Sunday, February 28, 2010

One year of Physics Quotes of the Day

It's been exactly one year since I left my job as IT project manager at French telecom operator SFR. In that job, I missed the physics, the photons, the electrons, the atoms... So when SFR gave the opportunity to change course, I eagerly applied for a year Master of Science training at the Institut d'Optique, which could give me an upgrade relative to almost 20 years out of the professional physics world. This back to school period is extremely satisfying. It's a pleasure to learn new things, or learn them again and under different circumstances, to meet instructors, researchers and students who share the same interest. My last exam was past Friday and the last term of the MSc year is a 4-month long internship in a lab. So I'll be teaming up with a group at the ESPCI who's growing semiconductor nanocrystals.

It has also been a year ago since I started to tweet daily quotes from physisicts. I needed a speed course in all the fields of physics. It seemed that looking for quotes from diverse physicists is a great way to achieve that goal. Monte Zerger, a mathematics professor, wrote an interesting paper: "A quote a day educates". It explains how a daily quote can "instill in students an appreciation for the human in the mathematician as well as the mathematician in the human".

From March 2 last year, I challenged myself to quote only physicists (or physics related scientists) who where born on the day I quoted them, and to provide the reference for that quote, in order that one can check the context in which it was written or said. For about a tenth of the days in the year, such quotes could already be found easily on the web, but the 90% other ones needed a lot of reading, of searching in oral histories, in archives or in online parts of books or papers with Google Books or Scholar. I now have a year long physics calendar, a bit in the same trend as the catholic saints calendar. So if anyone is interested in publishing such a calendar, I'm the man;-) I currently have about 1300 sourced physics related quotes from 800 different scientists in my collection, part of which may be found on Wikiquote, or in my past posts or tweets.

Here are the two last quotes in the Physics Quotes of the Day series on this blog. I hope, you've enjoyed it. And I'm looking for another challenge...

"Your waistline may be spreading but you can't blame it on the expansion of the universe." Richard H. Price, born 1 March 1943.

"The atoms become like a moth, seeking out the region of higher laser intensity." Steven Chu, born 28 February 1948.


  1. Félicitations pour tout ce travail effectué, et mes plus sincères encouragements pour la suite.

    Cordiales salutations.

  2. Merci pour ces encouragements. Je vois que le site La Trilectique s'est également bien etoffé avec des textes très intéressants.


  3. Bonjour Arjen. Je vais lire votre website!

  4. Congratulations! I did not know it was a year-long project. Now we all have a database of interesting quotes. I really like the idea!

  5. Thanks for congrats. I'm looking for an easier way to access these quotes: online databse, quote of the day app... Any idea is welcome.

  6. In my opinion the idea is nice enough to make a website just with that information, something like or any other free domain. You could make a calendar-like homepage, with a link for each day of the year, and a short page for each day just showing the quote, the physicist and a photograph of the physicist.

    It should not be too much work. At least, not as much as the work you have been doing the whole year!

  7. Yes, that's a good idea. I would need an html example for a calendar looking table. I also thought of something at wikiquote which has the advantage to have anyone allowed to improve that calendar: