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Getting Lost In the Scientific Woods Is Good For You 51

StartsWithABang writes: Wandering into the woods unprepared and without a plan sounds like a terrible idea. But if you're interested in scientific exploration at the frontiers, confronting the unknown with whatever you happen to have at your disposal, you have to take that risk. You have to be willing to take those steps. And you have to be okay with putting your best ideas out there — for all to see — knowing full well that you might get the entire thing wrong. Sometimes, that's indeed what happens. Some of the most revered and famous scientific minds in history confronted the great mysteries of nature, and came away having done nothing but set us back many years by leading the field down a blind alley. But other times, the greatest leaps forward in our understanding occur as a result. The article shares some notable examples, and explains why this is vital for scientific progress.
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Getting Lost In the Scientific Woods Is Good For You

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  • by Anonymous Coward finding the paths untread.

    • by HuguesT ( 84078 )

      No, that is easy. Most paths in science have never even been tried.

      What is hard is to find a path that leads to somewhere. Then just as hard it getting the somewhere you discovered to be accepted by the scientific community. Think plaque tectonics, relativity, quantum mechanics, even something as fundamental as cosmology, and so on.

      • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2014 @06:58AM (#48259053) Homepage Journal

        plaque tectonics

        Where dentistry meets geology.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What is hard is to find a path that leads to somewhere.

        FFS.. give us a car analogy. All this hiking is getting us nowhere.

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        General Relativity was widely accepted four years after the initial publishing (after Sir Arthur Eddington published his fundamental Mathematical Theory of Relativity), and Special Relativity was a new mathematical approach to the Poincaré-Lorentz-cosmology of 1892, published more than a decade before (which in turn tried to incorporate the Maxwell equations from 1879 into Newtonian physics).

        Quantum mechanics were proposed by Max Planck in 1900, 1905 it was used by Albert Einstein to explain the phot

      • Glaciers being responsible for carving geological features is another one. This was widely ridiculed when first proposed. I don't think relativity was ever ridiculed and it was accepted pretty quickly. In fact, Eddington's early results were quite equivocal but the theory was accepted by consensus nonetheless. Cosmology is the name of a whole field, so it doesn't really fit on your list. It's like asking how long it took for "biology" to be accepted by the scientific community.
  • Obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Livius ( 318358 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2014 @06:21AM (#48258963)

    That's pretty much the definition of what science is. I'm not even clear what they think the alternative might be that would still qualify as science.

    And it works whether 'lost in the woods' is meant literally and metaphorically.

    • Re:Obvious (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2014 @06:59AM (#48259059)

      Most people think that scientist are strange people who have amassed a huge amount of very precise facts about an extremely specific field, some of which might be useful (facts or fields), but most of which are useless to the common people. The prototype is the scientist lady in the TV series "Bones". Scientists are assimilated to dorks who have not only not an ounce of creativity in them but also no social skills.

      In reality scientists need to be extremely creative in their work, and need to have the humility to accept that they know or understand only a tiny amount of the world that is around us. It is very easy and quick to tread into the complete unknown. We cannot at present even reconcile the most established theories we have about the way the world works (relativity and quantum mechanics).

    • That's pretty much the definition of what science is. I'm not even clear what they think the alternative might be that would still qualify as science.

      Well, there's lost, and then there's LOST. I can get a little in lost my own city for a few moments, then drive around, see a familiar landmark and get my bearings rather quickly. But getting totally lost in somewhere that's completely unexplorered is a very different experience.

      The author is talking about the latter experience. Getting a little more concre

    • by pooh666 ( 624584 )
      Well it seems to me a lot of scientists might as well have become accounts. Mechanism? no. Stats on what happens when you combine 500,000 PPM of something you shouldn't eat or touch anyway, with a mice's ear, oh yes.. But then everything is always about Money. Lost in the woods is what I used to DREAM science was really like. Maybe it is for some few, some very few.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So now I first check the poster before the summary. There's a couple that can be safely ignored. Either because they don't have anything to say, or because they insist on summarising other people's work on an unreadable hipster website. NEXT!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      >unreadable hipster website

      I read that and figured that could only mean one thing: And sure enough...

  • Who will fund you when you're "lost in the woods"?
  • ...makes you stronger, that still holds some merit to it.

    I'm an old bugger by now, and I can tell you this is quite right. It's like teaching a kid the difference from right and wrong, from bad and good, the kid touches the stove...burns himself a little - life lesson learned, sure beats hearing about it in theory.

    Same thing with me, instead of always being politically correct here at Slashdot, I throw some stuff out there. I know how to hoist easy modpoints, any one who have been here for a long time
  • "Science is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing." -- Werner von Braun

  • this attitude will get you killed in space.

  • Often in science discoveries are made different from the original goal. Much like Columbus looking for a shorter route to India and "discovering" the Americas. With Einstein as mentioned in the article, it was more like asking the right question such as, "What if the speed of light is independent of the observer?"

  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2014 @10:36AM (#48260575) Journal

    This was so vapid and banal, I checked to see if the byline was Bennett Haselton.

    Then again, it wasn't a 6000-word opus, so I should have known better.

    Yes, it's intellectually useful to be challenged. And?

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas