03 December 2018

Data Science: Observation (Just the Quotes)

"[…] it is not necessary that these hypotheses should be true, or even probably; but it is enough if they provide a calculus which fits the observations […]" (Andrew Osiander, "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres", 1543)

"[…] it is from long experience chiefly that we are to expect the most certain rules of practice, yet it is withal to be remembered, that observations, and to put us upon the most probable means of improving any art, is to get the best insight we can into the nature and properties of those things which we are desirous to cultivate and improve." (Stephen Hales, "Vegetable Staticks", 1727) 

"Those who have not imbibed the prejudices of philosophers, are easily convinced that natural knowledge is to be founded on experiment and observation." (Colin Maclaurin, "An Account of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophical Discoveries", 1748)

"We have three principal means: observation of nature, reflection, and experiment. Observation gathers the facts reflection combines them, experiment verifies the result of the combination. It is essential that the observation of nature be assiduous, that reflection be profound, and that experimentation be exact. Rarely does one see these abilities in combination. And so, creative geniuses are not common." (Denis Diderot, "On the Interpretation of Nature", 1753)

"Facts, observations, experiments - these are the materials of a great edifice, but in assembling them we must combine them into classes, distinguish which belongs to which order and to which part of the whole each pertains." (Antoine L Lavoisier, "Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences", 1777)

"On the other hand, if we add observation to observation, without attempting to draw no only certain conclusions, but also conjectural views from them, we offend against the very end for which only observations ought to be made." (Friedrich W Herschel, "On the Construction of the Heavens", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Vol. LXXV, 1785)

"[It] may be laid down as a general rule that, if the result of a long series of precise observations approximates a simple relation so closely that the remaining difference is undetectable by observation and may be attributed to the errors to which they are liable, then this relation is probably that of nature." (Pierre-Simon Laplace, "Mémoire sur les Inégalites Séculaires des Planètes et des Satellites", 1787)

"The art of drawing conclusions from experiments and observations consists in evaluating probabilities and in estimating whether they are sufficiently great or numerous enough to constitute proofs. This kind of calculation is more complicated and more difficult than it is commonly thought to be […]" (Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, cca. 1790)

"We must trust to nothing but facts: These are presented to us by Nature, and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation." (Antoin-Laurent de Lavoisiere, "Elements of Chemistry", 1790)

"Conjecture may lead you to form opinions, but it cannot produce knowledge. Natural philosophy must be built upon the phenomena of nature discovered by observation and experiment." (George Adams, "Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy" Vol. 1, 1794)

"In order to supply the defects of experience, we will have recourse to the probable conjectures of analogy, conclusions which we will bequeath to our posterity to be ascertained by new observations, which, if we augur rightly, will serve to establish our theory and to carry it gradually nearer to absolute certainty." (Johann H Lambert, "The System of the World", 1800)

"[…] we must not measure the simplicity of the laws of nature by our facility of conception; but when those which appear to us the most simple, accord perfectly with observations of the phenomena, we are justified in supposing them rigorously exact." (Pierre-Simon Laplace, "The System of the World", 1809)

"Primary causes are unknown to us; but are subject to simple and constant laws, which may be discovered by observation, the study of them being the object of natural philosophy." (Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Fourier, "The Analytical Theory of Heat", 1822)

"The aim of every science is foresight. For the laws of established observation of phenomena are generally employed to foresee their succession. All men, however little advanced make true predictions, which are always based on the same principle, the knowledge of the future from the past." (Auguste Compte, "Plan des travaux scientifiques nécessaires pour réorganiser la société", 1822)

"The framing of hypotheses is, for the enquirer after truth, not the end, but the beginning of his work. Each of his systems is invented, not that he may admire it and follow it into all its consistent consequences, but that he may make it the occasion of a course of active experiment and observation. And if the results of this process contradict his fundamental assumptions, however ingenious, however symmetrical, however elegant his system may be, he rejects it without hesitation. He allows no natural yearning for the offspring of his own mind to draw him aside from the higher duty of loyalty to his sovereign, Truth, to her he not only gives his affections and his wishes, but strenuous labour and scrupulous minuteness of attention." (William Whewell, "Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences" Vol. 2, 1847)

"In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur, [lecture] 1854)

"When a power of nature, invisible and impalpable, is the subject of scientific inquiry, it is necessary, if we would comprehend its essence and properties, to study its manifestations and effects. For this purpose simple observation is insufficient, since error always lies on the surface, whilst truth must be sought in deeper regions." (Justus von Liebig," Familiar Letters on Chemistry", 1859)

