Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On Science and Scientists: Do we really need scientists in the Philippines?

Kim Gargar
Kim Gargar (from Linked in)
Question: Do we really need scientists? (Boo Chanco, Demand and Supply, Philippine Star, 8 Sep 2008)
The following day however, someone posted an article in our Plaridel e-group written by a UP trained Physicist. The main point as I understand it: anyone who follows Angara’s advice dooms himself to a life of poverty and frustration. Our country and our kind of economic development, it seems, has no use for trained scientists now and in the immediate future. I quickly retrieved Angara’s press release from the trash bin if only to compare what the senator is saying against the reality this scientist is painting. Kim Gargar is the scientist who wrote the article. Gargar has a Master of Science in Physics from UP Diliman and now teaches at the Mapua Institute of Technology. On this particular issue, I would give more importance to what Gargar wrote than what the eminent senator said in his speech. There is a serious mismatch, Gargar writes, “as students they went through several years of hard study in high-level science but end up working to do activities that do not require their advanced skills. Gargar cites examples.


This is an old article by Boo Chanco, but has resurfaced in Facebook these past few days.  To answer this question, we need first to agree on what science is and what being a scientist is.  And only after we do these that we propose to answer the question "Do we really need scientists?"

Pierre Duhem: Philosophy and History in the Work of a Believing Physicist
Pierre Duhem: Philosophy and History in the Work of a Believing Physicist

I remember this question being asked of us when we were still freshmen in St. Joseph's High School (now St. Joseph School-La Salle in Bacolod City). If I remember right, to answer this question, our teacher asked us to determine the root word of "science" in order to know what science really is.  We can adopt the same approach in this article by going back to the etymological roots of science:
Science (n.) mid-14c., "what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;" also "assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty," from Old French science "knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge" (12c.), from Latin scientia "knowledge, a knowing; expertness," from sciens (genitive scientis) "intelligent, skilled," present participle of scire "to know," probably originally "to separate one thing from another, to distinguish," related to scindere "to cut, divide," from PIE root *skei- "to cut, to split" (cf. Greek skhizein "to split, rend, cleave," Gothic skaidan, Old English sceadan "to divide, separate;" see shed (v.)).
So we propose the following definition: Science is knowledge obtained by separating or distinguishing one thing from another.

Jewel in the Palace / Dae Jang Geum (Complete Series, All Zone, Good English Sub, Korean Drama)
There are many ways to distinguish one object from another by using our five senses: color, smell, sound, taste, and texture/warmth. Two ducks may have the same shape, but they can differ in color.  Two ducks may look alike, but they can differ in sound. And two dressed ducks may look identical in their naked glory, but they can still differ on other things, for one duck may have eaten the poisonous mushroom and the other duck has not, as what happened in one episode of GMA 7's Jewel in the Palace.  But ducks can also change in time, yet still remain the same duck.  And ducks can also look the same, though they belong in different times.  And this also holds for all things that grows or changes.  As Cat Stevens wrote in song, Morning Has Broken:
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird...
Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass...
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day. 
(24x36) Michelangelo (Creation of Adam) Art Poster Print
(24x36) Michelangelo (Creation of Adam) Art Poster Print
Indeed, if science is the knowledge obtained by distinguishing one thing from another, then the first scientist is God the Creator Himself, except that His knowledge is perfect for what God conceives in his mind as a word is brought forth into existence.  For it is God who separated darkness from night, and gave the names "day" and "night". He separated the "sky" from the "sea" and the "earth". God made other things, always distinguishing one thing from another--the birds, the fishes, the animals that crawl on earth, the seed-bearing and non-seed-bearing trees, the man and the woman.  But in these other things, God gave to the first man, Adam, the privilege to be co-creator by giving man the power to name, as God named the day, night, sky, sea, and earth:
So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name....The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man,23 the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” (Gen 2:19-23)
The act of naming a thing is to set it apart from the rest, and so language is born.  Language is the first attempt at a science of the world in order to make sense of the world. Grammar is the science of the language for it distinguishes words from one another: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, articles.  And then Grammar defines how these words relate to each other by distinguishing between types of clauses, inflections, and so on.  For example, the French sees the world into male, female, and neuters; while the English does not have to think of sexes unless they have to. The Latins think of words like clay--deforming and twisting them in several inflections to define tense, subject, and possession; while the Chinese thinks of words as Lego building blocks that builds on top of each other, with the order of words defining the meaning of the clauses.

