科学的玩笑

纽约伊萨卡——在自然科学家中间有时会听到一则杜撰的故事,讲的是剑桥大学同事在举杯祝贺1897年J. J.汤姆生发现电子时说:“为电子干杯:预祝它永远不会对任何人有用!”据说纯数学家也经常对自己的职业开同样的玩笑。

为什么人们会把庆祝知识无用看作一种诙谐的态度?几年前,我在参与一档广播节目时曾亲眼目睹一位宇宙学家抱有同样的态度:当主持人说他的研究“几乎没有任何实际用处”时,他很快回答说,“是这样,我感到非常骄傲。”

这些玩笑似乎有赖于同样一种假设:所有人都认为知识,特别是科学知识,应该有某种用处。因此不管是实验物理学、数学或宇宙学,吹嘘自己的知识无用显得非常好笑。

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