Imagination is more important than science

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I was looking over howstuffworks.com and i saw a link to "how a light saber works." It wasnt perfected but it made me realize that every scientific endeavor is based upon someone's imagination.

If history was different, science would be as well. This is not because perhaps atomic energy would be made 50 years earlier or later, but possibly not at all.

When someone wraps their head around something, a new science is born. Who could know the infinite number of things humans will never encounter because these facets were never born in someone's mind.

theres just something amazing about how real things come to be, its not progression, its someone's insane idea which eventually finds an explanation.
 

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  • #2
Ivan Seeking
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As a rule, good ideas are a dime a dozen. But it is true that success is often found through trial and error. But even in this case, borrowing from Edison, success is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. So I think it is a little misleading to say that imagination is more important than science; rather I think, borrowing from Einsteins comment on religion and science, either would be lame without the other.

I once read a story that led me to consider ideas similar to those expressed by you. It made me wonder about alternative histories based on seemingly insignificant events. For example, might some young genius have propelled the human race into the world of physics five hundred years earlier, had he not fallen victim to disease as a child. I have also wondered about the unwritten histories of the world; wondering how much information is lost to the ages. For example, consider the library at Alexandria; I consider this loss at least a candidate for the greatest tragedy in human history. Hmmm, which sounds like an interesting thread.
 
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oldunion said:
...it made me realize that every scientific endeavor is based upon someone's imagination.
Not exactly the case in the way you are implying. It isn't always true that someone first sits and dreams up a light saber, and then someone figures out how to make one. Often people discover effects for which there's no apparent use. Later, someone thinking about the effect, realizes it would make a certain kind of process or invention possible.

The computer, as far as I know, was never preceeded by any stories that go way back about a calculating machine, the way, say, flight was preceeded by the greek myth of Daedalus.
 
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Ivan Seeking
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In the same light, pun intended, the LASER was once called a solution looking for a problem.
 
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Ivan Seeking said:
In the same light, pun intended, the LASER was once called a solution looking for a problem.
The discovery of X-rays came about in such a way as to concommitantly suggest a practical use. As far as I know no one had ever dreamed of seeing into the human body before it happened by accident.
 
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Ivan Seeking
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I think there is another dimension to all of this. At any time there are countless ideas generated by the latest advancements in technology. So, taking the transistor as an example; this made possible nearly all that we see today in electronics. In turn, this makes all sorts of applications possible that previously were impractical, or even impossible. So what often happens is that science produces the means for the imagination to run wild. Consider that television was invented by six or more independent groups nearly simultaneously. In fact breakthroughs like this often come down to a horse race to the patent or publisher's office. As soon as the technology for something like television becomes practical, many people often realize the potential almost immediately.
 
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Ivan Seeking said:
At any time there are countless ideas generated by the latest advancements in technology.
Each advancement suggests the next. Yup.
 
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Moonbear
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Ivan Seeking said:
I think there is another dimension to all of this. At any time there are countless ideas generated by the latest advancements in technology. So, taking the transistor as an example; this made possible nearly all that we see today in electronics. In turn, this makes all sorts of applications possible that previously were impractical, or even impossible. So what often happens is that science produces the means for the imagination to run wild. Consider that television was invented by six or more independent groups nearly simultaneously. In fact breakthroughs like this often come down to a horse race to the patent or publisher's office. As soon as the technology for something like television becomes practical, many people often realize the potential almost immediately.
I think this is very much the case. You begin collecting knowledge, and for a while you sit there staring at all this data you have that you don't know how to interpret, and then someone comes out with a piece of information that is the key piece and everything suddenly makes sense and fits. It's just a matter of who is going to see it first.
 
  • #9
Danger
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Science and imagination absolutely fuel each other. I still think that the ultimate example of that was da Vinci. Can we even begin to guess what that man could have done if he had access to modern technology?
 
