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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Michael Thornton

Medal of Honor

I saw the movie The Sullivan Brothers about the five brothers who died during World War II, and those family values that my dad had always said, "Your family," you know, "were to die for," you know, basically. And I saw how those five brothers died trying to save the one. And that was a big influence, so I said, "Well, I'm going to join the Navy," when I saw that movie. Then I saw the movie The Frogmen with Richard Widmark. I said, "Well, I'm a good swimmer. I want to be a Navy frogman." Because I loved the excitement. I loved what they were doing and stuff like that. And when I did finally get out of high school -- because when I got out of high school, you were only allowed to miss 30 days and I missed 78 days, and they still graduated me. So I didn't think they wanted me back.
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Clyde Tombaugh

Discoverer of Planet Pluto

Clyde Tombaugh: When I was in the fourth grade, I became intensely interested in geography and I learned it well. In fact, by the time I was in sixth grade I could bound every country in the world from memory. By then the thought occurred to me, "What would the geography be like on the other planets?" So that was my natural entrance into astronomy, you see. So I've been interested in that area particularly ever since.
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Clyde Tombaugh

Discoverer of Planet Pluto

Our sun couldn't be so peculiar as to be the only one, out of octillions of stars, to have a planet with life on it. That's totally against the odds, even if you have only one star out of ten thousand that has a planet that is right for life. We know now from sampling with big telescopes, that the number of stars in the skies is ten to the 21st power. Now, that doesn't mean anything until I tell you that the number of grains of sand in all of the earth's ocean beaches is only ten to the 19th power. So there are a hundred stars to every grain of sand in all the ocean's beaches. They're not all sterile. How could they be? You have to realize there's this enormous potentiality of trillions of planets out there with alien civilizations on them. We are not the center of the universe. We are not all that important. And we're not alone. That's my perspective.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

Charles Townes: I had been working for a long, long time on trying to generate shorter and shorter waves with shorter and shorter wavelengths. So there was a wave which was closer and closer together -- the peaks were. Because I had found microwaves very useful in studying molecules. Now microwaves have a wavelength of about -- oh, anywhere from about that long to that long -- inches to half a centimeter. But I wanted to get still shorter waves in order to study additional molecules and study new aspects of molecules. So I kept trying to find ways of producing shorter waves. I tried a number of things. And they sort of worked, but none of them really were terribly good. It did enable me to do some new things. I kept looking at this, and we even organized a committee sponsored by the Navy, a committee of scientists and engineers around the country to try to stimulate work and thought in this direction, to try to produce shorter waves.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

Molecules can never produce very intense waves, because you heat them up to make them more intense and then you heat them up too hot and they'll fly apart, and you no longer have them. Well, that's a fundamental law of thermodynamics. However, I went through that, and thermodynamics says you can't do it -- and suddenly I realized, well, wait a minute, that's thermodynamics and it applies to things which have a temperature, and equilibrium temperature. All the molecules are reacting in such a way that they randomize themselves, like a normal hot thing. But you don't have to have that. You can isolate molecules and have them in special states, not obeying that particular law of thermodynamics, so one can get around it. Isolate molecules, put all molecules in a particular excited state, and they could all radiate, and could radiate intensively, and they would produce the waves by this effect that Einstein had proposed. Namely, if the wave comes along, it stimulates the molecule, like say jiggling its electrons back and forth, until they give up their energy to the wave, and the wave then is bigger as it goes on past.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

I had been working at Columbia University, I had a number of friends working on molecular beams, and I knew all about molecular beams as well as the properties of molecules. So I pulled out a piece of paper in my pocket, it was an envelope, and started working with the numbers to see how many molecules would one need in order to produce enough energy so it would be useful, and how can you get that many molecules. And I realized one could send a beam of molecules in a vacuum, have an electric field which pulled out the ones you didn't want, left the ones you did want going straight along. And they'd come into a cavity, and as they entered the cavity, the waves could be bouncing back and forth in the cavity, and take the energy out of the molecules. Now the cavity was something I learned about from microwaves. At Bell Laboratories, I had worked with cavities. The beam was something I had learned about at Columbia University. I knew a lot about that because my friends were working on that. Molecules, of course, I had been working with at Columbia University. So all of these things one puts together, and suddenly I realized, now wait a minute, that can do it. And I showed with calculations that, yes, one can get enough energy to make it work. And of course I was exhilarated by the idea that, yes, it looks like it could work. It was marginal. I said, "Well, it's going to be difficult, but I believe it can be done."
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

The thing that really excites me is finding new ideas and new principles, and I wanted to find out new things about anything that I encountered. Now in fact, how I did that is I started with the knowledge that I had, and I thought about, "Now what direction can I go in, where I think there's a new idea that people have missed and where I should explore?" In other words, you look at a territory and try to figure out, now is it interesting to go this way, or that way, and what might I find there, and what would be most interesting, from the territory that you know. And so I projected forward from what I knew, of course. Everyone has to. And I asked, "What's the most interesting thing to try to do with what I know, and that I think might be possible and other people have somehow missed so far?" And I worked in those directions. And then from that I would branch off in another direction, perhaps later, after that had worked through. And in fact, I've branched off in a variety of directions. Part of my pleasure is to try new fields. To look at new things. I work in one direction for a while, and that's fascinating and interesting, and after I feel, well, that's been explored now and it's become popular -- other people know about it and other people are working there -- now I want to go off by myself in a different direction.
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Charles Townes

Inventor of the Maser & Laser

I happened to be in Africa shortly after the landing on the moon, and the people in Africa told me they were dancing in the streets when we landed on the moon. So it was a joy for everyone, and uplifting the human spirit in a certain kind of sense. This is one of just human aspirations. Now, is it economical to do that? Well, it's economical in the same sense maybe that music is. Music is uplifting, it doesn't buy us anything. It's something that humans enjoy, they like, it's a human aspiration, human enjoyment. It's culture. So traveling into space is something that most humans find fascinating and interesting, they're willing to devote some time to it, and have thought about it. And I think it's more for that reason that we are likely to -- and the human race will continue to -- explore space. It's not just for science. There's science, but there's adventure, there's a frontier, there's just general human aspirations. And so I believe in a manned space program, as well as an instrumental program. Both are very expensive, we need to examine them well, and I have spent a good deal of time advising on the space program too. I think we need to think about them very carefully as to what's the best thing to do. The economical ways of doing it, the new techniques, how to do it well and safely. But I believe in the long run, this is one of the human aspirations, and we will fulfill it in some way or the other, and I hope we can fulfill it well.
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