Manav Kataria's Blog

Why scientists aren’t so famous today?

Richard Hamming

Richard Hamming

I wanted to share this article “Why No Famous Scientists or Engineers?”:
http://boingboing.net/2009/06/12/why-no-famous-scient.html

I especially liked the answer in comment #4: “I think the problem is the lack of revolutionary and easily understandable science/technology”

It reminded me of the legendary talk by Richard Hamming on “You and Your Research” (Video | Transcript)

To summarize what Krishnan said in his reply to the above article (see comment):

  • The work of today’s scientists is not less important than what it used to be.
  • There is a bias in the author’s note.

I agree with both his points. But I also agree with the author’s central point – Today there are lesser scientists who are famous or their work!

Why is that? Where are we going wrong?

The article raised a beautiful point I wanted to share with you – simplicity.
Writing papers or patents today is an Art. Write on everything around the object and nothing about the object! Specifically hide intricate details to avoid leaking your intellectual property.Obviously this makes it difficult for the reader to comprehend the science being described! I have an impression that “in those days” a general scientist wasn’t so insecure about his idea being leaked or stolen. In defense of my very own scientific community,

It wasn’t so commercial, you know!
~ King Julian, Madagascar

What can we do to avoid it?

Why does science have to be difficult to comprehend? Nature didn’t intend it that way. Lets keep our work as simple as possible. To quote the smart guy:

Theories should be as simple as possible, but not simpler
~ Albert Einstein

Manav

One response

  1. manavkataria

    Email Reply from Krishnan S:

    Warning: It is a long mail 🙂

    I don’t really agree to lack of understandable science, because I guess it is an oxymoron, for such people who just want how things work in two lines. But yeah, it has been a tradition in scientific community not to really encourage simplifying science (for unlike the article’s mention about Carl Sagan, sadly he was never approved as ‘scientist’ by the scientific community). Today, a lot of governments do this and it is up to people to learn.

    Though nothing against the author (who seems to be quite reputed), I would
    say the article was really written with an illusion (may be after the drinks party where he took the poll) and largely for fun. But yeah! some comments were better.

    “There were famous scientists in those days”
    – This is quite unwarranted for, for the only famous guys then were not known for their science, but for some “other fashionable stuffs”. Never did those non-science people understood/tried to understand their actual work. There is a mention.

    “Hawking was more famous for his life struggles more than science”
    – Did anyone know more about Einstein than his absent mindedness and his funny analogy of guy on a stuff and guy with his girlfriend to relativity? Things haven’t changed.

    “Who understand ‘A brief history of time’ any way ?”
    – Did anyone at all understood (understand !!) famous Einstein’s relativity? These are the ‘cheating journalism’ ways (News Channels)? where you compare the con of one to the pro of another.

    “The last engineer they knew were Edison”
    – True. People can only remember those who come to their mind which touches their life. Once someone discovered all the necessary consumer engg. items, engineers’ front-end works almost were done. Today most of the engineers’ works (except for some civil and mechanical engineers) take place in the background and the so called “fashion designers” take the front seat to give aesthetic touch to consumer products. So people know these better than engineers.

    I kind of mentioned it in the Anubhuti article. Most of the gadget companies today (including Apple) outsource the design of ‘almost’ everything and they bother more about the ‘fashionable’ and ‘jazzy’ outlook.

    This is nothing wrong, though, because things are based on what ‘consumers want’. Engineers are happy not to need a security when they roam around outside their offices (refer to the Intel Ad on “Our Heroes are a little different 🙂

    Note: I think in those days science had respect (whether they understood or not), but today the culture (in the west) gives no respect to science. A true engineer/scientist doesn’t like nonsensical life and is hence generally branded ‘moron’ and other related terms.

    Hope you didn’t read the above ramblings to come here, but just skimmed through. If you have read, then THANKS !!


    Krishnan S
    http://www.ee.iitb.ac.in/student/~krishnans/

    October 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

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