A tree in the woods
Fangorn Canvas Print / Canvas Art - Artist William Fields
The act of naming is the cornerstone of science.  A name is a word that stands for a thing, whether physical or metaphysical.  And for Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings, a short name for a thing is very Elvish: "lighthearted, quickworded, and soon over" (Treebeard, The Two Towers,  p. 478).  For Treebeard, a name must be long for a reason:
'Hm, but you are hasty folk, I see," said Treebeard.  'I am honoured by your confidence; but you should not be too free all at once.  There are Ents and Ents, you know; or there are Ents and things that look like Ents but ain't, as you might say.  I'll call you Merry and Pippin, if you please--nice names.  For I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate.' A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. 'For one thing it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I've lived a very long, long time; so my nameis like a story.  Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say.  It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to. (Treebeard, Lord of the Rings, p. 478)
Linnaeus with his books in the background
Linnaeus: The Compleat Naturalist
 If we want to get a glimpse of the Entish tongue, we look at the scientific naming convention devised by Carolus Linnaeus.  In the Linnaean system, animals are grouped according to a nested hierarchy of kingdoms, class, order, genus, species. In the modern system of classification, family is inserted between order and genus and phylum is inserted between kingdom and class. Thus, the full long name of man in Entish would sound like "Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primate Hominidae Homo Sapiens." As Linnaeus often said, "God created, Linnaeus arranged."

As our knowledge of the world increases, the symbols and words that we use to describe it also take in a multitude of forms, but always using a finite set of characters.  The English Alphabet has 26 letters.  The ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange) has 128. And the Chinese and Japanese has more than 4,000 characters. In Physics, the symbolic language used to describe the world is mathematics: the Hindu-Arabic numerals, the fundamental operations of arithmetic, the variables of algebra, the integrals and derivatives of Calculus.

Physics can only describe things that can be quantified, such as things in the physical world.  But man is an embodied spirit, and the world that he lives in is not only physical but also metaphysical.  There are worlds and worlds embedded in our world.  There's the world of politics; that is why there is Political science.  There is the world of the military; that is why there is Military Science.  There's the world of being and non-being; that is why there is Philosophy.  All of these disciplines are sciences in their own right.  And so is theology, the science that concerns God and His creatures.  As St. Aquinas said in his Summa Theologiae:
St. Thomas Aquinas with black cap and grey habit
Selected Philosophical Writings (Oxford World's Classics)

Sacred doctrine is a science. We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed. Hence, just as the musician accepts on authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God. (Summa Theologiae, part 1, question 1, article 2).
It is the hubris of modern-day physicists to think that everything can be explained by physics for even all the great equations of physics such as Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Schrodinger's Quantum Mechanics fail to provide answers to the simplest questions: What is love? What is freedom? What is justice? What is goodness?  What is evil? Who is God? Who am I?  Why am I in the world?  While it is true that to discuss these things, one needs to use the concepts of physics as St. Aquinas have done in his Summa Theologiae; nevertheless, the physical concepts remain as metaphors to describe the ineffable mystery of what is.


Hamlet before a crowd of spectators
William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Science attempts to describe the world by distinguishing one thing from another. Art, on the other hand, attempts to blur the separation of things in order to provide a glimpse of primordial formlessness before the Creation began, and in doing so, provide a room for the recreation of reality.  That is why artists always refer to their craft as their creations.

