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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 9 2013: “I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research. ---Albert Einstein
    “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”
    ― Albert Einstein
    It was from Einstein's notes, and the traditional stories told to me by elders of this nation's first people that helped me put into perspective my ability to dream visions, and restrain fears. I have been told, "Imagination, is the foundation of everything. It is not a piece of , and it is not a compartment within the brain, it is the base ingredient of every cell, right down to the atom."
    The message to our central nervous system which reports the hot horseshoe in our hand must be imagined by several distinct messengers before it is reported. Anything, and everything we do, voluntary and involuntary, begins with someone's, or something's imagination.
    Einstein also believed knowledge is limited and imagination was everything beyond those limits. Our doctrines, our facts (which , usually end up being facts for a limited time), and our science all create paradigms of thought and imagination. If we are able to understand that our scientific facts, and perhaps, including universal laws of physics, too, are only so for this day. One day it is very likely through higher understanding and healthier imagination that we had measured these perceived truths through frail human understanding, as feeble as this understanding is, in our arrogance this is how we measure all things around us, including fauna and flora, and the celestial beings.
    I enjoy science, study and passion of research. I also understand the risk of limiting my imagination should any of that seem worthy of belief. I always worship the Mystery, first. Only Mystery is worthy of belief.
    Yes, science is a straightjacket

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