"Observation is so wide awake, and facts are being so rapidly added to the sum of human experience, that it appears as if the theorizer would always be in arrears, and were doomed forever to arrive at imperfect conclusion; but the power to perceive a law is equally rare in all ages of the world, and depends but little on the number of facts observed." (Henry D Thoreau, "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers", 1862)

"The process of discovery is very simple. An unwearied and systematic application of known laws to nature, causes the unknown to reveal themselves. Almost any mode of observation will be successful at last, for what is most wanted is method." (Henry D Thoreau, "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers", 1862)

"An anticipative idea or an hypothesis is, then, the necessary starting point for all experimental reasoning. Without it, we could not make any investigation at all nor learn anything; we could only pile up sterile observations. If we experiment without a preconceived idea, we should move at random […]" (Claude Bernard, "An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine", 1865)

"Men who have excessive faith in their theories or ideas are not only ill prepared for making discoveries; they also make very poor observations." (Claude Bernard, "An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine", 1865)

"Only within very narrow boundaries can man observe the phenomena which surround him; most of them naturally escape his senses, and mere observation is not enough." (Claude Bernard, "An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine", 1865)

"[…] wrong hypotheses, rightly worked from, have produced more useful results than unguided observation." (Augustus de Morgan, "A Budget of Paradoxes", 1872)

"Every science begins by accumulating observations, and presently generalizes these empirically; but only when it reaches the stage at which its empirical generalizations are included in a rational generalization does it become developed science." (Herbert Spencer, "The Data of Ethics", 1879)

"Science is the observation of things possible, whether present or past; prescience is the knowledge of things which may come to pass, though but slowly." (Leonardo da Vinci, "The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci", 1883)

"Even one well-made observation will be enough in many cases, just as one well-constructed experiment often suffices for the establishment of a law." (Émile Durkheim, "The Rules of Sociological Method", "The Rules of Sociological Method", 1895)

"Every experiment, every observation has, besides its immediate result, effects which, in proportion to its value, spread always on all sides into ever distant parts of knowledge." (Sir Michael Foster, "Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution", 1898)

"The primary basis of all scientific thinking is observation." (Douglas Marsland, "Principles of Modern Biology", 1899)

"To observe is not enough. We must use our observations, and to do that we must generalize." (Henri Poincaré, "Science and Hypothesis", 1902)

"An isolated sensation teaches us nothing, for it does not amount to an observation. Observation is a putting together of several results of sensation which are or are supposed to be connected with each other according to the law of causality, so that some represent causes and others their effects." (Thorvald N Thiele, "Theory of Observations", 1903)

"Man's determination not to be deceived is precisely the origin of the problem of knowledge. The question is always and only this: to learn to know and to grasp reality in the midst of a thousand causes of error which tend to vitiate our observation." (Federigo Enriques, "Problems of Science", 1906)

"An experiment is an observation that can be repeated, isolated and varied. The more frequently you can repeat an observation, the more likely are you to see clearly what is there and to describe accurately what you have seen. The more strictly you can isolate an observation, the easier does your task of observation become, and the less danger is there of your being led astray by irrelevant circumstances, or of placing emphasis on the wrong point. The more widely you can vary an observation, the more clearly will be the uniformity of experience stand out, and the better is your chance of discovering laws." (Edward B Titchener, "A Text-Book of Psychology", 1909)

"Neither logic without observation, nor observation without logic, can move one step in the formation of science." (Alfred N Whitehead, "The Organization of Thought", 1916)

"A discovery is rarely, if ever, a sudden achievement, nor is it the work of one man; a long series of observations, each in turn received in doubt and discussed in hostility, are familiarized by time, and lead at last to the gradual disclosure of truth." (Sir Berkeley Moynihan, "Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics" Vol. 31, 1920)

"In the world of natural knowledge, no authority is great enough to support a theory when a crucial observation has shown it to be untenable." (Sir Richard A Gregory, "Discovery; or, The Spirit and Service of Science", 1928)

"Science is but a method. Whatever its material, an observation accurately made and free of compromise to bias and desire, and undeterred by consequence, is science." (Hans Zinsser, "Untheological Reflections", The Atlantic Monthly, 1929)

"Abstraction is the detection of a common quality in the characteristics of a number of diverse observations […] A hypothesis serves the same purpose, but in a different way. It relates apparently diverse experiences, not by directly detecting a common quality in the experiences themselves, but by inventing a fictitious substance or process or idea, in terms of which the experience can be expressed. A hypothesis, in brief, correlates observations by adding something to them, while abstraction achieves the same end by subtracting something." (Herbert Dingle, Science and Human Experience, 1931)

