Why is Curiosity Important for Great Science?

Girl thinking in front of chalkboard.As scientists, we wonder all the time. That curiosity and drive to push new bounds is what keeps us excited about our work and inquisitive about the world around us. Often, in science, the real answer is usually far from obvious. Innovation and invention is often done when we look deep below the surface and ask ourselves “why did this happen?” or “why isn’t this the result I expected?”

Curiosity is one of the greatest strengths we possess. All the best scientists in the world share this curiosity for the world around them. Never accepting what seems obvious, we can always look deeper and more thoroughly at a problem.

That curiosity allows us opportunities that we wouldn’t have if we just accepted the results and never asked “why?”. When we look at the reasons behind a process and think about the ways in which we could apply this elsewhere, we begin the process of discovery and invention. That’s exactly how many of the major historical discoveries in science came about.

One of the coolest examples of this is in the creation of penicillin. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and shortly after demonstrated its effects as an antibiotic. The issue was, it needed to be mass-produced in order to be a viable pharmaceutical product. Through the earnest curiosity of scientists, it was eventually discovered that the best strain of penicillin for production was on a moldy cantaloupe in Peoria Market in 1943.

If it wasn’t for a worldwide search and many inquisitive scientists, that discovery may have never been made. Because of this curiosity, countless lives have been saved by penicillin and the antibiotics that have since followed.

Even in your everyday life, curiosity is a powerful tool for everyday learning and opportunity. Take the folks behind Park & Diamond, for example. They took something we come into contact every day, bike helmets, and asked themselves: “can we make it foldable and therefore more accessible?” That led them to create a foldable helmet, a truly innovative product that can save lives– due in part to asking questions and seeking a better way.

Our very own Alan Sentman said “Science as a field is entirely based on curiosity.  Science at its basic core is a framework of processes to observe ‘everything’ with a goal of understanding how it works.” We think that sums it up pretty well. Any experiment or measurement that does not go as planned is not a failure; that experiment is an opportunity to learn why it turned out the way it did.

Here at Polymer Solutions, innovation comes when we are at our most curious. Without curiosity, we might be tempted to just accept things on a surface level and never dig deeper. But that doesn’t drive great science.

When has curiosity paid off in your world?