We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

- Tombstone epitaph of two amateur astronomers Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth. - Ptolemy,c.150 AD With every passing hour our solar system comes forty-three thousand miles closer to globular cluster 13 in the constellation Hercules, and still there are some misfits who continue to insist that there is no such thing as progress. - Ransom K. Ferm For I dipped into the Future, far as the human eye could see; saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be. - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1842 "Magnificent desolation."
        - Buzz Aldrin's description of the Moon (and perhaps outer space)

He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions.

- Carl Sagan's epitaph to astronomer Johannes Kepler The world is my country, and science is my religion. - Christian Huygens, 17th century Dutch astronomer God is infinite, so His universe must be too. Thus is the excellence of God magnified and the greatness of His kingdom made manifest; He is glorified not in one, but in countless suns; not in a single earth, a single world, but in a thousand thousand, I say in an infinity of worlds. - Giordana Bruno, 1584, "On the Infinite Universe and Worlds" [Executed by the Inquisition] What grander idea can the mind of man form to itself than a prodigious, glorious and firy globe hanging in the midst of an infinite and boundless space surrounded with bodies of whom our earth is scarcely any thing in comparison, moving their rounds about its body and held tight to their respective orbits by the attractive force inherent to it while they are suspended in the same space by the Creator's almighty arm! And then let us cast our eyes up to the spangled canoply of heaven, where innumerable luminaries at such an immense distance from us cover the face of the skies. All suns as great as that which illumines us, surrounded with earths perhaps no way inferior to the ball which we inhabit and no part of the amazing whole unfilled! System running into system, and worlds bordering on worlds! Sun, earth, moon, stars be ye made, and they were made!

        - Edmund Burke, at age 15 praising the 'noble science' of astronomy

"The kings came and fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no gain of silver; They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera."
        - from "The Song of Deborah", Judges 5:17-19

"Another day, another ball of fire rising in the sky."
        - from the narration to "The Naked City"

We live in a changing universe, and few things are changing faster than our conception of it.

        - Timothy Ferris, "The Whole Shebang"

Lost in the milky way,
Smile at the empty sky
And wait for the moment
When a million chances may all collide.

- The Lightning Seeds, "The Life of Reilly" "No known roof is as beautiful as the skies above."

        - Michael O'Muircheartaigh

"The long haired star."

        - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes Haley's Comet (1066)

Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.

- Inscription on Columbus' caravels "A star shines on the hour of our meeting." - Elvish greeting, "The Lord of the Rings" How quickly do we grow accustomed to wonders. I am reminded of the Isaac Asimov story "Nightfall," about the planet where the stars were visible only once in a thousand years. So awesome was the sight that it drove men mad. We who can see the stars every night glance up casually at the cosmos and then quickly down again, searching for a Dairy Queen.
        - Roger Ebert, from a movie review in the "Chicago Sun Times"

The meek shall inherit the Earth. And the rest of us will go to the stars.
        - Omni Magazine

Telescopes are in some ways like time machines. They reveal galaxies so far away that their light has taken billions of years to reach us. We in astronomy have an advantage in studying the universe, in that we can actually see the past.
We owe our existence to stars, because they make the atoms of which we are formed. So if you are romantic you can say we are literally starstuff. If you're less romantic you can say we're the nuclear waste from the fuel that makes stars shine.
We've made so many advances in our understanding. A few centuries ago, the pioneer navigators learnt the size and shape of our Earth, and the layout of the continents. We are now just learning the dimensions and ingredients of our entire cosmoc, and can at last make some sense of our cosmic habitat.
        - Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain

I know one thing. "Stephen Hawking's Universe" is not a place for the faint of heart or feebleminded. It's a place of great black holes, Big Bangs and physicists on the prowl. It's where your theory of relativity can't get along with my quantum mechanics... The series is about how the universe developed, how it's more or less held together, and what'll become of it. There are at least two possible answers to that last question -- infinite expansion, or a most unfortunate crunch. Scientists will get back to you with a more definitive answer once they figure out how much dark matter is hiding from view.
        - John Carman, reviewing Hawking's documentary series, "San Francisco Chronicle"


Think again of those astronomers who beamed radio signals into space from Arecibo, describing Earth's location and its inhabitants. In its suicidal folly that act rivalled the folly of the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, who described to his gold-crazy Spanish captors the wealth of his capital and provided them with guides for the journey. If there really are any radio civillizations within listening distance of us, then for heaven's sake let's turn off our own transmitters and try to escape detection, or we are doomed. Fortunately for us, the silence from outer space is deafening. What woodpeckers (they are the only species on the planet to have developed means to dig holes in living trees to eat insects living under bark) teach us about flying saucers is that we are unlikely to ever see one.

