Archive for the 'Research' Category

August 4, 2020

“Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions. Treat science like art. In other words, don’t expect to make a living from it. Enjoy it.”
~ James Lovelock

July 12, 2020

“My father has zero intellectual insecurities… It has never crossed his mind to be concerned that the world thinks he’s an idiot. He’s not in that game. So if he doesn’t understand something, he just asks you. He doesn’t care if he sounds foolish. He will ask the most obvious question without any sort of concern about it… So he asks lots and lots of dumb, in the best sense of that word, questions. He’ll say to someone, ‘I don’t understand. Explain that to me.’ He’ll just keep asking questions until he gets it right, and I grew up listening to him do this in every conceivable setting.”

~ Malcolm Gladwell

The will to think

July 12, 2020

“In these four words, Fermi distilled the essence of a very significant insight: a competent thinker will be reluctant to commit himself to the effort that tedious and precise thinking demands — he will lack ‘the will to think’ — unless he has the conviction that something worthwhile will be done with the results of his efforts.”

~ William Shockley

June 28, 2020

“Nella sua autobiografia, Darwin scrive che, fino ai trent’anni, era stato un grande amatore della musica, della poesia e della pittura, ma che poi, per molti anni, perdette ogni gusto e ogni interesse per tali manifestazioni: “La mia mente sembra essere divenuta una sorta di macchina che macina le leggi generali da un’enorme raccolta di dati di fatto… La perdita di questi interessi costituisce una perdita di felicità, e non è escluso che possa risultare lesiva per l’intelletto, e più probabilmente ancora per il carattere morale, perché indebolisce il risvolto emozionale della nostra natura”.”

“La supremazia dell’attività mentale cerebrale, manipolatoria va di pari passo con un’atrofia della vita emozionale. Dal momento che questa non viene coltivata né se ne ha bisogno, ma costituisce piuttosto un ostacolo al funzionamento ottimale, essa è rimasta sottosviluppata, non è mai riuscita a raggiungere un livello di maturità superiore a quella infantile. Ne deriva che i caratteri mercantili sono particolarmente ingenui per quanto attiene ai problemi emozionali.”

~ “Avere o essere?”, Eric Fromm.

Worrying

May 31, 2020

“At the moment when I put my foot on the step of the bus, the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it.”
~ “Science and method”, Poincaré.

“[…] an initial period of concentration — conscious, directed attention — needs to be followed by some amount of unconscious processing. Mathematicians will often speak of the first phase of this process as ‘worrying’ about a problem or idea. It’s a good word, because it evokes anxiety and upset while also conjuring an image of productivity: a dog worrying a bone, chewing at it to get to the marrow — the rich, meaty part of the problem that will lead to its solution. In this view of creative momentum, the key to solving a problem is to take a break from worrying, to move the problem to the back burner, to let the unwatched pot boil.”
~ Dan Rockmore

May 3, 2020

Haeckel “could look with one eye into his microscope while the other focused on his drawing board — a talent so unusual that his former professors said they had never seen someone capable of it.”

“Humphry Davy was a poet and a chemist. In his notebooks, for example, Davy filled one side with the objective accounts of his experiments, while on the other page he wrote his personal reactions and emotional responses.”

~ “The invention of nature”, Andrea Wulf.

April 26, 2020

“It didn’t matter how far one journeyed ‘but how much alive you are’. Be an explorer of ‘your own streams and oceans’, Thoreau advised, a Columbus of thoughts, and not one of trade or imperial ambitions.”

~ “The invention of nature”, Andrea Wulf.

Romantic science

April 26, 2020

“Once a limit had been established, be it that of one’s own body, experience or tradition, the Romantic impulse was to widen the scope, and to open the view to the infinite. There was a predilection for the unfinished and incomplete, matched by an instinctive aversion to anything that was predictable and clearly delineated. […] At the point of having secured a career that was destined to make him one of the most powerful men in the Prussian state administration, Humboldt threw it away for an idea of almost spectacular vagueness — something that amounted, at that stage, to little more than an ill-defined yearning to travel.”

“The Romantic preference for the fragment carries within it the acknowledgement that one can never give a full and true representation of reality. At the same time, it points to the presence of a greater whole, one beyond description and therefore out of reach, forever ideal.”

