Monday, July 15, 2013

Scientists and Vacations

Improvised Life pointed me to this interview with A. O. Wilson, and I found myself really getting into it. Much of it is inspiration and applies to programmers as well as it does to scientist (especially the persistent myth that you need extensive math skills to be a programmer). The host then asks him to explain one of his seemingly controversial statements: Scientists don't take vacations..

Ahhh, I figured I knew how he was going to respond. Sure, scientists go on vacations, but their mind is always working. I may be hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but watching a colony of ants may inspire me to build a new kind of distributed co-operative system.

Nope. He actually meant what he said: scientists don't take vacations. He explained that he didn't know any serious scientists who were deep sea fishermen or had other hobbies. They were too engrossed in science to have time for such things.

Quick, someone tell my dad, a biologist, that he's not supposed to enjoy fishing.

Seriously, what a load of malarkey. Of course scientists take vacations and have hobbies. How else do they get inspired to think totally outside the box? Or, as Wilson himself said so elegantly, how else do they learn to think like a poet?

Give the interview a listen -- am I missing something here?

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