The Series Philosopher

Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn

S07E10: Can two wrongs make a right?

7x10 The Discovery Dissipation - Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) goes on the air of "Science Friday" to talk about a tremendous discovery that he made by mistake

THE BIG BANG THEORY: 7×10 The Discovery Dissipation – Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) goes on the air of “Science Friday” to talk about a tremendous discovery that he made by mistake

Seek the error!

The Latin word “error” means “wandering about”, and from that noun we get the verb “to err”, which is more frequently used in French (“errer”) and also means “to wander about”. Sometimes by wandering about, by not following the right path or any given path, you may stumble by chance upon a road you did not expect to discover. This accidental discovery due to one’s own mistake, has an eleven-letter name quite impossible to translate: serendipity.

In the tenth episode of The Big Bang Theory Season 7 (CBS), Sheldon is interviewed by Ira Flatow on his radio show “Science Friday” (NPR).

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow. My guest today is responsible for the discovery of the first stable super-heavy element. Welcome Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

SHELDON: Thank you. The university made me come here, I didn’t want to. B… Big fan of the show.

IRA FLATOW: So I understand that you actually discovered this element by mistake!

SHELDON: *Sigh* Yes.

IRA FLATOW: And some people in the science community are calling it the “wonder blunder”.

SHELDON: Who? Give me their names. I bet it’s Walowitz.

IRA FLATOW: It’s just such a fascinating story. Your calculations are way off, but they find the element anyway. It’s like… misreading a treasure map and still finding the treasure!

SHELDON: Can we talk about something else? I’m… Do you know that I yodle?

In October 1492, Christopher Colombus made the biggest mistake in the history of geography and thus discovered America, mistaking it for China. Making a mistake does not lead you to the outcome you were looking for, but not only may it make you find unexpected paths, but it also enables you to identify the dead-end tracks.

If we consider the scientific approach, we notice that there is some fruitfulness in the mistake, insofar as the mind does not confine itself in that mistake. Scientists run the risk of being wrong in order to eliminate errors and to get closer to the truth. Doing this, they submit their ideas to an experimental control and make progress in their research for truth by rectifying their errors.  Sir Ken Robinson encourages pupils and students to keep  making mistakes and to stop being afraid of being wrong. This is how they can nurture their creativity:

I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.

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The Series Philosopher is a blog by P:S • Arts & Entertainment

The Series Philosopher is a woman in her late 20s. Not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

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