For example, a scientist may describe man by his scientific name: homo sapiens.  Or he may describe man's anatomy and physiology--always by distinguishing one part from another.  But a poet like Shakespeare would describe man in an entirely different way.  As Hamlet exclaimed:
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
Quintessence and Q
Quintessence The Search For Missing Mass In The Universe
In this description of man, two worlds became intertwined: the physical world (man and animals) and the spiritual world (angels and gods).  And Shakespeare puts on another layer to his words by making an allusion to the creation of Man in Genesis--the creation from the dust of the earth into the image and likeness of God, the apex of creation, and for whom the entire universe was made. The word "delight" conveys the emotion Adam felt when he first saw Eve. But Hamlet does not anymore delight in the woman that he used to love. And so the whole order of creation was undone, and man considers himself just a mere quintessential dust.  And we can write on and on as we reflect on this passage.  For this is the essence of poetry: it tries to capture the inexhaustible richness of reality by gathering the bits and pieces of the broken man into living and breathing soul.

Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels: St. John (Volume 4)
God is the first Artist.  His work is entirely original because all things never existed before they were made.  As a scientist, He utters the Word that names things in His thought; as an artist, that things became real--the sky, the earth, the sea.  The Word or the Logos is the ordering principle of the whole universe, and in the fullness of time, our Catholic Faith teaches us that this Word took flesh in the person of Jesus Christ:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be....He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.11 He came to what was his own, but his own people 7 did not accept him...And the Word became flesh 9 and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1: 1-14)
Artists normally gazes at the world to find inspiration; God, on the other hand, gazed at His infinite simplicity and created the world to reflect his infinite goodness.  For each act of Creation, "God saw that it was good."  So if you are going to try to capture the goodness and love of God, you should first try to hold the whole universe in the palm of your hands, and hold it like a helpless baby.

Adam and Eve with the Serpent
Paradise Lost
Just as God gave man the dignity of a co-scientist by giving him the power to name all things big and small (but not creating them into existence), God also gave man the dignity of a co-artist by giving him labor.  Adam labored to recreate the Paradise Lost in a barren earth by tilling the soil and planting trees for food.  Eve, on the other hand, labored to bring forth a new human being to existence:
To the woman he said: I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain* you shall bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. 17 To the man he said: Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, You shall not eat from it, cursed is the ground* because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life.h18 Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen 3:16-19)
Some people we call scientists are actually artists and some we call artists are actually scientists.

Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science by Pierre Duhem
Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science
Physics. The persons who study Physics are called Physicists.  The physicists who are scientists can solve any textbook problem by using all the known laws of physics.  The physicists who are artists, on the other hand, can conceive of a problem that is not similar to anything in the textbooks.  Physicists who invent new theories should therefore be classified as artists: Newton, Maxwell, Schrodinger, and Einstein.

Engineering.  Engineers can solve many textbook problems in physics.  In this sense they are scientists.  But when a client comes and tells him a problem, an engineer uses all the physics that he has learned to design a solution to the problem that satisfies all constraints, such as materials, manpower, equipment, and time.  In this sense, the engineer becomes an artist.  That is why we call Steve Jobs, the maker of Apple products, an artist.

Mozart in red coat behind red curtain
Mozart: A Life
Poetry.  Literary critics can dissect a poem by describing the stanzas, meters, rhyming scheme, alliterations, metaphors, allusions, imagery, etc.  In this sense, a literary critic is a scientist.  But most critics cannot write really good poetry according to the standards that they have set for others.  Writing a poem is a work of art.  A poet knows all the rules of grammar and all techniques of poetry, but to craft a poem subject to the most severe limitations such as the sonnet is the work of a true artist, and William Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets:
A Shakespearean, or English, sonnet consists of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter, a pattern in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable five times. The rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet. (Wikipedia)
In this sense, we refer to Shakespeare as an artist.

Music.  Mozart, for example, can read musical scores.  He can also memorize and transcribe an entire piece, as when he heard Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere" in the Sistine Chapel when he was only 14 years old.  In these two cases, Mozart is a scientist, for even a computer can be taught how to play musical scores and transcribe musical pieces when heard.  But Mozart can also improvise on the spot and write entirely new compositions for the opera, for example.  In this sense, Mozart is an artist.


