Last year, I wrote a piece called The Prince of Paradox and the Light-Beam Rider in which I discussed the power of awe and wonder. One of the two key players in this piece is Albert Einstein, the preeminent scientist who understood that “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
Now comes a wonderful article in Nautilus, Our Most Effective Weapon is Imagination, by Guido Tonelli, particle physicist, professor of general physics at the University of Pisa, and a visiting scientist at CERN. The article’s subtitle is Why science changes everything, and in it Tonelli discusses the connection between imagination and science, and the importance of cultivating imagination and narrative within a group, not just as individuals.
Here are three money quotes from the article, worth mulling over in these challenging times:
“When imagination and narrative are cultivated within a group, they become powerful tools of survival. Whoever listens and imagines the experiences of others acquires in this way real knowledge.”
“Imagination, as developed and encouraged in groups that are socially and culturally more advanced, is the single most effective weapon that we have ever managed to develop.”
“… art, science, and philosophy are … essential disciplines, giving consistency to our being as humans. This unified vision of the world, which originates from our most distant past, is still the most suitable tool to deal with the challenges of the future.”
As Tonelli points out, science has had to change the paradigms of humanity’s way of thinking about things throughout history. It has done this many times, from Anaximander to Heisenberg and Einstein, and continues to do so. It constantly advances, and it changes our way of seeing and describing the world.
As a scientist, I found Tonelli’s article engaging and thought-provoking. As a writer, I understand that imagination-driven narrative among compelling characters is foundational to my work.
If you have the opportunity, check out Tonelli’s article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.