\#studyingforcomps the moment of discovery

Science is all about discovering new things, whether its information new to humanity as a whole or just to yourself. The moment of discovery is what drives many of us in science. As I’m studying for my comprehensive exams I am having a lot of these moments. Things are clicking together. I am forming connections between papers and ideas which had never occurred to me before. Constant discovery is what makes all my studying so addictive, even when it takes me two hours to get through a paper because I’m going to Google every other paragraph for another explanation.

No, I’m not discovering these ideas for the first time, many of these papers are 20 or 30 years old, but the ideas are new to me, and putting them together is challenging, it makes my mind stretch and it’s honestly pretty fun.

It reminds me of last fall when I was out with my technicians trying to catch rails one night in Missouri and one of them hops of the ATV to go through a net over a Sora and it ‘disappears’. I’m 20 meters back trying to see what is going on and I suddenly just hear yelling

‘It’s swimming underwater!!’

I thought they were nuts, I’d never heard of rails swimming underwater before but my techs pursued the bird for several more minutes and it swam underwater several times. Sora, swimming UNDERWATER, it blew my mind.

Later I told my adviser, partially convinced I had found something new. Of course it isn’t, he’s seen them dive underwater before. I don’t mind not discovering something new though. Just because it’s not new information doesn’t diminish the moment we discovered it, the excitement in my techs voices as they tried to tell me what they were seeing is etched in my memory.

Its easy to get wrapped up in the rest of science which follows discovery but I think its important to reflect back and capture these burst of energy and new information. Science is more then just writing papers, it’s about learning, both things new to use, and new to everyone. It is the pursuit of knowledge which drives us, or is driving me at least as I work my way through all the material for my comps.

Written on March 4, 2014