Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

Numinocity

by Andre on 19 November 2005

I find there’s a special kind of awe associated with seeing nature in a new way. I often get it looking up at the night sky and trying to hold in my mind everything happening on the surface of Earth as it’s hurtling through the vacuum on another trip around the sun. Carl Sagan called it numinous. It’s like a scientist’s version of a religious experience. It’s easy to lose touch with that feeling after days in the lab pulling proteins but on some level it’s why I chose to do science.

I feel there’s an essential tension in thinking scientifically. It’s important to question everything and demand good evidence, but to stay motivated I need to just bask in nature’s glory sometimes. Thinking analytically is important, but if you aren’t creative your analysis will be empty. For me these types of thinking don’t coexist very well. To be productive I need to maintain a kind of dual personality and switch between them regularly.



  1. Maria Thistle    4111 days ago    #
    well said, andre. working in the field allows me to rejoice in this feeling often. lucky me. I think i’ll read my billions and billions again. thanks for the reminder.
    m.
  2. PhilipJ    4110 days ago    #
    I TA the 3rd year optics lab here at SFU, and one of the experiments is setting up a rudimentary optical tweezers instrument and doing a measure of how stiff the trap is. This is old hat for me now, and so when I’m working in my own lab I often forget that this is actually exciting stuff.

    I’m immediately reminded that it is fun, however, when I TA the students in the optics lab. When they see Brownian motion for the first time, and successfully trap a bead, their excitement is contagious, and I remember just how cool a lot of the stuff we get to do is.

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