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February 26, 2008

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Greg Feirman

Great quotes.

I think what he's saying is that a completely objective perspective is impossible.

We think and act in a historical, social, environmental and psychological context that pervasively influences our outlook, beliefs, decisions and actions.

We excercise a degree of independence and objectivity but never the completely objective "view from nowhere".

The Financial Philosopher

Greg:

That's a good point and I believe John Anderson would agree, too. It would be of interest to note that Mr. Anderson was a member of the Communist party until the rise of Adolph Hitler. Anderson then broke from the Communist party and spoke out against authoritarian rule. This would show, as you commented, that "we think and act in a historical, social, environmental and psychological context."

Anderson also shows that we can think independently and evolve into individuals.

Thanks, as always, for your thought-provoking comment...

Iqbal Latif

Greg,

I would definitely agree with your wife that "you become the water you swim in." Perhaps there is no single recipe and a common code to define a discovery vein. However, I strongly believe that those who have it in them are truly gifted. 'Accidents' happening in the life of an ordinary bloke will make the slightest of difference; those who break through the ranks of superior inventors and thinkers are the ones with lot more going for them and their focus on the subject of inquiry.

'Intellectual sweat' in a particular field associated with accident and adventure brings about a lethal combination. These are the key ingredients I would dare suggest in this august forum. I would definitely separate business genius from the list of inventors where accidents play a far bigger role; sometimes the lines are blurred - business genius and inventions are so overlapping, but in the case of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, accidents have played a major role. DIs was not developed by Gates, he only marketed it. What if Gates’s proposal had been accepted by IBM, or Jobs had not been fired from Apple the first time around? As he says: 'stay foolish stay hungry' is the code. By staying he probably means the “adventure” part. In case of Job and Gates, this applies perfectly well: 'responsible has its merits but a sense of adventure can take us to places we may have never imagined possible...'

In light of what I have just written, the second observation of when it comes to, "scientific discovery" is often a result of an "accident" and that "there is no formula" for leading our lives.' I have my humble reservations on the foregoing. I think Galileo's championing of Copernicanism and his significant break from the abstract Aristotelian approach of his time was not an accident. Take Newton, again it was relentless pursuit of new frontiers and break from traditional knowledge; a mix of adventure in the intellectual space but intellectual sweat is clearly visible. In June 1661, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. At that time, the college's teachings were based on those of Aristotle, but Newton preferred to read the more advanced ideas of modern philosophers such as Descartes and astronomers such as Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler. In a 2005 poll of the Royal Society of who had the greatest effect on the history of science, Newton was deemed much more influential than Albert Einstein. Newton reap the benefits of the collective wisdom of the past; he sits on the pinnacle.

Ben Franklin is given the credit of discovering electricity, but it is the combination of accident and intellectual sweat. 'Accident' of him sitting on top of the peak of the entire process of scientific discovery that led to discovery of a continuous source of energy that could power our requirements.

The fiction of “Eureka!” has formulated our minds towards 'Archimedes' discovery of buoyancy and that, which on surface qualifies for "scientific discovery," is often a result of an "accident." However there is lot of fiction in the fable of Eureka. Vitruvius (De architectura IX.9–12) recounts the famous story of Archimedes making this discovery while in the bath, but the actual record of Archimedes' discoveries appear in his two-volume work, On Floating Bodies. The ancient Chinese child prodigy Cao Chong also applied the principle of buoyancy in order to measure the accurate weight of an elephant, as described in the Sanguo Zhi.

If we study 'The Wright brothers,' a streak of research, pursuit of an aim and benefiting from the intellectual capital of the commons is what made them the ultimate stars. They get the whole credit, but their bicycle shop employee Charlie Taylor also was an important part of the team, building their first aircraft engine in close collaboration with the brothers. We by nature like to create heroes and that is very good, however, most of the outstandingly heroic acts have multiple heroisms: the conquest of the Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary is remembered, but the Sherpa without whom he would not have made it to the peak is second fiddle only; it is accident and luck that helps. This is akin to, in 'Persian mythology,' a very famous bird, Simorgh, a large beautiful and powerful bird, Homa, royal bird of victory whose plume adorned the crowns, and Samandar, the phoenix wherever and whomever HOMA alights on will have fame and fortune. 'The World Wide Web.' is amongst the key technologies that have transformed the way information is created and consumed. Tim Berners-Lee is rightly credited for the discovery of the 'The World Wide Web.' The shipping container Malcolm McLean is a result of life time observation. Magnetic Resonance Imaging invented by Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield is a cumulative effort of all what was available to them in terms of past research and their own expertise. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, inventors of 'The microchip.'

Let's look at the research for the 'Structure of DNA.' Francis Crick and his American colleague James Watson would not, however, have been able to identify the twisted ladder shape of the DNA double helix without the help of English scientist Rosalind Franklin's X-ray images, which Watson saw without her knowledge. Franklin, who exposed herself to dangerous levels of radiation to get her X-ray images, died of cancer in 1958 at the age of 37.

Therefore, I believe that all inventions and discoveries are a combination of adventure, relentless pursuit, a bird like Homa to achieve the crowning glory, and those who achieve glory have to be humble to accept a tribute to sitting on the 'pinnacle of wisdom of the past.'

The Financial Philosopher

Thank you so much for your input Iqbal! I'll read your post a few times to absorb your thoughts...

Thanks again...

Kent

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