8 Feb 2009
The pleasure of finding things out
Es ist nicht das Wissen, sondern das Lernen, nicht das Besitzen, sondern das Erwerben, nicht das Dasein, sondern das Hinkommen, was den größten Genuß gewährt. (It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.) – Carl Friedrich Gauss
According to the American physicist Richard P. Feynman, it is the pleasure of finding things out which makes science worthwhile. It is the reason we do science: the joy that comes from learning something that we don’t knew before – sometimes even something which nobody knew before. Feynman says in his book The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist:
The next aspect of science is its contents, the things that have been found out. This is the yield. This is the gold. This is the excitement, the pay you get for all the disciplined thinking and hard work. The work is not done for the sake of an application. It is done for the excitement of what is found out. Perhaps most of you know this. But to those of you who do not know it, it is almost impossible for me to convey in a lecture this important aspect, this exciting part, the real reason for science.
The pleasure of finding things out is also the reason why children laugh more than grown-ups. They discover constantly new things, while grown-ups rarely encounter completely new things. And maybe it is the reason why humans are the most advanced of mammals. Tom Robbins said in his book “Still Life With Woodpecker” (1980)
“Humans are the most advanced of mammals — although a case could be made for the dolphins – because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans. Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature“
Our brains obviously have been designed to find learning fun, to be playful and curious. When you have an open mind and learn a new thing, your brain is rewarded for this successful adaptation to the environment by a release of dopamine. Dopamine is involved in the reward and motivation systems of the brain. Do only scientists have the pleasure of finding things out? No. They may think they are special, but they are not. Others don’t find new laws, but they find out different things, reasons and rules. Lawyers and advocates find out the reason what really happened, doctors find out the reason for the symptoms of the patient, etc.
Journalists, Lawyers, Thriller-Readers
* find out the reason what really happened: the initiator of the crime
* find out the reason for the symptoms: the disease of the patient
* find out new ways to organize society: the laws for the country
* find out new ways to organize people: the rules for the organization
* find out new ways to make money: the niche in the economy
* find out new ways to build s.th.: the blueprint for the machine
* find out new ways to explain s.th.: the laws of nature