科学的走失的驴

美国剑桥—圣经中索尔(Saul)在寻找父亲走失的驴时偶然发现了他的王国的故事给科学家提供了重要的教训。我们不应该狭隘地定义我们的研究目标,而必须让思维彻底向潜伏在我们关注领域外围的不同的、更令人激动的发现开放。

阿尔诺·彭齐亚斯(Arno Penzias)和罗伯特·威尔逊(Robert Wilson)在1965年做出了一项这样的意料之外的发现。他们原本试图减小最先进的无线电天线的噪音,结果发现了宇宙微波背景。他们注意到一个本底噪声,后来证明是大爆炸遗留下来的辐射。这一从根本上改变了我们的宇宙观的发现是在贝尔实验室而非一流研究型大学做出的。

汇集新数据对科学进步至关重要。数据在指引科学家作出新发现、找到新方法以及发现新的待解之谜,从而让科学过程变得可靠而充满活力方面扮演着重要作用。长期得不到新数据促进了——事实上,是造就了——投机性理论泡沫的疯涨。

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