“The ability to acquire information is very different from when we were in school.  You can get all this information on the web instantly. The management of facts is probably less important than the development of judgment.”
Dr. Francisco González-Scarano, Dean of the UT San Antonio Medical School. (1)


"We can never know ourselves in someone else's life. I was a mechanical engineering major, so I built pulley systems out of my rope and Carabiners to try and lift the boulder. If I were an English major, I may have written a beautiful poem and died under the rock. If I had taken more biology, maybe it would not have taken me five days to figure out that I needed to amputate my arm. There is the analogy of the boulder in anyone's life. This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It showed me what I am capable of, what is extraordinary in me."
Mountain climber Aron Ralston became famous after cutting off his right arm with a dull pocketknife to escape a boulder that had pinned him in a remote canyon in Utah. (2)


[I]f erring on the side of conservatism significantly overestimates risk or hazard and is not fully justified, then harm to public health may result from diverting public, industry, and government attention and resources away from chemicals which may represent more of a public health risk at environmental levels.

TCEQ Comments on EPA Formaldehyde Assessment (3)


The best avenue to risk management is experienced oversight that requires best practices, and the
application of practical experience.

Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, Texas Railroad Commission (4)


My rules...
  • Rule Number 1: Always read the report the findings/recommendations were based on.
  • Rule Number 2: Always look at the data used.
  • Rule Number 3: Always check the assumptions used to derive the model that drives the conclusion.
  • Rule Number 4: Compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges.
  • Rule Number 5: Always make sure the model and equations reflect reality.

"When presented with a new, startling, and strange result, it is easy to find flaws and come up with reasons to dismiss the finding. Even if the skeptic can't find an outright mistake, he can say, "I'm not convinced." In fact, most scientists (myself included) have found that if you dismiss out of hand all claims of great new discoveries, you will be right 95% of the time."

Richard Muller (1988), professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley (5)


(Insert Activity Here) "simply furnished another example of the well-established principle that if, in the conduct of any enterprise, an error of human judgement or faulty working of the human senses involves disaster, sooner or later the disaster comes."

Popular Mechanics on the Titanic Disaster (1912): Re-quoted in the April 2012 issue on the 100 year anniversary of the sinking.


"There is, it appears, a conspiracy of scientists afoot. Their purpose is to break down religion, propagate immorality, and so reduce mankind to the level of brutes. They are the sworn and sinister agents of Beelzebub, who yearns to conquer the world, and has his eye especially upon Tennessee."

[Report on the Scopes Monkey Trial.]


"The world’s most precious resource is the passionate and committed human mind."

"If anything can go wrong, Fix It!!… to hell with Murphy!"

From "The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind" Peter Diamond's Laws


"One of the things I hate the most about me...is how much I don't know.  If you are ever looking to display your ignorance [teaching]...what a medium!"

Jon Stewart The Daily Show 11/14/12


Why does this matter? Science is about furthering our collective knowledge, and it happens in increments. Successive generations of scientists build upon theoretical foundations set by their predecessors. If those foundations are made of sand, though, then time and money will be wasted in the pursuit of ideas that simply aren't right.

Pete Etchells and Suzi Gage, University of Bristol. (source)


“We have a moral duty not to spread unnecessary and unfounded fears. If we persuade people that they or their children are likely to suffer from horrible and dangerous health problems, and if these fears are baseless, we cause great distress and anxiety, needlessly damaging the quality of people’s lives.”

George Monbiot, columnist (source)


In The Cult of Statistical Significance, the economists Deirdre McCloskey and Stephen Ziliak cite one of these and make an impassioned, book-length argument against the arbitrary cutoff that decides which experimental findings count and which ones don't. By convention, we call an effect "significant" if the chances of its deriving from a twist of fate—as opposed to some more genuine relationship—are less than 5 percent. But as McCloskey and Ziliak (and many others) point out, there's nothing special about that number and no reason to invest it with our faith. (source)


It may be further objected, that many who begin with youthful enthusiasm for everything noble, as they advance in years sink into indolence and selfishness. But I do not believe that those who undergo this
very common change, voluntarily choose the lower description of pleasures in preference to the higher. I believe that before they devote themselves exclusively to the one, they have already become incapable of the other.

Capacity for the nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has thrown them, are not favorable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise.

Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access, or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying. It may be questioned whether any one who has remained equally susceptible to both classes of pleasures, ever knowingly and calmly preferred the lower; though many, in all ages, have broken down in an ineffectual attempt to combine both.

Utilitarianism  John Stuart Mill 1863 (source)


"Communities are often led to believe that a scientific investigation will lead to some answers. But my own experience is that oftentimes an enormous amount of resources is put into an investigation, and at the end of it we really don't know much more than we did at the beginning, except that we now know the residents have terrible medical care, terrible dental care, the kids are way behind in school, they're way behind in immunizations and nutrition." [Spending money] to give them an epidemiological study rather than care is really not the right thing to do."

Richard Jackson, chairman of the environmental health sciences department at the University of California-Los Angeles (source)


"...dare to teach facts in a subject steeped in emotional angst."

Kevin Folta, University of Florida, "Transparency Weaponized Against Scientists."