by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Science Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Hannah: Oh!, but . . . how beautiful!
Valentine: The Coverly set. [...] See? In an ocean of ashes, islands of order. Patterns making themselves out of nothing. I can't show you how deep it goes. Each picture is a detail of the previous one, blown up. And so on. For ever. (2.7)
While Bernard may think that poetry (Byron especially) has a monopoly on beauty, this suggests that mathematics can be pretty as well. (Though you might want to stick with poetry rather than pi for your next love letter – or not, depending on who you're writing to.)
Valentine: Heat goes to cold. It's a one-way street. Your tea will end up at room temperature. What's happening to your tea is happening to everything everywhere. The sun and the stars. It'll take a while but we're all going to end up at room temperature. When your hermit set up shop nobody understood this. But let's say you're right, in 18-whatever nobody knew more about heat than this scribbling nutter living in a hovel in Derbyshire. [...] Whatever he thought he was doing to save the world with good English algebra it wasn't this! [...] Because there's an order things can't happen in. You can't open a door till there's a house. (2.7)
This passage picks up on the theme of genius in the text, and what geniuses can and can't do – according to Valentine here, even a scientific genius is limited by her or his moment in history. Does a poetic genius suffer from the same limitations?
Septimus: Geometry, Hobbes assures us in the Leviathan, is the only science God has been pleased to bestow on mankind.
Thomasina: Oh, pooh to Hobbes! Mountains are not pyramids and trees are not cones. God must love gunnery and architecture if Euclid is his only geometry. (2.7)
Thomasina wants science to deal not just with abstract ideals, but also with the real world. The science of her time – or at least the sense of it we get from the play – wants to clean up the messiness of life, while Thomasina wants to document the mess.