Stuart Firestein: The pursuit of ignorance


There is an ancient proverb that says it’s very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room, especially when there is no cat. I find this a particularly apt description of science and how science works — bumbling around in a dark room, bumping into things, trying to figure out what shape this might be, what that might be, there are reports of a cat somewhere around, they may not be reliable, they may be, and so forth and so on. Now I know this is different than the way most people think about science. Science, we generally are told, is a very well-ordered mechanism for understanding the world, for gaining facts, for gaining data, that it’s rule-based, that scientists use this thing called the scientific method and we’ve been doing this for 14 generations or so now, and the scientific method is a set of rules for getting hard, cold facts out of the data. I’d like to tell you that’s not the case. So there’s the scientific method, but what’s really going on is this. (Laughter) [The Scientific Method vs. Farting Around] And it’s going on kind of like that. [… in the dark] (Laughter) So what is the difference, then, between the way I believe science is pursued and the way it seems to be perceived? So this difference first came to me in some ways in my dual role at Columbia University, where I’m both a professor and run a laboratory in neuroscience where we try to figure out how the brain works. We do this by studying the sense of smell, the sense of olfaction, and in the laboratory, it’s a great pleasure and fascinating work and exciting to work with graduate students and post-docs and think up cool experiments to understand how this sense of smell works and how the brain might be working, and, well, frankly, it’s kind of exhilarating. But at the same time, it’s my responsibility to teach a large course to undergraduates on the brain, and that’s a big subject, and it takes quite a while to organize that, and it’s quite challenging and it’s quite interesting, but I have to say, it’s not so exhilarating. So what was the difference? Well, the course I was and am teaching is called Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience – I. (Laughs) It’s 25 lectures full of all sorts of facts, it uses this giant book called “Principles of Neural Science” by three famous neuroscientists. This book comes in at 1,414 pages, it weighs a hefty seven and a half pounds. Just to put that in some perspective, that’s the weight of two normal human brains. (Laughter) So I began to realize, by the end of this course, that the students maybe were getting the idea that we must know everything there is to know about the brain. That’s clearly not true. And they must also have this idea, I suppose, that what scientists do is collect data and collect facts and stick them in these big books. And that’s not really the case either. When I go to a meeting, after the meeting day is over and we collect in the bar over a couple of beers with my colleagues, we never talk about what we know. We talk about what we don’t know. We talk about what still has to get done, what’s so critical to get done in the lab. Indeed, this was, I think, best said by Marie Curie who said that one never notices what has been done but only what remains to be done. This was in a letter to her brother after obtaining her second graduate degree, I should say. I have to point out this has always been one of my favorite pictures of Marie Curie, because I am convinced that that glow behind her is not a photographic effect. (Laughter) That’s the real thing. It is true that her papers are, to this day, stored in a basement room in the Bibliothèque Française in a concrete room that’s lead-lined, and if you’re a scholar and you want access to these notebooks, you have to put on a full radiation hazmat suit, so it’s pretty scary business. Nonetheless, this is what I think we were leaving out of our courses and leaving out of the interaction that we have with the public as scientists, the what-remains-to-be-done. This is the stuff that’s exhilarating and interesting. It is, if you will, the ignorance. That’s what was missing. So I thought, well, maybe I should teach a course on ignorance, something I can finally excel at, perhaps, for example. So I did start teaching this course on ignorance, and it’s been quite interesting and I’d like to tell you to go to the website. You can find all sorts of information there. It’s wide open. And it’s been really quite an interesting time for me to meet up with other scientists who come in and talk about what it is they don’t know. Now I use this word “ignorance,” of course, to be at least in part intentionally provocative, because ignorance has a lot of bad connotations and I clearly don’t mean any of those. So I don’t mean stupidity, I don’t mean a callow indifference to fact or reason or data. The ignorant are clearly unenlightened, unaware, uninformed, and present company today excepted, often occupy elected offices, it seems to me. That’s another story, perhaps. I mean a different kind of ignorance. I mean a kind of ignorance that’s less pejorative, a kind of ignorance that comes from a communal gap in our knowledge, something that’s just not there to be known or isn’t known well enough yet or we can’t make predictions from, the kind of ignorance that’s maybe best summed up in a statement by James Clerk Maxwell, perhaps the greatest physicist between Newton and Einstein, who said, “Thoroughly conscious ignorance is the prelude to every real advance in science.” I think it’s a wonderful idea: thoroughly conscious ignorance. So that’s the kind of ignorance that I want to talk about today, but of course the first thing we have to clear up is what are we going to do with all those facts? So it is true that science piles up at an alarming rate. We all have this sense that science is this mountain of facts, this accumulation model of science, as many have called it, and it seems impregnable, it seems impossible. How can you ever know all of this? And indeed, the scientific literature grows at an alarming rate. In 2006, there were 1.3 million papers published. There’s about a two-and-a-half-percent yearly growth rate, and so last year we saw over one and a half million papers being published. Divide that by the number of minutes in a year, and you wind up with three new papers per minute. So I’ve been up here a little over 10 minutes, I’ve already lost three papers. I have to get out of here actually. I have to go read. So