Thursday, December 14, 2006

Time Compression

Recently came across a post in a friend's blog which inspired me to this (after a long pause again! :) ) There has been quite a bit of lament about the lack of innovativeness in research. I don't claim to be a good researcher, nor do I represent the research community in any way, but I feel that an important aspect seems to be missed everytime this issue comes up. True that today research environment is commercialized, and that we in an ideal world, need Archimedes' who were more bothered in finishing a circle than saving his life, but that's a big subject of discussion in its own right. What I thought I could mention is something what I call "Time Compression"...

Great path breaking discoveries occur, but they take a time. Remember that there was a phase of almost half a century before the velocity thing came when there was not much happening, and in fact Niels Bohr (I think?) was asked by his professors to switch to Biology because nothing much was happening in Physics. The point is, when we make such observations, we unconsciously look through a thousand-year timeline of achievements when we need to compare the present. As is commonly the case with astronomic numbers, the human mind tends to lose track of how long time spans really are, beyond a certain point. To borrow some ideas of Kuhn, it is not really fair to expect revolutionary breakthroughs to occur every now and then - we might still be in the phases before such a thing could occur. So when we say that life on the research front has been pretty uninspiring, we need to bias our views taking into consideration the inherent human cognitive limitation of not being able to judge time spans. Innovation is perhaps a gifted retarded kid - it will take its time, but surely surprises us with what it has in store once in a while. Mankind is prepared to wait...


  1. Spot on !! It gets all the more tangled up when people try to 'teach' stuff that happened over a thousand years in one course.. I'm a strong fan of presenting things as they happened chronologically, but most other people (important people, ex. Feynman) and most of the education systems seem to think otherwise :-( So, not only is it time-compressed, its distorted too :-(


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