Home: Scrying: Light, Liberty, and Uncertainty

Light, Liberty, and Uncertainty

January 31, 2006

A yarrow from my garden of a few years ago (don't ask what it has to do with the quotes, I just like it)Here are a few quotes I’ve collected over the years. (Ok, so, one is a song lyric, but it fits well.) They might not seem connected, yet here, they may be.

First, Henri Poincare (1854-1912):

“It is better to foresee without certainty than not to foresee at all.”

“Is Euclidean geometry true? It has no meaning. We might as well ask if the metric system is true, and if the old weights and measures are false; if Cartesian co-ordinates are true and polar co-ordinates false. One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient. Now, Euclidean geometry is, and will remain, the most convenient.”

(I use that second one in papers, quite a bit.)

More on uncertainty, from Jeffery Satinover, in The Quantum Brain:

“The specific outcome that happens in any case is classical-it violates no mechanical laws-but which of many outcomes happens to happen is wholly non deterministic, in exactly the same way that exactly where a given particle strikes in a dual-slit experiment is.”

And Marvin Minsky:
 “By such [nanotechnological] methods, we could make truly identical parts—and thus escape from the randomness that hinders conventionally made machines. Today, for example, when we try to etch very small circuits, the sizes of the wires vary so much that we cannot predict their electrical properties. However, if we can locate each atom exactly, then those wires will be indistinguishable. This would lead to new kinds of materials that current techniques could never make; we could endow them with enormous strength, or novel quantum properties. These products in turn will lead to computers as small as synapses, having unparalleled speed and efficiency.”

To other views of light; from the Gospel of Thomas:
 “Jesus said, ‘If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.’”

And Leonard Cohen (Here’s the song lyric, from “Anthem”):
“There is a crack in every thing; that’s how the light gets in.”

(I told you it fit.)

Now, for the more traditional, John Locke (1632-1704):

“God, who hath given the world to man in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience… But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not the liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than it’s bare preservation calls for it.”

And our constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (Amendment I)

Finally, my favorite quote, (also used often in papers,) Levin’s lesson from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina:
“Reasoning had brought him to doubt, and prevented him from seeing what he ought do and what he ought not. When he did not think, but simply lived, he was continually aware of an infallible judge in his soul, determining which of two possible courses of action was better and which was worse, and as soon as he did not act rightly, he was at once aware of it. So he lived, not knowing and not seeing any chance of knowing what he was and what he was living for… yet firmly laying down his own path in life.” Levin found an understanding of happiness as soon as he ceased trying to force it. The divine knowledge leading to happiness always existed, but could only be seen after the fact.”

Now, that’s riding the waves.