Beyond “Eureka!”

So the story goes, once upon a time Archimedes solved a problem and shouted “Eureka!” condemning researchers ever after to suffer the expectation of doing the same. But this story is really not the best representation of scientific discovery. Flashes of inspiration can contribute to the forward progress but most discoveries result from years or decades of cumulative slog work.

The Eureka! Story is a great story. There’s nudity, a triumphant hero, a greedy villain, and a brilliant catch phrase. Plenty to capture the imagination. But it is so 2000 years ago and people need to stop expecting scientific discoveries to be only the result of one great idea from one person once.

Science is developing at an unprecedented rate thanks to rapid peer-reviewed journal publishing and online access to the whole world of research. It’s an amazing time to be in science.

Teams of people across the globe are working together to solve problems, tiny increment by tiny increment. This involves very different people joining together, overcoming language barriers and cultural differences to reach a common goal. And that’s just across scientific disciplines. There’s no App available yet for converting chemistry jargon to biology jargon.

Science is brilliant story of unlikely heroes banding together for the greater good, almost like highly trained warriors from different armies who suddenly have to unite against a new and monstrous enemy.

This is even better than Archimedes’ Eureka story on so many levels. All we really need to capture people’s imagination now is a bloody good catch phrase.