Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “A change in motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and takes place along the straight line in which that force is impressed.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Impossible

Impossible Quotes (26 quotes)

Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
'Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination'. In the collection. Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Age (60)  |  Laboratory (75)  |  Possible (19)  |  Research (360)  |  Scientist (237)

Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), 21.
Science quotes on:  |  Research (360)

According to the theory of aerodynamics, as may be readily demonstrated through wind tunnel experiments, the bumblebee is unable to fly. This is because the size, weight and shape of his body in relation to the total wingspread make flying impossible. But the bumblebee, being ignorant of these scientific truths, goes ahead and flies anyway—and makes a little honey every day.
Anonymous
Sign in a General Motors Corporation factory. As quoted in Ralph L. Woods, The Businessman's Book of Quotations (1951), 249-50. Cited in Suzy Platt (ed)., Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), 118.
Science quotes on:  |  Body (88)  |  Bumblebee (2)  |  Demonstrate (8)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Fly (28)  |  Flying (9)  |  Honey (4)  |  Ignorant (7)  |  Shape (20)  |  Size (21)  |  Theory (353)  |  Unable (2)  |  Weight (41)

And what is impossible to science?
'Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy', in K. Marx (ed.), Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (1844), 204.
Science quotes on:  |  Science (875)

Another argument of hope may be drawn from this–that some of the inventions already known are such as before they were discovered it could hardly have entered any man's head to think of; they would have been simply set aside as impossible. For in conjecturing what may be men set before them the example of what has been, and divine of the new with an imagination preoccupied and colored by the old; which way of forming opinions is very fallacious, for streams that are drawn from the springheads of nature do not always run in the old channels.
Translation of Novum Organum, XCII. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 8, 128.
Science quotes on:  |  Channel (6)  |  Conjecture (15)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Fallacy (9)  |  Invention (174)  |  Nature (534)  |  Opinion (81)  |  Stream (10)  |  Thinking (166)

But by far the greatest obstacle to the progress of science and to the undertaking of new tasks and provinces therein is found in this—that men despair and think things impossible.
Translation of Novum Organum, CIX. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 8, 140-141.
Science quotes on:  |  Despair (13)  |  Obstacle (9)  |  Progress Of Science (2)  |  Task (32)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Undertake (5)

Do not undertake the program unless the goal is manifestly important and its achievement nearly impossible.
In Alan R. Earls and Nasrin Rohani, Polaroid (2005), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (73)  |  Goal (36)  |  Important (20)  |  Manifestly (3)  |  Program (7)  |  Undertake (5)

Extinction has only separated groups: it has by no means made them; for if every form which has ever lived on this earth were suddenly to reappear, though it would be quite impossible to give definitions by which each group could be distinguished from other groups, as all would blend together by steps as fine as those between the finest existing varieties, nevertheless a natural classification, or at least a natural arrangement, would be possible.
From On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1860), 431.
Science quotes on:  |  Arrangement (25)  |  Blend (2)  |  Classification (56)  |  Definition (86)  |  Distinguish (11)  |  Earth (250)  |  Existing (3)  |  Extinction (38)  |  Fine (10)  |  Form (70)  |  Group (24)  |  Live (14)  |  Natural (48)  |  Possible (19)  |  Separate (9)  |  Step (26)  |  Tree Of Life (4)  |  Variety (29)

Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.
(1902). Widely quoted, though always without a source, for example in Laura Ward and Robert Allen, Foolish Words: The Most Stupid Words Ever Spoken (2003), 68. If you know a primary print source to authenticate this quote, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Airplane (16)  |  Flight (29)  |  Machine (56)

However far modern science and technics have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.
Technics and Civilization (1934), 435.
Science quotes on:  |  Inherent (17)  |  Lesson (14)  |  Mankind (111)  |  Modern (44)  |  Nothing (89)  |  Possibility (70)  |  Teach (19)

If, then, there must be something eternal, let us see what sort of Being it must be. And to that it is very obvious to Reason, that it must necessarily be a cogitative Being. For it is as impossible to conceive that ever bare incogitative Matter should produce a thinking intelligent Being, as that nothing should of itself produce Matter...
In Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690, 1801), Book 4, Chap. 10, Sec. 10, 114.
Science quotes on:  |  Bare (4)  |  Conceive (3)  |  Eternal (14)  |  Intelligent (5)  |  Matter (135)  |  Necessarily (2)  |  Nothing (89)  |  Obvious (24)  |  Produce (6)  |  Reason (173)  |  Thinking (166)

