Yesterday I was at an amazing event, Bold Talks. It was a fantastic day spent in the company of great scientists, pioneers and inventors. As brilliant as each one of them was in their own right, two speakers really stood out for me and I’m going to share their stories with you.
I’ll share with you what I learned from one of them, Dr. John Ellis, a nuclear physicist and an expert in particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and quantum gravity. Interestingly enough it has nothing to do with science!
Warning: Nerdy introduction ahead.
Dr. Ellis was sharing with us some information about the ‘Large Hadron Collider’ (LHD) the world’s biggest and most global experiment built to recreate the big bang. It’s built to recreate conditions similar to those that happened microseconds after the big bang in order to analyse the particles produced in it. Its objective is to answer many questions including:
- What’s mass?
- What’s dark matter?
- The possibility of predicting the future of the universe
- And a whole bunch of very difficult questions!
Throughout Dr. Ellis’ presentation all I could think was: “This is fantastic! It’s beyond fantastic! But what’s the purpose of all this? What benefit will we get from answering these questions?!!”
Before you continue reading tell us what you think the purpose of this might be in the comment box.
Right at the last slide, Dr. Ellis answered my question. The last slide showed an old black and white picture of him with Margaret Thatcher when she was visiting one of the facilities he worked at. And he told us the conversation went something like this:
Thatcher: “What is it that you do?”
Dr. Ellis: “I think of things for the experiments to look for and hope they find something else”
Thatcher: “Wouldn’t it be better if they found what your predicted?”
Dr. Ellis: “Then we wouldn’t learn anything.”
But of course! That’s when it struck me as I remembered that so many great inventions were discovered by accident. It’s what Wikipedia defines as Serendipity: a propensity for making fortuitous discoveries while looking for something unrelated. And it’s what lead to the Top 10 Accidental Inventions
So what’s the root of this? What is it that caused and still causes scientists to produce such results?
Many things, some of which we already discussed here and here. But new a ingredient we haven’t addressed yet is what NLP and life coaching call Ferocious Curiosity. The curiosity that would gear us towards asking questions that in the process of answering we might hopefully answer unasked questions. That’s what Dr. Ellis was telling Margaret Thatcher about.
Until next time,
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