[time-nuts] science projects

Daniel Schultz n8fgv at usa.net
Fri Feb 10 07:10:28 UTC 2012

>If marketing studies show a positive return on investment, engineers
>are turned loose to solve the problems revealed as the details of
>building or manufacturing the new thing are studied.

The best inventions are the ones that nobody ever thought to ask for. If
Edison had done marketing studies, he would have spent his life designing
incremental improvements to gas lights. Nobody asked him to invent the
electric light. Nobody ever knew that they needed a computer in their home
until they got one. There was a time when telephones were wired to a cord in
the kitchen, nobody ever imagined carrying one in their pocket. Market
research would never have produced any of those things. Men of vision saw
things that the market never knew it needed and made them happen, sometimes in
spite of opposition from lesser minds who couldn't see the value of their
vision. Grace Hopper said "Don't worry about people stealing your idea, if
your idea is that good you will have to ram it down their throats".

>Someone with better measuring equipment finds a discrepant result
>while verifying some physical law or accepted truth. That person
>needs to know the existing truths and create ideas about testing
>the new result. Questions are formed and hypotheses proposed.

Sometimes discoveries happen purely by accident. A mold gets into a petri dish
and ruins someones study of bacteria. A scientist looks at the dish just
before throwing it out and notices that the bacteria are not growing near the
mold colony. Penicillin is discovered. Nobody thought to do an experiment to
test the hypotheses that mold would kill bacteria, and a lesser mind would
have thrown the dishes in the trash without bothering to notice the
extraordinary thing that was happening in the ruined bacteria culture. Chance
favors the prepared mind. Radioactivity was discovered when some uranium
compounds were left in a desk drawer next to a box of photographic film, which
was found to be fogged despite not ever having been exposed to light. The muon
particle was discovered in the tracks left by cosmic rays in a cloud chamber,
when informed of the discovery Enrico Fermi said "Who ordered that?" 

>A technologist follows the progress of new theories and thinks of
>ways that they might be applied to life's problems

Sometimes theory needs to catch up with practice. The steam engine was
invented by an uneducated tinkerer, the thermodynamic theory to explain how it
worked came about much later. 

Science works in many weird and wonderful ways. There is no single pathway
that leads to new discoveries and inventions.

Dan Schultz N8FGV

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