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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 11 2013: I think the statement suggests that science is constricted by the laws that govern it, the laws of physics, etc.

    So while it is our imaginations that allows us to pursue the stuff of StartTrek or ask questions of our beginnings, it is the straight jacketed nature of science, the hard limits of the known rules that govern our universe which eventually satiates or douse that imagination.

    Imagine jumping out of a plane and flying, soaring through the skies like superman. Gravity will eventually have something to say about that dream. Or science may use the rules that restricts your dream to develop some technology to allow the fruition of that dream. In a way working within these constrictions (known rules) has been and is the key to that straight jacket and the freeing our imaginations.

    After all, man always thought that he could fly, but it was science that allowed him to.
    I believe it is our imaginations that are straight jacketed, limited, and science is the gateway to our dreams.

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