Bulletin Board
Rants, Raves, Interesting Science & Awful Puns
January 30, 1997


Quotes from Now and Then


A few quotes from well-known Romans. Some things remain as true 2000 years later.

Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis) A.D. c.55 - c.130

Honesty is praised and starves.
Satires, I, 1.74

But who is to guard the guards themselves?
Ibid., VI, l.347

The people that once bestowed commands, consoleships, legions, and all else, now concerns itself no more, and longs eagerly for just two things -- bread and circuses!
Ibid., X, l.79

Cornelius Tacitus A.D. c.56 - c.120
He had talents equal to business, and aspired no higher.
Annals, Bk. VI, 39

Where they make a desert, they call it peace.
Agricola, sec. 30

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus A.D. 121-180

Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.
Meditations, III, 7

Epictetus A.D. c.55 - c.135
(Actually a freed Greek slave, but he did his philosophizing in Rome)

What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to learn that which he thinks he already knows.
Discourses, bk. II, ch.17


"We live in a society that is overworked and under-educated; a society in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid."
--Oscar Wilde: "The Critic as Artist"

Posted April 16, 1997


"Nothing the wise men promised has happened, and everything the damned fools said would happen has come to pass."
--Lord Melbourne


Posted May 9, 1997
"Everthing is theoretically impossible, until it's done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen."
--Robert A. Heinlein

"Genius doesn't lie in seeing the truth that other scientists have missed. It lies in getting other scientists to see the truth they have missed."
--James P. Hogan

"Public proclamation of absurd ideas is indecent and sets a harmful example."
--Philip Melanchthon on Copernicus's absurd idea that Earth goes around the sun.

"Science really doesn't exist. A scientific belief is either proved wrong, or it quickly becomes engineering. Everything else is untested speculation."
--James P. Hogan

"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."
--Mark Twain

(On being trapped by false assumptions)
"Not finding the error visible, and not mistrusting their first ground, [they] know not which way to clear themselves, but spend time in fluttering over their books; as birds that entering by the chimney and finding themselves enclosed by a chamber flutter at the false light of a glass window, for want of wit to consider which way they came in."
--Thomas Hobbes


Posted August 17, 1997

Some gems pronounced by those who know better:

Julius Frontinius, chief military adviser to the Roman emperor Vespasian, 1st century A.D.

"I will ignore all ideas for new works and engines of war, the invention of which has reached its limits and for whose improvement I see no further hope."

Scipio Chiaramonti, Professor of Philosophy and Mathematics at the University of Pisa, 1633, on Galileo's insistence of a moving Earth:

"Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles; the Earth has no limbs and muscles, hence it does not move."

Joseph Galloway, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, in a letter to the British Admiral Richard Howe, January 21, 1777:

"The power of the rebellion is pretty well broken, and though 'tis probable that the colonies may make some further efforts, those efforts will be only feebel and ineffectual."

Editorial in the "Boston Post," 1865, on the arrest for fraud of Joshua Coppersmith, who had been attempting to raise funds for research into a telephone design:

"Well-informed people know it's impossible to transmit the voice over wires, and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value."

U.S. Ditrict Attorney, prosecuting inventor Lee DeForest for fraud, 1913:

"DeForest has said . . . that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public . . . has been persuaded to purchase stock in his comany."

Newton D. Baker, U.S. Secretary for War, 1921, on Billy Mitchell's proposal to demonstrate the coming importance of air power by sinking a battleship:

"The idea is so damned nonsensical and impossible that I'm willing to stand on the bridge of a battleship while that nitwit tries to hit it from the air."

From a "New York Times" editorial, 1921, on Goddard's proposals concerning rocket propulsion.

"That Professor Goddard with his 'chair' at Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action and reaction, and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react--that would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

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