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Category: Open Science Collaboration

“Teeth outlast everything. Death is nothing to a tooth. Hundreds of years in acidic soil just keeps a tooth clean. A fire that burns away hair and flesh and even bone leaves teeth dazzling like daisies in the ashes. Life is what destroys teeth. Undiluted apple juice in a baby bottle, sourballs, the pH balance of drinking water, tetracycline, sand in your bread if you were in the Roman army, biting seal-gut thread if you are an Eskimo woman, playing the trumpet, pulling your own teeth with a pliers.” – Jane Smiley, “The Age of Grief”

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“I was committed for two weeks to a mental health hospital for depression and suicidal behavior. Two weeks doesn’t sound long, but let me assure you that time is, in fact, relative. Imagine, if you will, being driven off in the middle of the night, poked and prodded by a doctor, having everything about you catalogued from your earrings to your underwear, being stripped and shoved in a shower, dressed in ill-fitting pink scrubs, marched out to a white-walled cage, and then watched. Watched by a panel of placating smiles, who ask questions for which they’ve already decided the answers. Watched as you color with the bright colored crayons, smile at everyone, swallow your pills, laugh too much, line up for the cafeteria, attend group and circle the happy face when you just want to yell, ‘I’m not in kindergarten!’ But you don’t because you want out, and, perhaps even more so, because you’re afraid you shouldn’t be let out. Sometimes I think I could spend a lifetime finding words in those two weeks alone.” – Beth McKinney, Rattle 56

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“Even one war in space will create a battlefield that will last forever, encasing the entire planet in a shell of whizzing debris that will thereafter make space near the earth highly hazardous for peaceful as well as military purposes. With enough orbiting debris, pieces will begin to hit other pieces, whose fragments will in turn hit more pieces, setting off a chain reaction of destruction that will leave a lethal halo around the Earth.” – Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams, “Star Wars Forever?—A Cosmic Perspective”

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“Some people derive joy and understanding from the dogmas of different religions, and that’s one way to organize your life. I don’t find that possible because I don’t think any of the received religions do justice to what I’ve discovered about the physical world. It’s not so much that they’re wrong, although many details are wrong, but they just don’t do justice to the profound surprises that science turns up about how big the universe is, how old it is, how many little things go into making the big things we experience in life.” – Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics (interviewed by Steve Paulson in “Beauty is Physics’ Secret Weapon”)

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“We could only say things about the world as a whole if we could get outside the world, if, that is to say, it ceased to be for us the whole world. Our world may be bounded for some superior being who can survey it from above, but for us, however finite it may be, it cannot have a boundary, since it has nothing outside it.” – Bertrand Russell, “Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

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“According to Aristotle, the Pythagoreans held that the elements of number were the elements of things, and, therefore, that things were numbers. To us, accustomed as we are from childhood to the multiplication table, such an assertion seems simply meaningless. We are so familiar with the idea of counting without counting anything, that it is only by an effort that we can realise what a very abstract process this is. It is certain, however, that, natural as it may be to us to speak of numbers as things that can exist by themselves, it was long before men learnt to think of a number, except as a number of something.” – John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy

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“The discovery that individual events are irreducibly random is probably one of the most significant findings of the twentieth century. Before this, one could find comfort in the assumption that random events only seem random because of our ignorance. For example, although the brownian motion of a particle appears random, it can still be causally described if we know enough about the motions of the particles surrounding it. Thus, as Werner Heisenberg put it, this kind of randomness, of a classical event, is subjective. But for the individual event in quantum physics, not only do we not know the cause, there is no cause. The instant when a radioactive atom decays, or the path taken by a photon behind a half-silvered beam-splitter are objectively random. There is nothing in the Universe that determines the way an individual event will happen. Since individual events may very well have macroscopic consequences, including a specific mutation in our genetic code, the Universe is fundamentally unpredictable and open, not causally closed.” – Anton Zeilinger, “The message of the quantum”

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“Human freedom stands out as an apparent fact of our consciousness, while it is also, I conceive, a highly probable deduction of analogy from the nature of that portion of the mind whose scientific constitution we are able to investigate. But whether accepted as a fact reposing on consciousness, or as a conclusion sanctioned by the reason, it must be so interpreted as not to conflict with an established result of observation, viz.: that phænomena, in the production of which large masses of men are concerned, do actually exhibit a very remarkable degree of regularity, enabling us to collect in each succeeding age the elements upon which the estimate of its state and progress, so far as manifested in outward results, must depend.” – George Boole, The Laws of Thought

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“It is the business of science not to create laws, but to discover them. We do not originate the constitution of our own minds, greatly as it may be in our power to modify their character. And as the laws of the human intellect do not depend upon our will, so the forms of the science, of which they constitute the basis, are in all essential regards independent of individual choice.” – George Boole, The Laws of Thought

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“He took home many women, and one day he found that he had en noua. He knew that was a bad disease, because it stays in the blood and eats the nose from inside. ‘A man loses his nose only long after he has already lost his head.’ He asked a doctor for medicine. The doctor gave him a paper and told him to take it to the Pharmacie de l’Etoile. There he bought six vials of penicillin in a box. He took them home and tied each little bottle with a silk thread, stringing them so that they made a necklace. He wore this always around his neck, taking care that the glass vials touched his skin. He thought it likely that by now he was cured, but his cousin in Fez had just told him that he must go on wearing the medicine for another three months, or at least until the beginning of the moon of Chouwal.” – Paul Bowles, “He of the Assembly”