A Jesuit observatory
Searching the Heavens and the Earth: The History of Jesuit Observatories (Astrophysics and Space Science Library)
Let us revisit the statements by Kim Gargar in which he science students were underemployed:
A graduate of BS Biology working as bank teller; a BS Chemistry graduate teaching P.E.; a physicist fresh from college selling toothpaste and other products of a multi-level marketing company; a mechanical engineer assembling electric fans in a Laguna factory; an electronics engineer soldering TV circuits for a Japanese TV company; a cum laude chemical engineering graduate titrating (a simple laboratory method of quantitative/chemical analysis often used to determine the unknown concentration of a known reactant) every day in a quality control laboratory for a food manufacturing factory.”
Based on the examples Kim Gargar gave, we can assume that when he says science, he refers to physical, biological, and engineering sciences, for this is also most likely what Senator Angara has in mind when he refers to Science and Technology.  But we have seen earlier that being a scientist is much more broader than what we thought of, and that a scientist can, in fact, be an artist.  So let us consider each case Gargar gave, and see how we can create a garden in this barren earth.

1. A graduate of BS Biology working as bank teller

Built to Last by Collins and Porras
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harper Business Essentials)
A biologist working in a bank may appear underemployed.  But a biologist can be an artist by applying his taxonomic skills to understand an alien species called the "banking corporation". A corpse is a body and so is a corporation.  That is why the Securities and Exchange Commission classifies a corporation as a person, similar to homo sapiens but not so. So a biologist can get the organizational chart of his corporation, identify the different systems that make this corporation live and breathe.  What corresponds to the brain?  This may be the board of directors and the CEO.  What is the lifeblood of the company? This may be cash.  What is the face?  This may be the logo. And so on, until he journeys to an out-of-body experience in seeing himself as part of the larger corporation, in the same way as St. Paul sees Christians as part of the Body of Christ:
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22 Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, 23 and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, 24 whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.26 If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. (1 Cor 12:20-26)
Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
Just like living organisms, corporations also experienced birth, growth, decay, and death. In their classic book, Built to Last, Porras and Collins showed that one of the characteristics that visionary companies possess is the ability to evolve, by using the Darwinian Law of Natural Selection applied to ideas: try out several ideas, keep what works, discard the rest, and make incremental changes. But how about for companies that are not born with a great DNA--those with clock builder leaders, big hairy audacious goals, cult-like cultures, natural selection of ideas, home-grown talent, etc.? Jim Collins has another book, Good to Great, which details how good companies can become great by having Level 5 leaders who seek to build the company rather than their egos, who hire the best talent and decide where to go, and who knows their three hedgehog circles: what area the company can be the best in the world, what drives the company's economic engine, what the company is passionate about.  There are still many ideas in that excellent which is a fruit of a careful taxonomic analysis of good corporations and their competitors who are slowly going extinct.  So who says that biologists can work in banks?

2. BS Chemistry graduate teaching Physical Education
A man running beside the sea
Nutrition for Sport and Exercise

A BS Chemistry teaching sports can appear underemployed.  But he can be creative and use all his expertise in chemistry as a framework for team management.  A coach must know each of his players: their strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and many other things that we simply lump under the word "stats".  In order to create a molecule, the excess electrons of one atom is used to compensate for the loss of electrons in one atom, in order to form a strong bond. And a so it is true in sports, such as basketball.  A center may be tall, but he is slow.  He needs a point guard to assist him who is shorter and faster.  But there are many kinds of centers, point guards, and power forwards. How to combine them into one team that can destroy opponents morale like acid or render defenses porous or clamp down on the catalyst play-makers is an art that a chemist working in sports can enjoy.

chemical bonds
Mass Spectrometry in Sports Drug Testing: Characterization of Prohibited Substances and Doping Control Analytical Assays (Wiley Series on Mass Spectrometry)
And if the chemist really wishes to be 'scientific' while working as a sports instructor, there are still other options available.  Can one verify the claims of Gatorade that they quench thirst faster than water?  How fast does the lactic acid form in a muscle?  Can one determine using chemical tests whether your player uses steroids or cocaine? Or do  players have special concoctions to mask their body chemistry and make them come out clean?  A chemist working as sports instructor is in the most enviable position as a scientist as long as he gains the trust of his players: he will always have a steady supply of test subjects that would willingly test out his ideas for free.

