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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Rate Quotes (29 quotes)

Chemistry is the study of material transformations. Yet a knowledge of the rate, or time dependence, of chemical change is of critical importance for the successful synthesis of new materials and for the utilization of the energy generated by a reaction. During the past century it has become clear that all macroscopic chemical processes consist of many elementary chemical reactions that are themselves simply a series of encounters between atomic or molecular species. In order to understand the time dependence of chemical reactions, chemical kineticists have traditionally focused on sorting out all of the elementary chemical reactions involved in a macroscopic chemical process and determining their respective rates.
'Molecular Beam Studies of Elementary Chemical Processes', Nobel Lecture, 8 Dec 1986. In Nobel Lectures: Chemistry 1981-1990 (1992), 320.
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Consider the plight of a scientist of my age. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1940. In the 41 years since then the amount of biological information has increased 16 fold; during these 4 decades my capacity to absorb new information has declined at an accelerating rate and now is at least 50% less than when I was a graduate student. If one defines ignorance as the ratio of what is available to be known to what is known, there seems no alternative to the conclusion that my ignorance is at least 25 times as extensive as it was when I got my bachelor’s degree. Although I am sure that my unfortunate condition comes as no surprise to my students and younger colleagues, I personally find it somewhat depressing. My depression is tempered, however, by the fact that all biologists, young or old, developing or senescing, face the same melancholy situation because of an interlocking set of circumstances.
In 'Scientific innovation and creativity: a zoologist’s point of view', American Zoologist (1982), 22, 228.
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Energy of the tides is continuously being dissipated at a rate whose order of magnitude is a billion horsepower!
In The Tides: Pulse of the Earth (1968), 133.
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Evolution is a theory of organic change, but it does not imply, as many people assume, that ceaseless flux is the irreducible state of nature and that structure is but a temporary incarnation of the moment. Change is more often a rapid transition between stable states than a continuous transformation at slow and steady rates. We live in a world of structure and legitimate distinction. Species are the units of nature’s morphology.
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Experience is a jewel, and it need be so, for it is often purchased at an infinite rate.
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Genes make enzymes, and enzymes control the rates of chemical processes. Genes do not make ‘novelty seeking’ or any other complex and overt behavior. Predisposition via a long chain of complex chemical reactions, mediated through a more complex series of life’s circumstances, does not equal identification or even causation.
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I believe that the useful methods of mathematics are easily to be learned by quite young persons, just as languages are easily learned in youth. What a wondrous philosophy and history underlie the use of almost every word in every language—yet the child learns to use the word unconsciously. No doubt when such a word was first invented it was studied over and lectured upon, just as one might lecture now upon the idea of a rate, or the use of Cartesian co-ordinates, and we may depend upon it that children of the future will use the idea of the calculus, and use squared paper as readily as they now cipher. … When Egyptian and Chaldean philosophers spent years in difficult calculations, which would now be thought easy by young children, doubtless they had the same notions of the depth of their knowledge that Sir William Thomson might now have of his. How is it, then, that Thomson gained his immense knowledge in the time taken by a Chaldean philosopher to acquire a simple knowledge of arithmetic? The reason is plain. Thomson, when a child, was taught in a few years more than all that was known three thousand years ago of the properties of numbers. When it is found essential to a boy’s future that machinery should be given to his brain, it is given to him; he is taught to use it, and his bright memory makes the use of it a second nature to him; but it is not till after-life that he makes a close investigation of what there actually is in his brain which has enabled him to do so much. It is taken because the child has much faith. In after years he will accept nothing without careful consideration. The machinery given to the brain of children is getting more and more complicated as time goes on; but there is really no reason why it should not be taken in as early, and used as readily, as were the axioms of childish education in ancient Chaldea.
In Teaching of Mathematics (1902), 14.
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I think that the unity we can seek lies really in two things. One is that the knowledge which comes to us at such a terrifyingly, inhumanly rapid rate has some order in it. We are allowed to forget a great deal, as well as to learn. This order is never adequate. The mass of ununderstood things, which cannot be summarized, or wholly ordered, always grows greater; but a great deal does get understood.
