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Monday, March 18, 2019

We talk of artistic inspiration all the time – what about scientific inspiration? | Science - Firstpost

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Photo: Tom McLeish
Tom McLeish, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics at the University of York argues, I don’t know why it took so long to dawn on me – after 20 years of a scientific career – that what we call the "scientific method" really only refers the second half of any scientific story.

Where's the poetry and music of science.
Photo: courtesy Catholic University of Brazil
It describes how we test and refine the ideas and hypotheses we have about nature through the engagement of experiment or observation and theoretical ideas and models.

But something must happen before this. All of this process rests upon the vital, essential, precious ability to conceive of those ideas in the first place. And, sadly, we talk very little about this creative core of science: the imagining of what the unseen structures in the world might be like.

We need to be more open about it. I have been repeatedly saddened by hearing from school students that they were put off science "because there seemed no room there for my own creativity".

What on earth have we done to leave this formulaic impression of how science works?...

Science and poetry The 20th century biologist Peter Medawar was one of the few recent writers to discuss the role of creativity in science at all. He claimed that we are quietly embarrassed about it, because the imaginative phase of science possesses no "method" at all.

In his 1982 book Pluto’s Republic he points out:
The weakness of the hypothetico-deductive system, in so far as it might profess to cover a complete account of the scientific process, lies in its disclaiming any power to explain how hypotheses come into being.
Medawar is equally critical of glib comparisons of scientific creativity to the sources of artistic inspiration...

I read past accounts of creation in mathematics (Poincaré is very good), novel-writing (Henry James wrote a book about it), art (from Picasso to my Yorkshire friend, the artist late Graeme Willson), and participated in a two-day workshop in Cambridge on creativity with physicists and cosmologists. Philosophy, from medieval to 20th-century phenomenology, has quite a lot to add...

In my resulting book – The Poetry and Music of Science – I try to make sense of why science’s imaginative and creative core is so hidden, and how to bring it into the light. It’s not the book I first imagined – it just wouldn’t permit a structure of separate accounts of scientific and artistic creativity. Their entanglements run too deep for that.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading

The Poetry and Music of Science: Comparing Creativity in Science and Art by
Tom McLeish, Professor of Natural Philosophy.
Source: Firstpost