3. A physicist fresh from college selling toothpaste and other products of a multi-level marketing company

A physicist selling toothpaste can appear underemployed.  But he can be creative and model a multi-level market as a complex system.  He can then find out what is the optimal condition to raise profits while remaining profitable in the long run.  To do this, he would need all the data that he can get. Even if the marketing endeavor dies out, he still possess all the data to make a postmortem study of why the enterprise failed, the results of which he can share to others by writing a journal article or a full-length book.

Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso
Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy
If a physicist can write introductions to scientific papers, then he is already in the marketing business, except that what he is selling is not toothpaste but an idea.  But, ultimately, it is not the toothpaste that one sells but an idea related to the toothpaste, e.g. the fresh breath that gives you the confidence to kiss the girl that you like. Copy writing is a million dollar business and the best copy writers earn huge chunks of money.  The good thing about the web is that you can test your web copy if it convinces the readers to click your product and buy it once, twice, again, and again.  If a physicist reads Maria Veloso's book, "Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy," he would immediately notice that one of the formulas is not to make a standard advertising you see in TV but an essay patterned after an introduction to a scientific paper:
Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

  • What is the problem?--This is the statement of the problem.
  • Why hasn't the problem been solved?--This requires a review of the historical background and related literature in order to establish an unsolved problem. Advertisers usually describe this process by saying something French: "Cherchez le Creneau" or search for the hole that your product or idea can fill.
  • What is possible?--The need is created by providing a vision of the future where the problem does not exist.
  • What is different now?--How does your proposed solution differ or better than the previous ones?  This requires a comparison and contrast of all the competing ideas with your idea in order to establish your niche, or as what Al Ries and Jack Trout calls as position in the customer's mind.  You may check out their marketing book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.  
  • What you should do now?--This is the call to action to read the rest of the manuscript by providing a summary or outline of the whole paper. In the case of a product, the call to action would be to buy the product, type in your email address, or download a white paper in pdf (See Maria Veloso, Web Copy That Sells, pp. 25-27)
Crazy Egg's heat map of a web page
Crazy Egg's  heat map of a web page
There is an app called Crazy Egg that applies physics to web design, by translating mouse clicks into heat maps: the more a visitor clicks on a particular part of a web page, the hotter that area would appear.  The heat map of a web page would then show which parts of the web page leads to sales, and which ones are useless though they look pretty.  Crazy Egg is an excellent tool for web marketing analysts.  I first learned about it from ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse.  Crazy Egg is not free, though.  But I wish to try it when I have money to sustain this blogging enterprise, for I am also a scientist (theoretical physicist) who happens to be keenly interested in the physics of marketing.  So  who says scientists can't sell stuff?

4. A mechanical engineer assembling electric fans in a Laguna factory

USB Electric Fan, Black
O2 COOL 5" Portable USB or Electric Fan, Black

At least, this is still something mechanical.  A good engineer must start from the bottom of the company and work his way upwards, for companies normally kick out the lowest performing 30% of the work force after a year, so that those who become promoted to managerial positions are really the best of the best.  If an engineer can't be trusted in assembling an electric fan, how can he be trusted in assembling a functional team to attack the most difficult projects? As Christ told in his parable:

But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.16 The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ 17 He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’g 18 Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ 19 And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ 20 Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’22 He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; 23 why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ (Lk 19:15-23)
The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker
The Practice of Management

