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On Technology, Discovery, and the Modern World June 20, 2017

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

I have a book that I bought at a used bookstore in Meadville, PA, circa 1976.  It’s titled The History of 19th Century Science, and is full of stories of scientists in the 1800s and their discoveries in fields such as biology, geology, and chemistry.  That century really was the Golden Age of science and discovery in the modern era.  The advances in science during the latter part of the 1800’s was really amazing.

(I paid the $1 written on the flyleaf, although the proprietor groused that it was mis-marked and probably worth more.  One of these days I’ll have to find out if it’s worth anything.)

But original science today is usually a very different beast.  Much of science, especially the physical sciences, are funded at millions of dollars, with large teams pursuing, quite frankly, is often incremental knowledge.

And that’s what many scientists have come to expect of the fruit of their labors.  In an era where scientists seem to be satisfied with very modest advancements over the course of decades of research and millions of dollars, there remains the opportunity to do significant and important work.

The real problem is that taking a mental leap is not the safe way to do science.  And if you are trying to establish a life career as a research scientist, you won’t take chances, so you won’t look for a breakthrough.

If you are a scientist, maybe you should look for breakthroughs more often.



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