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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

So the media says that the decade is over... or is it?

Did the decade start in 2000 or 2001?

Who gets to decide these things?


In any case, a New Year beckons! I would like to thank all regular Fresh Brainz readers for your support through these years.

And just like last year, I'll present a compilation of the Weekly Obscure Quotes from this outgoing year.

Hope you like them!


1. “Pablo Casals was a great cellist of the last century – he was a great virtuoso, just considered the absolute master of his instrument. And in his 90s he was still practicing 3 hours a day. And one of his friends asked him, ‘Senor Casals, you're a master, why do you still practice 3 hours a day?’ and he said, ‘Well, I'm beginning to notice some improvement.’” – George Carlin

2. “A student of ours, Fran and her husband, John, decided they wanted to go to live in the Missouri Ozarks. Everyone told them that there was no way for them to make a living there. Everyone they asked advised them not to do it. Finally, a minister in the Church they proposed to attend told them that they were to serve there. Out of twenty or thirty people they asked, that minister was the only one who told them to come. Of course, it was exactly what they wanted to hear. They sold their home and most of their possessions accumulated over a lifetime. They moved to the Ozarks and went broke within a year. They had to leave and begin all over again.” – Joe Ross

3. “If a judge was to say to you: ‘How do you account for the fact you say you are home asleep at midnight, but we found your DNA at the scene of the crime’, and you went: ‘I move in mysterious ways, goodnight!’ It won’t wash.” – Ricky Gervais

4. “Excellent black people have always been compensated for excellence. Always. The real equality is when we can have a black president as dumb as George Bush. That's when we're really equal. That's when the dream has come true.” – Chris Rock

5. “How easily nonsense proffered in an earnest and profound manner can browbeat someone into acquiescence.” – John Allen Paulos

6. “The opponents of evolution education are not disputing the facts of any particular scientific conclusion - that’s why they don’t do experiments, or publish research. What they want is “equal time”: equal time between religious dogma and science - between faith and reason - between provable theory and unprovable assertion.” – Timothy Sandefur

7. “Using ‘Darwinism’ as synonymous with ‘evolutionary biology’ is thus a touch unfair to the men and women who have contributed to the scientific edifice to which Darwin provided the cornerstone, including (to name a few) Wallace, Huxley, Weisman, De Vries, Romanes, Morgan, Weidenreich, Teilhard, von Frisch, Vavilov, Wright, Fisher, Muller, Haldane, Dobzhansky, Rensch, Ford, McClintock, Simpson, Hutchinson, Lorenz, Mayr, Delbrück, Jukes, Stebbins, Tinbergen, Luria, Maynard Smith, Price, Kimura, Ostrom, Wilson, Hamilton, and Gould, to say nothing of even more who are still contributing to evolutionary biology. As Olivia Judson (2008) recently commented, terms like ‘Darwinism’ ‘suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed.’” – Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch

8. “Governments seem to be unaware that bankers do not rescue economies, they rescue banks. They always want to privatise profits and nationalise losses.” – Daniel Thorniley (The Economist)

9. “No feature of consciousness has ever been discovered that does not depend 100% on neurophysiology. Stimulate the brain with chemicals or an electrical current, and the person’s experience changes; let a person’s experience vary, and you can measure the changes in chemistry or electrophysiology. When a brain is damaged, the person’s mental life is diminished accordingly, and when the brain’s activity ceases, the mind goes out of existence – Wallace’s séances notwithstanding, no one has found a way to communicate with the dead. The very existence of a subjective correlate of brain activity may not be understood (if it’s an intellectually coherent problem at all, which some would deny), but positing a ‘soul’ simply renames the problem with no insight, and leaves the perfect correlation between consciousness and neurophysiology unexplained.” – Steven Pinker

10. “They say a rising tide lifts all ships. As the water drains out of the market, all of the rocks and sharks are left exposed.” – Hendersonmj (commenter at

11. “If anything, a student who tries really, really, really hard at something and still repeatedly falls short might benefit from realizing that his talents lie elsewhere… not to state the obvious, but I don't want a brain surgeon who graduated at the top of his class because he had perfect attendance. I want one who is an artist with a scalpel.” – Michelle Cottle

12. “Additionally, a frightening web of mutual dependence develops among huge financial institutions. Receivables and payables by the billions become concentrated in the hands of a few large dealers who are apt to be highly-leveraged in other ways as well. Participants seeking to dodge troubles face the same problem as someone seeking to avoid venereal disease: It’s not just whom you sleep with, but also whom they are sleeping with.” – Warren Buffet

13. “The worst kind of censorship has always been the kind that newspaper people impose on themselves.” – Andy Rooney

14. “Science lets us see superstition for the disempowering nonsense that it is. I think it’s the only method that can truly satisfy our innate curiosity and it literally lets us reach for the stars. That’s why science is important.” – Alom Shaha

