Original mistakes

The people producing Science Shack this year keep asking me what single piece of advice I consider most important for them to bear in mind. It’s a terrific question, but I fear I’m letting them down by not having a suitably pithy insight to hand.

Nevertheless, it reminds me that one of my ambitions is to commit a genuinely original mistake. Many people want to construct, invent, or discover something new, but I’m forever finding things I’ve done that I thought were original, but were in fact done years ago. Frequently by John Tyndall. Far more impressive and perhaps more useful to others would be tracking down a truly innovative mistake.

Then, one could point proudly at said snafu, and proclaim ‘try not to do that.’ And in the end, the best we can manage is to make different mistakes compared to the last time. If we do that, we’ve learned, and progressed. To find a genuinely novel way of screwing up would be a quantum leap in goof technology.

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