Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration

Introduction

As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” What they don’t tell you is that it also makes Jack less likely to succeed at work. In the next fifteen examples, you will see the value of play–hobbies–in addition to work, specifically scientific exploration. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson reports how hobbies have benefited the scientific community through many generations.

 

“Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities—a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity—but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies” (Johnson, 172).

The innovative power that comes from balancing work and play–career and hobbies–has always been present in scientific exploration. This anthology will describe how that power is still at work today.

Continue reading “Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration”

Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration

Platforms

“The songbird sitting in an abandoned woodpecker’s nest doesn’t need to know how to drill a hole into the side of a poplar, or how to fell a hundred-foot tree. That is the generative power of open platforms. The songbird doesn’t carry the cost of drilling and felling because the knowledge of how to do those things was openly suppled by other species in the chain. She just needs to know how to tweet.”

-Johnson, 210

-Open platforms are so powerful because it allows connections to be made between peoples’ idea that may have not been made without the platforms’ existence. I want to know if people have become less curious due to open platforms. With all these ideas available to us, have we stopped seeking results ourselves rather than looking to see how other people did it. I think there is great power in open platforms, but can they hinder the drive for discoveries yourself?

 

Platforms

Write it down or look it up?

“If the commonplace book tradition tells us that the best way to nurture hunches is to write everything down, the serendipity engine of the Web suggests a parallel directive: looks everything up”– Johnson 123

I feel that this quote has truthfulness in that websites like wikipedia and online references help expand our knowledge and allow us to explore instant hunches. And even though I think that looking everything up that pikes our curiosity is good, this idea counteracts the more random route of exploration that Johnson also endorses, methods like “sleeping on the problem” or Poincare’s pedestrian method of walking where ideas “rose from crowds”. I feel like if Poincare had the web, when he got stuck or encountered a problem, he would immediately go to the web for a solution or for some random browsing. And while this random browsing could possibly stimulate the answer to form in his head, it would be much more natural and easy for him to do what randomly stimulated and gave his mind a break at the same time: take a walk or vacation.

This is not to say that all people are like this, but the more the Web becomes an influence in people’s time, I think we are going to see more solutions and more ideas be born, just different types of ideas.

Write it down or look it up?