Assembling electric fans may be a routine job.  But an engineer can put more value to his work by designing a system that would allow him and others assemble electric fans faster and at a lower cost.  This is an optimization problem in Operations Research that graduates of Management Engineers of Ateneo de Manila University are paid handsome salaries to solve.  But Peter Drucker, the Father of Management, would say that Operations Research is not really about "operations" or "research":
The new tools have been introduced under the rather confusing name of "Operations Research."  They are neither "operations" nor "research".  They are the tools of systematic, logical and mathematical analysis and synthesis.  Actually it is not even correct to say that the tools are new; they differ very little from the tools used by the medieval symbolical logician, such as St. Bonaventure.  The only new things are a few mathematical and logical techniques. (Peter F. Drucker, The Practice of Management, p. 366)
Toyota Way 14 Management Principles by Jeffrey Liker
The Toyota Way : 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer

There are many ways to solve optimization problems, but the guys at Toyota have elevated problem solving into an art form using their 14 Toyota Way Principles (Jeffery K. Liker, The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer, 2011, pp. 37-41):
  1. Base your Management decisions on long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals
  2. Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface
  3. Use "pull" systems to avoid overproduction
  4. Level out the workload (heijunka). (Work like the tortoise, not the hare.)
  5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time
  6. Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment
  7. Use visual control so no problems are hidden
  8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes
  9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others
  10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company's philosophy
  11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve
  12. Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu)
  13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly
  14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen)
5. An electronics engineer soldering TV circuits for a Japanese TV company

Labview for Everyone
LabVIEW for Everyone: Graphical Programming Made Easy and Fun (3rd Edition)

We can use the same comment in item (4) here.  In his day job, an electronics engineer can solder circuits. At night, after his work, or during the weekends, he can study the electronic circuit layout of the TV that he is making, and learn why the resistors, transistors, and integrated circuits were designed to connect to each in a particular way.  He can model the whole circuit in a software such as Labview and understand the expected output signals given the input signals.  He can play around with the virtual circuit by increasing the input voltages and see if some elements exceed their power rating and burn out.  Once he has mastered all the details of the design of the particular TV, he can then find ways to improve it by replacing one whole set of circuits into a single IC chip, for example.  He can then volunteer to be assigned in another boring job of soldering the circuits of another TV set and repeat the same learning process. And after some time, he would know all the TVs that the company makes to their tiniest circuit elements.  Then he can either ask to be promoted to participate in the design team or make his own company.

6. A cum laude chemical engineering graduate titrating (a simple laboratory method of quantitative/chemical analysis often used to determine the unknown concentration of a known reactant) every day in a quality control laboratory for a food manufacturing factory. 

Biodiesel Titration Kit with Potassium Hydroxide Catalyst
Biodiesel Titration Kit with Potassium Hydroxide Catalyst

We can use the same comment for items (4) and (5) here.  The chemical engineer should not dwell too much on being a cum laude doing menial jobs, for even the Son of God stripped himself of his dignity and became a carpenter's son. There is always dignity in labor. A "cum laude" that you receive during graduation can land you your first job, but it is your skills and track record of accomplishments after college that will be the basis of your rehiring or promotion.  

A simple process such as titrating can be exciting and inspiring if you know the reason why you are doing the titrating in the first place.  Here's a Parable of the Three Stonecutters by Peter F. Drucker (the Practice of Management, p. 122):

Man using a compass to draw circles
The Cathedral Builders (Harper colophon books)

A favorite story at management meetings is that of the three stonecutters who were asked what they were doing.  The first replied: "I am making a living." The second kept on hammering while he said: "I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country." The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said: "I am building a cathedral." 
If a chemical engineer titrates because he simply needs to earn a living and no other job is available, then he would become miserable in his job.  But if he titrates because he knows of other reason, such as to verify the claims of company regarding the vitamin content of its product or to measure the pollution levels in a river due to open pit mining, then titration ceases to be just a mere titration, but becomes a part of movement greater than himself for the good of humanity.  And as St. Therese of Lisieux says, the simplest and most boring job can be path to sanctity.

