Arthur C. Clarke

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Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (16 December 191719 March 2008) was a British author, inventor and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Clarke were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.

See also:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Childhood's End

Quotes[edit]

1940s[edit]

I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. … I do not think we will have to wait for long.
  • I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire alarm and have nothing to do but to wait.
    I do not think we will have to wait for long

1950s[edit]

It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
  • If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run — and often in the short one — the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.
    • The Exploration of Space (1951), p. 111
We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return...
  • It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
    • The Exploration of Space (1951), p. 187
  • Others, one suspects, are afraid that the crossing of space, and above all contact with intelligent but nonhuman races, may destroy the foundations of their religious faith. They may be right, but in any event their attitude is one which does not bear logical examination — for a faith which cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.
    • The Exploration of Space (1951)
  • We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return … The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation … the childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.
    • Exploration of Space (1952)
Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
  • Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor — but they have few followers now.
    • Childhood's End (1953), p. 15
  • All explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest.
    • The City and the Stars (1956)

1960s[edit]

  • They will have time enough, in those endless aeons, to attempt all things, and to gather all knowledge … no Gods imagined by our minds have ever possessed the powers they will command … But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the Universe when it was young.
    • Profiles of the Future (1962)
  • Yet now, as he roared across the night sky toward an unknown destiny, he found himself facing that bleak and ultimate question which so few men can answer to their satisfaction. What have I done with my life, he asked himself, that the world will be poorer if I leave it.
    • Glide Path (1963) Chapter 27
One cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
  • As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superiorscience and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.
    • Voices from the Sky : Previews of the Coming Space Age (1967)
  • Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) "Foreword"

1970s[edit]

  • One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of mind. Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories. Two-thirds of 2001 is realistic — hardware and technology — to establish background for the metaphysical, philosophical, and religious meanings later.
    • As quoted in The Making of Kubrick's 2001 (1970) by Jerome Agel, p. 300
  • Perhaps our role on this planet is not to worship God — but to create Him.
    • "The Mind of the Machine" in Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations (1972)
  • "… we have a situation in which millions of vehicles, each a miracle of often unnecssary complication, are hurtling in all directions under the impulse of anything up to 200 horsepower. Many of them are the size of small houses and contain a couple of tons of sophisticated alloys — yet often carry a single passenger. They can travel at a hundred miles an hour, but are lucky if they average forty. In one lifetime they have consumed more irreplaceable fuel than has been used in the whole previous history of mankind. The roads to support them, inadequate though they are, cost as much as a small war; the analogy is a good one, for the casualties are on the same scale."
    • Chapter 3 (The Future of Transport) in Profiles of the Future (7th printing, 1972)
  • This is the first age that's ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one.
    • As quoted in The Peter Plan : A Proposal for Survival (1976) by Laurence J. Peter

1980s[edit]

  • Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!
    • Electronic Tutors (1980)
  • Plans for the final assault on Big Brother had already been worked out and agreed upon with Mission Control. Leonov would move in slowly, probing at all frequencies, and with steadily increasing power — constantly reporting back to Earth at every moment. When final contact was made, they would try to secure samples by drilling or laser spectroscopy; no one really expected these endeavours to succeed, as even after a decade of study TMA-1 resisted all attempts to analyse its material. The best efforts of human scientists in this direction seemed comparable to those of Stone Age men trying to break through the armour of a bank vault with flint axes.
  • All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landings there.
    • 2010: Odyssey Two (1982)
  • I wanted to kill myself. I would have done it, too, if I had owned a gun. I was considering the gruesome alternatives — pills, slitting my wrists with a razor blade, jumping off a bridge — when another student called to ask me a detailed question on relativity. There was no way, after fifteen minutes of thinking about Mr. Einstein, that suicide was still a viable option. Divorce, certainly. Celibacy, highly likely. But death was out of the question. I could never have prematurely terminated my love affair with physics.
    • "Richard Wakefield" in Rama II (1989)
  • I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.
    • 1984: Spring (1984)
  • Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software.
    • The Odyssey File (1984), also quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004) by Geoff Tibballs, p. 128

1990s[edit]

