What do I want to say, when I want to talk about science? By Jayant Khandare Posted on 11th April 2012
Unquestionably scientists are fascinated by the details of their observations. However they have to be cautious and meticulous in enriching the originality and analyzing their findings. The epicenters of research- hypothesis, design of experiments, and statistical significance are now being 'taught and thought' in classrooms. But, how these overriding important fundamentals of research were cultivated by the preeminent scientists, say before 100 years? Few questions delve in my mind!
Did Isaac Newton plan to be a scientist?
At age of around 19, Isaac Newton wrote his sin... setting my heart on money, learning, and pleasure more than Thee ... it is noted that Isaac Newton had miserable childhood and no formal schooling, whatsoever. Except later he studied in Cambridge to obtain a degree in law and soon conceptualized the fundamental laws of motion, which were published in 1687 in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
Similarly, Einstein is regarded as one of the most prolific intellects in human history. Was Einstein keen to be a scientist? Were there any known glimpses early from his childhood that eventually transformed Einstein into the greatest science prodigy? At age of sixteen, Einstein failed in several subjects to mark the required standard of entrance examination for Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich, except in physics and mathematics. Later, at age of 37 (in 1916), he published a paper on the general theory of relativity. Immediately next year (1917), Einstein modeled the structure of the universe as a whole (Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Physics 2011. Nobelprize.org). Isn't this the most complex scientific endeavor ever?
Of course many more examples could fall in. Recently, The editors of 'Nature Chemistry' conducted a Twitter poll for answering an age old question,"who were the greatest chemist of all-time?"
Interestingly, the results were out and Linus Pauling received the maximum number of votes, for applying the laws of quantum mechanics in understanding the nature of the chemical bond-a basic concept holding fundamentals of chemistry. Not to mention, that he contributed to structural biology, especially for the first time in determining the very complex structure of proteins. Then, most popular chemist G.N. Lewis, discovered the covalent bond and made major contributions in chemical thermodynamics, photochemistry, and acid-base theories. Lewis was first to prepare the pure form of deuterium (in 1933) using electrolytic method. Most of these 'masterminds' didn't had any set of reference standards in framing their concepts or as comparison for their discoveries.
Do scientists foresee serendipities?
Remarkable discoveries have changed our lives! Many of these are known to be fortuitous accidents though. For example, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen tumbled upon X rays; quinine for malaria is credited to South American Indians; Nylon and Bakelite polymers have changed the way we live; and not to forget-Alexander Fleming's accidental encounter with discovery of Penicillin. For instance, the recent example of discovery of 'Graphene' as new material is unmatched (in 2004- and Nobel Prize in 2010). Geim and Novoselov, actually isolated 'Graphene' with the thought from their 'Friday evening experiments' (Nobelprize.org). They simply used familiar material, an ordinary sticky tape, to 'exfoliate' a graphite crystal by peeling off the elusive graphene monolayers. And a new research field was simply born.
Look up for many more such questions to be followe up and shared in this blog.