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2. Simple Science


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 2. Simple Science

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To invent physical things, it is helpful to know a little bit of science. Only a little bit? It would be reasonable to assume that that invention requires knowledge which is at the cutting edge of scientific advances or is at least degree-level. Occasionally this is true, but for many very useful and valuable inventions, it is not. In fact many great inventions were created by people who were working outside their original domain of knowledge. The experts in the field would have complained that these people were not real scientists and that they were probably not even practising real science.

Although some scientists would like you to believe otherwise, science is really quite a simple thing, especially if we start from the basic stuff. Going back to first principles gives us a number of advantages. Firstly, by being able to step back from existing bodies of knowledge, we can avoid being trapped by them. Secondly, the deeper level of understanding that working with fundamentals gives us enables us to invent on a more subtle and pervasive level. Last, but not least, basic science is easier to understand than the many complexities that have been built on top of it. Keeping it simple enables you to ask similar simple questions for many different situations. And simple questions are often the stimulus for new thinking.

So if you are a scientist, be prepared to forget some of your training. Unlearning can be more difficult than learning, but it is often very helpful to be able to look at things with fresh eyes. Inspiration can be found all around us, and nature is a rich, though not infinite source. We will be considering some of nature’s ideas and limitations in some of the sections below.

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