what do we do about this? Well, the fact is that what scientists do about it is a kind of a controlled neglect, if you will. We just don’t worry about it, in a way. The facts are important. You have to know a lot of stuff to be a scientist. That’s true. But knowing a lot of stuff doesn’t make you a scientist. You need to know a lot of stuff to be a lawyer or an accountant or an electrician or a carpenter. But in science, knowing a lot of stuff is not the point. Knowing a lot of stuff is there to help you get to more ignorance. So knowledge is a big subject, but I would say ignorance is a bigger one. So this leads us to maybe think about, a little bit about, some of the models of science that we tend to use, and I’d like to disabuse you of some of them. So one of them, a popular one, is that scientists are patiently putting the pieces of a puzzle together to reveal some grand scheme or another. This is clearly not true. For one, with puzzles, the manufacturer has guaranteed that there’s a solution. We don’t have any such guarantee. Indeed, there are many of us who aren’t so sure about the manufacturer. (Laughter) So I think the puzzle model doesn’t work. Another popular model is that science is busy unraveling things the way you unravel the peels of an onion. So peel by peel, you take away the layers of the onion to get at some fundamental kernel of truth. I don’t think that’s the way it works either. Another one, a kind of popular one, is the iceberg idea, that we only see the tip of the iceberg but underneath is where most of the iceberg is hidden. But all of these models are based on the idea of a large body of facts that we can somehow or another get completed. We can chip away at this iceberg and figure out what it is, or we could just wait for it to melt, I suppose, these days, but one way or another we could get to the whole iceberg. Right? Or make it manageable. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think what really happens in science is a model more like the magic well, where no matter how many buckets you take out, there’s always another bucket of water to be had, or my particularly favorite one, with the effect and everything, the ripples on a pond. So if you think of knowledge being this ever-expanding ripple on a pond, the important thing to realize is that our ignorance, the circumference of this knowledge, also grows with knowledge. So the knowledge generates ignorance. This is really well said, I thought, by George Bernard Shaw. This is actually part of a toast that he delivered to celebrate Einstein at a dinner celebrating Einstein’s work, in which he claims that science just creates more questions than it answers.
[“Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating 10 more.”] I find that kind of glorious, and I think he’s precisely right, plus it’s a kind of job security. As it turns out, he kind of cribbed that from the philosopher Immanuel Kant who a hundred years earlier had come up with this idea of question propagation, that every answer begets more questions. I love that term, “question propagation,” this idea of questions propagating out there. So I’d say the model we want to take is not that we start out kind of ignorant and we get some facts together and then we gain knowledge. It’s rather kind of the other way around, really. What do we use this knowledge for? What are we using this collection of facts for? We’re using it to make better ignorance, to come up with, if you will, higher-quality ignorance. Because, you know, there’s low-quality ignorance and there’s high-quality ignorance. It’s not all the same. Scientists argue about this all the time. Sometimes we call them bull sessions. Sometimes we call them grant proposals. But nonetheless, it’s what the argument is about. It’s the ignorance. It’s the what we don’t know. It’s what makes a good question. So how do we think about these questions? I’m going to show you a graph that shows up quite a bit on happy hour posters in various science departments. This graph asks the relationship between what you know and how much you know about it. So what you know, you can know anywhere from nothing to everything, of course, and how much you know about it can be anywhere from a little to a lot. So let’s put a point on the graph. There’s an undergraduate. Doesn’t know much but they have a lot of interest. They’re interested in almost everything. Now you look at a master’s student, a little further along in their education, and you see they know a bit more, but it’s been narrowed somewhat. And finally you get your Ph.D., where it turns out you know a tremendous amount about almost nothing. (Laughter) What’s really disturbing is the trend line that goes through that because, of course, when it dips below the zero axis, there, it gets into a negative area. That’s where you find people like me, I’m afraid. So the important thing here is that this can all be changed. This whole view can be changed by just changing the label on the x-axis. So instead of how much you know about it, we could say, “What can you ask about it?” So yes, you do need to know a lot of stuff as a scientist, but the purpose of knowing a lot of stuff is not just to know a lot of stuff. That just makes you a geek, right? Knowing a lot of stuff, the purpose is to be able to ask lots of questions, to be able to frame thoughtful, interesting questions, because that’s where the real work is. Let me give you a quick idea of a couple of these sorts of questions. I’m a neuroscientist, so how would we come up with a question in neuroscience? Because it’s not always quite so straightforward. So, for example, we could say, well what is it that the brain does? Well, one thing the brain does, it moves us around. We walk around on two legs. That seems kind of simple, somehow or another. I mean, virtually everybody over 10 months of age walks around on two legs, right? So that maybe is not that interesting. So instead maybe we want to choose something a little more complicated to look at. How about the visual system? There it is, the visual system. I mean, we love our visual systems. We do all kinds of cool stuff. Indeed, there are over 12,000 neuroscientists who work on the visual system, from the retina to the visual cortex, in an attempt to understand not just the visual system but to also understand how general principles of how the brain might work. But now here’s the thing: Our technology has actually been pretty good at replicating what the visual system does. We have TV, we have movies, we have