Science is an aesthetic practice

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One of my friends recently hired – or had foisted upon her – an undergraduate to help her do research. “How do you stay motivated?” he asked her. “Uhh” she responded.

We’ve all been there. Doing science really sucks, a lot of the time. Add to that the common list of other deficits with this career: little money, tons of work, no real respect, etc. So why do we do it?

While I was on the microscope I was thinking these very thoughts, and decided to write an article about it on Medium. One of the points of writing this blog is to get better at writing, so I used the chance on Medium to do something a bit different.

The point of the article is that, while there are many reasons one could do science – and I know the reasons are probably pretty heterogeneous among my peers – the reason that I in particular do science is for aesthetic reasons. Essentially, the impulse to do science is the same impulse that drives someone to an appreciation of art. It is a cultivation of an appreciation of the beauty of the world. I’m not sure what motivates an Artist to create Art, though it seems that my few vain attempts have been about creating something beautiful for other people. But to me science is more like stumbling through an art gallery: it isn’t about creating something for other people, but rather finding something beautiful for myself. Once found, I can fit it into my mental blueprints of the world and reflect on it as I would a fine work of art. Perhaps that’s a bit selfish, but it’s what keeps me going.

Go read it, and please feel free to send any constructive criticism on it my way!

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