by PhilipJ on 19 September 2006
Shamelessly quoting RRResearch, the PI from a lab I’m collaborating on a project with:
Scientific knowledge is like the “real number line” used in introductory math classes. In the line, every point is a number, but no matter how close together two points (or numbers) are, there are always infinitely many other points separating them. The real world similarly contains infinitely many things to discover. No matter how much we find out about something, there are always many more important things to find out. I use this analogy for beginning science students, who are often concerned that all the important discoveries have already been made.
This is a totally awesome way to think about science. Every question answered leads to new questions to tackle. Whether you agree with John Horgan’s hypothesis in The End of Science that all the fundamental discoveries in science are complete, I think it would be hard to argue that all the important discoveries in science have been made. There are always going to be things we don’t understand, and there will always be enquiring minds trying to figure things out.