Daily Archives: May 20, 2012

How it Feels to be a Scientist

Science would seem to be the most logical and unemotional activity that a person could engage in. We calmly and dispassionately set up our experiments, analyze our data, and reach our conclusions that either confirm or refute our hypothesis. We also do many things, like develop tools and instruments, that do not directly address a hypothesis.

How could something so logical be tied to emotion and passion? But consider this: if you know a successful scientist, you might find that he or she works long hours and thinks a great deal about what he or she is doing. One might say that scientists are consumed by what they do. They might even appear to be passionate. Passion about something logical? What gives?

Passion is a driving force in science. For many scientists, the passion arises from the connection we make to the physical world. The connection feels strong and profound. Logic is the common language that unites us with the world we study. Logic is something humans understand deeply. It pervades the fabric of our thoughts, from the most mundane to the most exalted. The thrill of science comes from seeing how logic does its magic in the world. The language of logic that nature speaks creates amazing structure and beauty in the natural world.

A scientist may be sitting alone, ruminating on ideas and concepts about a particular thing such as the aurora borealis or a thunderstorm. There is something exhilarating about knowing that thinking can reveal new truths about the world around us. The reason this can happen is logic. By thinking I can learn a great deal about something I have never experienced. I can even learn about something that has never existed. By thinking, I can create something new in the world that is not at all obvious that it could be made. The reason this can happen is logic itself: by understanding logic, and starting with a few assumptions, new things come to be.

Connecting to such a powerful thing as our physical world feels amazing. It feels miraculous. It instills passion. So the long days and nights, and feelings of despair and exhilaration continue.