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“Now and then we were bitten and stung by the venomous fire ants, and ticks crawled upon us. Once we were assailed by more serious foes, in the shape of a nest of marabunta wasps, not the biggest kind, but about the size of our hornets. We were at the time passing through dense jungle, under tall trees, in a spot where the down timber, holes, tangled creepers, and thorns made the going difficult. The leading men were not assailed, although they were now and then cutting the trail. Colonel Rondon and I were in the middle of the column, and the swarm attacked us; both of us were badly stung on the face, neck, and hands, the colonel even more severely than I was. He wheeled and rode to the rear and I to the front; our horses were stung too; and we went at a rate that a moment previously I would have deemed impossible over such ground. In these forests the multitude of insects that bite, sting, devour, and prey upon other creatures, often with accompaniments of atrocious suffering, passes belief. The very pathetic myth of ‘beneficent nature’ could not deceive even the least wise being if he once saw for himself the iron cruelty of life in the tropics. Of course ‘nature’—in common parlance a wholly inaccurate term, by the way, especially when used as if to express a single entity—is entirely ruthless, no less so as regards types than as regards individuals, and entirely indifferent to good or evil, and works out her ends or no ends with utter disregard of pain and woe.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness (ed. Dain Borges)

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“The political, ethical, social, philosophical problem of our days is not to try to liberate the individual from the state, and from the state’s institutions, but to liberate us both from the state and from the type of individualization which is linked to the state. We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of this kind of individuality which has been imposed on us for several centuries.” – Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power”

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“The advance of bio-power is contemporary with the appearance and proliferation of the very categories of anomalies—the delinquent, the pervert, and so on—that technologies of power and knowledge were supposedly designed to eliminate. The spread of normalization operates through the creation of abnormalities which it then must treat and reform. By identifying the anomalies scientifically, the technologies of bio-power are in a perfect position to supervise and administer them. This effectively transforms into a technical problem—and thence into a field foe expanding power—what might otherwise be construed as a failure of the whole system of operation. Political technologies advance by taking what is essentially a political problem, removing it from the realm of political discourse, and recasting it in the neutral language of science. Once this is accomplished the problems have become technical ones for specialists to debate. In fact, the language of reform is, from the outset, an essential component of these political technologies. Bio-power spread under the banner of making people healthy and protecting them. When there was resistance, or failure to achieve its stated aims, this was construed as further proof of the need to reinforce and extend the power of the experts. A technical matrix was established. By definition, there ought to be a way of solving any technical problem. Once this matrix was established, the spread of bio-power was assured, for there was nothing else to appeal to; any other standards could be shown to be abnormal or to present merely technical problems. We are promised normalization and happiness through science and law. When they fail, this only justifies the need for more of the same. Once the hold of bio-power is secure, what we get is not a true conflict of interpretations about the ultimate worth or meaning of efficiency, productivity, or normalization, but rather what might be called a conflict of implementations. The problem bio-power has succeeded in establishing is how to make the welfare institutions work; it does not ask, What do they mean?” – Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics

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“In disciplinary technology, the internal organization of space depends on the principle of elementary partitioning into regular units. This space is based on a principle of presences and absences. In such a simple coding, each slot in the grid is assigned a value. These slots facilitate the application of discipline to the body. . . . Individuals are placed, transformed, and observed with an impressive economy of means. For the most efficient and productive operation, it is necessary to define beforehand the nature of the elements to be used; to find individuals who fit the definition proposed; to place them in the ordered space; to parallel the distribution of functions in the structure of space in which they will operate. Consequently, all of space within a confined area must be ordered; there should be no waste, no gaps, no free margins; nothing should escape.” – Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics

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“People are somewhat gorgeous collections of chemical fires, aren’t they? Cells and organs burn and smolder, each one, and hot electricity flows and creates storms of further currents, magnetisms and species of gravity—we are towers of kinds of fires, down to the tiniest constituents of ourselves, whatever those are, those things burn like stars in space, in helpless mimicry of the vastness out there, electrons and neutrons, planets and suns, so that we are made of universes of fires contained in skin and placed in turn within a turning and lumbering universe of fires.” – Harold Brodkey, “Angel”

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“We need narrative not because it is a valid epistemological description of the world but because of its cognitive role. It’s how we make sense of things. An inability to render life experiences into a coherent narrative is characteristic of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Text that fails to deliver narrative coherence, for example in terms of relating cause to effect and honouring the expectations of readers, is harder to understand. So identifying narratives in abstract activities such as music and sport seems inevitable: if they lacked the properties that make this possible, they wouldn’t catch on, because they would seem pointless and unintelligible. Looked at this way, we might wonder if the ultimate intelligibility of the universe will be determined not so much by the capacity of our minds to formulate the appropriate concepts and equations, but by whether we can find a meaningful story to tell about it.” – Philip Ball, “The Story Trap”

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“We have more moral, political, and historical wisdom than we know how to reduce into practice; we have more scientific and economical knowledge than can be accommodated to the just distribution of the produce which it multiplies. The poetry in these systems of thought is concealed by the accumulation of facts and calculating processes. There is no want of knowledge respecting what is wisest and best in morals, government, and political economy, or at least, what is wiser and better than what men now practise and endure. But we let ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’, like the poor cat in the adage. We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we imagine; we want the poetry of life; our calculations have outrun conception; we have eaten more than we can digest.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, “A Defence of Poetry” (emphases in original)

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“Scientists now work as stonemasons did once on cathedrals. They put the stones next to one another with great attention to detail and the work of the fellow next to them, but they have no sense of the architectonics of the whole. And sometimes they do not even have a sense of the purpose of a cathedral.” – Werner Heisenberg (interviewed by William Irwin Thompson in Passages About Earth)

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