- Jared Diamond, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee" So far as I know, every such story has alien intelligences which treat humans as approximate equals, either as friends or foes. It is assumed that A-I will either be friends, anxious to communicate and trade, or enemies who will fight and kill, or possibly enslave, the human race. There is another and more humiliating possibility - alien intelligences so superior to us and so indifferent to us as to be almost unaware of us. They do not even covet the surface of the planet where we live - they live in the stratosphere. We do not know whether they evolved here or elsewhere - will never know. Our mightiest engineering formations they regard as coral formations, i.e., seldom noticed and considered of no importance. We aren't even nuisances to them. And they are no threat to us, except that their engineering might occasionally disturb our habitat, as the grading done for a highway disturbs gopher holes. Some few of them might study us casually - or might not. - Robert A. Heinlein, "Grumbles from the Grave" "The large-scale homogeneity of the universe makes it very difficult to believe that the structure of the universe is determined by anything so peripheral as some complicated molecular structure on a minor planet orbiting a very average star in the outer suburbs of a fairly typical galaxy."
        - Steven Hawking

"Chances are, when we meet intelligent life forms in outer space, they're going to be descended from predators."
        - Michio Kaku

"The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning."

        - Paul Theodore Hellyer, former Canadian Defence Minister

Cumbria, once an apparent hotbed of alien activity, has seen the decline of its local chapter, the Cumbria British UFO Hunters, to total quiescence. Maybe those space-hopping tentacled beasties have seen enough of Cumbria this last half-century. Imagine it: fly for millions of light years across the universe and then you end up in Workington. One can only imagine their dismay and disappointment.
When the Cold War was at its most chilly, back in the 1950s, movies portrayed aliens as sinister and hostile; the thaw in the 1980s led to ET, Close Encounters and Jeff Bridges’s loveable Starman. Now that the Cold War is over, the subconscious paranoia has been dispelled too. Well, maybe. Some UFO experts have even argued what is, in effect, the precise reverse of this; that reality, these days, is more worrying than the imagined threat from beyond our world. We need not dream up exotic alien invaders when we have maniacal Muslim fundamentalists with an antithetical culture living covertly among us, ready to blow us to oblivion. For Americans and, I suspect, a good many Brits, Algeria is every bit as alien as Alpha Centauri.
Our much greater awareness of military hardware may also explain the decline in people reporting strange craft tearing silently across the sky. The first UFO sightings came about at the dawn of the jet age, when there was frantic military expenditure and experimentation in new forms of aircraft, all shrouded in the deepest secrecy. These days, we are aware of stealth bombers; we’ve even seen them in action.
A perfectly serious thesis advanced for the rapid decline of UFO reports is that our bifocals have improved to the extent that we are far less likely, these days, to mistake a flying squirrel or the 06.41 Heathrow to Paris 737 for an alien space ship; we see things altogether too clearly in the 21st century, both literally and metaphorically.
        - Rod Liddle, on the decline of UFO sightings, "The Spectator"


For many planet hunters, though, the ultimate goal is still greater (or actually, smaller) prey : terrestrial planets, like Earth, circling a star like the Sun. Astronomers already know that three such planets orbit at least one pulsar. But planet hunters will not rest until they are in sight of a small blue world, warm and wet, in whose azure skies and upon whose wind-whipped oceans shines a bright yellow star like our own.

- Ken Croswell, "Planet Quest" (1997) The issue, as correctly emphasized by Carl Sagan, is the probability of the evolution of high intelligence and an electronic civilization on an inhabited world. Once we have life (and almost surely it will be very different from life on Earth), what is the probability of its developing a lineage with high intelligence? On Earth, among millions of lineages of organisms and perhaps 50 billion speciation events, only one led to high intelligence; this makes me believe in its utter improbability.

        - Ernest Mayr, commenting during "The SETI Debate" (submitted byAffable Athiest)

On Earth, among millions of lineages or organisms and perhaps 50 billion speciation events, only one led to high intelligence ; this makes me believe its utter improbablity.

