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Science Friction

August 21st, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Work · No Comments · Work

I think I was on the receiving end of one of the best put-downs ever this afternoon, when I went into one of our anorak enclaves to chat with the people whose job it is to actually come up with new ideas, the ones at the sharp end of research & development.

I was commenting on the difficulty I have in imagining what the routine of a scientist might be like.  Taking the field of medicine as an example, I can understand the principle of all the tests you would have to do with a new treatment and how that could be routine, but what about the process that leads to the initial idea for using a particular chemical to treat a specific condition?  How do you get that initial spark of an idea, that first bit of inspiration?

I can’t imagine a scientist starting work at 9 and sitting down to decide to come up with a new idea.  Do you just play with random things until inspiration strikes?  It has always been something that fascinates me.  At this point I said how I thought that you could not set up a structured routine to come up with new ideas, and that there is no algorithm for pure invention…   My colleague said “Actually…  I did my PhD in programming computers to be creative”.

There is no come-back to that!

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