Idiosyncrasy and discovery

 

Imagine writing an equation that explains a natural phenomenon. Imagine testing it and finding it true and the sense of awe or power or just relief at finally answering the question that had been bugging you for years. I am thinking about Einstein.

Then there is Charles Darwin’s trip on the HMS Beagle that changed his goal from having a simple life on a parsonage to an obsession with understanding speciation. I wonder how Darwin might have felt after comparing his work to the findings of other scientists at the time, and his timidity but growing conviction to put forth the theory of evolution.

Think also of Faraday, growing up in poverty and managing to secure a job as a book keeper. He was so driven to understand the workings of the world that he taught himself despite his poor academic background, ultimately changing our understandings of energy.

These scientists would be considered average if not failures by the standards of their society until they found questions worth devoting themselves to. It seems that it is when our idiosyncrasies are triggered that we finally push our mind to its full extent. The natural world is full of questions to trigger our curiosity and it always opens up into even more questions.

I am also fascinated by just how philosophical studying the physical world can make you. How far do you go in studying gravity before you wonder, what is space, what is time? How far do you go in studying evolution before you marvel at the cleverness of it and the bruteness of it, at how short of a timespan we have been here and what will be here in another billion years?

Most times, the answers we seek drive us into others disciplines because life does not fit our artificial categories. Faraday’s work integrated electricity and magnetism. For Einstein he had to integrate maths and geometry. I also find it so interesting that it was Einstein who couldn’t bear contradiction that eventually discovered the theory of relativity. Then there was Darwin, explaining the patterns he was seeing by pulling in thoughts from economics.

We live in a fascinating world and are the only ones with the ability to really think about it, and intervene in thoughtful and long range ways. There is so much keep our attention for the rest of our lives. If one takes pause to consider human behaviour or the behaviour of microscopic objects or macroscopic phenomena one could go down a rabbit hole well worth a lifetime.

It is good to remember and be reanimated by the wonder in our world as it is even more wonderful than fiction. In our very idiosyncratic exploration of those strange things that fascinate us we surely rock the world; if not the whole world then our own personal world.

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