Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why Do We Do Science?

.. and I'm talking about scientists who do science, rather than crackpots who THINK they are doing science.

The question came up after I read this thoughtful blog entry on the Nature website.

So what are we in science for? In a way we are entrepreneurs just like the internet moguls. As Wikipedia defines it : An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome. We too are after outcomes that have a fairly low probability of success. On top of that, we voluntarily subject ourselves to repeated "abuse" in a process known as peer review. It may even be that we are socially challenged and prefer to deal with objects rather than fellow human beings, a view that I have come to embrace after my stint as a chemistry department head!

In the end, I can only summarize my own irrational interest in scientific research by quoting the sculptor Henry Moore: "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do."

So why do YOU do science?



Robert Astbury said...

I do Science, not for any Financial Gain, but for a better understanding of my place in this Realm.

There is no religion in the world that speaks to me in any similar spiritual way, other than the mathematical perfection of the universe.

I feel we are here for a purpose, We i.e Life, has its fundamental roots of creation to thank from physics and chemistry.

And only by trying to understand our past and who we are, can we then begin to comprehend who we are meant to be.

For me, Science is the only answer to all Three.

Best Regards

Berserk Dad said...

Why do we do science - that is a great question. Specifically why do I do physics? I guess when it really comes down to it, it is rewarding in its own right. Learning, discovering, understanding - these are things that bring me happiness. In addition, I like a challenge.

Should we distinguish between the job of scientist (professor, postdoc, research scientist (in industry or academia)) and doing science? Doing physics research is great. Luckily, doing research is a large part of my job and makes up for all the other annoying parts- grant proposals, bureaucracy and bureaucratic paperwork, etc.

Waking up and having to go to a job you hate, just to pay the bills is a really horrible situation. Having to work horrible jobs as an undergrad to pay tuition made me realize that if I had a chance to do something I could enjoy for a job, that it was worth it to work hard and get to that point where I didn't have to force myself out of bed every morning to go to work.

Gordon Stangler said...

I do Physics and Mathematics for no reason other than it is fun.

Increasing the bounds of human knowledge and improving the human condition are two side benefits, good ones, but side benefits nonetheless.

I just enjoy frittering away my time, and mathematics is interesting enough for me to do so.

rob said...

I do physics because it is fun. This comic made me laugh. (there is a naughty word)

Anonymous said...

I do science because I am curious.I want to know why things happen the way they happen.I have hundred thousand questions in my mind and those questions can only be answered by doing science.I want to shut the mouths of people who claim to do science but actually cheat people and those who claim to know everything but know nothing.I want to know the purpose and the result of all actions .I do science because I am not interested in anything else.