  • The fact that we have not yet found the slightest evidence for life — much less intelligence — beyond this Earth does not surprise or disappoint me in the least. Our technology must still be laughably primitive, we may be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime.
    • "Credo" (1991); also in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Essays, 1934-1998 (1999), p. 360
The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.
  • The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.
    • "Credo" (1991); also in Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Essays, 1934-1998 (1999), p. 360
  • CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn't want to give up power.
    • Quoted in And I Quote: The Definitive Collection of Quotes, Sayings, and Jokes for the Contemporary Speechmaker (1992) by Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans and Andrew Frothingham, p. 279

2000s and attributed from posthumous publications[edit]

  • The dinosaurs disappeared because they could not adapt to their changing environment. We shall disappear if we cannot adapt to an environment that now contains spaceships, computers — and thermonuclear weapons.
    • Foreword to The Collected Stories (June 2000)
I want to see lasting and meaningful peace achieved in Sri Lanka as early as possible. But I am aware that peace cannot just be wished; it involves hard work, courage and persistence.
  • Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.
    • As quoted in Visions : How Science Will Revolutionize the Twenty-First Century (1999) by Michio Kaku, p. 295
  • It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
    • As quoted in Duh! : The Stupid History of the Human Race (2000) by Bob Fenster, p. 208
  • The intelligent minority of this world will mark 1 January 2001 as the real beginning of the 21st century and the Third Millennium.
It is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
  • We should be less concerned about adding years to life, and more about adding life to years. I have been very fortunate to have witnessed some of humanity's greatest achievements during the 20th century that is nearing its end. Yet we must admit that it has also been the most savage century in the history of our kind. If I can have one more wish, I want to see lasting and meaningful peace achieved in Sri Lanka as early as possible. But I am aware that peace cannot just be wished; it involves hard work, courage and persistence.
    As we welcome 2001, let us harness our collective energies to create a culture of peace and a land of prosperity.
    • As quoted in the [Sri Lanka] Sunday Times (31 December 2000)
  • I've been saying for a long time that I'm hoping to find intelligent life in Washington … I'm reasonably sure there must be life in this solar system, on Mars or on Europa, and other places. I think life is probably going to be ubiquitous, though we still don't have any proof of that yet — and still less, any proof of intelligent life anywhere. But I hope that will be coming in the next decade or so through radio astronomy or, perhaps, the discovery of objects in space which are obviously artificial. Astronomical engineering — that may be the other thing to look for.
  • I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about..
    • As quoted in An Enchanted Life : An Adept's Guide to Masterful Magick (2001) by Patricia Telesco, p. 135
  • There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.
    • As quoted in Values of the Wise : Humanity's Highest Aspirations (2004) by Jason Merchey, p. 31
  • The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
    • As quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004) by Geoff Tibballs, p. 264
  • I don't believe in God but I'm very interested in her.
    • As quoted in Multiple Intelligences in Practice : Enhancing Self-esteem and Learning in the Classroom (2006) by Mike Fleetham, Section 2 : Using MI

On Clarke's Laws[edit]

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.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Clarke's First Law: 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.
    • "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
    • 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!
      • "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962; as revised in 1973)
  • Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    • "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)
  • Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    • Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)
  • Clarke's Fourth Law: For every expert there is an equal and opposite expert.
    • Profiles of the Future (1999, London: Victor Gollancz) p. 143
  • Clarke's Law of Revolutionary Ideas: Every revolutionary idea — in science, politics, art, or whatever — seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases:

    (1) "It's completely impossible — don't waste my time";
    (2) "It's possible, but it's not worth doing";
    (3) "I said it was a good idea all along."

All truth passes through three stages.
First it is ridiculed.
Second it is violently opposed.
And third it is accepted as self-evident.
  • As quoted in Seeds of Peace : A Catalogue of Quotations (1986) by Jeanne Larson, Madge Micheels-Cyrus, p. 244
  • I am afraid that this chapter will amply demonstrate the truth of Clarke's 69th Law, viz., "Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software." In both cases the cure is simple though usually very expensive.
    • "Appendix II: MITE for Morons," The Odyssey File (1984), p. 123

We'll Never Conquer Space (1960)[edit]

