In this space, visitors are invited to post any comments, questions, or skeptical observations about Philo T. Farnsworth's contributions to the field of Nuclear Fusion research.
Subject: Re: Theory
Date: Aug 08, 10:38 am
Poster: Richard Hull
On Aug 08, 10:38 am, Richard Hull wrote:
Bravo on the baring of your feeling on the issue of fusion. I too have no doubt that fusion will be attained and that it will indeed solve the world's energy problems......all at some point in the future...How distant?....can't say.
Theorists, in general, tend to think that all things proceed from the understanding of theory or evolve from ideas which once well understood based on a cohesive theory are then made up into practical devices. The long history of invention, engineering, and practice over the last couple of centuries prove this wrong. This is especially true of electrical advances of the 1800's empirical experiment and invention brought forth working devices or at least seemingly curious effects for which the theory was either non-existant or on real shakey ground. The theorists were almost always playing a game of catch-up as advances in technology often outpaced the understanding of the details of the process. The twentieth century had many brilliant successes based on theory such as the transistor, atomic energy, etc. So a balanced outlook is needed inorder to move forward.
The "hairbrained" basement bomber, inventor has little chance of striking paydirt in the 21st century, but still the chance exists that he will confound the best theoretical minds and engineering efforts. Inspired engineers, intelligently tinkering with concepts outside their fields fair only slightly better. The pure theorist, likewise has only a moderate chance of discovering something in wholeform which will change mankind's daily life.
The problem is not one of who is right or who is the most likely candidate to win vast changes in mankinds quest for knowledge, but the manner in which scientific endeavors have become rather rigidly stratified in the latter part of the 20th century. The hopeless link between the persuit of science, funding for what became "big science", big business market strategies and military/defense driven development has, in some quarters, stiffled the quest taken by the lone, gifted scientifc investigator, no matter their education or standing in the community of science.
One only needs to read letters between famous 19th century scientists and amateurs and many books of that period to see the fecundity of imagination, wonder, and open mindedness of many of even the most lofty of those gentlemen.
There can be put forward many reasons for this. Most bear on the mannerisms of a long lost age and demeanor. Still, they moved forward at a seemingly blinding pace.
The gentleman scientist may have left us forever and been replaced by the 21st century politico-scientific, fund seeker, whose claim to fame may be his or her ability to schmooze within both political and scientific circles, do some science, get and retain funding for an institution or project and retire, well off, well respectred with all the kids through college.
How many of these guys did the above.
Volta, Ampere, Coulomb, Faraday, Crookes, Maxwell, Roentgen, the Curies, Thompson, Rutherford. The list could go on and on.
How many of these guys experiments cost millions? How many even spent thousands? Hundreds? Some were academics some were self funded gentleman scientists. Some stumbled onto discoveries some provided theoretical bases. Most all got their hands dirty and often funded their early efforts themselves.
Did science just outgrow this type of person and effort or did the philsophy of how to do science change?
Food for thought.
- Re: Theory (philosophical discussion) - Jim Lux Aug 08, 11:47 am