What’s Your Opinion – II

Posted: February 18, 2009 in Events, Literary Club

Probably one of the most oft repeated sentence which one might have heard as a teenager (some might be still hearing this!!!) from one’s parents is that “Cleanliness is next to godliness”. I guess we all will agree to this. Especially, when we are working in an environment where quality requirements supersede anything and everything else. After all, no good can come out of dirty, sloppy work. Right!!!

Scottish scientist, Alexander Fleming, was researching the flu in 1928. One day he noticed that a blue-green mold had infected one of his petri-dishes and it killed the staphylococcus bacteria growing in it. And thus was discovered Penicillin.

If he wouldn’t have been sloppy and would have followed his research more systematically and neatly, I doubt whether he would have stumbled on penicillin.

No doubt, systematic and methodical approaches are neccesary for solving problems but some how when it comes to discoveries, its exactly the opposite which seems to work. Chance is the the only factor which makes the difference. Infact, I would say – “Discoveries/Invention are Chances

Now one can always argue there are inventions/discoveries which were made not by chance but were actually intended. However, how many of these were used for the intended purpose they were invented/ discovered for in the first place.

In early 18th century, a pharmacy invented and sold a new cold syrup. However it was soon discovered that the syrup tasted better than actually curing the ailment(whether it actually cured anything is still a debatable topic). Hence was found what we all are addicted to, carbonated beverages or cold drinks.

It is a fact that Columbus discovered the sea route to America. But what is also a fact is that it is the route to India he intended to discover.

And these are just few of the many examples around. Statistically, more than 75% of the discoveries/inventions have been reported to fall in one of the above two categories. Hard work, perseverance, patience are all required. But more often then not these revolutionary findings which alter the face of the entire society is a product of Luck by Chance.

  1. Christina.E says:

    Source of an idea could be an accident but that is not going to lead you to glory, i mean discovering something, there is a long way ahead to meet the end result.

    Planning to do a ‘research’ is self explanatory that one is going to try to do something in a planned way depending upon the results of each trial.

    ‘But eliminate the element of fortune and we will end up with nothing…..
    Perseverance is required but end results are always govern by chance…..’-contrary to these statements and generalising chance and perseverance,lets look at it in a different way with a twist in the tale.

    Slumdog Millionaire was a huge hit.The protagonist was lucky but then do remember the reality is that its a movie.Danny Boyle-the director of the movie may have got the concept in his mind by chance but planning ,putting in a lot of systematic resesarch and presenting it in the best way made the movie what it is….

    Not to forget our own music maestro-A.R.Rehman was lucky to have been approached by Danny Boyle,but this only made it easy for a nomination in the Oscars and the reason for him to win it was his passion, hardwork and dedication towards music and for that matter to be approached by Boyle itself was not by chance but was his image for the best he gives through a lot of hardwork.

    Many might have got the chance to do something but but if the chance was not utilised its gone, their names are not included in the books of history and so we don’t know them ,we only acknowledge those who avail the chance and went ahead to leave a mark…. we need to give luck also a chance to play a role?????????!!!!!!!

    keeping Murphy in mind and no matter whatever the situation ultimately,


    what say…..

  2. Chrysalis says:

    “if something can go wrong it ll go wrong so if … you end up in shit..”

    Doesn’t this very statement introduces the element of chance in the process…..
    And talking of stats and data, what can be said about Newton defining gravity….
    The entire process was an accident which triggered the thought in his mind about the existence of the gravitational force…
    Planning and efforts put in the direction of research mostly help in developing of an idea….
    But the source of the idea(more often than not) is always(well almost) an accident….

    We are talking about planning in R&D….And no doubt it is required…..
    But many times when we are doing a research we dont even know what to do(and sometime what we are looking for)….
    And the only hope in these cases is to stumble onto something….
    We can say “Fortune favours the brave”, that due to his perseverance someone succeeded….
    But eliminate the element of fortune and we will end up with nothing…..
    Perseverance is required but end results are always govern by chance…..

  3. karishma says:

    A little to be added on my side..A question to all in the group
    Is this discovery /Invention needs to be always looked up from the benefit point of few??…
    may be in terms of its exploitation for human use or for some materialistic purpose and shall hold no good in paving way for future discoveries?…
    I feel that there is nothing that is discovered just for the returns in future.As one of our friend has actually said “even if we discover a new species of flora or fona now..it is evident that the species must have been highly selective and thus will be very difficult to be exploited on mass scale for the benefit of human race…” Is this the only motive of discovery that it will be difficult to exploit on mass scale??
    Well I feel that discoverer most of the time is not aware of what his discovery will shower on him and discovery is not happening just to satisfy you and me..There is nothing like Discovery/Invention is negated for not serving human purpose..It is as well encouraged for it gives a platform for future discoveries to happen.

  4. Neelima.V says:

    Many discoveries are accidental indeed.Though serindipity is not inevetable.You may say structured and planned research is the ONLY key to discover something new.I don’t think early man has done any well structured ground work for discovering fire or inventing wheel
    It is just his inqusitiveness and quest for knowledge.Without which human race would’nt have come so far.Even in the case of Flemming, a normal person would have comfortably overlooked the growth of mold and would have thrown ’em away.But it is his perception that made all the difference.
    Economics can never become the prime motive for discovery.It is only a secondary cause.
    It is the passion and hunger for knowledge that ‘ll lead to any discovery.If we keep looking everything in terms of money ,returns we can never discover anything.
    Sicence should be looked beyond economic perspective.For instance,Darwin is considerd to be one of the greatest discoverers of all time though his theories have very little use(or no use) industrially!!!

  5. arun dubey says:

    Hi guys…

    Well it takes a while to get this concept…

    We can never eradicate the “Suspense of unknown” thus there will always be something to be discovered and invented. However the point of debate is whether its the “Luck by chance” or the “meticulous preparation” which holds the key to success…
    My stand is for “meticulous planning” and the facts suggest my statement-”The stone age when discovery was the name of novalty is gone.Look around is there practically anything left to be discovered.”

    To illustrate
    *”still scientists are working on receptors and drug targets that exist in the human body”..well inventors are also working on reducing the cost of gene and stem cell technology..and if that happens it will totally change the way we look towards pharmaceuticals industry…Thus it requires “meticulous sincere research” to evaluate the returns on investments..and potential of a research project.
    *”yet to be discovered…… the unlimited and undiscovered flora and fauna of the earth”well yes totally agreed to it..I just have a doubt….even if we discover a new species of flora or fona now..it is evident that the species must have been highly selective and thus will be very difficult to be exploited on mass scale for the benefit of human race….There is no point doing research for the sake of it or for the sake of stumbling on an accidental EUREKA….To sight another examples many commercial organizations who have been supporting space discovery program have withdrew and instead invested in building space tourism channel to moon…Virgin group is one such group.
    And also not to go far away even Dr Reddy’s has changed its strategy based on experience and return on investment calcullation to disinvest from R AND D and promote Viable vision of being in top 20 till 2020..

    For further clarification about the number of accidental discoveries, their impacts.and relevance in mordern world. please refer to the links below..

    The facts shout louder than the sweeping statements that in the age we are living planning and structure holds and upper hand than accidental discoveries…for the probability of success….The investment in R AND D we discussed is just one such field..the principle holds for every aspect of life….personal or professional..

    However I ll still …Hail the murphy.

  6. Pallavi says:

    well something to add on from my side…………. on contrary to what Arun said……..”The stone age when discovery was the name of novalty is gone.Look around is there practically anything left to be discovered.” first place unless explored one cannot predict whether anything is left out for discovery or not. as a simple example to update…….. still scientists are working on receptors and drug targets that exist in the human body ………. yet to be discovered…… the unlimited and undiscovered flora and fauna of the earth. well I agree to padmaja’s view- “either way we should reap the benefits”

  7. M.Padmaja says:

    This is an interesting debate…but we all have very varied opinions….maybe a reflection of our personality itself…a conscientious scientist would follow a systematic method of research while a discoverer would stumble upon something and lo and behold! an outstanding discovery is made!….Newton discovered law of gravity looking at a falling apple…now wouldnt that be luck by chance? so lets explore both seasoned thinking and try chance….maybe Lady luck will smile earlier…either way we should reap the benefits…
    keep posting..

  8. Arun says:

    “Accidents” what is that …There is nothing called as accidents…taking it up from Jayapriya it was Mr Murphy who rediculed the accidents long back…if something can go wrong it ll go wrong so if … you end up in shit..there is no way you get a chance to blame it on luck or someone else on the name of accidents,a man can just do as much as he deserves or for as much he puts effort for.

    The stone age when discovery was the name of novalty is gone.Look around is there practically anything left to be discovered.The new name of novelty is inventions….and as pointed by lots of ppl above inventions are the result of extensive knowledge,indepth thought process robusr planning , quality to look beyond evident and vision for the future.

    History is for siting examples and taking inspiration ,However history is the last thing to correlate with ..its a call to all scientists ..can you compare two results from two experiments in different environment..??
    So waht was an accident than may be an evident results from the noval and advanced learning.
    To conclude , I think accidents do not happen we allow them to happen … thus the actual route to success is to plan,learn and execute …”OFCOURCE KEEP MR MURPHY IN MIND”….Hail the Murphy

  9. Pallavi says:

    There is altogether a different category of inventions by chance called serendipity, and discovery is nothing but “there existed something which you or anybody did not know n somebody found it.”,

    There are ample of example where inventions were intended to n were made. let it be Edision for electricity bulb or wright brothers for glider. When you try to explore uncertainties you can expect, the unexpected as well.

    one has to stretch out to explore and invent. The result you get may be the one you expected or the unexpected. it can not just by chance because bysitting idle n dreaming you end up with no results not even serendipity.

  10. Jayapriya Jayaraman says:

    Disocvery and invention is the art of seeing what others have missed..yet i believe that structured thinking and intelligfent efforts , just by itself, would have led to technological developments that were hitherto attributed to serendipity.

    However, if one were to believe laws of randomness and more importantly that of murphy, then it is quite possible that elements of luck/chance are introduced into “EVERY” experiment.

    So, as a matter of fact, ALL inventions are infact a product of seasoned thinking and of course chance elements that accompany the investigator/investigated!!!

  11. Christina.E says:

    hi everyone ,
    DISCOVERY-is by chance and if it proves to be a breakthrough useful for mankind then ofcourse-LUCK BY CHANCE.
    INVENTION-is an outcome of perseverance and dedication.
    Serendipity exists but not always.
    When most people think that everything is working normally, an inventor will home in on the absurdity, the utter foolishness of the way everyone seems to accept the world as it is. Others won’t even see what’s wrong-until the inventor stumbles across it. By isolating a problem in a new way, by redefining it, by focusing it does to something more specific than meets the average eye, the inventor constructs a new possibility where none was though to have existed.” Evan I. Schwartz.

    GOOGLE -is what which everyone makes use of day in and day out,especially we,at the innovation plaza can’t do without it ,google is the answer for all our queries.google was no product of chance.for that matter what if Alexander Fleming didn’t make an effort to grow the blue green mold in pure culture???????
    luck by chance is once in a while but a planned work gives u the result almost cent percent.

  12. karishma says:

    ‘Cleanliness next to Goodliness’,is it that discovery cannot happen when this factor is there??.But on the contrary sloppy work and not being systematic can get something novel out of you.Well, let us take Alexander Flemming’s case he discovered pencillin just because of his disorganised work.I dont agree because the growth of pencillin could have happened even by doing systematic work because we dont know what conditions prevailed then of which Mr Alexander Flemming was also not aware which probably encouraged its growth.It could have been possible because of some nutrients which he used for his study that could have possibly reacted to give byproducts wchich supported its growth!!..And not because of he being careless at work.
    What I want to say is that ‘Chance always favours a prepared mind’. A prepared mind is one that does eveything even the planning on minutest scale but some factors which may not have been transparent initially but may just crop up sometime during the itinerary and what do we all say ‘Luck by Chance’.One thing is that all these great scientists have definitely given ‘a chance to something which became their chance eventually’ by being inquisitive and not procrastinating.Just like flemming who went back to the contaminated petriplates to study the mould ,he could have as well thrown it but it was his interest which paved way to this novel discovery.The bottomline is that chance always favours a prepared mind!!!..

  13. Vinita says:

    Your post has blown my mind. In most cases, it’s just chance or luck that leads to discoveries. While I’m aware that Columbus had a different thing in mind when he actually discovered a route to America, it’s surprising to know that Flemmings’ messiness caused the discovery of Penicillin. Interesting!

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