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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

Each of us is a tiny being, permitted to ride on the outermost skin of one of the smaller planets for a few dozen trips around the local star. …

… If the Earth were as old as a person, a typical organism would be born, live, and die in a sliver of a second. We are fleeting, transitional creatures, snowflakes fallen on the hearth fire. That we understand even a little of our origins is one of the great triumphs of human insight and courage.

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Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan – Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1992)

We do not mean to be patronizing. The depth of understanding exhibited by our fellow creatures is of course limited. So is ours. We also are at the mercy of our feelings. We too are profoundly ignorant about what motivates us. Some of those beings have, as familiar aspects of their everyday lives, sensibilities wholly absent in humans. …

… Magnetotactic bacteria contain within them tiny crystals of magnetite–an iron mineral known to early sailing ship navigators as lodestone. The bacteria literally have internal compasses that align them along the Earth’s magnetic field. The great churning dynamo of molten iron in the Earth’s core–as far as we know, entirely unknown to uninstrumented humans–is a guiding reality for these microscopic beings. How does the Earth’s magnetism feel to them? All these creatures may be automatons, or nearly so, but what astounding special powers they have, never granted to humans, or even to comic book superheroes. How different their view of the world must be, perceiving so much that we miss.

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Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)

Words that you have seen before become easier to see again–you can identify them better than other words when they are shown very briefly or masked by noise, and you will be quicker (by a few hundredths of a second) to read them than to read other words. In short, you experience greater cognitive ease in perceiving a word you have seen earlier, and it is this sense of ease that gives you the impression of familiarity.

Umberto Eco – Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)

I was the type who looked at discussions of What Is Truth only with a view toward correcting the manuscript. If you were to quote “I am that I am,” for example, I thought that the fundamental problem was where to put the comma, inside the quotation marks or outside.