In the world of human thought generally, and in physical science particularly, the most important and fruitful concepts are those to which it is impossible to attach a well-defined meaning.
In M. Dresen, H. A. Kramers: Between Tradition and Revolution (1987), 539. In Magdolna Hargittai, In Our Own Image (2000), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Concept (38)  |  Definition (86)  |  Fruitful (9)  |  Important (20)  |  Meaning (52)  |  Physical Science (32)  |  Thought (170)

It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods. If such a board actually exists it operates precisely like the board of a corporation that is losing money.
Minority Report: H. L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956), Sample 79, 63.
Science quotes on:  |  Board (2)  |  Corporation (3)  |  God (234)  |  Imagination (130)  |  Loss (44)  |  Money (87)  |  Omnipotent (3)  |  Operate (2)  |  Universe (291)  |  Wise (11)

It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off.
Side Effects (1981), 36.
Science quotes on:  |  Light (117)

Most of the crackpot papers which are submitted to The Physical Review are rejected, not because it is impossible to understand them, but because it is possible. Those which are impossible to understand are usually published. When the great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer himself it will be only half-understood; to everybody else it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.
In 'Innovation in Physics', Scientific American (Sep 1958), 199. Collected in From Eros to Gaia (1993).
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (360)  |  Publication (75)

Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
In The Foundation Trilogy (1951), 155.
Science quotes on:  |  Danger (32)  |  Dogma (13)  |  Emotion (28)  |  Faith (73)  |  Guarantee (7)  |  Turn (22)  |  User (2)  |  Weapon (35)

Some say that science dictates, or at least its old rules said, that it is impossible for bumblebees to fly. This may be a myth, but wouldn't you like to think that every time you look at the bees, you are seeing that there is no such thing as the impossible?
Joe Rukin
Look at the Bees (2006).
Science quotes on:  |  Bee (13)

The average gambler will say “The player who stakes his whole fortune on a single play is a fool, and the science of mathematics can not prove him to be otherwise.” The reply is obvious: “The science of mathematics never attempts the impossible, it merely shows that other players are greater fools.”
[Concluding remarks to his mathematical proof, with certain assumptions, that a gambler's best strategy would be to always make his largest stake on his first play.]
In 'Gambler's Ruin', Annals of Mathematics (Jul 1909), 2nd Series, 10, No. 4, 189. This is also seen, without primary source, quoted as “It is true that a man who does this is a fool. I have only proved that a man who does anything else is an even bigger fool,” in Harold Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles (1988), 39.
Science quotes on:  |  Attempt (41)  |  Average (16)  |  Fool (32)  |  Fortune (15)  |  Gambler (3)  |  Greater (16)  |  Mathematics (367)  |  Merely (13)  |  Obvious (24)  |  Other (17)  |  Otherwise (4)  |  Play (22)  |  Player (3)  |  Prove (5)  |  Reply (7)  |  Show (13)  |  Single (26)  |  Stake (7)  |  Strategy (5)  |  Whole (46)

The recurrence of a phenomenon like Edison is not very likely. The profound change of conditions and the ever increasing necessity of theoretical training would seem to make it impossible. He will occupy a unique and exalted position in the history of his native land, which might well be proud of his great genius and undying achievements in the interest of humanity.
As quoted in 'Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist', The New York Times (19 Oct 1931), 25. In 1884, Tesla had moved to America to assist Edison in the designing of motors and generators.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (73)  |  Change (133)  |  Condition (68)  |  Thomas Edison (29)  |  Exalted (3)  |  Genius (92)  |  History (156)  |  Humanity (46)  |  Interest (82)  |  Likelihood (3)  |  Necessity (78)  |  Occupy (6)  |  Phenomenon (114)  |  Position (18)  |  Profound (23)  |  Proud (2)  |  Theory (353)  |  Training (21)  |  Unique (9)

