Thursday, April 9, 2015


I went to a seminar at work the other day given by a visiting scientist of some note. I came to learn from his presentation that his long and distinguished career spanned work on a large variety of topics covering a number of different fields from physics, to chemistry, to biology, and to mathematics. I wondered how this man got his ideas and how he came to be a recognized authority on so many different subject matters. The simple answer that he related during his talk was "curiosity".

Each day he sets aside some time to read through the abstracts of recently published papers in a number of different scientific journals. Every now and then some perplexing question or phenomenon resonates within his mind and piques his curiosity. Before he knows it, he has filled several pages on his notepad with calculations and ideas for further consideration. Oftentimes, he just ponders a bit on how a given question should be approached or he relates a question or observation in one field to a similar question or observation in another field. Sometimes he finds that he gets lost in a maze of questions and imponderables in his own mind that lead to a dead end. Other times, a path toward exploration emerges before him and he lets his curiosity lead him where it will.

It is amazing how far this approach has brought him when looking back over a career spanning some 50 years. His mindset is that so often we unnecessarily limit or pigeonhole ourselves into focusing too narrowly on what we perceive as our area of expertise or experience. We never stop to consider that the world has endless fascinations to which our experience can contribute toward further understanding.