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Science, as some see it...

Amit Acharya's picture

I came across some content I used to have on my webpage a long time ago.

http://www.ce.cmu.edu/~amita/webpage_misc.html

Hopefully it is inspirational for that bright, young, graduate student waiting in the wings to usher in the revolution that shows us how to solve some of the outstanding theoretical problems of solid mechanics that we seem to put off  e.g. concrete, quantitative methods for calculating time-dependent microstructure in plasticity and its effect on time-dependent macroscopic properties.....

For those who read the link, do not miss Faraday's quote and Rota's "Ten lessons...'

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yoursdhruly's picture

Prof. Acharya,

Thanks for the post - I enjoyed reading it, especially since I just finished reading Richard Dawkins's book, "Unweaving the rainbow", where he quotes the same stanza from Keats, but in a different context. To Dawkins, Keats is being critical of philosophy and how it diminishes the magic of nature - almost as if there is beauty in the unexplained and in keeping it so. Dawkins, correctly in my opinion, argues that such is not the case: that scientific depth only reveals greater beauty hitherto ungraspable.

The quotes were also very thought provoking. In some sense, I think there is a need for incremental progress into the depths of things: some of them may be justified by their practical applicability, others not so. But we will only know if we go there and i think all "deep" theoreticians deserve credit for taking the plunge into the unknown, and perhaps, unappreciated.

Thanks for the wonderful post.

Dhruv 

Amit Acharya's picture

Dear Dhruv,

Glad you enjoyed the post.

Your understanding of Keats's passage is exactly correct - or, at least, I interpreted Keats in the same way as saying 'what's so great about something that reduces a beautiful rainbow into a "dull catalog of common things."

I included it because not everyone does, and necessarily should, see science/natural philosophy as a pretty thing; and if we are talking about science as people see it, then that point of view has to be taken seriously - although, my personal views are entirely to the contrary on the matter, as you might have guessed :)

which reminds me of another beautiful passage on scientific creativity and the attendant straightjacket out of the Feynman lectures.....spelling out the essence of scientific creativity where one has to be imaginative, but not anything will fly - it has to square up with all that is known, and in a subject like mechanics it often is 400 years of 'distilled', correct thinking by incredibly smart people.

 

Since we are talking about rainbows let me point you to Wikiversity.

Also, in the spirit of Rota's "Ten mathematics problems I will never solve ", I would like to see a list of ten mechanics problems that still await solution.  Such a list would have helped me immensely when I was  starting out as a graduate student.  Let the luminaries on iMechanica speak :)

-- Biswajit 

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