We have abolished space here on the little Earth; we can never abolish the space that yawns between the stars.
Essay, published in Science Digest (June 1960); later published in Profiles of the Future : An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible (1962), Voices from the Sky (1965), and Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! : Collected Essays, 1934-1998 (1999)
  • Our age is in many ways unique, full of events and phenomena that never occurred before and can never happen again. They distort our thinking, making us believe that what is true now will be true forever, though perhaps on a larger scale. Because we have annihilated distance on this planet, we imagine that we can do it once again. The facts are otherwise, and we see them more clearly if we forget the present and turn our minds towards the past.
  • When the pioneers and adventurers of our past left their homes in search of new lands, they said good-bye forever to the place of their birth and the companions of their youth. Only a lifetime ago, parents waved farewell to their emigrating children in the virtual certainty that they would never meet again.
    And now, within one incredible generation, all this has changed.
  • We have abolished space here on the little Earth; we can never abolish the space that yawns between the stars. Once again, as in the days when Homer sang, we are face-to-face with immensity and must accept its grandeur and terror, its inspiring possibilities and its dreadful restraints.
  • To obtain a mental picture of the distance to the nearest star, compared to the nearest planet, you must imagine a world in which the closest object to you is only five feet away — and there is nothing else to see until you have travelled a thousand miles.
  • Space can be mapped and crossed and occupied without definable limit; but it can never be conquered. When our race has reached its ultimate achievements, and the stars themselves are scattered no more widely than the seed of Adam, even then we shall still be like ants crawling on the face of the Earth. The ants have covered the world, but have they conquered it — for what do their countless colonies know of it, or of each other?
    So it will be with us as we spread out from Earth, loosening the bonds of kinship and understanding, hearing faint and belated rumors at second — or third — or thousandth hand of an ever dwindling fraction of the entire human race. Though the Earth will try to keep in touch with her children, in the end all the efforts of her archivists and historians will be defeated by time and distance, and the sheer bulk of material. For the numbers of distinct human societies or nations, when our race is twice its present age, may be far greater than the total number of all the men who have ever lived up to the present time.
    We have left the realm of comprehension in our vain effort to grasp the scale of the universe; so it must ever be, sooner rather than later.
  • When you are next out of doors on a summer night, turn your head towards the zenith. Almost vertically above you will be shining the brightest star of the northern skies — Vega of the Lyre, twenty-six years away at the speed of light, near enough to the point of no return for us short-lived creatures. Past this blue-white beacon, fifty times as brilliant as our sun, we may send our minds and bodies, but never our hearts.
    For no man will ever turn homewards beyond Vega, to greet again those he knew and loved on Earth.

Space and the Spirit of Man (1965)[edit]

We cannot predict the new forces, powers, and discoveries that will be disclosed to us when we reach the other planets and set up new laboratories in space. They are as much beyond our vision today as fire or electricity would be beyond the imagination of a fish.
  • We seldom stop to think that we are still creatures of the sea, able to leave it only because, from birth to death, we wear the water-filled space suits of our skins.
  • We cannot predict the new forces, powers, and discoveries that will be disclosed to us when we reach the other planets and set up new laboratories in space. They are as much beyond our vision today as fire or electricity would be beyond the imagination of a fish.
  • The rash assertion that 'God made man in His own image' is ticking like a time bomb at the foundation of many faiths, and as the hierarchy of the universe is disclosed to us, we may have to recognize this chilling truth: if there are any gods whose chief concern is man, they cannot be very important gods.

