The River of Knowledge

Apr 07 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

While at Experimental Biology, I wrote here about a number of presentations of interest. These studies revolved around cool animal models and very basic mechanisms of disease. None of them will result in a change in patient care in the next year (nor perhaps in the next 5 years). All of them are essential to advancing human health, because each is a drop of water in the river of science.

A river flows along, with new streams pouring into it all the time. All these bits of water run together, sometimes slowing to mix in eddies, other times tumbling over rapids and falls, producing a whole new arrangement of the molecules that make up the river. As new flows come together, the pattern of the river may change, its rate increasing. Sometimes a rockslide or a beaver provides an obstacle that stops flow, although ultimately the river will overcome a blockage.

In science, new facts and ideas constantly flow into the world, sometimes bumping into each other and mixing in unexpected ways. Sometimes a technical issue will prevent progress on an idea; at other times, a new tool will speed the flow and move the information flow forward faster.

The important part of the metaphor is that we have no idea what information will be the critical piece that solves a puzzle, just as we cannot call out a particular raindrop or snowflake as the one that overcomes the dam. If we want to make progress, we have to continue to study it all. Eventually, the critical pieces will fall into place.

That's why it's so important to study lots of different science, even if it appears to have no implications that we can use. Down the road, it may provide that critical information that revolutionizes our world. And we simply cannot know until it happens.

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