Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
When I joined my Junior Intermediate, during one of our first sessions in a science lab, we were given thin stems and asked to take transverse sections of them. I took a new sharp blade and started taking out as thin sections as possible. In the process, I cut the ring finger of my right hand very deeply. Curiosity got the better of me. There was a microscope - which I was told was allotted to me only and could be utilized for my work and for the first time in my life I got a scientific instrument to work with!
I immediately took a drop of blood gushing out of the cut on my finger and put it on a slide before me, placed it under the microscope and started watching the wonder of it! In the process I didn't even notice that the blood dropped everywhere on the table , microscope, stems, all the items before me and the floor! My batch mates noticed it and told my lecturers. One of them came running to me and said " you stupid girl, first stop the blood flow. Press your finger tightly". Another lecturer smiled and said, " I could see a future scientist here!"
"What?!" the lecturer in front of me was surprised. "Yes", the one who coolly sat at the table said, "Any other student would have screamed with pain and made a song and dance out of it but only a person with a scientifically inclined mind can do what Krishna did!"
Those words still ring in my ears. How right she was! She predicted my future with accuracy.
I still have the mark of the cut on my finger reminding me the incident and the prediction my lecturer made.
It makes me wonder even now and search for the traits of a scientifically inclined mind.
Curiosity - One of the driving forces of Science
(Art work by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa from http://www.kkartfromscience.com )
People ask me why I want to see all sides of everything including the dark side. "Are you a pessimist?", they ask me which makes me smile.
An optimist would say the glass is half full, while a pessimist would say it is half empty. I think a third point of view should define who a scientist is. For me the glass is always full - half filled with water and half with air. If you don't try to see the unseen and the whole picture, you are not a scientist at all! A scientist should be able to see things exactly as they are without spins, twists, biases and exaggerations. And s/he should be able to tell the world exactly what s/he sees i.e., the truth!
One day we were discussing about art on this network. I suddenly told one the members here by sending a private message : "P, Please stop saying things now I don't want to listen to them at this point of time". The person was startled. "Krishna, this is an open discussion. What happened to you? You don't want to listen to what others have to say?" Then I told him: "I don't want to listen to people who are drunk when they say things!" He was startled. " Krishna You are in India, I am in Argentina - half world away from you. How could you tell I am drunk? You have no way of knowing it."
"Are you drinking or not now?", I asked him seriously.
"Yes, I am. But how did you know this?" He asked.
"You were drunk yesterday too when you were adding your comments to my discussion. I asked you yesterday whether you were feeling alright or not, didn't I? Then you told me you were alright"
"Yes, Krishna, but.... how did you know I was drinking without seeing me or hearing me speak?"
I smiled and told him this: "Earlier you used to give replies to my discussions in good English without any mistakes. But for the past four days, I have been observing mistakes in your replies. You were not typing the words properly. If you are well and not sick, you must be drinking to make those mistakes!"
He was shocked. Later when he was sober, he told me he never saw or heard of anybody, who could observe things so keenly, theorize things, ask a few questions, conduct experiments to get evidence and derive the conclusions so accurately from such a huge distance. I smiled and told him - he might not have seen how scientists worked till then!
Yes, if you don't have a sharp eye and a logical and reasoning mind, you are not fit to be a scientist!
Once I was visiting my uncle when I was still in school. He took us to some caves near his town and while standing outside of them from a distance he said, "We cannot go inside".
"Why? " I asked him.
"Because nobody knows how deep they are, it is dangerous to go inside".
"Why can't they find the depth by using 'echo-sounding' *methods if they are dangerous to go inside?", I asked him. My Engineer uncle was surprised. Because I could connect the Physics lessons I just learned in the school to the problems I encountered and their solutions!
*(Echo-sounding is listening to the echo of sound pulses to measure the distance to the bottom of the sea, a special case of Sonar)
Independent critical thinking and to be able to creatively connect different things are some of the most important traits of scientifically inclined mind. Several people saw apples fall before Newton. But nobody connected it to gravity like Newton did! While this trait is responsible for forming at a theory, creativity-connecting various things and theories- is important for technology development. Like taking the help of the gravity of the planets to accelerate space ships or change their course to send them to other planets to save fuel and time ( the mechanism is called "gravity assist ").
Karl Marx had said in his Das Kapital: "There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.”
I think Science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that all my life. It is also development and knowledge oriented. One has to have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge to enter the field of science. One has to feel this from the bottom of ones' heart and this feeling must come from the depth of ones' mind too. This is one of the most important traits of a scientific mind.
A good scientist must be capable of realizing what path should be taken, must take some risk, and must of course have a solid base of knowledge, a sharp intellect, and a fierce drive, fueled by a passion for research.
And if you get a high by learning something new about things, experience sublime feelings when you find something new, you are scientifically inclined!
The Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud, and the Search for Hidden Universes
Basic signs you're smarter than average.
The larval form of the moth Automeris banus rests on a branch in Palenque National Park, Mexico, after releasing large amounts of toxins into the unsuspecting hand of a human researcher. The field biologist miraculously survived, and subsequently snapped this image with her rapidly swelling hand. This species of moth can be observed in tropical rain forests across southeastern Mexico, Central America, and South America.
When asked what he likes best about working for Google, physicist John Martinis does not mention the famous massage chairs in the hallways, or the free snacks available just about anywhere at the company's campus in Mountain View, California. Instead, he marvels at Google's tolerance of failure in pursuit of a visionary goal. “If every project they try works,” he says, “they think they aren't trying hard enough.” Martinis reckons that he is going to need that kind of patience. In September, Google recruited him and his 20-member research team from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and set them to work on the notoriously difficult task of building quantum computers: devices that exploit the quirks of the quantum world to carry out calculations that ordinary computers could not finish in the lifetime of the Universe.