The Fountains of Paradise (1979)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey (First Ballantine Books edition, February 1980)
  • Through long and bitter experience, Rajasinghe had learned never to trust first impressions, but also never to ignore them.
    • Chapter 2 “The Engineer” (p. 10)
  • Since women are better at producing babies, presumably Nature has given men some talent to compensate. But for the moment I can’t think of it.
    • Chapter 10 “The Ultimate Bridge” (p. 52)
  • “I am the King.” Ah, but which king? The monarch who had stood on these granite flagstones — scarcely worn then, eighteen hundred years ago — was probably an able and intelligent man; but he failed to conceive that the time could ever come when he would fade into an anonymity as deep as that of his humblest subjects.
    • Chapter 11 “The Silent Princess” (p. 65)
  • Even though you were once a goddess, Kalidasa’s heaven was only an illusion.
    • Chapter 11 “The Silent Princess” (p. 67)
  • I am unable to distinguish clearly between your religious ceremonies and apparently identical behavior at the sporting and cultural functions you have transmitted to me.
    • Chapter 16 “Conversations with Starglider” (p. 94)
  • The hypothesis you refer to as God, though not disprovable by logic alone, is unnecessary for the following reason.
    If you assume that the universe can be quote explained unquote as the creation of an entity known as God, he must obviously be of a higher degree of organization than his product. Thus you have more than doubled the size of the original problem, and have taken the first step on a diverging infinite regress. William of Ockham pointed out as recently as your fourteenth century that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily. I cannot therefore understand why this debate continues.
    • Chapter 16 “Conversations with Starglider” (p. 95)
  • Meanwhile, among all its countless other effects upon human culture, Starglider had brought to its climax a process that was already well under way. It had put an end to the billions of the words of pious gibberish with which apparently intelligent men had addled their minds for centuries.
    • Chapter 16 “Conversations with Starglider” (p. 96)
  • There was no substitute for reality; one should be aware of imitations.
    • Chapter 23 “Moondozer” (p. 129)
  • Belief in God is apparently a psychological artifact of mammalian reproduction.
    • Chapter 35 “Starglider Plus Eighty” (p. 190)
  • Long ago, he had made that choice between work and life that can seldom be avoided at the highest levels of human endeavor … Any fool could shuffle genes, and most did. But whether or not history gave him credit, few men could have achieved what he had done — and was about to do.
    • Chapter 39 “The Wounded Sun” (p. 208)
  • One fail-safe after another had let them down. Helped by the ionospheric storm, the sheer perversity of inanimate things struck again.
    • Chapter 43 “Fail-Safe” (p. 223)
  • The fates could not possibly be so malevolent, now that he had only a few hundred meters to go.
    He was whistling in the dark, of course. How many aircraft had crashed at the very edge of the runway, after safely crossing an ocean? How many times had machines or muscles failed when there were only millimeters to go? Every possible piece of luck, bad as well as good, happened to somebody, somewhere. He had no right to expect any special treatment.
    • Chapter 53 “Fade-Out” (pp. 272-273)

The Light of Other Days (2000)[edit]

  • If the house is to be demolished tomorrow anyhow, people seem to feel, we may as well burn the furniture today. None of our problems are insoluble...But it seems clear that to prevail we humans will have to act with a smartness and selflessness that has so far eluded us during our long and tangled history.
    • Chapter 4
  • What we need is a machine that will let us see the other guy’s point of view.
    • Chapter 5
  • A single test which proves some piece of theory wrong is more valuable than a hundred tests showing that idea might be true.
    • Chapter 6
  • Science demands patience.
    • Chapter 6
  • What is becoming more interesting than the myths themselves has been the study of how the myths were constructed from sparse or unpromising facts—indeed, sometimes from no facts—in a kind of mute conspiracy of longing, very rarely under anybody’s conscious control.
    • Chapter 19
  • Just as the human memory is not a passive recorder but a tool in the construction of the self, so history has never been a simple record of the past, but a means of shaping peoples.
    • Chapter 19
  • If the WormCam had shown nothing else, he thought, it was this, with pitiless clarity: that the lives of most humans had been miserable and short, deprived of freedom and joy and comfort, their brief moments in the light reduced to sentences to be endured.
    • Chapter 26
  • The vendors seemed comical, so intent were they on their slivers of meaningless profit, all unaware of the desolate ages that lay in their own near future, their own imminent deaths.
    • Chapter 26
  • Maybe those nihilist philosophers are right; maybe this is all we can expect of the universe, a relentless crushing of life and spirit, because the equilibrium state of the cosmos is death...
    • Chapter 28
  • We always thought the living earth was a thing of beauty. It isn’t. Life has had to learn to defend itself against the planet’s random geological savagery.
    • Chapter 28

90th Birthday Reflections (2007)[edit]

