Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Quote for the Day

Maxwell wasn't thinking of radio, radar, and television when he first scratched out the fundamental equations of electromagnetism; Newton wasn't dreaming of space flight or communications satellites when he first understood the motion of the Moon; Roentgen wasn't contemplating medical diagnosis when he investigated a penetrating radiation so mysterious he called it "X-rays"; Curie wasn't thinking of cancer therapy when she painstakingly extracted minute amounts of radium from tons of pitchblende; Fleming wasn't planning on saving the lives of millions with antibiotics when he noticed a circle free of bacteria around a growth of mold; Watson and Crick weren't imagining the cure of genetic diseases when they puzzled over the X-ray diffractometry of DNA; Rowland and Molina weren't planning to implicate CFCs in ozone depletion when they began studying the role of halogens in stratospheric photochemistry.

These discoveries and a multitude of others that grace and characterize our time, to some of which our very lives are beholden, were made ultimately by scientists given the opportunity to explore what in their opinion were basic questions in nature.

Cutting off fundamental, curiosity-driven science is like eating the seed corn. We may have a little more to eat next winter, but what will we plant so we and our children will have enough to get through the winters to come?

-- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark


3 comments:

Bayman said...

Love that quote! A kick-ass piece of science writing if I've ever seen one. (How the hell did he get funded to publish that??)

Of course I totally agree...I'm sure the tendency to strangle off basic science is probably as old as science itself, but it definitely seems like there's a particular level of hostility towards creativity in science currently.

Perhaps part of a larger downward trend that has been in the works on...the end of creativity in American culture??? Is the writing on the wall? Or is there something interesting happening that I've been missing?

Bayman said...

Another good one, while we're on the topic:

"But in general it is presumptuous to think that we can look over the horizon. That is why it is called the horizon: you cannot see over it."

Courtesy of Philip Leder.

rob said...

Cutting off fundamental, curiosity-driven science is like eating the seed corn. We may have a little more to eat next winter, but what will we plant so we and our children will have enough to get through the winters to come?

From
translationparty.com

Basically, the cutting operation of scientific curiosity, eat the seed corn. The biggest problem in the winter after the children, I would eat the plants in winter?