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MIT student blogger Bryan O. '07

Accidents Happen by Bryan

My mom was right.

Parents are always the optimistic ones, right?

My mom always has a response for me when I claim I made a mistake:

We don’t make mistakes; we just create new ideas.

Well…she was right.

Physicist Joseph Henry said something similar:

The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them.

I recently read an article on Slashdot about the power of accidental discoveries.

They linked to two great articles, one from Wired Magazine and the other from PBS.

It’s somewhat strange to think that something that is so widely used like penicillin was discovered accidentally.

Discuss: What is more important in science: getting results or finding new questions to explore?

Being a scientist-in-training myself, this is encouraging because sometimes I feel like my experiments are more mistakes than intentional, but maybe I need to start looking at the glass of science as half full.

And just a little Monday morning humor courtesy of one of my favorite comics:

6 responses to “Accidents Happen”

  1. thekeri says:

    What is more important in science: getting results or finding new questions to explore?

    I say it’s more important to find new questions. It’s how we realize that we don’t know everything, and that there’s always room for improvement.

    That, and it’s fun to work in (somewhat) uncharted territory. ^_^

  2. Leo Luo says:

    Same question, I cannot say which one is more important than another. Two are more of a complement to each other.

    It is hard to deny the importance of creativity and originality in science. New ideas are always great, right? It is easy to say so, almost as easy as taking ideas out of daydreams, nondiscretionarily.

    On the other hand, getting results seems more realistic(at least for the lab P.I.s trying to get a grant).And needless to say, the engineers at the Tech care more about great hacks than “great hack ideas”.

    Of course, that’s IMHO.

  3. Brendan says:

    Results. Without obtaining results, it is impossible to find new questions to explore.

  4. Jess says:


    I don’t think you can rightfully claim one is more important than the other. Both are necessary to make progress. Though it’s interesting how they feed off each other.

  5. pam says:

    toothpaste for dinner! =D

  6. Dan says:

    Hi, I am going to be a Senior next year in high school and want some tips on applying and best ways to get accepted to MIT?