animation, we have photography, we have pattern recognition, all of these sorts of things. They work differently than our visual systems in some cases, but nonetheless we’ve been pretty good at making a technology work like our visual system. Somehow or another, a hundred years of robotics, you never saw a robot walk on two legs, because robots don’t walk on two legs because it’s not such an easy thing to do. A hundred years of robotics, and we can’t get a robot that can move more than a couple steps one way or the other. You ask them to go up an inclined plane, and they fall over. Turn around, and they fall over. It’s a serious problem. So what is it that’s the most difficult thing for a brain to do? What ought we to be studying? Perhaps it ought to be walking on two legs, or the motor system. I’ll give you an example from my own lab, my own particularly smelly question, since we work on the sense of smell. But here’s a diagram of five molecules and sort of a chemical notation. These are just plain old molecules, but if you sniff those molecules up these two little holes in the front of your face, you will have in your mind the distinct impression of a rose. If there’s a real rose there, those molecules will be the ones, but even if there’s no rose there, you’ll have the memory of a molecule. How do we turn molecules into perceptions? What’s the process by which that could happen? Here’s another example: two very simple molecules, again in this kind of chemical notation. It might be easier to visualize them this way, so the gray circles are carbon atoms, the white ones are hydrogen atoms and the red ones are oxygen atoms. Now these two molecules differ by only one carbon atom and two little hydrogen atoms that ride along with it, and yet one of them, heptyl acetate, has the distinct odor of a pear, and hexyl acetate is unmistakably banana. So there are two really interesting questions here, it seems to me. One is, how can a simple little molecule like that create a perception in your brain that’s so clear as a pear or a banana? And secondly, how the hell can we tell the difference between two molecules that differ by a single carbon atom? I mean, that’s remarkable to me, clearly the best chemical detector on the face of the planet. And you don’t even think about it, do you? So this is a favorite quote of mine that takes us back to the ignorance and the idea of questions. I like to quote because I think dead people shouldn’t be excluded from the conversation. And I also think it’s important to realize that the conversation’s been going on for a while, by the way. So Erwin Schrodinger, a great quantum physicist and, I think, philosopher, points out how you have to “abide by ignorance for an indefinite period” of time. And it’s this abiding by ignorance that I think we have to learn how to do. This is a tricky thing. This is not such an easy business. I guess it comes down to our education system, so I’m going to talk a little bit about ignorance and education, because I think that’s where it really has to play out. So for one, let’s face it, in the age of Google and Wikipedia, the business model of the university and probably secondary schools is simply going to have to change. We just can’t sell facts for a living anymore. They’re available with a click of the mouse, or if you want to, you could probably just ask the wall one of these days, wherever they’re going to hide the things that tell us all this stuff. So what do we have to do? We have to give our students a taste for the boundaries, for what’s outside that circumference, for what’s outside the facts, what’s just beyond the facts. How do we do that? Well, one of the problems, of course, turns out to be testing. We currently have an educational system which is very efficient but is very efficient at a rather bad thing. So in second grade, all the kids are interested in science, the girls and the boys. They like to take stuff apart. They have great curiosity. They like to investigate things. They go to science museums. They like to play around. They’re in second grade. They’re interested. But by 11th or 12th grade, fewer than 10 percent of them have any interest in science whatsoever, let alone a desire to go into science as a career. So we have this remarkably efficient system for beating any interest in science out of everybody’s head. Is this what we want? I think this comes from what a teacher colleague of mine calls “the bulimic method of education.” You know. You can imagine what it is. We just jam a whole bunch of facts down their throats over here and then they puke it up on an exam over here and everybody goes home with no added intellectual heft whatsoever. This can’t possibly continue to go on. So what do we do? Well the geneticists, I have to say, have an interesting maxim they live by. Geneticists always say, you always get what you screen for. And that’s meant as a warning. So we always will get what we screen for, and part of what we screen for is in our testing methods. Well, we hear a lot about testing and evaluation, and we have to think carefully when we’re testing whether we’re evaluating or whether we’re weeding, whether we’re weeding people out, whether we’re making some cut. Evaluation is one thing. You hear a lot about evaluation in the literature these days, in the educational literature, but evaluation really amounts to feedback and it amounts to an opportunity for trial and error. It amounts to a chance to work over a longer period of time with this kind of feedback. That’s different than weeding, and usually, I have to tell you, when people talk about evaluation, evaluating students, evaluating teachers, evaluating schools, evaluating programs, that they’re really talking about weeding. And that’s a bad thing, because then you will get what you select for, which is what we’ve gotten so far. So I’d say what we need is a test that says, “What is x?” and the answers are “I don’t know, because no one does,” or “What’s the question?” Even better. Or, “You know what, I’ll look it up, I’ll ask someone, I’ll phone someone. I’ll find out.” Because that’s what we want people to do, and that’s how you evaluate them. And maybe for the advanced placement classes, it could be, “Here’s the answer. What’s the next question?” That’s the one I like in particular. So let me end with a quote from William Butler Yeats, who said “Education is not about filling buckets; it is lighting fires.” So I’d say, let’s get out the matches. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

