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Author Topic: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research  (Read 945 times)

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Offline TriesteTopic starter

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The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« on: June 17, 2011, 12:32:36 PM »
http://jcs.biologists.org/content/121/11/1771.full

I feel that Dr. Schwartz has placed his finger directly on the beating pulse of why being a scientist - or science student - is both agonizing and amazing. This, here, this precise thing is what I love and what I hate about my field, all rolled into one incomprehensible little ball and tucked into my mad scientist's heart.

Offline Shjade

Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2011, 02:12:12 PM »
I couldn't help thinking throughout this article that he meant "ignorance" whenever he said "stupidity."

If you'd stupid, you won't be having any success in research - you won't be able to understand the experiments, much less the results. Because you're stupid. Education doesn't fix stupidity; it's an inherent trait.

If you're just ignorant, you don't have the answers yet, which seems to be his point.

Offline TriesteTopic starter

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Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2011, 04:10:23 PM »
No, he meant stupidity, because it does make you feel stupid. It makes you feel like if you had a few more neurons, you could wrap your mind all the way around this problem. It makes you feel unqualified, ignorant, and slow, too, but I have no doubt in my mind that he used the word stupid because he meant precisely that: stupid.

Offline Shjade

Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2011, 05:42:19 PM »
I'd say there are options between "genius" and "stupid" that more accurately apply. Someone stupid probably wouldn't even grok the problem, much less conceive of possible answers to it.

Bloody scientists and their disrespect for semantics! ;p

Online Oreo

Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2011, 03:50:50 AM »
I'm no scientist, but I certainly understand the concept. Learning most new things makes you feel stupid, whether it is quantum theory, computer codes or how to drive a Mac truck. All involve the brain learning to assimilate and make sense of new concepts. You will either love the feeling or hate pushing your limits. It makes more sense to me to love feeling stupid and continue to break knowledge barriers, than to shut off the process and truly remain, stupid.

Offline NotoriusBEN

Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2011, 03:50:48 PM »
its like how I felt with that Nova documentary on string theory. about 3minutes in, I was more interested in the 'string cheese' theory in the fridge :P

I muscled through that one, but man, it blew me away more than I am used to.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2011, 10:43:37 PM »
I adored that. Thank you for sharing, Trie.

And yeah, it is definitely a feeling of stupidity. Ignorance implies that the answers are there and available and that there is a negligence on your part in finding and understanding them. Stupidity comes when you confront the objectively unknown and are overwhelmed with the sense that this shouldn't be this hard! I had one of those moments when working on my sort of pseudo-Master's thesis. I wound up pacing in front of an amused professor pointing out an evident problem while simultaneously lamenting our mutual inability to understand the actual cause of the problem and how the hell it could be fixed.

It's exhilarating ^_^ (although in that particular case it was incredibly depressing as well)

Offline MHaji

Re: The Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2011, 11:05:17 PM »
This article is dead-on. I would describe it as "a need to feel comfortable with discomfort," though - the sense that you can be okay with being a bit dense about difficult things.

(A really sharp undergraduate should feel stupid by graduation. If you don't feel dumber after four years of college, you didn't get your money's worth.)