“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
― Albert Szent-Györgyi
As a recent challenge the word Discovery was given to me and I have spent quite some time pondering how to describe this in pictorial terms. For me discovery can be as prosaic as getting into a boat and discovering an island not previously known about. But ‘ideally’ scientific discovery comes about through the scientific method – instructions whereby an investigator may lead from a point of ignorance to a position of knowledge. In order to do this, a proposition – a hypothesis – is made, and that is then justified. There is a clear logic that tests whether the hypothesis works or not, but – and this is the important point – there are no rules to guide someone to formulate a correct hypothesis; one that is either plausible, or fruitful.
It is helpful to look at scientific discoveries made by lucky accident or imaginative leaps. An example of the first is that Sildenafil citrate, otherwise known as Viagra, was first developed as a drug for hypertension and angina pectoris for which it was found to be pretty ineffective. However by lucky accident it was discovered to have another physiological effect which we all know about. On the other hand, August Kekulé studying the chemistry of Benzene in 1855 was stuck trying to work out the structure of the molecule. It is alleged; he was half asleep in front of a fire gazing into the hot coals when the flames formed themselves into a snake eating its own tail (Ouroboros) and it came to him that the molecules of carbon in Benzene formed a ring – an example of an inspirational discovery.
So although there is claimed to be an orthodox logic in scientific discovery, discoveries are entangled with irrational thought. There’s been interesting research to show that trying to generate a hypothesis from evidence alone can be unproductive. A good hypothesis often introduces variables that do not figure in available data.
My image illustrates the birth of an idea, Our of the complex darkness, comes a moment of enlightenment. The discovery of a hypothesis from the coming-together of thought, cogitation. A discovery flung out sideways.