Accident or design

There’s a great new exhibit of student work on the walls. It emphasizes the role of accident in design. It made me think of the serendipity in scientific discovery: X-rays, silly putty, penicillin, smallpox vaccination and rayon come to mind. Serendipity or accident played a role in the discovery of all of them.

Of course this kind of “accident” is no accident. It provides the leap of understanding or the unanticipated creation of something new. The painstaking groundwork had been done. Careful planned preparation leads to the apparent random nature of the breakthrough Eureka moment in science as in art. But the trick is to be ready to see that unexpected result as having merit for its own sake. Mistakes will happen but when you’ve done the homework they can sometimes be groundbreaking. (Think Newton and apples.) Anyone with any good examples of this?

There is no alternative to hard work and perseverance when it comes to the route to discovery and unique creativity.

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