Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes


"The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away." - Stephen Hawking

"The same thing will happen with a wormhole, only with radiation instead of sound. As soon as the wormhole expands, natural radiation will enter it, and end up in a loop. The feedback will become so strong it destroys the wormhole. So although tiny wormholes do exist, and it may be possible to inflate one someday, it won't last long enough to be of use as a time machine. That's the real reason no one could come back in time to my party. Any kind of time travel to the past through wormholes or any other method is probably impossible, otherwise paradoxes would occur. So sadly, it looks like time travel to the past is never going to happen. A disappointment for dinosaur hunters and a relief for historians. But the story's not over yet. This doesn't make all time travel impossible. I do believe in time travel. Time travel to the future. Time flows like a river and it seems as if each of us is carried relentlessly along by time's current. But time is like a river in another way. It flows at diff?erent speeds in diff?erent places and that is the key to travelling into the future. This idea was first proposed by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago. He realized that there should be places where time slows down, and others where time speeds up. He was absolutely right. And the proof is right above our heads. Up in space. This is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. A network of satellites is in orbit around Earth. The satellites make satellite navigation possible. But they also reveal that time runs faster in space than it does down on Earth. Inside each spacecraft is a very precise clock. But despite being so accurate, they all gain around a third of a billionth of a second every day. The system has to correct for the drift, otherwise that tiny difference would upset the whole system, causing every GPS device on Earth to go out by about six miles a day. You can just imagine the mayhem that that would cause. The problem doesn't lie with the clocks. They run fast because time itself runs faster in space than it does down below. And the reason for this extraordinary e?ffect is the mass of the Earth. Einstein realized that matter drags on time and slows it down like the slow part of a river. The heavier the object, the more it drags on time. And this startling reality is what opens the door to the possibility of time travel to the future. Right in the centre of the Milky Way, 26,000 light years from us, lies the heaviest object in the galaxy. It is a supermassive black hole containing the mass of four million suns crushed down into a single point by its own gravity. The closer you get to the black hole, the stronger the gravity. Get really close and not even light can escape. A black hole like this one has a dramatic e-ffect on time, slowing it down far more than anything else in the galaxy. That makes it a natural time machine. I like to imagine how a spaceship might be able to take advantage of this phenomenon, by orbiting it. If a space agency were controlling the mission from Earth they'd observe that each full orbit took 16 minutes. But for the brave people on board, close to this massive object, time would be slowed down. And here the e?ffect would be far more extreme than the gravitational pull of Earth. The crew's time would be slowed down by half. For every 16-minute orbit, they'd only experience eight minutes of time. Around and around they'd go, experiencing just half the time of everyone far away from the black hole. The ship and its crew would be travelling through time. Imagine they circled the black hole for five of their years. Ten years would pass elsewhere. When they got home, everyone on Earth would have aged five years more than they had. So a supermassive black hole is a time machine. But of course, it's not exactly practical. It has advantages over wormholes in that it doesn't provoke paradoxes. Plus it won't destroy itself in a flash of feedback. But it's pretty dangerous. It's a long way away and it doesn't even take us very far into the future. Fortunately there is another way to travel in time. And this represents our last and best hope of building a real time machine. You just have to travel very, very fast. Much faster even than the speed required to avoid being sucked into a black hole. This is due to another strange fact about the universe. There's a cosmic speed limit, 186,000 miles per second, also known as the speed of light. Nothing can exceed that speed. It's one of the best established principles in science. Believe it or not, travelling at near the speed of light transports you to the future. To explain why, let's dream up a science-fiction transportation system. Imagine a track that goes right around Earth, a track for a superfast train. We're going to use this imaginary train to get as close as possible to the speed of light and see how it becomes a time machine. On board are passengers with a one-way ticket to the future. The train begins to accelerate, faster and faster. Soon it's circling the Earth over and over again. To approach the speed of light means circling the Earth pretty fast. Seven times a second. But no matter how much power the train has, it can never quite reach the speed of light, since the laws of physics forbid it. Instead, let's say it gets close, just shy of that ultimate speed. Now something extraordinary happens. Time starts flowing slowly on board relative to the rest of the world, just like near the black hole, only more so. Everything on the train is in slow motion. This happens to protect the speed limit, and it's not hard to see why. Imagine a child running forwards up the train. Her forward speed is added to the speed of the train, so couldn't she break the speed limit simply by accident? The answer is no. The laws of nature prevent the possibility by slowing down time onboard. Now she can't run fast enough to break the limit. Time will always slow down just enough to protect the speed limit. And from that fact comes the possibility of travelling many years into the future. Imagine that the train left the station on January 1, 2050. It circles Earth over and over again for 100 years before finally coming to a halt on New Year's Day, 2150. The passengers will have only lived one week because time is slowed down that much inside the train. When they got out they'd find a very diff?erent world from the one they'd left. In one week they'd have travelled 100 years into the future. Of course, building a train that could reach such a speed is quite impossible. But we have built something very like the train at the world's largest particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Deep underground, in a circular tunnel 16 miles long, is a stream of trillions of tiny particles. When the power is turned on they accelerate from zero to 60,000mph in a fraction of a second. Increase the power and the particles go faster and faster, until they're whizzing around the tunnel 11,000 times a second, which is almost the speed of light. But just like the train, they never quite reach that ultimate speed. They can only get to 99.99 per cent of the limit. When that happens, they too start to travel in time. We know this because of some extremely short-lived particles, called pi-mesons. Ordinarily, they disintegrate after just 25 billionths of a second. But when they are accelerated to near-light speed they last 30 times longer. It really is that simple. If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast. And I think the only way we're ever likely to do that is by going into space. The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached 25,000mph. But to travel in time we'll have to go more than 2,000 times faster. And to do that we'd need a much bigger ship, a truly enormous machine. The ship would have to be big enough to carry a huge amount of fuel, enough to accelerate it to nearly the speed of light. Getting to just beneath the cosmic speed limit would require six whole years at full power. The initial acceleration would be gentle because the ship would be so big and heavy. But gradually it would pick up speed and soon would be covering massive distances. In one week it would have reached the outer planets. After two years it would reach half-light speed and be far outside our solar system. Two years later it would be travelling at 90 per cent of the speed of light. Around 30 trillion miles away from Earth, and four years after launch, the ship would begin to travel in time. For every hour of time on the ship, two would pass on Earth. A similar situation to the spaceship that orbited the massive black hole. After another two years of full thrust the ship would reach its top speed, 99 per cent of the speed of light. At this speed, a single day on board is a whole year of Earth time. Our ship would be truly flying into the future. The slowing of time has another benefit. It means we could, in theory, travel extraordinary distances within one lifetime. A trip to the edge of the galaxy would take just 80 years. But the real wonder of our journey is that it reveals just how strange the universe is. It's a universe where time runs at different rates in different places. Where tiny wormholes exist all around us. And where, ultimately, we might use our understanding of physics to become true voyagers through the fourth dimension." - Stephen Hawking

