Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Beyond science: a why and the desire to know

People may see science as just facts and figures, equations and numbers, but there’s more than that. In the background, there’s always a “why” and the pursuit of truth through knowledge. For me, this means a philosophy of science may inspire every scientist, that love for wisdom going beyond science itself and seeking a broader view of reality. Otherwise, what’s the point?

going beyond science of facts and figures

A few years ago I became fascinated by a theory which is a synthesis of fundamental topics in Mechanical Engineering like Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, and Heat Transfer: the Constructal Theory.

Adrian Bejan is a Professor at Duke University and introduced us to the fact that

“For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.”

It was not the fact that through the Constructal Theory we can explain design in nature that fascinated me. It was how it made sense of the view of myself and the world around me.

You may wonder – ”what do you mean?”

 

Easy access to the flow of…

ideas

I remember when we first had access to Journal articles online. It was not the fact that I needed to travel less to the Library, but more the ability to explore throughout all knowledge developed by the scientific community at the distance of a click. I became more aware of where my piece fitted in the puzzle of science.

feelings

Science is not impersonal as some people say, but deeply personal and emotional. And the immediate reaction when we find something is to share it with others. Sometimes screaming through the lab, or jumping. We don’t care about being ridiculous. The feeling of discovery needs to flow and drives me to share it.

novelty

We dedicate ourselves in science under the impulse of the desire to know. Novelty only emerges if you’re open-minded and flow your ideas and feelings through your boundary conditions. What appears as limitations to understand reality, are just guidelines of low resistance in the path toward the truth.

Beyond science… Imperfections

Finally, in constructal theory, the expression ”go with the flow” is the way of optimally distributing imperfections. We are imperfect and always will be. This idea reminds me of a sentence I kept thinking about since my youth “nobody is perfect, but who wants to be a nobody,” right?

Instead of roadblocks, imperfections are part of what drives us to go beyond science as merely facts and figures. We’re never content. There’s always much more to know.

It is essential to keep improving our “why” of doing science. There’s always a beyond the things we see, feel, reason and explain that keeps us blind, anxious, puzzled and wondering. We try to understand the world, but that is only a visible expression of our sincere desire to love the world in the limited attempt to make sense and meaning of it.


Question: what drives you in your scientific self, whether you’re a scientist or not?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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