Arthur Eddington - Nature Quotes
33 Sourced Quotes
If today you ask a physicist what he has finally made out the æther or the electron to be, the answer will not be a description in terms of billiard balls or fly-wheels or anything concrete; he will point instead to a number of symbols and a set of mathematical equations which they satisfy. What do the symbols stand for? The mysterious reply is given that physics is indifferent to that; it has no means of probing beneath the symbolism. To understand the phenomena of the physical world it is necessary to know the equations which the symbols obey but not the nature of that which is being symbolised.... this newer outlook has modified the challenge from the material to the spiritual world.
There is only one law of Nature-the second law of thermodynamics-which recognises a distinction between past and future more profound than the difference of plus and minus. It stands aloof from all the rest.... It opens up a new province of knowledge, namely, the study of organisation; and it is in connection with organisation that a direction of time-flow and a distinction between doing and undoing appears for the first time.
The mind is not content to leave scientific Truth in a dry husk of mathematical symbols, and demands that it shall be alloyed with familiar images. The mathematician, who handles x so lightly, may fairly be asked to state, not indeed the inscrutable meaning of x in nature, but the meaning which x conveys to him.
It is one thing for the human mind to extract from the phenomena of nature the laws which it has itself put into them; it may be a far harder thing to extract laws over which it has no control. It is even possible that laws which have not their origin in the mind may be irrational, and we can never succeed in formulating them.
The desire for truth so prominent in the quest of science, a reaching out of the spirit from its isolation to something beyond, a response to beauty in nature and art, an Inner Light of conviction and guidance—are these as much a part of our being as our sensitivity to sense impressions?