- Ernst Mayr, biologist, Calculations of the probability of other inhabited planets in our Galaxy are rather meaningless at this stage of our knowledge of the origin of life. But in the framework of the cosmological principle we should assume that there is at least one inhabited planet per galaxy. - Michael Rowan-Robinson, "Cosmology" Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the prospect is staggering! - Arthur C.Clarke, contemplating the existence of Alien Life After I give lectures - on almost any subject - I am often asked, "Do you believe in UFOs?". I'm always struck by how the question is phrased, the suggestion that this is a matter of belief and not evidence. I'm almost never asked, "How good is the evidence that UFOs are alien spaceships?". - Carl Sagan, "The Demon Haunted World", p.78 Occasionally, I get a letter from someone who is in 'contact' with aliens. I am invited to ask them anything. And over the year's I've prepared a little list of questions. The aliens are very advanced remember. So I ask things like, 'Please provide a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem'. I write out the simple theorem equation with the exponents. It's a simulating exercise to think of questions to which no human today knows the answers, but where a correct answer would be recognised as such. It's even more challenging to formulate such questions in fields other than mathematics. Perhaps we should hold a contest and collect the best responses in '10 Questions to Ask an Alien'. - Carl Sagan, "The Demon Haunted World", p.95 We are like the inhabitants of an isolated valley in New Guinea who communicate with societies in neighboring valleys (quite different societies, I might add) by runner and by drum. When asked how a very advanced society will communicate, they might guess by an extremely rapid runner or by an improbably large drum. They might not guess a technology beyond their ken. And yet, all the while, a vast international cable and radio traffic passes over them, around them, and through them...
We will listen for the interstellar drums, but we will miss the interstellar cables. We are likely to receive our first messages from the drummers of the neighboring galactic valleys - from civilizations only somewhat in our future. The civilizations vastly more advanced than we, will be, for a long time, remote both in distance and in accessibility. At a future time of vigorous interstellar radio traffic, the very advanced civilizations may be, for us, still insubstantial legends. - Carl Sagan, "The Cosmic Connection" If a large number of people who are convinced alien abductions are real are hypnotising even larger numbers of others who suspect they might be, then it is likely there will be many alien abduction narratives flying around, as, indeed, there are. Of course, this is not proof they are not true, but it does provide a persuasive context for a simple psychosocial explanation. Hypnotism is a technique that triggers a mass storytelling project in which all the stories are linked.

        - Bryan Appleyard, "Aliens: Why They Are Here"

The destruction of this planet would have no significance on a cosmic scale: to an observer in the Andromeda nebula, the sign of our extinction would be no more than a match flaring for a second in the heavens: and if that match does blaze in the darkness there will be none to mourn a race that used a power that could have lit a beacon in the stars to light its funeral pyre. The choice is ours.

- Stanley Kubrick If we are still here to witness the destruction of our planet some five billion years or more hence, then we will have achieved something so unprecedented in the history of life that we should be willing to sing our swansong with joy - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. - Stephen Jay Gould, "The Panda's Thumb" This is the way the world ends - Not with a bang but a whimper. - T. S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men" Many people don't believe in God, do believe in the eventual heat death of the universe, yet despite that they continue to live and act as if their lives actually meant something. - Ray Butterworth # SPACE TRAVEL

But does Man have any "right" to spread through the universe? Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics, you name it, is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is, not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The Universe will let us know - later - whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it.

- Robert A. Heinlein, "Starship Troopers" I have no doubt that Christians can support the exploration and use of space. The so-called "science commission" in Genesis 1:28 certainly seems to apply to any part of the material creation which God places within man's reach. - Rev. Paul A. Bartz, Bible-Science Newsletter, October 1990 When we are a million species spreading through the galaxy, the question "Can man play God and still stay sane?" will lose some of its terrors. We shall be playing God, but only as local deities and not as lords of the universe. There is safety in numbers. Some of us will become insane, and rule over empires as crazy as Doctor Moreau's island. Some of us will shit on the morning star. There will be conflicts and tragedies. But in the long run, the sane will adapt and survive better than the insane. Nature's pruning of the unfit will limit the spread of insanity among species in the galaxy, as it does among individuals on earth. Sanity is, in its essence, nothing more than the ability to live in harmony with nature's laws. - Freeman Dyson, "Disturbing The Universe" We have your satellite if you want it back send 20 billion in Martian money. No funny business or you will never see it again. - Seen on a hall wall at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs The Space Shuttle is the most effective device known to man for destroying dollar bills. - US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It wasn't a miracle, we just decided to go. - Jim Lovell,"Apollo 13" The earth is simply too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in. - Arthur C. Clarke "Why don't they make more science fiction movies?"
The answer to any question starting, "Why don't they-" is almost always, "Money." - Robert A. Heinlein, "Shooting Destination Moon" Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice. These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding. They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown. In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood. Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts. For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
        - speech prepared in case of failure of Apollo Moon Mission for Pres. Nixon