99 thoughts on “Stuart Firestein: The pursuit of ignorance”

  1. You religious/politically conservative people love to see bigoted piles of shit bashing SCIENCE, because you cannot face the FACTS, LOL!!!!

  2. Bitch please, your name and profile picture don't even correlate with your gay comments/replies to other comments. Seriously, you're what's wrong with this world.

  3. @Sameerjan Snowy

    People have interests, regardless of a "username".

    Go post your ignorance somewhere else.

  4. Hey smart guy/girl, YOU know exactly shit about my personal beliefs and political views. This guy is not bashing science, he's trying to protect it! Just so you know, I face facts every day of my life and yes sometimes they are funny, ridiculous, and don't make any sense, like you!

  5. I have an interest in something called synesthiesia which means the combining of the scenes.It is what it sounds like. An example is hearing a sound and seeing a shape or color or both come at you whilst hearing that sound. Now, I know the part of the brain you see through is right next to the sound part but what I want to know is, do the doctors who study this, study a branch of Neuroscience and if so, what?

  6. I very easily earn over 4000 dollars every month just by answering basic surveys at home.
    This site shows precisely how EARN88.COM

    What goes up must come down. Which is why we invented Viagra, to make it stay up a little longer.

  7. YouTube is probably not the best arena to pose these questions in. Speak to your local neuro dept. and see if you can start a PhD (if you're up to that stage in your career).

  8. He is right teachers do destroy education. When I finally dropped out I was sick of school, the teachers, the principals, the tests, the coaches, and everything else that's apart of the public education system. I avoid teachers like the plague and when I do talk to them I let them know what a lousy job I feel they are doing, and tell kids that they only teach you just enuf to get a job at Walmart or Mc Donalds.

  9. Teachers are required by the government to teach and to lecture a certain way. Teachers in private schools are a little better at deciding how to do it, and what to 'test', but the fact remains that Teachers have to teach in a way that they are told to do, or they will be replaced.

  10. Dr Firestein is a wise teacher, a sage.
    Passionate love of learning is indeed a rare trait especially as it is necessary for solving global problems with repercussions also for personal happiness.

