Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration


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.

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Scientific Anthology: How Hobbies Affect Scientific Exploration

Exaptation and Music

Since music was first played artists have been accused of stealing others music and “ripping them off”. One of the most famous examples of this when Ray Parker Jr made the Ghostbusters theme sound very similar to a Huey Lewis song. However Johnson chapter got me thinking about exaptation  and if it could be applied to music. If you take a part of someone else song and use it in a way that it wasn’t intended for and is that still stealing. I used these to songs as an example because while its clear Ray Parker Jr used the same or very similar notes for the main theme, for me the two songs sound different because of the theme and the lyrics so for me its more like Ray Parker Jr re purposed the song. While this case was settled in court it made me think that if artists were willing to collaborate we could possibly get some new themes of music.



Is Music Exaptation?

In Chapter Six, “Exaptation”, exptation is described as a trait that was developed for one purpose, but is eventually used for another unrelated purpose. When I first read this, I thought of how this has affected humans. The appendix was used as an asset to the digestive system, but is not considered obsolete; one does not need it to survive. However the appendix, to me, was not a solid example because while it was designed for a purpose that it not longer performs, it did not adopt another purpose.

Because I am not well versed in biology, I could not think of another scientific example. But when I started to read about how the vacuum tube was created “to make signals louder”, and was eventually used in the Fender guitar amp in the fifties, I started to consider how music could be exaptation. (Johnson, 157)

If exaptation is the development of a trait from one purpose to another, then isn’t a shared chord between songs simply exaptated? Are Sweet Home Alabama, Werewolves of London, and All Summer Long just exaptations of each other? Or, to take it a step further, isn’t every song an exaptation because it is just a rearrangement of notes that another song has used?

Is Music Exaptation?