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Tiny Advances Drive Science Forward: Samuel Arbesman On NPR
Science | January 02, 2013

Tiny Advances Drive Science Forward: Samuel Arbesman On NPR

Science speaker Samuel Arbesman recently appeared on NPR to discuss the most important scientific advancements of 2012. However, while many consider the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle—an important determinant for explaining the masses of particles in the universe—to be at the top of list, Arbesman says it isn't always the biggest or most revolutionary discoveries that change the way we look at the world.

"It's not necessarily true that we need to find these singular big discoveries," he says in the interview. "Because the truth is, the way we make discoveries is oftentimes based on the accumulation of a lot of smaller insights and smaller ideas and discoveries. And oftentimes in the aggregate, those kinds of things—the things that we expect or the things that we don't expect—are often what drive science." Every finding contributes to a better understanding of the world, he says, and all of these things help advance science one step at a time. He also says that we can never predict what discoveries will truly lead to breakthroughs in the long-term, and that it's important to "support everything across the board." Not every discovery will change the face of science, but they do help us to fill in the gaps and expand our knowledge base which Arbesman says is just as important.

This is something he speaks about in his popular debut book, The Half-Life of Facts, and in his keynotes. He explains that learning is never a "done deal" and that even small changes to factual information are beneficial in expanding what we know about the world. Facts change all the time, he says, but learning how to chart those changes and predict them can help us to better navigate through life. In his numerous media appearances and his fascinating lectures, Arbesman unpacks the way that science progresses so that we are better able to handle—and embrace—the uncertainty all around us.
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