- "It is very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room especially when there is no cat" - old proverb
Science - not facts and rules but black cats in dark rooms
- bumping into unidentifiable things looking for barely perceptible phantoms
- exhilarating experience
- talk over beer is talk about unknowns not what we already know..similar to what we have in tester meetups
- driving force of science - exhilaration of the unknown
- ignorance - most critical part of the operation
- ignorance word is provocative since it has bad connotations
- will-ful stupidity
- callow indifference to facts and logic
- stubborn devotion to uninformed opinions
- ignoring contrary ideas, opinions or data
good (knowledgeable, perceptive and insightful)
- absence of fact, understanding, insight
- absence of clarity about something
- communal gap of knowledge
- leads us to frame better questions which is the first step to get better answers
Saying the same thing in different ways is an often effective strategy.
- Second explanation adds texture.
Short view of ignorance
- Knowledge is a big subject. Ignorance is bigger.
We all seek knowledge and avoid ignorance
- What comes after knowledge? Ignorance. Not the other way round.
- More relevant than answers.
- Bigger than answers.
One good question can
- give rise to several layers of answers
- inspire several decades-long searches for solutions
- generate whole new fields of inquiry
- prompt changes in entrenched thinking
- ends the process
Working scientists don't get bogged down in factual swamp because they don't care all that much for facts. Its not that they discount or ignore them but rather they don't see them as an end in themselves.
- They don't stop at the facts; they begin there, right beyond the facts, where the facts run out.
- There is more ignorance than knowledge. And because of that there is more left to do. It is an opportunity.
- Science traffics in ignorance, cultivates it, and is driven by it.
- Mucking about in the unknown is an adventure; doing it for a living is something most scientists consider a privilege.
have faith in uncertainty, find pleasure in mystery and learn to cultivate doubt
- no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome.
- Schrodinger - "In an honest search for knowledge you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period"
General belief about Science
- it proceeds by data accumulation, its manipulation and experimental research
- scientific method => observation, hypothesis, manipulation, further observation and new hypothesis performed in an endless loop of discovery
Purpose of experiment => to learn something
Learning reveals a new feature i.e. we find something out, we discover something.
- discover => dis-cover i.e. uncover
- The known is never safe; it is never quite sufficient.
- Real science is a revision in progress, always. It proceeds in fits and starts of ignorance.
Dark side of knowledge
- Knowledge/Apparent knowledge can stand in the way of ignorance. It can retard progress.
- The more successful the facts, the more worrisome it maybe. Really successful facts have a tendency to become impregnable to revision.
- Very interesting example about number of neurons and glial cells there were in human brain. text book writers had picked it up from one another and passed it around. the number became true as a result of repetition and not experiment.
What Science makes?
- Albert Einstein - "Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating 10 more"
- Science produces ignorance at a faster rate than it produces knowledge
- Science is not like the onion where stripping away layer after layer gets you to some core, central fundamental truth. Rather it's like the magic well: no matter how many buckets of water you remove, there's always another one to be had. Or even better, it's like the widening ripples on the surface of a pond, the even larger circumference in touch with more and more of what's outside the circle, the unknown. This growing forefront is where science occurs. It's the inside of the circle that seems so enticing, rather than what's out there on the ripple. It is a mistake to bob around in the circle f facts instead of riding the wave to the great expanse lying outside the circle. But that's still where most people who are not scientists find themselves.
- Can we investigate limits of our knowledge and ignorance?
- We don't always know what we don't know. There are known unknowns and unknown unknowns.
Limits, uncertainty, impossibility, and other minor problems
2 well known instances where knowledge is shown to have limits
- Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
- Kurt Godel's Incompleteness theorems
- Some fundamental things can never be known with certainty. And the hard fact is that if you can't measure starting values, you can never predict the future state.
Sometimes limitations on knowledge can be very useful
- spawn more research, more enquiry and more new ideas
- Problem of really unknowable may not be a serious obstacle. The unknowable may itself become a fact. It can server as a portal to deeper understanding
- One of the most predictable things about predictions is how often they are wrong.
- Predictions are a measure, even if somewhat imprecise, of our ignorance.
- Trying to take shortcuts to short circuit the process by going directly to the application, rarely produces anything of value.
- Predicting ignorance, no accomplishments, is more fruitful - and less likely to go wrong.
- Ignorance works as the engine of science because it is virtually unbound, and that makes science much more expansive.
- Ignorance is not just an excuse for poor planning. We must think about how ignorance works, and we have to be explicit about how to make it work to our advantage.
The quality of ignorance
- Ignorance of a subject is the motivating force
- best science can really be seen as refining ignorance
- Scientists get rewarded for their ignorance - grants
- Much in science is serendipitous; crucial discoveries are as much happenstance as the result of directed search. This makes nice stories, but its rarely that simple.
How scientists use ignorance consciously/unconsciously to get a day's work done?
- using small questions to get at big ones
- revisiting settled questions