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[What is the lesson? I have pointed out elsewhere [2]–[4] to the role of research in providing for the introduction of a random element in the evolution of human societies. Any evolutionary process involves: (1) a mechanism producing random ‘mutations’ and (2) a process of selection by positive innovation, preserved through some stability criteria. A truly ‘important’ discovery is one which could not be predicted by extrapolation from the previous stage. Moreover, the evolution of science itself similarly benefits from serendipity[5, 6], namely unexpected results popping up in a research program, e.g. Fleming's discovery of antibiotics, after finding the bacteria dead in a Petrie dish whose cover was not well closed. When deciding on a research proposal, it is not sufficient to judge its merits by the expected results as described by the investigator. Other important criteria should include the extent to which the project might explore virgin sectors of phenomena – and the researcher's previous performance, especially in noticing new openings (had he or she been faced with Fleming's dead bacteria, would the only conclusion have consisted in a decision to tighten the lid next time?) A further illustration of the role of the unexpected is that the route to India via the Pacific is indeed utilized nowadays because it is the shortest – for travellers from California, for instance. Thus, Columbus's trip and serendipitous discovery has served – after a few hundred years, to create a market for the product he was advertising in his proposal – trips to India. In any case, although the Salamanca referees were correct, Columbus's connection at the court did manage to ensure that his project be funded – and America discovered.]
Published: Jan 1, 2008
Keywords: Quantum Gravity; Heterotic String; Duality Transformation; Electroweak Theory; Copenhagen Interpretation
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