15. “Does anybody understand me? Don't go. I am lonely. I am delicate. Please don't leave me. I'm like an old car in Cuba.” – Hans Oberlander

16. “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” – Ray Bradbury

17. “It's the rain that I hear coming, not a stranger or a ghost. It's the quiet of a storm approaching, that I fear the most.” – Delerium (Innocente)

18. “Doth thy other mouth call me? Mercy, mercy! This is a devil, and no monster. I will leave him; I have no long spoon.” – Stephano (The Tempest)

19. “Sometimes, you don't have to do anything to offend... but I'm not in the business of making everyone happy.” – Sam Ho

20. “The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it.” – Dr. Horrible

21. “It depends on what you mean by organising. It is kind of flattering in a way. I'm frustrated, I talk to people, I collect info, I send to different people. You want to join, join. I will help you. We discover that networking helps.” – Dr. Thio Su Mien

22. “It’s a trap!” – Admiral Ackbar (Return Of The Jedi)

23. “What, then, do Jim Watson and I deserve credit for? If we deserve any credit at all, it is for persistence and the willingness to discard ideas when they became untenable.” – Francis Crick

24. “If I ask you for sex, will you give me the same answer as the answer to this question?” – via ‘That Sounds Clever’ blog

25. “In real life, she has almost nothing in common with most of her viewers. She is an unapproachable billionaire with a private jet and homes around the country who hangs out with movie stars. She is not married and has no children. But television Oprah is a different person. She somehow manages to make herself believable as a down-to-earth everywoman. She is your girlfriend who struggles to control her weight and balance her work and personal life, just like you.” – Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert (Newsweek)

26. “Ribonucleotides are simply an expression of the fundamental principles of organic chemistry. They’re doing it unwittingly. The instructions for them to do it are inherent in the structure of the precursor materials. And if they can self-assemble so easily, perhaps they shouldn’t be viewed as complicated.” – John Sutherland

27. “If we cooperate, it will mean opening up our rocket program to them. We have only two hundred missiles, but they think we have many more. So when they say we have something to hide? It is just the opposite. We have nothing to hide. We have nothing. And we must hide it.” – Nikita Khrushchev

28. “Fundamentalists are people who consider themselves oppressed when they’re not allowed to force their beliefs on everybody else.” – Yoga for Cynics

29. “The clue to the entire mindset is in the import of her first few sentences: if we believe that we were "created out of love" by a loving creator, then we are worthy of love, and can love. If not, then not. Like only comes from like. If we are material and physical, then nothing can come out of that but material, physical things. No values, no morals, no thoughts and no feelings. Mind comes from mind. Life comes from life. Fish come from fish. Monkey come from monkeys. People come from people. Love comes from love. If the universe wasn't a kind of love to begin with, then there would be no real love in it at all, ever. Their views are impoverished by their lack of imagination, and the almost infantile inability to see that small changes can accumulate till they are big changes, and novelty can grow out and emerge from something not at all like it.” – Sastra

30. “Because with great power, comes giant robots.” – Starschwar

31. “You're either growing or dying, there’s no middle ground. You can’t hold what you have, that doesn’t work in business. So we grew.” – Hugh McColl

32. “A tree is known by its fruit.” – Leileilove1101

33. “One blueprint for trouble, making collapse likely, is where there is a conflict of interest between the short-term interest of the decision-making elites, and the long-term interest of the society as a whole. Especially if the elites are able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions.” – Jared Diamond

34. “What is the point of having independent scientific advice if as soon as you get some advice that you don't like, you sack the person who has given it to you?” – Chris Hunhe

35. “I think it is important at least to raise the possibility that you can criticize something which everybody has accepted as uncriticizable.” – Howard Zinn

36. “I did have another job at one point, as a computer programmer, but I kept up with my other work because it was so much more enjoyable.” – Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour)

37. “By 2006, chief executives at the biggest U.S. companies had bumped up their compensation to 364 times that of the average worker, compared with just 40 times the average worker's pay in 1980.” – Michael Brush

38. “The crisis almost certainly spells the end of Dubai's economic model that’s focused heavily on property investment and inflows of foreign capital.” – Paul Chapman (Reuters)

39. “On two occasions I have been asked, 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.” – Charles Babbage

40. “Over the past few decades, psychologists have dismantled the myth of objectivity. The fact is, we carefully edit our reality, searching for evidence that confirms what we already believe. Although we pretend we’re empiricists - our views dictated by nothing but the facts - we’re actually blinkered, especially when it comes to information that contradicts our theories. The problem with science, then, isn’t that most experiments fail - it’s that most failures are ignored.” – Jonah Lehrer


Have a Happy and Healthy New Year 2010!