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Re: What has inspired your research?
I would say that serendipity plays a major role in the discovery of publishable
Second after serendipity in importance are those who have a knack for spotting
the unusual in nature. Humans are born with this ability, but the instinct to
"look anew" at something is usually hammered out of us by the time we reach
college age. Instead, we are taught to practice "fill-in-the-blanks" science.
"Fill-in-the-blanks" science encourages one to see and think linearly, which
more often than not, produces results that are often unremarkable, often
redundant, and sometimes even useless to science.
Truely valuable contributions often arise from someone thinking
outside-of-the-box. As in all other disciplines (except perhaps art), such
thinking is usually discouraged by peers, superiors, and especially, grant
Its called "what if" thinking. Ironically, such thinking is harmless, its
free, and it usually spawns more questions (and experiments).
Serendipity and creative thinking come at a cost. Mary Schweitzer's T. rex
tissue, John Horner's social, maternal hadrosaurs; and of course Alvarez's
iridium from space, were not at first universally accepted by their peers. One
has to have a thick hide.
Don't get me wrong. Publishing an incrimentally revised cladogram has
usefulness. But nothing can beat a surprise: a bolt of lightning from the sky,
and that rarely comes out of fill-in-the-blank research.
---------- Original Message ----------
From: Tor Bertin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: What has inspired your research?
Date: Sun, 9 May 2010 10:41:20 -0700 (PDT)
As somebody who has only recently (within the last year) re-jumped into the
paleontological world, this is something that I'm very curious to hear: what
sorts of things have inspired ideas for your past research ventures? Was it
through thinking about the literature, or something more anecdotal? What part
does serendipity play in the process?
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