Science is an inherent contradiction — systematic wonder — applied to the natural world. In its mundane form, the methodical instinct prevails and the result, an orderly procession of papers, advances the perimeter of knowledge, step by laborious step. Great scientific minds partake of that daily discipline and can also suspend it, yielding to the sheer love of allowing the mental engine to spin free. And then Einstein imagines himself riding a light beam, Kekule formulates the structure of benzene in a dream, and Fleming’s eye travels past the annoying mold on his glassware to the clear ring surrounding it — a lucid halo in a dish otherwise opaque with bacteria — and penicillin is born. Who knows how many scientific revolutions have been missed because their potential inaugurators disregarded the whimsical, the incidental, the inconvenient inside the laboratory?
Lewis, Amini & Lannon
A General Theory of Love
Science produces ignorance, and ignorance fuels science. We have a quality scale for ignorance. We judge the value of science by the ignorance it defines. Ignorance can be big or small, tractable or challenging. Ignorance can be thought about in detail. Success in science, either doing it or understanding it, depends on developing comfort with the ignorance, something akin to Keats’ negative capability.
Ignorance: How It Drives Science
[S]everal things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.
Letters of John Keats to his Family and Friends
All these quotes come straight from Brain Pickings (one, two, three), Maria Popova’s endlessly fascinating parade of wise observations and quotes, which she carefully curates and places into context from an impressively large and varied collection of sources. Read one post, follow the links, and you’re off down the rabbit hole, something new and unexpected at every turn.
Maria’s mission is to find the unregarded — in art, science, philosophy, design, technology, history, technology — and to reveal it, with the express intention of finding new connections. Bravo!
Creativity, after all, is a combinatorial force.