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Oliver Sacks

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A spectacular anomaly came up with the hydrides of the nonmetals—an ugly bunch, about as inimical to life as one could get. Arsenic and antimony hydrides were very poisonous and smelly; silicon and phosphorous hydrides were spontaneously inflammable. I had made in my lab the hydrides of sulfur (H2S), selenium (H2Se), and tellurium (H2Te), all Group VI elements, all dangerous and vile-smelling gases. The hydride of oxygen, the first Group VI element, one might predict by analogy, would be a foul-smelling, poisonous, inflammable gas, too, condensing to a nasty liquid around ?100°C. And instead it was water, H2O—stable, potable, odorless, benign, and with a host of special, indeed unique properties (its expansion when frozen, its great heat capacity, its capacity as an ionizing solvent, etc.) which made it indispensable to our watery planet, indispensable to life itself. What made it such an anomaly? […] (This question, I found, had only been resolved recently, in the 1930s, with Linus Pauling's delineation of the hydrogen bond.)
pp. 204–205

Oliver Sacks

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People had group values, because the children were group-owned. and that made a tremendous difference in the way the society imaged it self. people lived for the group, and in the core of the group were the children, and people always put them first. So everyone identified with the children, everybody was willing to face risk to preserve the younger gene pool. This concern for male paternity is really a poisonous factor...

Terence McKenna

Linus Pauling was not always right in his ideas. But my belief is that, in most cases, if somebody is always right in his ideas you find that he does not have much to say. It is an expression of somebody's fertility that he does produce quite a number of ideas, and I think Linus Pauling's score is pretty high... I do not think, as I said earlier, that it is right to discuss the impact of Linus Pauling on molecular biology. Rather, he was one of the founders of molecular biology. It was not that it existed in some way, and he simply made a contribution. He was one of the founders who got the whole discipline going.

Linus Pauling

Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won't be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment's notice.

Constantine P. Cavafy

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all energy systems run down like a clock and never rewind themselves. But life not only 'runs up,' converting low energy sea-water, sunlight and air into high-energy chemicals, it keeps multiplying itself into more and better clocks that keep 'running up' faster and faster. Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive? If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, and small amounts of other minerals. It's a one-way reaction. No matter what kind of chemistry professor we use and no matter what process we use we can't turn these compounds back into a chemistry professor. Chemistry professors are unstable mixtures of predominantly unstable compounds which, in the exclusive presence of the sun's heat, decay irreversibly into simpler organic and inorganic compounds. That's a scientific fact. The question is: Then why does nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic compounds to go the other way? It isn't the sun's energy. We just saw what the sun's energy did. It has to be something else. What is it?

Robert M. Pirsig

Fashion makes me furious. It always has. This summer we're all going to be wearing vermilion, are we? Says who? When we see a bikini made of squares of brightly colored plastic, why do we pretend anyone will wear it? Because, I snarled at Nina, this is what capitalism does to show off. It's our culture flopping out its dick. "Hey, you shadows in the non-English-speaking choas — just look at our surplus capacity. If we can piss all this time and effort away on such vacant crap, just imagine the gold and guns and grain we must have stashed away, how well fed and happy the citizens of Our World, Inc., must be." Except they aren't happy, and some of them aren't even very well fed — but nobody knows or cares what happens back behind these billboards for a better way of life, because life for the people who matter just keeps getting better. The whole country is turning into a muffin-padded panic room where MBAs and soccer moms sit reading books on how to love themselves more, as if that could even be remotely possible. They've turned smoky, cool coffee shops into places where the perky go to iBook the novel that will prove just how sensitive they are; made fuggy, scary bars into places that feel like Employee Relaxation Facilities of forward-thinking megacorporations. I was in a bar recently and it smelled of incense — how f**ked up is that? Not smelling of cigarettes is bad enough , but spice lavender? Inside is not supposed to be fresher than outside, can't they see that? You can't stop being afraid just by pretending everything that scares you isn't there.

Michael Marshall Smith
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