Science has a currency, and the currency is facts, evidence, data. You can’t lead other scientists just by telling them what you hope to be true. And you can’t just say, “Well this is true because I said so”—because that isn’t going to hold up.
You have to be particularly willing to admit not just what you know, but what you don’t know. Be humble. Be honest about that. Be excited about that. Don’t be threatened by the absence of information, but see it as an opportunity to encourage other people to join you in an adventure to fill in those gaps.
Science can sometimes get a little lost in the details. The average scientific experiment fails. The average project is pretty into the nitty-gritty. It’s not impossible for people to lose the vision if it’s not brought back to their attention. That’s one of the tasks of the leader—to say, “You guys are doing great work, but let’s step back. Why are we all here? What’s this about?”
Science is this glorious adventure into the unknown, the opportunity to discover things that nobody knew before. And that’s just an experience that’s not to be missed. But it’s also a motivated effort to try to help humankind. And maybe that’s just by increasing human knowledge—because that’s a way to make us a nobler species. But maybe it’s also to come up with something that will have a practical benefit. But we can get lost in the details and forget that that’s what it’s about.
1. Fearlessness. I don't see this answer often, but I attribute much of my personal success to it. While other colleagues fretted about all the ways a particular research problem could possibly fail, from reasons A to Z, I was already doing it. Often I see students paralyzed by the possibilities in front of them, instead of diving into the path most likely to succeed.
This is also very related to the ability to fail and to face failure. We all fail, but to be able to see failure for what they are, and move past them, is hard. I've seen colleagues who are damaged by significant personal and professional failures, and they're not quite the same afterwards.
I've been lucky in both respects, because I had some personal tragedies early on in my research career that led to quite a bit of suffering. After getting through those, failures in research were tame in comparison. That really changed how I saw research, and taking risks and dealing with failures got a lot easier.
While I wouldn't wish my personal adversities on any one, I would suggest that to be fearless, you should fail, fail early, fail hard, and fail often. Once you get past it and get back up, you'll be much better prepared to succeed.
2. Creativity. This gets mentioned a lot. I think true creativity is a gift, but it can also be learned.
3. Humility. Working in academic research is a constantly humbling experience. No matter what prizes you win, what papers you write, and what accolades you accumulate, there are always others who are better, faster, smarter than you. Going to conferences, reading papers, talking with others, all these produce constant reminders of how limited you are and how much further you have to go. It's extremely hard to overcome that twisted feeling in your gut, the fear that you're not good enough, that you'll never be as good as your colleagues, friends, and advisors. If you're not careful, that can eat you up inside and paralyze you.
Even those with abundant humility will find it hard at times, when we're constantly faced with comparisons with numerous others in our field. One solution is to learn to not give a F#@* what others think, good or bad, and to calibrate your metric for success solely on what you think of your own work. This is easier said than done. I think it took roughly 2 years for me to get this "under control." But even today, there are occasional moments when I wish I was as smart or as productive or as creative as some of my friends/colleagues. At best, I can turn those into motivation to work harder. At worst, I'll go distract myself by burying my head in my favorite current project or some investments.
Look, everyone here is right, and is telling you how to be a good researcher. But you asked how to be a successful academic. To do that you need to:
As with any endeavor, the principal determinants of success are luck, skill and persistence. Anyone can tell you that. I will also tell you a non-obvious skill that will improve your chances for success: the ability to make other people feel smart.
Academia is populated mostly by very smart people, and almost all of them (narcissists excepted) worry that they are not smart enough. This rule applies all the way up and down the academic hierarchy, from first-year students to senior faculty. If you can assuage this anxiety, your path to success will be much easier.
If you make your students feel smart, they will sign up for your classes and give you good evaluations. If you make your departmental colleagues and superiors feel smart, they are much more likely to support your bid for tenure. If you make colleagues in your research field feel smart, they are much more likely to invite you to conferences, give favorable reviews to your manuscripts, and give strong scores to your grant applications. All of these things will make for a successful academic career.
How do you make smart academics feel smarter? Tell them things they already know, or at least believe to be true. Push against the conventional wisdom, but only gently - enough to make your colleagues feel the thrill of being on the cutting edge, but not enough to truly challenge them or disrupt their settled beliefs. They will honor and cherish you for this, and create a tide of support that will steadily lift your career. This is the surest path to academic success.
What do children think about scientists? Here are some of the views:
Here's why curious people are better at learning
A recent study has revealed that curiosity causes changes in the brain’s chemistry that help us to more effectively learn and retain new information.
New research by a team of US-based psychologists at the University of California, Davis has given us an insight into why curiosity plays such a crucial role in how we learn, and it turns out that our minds actively reward us for seeking out the information we’re most interested in.
According to Maanvi Singh from NPR, the team watched as the ‘pleasure centres’ of the participants’ brains lit up when they encountered the answers of the questions they were most interested in. "When the participants' curiosity was piqued, the parts of their brains that regulate pleasure and reward lit up,” says Singh. "Curious minds also showed increased activity in the hippocampus, which is involved in the creation of memories.”
"There's this basic circuit in the brain that energises people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding,” one of the team, psychologist Charan Ranganath, told Singh. This means that not only does this part of the brain light up when we're eating chocolate or doing some exercise, it also sparks when we endeavour to satisfy our curiosities. This causes the release of a brain chemical called dopamine, which is responsible for a feeling often described as a 'natural high’.
What dopamine is also responsible for, says Ranganath, is retaining information. "The dopamine also seems to play a role in enhancing the connections between cells that are involved in learning,” he told Singh.
The results were published this month in the journal Neuron.