August 29, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 19

Ignorance and its role in the progression of science

“Knowledge is a big subject. Ignorance is bigger. And it is more interesting.”

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So begins Stuart Firestein’s book “Ignorance: How It Drives Science.”

Part of the core message in the book about how science should work is wrapped up in a brief story about a physicist named Isidor Isaac Rabi. When Rabi came home from school each day his immigrant mother didn’t ask him what he learned, but rather whether he had asked any good questions in class. That approach to thinking about learning helped propel Rabi to enormous professional success. He developed nuclear magnetic resonance, a tec...

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