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Swetha Chandrasekar

Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Student, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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Is science just imagination in a straitjacket?

This week in my Bioelectricity class, we listened to an NPR interview with Frances Ashcroft. Ashcroft is a British scientist who made a discovery in 1984 that allows neonatal diabetes patients to take pills as insulin supplements instead of injections. In her interview, as she discussed her thoughts on the scientific process and developing her theory, she referenced a quote by Richard Feynman, is a renowned American theoretical physicist.
"Science is imagination in a straitjacket."
Many scientists would argue that science does not restrict imagination, but rather promotes it. How is it that a well renowned scientist and thinker like Feynman, could feel confined when seeking answers in science? Is science a vehicle for imagination or is it used to tie down imagination with facts? What experience could have caused him to have this opinion? Does science truly restrict the imagination as Feynman suggests, or is science a vehicle for imagination?

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  • Feb 8 2013: I like how he put it. "Science is imagination in a straight jacket," because it so truly is. It starts in schools, we are taught to memorize facts and not to think independently. Look at any great inventor, he is usually up against colleagues and others who say it cannot be done or that it's silly. Progress is what carries the motivation to get something done, and everyone defines it differently. Modern science has limited our 'way' of thinking and it's only until we try to define life's possibilities ourselves that we ever really achieve anything. Science tries too hard to control the how and imagination allows truth to work itself out naturally.

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