Thinking like a scientist…am I doing this right?

I have this friend, let’s call him V for simplicity purposes. He is obsessed in awe with Elon Musk. And he is now asking everybody, how can we change the world (thanks V, I was in need of extra pressure on that one...not). But this post is not about Musk, nor about V. Is about this post that he shared recently and the assertion that Musk is “a scientist through and through”. If you want you can go and read the post, I will wait.

Are we good? Ok, carry on.

Independent on your views about Musk, this sentence stuck with me mostly because of the arguments Urban uses to “prove” this point. The whole Hardware and Software part, besides making Musk sound like a less "caricature" version of Sheldon Cooper, also has a crucial problem: it equates (partially but enough to bug me) scientific thinking to literal thinking. And in general, the piece left me feeling like somehow, being a true scientist was a one size fits all kind of thing, when it obviously is not. 

Being a scientist and thinking like one is not a thing that you can unify, in my opinion. Sure, there are certain things that will be common: considering every possible outcome, learning from new data and adapting to this new knowledge. However, how each one of us does this is not a box we can just tick.

An example: my bf and I, both made the same type of studies, we will both have the same title as Virology and Immunology doctors. We are both geeks and scientists and also quite short if I am being honest. Do we approach problems the same way? Certainly not. Do we both think like scientist? I would certainly say so.

What then is thinking like a scientist? What makes someone a scientist through and through? I’ve been trying to find the answer to this question and I just can’t do it. Most of the posts I’ve seen made me understand where the heartless scientist image comes from since often, this is what is believed to be real scientific thinking, removing feelings. But for so many day to day issues, isn’t this whole feelings part what gives us our empirical data to know how to act and react to certain situations?

Is it decorticating every situation to its minimal parts? Is it registering, maybe not in notebook but still keeping record, of every new thing we try, change? There is for sure an element of independent thought, but at the same time, knowing your basis, the literature behind you is one of the first things we learn as important: you cannot do something new without knowing what has been done already, why and how.

Since I don’t think there is an answer to this, I will tell you what makes a scientist for me: 

  • Is getting excited about any development, independent of the field: new pictures of Mars? Awesome; new fossil discovered? Great!; new proof for that math piece everyone though unsolvable? Damn…and also, great.
  • Is wanting to share your findings, and wanting to defend them while at the same time dreading doing so.
  • Is knowing that the amount of time you spend on your experiments/analysis might not be direct to the amount of usable data you will get, and being ok with it.
  • Is needing to test something, even if the only reason is: I need to know.
  • Is questioning even your own sources, and sometimes getting people pissed at you because of it.
  • Is being able to learn from your mistakes, and still be willing to fail again.
  • Is having an issue running in the back of your head for days and not letting it go, because you know you can solve it (riddles will be the death of me, people).
  • Is knowing that the simplest answer could be the right one, but you still spend a good amount of time, just making sure the other answers are not.
  •  Is, mostly, needing to know more.
What makes a scientist in your book?

Now that you are done with this post, I just want to remind you that I've teamed up with Science Borealis, Dr. Paige Jarreau from Louisiana State University and 20 other Canadian science bloggers, to conduct a broad survey of Canadian science blog readers.

It only take 5 minutes to complete the survey. Begin here:

If you complete the survey you will be entered to win one of eleven prizes! A $50 Chapters Gift Card, a $20 surprise gift card, 3 Science Borealis T-shirts and 6 Surprise Gifts! PLUS everyone who completes the survey will receive a free hi-resolution science photograph from Paige's Photography!  

No comments:

Post a Comment