"Advertising - A judicious mixture of flattery and threats." - Stephen Leacock, fully Stephen Butler Leacock

"O my boy! he who doeth good shall meet with good; and he who doeth evil shall meet with evil, for the Lord requiteth a man according to the measure of his work. O my boy! what shall I say more to thee than these sayings? for the Lord knoweth what is hidden, and is acquainted with the mysteries and the secrets. And He will requite thee and will judge, betwixt me and thee, and will recompense thee according to thy desert." - Ahikar or Ahiqar NULL

"Friends, I will disown and repudiate any man of my party who attacks with such foul slander and abuse any opponent of any other party." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm." - Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

"Sin which men account small brings God's great wrath on men." - Thomas Brooks

"Be a pattern to others, and then all will go well; for as a whole city is affected by the licentious passions and vices of great men, so it is likewise reformed by their moderation." - Thomas Carlyle

"You are so to give, and to sacrifice to give, as to earn the eulogium pronounced on the woman, "She hath done what she could."—Do it now.—It is not safe to leave a generous feeling to the cooling influences of a cold world." - Thomas Guthrie

"Because silver and gold have their value from the matter itself, they have first this privilege, that the value of them cannot be altered by the power of one, nor of a few commonwealths, as being a common measure of the commodities of all places. But base money may easily be enhanced or abased." - Thomas Hobbes

"Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever." - Thomas Jefferson

"The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows; not by clarity and substance, but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis. And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything." - Thomas Merton

"Calvinism is the belief (1) That there are three Gods (2) That good works, or the love of our neighbor are nothing (3) That faith is everything, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith (4) That reason in religion" - Thomas Paine

"It requires but a very small glance of thought to perceive, that although laws made in one generation often continue in force through succeeding generations, yet that they continue to derive their force from the consent of the living. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed; and the non-repealing passes for consent." - Thomas Paine

"The babbling sounds that mimic echo plays, The fairy shade, and its eternal maze? Nature and Art in all their charms combin'd, And all Elysium to one view confin'd! " - Thomas Tickell

"Some will say, is not God alone the prolific? I answer, God only acts and is, in existing beings or men." - William Blake

"The more reliant we become upon computers and information systems, the more vulnerable we become to cyber-terrorists who will conceive unlimited ways to cripple our infrastructure, our power grids, our banking systems, our financial markets, our space based communications systems." - William Cohen, fully William Sebastian Cohen

"He comes, the herald of a noisy world, with spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks; news from all nations lumbering at his back." - William Cowper

