By jimgris on Jan 13, 2010
Nice article on the brain biology behind how scientists actually create science. Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up. Recognizing anomalies, making mistakes, being challenged, and engaging in conversation are all critically important elements that make science work. Context and perspective matter greatly as well. Seems all very human to me. I`m not so much interested in the brain chemistry that influences behavior in science (you can see this in partisan politics as well), but what fascinates me more is the notion that with this awareness you can dig yourself out of the natural traps that catch most people, and that can lead to new opportunities that only a few generally see.
From the article:
Modern science is populated by expert insiders, schooled in narrow disciplines. Researchers have all studied the same thick textbooks, which make the world of fact seem settled. This led Kuhn, the philosopher of science, to argue that the only scientists capable of acknowledging the anomalies — and thus shifting paradigms and starting revolutions — are “either very young or very new to the field.” In other words, they are classic outsiders, naive and untenured. They aren’t inhibited from noticing the failures that point toward new possibilities.
The "acknowledging the anomalies" bit from Thomas Kuhn is
key. It may enable
you to jump
paradigms or start revolutions, which is very cool, but in the process
it also gets you a lot of knives
buried deeply in your back. So acknowledge carefully. More than a few
people have ended up dead challenging paradigms throughout the ages.
Granted, the deaths are at the extreme, but why go through all that if
it`s not necessary. Start small. Pick off what you can. Even though
most people usually can't change the paradigms in which they live, they
can change the small things in their world by recognizing and resolving
anomalies that crop up every day. Then,
hopefully, over time the small changes add up to big changes. And
when you are focusing on this process, you are more apt to spot big
paradigm shifts coming along and you can jump when the opportunity is
So, don`t be afraid to poke around and change your position and screw
up from time to time. Failure
is important. It helps you succeed.