September 16th, 2004

abstract butterfly

if at first

"It would be an error to suppose that the great discoverer seizes at once upon the truth, or has an unerring method of divining it. In all probability the errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one. Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must be many times as numerous as those which prove well-founded". - Stanley Jevons

I like the scientific method. One embarks upon a line of research. One devises a system in which to test an idea or phenomenon. One reshapes the experiment--and perhaps one's thinking--until a truth emerges.

I like stories of serendipity, like Alexander Fleming researching a bacterial phenemenon, and finding penicillin in a slime mold almost as if by chance. I like that the development of technology, such as the space program or advances in personal computers, create not only new devices and designs to use in other areas, but also new ways of thinking about the way things work.

Although a spark and an insight help one leap to the "genius" discoveries, I take comfort in the fact that sheer persistence matters. Persistence turns up the missing fact. Persistence locates the case that makes the critical distinction. In simpler ways, persistence solidifies friendships, keeps the mind alive, and
enables theories to be discarded--and rejuvenated.