"A scientist, whether theorist or experimenter, puts forward statements, or systems of statements, and tests them step by step. In the field of the empirical sciences, more particularly, he constructs hypotheses, or systems of theories, and tests them against experience by observation and experiment." (Karl Popper, "The Logic of Scientific Discovery", 1934)

"Science is the attempt to discover, by means of observation, and reasoning based upon it, first, particular facts about the world, and then laws connecting facts with one another and (in fortunate cases) making it possible to predict future occurrences." (Bertrand Russell, "Religion and Science, Grounds of Conflict", 1935)

"Starting from statistical observations, it is possible to arrive at conclusions which not less reliable or useful than those obtained in any other exact science. It is only necessary to apply a clear and precise concept of probability to such observations. " (Richard von Mises, "Probability, Statistics, and Truth", 1939)

"Experiment as compared with mere observation has some of the characteristics of cross-examining nature rather than merely overhearing her." (Alan Gregg, "The Furtherance of Medical Research", 1941)

"Science, in the broadest sense, is the entire body of the most accurately tested, critically established, systematized knowledge available about that part of the universe which has come under human observation. For the most part this knowledge concerns the forces impinging upon human beings in the serious business of living and thus affecting man’s adjustment to and of the physical and the social world. […] Pure science is more interested in understanding, and applied science is more interested in control […]" (Austin L Porterfield, "Creative Factors in Scientific Research", 1941)

"We see what we want to see, and observation conforms to hypothesis." (Bergen Evans, "The Natural History of Nonsense", 1947)

"[...] the conception of chance enters in the very first steps of scientific activity in virtue of the fact that no observation is absolutely correct. I think chance is a more fundamental conception that causality; for whether in a concrete case, a cause-effect relation holds or not can only be judged by applying the laws of chance to the observation." (Max Born, 1949)

"Every bit of knowledge we gain and every conclusion we draw about the universe or about any part or feature of it depends finally upon some observation or measurement. Mankind has had again and again the humiliating experience of trusting to intuitive, apparently logical conclusions without observations, and has seen Nature sail by in her radiant chariot of gold in an entirely different direction." (Oliver J Lee, "Measuring Our Universe: From the Inner Atom to Outer Space", 1950)

"Science is an interconnected series of concepts and schemes that have developed as a result of experimentation and observation and are fruitful of further experimentation and observation."(James B Conant, "Science and Common Sense", 1951)

"The stumbling way in which even the ablest of the scientists in every generation have had to fight through thickets of erroneous observations, misleading generalizations, inadequate formulations, and unconscious prejudice is rarely appreciated by those who obtain their scientific knowledge from textbooks." (James B Conant, "Science and Common Sense", 1951)

"The methods of science may be described as the discovery of laws, the explanation of laws by theories, and the testing of theories by new observations. A good analogy is that of the jigsaw puzzle, for which the laws are the individual pieces, the theories local patterns suggested by a few pieces, and the tests the completion of these patterns with pieces previously unconsidered." (Edwin P Hubble, "The Nature of Science and Other Lectures", 1954)

"Scientists whose work has no clear, practical implications would want to make their decisions considering such things as: the relative worth of (1) more observations, (2) greater scope of his conceptual model, (3) simplicity, (4) precision of language, (5) accuracy of the probability assignment." (C West Churchman, "Costs, Utilities, and Values", 1956)

"No observations are absolutely trustworthy. In no field of observation can we entirely rule out the possibility that an observation is vitiated by a large measurement or execution error. If a reading is found to lie a very long way from its fellows in a series of replicate observations, there must be a suspicion that the deviation is caused by a blunder or gross error of some kind. [...] One sufficiently erroneous reading can wreck the whole of a statistical analysis, however many observations there are." (Francis J Anscombe, "Rejection of Outliers", Technometrics Vol. 2 (2), 1960)

"Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method. (Richard Feynman, "Mainly mechanics, radiation, and heat", 1963)

"As soon as we inquire into the reasons for the phenomena, we enter the domain of theory, which connects the observed phenomena and traces them back to a single ‘pure’ phenomena, thus bringing about a logical arrangement of an enormous amount of observational material." (Georg Joos, "Theoretical Physics", 1968)

"[…] the link between observation and formulation is one of the most difficult and crucial in the scientific enterprise. It is the process of interpreting our theory or, as some say, of ‘operationalizing our concepts’. Our creations in the world of possibility must be fitted in the world of probability; in Kant’s epigram, ‘Concepts without precepts are empty’. It is also the process of relating our observations to theory; to finish the epigram, ‘Precepts without concepts are blind’." (Scott Greer, "The Logic of Social Inquiry", 1969)

