Max Planck

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I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (23 April 18584 October 1947) was one of the most important German physicists of the late 19th and early 20th century, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918; he is considered to be the founder of quantum theory.

Quotes[edit]

In the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.
New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
  • Farsighted theologians are now working to mine the eternal metal from the teachings of Jesus and to forge it for all time.
    • From Planck to Study (2 December 1913), (Autog. I/383, SPK); as quoted in The Dilemmas of an Upright Man : Max Planck As Spokesman for German Science (1986) by J. L. Heilbron, p. 67
  • I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
    • As quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)
  • We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.
    • The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics (1931)
  • Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
    • Where Is Science Going? (1932)
  • It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.
    • Where Is Science Going? (1932)
  • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.
    • Where is Science Going? (1932)
    • Variants:
    • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.
    • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature, for in the final analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve.
  • New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
    • Address on the 25th anniversary of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft (January 1936), as quoted in Surviving the Swastika : Scientific Research in Nazi Germany (1993) ISBN 0-19-507010-0
  • As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
    • Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944) (from Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797)
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
  • Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist.
    • A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
      • Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie. Mit einem Bildnis und der von Max von Laue gehaltenen Traueransprache. Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag (Leipzig 1948), p. 22, as translated in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 33–34 (as cited in T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).
    • Paraphrased variants:
    • Die Wahrheit triumphiert nie, ihre Gegner sterben nur aus.
      • Truth never triumphs — its opponents just die out.
    • Science advances one funeral at a time.
  • Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but — which is even worse — also any prospects at a better future.
    • Religion und Naturwissenschaft (1958)

Religion and Natural Science (1937)[edit]

Lecture about the relationship between religion and science. Originally entitled Religion und Naturwissenschaft. Complete translation into English found in Max Planck: Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968)
  • Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
    • Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 184
    • Variant translations:
      • "Both religion and science need for their activities the belief in God, and moreover God stands for the former in the beginning, and for the latter at the end of the whole thinking. For the former, God represents the basis, for the latter – the crown of any reasoning concerning the world-view." (From Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag (1958), p. 27; in 50 Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believe in God.)
      • "While both religion and natural science require a belief in God for their activities, to the former He is the starting point, to the latter the goal of every thought process. To the former He is the foundation, to the latter the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view." (from Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968).
Only that definite and clear instruction can which we gain form a direct inner link to God.
This instruction alone is able to give us the inner firmness and lasting peace of mind which must be regarded as the highest boon in life.
  • Natural science wants man to learn, religion wants him to act.
  • Long and tedious reflection cannot enable us to shape our decisions and attitudes properly; only that definite and clear instruction can which we gain form a direct inner link to God. This instruction alone is able to give us the inner firmness and lasting peace of mind which must be regarded as the highest boon in life. And if we ascribe to God, in addition to His omnipotence and omniscience, also the attributes of goodness and love, recourse to Him produces an increased feeling of safety and happiness in the human being thirsting for solace. Against this conception not even the slightest objection can be raised from the point of natural science, for as we pointed it out before, questions of ethics are entirely outside of its realm.
  • No matter where and how far we look, nowhere do we find a contradiction between religion and natural science. On the contrary, we find a complete concordance in the very points of decisive importance. Religion and natural science do not exclude each other, as many contemporaries of ours would believe or fear. They mutually supplement and condition each other. The most immediate proof of the compatibility of religion and natural science, even under the most thorough critical scrutiny, is the historical fact that the very greatest natural scientists of all times — men such as Kepler, Newton, Leibniz— were permeated by a most profound religious attitude.
  • Religion and natural science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never relaxing crusade against scepticism and against dogmatism, against disbelief and against superstion, and the rallying cry in this crusade has always been, and always will be: "On to God!"


Misattributed[edit]

  • No burden is so heavy for a man to bear as a succession of happy days.
    • Max Müller, as quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899) by James Wood

Quotes about Planck[edit]

  • A man to whom it has been given to bless the world with a great creative idea has no need for the praise of posterity. His very achievement has already conferred a higher boon upon him.
  • It was Planck's law of radiation that yielded the first exact determination—independent of other assumptions—of the absolute magnitudes of atoms. More than that, he showed convincingly that in addition to the atomistic structure of matter there is a kind of atomistic structure to energy, governed by the universal constant h, which was introduced by Planck. This discovery became the basis of all twentieth-century research in physics and has almost entirely conditioned its development ever since. Without this discovery it would not have been possible to establish a workable theory of molecules and atoms and the energy processes that govern their transformations. Moreover, it has shattered the whole framework of classical mechanics and electrodynamics and set science a fresh task: that of finding a new conceptual basis for all of physics.
  • Planck had slipped the quantum of action into his not fully consistent reasoning. He had, without wholly realizing it, introduced an essential element of discreetness into the description of nature, an element alien to the theories of mechanics and electromagnetism as they then existed. To the young Einstein, however, the imperfections were were all too clear... he was hit with a new paradox: Planck was deriving empirically correct equations from hypotheses that contradicted the principles of physics...

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