree of understanding that has been reached.
~Werner Karl Heisenberg. Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901 – 1976) was a German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics.”
I never think of the future−it comes soon enough.
From the age of 13, I was attracted to physics and mathematics. My interest in these subjects derived mostly from popular science books that I read avidly. Early on I was fascinated by theoretical physics and determined to become a theoretical physicist. I had no real idea what that meant, but it seemed incredibly exciting to spend one’s life attempting to find the secrets of the universe by using one’s mind.
~David Gross, from “Autobiography,” in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.) Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2004, (2005)
Many scientists have tried to make determinism and complementarity the basis of conclusions that seem to me weak and dangerous; for instance, they have used Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to bolster up human free will, though his principle, which applies exclusively to the behavior of electrons and is the direct result of microphysical measurement techniques, has nothing to do with human freedom of choice. It is far safer and wiser that the physicist remain on the solid ground of theoretical physics itself and eschew the shifting sands of philosophic extrapolations.
~Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie, New Perspectives in Physics (1962), viii
The first thing to realize about physics . . . is its extraordinary indirectness . . . . For physics is not about the real world, it is about “abstractions” from the real world, and this is what makes it so scientific . . . . Theoretical physics runs merrily along with these unreal abstractions, but its conclusions are checked, at every possible point, by experiments.
~Anthony Standen in Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), pp. 60-62.
Mediocre theoretical physicists make no progress. They spend all their time understanding other people’s progress.
~Jeff Bezos. Jeffrey Preston “Jeff” Bezos (born January 12, 1964) is an American entrepreneur who played a key role in the growth of e-commerce as the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Inc., an online merchant of books and later of a wide variety of products. Under his guidance, Amazon.com became the largest retailer on the World Wide Web and the model for Internet sales.
But, contrary to the lady’s prejudices about the engineering profession, the fact is that quite some time ago the tables were turned between theory and applications in the physical sciences. Since World War II the discoveries that have changed the world are not made so much in lofty halls of theoretical physics as in the less-noticed labs of engineering and experimental physics. The roles of pure and applied science have been reversed; they are no longer what they were in the golden age of physics, in the age of Einstein, Schrödinger, Fermi and Dirac.
~Nicholas Metropolis, “The Age of Computing: a Personal Memoir,” Daedalus (1992), 120-21
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
~Max Planck, Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie. Mit einem Bildnis und der von Max von Laue gehaltenen Traueransprache, Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag, (Leipzig 1948), p. 22, as translated in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 33-34 (as cited in T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).
New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
~Max Planck, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)
~J. Robert Oppenheimer. His exclamation after the Trinity atomic bomb test (16 July 1945), according to his brother in the documentary The Day After Trinity
In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
~J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904 – 1967), an American physicist and the scientific director of the Manhattan Project.