Can Science Train Us Something About How To Live?
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Learning from your errors, experimentation, the understanding that some questions have sophisticated answers or no answers at every, the notion that failure teaches, the acceptance that errors can actually guide you in the right direction, persistence when confronted with difficulty: These are some of the everyday pieces of scientific exploration, accumulated wisdom that can serve us well in many walks of existence – from how to face challenges as individuals to working corporations.
Science as a physique of knowledge offers been painfully built for more than 400 years (if you need to count from Galileo onwards), not because there was an obvious road ahead, but because there wasn’t.
Nature doesn’t reveal what to do, how to find patterns of behavior, how to uncover hidden mathematical regulations at the rear of physical phenomena. What we have discovered, so considerably, is due to our very own diligence, perseverance, and ingenuity. Who would include guessed that the same force which makes an apple fall is usually responsible for the orbit of the moon around the planet earth or the planet earth around the sun? Who would have guessed that electric power and magnetism are actually manifestations of an individual electromagnetic discipline that propagates through empty space at the acceleration of light? Who would include guessed that species evolve because of genetic mutations coupled to the procedure of natural assortment? This accumulated knowledge took a variety of intellectual courage, self-discipline, and tolerance to mistake.
Good science requires a balance between low-risk and high-risk research. Although it is usually harder to get funding for high-risk research, funding agencies know that probably the most groundbreaking and imaginative ideas are also sudden and often surprising. The term research previously tells the account: re-search, to search and search once again, until we get worthy results.
But exactly what is a worthy final result? For a business, it’s related to its worth as a potential sale. To a scientist, to its worth as a potential breakthrough that may lead to new knowledge and/or technologies. Often, the higher the risk, the bigger the payoff. The point is that unless we take risks, we will never know how far we could have gone. There can be an artful equilibrium between being cautious and being too adventurous.
To find the balance needs experimentation and tolerance for errors. If we have little experience climbing, we don’t adventure up a difficult mountain. We aim at improving our skills with every climb and, after achieving a good bottom and mastery, we go for the prize. We study from our errors, using failure as a guide. We take risks, but still try to preserve ourselves along the way. As a climber, we don’t want to fall; as a researcher, we don’t want to invest too many assets in a project that provides little back for too much time. Put simply, we don’t want to carefully turn persistence into blindness. You will find a point where we must let go of an idea, even if it’s very dear to us. To have a successful project, we must have an attachment to it, even passion, but if factors don’t go the proper way at some level, we should move on. Making the effort to step back again and gauge our progress, discuss factors with peers, evaluate the level of progress along the way, these are all techniques we use in research that can be adapted to diverse endeavors.
If things don’t workout, we must swallow our pride and accept defeat. Every scientist recognizes that the majority of our concepts are wrong. Just a few workout. We keep on pushing forward, but must most probably to criticism also to the weight of facts.
My grandfather used to say that if you wear a good hat bigger than your mind, it covers your eyes. Arrogance is a sort of blindness. In research and elsewhere, it is better to area with Isaac Newton, who – although not really a model of humility himself – famously wrote:
“I conduct not know what I might may actually the world, but to myself I appear to have been only such as a boy using on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a good smoother pebble or a good prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of fact lay all undiscovered before me personally.”
Marcelo Gleiser is a good theoretical physicist and writer – and a good professor of herbal philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth, co-founder of 13.7 and an active promoter of research to the general public. His latest book is The Simple Splendor of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher’s Search for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You will keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser