The Role of Mistakes in Discovery

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Alexander McQueen once said “You can only go forwards by making mistakes,” but is this true for even the biggest of mistakes? Are mistakes a key part of discovery? Not every mistake will lead to an amazing discovery, instead they can lead to the destruction of a site. Some of the biggest inventions can and have been made without making a mistake. While the ideas behind some discoveries do sometimes come from mistakes, every discovery ever made came with years of work. Mistakes aren’t a key part of discovery unless you count setbacks and destruction as key parts.

Initially, mistakes can lead to the ruination of a location which may not even be worth the discovery. When Heinrich Schliemann and Frank Calvert discovered the ancient city of Troy, they dug too deep into the Earth’s layers creating damage to the site. According to the article Lost Cities, Lost Treasures, “Although he and Calvert both discovered treasure, the damage done to the site was profound.”

Even though Schliemann and Calvert both discovered ancient artifacts proving the existence of Troy, the damage they had created to retrieve them was very severe. By doing so, the only clues left to prove the existence of Troy would be the artifacts that Schliemann and Calvert had discovered.

Not only did they damage the site, but as stated in the article Lost Cities, Lost Treasures, “Schliemann’s careless actions erased important clues to Troy’s past.” Due to their negligent actions, they had completely destroyed significant indications to the ancient city of Troy’s history. Although archaeologists still have the artifacts, Schliemann and Calvert still erased important clues to the ancient city’s history, leaving unanswered questions about it. Mistakes like these can lead to finding a new ascertainment, but mistakes like these can cause more destruction than convenience.

Additionally, even the biggest of discoveries can be made without making life changing miscalculations. Many scientists have to research for months or even years to conduct an accurate experiment. In the text, In Praise of Careful Science, it says “Most of the time, scientists work for decades and make very few mistakes. When they do, most mistakes cause problems, not progress.”

This is saying that while doing an experiment multiple trials are performed, and while doing so, the mistakes that may have occurred create a set back instead of progress. Each trial isn’t a mistake it’s simply a further study of the experiment. For example, as stated in the article In Praise if Careful Science, “Denker describes how magnetrons and radar were discovered.

They were researched for years. The work was kept secret. The scientists worked to avoid mistakes.” To make the discoveries of magnetrons and radar, a lot of research had to be made over the years. Scientists kept working and did their best to avoid any mistakes thus creating these great discoveries. Scientists can make enormous or even miniature discoveries by proving and predicting them, without making any miscalculations that would have a powerful effect during the process.

Most importantly, discoveries are made from the effort put into it making it significant, not the error that may have have developed it. People like Isaac Newton and Percy Spencer were inspired to make a new discovery by a mistake, however, the research and perfection of their work are of most importance.

For example, in the the text How a Melted Bar of Chocolate Changed Our Kitchens, it said “Standing near the Magnetron one day while it was on, Spencer noticed that the bar of chocolate in his pocket melted. He had a moment of realization.” Percy Spencer was the first person to put together the idea of using electric and magnetic currents to cook food. Although his mistake of having a chocolate bar in his pocket eventually led to the invention of the microwave, it wasn’t that simple to create the actual product.

As stated in the article How a Melted Bar of Chocolate Changed Our Kitchens, “It took more than 20 years, a lot of patience, and many mistakes before Raytheon perfected a microwave oven that people could use and could afford.” Even Raytheon made some minor mistakes, it took over 20 years of research and perfection to fully develop the microwave. Real discoveries come from the careful experiments and study people make, not the mistake that could have contributed.

When people say that you need to make mistakes to move forward, they aren’t exactly telling the truth. Many of these mistakes can lead to a disaster instead of a discovery leaving the question, was it worth it? Many scientists have created some of the biggest inventions and discoveries without making a mind blowing mistake. While the idea behind some inventions sometimes do come from a mistake, the mistake is only a measly part of the process. In science, the mistake that is created before or during the process of a discovery, is not as important as the corrections we do afterwards.

Cite this paper

The Role of Mistakes in Discovery. (2023, Apr 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-role-of-mistakes-in-discovery/

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