Sunbeams  February 2013 | issue 446

As soon as man does not take his existence for granted, but beholds it as something unfathomably mysterious, thought begins.

Albert Schweitzer

What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.

Jacques Cousteau

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life — so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.

Matt Cartmill

In the Middle Ages people believed that the earth was flat, for which they had at least the evidence of their senses: we believe it to be round, not because as many as 1 percent of us could give the physical reasons for so quaint a belief, but because modern science has convinced us that nothing that is obvious is true, and that everything that is magical, improbable, extraordinary, gigantic, microscopic, heartless, or outrageous is scientific.

George Bernard Shaw

Whatever the scientists may say, if we take the supernatural out of life, we leave only the unnatural.

Amelia Barr

What delights us in visible beauty is the invisible.

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

A visitor to Niels Bohr’s country cottage, noticing a horseshoe hanging on the wall, teased the eminent scientist about this ancient superstition. “Can it be that you, of all people, believe it will bring you luck?” “Of course not,” replied Bohr, “but I understand it brings you luck whether you believe or not.”

Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes

Because we do not understand the brain very well we are constantly tempted to use the latest technology as a model for trying to understand it. In my childhood we were always assured that the brain was a telephone switchboard. . . . Sherrington, the great British neuroscientist, thought that the brain worked like a telegraph system. Freud often compared the brain to hydraulic and electromagnetic systems. Leibniz compared it to a mill. . . . At present, obviously, the metaphor is the digital computer.

John R. Searle

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.

Mark Russell

We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.

Maria Mitchell

The current state of knowledge can be summarized thus: in the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.

Terry Prachett

If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; but if he says that it is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Arthur C. Clarke

A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.

Charles Brower

If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.

Spencer Silver, American chemist and developer of the adhesive used on Post-it notes

Real progress in understanding nature is rarely incremental. All important advances are sudden intuitions, new principles, new ways of seeing. We have not fully recognized this process of leaping ahead, however, in part because textbooks tend to tame revolutions. . . . They describe the advances as if they had been logical in their day, not at all shocking.

Marilyn Ferguson

One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

Albert Einstein

Science . . . is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.

Carl Jung

OK, so what’s the speed of dark?

Steven Wright

My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

J.B.S. Haldane