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Where the heck is this knowledge coming from?

  1. Oct 3, 2007 #1
    Hi all, I tried to be really dedicated to my discovery on finding knowledge...but somehow, the more I find it...the more I realize how much I am missing out on it. For instance, almost all the great discoveries are accidental b/c we don't have enough brains to come up w/ something like this. Just like that, I always end up finding more knowledge by accident. Please help me here b/c I am depressed but how can I find knowledge by myself? Is there an organized way? Is there such a thing as the art of finding knowledge?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 3, 2007 #2
    you can't invent a better mousetrap without knowing something about the mouse
  4. Oct 5, 2007 #3
    If I understand you correctly, you are depressed because many great discoveries occur by accident, and that makes you feel like humans are insignificant? ... if I this is the case I can say that, while some discoveries and achievements have been catalyzed by accidental findings, it's still up to the human brain to decide what to do with those accidental findings... after the "accident," there's a lot of hard work from the human to try and put the accident to good use.

    human have observed things falling for hundreds of thousands of years. they've also observed the stars flying around in circles in the sky for just as long. but it took one human brain to put those two pieces together and discover the laws of gravitation.

    maybe that eureka moment was brought on by an accident, but it was the power of human reasoning that gave meaning to that accident. your cat won't understand how the stars move no matter how many apples you throw at it... try it; it's fun!
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2007
  5. Oct 5, 2007 #4


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    You seem to be equating "knowledge" with "invention".

    Knowledge is a matter of brushing up on what is currently known. Invention is a matter of reaching beyond the known to the unknown and making it known. And it is built on the foundation of knowledge.
  6. Nov 15, 2007 #5
    The acquisition of knowledge is never a waste, and it's a neverennding quest. Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 different filaments and combinations before he invented the light bulb. He said he hadn't failed, he'd just found 10,000 ways how NOT to make a light bulb.

    Progress never comes without effort, and success always follows failure.
  7. Nov 15, 2007 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration - Thomas Edison

    For a structured approach to problem solving and innovation, you might look at Triz

    There is a respected member here who took this or a similar course and spoke highly of it afterwards.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2007
  8. Nov 15, 2007 #7

    You may enjoy Thomas Kuhn's classic work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    It encourages incredibly polarised opinions, and various interpretations, but basically offers a neat counterpoint to the conventional "unique insights of a genius" model of scientific progress. According to Kuhn, normal science is essentially a process of dogmatic puzzle-solving, but there's no shame in that, because it's puzzle-solving and the unearthing of anomalies that pushes science towards revolutions.
  9. Nov 15, 2007 #8


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    Skhandelwal, your starting premise is incorrect. Most of the great discoveries are not accidents, they are found through painstaking research. They aren't scheduled, but neither are many of them pure accidents. For example, Galileo and Newton didn't find the laws of motion by luck, they did experiments, gathered data, found patterns, and derived mathematical relations to describe them. They didn't know they would succeed or when, but there was virtually no element of chance there, only a question of if they were smart enough to figure it out.

    This thread really gets to the heart of a problem that has been plaguing you since you joined here. You don't seem to know how to learn - how to approach the search for knowledge. And it is precisly because you aren't approaching it in an organized, structured way. It almost seems like you are trying to learn by daydreaming. But you are not Newton and the laws of motion have already been derived, so things are easier for you than they were for Newton - there is no need to sit under an apple tree and daydream about how gravity might work, it has already been figured out. If you want to learn about a subject, just research what is already known about it.

    May I ask you how old you are? If you are very young and in school, learning there is structured for you because when you have so much to learn, some things need to be taken in a certain order to get the most from them. You can go beyond what you learn in school, though, because the structure also puts limits on what they can teach. So if you find a subject you would like to know more about, just find a book that discusses it and read it.

    By the way - for new knowlege, the method is just the scientific method.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2007
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