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Thread: Science and failure -- getting up after fate knocks your project down

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Science and failure -- getting up after fate knocks your project down

    An excellent news story about what happens when science is stalled or derailed by failure. I's more than just getting yourself up again. You have to get the project up again as well. This article means a lot to me personally. I've had a hobby of reading about failures, engineering and scientific, and how they came about and what they contributed.

    https://www.wired.com/story/scientis...-failure-talk/
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

  2. #2
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    Interesting article, but I think a little over-hyped or overwrought. I never had the impression that failure was a big secret in science. Maybe the general public is unaware of it, but I think the vast majority of the general public is unaware of how science works, failure or success.

    There have been some serious suggestions over the years of journals devoted to failure ("How not to synthesize XYZ"). Such a thing would be immensely useful, and help scientists in many disciplines avoid repeating the dead-ends and mistakes of others, but it never has gotten any serious traction.

    I think a bigger "secret" (something unrealized by the public) is that most of science ("most" defined by hours worked, papers published, patents granted) would seem very mundane to the public. Absolutely no one in the public cares that I just made an incremental improvement in the porosity of a new absorbent for a particular customer, or improved the yield of a different product by 5%. Wow moments like images of a black hole are very few and very far between.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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  3. #3
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    My impression is that many people regard science as they regard religion, that failure does not exist by definition thus failure is an admission that science does not work. If you fail to correctly forecast the weather once, you will always be unreliable.

    The "big secret", I believe, is how the public views science. Even people who like science do not necessarily understand how it works.
    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
    — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)

  4. #4
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    We have at our disposal a captive audience of schoolchildren. Some of them don't go to the blackboard or raise their hand 'cause they think they're going to be wrong. I think you should say to these kids, "You think you get it wrong sometimes, you should come down here and see how the big boys do it." I think you should tell them you haven't given up hope and that it may turn up, but, in the meantime, you want NASA to put its best people in a room and you want them to start building Galileo 6. Some of them will laugh and most of them won't care but for some, they might honestly see that it's about going to the blackboard and raising your hand. And that's the broader theme.
    - C.J. Craig, The West Wing, “Galileo”.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post

    I think a bigger "secret" (something unrealized by the public) is that most of science ("most" defined by hours worked, papers published, patents granted) would seem very mundane to the public. Absolutely no one in the public cares that I just made an incremental improvement in the porosity of a new absorbent for a particular customer, or improved the yield of a different product by 5%.
    That's most of our advancements. It is why drones only recently came into the marketplace.

    When I was a kid in the early 70's, I wondered why we didn't have flying toys already, having went to the Moon. Things take time.

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