Honorable scientist and imaginative figure, Freeman Dyson passed away today, February 28, 2020, in New Jersey. At age 96, he has taught most of his life at the Princeton University Institue for Advanced Study and became widely known for his work in the 1940s on light and matter. Dyson’s imaginative streak also inspired sci-fi films and the scientific community. More popularly known for the “Dyson sphere,” he hypothesized a structure built around a star to fully harness its energy. While his large ideas have, and continue to, leave an astronomical impact, his words remind us of the power behind the small things.
1. “Technology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest of God’s gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences.”
2. “It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be approached without some humor and some bewilderment.”
3. “You ask: what is the meaning or purpose of life? I can only answer with another question: do you think we are wise enough to read God’s mind?”
4. “It’s better to get mugged than to live a life of fear.”
5. “The public has a distorted view of science because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.”
6. “It is our task, both in science and in society at large, to prove the conventional wisdom wrong and to make our unpredictable dreams come true”
7. “The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.”
8. “It is better to be wrong than to be vague.”
9. “The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove.”
10. “We do not need to have an agreed set of goals before we do something ambitious!”
11. Human societies are glued together with conversation and friendship. Conversation is the natural and characteristic activity of human beings. Friendship is the milieu within which we function.
12. “As a working hypothesis to explain the riddle of our existence, I propose that our universe is the most interesting of all possible universes, and our fate as human beings is to make it so”
13. “For a physicist mathematics is not just a tool by means of which phenomena can be calculated, it is the main source of concepts and principles by means of which new theories can be created.”
14. “The beauty in the genome is of course that it’s so small. The human genome is only on the order of a gigabyte of data…which is a tiny little database. If you take the entire living biosphere, that’s the assemblage of 20 million species or so that constitute all the living creatures on the planet, and you have a genome for every species the total is still about one petabyte, that’s a million gigabytes – that’s still very small compared with Google or the Wikipedia and it’s a database that you can easily put in a small room, easily transmit from one place to another. And somehow mother nature manages to create this incredible biosphere, to create this incredibly rich environment of animals and plants with this amazingly small amount of data.”
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