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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: Hi Swetha,

    I appreciate you introducing this Feynman quote in your ideas. I think it is a very powerful statement that illustrates the depth and beauty of science.

    Science definitely requires creativity in order to flourish. However, imagination needs to be confined to the scope of the realty we perceive to be useful. I think it is interesting to ponder whether this type of imagination is completely limitless or is simply within the bounds of our understanding. This also raises the question of whether or not we are actually capable of true imagination, as this demands withdrawing from our realm of being.

    I find the application of the abstract world into concreteness a defining factor of science. Therefore, science is faced with the tough task of implementing theoretical ideas to produce practical solutions. With this, science has this magical effect of connecting two seemingly independent worlds.

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