Quotes


You are not an encapsulated bag of skin dragging around a dreary little ego. You are an evolutionary wonder, a trillion cells singing together in a vast chorale, an organism – environment, a symbiosis of cell and soul.

R. D. Laing, Knots (1970)

Transcript: 

There is something I don’t know
that I am supposed to know.
I don’t know what it is that I don’t know,
and yet am supposed to know,
and I feel I look stupid
if I seem both not to know it
and not to know what it is I don’t know.
Therefore I pretend I know it.
This is nerve-racking
since I don’t know what I must pretend to know.
Therefore I pretend to know everything.

I feel you know what I am supposed to know
but you can’t tell me what it is
because you don’t know that I don’t know what it is.

You may know what I don’t know, but not
that I don’t know it,
and I can’t tell you. So you will have to tell me everything.

R.D. Laing: Wikipedia, Knots, another excerpt of Knots

See also Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory (Wikipedia; article)

When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images.

Niels Bohr 

In his first meeting with Werner Heisenberg in early summer 1920, in response to questions on the nature of language, as reported in Discussions about Language (1933); quoted in Defense Implications of International Indeterminacy (1972) by Robert J. Pranger, p. 11, and Theorizing Modernism : Essays in Critical Theory (1993) by Steve Giles, p. 28

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Niels_Bohr

The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out — there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.

Quote in context:

“For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean? It means that the phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat — and also in mine, and yours — is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away. So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago — a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out — there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.”

Richard Feynman, “The Value of Science” (speech at NAS meeting, 1955)
reprinted in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short
Works of Richard P. Feynman
 (Jeffrey Robbins, ed., 1999)

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Quote in context: 

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,”  Leaves of Grass (1891)

http://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/poems/27

Did you know that the phrase “and sing myself” didn’t appear in the 1855 version?

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

I don’t know anything, but I do know that everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.

Richard Feynman, from Omni interview, “The Smartest Man in the World”(chapter 9), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

Little loops of recursion surround us all the time, and I want to know what exactly they’re compounding and reifying.

David Banks, 2013, “The Politics of Communications Technology”

Source: http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2013/05/04/the-politics-of-communications-technology/

I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.

Quote in context:

“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe.

Buckminster Fuller, I Seem to Be a Verb (1970)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that are little miracles of self-reference.

What does the “B” in “Benoit B. Mandelbrot” stand for?

“Benoit B. Mandelbrot”

Via that giant Reddit thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1h1cyg/whats_the_most_intellectual_joke_you_know/

(Whoa — according to Wikipedia, Mandelbrot “chose his own middle initial, but it doesn’t stand for anything”)

an infinite multitude of things doing an infinite multitude of actions in infinite time and space; and yet they are not many things, but one thing

Quote in context:

“We can no longer separate things as we once could: everything tends towards unity; one thing, one action, in one place, at one time. On the other hand, we can no longer unify things as we once could; we are driven to ultimate atoms, each one of which is an individuality. 

So that we have an infinite multitude of things doing an infinite multitude of actions in infinite time and space; and yet they are not many things, but one thing.” 

—Samuel Butler, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912), Part IV: Mind and Matter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Butler_(novelist)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Samuel_Butler_(novelist)

 

So we, and everything we see, result out of quantum fluctuations in what is essentially nothingness near the beginning of time, namely during the inflationary expansion.

Quote in context: 

“This results in the second amazing implication of inflation: That small density fluctuations in empty space, due to the rules of quantum mechanics, will later be responsible for all the structure we observe in the universe today.   

So we, and everything we see, result out of quantum fluctuations in what is essentially nothingness near the beginning of time, namely during the inflationary expansion.    

After all the dust has settled, the generic configuration of the matter and radiation will be that of an essentially flat universe, one in which the average Newtonian gravitational energy of all objects will appear to be zero.”

— Lawrence Krauss, A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing (2012)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_M._Krauss

http://books.google.com/books/about/A_Universe_from_Nothing.html?id=nfGlsiDGbxkC

See also an excellent talk on the subject from 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo