“The great tragedy of Science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
– Thomas Huxley
In high school, one of my science teachers had a penchant for trying to inspire students with clever quotations. One of his favorite proclamations was that “many a beautiful theory is ruined by one ugly fact.” The actual quotation (above) by the famous biologist Thomas Huxley gets to a crucial point that most engineers miss.
Applying the following scientific process immeasurably improves the creativity and results of engineered systems:
- Observe results
- Reach conclusion or adjust hypothesis
Ultimately, my science teacher did play a role in inspiring me to dive deeper into scientific inquiry. I went on to major in Physics at Boston College and then apply my science training to solving engineering challenges. To this day, I think of myself as a scientist who works in the engineering field.
The art of scientific inquiry and the discipline of engineering are a perfect marriage. Traditionally, engineering follows defined parameters and accepted conceptual and numerical processes to arrive at solutions, while science inspires thinking outside the box to discover new frontiers when solving complex problems.
At IMEC, scientific inquiry is the foundation of our engineering process. To borrow a phrase from Apple’s classic advertising campaign, we “think differently.” We apply inventive thinking to what most engineers approach as standard solutions, and we welcome unusual one-of-a-kind challenges.
How do we do it? It starts with being open to—and encouraging—new ideas. In fact, the projects that produce the greatest results are usually the ones in which we break from tradition. Our solutions are developed using the scientific method and then fully vetted through critical analysis.
The results? In 2016, manufacturers will realize 92,000 tons of carbon reduction through energy-efficient systems designed and installed by IMEC.
If the great tragedy of science is Huxley’s “slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact,” then the great achievement might be the confirmation of an inventive solution by validated facts.