I was reminded again the other day of one of my favorite quotes which relates directly to one of the potential pitfalls of mathematical modeling. I thought I would repeat the quote here but also give another quote that rings true for today’s metabolic engineers from Monod, 1949.
Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658
Borges, J. L. 1998. On exactitude in science. P. 325, In, Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions (Trans. Hurley, H.) Penguin Books.
“On Exactitude in Science….
… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.”
From THE GROWTH OF BACTERIAL CULTURES BY JACQUES MONOD Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 1949.3:371-394.
“It has often been assumed that the over-all rate of a system of linked reactions may be governed by the slowest, or master, reaction. That this conception should be used, if at all, with extreme caution, has also been emphasized (17, 18). On theoretical grounds, it can be shown that the over-all rate of a system of several consecutive reversible enzymatic reactions depends on the rate and equilibrium constant of each. The reasons for this are obvious, and we need not go into the mathematics of the problem. A master reaction could take control only if its rate were very much slower than that of all the other reactions. Where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of reactions linked in a network rather than as a chain are concerned, as in the growth of bacterial cells, such a situation is very improbable and, in general, the maximum growth rate should be expected to be controlled by a large number of different rate-determining steps.”