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." (Sir Peter B Medawar, Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought, 1969)

"The advantages of models are, on one hand, that they force us to present a 'complete' theory by which I mean a theory taking into account all relevant phenomena and relations and, on the other hand, the confrontation with observation, that is, reality." (Jan Tinbergen, "The Use of Models: Experience," 1969)

"Science consists simply of the formulation and testing of hypotheses based on observational evidence; experiments are important where applicable, but their function is merely to simplify observation by imposing controlled conditions." (Henry L Batten, "Evolution of the Earth", 1971)

"All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention." (Rudolf Arnheim, "Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order", 1974)

"No theory ever agrees with all the facts in its domain, yet it is not always the theory that is to blame. Facts are constituted by older ideologies, and a clash between facts and theories may be proof of progress. It is also a first step in our attempt to find the principles implicit in familiar observational notions." (Paul K Feyerabend, "Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge", 1975)

"The essential function of a hypothesis consists in the guidance it affords to new observations and experiments, by which our conjecture is either confirmed or refuted." (Ernst Mach, "Knowledge and Error: Sketches on the Psychology of Enquiry", 1976)

"After all of this it is a miracle that our models describe anything at all successfully. In fact, they describe many things well: we observe what they have predicted, and we understand what we observe. However, this last act of observation and understanding always eludes physical description." (Yuri I Manin, "Mathematics and Physics", 1981)

"Science is a process. It is a way of thinking, a manner of approaching and of possibly resolving problems, a route by which one can produce order and sense out of disorganized and chaotic observations. Through it we achieve useful conclusions and results that are compelling and upon which there is a tendency to agree." (Isaac Asimov, "‘X’ Stands for Unknown", 1984)

"Science is defined as a set of observations and theories about observations." (F Albert Matsen, "The Role of Theory in Chemistry", Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 62 (5), 1985)

"The only touchstone for empirical truth is experiment and observation." (Heinz Pagels, "Perfect Symmetry: The Search for the Beginning of Time", 1985)

"The model is only a suggestive metaphor, a fiction about the messy and unwieldy observations of the real world. In order for it to be persuasive, to convey a sense of credibility, it is important that it not be too complicated and that the assumptions that are made be clearly in evidence. In short, the model must be simple, transparent, and verifiable." (Edward Beltrami, "Mathematics for Dynamic Modeling", 1987)

"A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: it must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations." (Stephen Hawking, "A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes", 1988)

"A law explains a set of observations; a theory explains a set of laws. […] a law applies to observed phenomena in one domain (e.g., planetary bodies and their movements), while a theory is intended to unify phenomena in many domains. […] Unlike laws, theories often postulate unobservable objects as part of their explanatory mechanism." (John L Casti, "Searching for Certainty: How Scientists Predict the Future", 1990)

"A model is often judged by how well it 'explains' some observations. There need not be a unique model for a particular situation, nor need a model cover every possible special case. A model is not reality, it merely helps to explain some of our impressions of reality. [...] Different models may thus seem to contradict each other, yet we may use both in their appropriate places." (Richard W Hamming, "The Art of Probability for Scientists and Engineers", 1991)

"The ability of a scientific theory to be refuted is the key criterion that distinguishes science from metaphysics. If a theory cannot be refuted, if there is no observation that will disprove it, then nothing can prove it - it cannot predict anything, it is a worthless myth." (Eric Lerner, "The Big Bang Never Happened", 1991)

"It is in the nature of theoretical science that there can be no such thing as certainty. A theory is only ‘true’ for as long as the majority of the scientific community maintain the view that the theory is the one best able to explain the observations." (Jim Baggott, "The Meaning of Quantum Theory", 1992)

"The art of science is knowing which observations to ignore and which are the key to the puzzle." (Edward W Kolb, "Blind Watchers of the Sky", 1996)

"The rate of the development of science is not the rate at which you make observations alone but, much more important, the rate at which you create new things to test." (Richard Feynman, "The Meaning of It All", 1998)

"[…] because observations are all we have, we take them seriously. We choose hard data and the framework of mathematics as our guides, not unrestrained imagination or unrelenting skepticism, and seek the simplest yet most wide-reaching theories capable of explaining and predicting the outcome of today’s and future experiments." (Brian Greene, "The Fabric of the Cosmos", 2004)

"A model is a good model if it:1. Is elegant 2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements 3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations 4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out." (Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow, "The Grand Design", 2010)

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