Contact Quotes (14 quotes)
For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.
I feel very strongly indeed that a Cambridge education for our scientists should include some contact with the humanistic side. The gift of expression is important to them as scientists; the best research is wasted when it is extremely difficult to discover what it is all about ... It is even more important when scientists are called upon to play their part in the world of affairs, as is happening to an increasing extent.
I have been much amused at ye singular φενόμενα [phenomena] resulting from bringing of a needle into contact with a piece of amber or resin fricated on silke clothe. Ye flame putteth me in mind of sheet lightning on a small—how very small—scale.
I will now direct the attention of scientists to a previously unnoticed cause which brings about the metamorphosis and decomposition phenomena which are usually called decay, putrefaction, rotting, fermentation and moldering. This cause is the ability possessed by a body engaged in decomposition or combination, i.e. in chemical action, to give rise in a body in contact with it the same ability to undergo the same change which it experiences itself.
It’s humbling to realise that the developmental gulf between a miniscule ant colony and our modern human civilisation is only a tiny fraction of the distance between a Type 0 and a Type III civilisation – a factor of 100 billion billion, in fact. Yet we have such a highly regarded view of ourselves, we believe a Type III civilisation would find us irresistible and would rush to make contact with us. The truth is, however, they may be as interested in communicating with humans as we are keen to communicate with ants.
Science has thus, most unexpectedly, placed in our hands a new power of great but unknown energy. It does not wake the winds from their caverns; nor give wings to water by the urgency of heat; nor drive to exhaustion the muscular power of animals; nor operate by complicated mechanism; nor summon any other form of gravitating force, but, by the simplest means—the mere contact of metallic surfaces of small extent, with feeble chemical agents, a power everywhere diffused through nature, but generally concealed from our senses, is mysteriously evolved, and by circulation in insulated wires, it is still more mysteriously augmented, a thousand and a thousand fold, until it breaks forth with incredible energy.
The difference between myth and science is the difference between divine inspiration of 'unaided reason' (as Bertrand Russell put it) on the one hand and theories developed in observational contact with the real world on the other. It is the difference between the belief in prophets and critical thinking, between Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd–Tertullian) and De omnibus est dubitandum (Everything should be questioned–Descartes). To try to write a grand cosmical drama leads necessarily to myth. To try to let knowledge substitute ignorance in increasingly large regions of space and time is science.
The discovery of an interaction among the four hemes made it obvious that they must be touching, but in science what is obvious is not necessarily true. When the structure of hemoglobin was finally solved, the hemes were found to lie in isolated pockets on the surface of the subunits. Without contact between them how could one of them sense whether the others had combined with oxygen? And how could as heterogeneous a collection of chemical agents as protons, chloride ions, carbon dioxide, and diphosphoglycerate influence the oxygen equilibrium curve in a similar way? It did not seem plausible that any of them could bind directly to the hemes or that all of them could bind at any other common site, although there again it turned out we were wrong. To add to the mystery, none of these agents affected the oxygen equilibrium of myoglobin or of isolated subunits of hemoglobin. We now know that all the cooperative effects disappear if the hemoglobin molecule is merely split in half, but this vital clue was missed. Like Agatha Christie, Nature kept it to the last to make the story more exciting. There are two ways out of an impasse in science: to experiment or to think. By temperament, perhaps, I experimented, whereas Jacques Monod thought.
The fascination of any search after truth lies not in the attainment, which at best is found to be very relative, but in the pursuit, where all the powers of the mind and character are brought into play and are absorbed by the task. One feels oneself in contact with something that is infinite and one finds joy that is beyond expression in sounding the abyss of science and the secrets of the infinite mind.
The man of science multiples the points of contact between man and nature.
The mathematician is in much more direct contact with reality. … [Whereas] the physicist’s reality, whatever it may be, has few or none of the attributes which common sense ascribes instinctively to reality. A chair may be a collection of whirling electrons.
The ridge of the Lammer-muir hills... consists of primary micaceous schistus, and extends from St Abb's head westward... The sea-coast affords a transverse section of this alpine tract at its eastern extremity, and exhibits the change from the primary to the secondary strata... Dr HUTTON wished particularly to examine the latter of these, and on this occasion Sir JAMES HALL and I had the pleasure to accompany him. We sailed in a boat from Dunglass ... We made for a high rocky point or head-land, the SICCAR ... On landing at this point, we found that we actually trode [sic] on the primeval rock... It is here a micaceous schistus, in beds nearly vertical, highly indurated, and stretching from S.E. to N. W. The surface of this rock... has thin covering of red horizontal sandstone laid over it, ... Here, therefore, the immediate contact of the two rocks is not only visible, but is curiously dissected and laid open by the action of the waves... On us who saw these phenomena for the first time, the impression will not easily be forgotten. The palpable evidence presented to us, of one of the most extraordinary and important facts in the natural history of the earth, gave a reality and substance to those theoretical speculations, which, however probable had never till now been directly authenticated by the testimony of the senses... What clearer evidence could we have had of the different formation of these rocks, and of the long interval which separated their formation, had we actually seen them emerging from the bosom of the deep? ... The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time; and while we listened with earnestness and admiration to the philosopher who was now unfolding to us the order and series of these wonderful events, we became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes go than imagination can venture to follow.
Years ago I used to worry about the degree to which I specialized. Vision is limited enough, yet I was not really working on vision, for I hardly made contact with visual sensations, except as signals, nor with the nervous pathways, nor the structure of the eye, except the retina. Actually my studies involved only the rods and cones of the retina, and in them only the visual pigments. A sadly limited peripheral business, fit for escapists. But it is as though this were a very narrow window through which at a distance, one can only see a crack of light. As one comes closer the view grows wider and wider, until finally looking through the same narrow window one is looking at the universe. It is like the pupil of the eye, an opening only two to three millimetres across in daylight, but yielding a wide angle of view, and manoeuvrable enough to be turned in all directions. I think this is always the way it goes in science, because science is all one. It hardly matters where one enters, provided one can come closer, and then one does not see less and less, but more and more, because one is not dealing with an opaque object, but with a window.
[Presently, science undergraduates] do not learn to write clearly and briefly, marshalling their points in due and aesthetically satisfying order, and eliminating inessentials. They are inept at those turns of phrase or happy analogy which throw a flying bridge across a chasm of misunderstanding and make contact between mind and mind.