    Given the state of societies: family breakdown, environmental degradation affecting health, poor governance etc by whom & where will these fires be lit?
    Ted Talks keep my fires stoked!

  11. It's always upsetting to see media savvy scientists, especially those in the field of cosmology, who commit the sin of purporting their theories to the public as though they're sacrosanct gospel, yet never always prefacing that they are, in the end, only theories. Examples such as gravitons, photons, black holes, the big bang theory, I could go on… This has always been a fallacy of their argument and I've yet to see somebody just admit "well to be honest, we don't really know." I applaud Mr Firestein for having the courage to hold up the mirror at the correct angle towards those in the scientific community. There is nothing wrong with admitting ignorance on a particular subject, as long as the hunger to search for evidence still prevails

  12. The reason no one describes science as "the pursuit of ignorance" to the general public is that they wouldn't give you any money if they heard that.  They still wouldn't after understanding what that meant.

    Now, describe it as "the pursuit of bigger TVs and fat-free chicken nuggets", and you might have a shot.

  13. "The bulimic method of education, we just jam a whole bunch of facts down there throats over here, and then they puke it up on an exam over here and everybody goes home with no added intellectual heft what so ever".

  14. Why matches? Pitchforks and torches, that's what we need! Our government openly admits, that they don't care about future, more, they are proud of it. And they do that because of a new trend in global politics, formed after last crisis, so your government is likely as much guilty as mine.

  15. Excellent talk… But when will education improve? These days you get educated more on YouTube rather than at University. I guess teachers don't want to let go of their authoritarianism and raise more questions themselves… 

  16. Brilliant talk! Although the loads of information and its controversial edge left the audience somewhat stunned.  As a graduate student I agree, examinations are basically weeding out.  I've always argued that examination styles should be as diverse as possible to prevent 'selecting' for a particular mind set.

  17. I don't like the way this man talks about science.

    Science is bungling, almost blind, stumbling around.

    How else would science develop, without innovation, imagination, exploration, and experiment?

  18. You know what, ignorance is not bliss. It is the cause of all misery. Knowing the truth of life gives you the greatest fulfillment of life that anyone can get.

    IF you want to know more about this truth, go to truthcontest◘com and read "The Present." It tells you that DIRECTLY

  19. I can't accept that we don't have the right tools to effectively evaluate our schools. What we need is more people representative of the student body helping us to make the plan for collecting data. Unfortunately, the education system has not taken advantage of the science community enough to get better statistics. They could also include more engagement from students and participation in evaluation if they still hired social workers. This is what happens to our schools when you lay off anyone you can and still call it a school.

  20. As a budding neuroscientist, I thank you. I may have always understood the texts myself, but it would be nice if they were written in a format that the masses could understand. It would make my work much easier, and would make it easier to broach new topics with people, as I have been noted as a tutor for similarly boiling down science to the level where it becomes understandable, and even "cool." I sincerely hope more scientists and textbook authors take your advice to heart and make it understandable, and as cool as it out to be. Knowing the fundamental laws that govern our planet and universe is immensely satisfying, though I wish it were so easily picked up upon by the lay folk that we drop our percentage of those that believe the sun revolves around the Earth from 20% to 0% (American-centric stat, the EU has almost 1/3 believing that falsehood, don't know about the rest). Please, continue to spread your ideas Stuart, you have so much to offer modern science education.

  21. Good talk.  His comments about the visual system is ironic.  Stuart the visual system is not like a video camera and people are not even close to understanding how the nervous system manages to pull off sight.  Your ignorance on that front is not nearly of a high enough quality!  But since you focus on olfaction I geuss you can be forgiven.

  22. He is advocating about the education system in which we tell to student what we do not know yet in Science, so that their focus toward that ignorance eventualy bring out new valid theory to the things that we dnt know yet…i agree with him because it will speed up the innovations and help us to reach at the stage of development in less time.

  23. He said that "The Bulemic Method of Education" cannot go on.

    As long as there are tenured professors, a teachers' union, and gov control of educational institutions, it WILL  go on. It will never change.

  24. Terrorism is probably based on pure ignorance. You have to be totally ignorant and unknowing of what kind of forces you're up against, as a terrorist. There is no doubt that those who recruit people into terrorism is doing so in complete brainwashing people into believing they can defeat the entire world. The only way you can convince a person to become a terrorist, is if you are able to tell that person that the entire world is a tiny frog with no defensive capabilities.