Full text online - Sir Arthur C Clarke: 90th Birthday Reflections at YouTube
I now spend a good part of my day dreaming of times past, present and future...
  • As I approach my 90th birthday, my friends are asking how it feels like, to have completed 90 orbits around the Sun. Well, I actually don't feel a day older than 89!
  • I now spend a good part of my day dreaming of times past, present and future. As I try to survive on 15 hours sleep a day, I have plenty of time to enjoy vivid dreams. Being completely wheel-chaired doesn't stop my mind from roaming the universe — on the contrary!
  • In my time I’ve been very fortunate to see many of my dreams come true! Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, I never expected to see so much happen in the span of a few decades. We "space cadets" of the British Interplanetary Society spent all our spare time discussing space travel — but we didn’t imagine that it lay in our own near future… I still can't quite believe that we've just marked the 50th anniversary of the Space Age! We’ve accomplished a great deal in that time, but the "Golden Age of Space" is only just beginning. Over the next 50 years, thousands of people will travel to Earth orbit — and then, to the Moon and beyond. Space travel — and space tourism — will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet.
  • Communication technologies are necessary, but not sufficient, for us humans to get along with each other. This is why we still have many disputes and conflicts in the world. Technology tools help us to gather and disseminate information, but we also need qualities like tolerance and compassion to achieve greater understanding between peoples and nations.
    I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I hope we've learnt something from the most barbaric century in history — the 20th. I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalisation…
  • If I may be allowed just three wishes, they would be these.
    Firstly, I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life. I have always believed that we are not alone in the universe. But we are still waiting for ETs to call us — or give us some kind of a sign. We have no way of guessing when this might happen — I hope sooner rather than later!
    Secondly, I would like to see us kick our current addiction to oil, and adopt clean energy sources. … Climate change has now added a new sense of urgency. Our civilisation depends on energy, but we can't allow oil and coal to slowly bake our planet…
    The third wish is one closer to home. I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for 50 years — and half that time, I’ve been a sad witness to the bitter conflict that divides my adopted country.
    I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible.
  • I'm sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I've had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer — one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.


Disputed[edit]

  • Our lifetime may be the last that will be lived out in a technological society.
    • Attributed to Clarke on the internet, this has also been attributed to Isaac Asimov in published works.

Quotes about Clarke[edit]

  • One of the English science-fiction writers once said, "Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering." … I must say I agree with him.
    • Stanley Kubrick, quoting a writer, who is usually assumed to be Clarke, as quoted in a 1966 interview with Jeremy Bernstein; later published in Stanley Kubrick : Interviews edited by Gene D. Phillips, p. 35, This has sometimes been quoted in published works as if it were a direct quote of Clarke, and is similar to one quoted above: "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." .
  • In "Credo," an essay published in 1991, Clarke lays out a belief system by distinguishing between two views of God: Alpha, who "rewards good and evil in some vaguely described afterlife," and Omega, "Creator of Everything … a much more interesting character and not so easily dismissed." Clarke writes, "No intelligent person can contemplate the night sky without a sense of awe. The mind-boggling vista of exploding supernovae and hurtling galaxies does seem to require a certain amount of explaining."

Commentary on — or derivatives of — Clarke's Laws[edit]

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
Any technology that does not appear magical is insufficiently advanced. ~ Gregory Benford

First Law

  • 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.
  • When an official declares something false, chances are that it is. When he or she says it is absolutely false, chances are it is true. … The overemphasis sticks out like Pinocchio's nose.
    • Jack Rosenthal, "On Language: Frame of Mind" in The New York Times Magazine (21 September 1994)

Third Law

  • Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
    • Anonymous saying, this is an inversion of the third of Clarke's three laws : "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It has been called "Niven's Law" and attributed to Larry Niven by some, and to Terry Pratchett by others, but without any citation of an original source in either case — the earliest occurrence yet located is an anonymous one in Keystone Folklore (1984) by the Pennsylvania Folklore Society.
  • Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
    • Barry Gehm, as quoted by Stan Schmidt in Analog magazine (1991)
  • Clarke's Third Law doesn't work in reverse. Given that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," it does not follow that "any magical claim that anybody may make at any time is indistinguishable from a technological advance that will come some time in the future." ... There have admittedly been occasions when authoritative, pontificating skeptics have come away with egg on their faces, even within their own lifetimes. But there have been a far greater number of occasions when magical claims have never been vindicated. An apparent magical claim might eventually turn out to be true. In any age there are so many magical claims that are, or could be, made. They can't all be true; many are mutually contradictory; and we have no reason to suppose that, simply by the act of sitting down and dreaming up a magical claim, we shall make it come true in some future technology. Some things that would surprise us today will come true in the future. But lots and lots of things that would surprise us today will not come true ever.
    • Richard Dawkins, in "Putting Away Childish Things" in The Skeptical Inquirer (January-February 1995)

External links[edit]

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