"After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"I am proud of the fact there is not a human being that I have got it in for. I never met a man I didn’t like." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can't buy enough to eat." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"There is people so excited over this election that they think the President has something to do with running this country." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"There’s the one thing no nation can ever accuse us of and that is secret diplomacy. Our foreign dealings are an open book. Generally a check book." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"There's the one thing no nation can ever accuse us of and that is secret diplomacy. Our foreign are an open book, generally a check book." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"You can't break a man that don't borrow; he may not have anything, but Boy! he can look the World in the face and say, I don't owe you Birds a nickel. You will say, (if everyone stops borrowing) what will all the Bankers do? I don't care what they do. Let 'em go to work, if there is any job any of them could earn a living at. Banking and After-Dinner Speaking are two of the most Non-essential industries we have in this country. I am ready to reform if they are." - Will Rogers, fully William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers

"Personal hatred and family affection are not incompatible; they often flourish and grow strong together." - Willa Cather, fully Willa Sibert Cather

"Because friendship is pleasant, we partake of our friend’s entertainment; not because we have not enough to eat in our own house. – African Proverb" -

"One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. – Ghanaian Proverb" -

"One fly causes the whole carcass of a cow to rot. - Kenya Proverb" -

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far. - West African Proverb" -

"Demon or bird! (said the boy’s soul). Is it indeed toward your mate you sing? or is it mostly to me? For I, that was a child, my tongue’s use sleeping, now I have heard you, now in a moment I know what I am for—I awake, and already a thousand singers—a thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours, a thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die.O you singer, solitary, singing by yourself—projecting me; O solitary me, listening—nevermore shall I cease perpetuating you; never more shall I escape, never more the reverberations, never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me, never again leave me to be the peaceful child I was before what there, in the night, by the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon, the messenger there arous’d—the fire, the sweet hell within, the unknown want, the destiny of me." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"The new worship concerns the construction and practices of neighborliness of the most elemental kind. The new worship looks advantage and disadvantage square in the face, and urges economic gestures that bind haves and have-nots together. The accent is upon praxis, thus echoing the remarkable statement of Jeremiah: Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the LORD. Jer 22:15–16 Knowledge of God is acknowledgment..." - Walter Brueggemann

"In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. But the most important is integrity, because if they don't have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you." - Warren Buffett, fully Warren Edward Buffett, aka Oracle of Omaha

"In making this acquisition of Business Wire, we have followed our blueprint of buying profitable companies that are industry leaders, yet have significant growth potential." - Warren Buffett, fully Warren Edward Buffett, aka Oracle of Omaha

"Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Warren Buffett, fully Warren Edward Buffett, aka Oracle of Omaha

"All the evil in the world, and all the unhappiness, comes from the I-concept." - Wei Wu Wei, pen name for Terence James Stannus Gray

"In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else's mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one's own place and economy. In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers... Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else's legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits. For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make. What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed? The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth - that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community - and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means." - Wendell Berry

"We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing." - Wendell Berry

"This is the perennial danger which besets semiotics: what with man being preeminently the sign-using creature, and what with man using signs in everything that he does, semiotics runs the risk of being about everything and hence about nothing." - Walker Percy

"Days I enjoy are days when nothing happens, when I have no engagements written on my block, when no one comes to disturb my inward peace, when no one comes to take me away from myself and turn me into a patchwork, a jig-saw puzzle, a broken mirror that once gave a whole reflection, being so contrived that it takes too long a time to get myself back to myself when they have gone." - Vita Sackville-West, fully The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson

"He must be always on his guard and devote every minute and module of life to the decoding of the undulation of things. The very air he exhales is indexed and filed away. If only the interest he provokes were limited to his immediate surroundings, but, alas, it is not! With distance, the torrents of wild scandal increase in volume and volubility. The silhouettes of his blood corpuscles, magnified a million times, flit over vast plains; and still farther away, great mountains of unbearable solidity and height sum up, in terms of granite and groaning firs, the ultimate truth of his being." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright world of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the brink of a russet ravine, with a far wood under a white sky, and brown leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"There is no science without fancy and no art without fact." - Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

"All of the other people have committed crimes, the Jews are the only ones who have boasted about committing them. They are, all of them, born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, just as the Bretons and the Germans are born with blond hair. I would not be in the least bit surprised if these people would not someday become deadly to the human race." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"Complacency is a coin by the aid of which all the world can, for want of essential means, pay its club bill in society. - It is necessary, however, that it may lose nothing of its merits, to associate judgment and prudence with it." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"It was decided by the University of Coimbre that the sight of several persons being slowly burned in great ceremony is an infallible secret for preventing earthquakes." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL

"Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination." - Voltaire, pen name of François-Marie Arouet NULL