One of my heroes, Garr Reynolds (of Presentation Zen fame), recently wrote about a profile on one of his heroes, legendary biologist Edward O. Wilson. At 83, the scientist is still active in the field — not just the field of science, but he is literally still doing field work in remote countries. Science Friday has a regular video series called Desktop Diaries and featured Dr. Wilson.
Reynolds took note of the following, saying that he too engages in similar practices:
“You need a lot of time,” says Dr. Wilson. “It’s a good idea to be alone a lot and talk to yourself. I don’t know if—how many other scientists talk to themselves. I do so all the time silently. And I guess I risk my reputation for complete sanity by admitting that. And I’ve now wondered how many creative scientists, people who are constantly in search of new ideas, new ways of looking at things, new enterprises, talk to themselves in a way as though they were speaking to another person, and trying to open up new subjects, new ways to get into old subjects. And this is a very good mental process for doing original science.”
I am relieved to know that while insanity can’t be completely ruled out in my case, at least I am in good company!
One of the major points made by both Wilson and Reynolds is the importance of story in science. Wilson says, “Good science is a good story.” The scientific method is really a journey, or even an adventure.
The full video from Science Daily can be found here: