October 31, 2006

Scientific Advancement (quick thoughts)…

Posted in Lifehacks, Work at 8:58 pm by a11en

Some very quick thoughts for tonight as I try to polish up some work for my Prof.

All scientific advancement is born out of lack of understanding. In the darkness of the unkown, and little-known, and very difficult to know- we seek around… as blind-men, in an attempt to find our way. [In the scary blackness- I might add.] A priori, we won’t know what we’ll find. Our knowledge will be stretched- may be questioned at all ends- and somewhere, we will find something new.

In this lack of knowledge, we must be content not to know. At least, we must accept the benefits of not knowing for the first time- the “child-like” state of first-discovery. In this state, without our notions of what “is”, we can find truly new ways of looking at our problems. Like a child’s first snow-fall. The unkown can be fun to experience- and our lack of knowledge is a pre-requisite for this.

Not knowing is sometimes the best position to be in. We will gain our first perfect vision of what we find- our first joyous experience of that snowfall in that first moment of experiencing the unknown.

This is why the “child-like” state of the “uncarved block” is lauded- only in this condition can we purely and simplistically experience these unknowns. Only in this state will we be free to form our thoughts about this experience without preconceived notions of what “must be”.

This is very difficult for a scientist. As a scientist is expected to know the answers. If he’s willing to be honest, often, he has no clue about the answers. He can give you some good guesses, and he should be able to give you very good informed guesses when the time comes… but scientists who are truly discovering, are working at the edge of their understanding.  I humbly submit, that even if his knowledge is not perfect, to him, he will be discovering.  In that state of imperfect knowledge, discovery will fall on him like cold stars of varied shape and size… if he’s smart… he’ll stick out his tongue…

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3 Comments »

  1. […] This is very difficult for a scientist. As a scientist is expected to know the answers. If he’s willing to be honest, often, he has no clue about the answers. He can give you some good guesses, and he should be able to give you very good informed guesses when the time comes… but scientists who are truly discovering, are working at the edge of their understanding.  I humbly submit, that even if his knowledge is not perfect, to him, he will be discovering.  In that state of imperfect knowledge, discovery will fall on him like cold stars of varied shape and size… if he’s smart… … I think it’s nice article.Link to original article […]

  2. Mat said,

    You have written god but you have to tell more about scientific advancement
    or you should write an essay on it of one page.
    thank u and i hope you will try it.

  3. a11en said,

    Hey Mat,

    Thanks for dropping in and your kind comments! Writing about scientific advancement is quite difficult… I wrote this post mostly out of my own frustrations.

    As we get better in our fields, we become more painfully aware of how little we know. In other words, the un-knowledgeable person doesn’t realize how much he doesn’t know. The knowledgeable person realizes how very much he doesn’t know. So, as we learn more and more in our fields, we become more and more aware, of both how much we don’t know in our field as well as all our surrounding fields. Around this time, we also realize how much little our fellow peers know in their own work. See, we are coming up to the edge of all *our* understanding. So, we see these same difficulties in our peer’s writings.

    The struggle for the older graduate student is to be well-read our field, and to understand our thesis topic matter. We will find collaborators who don’t believe or understand us initially. Until we prove that we are right in this small area. We will still feel like we don’t know that much, but in the end, we’ll know one or two things quite a bit, and be at the level or better of our peers in that area.

    Sorry I rambled, Mat. I’m experiencing some difficulties in my own work right now, so I’m driven to try and understand it better.

    I’ll think more about scientific advancement and attempt to write more on it soon. BTW, I’m somewhat influenced by mysticism, Taosim, Thomas Merton, etc., and so, my answers may not be very firm. I tend to feel that some lack of definition allows for more discovery and eventually towards more understanding in some of these more philosophical/borderline mystical concepts.

    [of course, mysticism doesn’t have much of a place in the hard-sciences… except, perhaps when it comes to growing materials in a vacuum chamber… tends to be a bit mystic at times. ;)]

    Cheers!
    -Allen


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