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2.1. What is Science?


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 2. Simple Science > 2.1. What is Science?

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A lot of science is presented as being about numbers. How strong is this bar of metal? How far away is this planet? How fast is the car going? Of course, numbers are important when you make something, because the parts need to be of the right size, strength and weight and so on, but numbers are not very helpful in the early stages of inventing.

To invent, it is best to put the idea of numbers to one side (which should please those who like science but hate the mathematics!) If you have a good, inventive design then it is surprisingly easy to find someone who can do the numbers for you, unless it is extremely complex or very, very new science.

Facts are also things you might want to park somewhere. Scientific facts are used to constrain and restrain, saying why you should not be doing things. Scientific facts define the boundaries, the limits of a system of knowledge. To invent, you must go beyond limits and shatter existing assumptions. This is simple science.

For inventing it is best to think of science as a process of asking questions. As the great physicist Niels Bohr said, “Everything I utter must be understood not as an affirmation but as a question.” To ask a question, think carefully about the models, theories, frameworks or patterns you are using to understand both the current problem and the potential solution, then question any and all of these. Questioning highlights what you do not know, and what you do not know is an opportunity, waiting for discovery and invention.

Science can also be viewed as simply being about identifying the patterns in the universe and codifying these into models and equations. If you can see patterns that nobody else has seen, you have invented a new science! Tools for inventing are process tools for working with patterns. These process tools provide individual activities and whole phases of action you can use to go from an initial idea to a complete invention.

Although tools are very useful, the best scientists do not let their process tools get in the way of open enquiry as they use both structured and unstructured methods of investigation and development. When they see potential winning patterns, then like chess grandmasters, they redouble their efforts to find even better patterns.

At its most simple level, science can be viewed in terms of energy (including forces), matter, space and time. In this chapter, we will look at these factors and start to think about how they can be used in inventing.

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