Curiosity is a common term meaning to have a desire to know more about something. It is an innate character for humans, and is well-expressed in all children. The classical example of childhood curiosity is taking a clock or toy apart to see what is inside and what makes it work. Unfortunately, curiosity tends to decrease or disappear in adults due to the many restrictions on exploring and wondering imposed by education, laws, and society. Curiosity arises naturally without conscious intention; amazingly, it simply happens!
What about scientists? Do they have or need curiosity?
Curiosity is prominent in almost all scientists! When asked why they have so much research interest in whatever they work on, many younger scientists will answer, “I just am curious about that!” Their older counterparts might give various different answers, but often will designate curiosity as what drove them when they were much younger. Many faculty scientists I know, whether they conduct research on chemistry, physics, or bioscience, were fascinated by various forms of life in nature when they were children (e.g., birds, chipmunks, insects, snakes, tadpoles, etc.).
Scientific research is not so easy, since it always is risky, expensive, and takes lots of time to complete. Hence, curiosity as a motivation for doing research must be quite strong in scientists. For most individual scientists, curiosity is always expanding and changing, since answering one research question generates other related questions. Scientists must learn to focus their extensive curiosity, or else they would never get anything done!
Is curiosity alone enough to make a scientist become successful and renowned? No, because much more is needed in addition to an ongoing curiosity. Scientists also must have good abilities for business and finance, communication, creativity, dedication, determination, hard work and sweat, imagination, patience, resistance to distractions, technical skills, understanding at levels of both trees and forests, writing, etc. Nevertheless, curiosity in scientists also must always be there!
Can curiosity be taught? Can curiosity be bought?
I believe that curiosity is not able to be taught because it is an inborn attribute. However, it can be increased by encouragement and intention. Thus, children usually have oodles of natural curiosity, and will happily share that with parents, teachers, and other children. Even for adults who left their curiosity far behind after starting to work, curiosity can be re-awakened and encouraged. Curiosity often is associated with exploration, fascination, imagination, personal interests. and wondering; it usually is a strong part of daydreaming.
Some adults are so busy with their job, family, sports, social activities, church, etc., that they feel they have no time for curiosity or exploring (i.e., “I did that when I was little, but not now!”, and “I just don’t have time for that!”). Sometimes even professional scientists will become so short of time that their research becomes mechanical and routine. In such cases, scientists can buy curiosity in the form of having students, collaborators and visitors, postdocs, research technicians, etc., in their lab; with any sort of luck, the questions, ridiculous proposals, and new ideas based on the curiosity of those workers will stimulate and help the overly busy scientist.
What does curiosity lead to? What good is curiosity?
Curiosity typically leads to such personal actions as closer examination, reading, asking questions, wondering “what if?”, seeking more detailed knowledge, and developing a wider understanding. These explorations all are wonderful ways to use our large cranial computer to find out and know more about something. But, sometimes curiosity can be problematic (e.g., persons are labelled as troublemakers because they always are asking too many questions) or even dangerous (e.g., a child innocently investigates what an electrical socket is).
For children, curiosity directly leads to increased understanding of the world around them. For adults in the public, curiosity will make their life much more interesting and stimulate development of their mental capabilities. For scientists, curiosity furthers fascination with their research subject(s), and, helps create new ideas and new research questions. For everyone, curiosity creates wonderment, and can be much fun! Thus, curiosity is quite good and useful for all people!
Curiosity is a large part of most scientist’s specific approaches to whatever they are researching. Just as curiosity helps children to know and wonder about the big world, and aids adults to develop more interesting personal lives, so also is it invaluable to scientists in their search for new knowledge and the truth.
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