    You have to be either totally stupid or totally brainwashed, I will settle for the latter. They have to be brainwashed in some form or way. These people really do believe they can defeat the entire world, and that can only happen if you're brainwashed completely.

    Consider Isis, these people believe they can defeat the entire world, what makes them believe that, is beyond me. It's not only impossible, its utterly insane. What surprises me even more is that they sustain that belief, over the course of many years, even in defeat.

    We have to combat that ignorance, these terrorists recruit people, telling them that we are weak and that we can be defeated. We have to combat that ignorance, so that no child is recruited into a group of people and actually believe that he can survive and defeat the entire world.

    Ignorance is the only enemy. Brainwashing and propaganda. They are being sealed off from the outside world and told that they can defeat us using a simple assault rifle.

    If these kids knew that they are up against the most nightmarish military powers in the world and that their future won't last, they wouldn't let themselves be recruited.

    Of course, they are also being pressured and poverty is part of the problem too.

  25. "We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance"

    – John Archibald Wheeler

  26. Finally, here is an honest scientist, who admits that most of science is nothing but farting in the dark. It is absolutely true. Science is buried today under lots of confusing data. Apparently thats what they are very good at, collecting data. Scientists are wasting lots of time, energy, and money on things that gets nowhere fast.

    And he is absolutely correct, that schools are weeding out lots of "day-dreamer" kids with lots of imagination, with enormous potentials, who could be a very essential part of the science of tomorrow.  And schools are choosing kids for a science carrier, who at the moment seem to have all the accepted signs of becoming great scientists, like: they are excellent at mathematics. But usually they don't know anything else well enough!  Albert Einstein was a day-dreamer. And there is many-many-more well known great scientist who was weeded out when they were kids, because they did not followed the educational requirements.

  27. @14:20 … and dogs are even better at that than we are by several orders.. yes?  it really is intriguing… for another lifetime.

  28. "Here's the answer, what's the next question".. I love this. A great test question, very open ended. Make the kids think!!

  29. He uses the wrong word.
    Ignorance means ignoring.
    Not knowing is called "nescience",
    which means, "no science" (or "no knowledge").
    Ignoring means deciding not to know and avoiding knowledge.
    If you are searching for information, then you are not being ignorant.
    It's a verb; not a noun. It's something that you do, not something that you are.
    Ignorance is a choice, especially in the information age.

  30. I would absolutely love "whats the next question?" problems on my exam, giving me the opportunity to think, rather than just regurgitate the syllabus like a mindless drone, I never understood why the schools want us to be computers.

  31. This neuroscientist has connected a very important dot. Ignorance has been denoted since biblical times as a good thing. Becoming as a little child,​ you can see great things, you have the truth of what you do know, and the understanding that there is much more to ask!

  32. @10:43 that graph with the know-don't knows are very misleading, since the Phd dude knows what the previous two also knows. Realizing that he don't know more stuff doesn't mean he got less knowledge than the previous two. His scope just got larger.
    Why denigrate the pursuit of knowledge? Ignorance is good to know, but it's there to be solved as soon as possible, not to be "valued" or "treasured".

    @18:07 posting another bogus "test". The reason teachers don't write tests that accepts answers like "I don't know", "What is the question", or "I'll look it up" is because of the expectation that the students has done their research and just not messing around.

    wow, talk about a propaganda to make people dumber.

    "lighting fire"? well you're correct on that point if you mean dumpster fire.

  33. Yet again, the scientific method is regression, applying iteration to a mathematical function. It's the act of improving a model to represent and predict the observations assessed, as you would create a linear/squared function for multiple values. Some models just pass as accurate enough, but for other uses, they are not accurate enough and require a more elaborate, complex model. Some think of the Theory of Everything as a simplified model, but in the end, it is just the last formula combining all of the previous theories. It's not like it'd be just one formula, it's more like it's one formula from where you can progress indefinitely to every other formula, increasing its complexity every time you look further into any issue.

  34. Stuart Firestein – brilliant ! Delighted to see your surname is lighting the fires you end you TEDtalk with !

  35. "we jam a whole bunch of facts down their throats over here and then they go and puke it up on an exam over here"
    im a student and that describes it yes but only with some classes like maths and history

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