The second is simply this: we can have each other to dinner. We ourselves, and with each other by our converse, can create, not an architecture of global scope, but an immense, intricate network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding. Everything cannot be connected with everything in the world we live in. Everything can be connected with anything.
Concluding paragraphs of 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 76.
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If coal plants release mercury—and mercury is a neurotoxin that damages children's brains—then reducing the amount of mercury in emissions doesn’t stop that. It just says, “We’ll tell you at what rate you can dispense death.”
In interview article, 'Designing For The Future', Newsweek (15 May 2005).
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In the fall of 1972 President Nixon announced that the rate of increase of inflation was decreasing. This was the first time a sitting president used the third derivative to advance his case for reelection.
In 'Mathematics Is an Edifice, Not a Toolbox', Notices of the AMS (Oct 1996), 43, No. 10, 1108.
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In the Mortality Bills, pneumonia is an easy second, to tuberculosis; indeed in many cities the death-rate is now higher and it has become, to use the phrase of Bunyan 'the captain of the men of death.'
'Medicine in the Nineteenth Century' (1904). In Aequanimitas with Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 260.
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In the world of science different levels of esteem are accorded to different kinds of specialist. Mathematicians have always been eminently respectable, and so are those who deal with hard lifeless theories about what constitutes the physical world: the astronomers, the physicists, the theoretical chemists. But the more closely the scientist interests himself in matters which are of direct human relevance, the lower his social status. The real scum of the scientific world are the engineers and the sociologists and the psychologists. Indeed, if a psychologist wants to rate as a scientist he must study rats, not human beings. In zoology the same rules apply. It is much more respectable to dissect muscle tissues in a laboratory than to observe the behaviour of a living animal in its natural habitat.
From transcript of BBC radio Reith Lecture (12 Nov 1967), 'A Runaway World', on the bbc.co.uk website.
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It has been stated that the research should be discontinued because it involved “meddling with evolution.” Homo sapiens has been meddling with evolution in many ways and for a long time. We started in a big way when we domesticated plants and animals. We continue every time we alter the environment. In general, recombinant DNA research docs not seem to represent a significant increase in the risks associated with such meddling—although it may significantly increase the rate at which we meddle.
In letter to the Board of Directors of Friends of the Earth, published in The Coevolutionary Quarterly (Spring 1978), as abstracted and cited in New Scientist (6 Jul 1978), 35.
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I’m doing my part, building plants at a record rate, having historic conservation levels. The only people not doing their part is the federal government that is siding with the energy companies against the interests of the people of California.
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My heart rate wasn’t as high as his [Robert Crippen], because I’m so dang old and it just wouldn’t go any faster.
As quoted on the nmspacemuseum.org website of the New Mexico Museum of Space History.
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Nernst was a great admirer of Shakespeare, and it is said that in a conference concerned with naming units after appropriate persons, he proposed that the unit of rate of liquid flow should be called the falstaff.
'The Nemst Memorial Lecture', Journal of the Chemical Society (1953), Part 3, 2855.
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Scientists were rated as great heretics by the church, but they were truly religious men because of their faith in the orderliness of the universe.
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Strictly speaking, the observed death rate for the human condition is something like 93%—that is, around 93% of all humans have died. This means the death rate among humans who were not members of The Beatles is significantly higher than the 50% death rate among humans who were.
On website what-if.xkcd.com
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The effort to eliminate synthetic pesticides because of unsubstantiated fears about residues in food will make fruits and vegetables more expensive, decrease consumption, and thus increase cancer rates. The levels of synthetic pesticide residues are trivial in comparison to natural chemicals, and thus their potential for cancer causation is extremely low. [Ames believes that “to eat your veggies” is the best way to prevent cancer.]
Paper to the American Chemical Society, 'Pollution, Pesticides and Cancer Misconceptions.' As cited by Art Drysdale, 'Latest Insider News: Natural vs. Synthetic Chemical Pesticides' (14 Feb 1999), on the mitosyfraudes.org website. Bruce Ames has written a similar sentiment in various other publications.