“The great hope of Romantic science is not just to understand nature as an object. There is an idea that nature, elevated into a subject, should in turn effect a transformation in the observer. […] Humboldt achieved this ambition — he was transformed by his experience of nature. He encountered a world that was defined almost in opposition to all he had known, and in it, more truly found his own self. He returned to Europe at peace with the persone he was.”
~ “A longing for wide and unknown things”, Maren Meinhardt.

“I cannot exist without experiments.” ~ Alexander von Humboldt

“Goethe wrote Faust in bursts of activity that often coincided with Humboldt’s visits. Faust, like Humboldt, was driven by a relentless striving for knowledge, by a ‘feverish unrest’. […] Like Humboldt, Faust was trying to discover ‘all Nature’s hidden powers’. When Faust declares his ambition in the first scene, ‘That I may detect the innermost force / Which binds the world, and guides its course’, it could have been Humboldt speaking. That something of Humboldt was in Goethe’s Faust — or something of Faust in Humboldt — was obvious to many; so much so that people commented on the resemblance when the play was finally published in 1808.”

“The real purpose of the voyage, Humboldt said, was to discover how ‘all forces of nature are interlaced and interwoven’ — how organic and inorganic nature interacted. Man needs to strive for ‘the good and the great’, Humboldt wrote in his last letter from Spain, ‘the rest depends on destiny’.”

“Coleridge called for a new approach to the sciences in reaction to the loss of the ‘spirit of Nature’. Neither Coleridge nor Wordsworth turned against science itself but against the prevailing ‘microscopic view’. Like Humboldt, they took issue with the division of science into ever more specialized approaches. Coleridge called these philosophers the ‘Little-ists’.”

“Where others insisted that nature was stripped of its magic as humankind penetrated into its deepest secrets, Humboldt believed exactly the opposite. […] Knowledge, he said, could never ‘kill the creative force of imagination’ — instead it brought excitement, astonishment and wondrousness. […] One look at the heavens, Humboldt said, was all it took: the brilliant stars ‘delight the senses and inspire the mind’, yet at the same time they move along a path of mathematical precision.”
~ “The invention of nature”, Andrea Wulf.

“Thoreau, like Emerson, was searching for the unity of nature but in the end they would choose different avenues. Thoreau would follow Humboldt in his belief that the ‘whole’ could only be comprehended by understanding the connections, correlations and details. Emerson on the other hand believed that this unity could not be discovered through rational thought alone but also by intuition or through some kind of revelation from god. Like the romantics in England such as Coleridge and the German idealists such as Schelling, Emerson and his fellow transcendentalists in America were reacting against scientific methods that were associated with deductive reasoning and empirical research. To examine nature like that, Emerson said, tended to ‘cloud the sight’. Instead, man had to find spiritual truth in nature. Scientists were only materialists whose ‘spirit is matter reduced to extreme thinness’, he wrote.”
~ “The invention of nature”, Andrea Wulf.

German Romanticism and mining

April 26, 2020

“The person who had introduced the motif of the Blue Flower” — the mysterious, ethereal symbol of German Romanticism — “was Friedrich von Hardenberg, who wrote under his better-known pen name, Novalis. Like Humboldt, he was a mining inspector, as well as an alumnus of Germany’s foremost mining academy. Many of Romanticism’s leading figures worked in mining or wrote about it, and the connection left a mark on the thinking of the time. Going inside the earth became a metaphor for turning inside, towards the self and its dark depths, in the search for personal enlightenment and truth.”

“In his novel fragment Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the Blue Flower is reached by way of an underground passage through a mountain cave. The protagonist is advised to become a miner if he wants to discover nature’s deepest secrets.”

“Novalis’ Ofterdingen miners are pulled in two directions. On the one hand, a desire for a more profound knowledge draws them deeper and deeper inside the earth. At the same time, they are peripatetic, never staying at any mine for long, seemingly compelled to seek out new and unfamiliar ground”

~ “A longing for wide and unknown things”, Maren Meinhardt.

August 11, 2019

“Work is love made visible.” ~ K. Gibran.