Sunday 10 August 2014

Progress comes with making mistakes By Sherman Teo

Making progress means taking risks and making brilliant blunders. Thomas Edison is reputed to have said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This statement sums up a fundamental — but often misunderstood — truth about scientific inquiry. The mistakes that are integral to scientific progress are not those that result from haste, sloppiness or inexperience. Rather, they are the mistakes that arise from thoughtful, meticulous experimentation based on bold ideas — the kind of ideas that can lead to major breakthroughs. One may wonder whether today’s highly competitive, funding-starved scientific atmosphere, in which publications and citations have become a primary criterion for success, can accommodate such mistakes. The simple answer is yes. Indeed, they are as important as ever — and not only in academia. In fact, the entire scientific method is based on the notion that discovering what does not work is vital to learning what does. Any scientific theory must be falsifiable — that is, based on existing observations or experimental results. For a theory to be considered scientific, it must yield specific predictions of future observations or experimental results. If those observations or results contradict the predictions, the theory is discarded, or at least must be modified.

In my opinion, many of the risks that we take today will lead to mistakes however, these mistakes are the steps which we require to reach our goals. Many of our inventions nowadays were also due to the accidents and the making of mistakes by the scientists. People believe that mistakes are bad and the result of extremely lazy work however, they may sometimes lead to unexpected things with a better result as compared previously.

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