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The future … [is] something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
In The Screwtape Letters & Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1961), 130.
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The highway system devours land resources and atmosphere at a rate that is impossible to sustain.
(1972).
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The present rate of progress [in X-ray crystallography] is determined, not so much by the lack of problems to investigate or the limited power of X-ray analysis, as by the restricted number of investigators who have had a training in the technique of the new science, and by the time it naturally takes for its scientific and technical importance to become widely appreciated.
Concluding remark in Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Crystal Physics', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 89.
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The races are in fact disappearing, although the process will require thousands of years at present rates
Interview (1967) with The Times. As quoted in obituary by Douglas Martin, New York Times (20 Jan 2005).
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The rate of extinction is now about 400 times that recorded through recent geological time and is accelerating rapidly. If we continue on this path, the reduction of diversity seems destined to approach that of the great natural catastrophes at the end of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras, in other words, the most extreme for 65 million years. And in at least one respect, this human-made hecatomb is worse than any time in the geological past. In the earlier mass extinctions… most of the plant diversity survived even though animal diversity was severely reduced. Now, for the first time ever, plant diversity too is declining sharply.
In 'Edward O. Wilson: The Biological Diversity Crisis: A Challenge to Science', Issues in Science and Technology (Fall 1985), 2, No. 1, 25.
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The tropical rain forests of the world harbor the majority of the planet’s species, yet this wealth of species is being quickly spent. While the exact numbers of species involved and the rate of forest clearing are still under debate, the trend is unmistakable—the richest terrestrial biome is being altered at a scale unparalleled in geologic history.
In The Fragmented Forest: Island Biogeography Theory and the Preservation of Biotic Diversity (1984),
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Time is in itself [not] a difficulty, but a time-rate, assumed on very insufficient grounds, is used as a master-key, whether or not it fits, to unravel all difficulties. What if it were suggested that the brick-built Pyramid of Hawara had been laid brick by brick by a single workman? Given time, this would not be beyond the bounds of possibility. But Nature, like the Pharaohs, had greater forces at her command to do the work better and more expeditiously than is admitted by Uniformitarians.
'The Position of Geology', The Nineteenth Century (1893), 34, 551.
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To have a railroad, there must have been first the discoverers, who found out the properties of wood and iron, fire and water, and their latent power to carry men over the earth; next the organizers, who put these elements together, surveyed the route, planned the structure, set men to grade the hill, to fill the valley, and pave the road with iron bars; and then the administrators, who after all that is done, procure the engines, engineers, conductors, ticket-distributors, and the rest of the “hands;” they buy the coal and see it is not wasted, fix the rates of fare, calculate the savings, and distribute the dividends. The discoverers and organizers often fare hard in the world, lean men, ill-clad and suspected, often laughed at, while the administrator is thought the greater man, because he rides over their graves and pays the dividends, where the organizer only called for the assessments, and the discoverer told what men called a dream. What happens in a railroad happens also in a Church, or a State.
Address at the Melodeon, Boston (5 Mar 1848), 'A Discourse occasioned by the Death of John Quincy Adams'. Collected in Discourses of Politics: The Collected Works of Theodore Parker: Part 4 (1863), 139. Note: Ralph Waldo Emerson earlier used the phrase “pave the road with iron bars,” in Nature (1836), 17.
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You hear headlines from time to time about the Amazon rainforest disappearing at a greater or lesser rate.... The real story is that over time the rate has stayed just the same. Year after year, decade after decade, we have failed to stop or really even decrease deforestation...
Online transcript of interview, segment 'Amazon Deforestation' on NPR radio program, Living on Earth (25 Feb 2005).
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[S]uppose you make a hole in an ordinary evacuated electric light bulb and allow the air molecules to pass in at the rate of 1,000,000 a second, the bulb will become full of air in approximately 100,000,000 years.
In Lecture (1936) on 'Forty Years of Atomic Theory', collected in Needham and Pagel (eds.) in Background to Modern Science: Ten Lectures at Cambridge Arranged by the History of Science Committee, (1938), 99.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 70 -
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- 60 -
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- 40 -
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