Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for the ‘Quote of the Day’ Category

The planet hunter’s commandments

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Behold the heavens and the great vastness thereof, for a planet could be anywhere therein. Thou shalt dedicate thy whole being to the search project with infinite patience and perseverance. Thou shalt set no other work before thee for the search shall keep thee busy enough. Thou shalt take the plates at opposition time lest thou be deceived by asteroids near their stationary positions. Thou shalt duplicate the plates of a pair at the same hour angle lest refraction distortions overtake thee. Thou shalt give adequate overlap of adjacent plate regions lest the planet play hide and seek with thee. Thou shalt not become ill in the dark of the moon lest thou fall behind the opposition point. Thou shalt have no dates except at full moon when long exposure plates cannot be taken at the telescope. Many false planets shall appear before thee and thou shalt check every one with a third plate. Thou shalt not engage in any dissipation, that thy years may be many, for thou shalt need them to finish the job.

Clyde Tombaugh, “The Ten Special Commandments for a Would-Be Planet Hunter”

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December 17, 2017 at 7:30 am

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The refractory spirits

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I have spoken of the scientific attainments necessary for the chemical philosopher; I will say a few words of the intellectual qualities necessary for discovery, or for the advancement of the science. Amongst them patience, industry, and neatness in manipulation, and accuracy and minuteness in observing and registering the phenomena which occur are essential. A steady hand and a quick eye are most useful auxiliaries; but there have been very few great chemists who have preserved these advantages through life; for the business of the laboratory is often a service of danger, and the elements, like the refractory spirits of romance, though the obedient slave of the magician, yet sometimes escape the influence of his talisman and endanger his person. Both the hands and eyes of others however may be sometimes advantageously made use of. By often repeating a process or an observation, the errors connected with hasty operations or imperfect views are annihilated; and, provided the assistant has no preconceived notions of his own, and is ignorant of the object of his employer in making the experiment, his simple and bare detail of facts will often be the best foundation for an opinion.

Sir Humphry Davy, Consolations in Travel

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December 16, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact, it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is their instrument. What emerges from this recording machine does not escape the economic constraints of a world of waste, of tensions that become increasingly intense and of insane ecological consequences…To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis…It is a way of life.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Aperture History of Photography, Book 1

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December 15, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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To be overwise is to ossify; and the scruple-monger ends by standing stock still. Now the man who has his heart on his sleeve, and a good whirling weathercock of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing to be dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded, makes a very different acquaintance of the world, keeps all his pulses going true and fast, and gathers impetus as he runs, until, if he be running towards anything better than wildfire, he may shoot up and become a constellation at the end.

Robert Louis Stevenson“Aes Triplex”

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December 14, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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One of the first things I noticed was [Robert Lowell’s] revision, his revision and revision and revision and you would see the poem written over in this sort of printed handwriting, over and over the same point with slight changes and then on each piece of paper, arrows and asterisks and changes—endless changes till finally the poem didn’t have the same, wasn’t the same poem at all, didn’t mean the same thing at all. I think that was the beginning of my learning that all things are equal in poetry, all the elements that go into making a poem and that including the theme, the theme is no more important than the form.

Peter Taylor, quoted by Kay Redfield Jamison in Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire

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December 13, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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The hardest saying in the bible is that of St. Paul, addressing the Galatians: “God is not mocked,” and this saying applies to the relationship between man and his ecology. It is of no use to plead that a particular sin of pollution or exploitation was only a little one or that it was unintentional or that it was committed with the best intentions. Or that “If I didn’t, somebody else would have.” The processes of ecology are not mocked.

Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind

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December 12, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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It’s a good plan to work on several things at the same time. It yields the best results; one thing helps out the other and each is purer, more itself. For when ideas crop up you can fit each of them into the place that suits it best, since there are several pigeonholes to choose from.

Paul Valéry, Analects

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December 11, 2017 at 7:30 am

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