Irrigated farms and fresh fruits in Israel
OECD Review of Agricultural Policies OECD Review of Agricultural Policies: Israel 2010

So, does Philippines need scientists?  Yes, we need scientists: people who can break down things and analyze their various components, giving each component and their relationships a name.  These include not only biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers, but also grammar teachers, film critics, canon lawyers and all those courses that you can earn a doctorate of philosophy.  But we also need scientists who are artists---scientists who can also offer something really new--a new invention, a new process, a new theory, a new synthesis--even though the job opportunities may not be ideal.  For it is in the most difficult constraints that Art is born, and we marvel upon the sight, as travelers walking for days in a dreary, lifeless desert, and then suddenly finding ourselves gazing at a patch of green earth where a hundred flowers bloom:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
(Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
If you think that the desert is an impossible place to grow crops, then you better read about the economic miracle when Israeli scientists grappled with the problem of lack of water and found the most daring technological solutions that made Israel an exporter of crops, fruits, and flowers in a once arid land.  If Israel can do it, the Philippines can do it, too.

Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle

We need scientists who not only can answer questions, but can also pose the right questions that would lead to the truth.  The aim of a scientist is to proclaim the truth, for even the most ardent agnostic or atheist scientists would claim the same words said by Christ:
For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (Jn 18:37-38)
Once scientists abandon the search for truth and fabricates results to buttress their conception of truth to gain money or fame, then their work ceases to be science, and they lose their scientific integrity.  This is what happened to the South Korean Hwang Woo-suk who fooled a high-profile research journal by faking his experiments to prove the possibility of human cloning.

Michelangelo (GO)
Michelangelo (GO)
We need scientists who can invest an emotional labor into their work and turn it into a work of art befitting admiration, in the same way as God delighted in His Creation, seeing each of them as good:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
2. Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
Art, the fruit of man's labor, cannot be done solely by man to earn his daily bread.  For through Art, man becomes a priest of Creation, uniting the material and spiritual worlds, offering the fruits of the earth and work of his hands for the honor and greater glory of his Creator.

Athanasius Kircher
Athanasius Kircher's Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge
There is one man who is a scientist, an artist, and a priest. His name is Fr. Athanasius Kircher, SJ.  Very few remembers him now.  But despite the distance and time that separates us from him, he remains visible as the bright stars in the heavens showing us the way on what science should be.  May we in the Philippines have more scientists like him:
Jesuit, linguist, archaeologist, and exceptional scholar, Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) was the last true Renaissance man. To Kircher the entire world was a glorious manifestation of God whose exploration was both a scientific quest and a religious experience. His works on Egyptology (he is credited with being the first Egyptologist), music, optics, magnetism, geology, and comparative religion were the definitive texts of their time--and yet they represent only a part of his vast range of knowledge. A Christian Hermeticist in the mold of Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, his work also examined alchemy, the Kabbalah, and the Egyptian mystery tradition exemplified by Hermes Trismegistus. 
The Hermetic cast of Kircher’s thought, which was foreign to the concerns of those propelling the Age of Reason, coupled with the breadth of his interests, caused many of his contributions to be widely overlooked--an oversight now masterfully rectified by Joscelyn Godwin. It has been said that Kircher could think only in images. While this is an exaggeration, the stunning engravings that are a distinguishing feature of his work are included here so we may fully appreciate and see for ourselves the life work, philosophy, and achievements of “the last man who knew everything.” (Joscelyn Goodwin, Athanasius Kircher's Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge

Word Count: 7147

The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory by Pierre Duhem
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory (Princeton Science Library)
Medieval Cosmology by Pierre Duhem
Medieval Cosmology: Theories of Infinity, Place, Time, Void, and the Plurality of Worlds
Commentary on the Principles of Thermodynamics by Pierre Duhem (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science)
Isaac Newton
History of Physics before Einstein

1 comment:

Fill in the word verification to prove you are human and write your comment. Your comment will appear immediately after you publish them. I shall review comments and delete spam within 24 hours.