The world is very complicated and it is clearly impossible for the human mind to understand it completely. Man has therefore devised an artifice which permits the complicated nature of the world to be blamed on something which is called accidental and thus permits him to abstract a domain in which simple laws can be found.
In Floyd Merrell, Unthinking Thinking: Jorge Luis Borges, Mathematics, and the New Physics (1991), 156.
Science quotes on:  |  Abstract (19)  |  Accident (25)  |  Artifice (2)  |  Blame (4)  |  Completeness (9)  |  Complication (16)  |  Devising (5)  |  Domain (6)  |  Find (50)  |  Human Mind (21)  |  Law (273)  |  Man (258)  |  Nature (534)  |  Permit (8)  |  Simplicity (92)  |  Understanding (231)  |  World (231)

The Wright brothers flew right through the smoke screen of impossibility.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (73)

Their minds sang with the ecstatic knowledge that either what they were doing was completely and utterly and totally impossible or that physics had a lot of catching up to do.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1985). Quoted in Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations (2005), 322.
Science quotes on:  |  Physics (156)  |  Theory (353)

There are also two kinds of truths, those of reasoning and those of fact. Truths of reasoning are necessary and their opposite is impossible: truths of fact are contingent and their opposite is possible. When a truth is necessary, reason can be found by analysis, resolving it into more simple ideas and truths, until we come to those which are primary.
The Monadology and Other Philosophical Writings (1714), trans. Robert Latta (1898), 235-6.
Science quotes on:  |  Analysis (82)  |  Fact (325)  |  Idea (226)  |  Opposite (21)  |  Reasoning (56)  |  Truth (450)

To divide a cube into two other cubes, a fourth power, or in general any power whatever into two powers of the same denomination above the second is impossible, and I have assuredly found an admirable proof of this, but the margin is too narrow to contain it.
[Known as Fermat's Last Theorem, the proof of which remained elusive until 1994.]
Theorem, beside the eighth proposition of the second book of Diophantus, in Prιcis des Oeuvres Mathιmatiques de P. Fermat et de l'Arithmetique de Diophante (1853), 53-54. As translated by Vera Sandford in David Eugene Smith, A Source Book in Mathematics (1929), 212.
Science quotes on:  |  Admirable (5)  |  Contain (5)  |  Cube (9)  |  Denomination (3)  |  Divide (6)  |  Found (7)  |  Margin (4)  |  Narrow (10)  |  Power (103)  |  Proof (136)  |  Second (8)

What [man landing on the moon] is doing up there is indulging his obsession with the impossible. The impossible infuriates and tantalizes him. Show him an impossible job and he will reduce it to a possibility so trite that eventually it bores him.
'Why on Earth Are We There? Because It's Impossible', New York Times (21 Jul 1969), 17.
Science quotes on:  |  Apollo 11 (6)  |  Bore (2)  |  Indulge (5)  |  Moon (78)  |  Obsession (5)  |  Possibility (70)  |  Reduce (10)

[In Adelie Land, Antarctica, a howling river of] wind, 50 miles wide, blows off the plateau, month in and month out, at an average velocity of 50 m.p.h. As a source of power this compares favorably with 6,000 tons of water falling every second over Niagara Falls. I will not further anticipate some H. G. Wells of the future who will ring the antarctic with power-producing windmills; but the winds of the Antarctic have to be felt to be believed, and nothing is quite impossible to physicists and engineers.
Speaking at convention of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Norwich (1935). As quoted in 'Science: One Against Darwin', Time (23 Sep 1935).
Science quotes on:  |  Antarctica (4)  |  Engineer (32)  |  Niagara Falls (3)  |  Renewable Energy (7)  |  Herbert George (H.G.) Wells (18)  |  Wind Power (6)  |  Windmill (3)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about: • Atomic  Bomb • Biology • Chemistry • Deforestation • Engineering • Anatomy • Astronomy • Bacteria • Biochemistry • Botany • Conservation • Dinosaur • Environment • Fractal • Genetics • Geology • History of Science • Invention • Jupiter • Knowledge • Love • Mathematics • Measurement • Medicine • Natural Resource • Organic Chemistry • Physics • Physician • Quantum Theory • Research • Science and Art • Teacher • Technology • Universe • Volcano • Virus • Wind Power • Women Scientists • X-Rays • Youth • Zoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Custom Quotations Search - custom search within only our quotations pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |
Author Icon
who invites your feedback

Today in Science History

Most Popular

Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.
- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton