Knowledge Management

Maps: 10 Quotes



“The world can doubtless never be well known by theory: practice is absolutely necessary; but surely it is of great use to a young man, before he sets out for that country, full of mazes, windings, and turnings, to have at least a general map of it, made by some experienced traveler.” (Philip Stanhope, “Letters Written by the Earl of Chesterfield to His Son”, 1827)

“The world of ideas which it [mathematics] discloses or illuminates, the contemplation of divine beauty and order which it induces, the harmonious connexion of its parts, the infinite hierarchy and absolute evidence of the truths with which it is concerned, these, and such like, are the surest grounds of the title of mathematics to human regard, and would remain unimpeached and unimpaired were the plan of the universe unrolled like a map at our feet, and the mind of man qualified to take in the whole scheme of creation at a glance.” (James J Sylvester, [Presidential Address to British Association] 1869)

“Just as, in the map of a half-explored country, we see detached bits of rivers, isolated mountains, and undefined plains, not connected into any complete plan, so a new branch of knowledge consists of groups of facts, each group standing apart, so as not to allow us to reason from one to another.” (William S Jevons, “The Principles of Science: A Treatise on Logic and Scientific Method”, 1887)

“A fundamental value in the scientific outlook is concern with the best available map of reality. The scientist will always seek a description of events which enables him to predict most by assuming least. He thus already prefers a particular form of behavior. If moralities are systems of preferences, here is at least one point at which science cannot be said to be completely without preferences. Science prefers good maps.” (Anatol Rapoport, “Science and the goals of man: a study in semantic orientation”, 1950)

“The orchard of science is a vast globe-encircling monster, without a map, and known to no one man; indeed, to no group of men fewer than the whole international mass of creative scientists. Within it, each observer clings to his own well-known and well-loved clump of trees. If he looks beyond, it is usually with a guilty sigh.” (Isaac Asimov, “View from a Height”, 1975)

“Physicists’ models are like maps: never final, never complete until they grow as large and complex as the reality they represent.” (James Gleick, “Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Epilogue”, 1992)

“The representational nature of maps, however, is often ignored — what we see when looking at a map is not the word, but an abstract representation that we find convenient to use in place of the world. When we build these abstract representations we are not revealing knowledge as much as are creating it.” (Alan MacEachren, “How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization, and Design”, 1995)

“The pursuit of science is more than the pursuit of understanding. It is driven by the creative urge, the urge to construct a vision, a map, a picture of the world that gives the world a little more beauty and coherence than it had before.” (John A Wheeler, “Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics”, 1998)

“Science is the art of the appropriate approximation. While the flat earth model is usually spoken of with derision it is still widely used. Flat maps, either in atlases or road maps, use the flat earth model as an approximation to the more complicated shape.” (Byron K. Jennings, “On the Nature of Science”, Physics in Canada Vol. 63 (1), 2007)

“It is ironic but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know. This is why we need art. By expressing our actual experience, the artist reminds us that our science is incomplete, that no map of matter will ever explain the immateriality of our consciousness.” (Jonah Lehrer, “Proust Was a Neuroscientist”, 2011)

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