Cosmology does, I think, affect the way that we perceive humanity's role in nature. One thing we've learnt from astronomy is that the future lying ahead is more prolonged than the past. Even our sun is less than halfway through its life.
        - Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain

"The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet. Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe. There isn't anywhere like the Earth in the solar system, so we would have to go to another star. If we used chemical fuel rockets like the Apollo mission to the moon, the journey to the nearest star would take 50,000 years. This is obviously far too long to be practical, so science fiction has developed the idea of warp drive, which takes you instantly to your destination. Unfortunately, this would violate the scientific law which says that nothing can travel faster than light. However, we can still within the law, by using matter/antimatter annihilation, at least reach just below the speed of light. With that, it would be possible to reach the next star in about six years, though it wouldn't seem so long for those on board."
        - Stephen Hawking, accepting the Royal Society's Copley Medal (2006)

Setting loose on the battlefield weapons that are able to learn may be one of the biggest mistakes mankind has ever made. It could also be one of the last.

- Richard Forsyth, "Machine Learning for Expert Systems" When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. - Arthur C. Clarke's First Law Perhaps the adjective 'elderly' requires definition. In physics, mathematics, and astronautics it means over thirty; in the other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are, of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory! - Clarke's note on above When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion : the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right. - Isaac Asimov, In answer to Clarke's First Law But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. - Clarke's Second Law Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Clarke's Third Law #

"One of the most impressive discoveries was the origin of the energy of the stars, that makes them continue to burn. One of the men who discovered this was out with his girl friend the night after he realized that nuclear reactions must be going on in the stars in order to make them shine.
She said "Look at how pretty the stars shine!"
He said, "Yes, and right now I am the only man in the world who knows why they shine."
She merely laughed at him. She was not impressed with being out with the only man who, at that moment, knew why stars shine. Well, it is sad to be alone, but that is the way it is in this world."

- Richard Feynman, "The Feynman Lectures" I wonder why. I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder. - Richard Feynman In 1911 the little town of Nakhla in Egypt was the scene of one of the most remarkable events in historym when a chunk of rock fell from the sky and killed a dog. This is the only known canine fatality caused by a cosmic object. Improbably though this encounter was already, its truly extraordinary nature was revealed only decades later when scientists found that the culprit was not a common-or-garden meteorite, but a piece of the planet Mars. - Paul Davies, "The Fifth Miracle - The Search for the Origin of Life" But since time slows down aboard the starship, according to Einstein's special theory of relativity, the crew could reach the Pleiades star-cluster (M45), which is 400 light-years away, in as little as eleven years, by the clocks aboard the starship. After 25 shipboard years, such a ship could even reach the Great Andromeda Galaxy - although over 2 million years would have passed on the earth.
Wormholes were first introduced to the public over a century ago in a book written by an Oxford mathematician. Perhaps realizing that adults might frown on the idea of multiply connected spaces, he wrote the book under a psuedonym and wrote it for children. His name was Charles Dodgson, his psedonym was Lewis Carroll, and the book was Through The Looking Glass. - Michio Kaku, "Visions - How science will revolutionize the 21st century" Why does anything exist? How do I know it exists? What do I mean when I say "I?" It's convenient to pin everything on God, but if there is a God, he provided us with brains and curiosity and put us in what seems to be a physical universe, and so we cannot be blamed for trying to figure things out. Newton seemed to have it about right, but it's been downhill ever since. And with the introduction of quantum physics, even unusually intelligent people like you and me have to admit we are baffled.
"What the #$*! Do We Know?" is a movie that attempts to explain quantum physics in terms anyone can understand. It succeeds, up to a point. I understood every single term. Only the explanation eluded me. The experts do not know the answers to these questions, and admit it. They have quixotic little smiles as they explain why it is that there are no answers. What makes them experts? I guess it's because they have been able to formulate the questions, and intuit the ways in which they are prevented from being answered. Gene Siskel ended every interview by asking his subjects, "What do you know for sure?" These people know for sure that they can't know for sure. At some point in the movie I would have enjoyed, as a change of pace, a professor of French who explains he cannot speak the language, that perhaps nobody can and cautions us that France may not exist.

        - from Roger Ebert's review of hoax film "What the #$*! Do We Know?", "Chicago Sun Times"


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