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Ivan Seeking
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I have mentioned this before, but I came up with the pause-live-TV idea about 20 years ago; way ahead of the curve, right? Not so as it turns out. After investing a good bit of time into this idea I stumbled on an article that discussed my idea in detail; in one of the electronics magazines of the time [no internet back then]. I learned not only what I had already started to realize, that at the time it too expensive to be practical, but even worse, a number companies were already lying in wait until this was economically feasible.

edit: boy, I can't type today worth a hoot! :yuck:
 
  • #11
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Danger said:
Science and imagination absolutely fuel each other. I still think that the ultimate example of that was da Vinci. Can we even begin to guess what that man could have done if he had access to modern technology?
Danger, if you have a book of da Vinci's art handy see if it has a reproduction of his drawing of that sort of army tank thing he designed. On the left is a view with the top removed, and on the right it is shown with the top in place. Let me know if you find it.
 
  • #12
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Ivan Seeking said:
I have mentioned this before, but I came up with the pause-live-TV idea about 20 years ago; way ahead of the curve, right? Not so as it turns out. After investing a good bit of time into this idea I stumbled on an article that discussed my idea in detail; in one of the electronics magazines of the time [no internet back then]. I learned not only what I had already started to realize, that at the time it too expensive to be practical, but even worse, a number companies were already lying in wait until this was economically feasible.
Back in the early days, when a core team consisting of myself and Math Is Hard were hammering out the basics of Jellitivity we discovered that some completely unrelated guy was up in theory development expounding on his own Jellotivity.

(Sorry, that's all I got. I've never engineered a pause-live-TV type project.)
 
  • #13
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Ivan Seeking said:
As a rule, good ideas are a dime a dozen. But it is true that success is often found through trial and error. But even in this case, borrowing from Edison, success is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. So I think it is a little misleading to say that imagination is more important than science; rather I think, borrowing from Einsteins comment on religion and science, either would be lame without the other.

I once read a story that led me to consider ideas similar to those expressed by you. It made me wonder about alternative histories based on seemingly insignificant events. For example, might some young genius have propelled the human race into the world of physics five hundred years earlier, had he not fallen victim to disease as a child. I have also wondered about the unwritten histories of the world; wondering how much information is lost to the ages. For example, consider the library at Alexandria; I consider this loss at least a candidate for the greatest tragedy in human history. Hmmm, which sounds like an interesting thread.
Id have to disagree with Edison there. It is true that it takes a great deal of work to go from figment to 3D, but whos to say one doesnt do the work in one's head and the rest flows out onto paper.

About the young genius...whos to say we would study physics at all. Physics is a human manifestation for explaining the mechanics of the universe; maybe we would look at life differently had subtle events changed the course of the future.

But its more than that, all this is just foolish talk because i cant explain my mental understanding and amazement of this. Its like humans are centered on their way of thinking, and they look out of bounds to see new discoveries; but all it takes is someone to imagine something a different way and eventually it would be so.

time travel for example. perhaps impossible as we see it now, but i bet we find a way to circumvent the definition of time travel so that we still end up with the same results--imaginative engineering is the only engineering, everything else is repetition.
 
  • #14
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oldunion said:
I was looking over howstuffworks.com and i saw a link to "how a light saber works." It wasnt perfected but it made me realize that every scientific endeavor is based upon someone's imagination.

If history was different, science would be as well. This is not because perhaps atomic energy would be made 50 years earlier or later, but possibly not at all.

When someone wraps their head around something, a new science is born. Who could know the infinite number of things humans will never encounter because these facets were never born in someone's mind.

theres just something amazing about how real things come to be, its not progression, its someone's insane idea which eventually finds an explanation.
I believe that it is the other way around.Science has proven far more inspiring than our meagre imagination. As someone once said " the universe is not merely stranger than we think it is, it is stranger than we can think.

Many things that we cannot imagine has been discovered by the scientific method(like QM or SR). I think science inspires us more than our own imagination.
 

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