Going so wrong that it has to be right August 11, 2011
Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research.
Tags: engineering, engineering research, mistakes, research
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it) but ‘That’s funny…’ – Isaac Asimov
I’d have to say that one of the most interesting things that’s happened to me at work was a simulation I ran recently. I got this jaw-dropping awesome result. Then I went back to look at my device I’d modeled and discovered I’d modeled it incorrectly.
I was very disappointed because I was really hoping this idea would work, but it didn’t. When I made the corrections, things had still improved, but not nearly as much as when I’d done things wrong.
A week or so later, however, we got the idea of, “What if we could make this device?” And it turns out that we probably can, only using a very non-standard method.
I have to admit that I like to have my work planned out so that I can approach it in a methodical pattern. I like to do this so that I can make sure my results are very consistent, and it’s easier to tease out problems when things don’t look right. (I learned that the hard way.)
This is the first time in my experience, however, where a mistake ended up being a good thing. I wouldn’t mind having more experiences like that.
So have you ever made a mistake only to discover that it wasn’t?