Posted in Science Education

Failure is Your Friend

“Mother Nature is a tough old bird” my undergraduate research advisor Dr Joe Lagowski was fond of saying. The only way to find the limits of nature is to try experiments that fail.

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Sometimes it is the technology that fails. We recently purchased a 3D printer so we can print new measurement devices developed in our lab. As the failures mount and our recycled ABS plastic bin fills we are learning the precision limits of our Makerbot and ABS filament.

Sometimes it’s the people who fail. As we work through the patent process we find that some do not share our passion for the product of our efforts. Motivations vary, but we press on to the goal because to do otherwise would be worse than failure.

But on some rare occasions an actual limit of nature is found. These are the victories in failure. When the technological tools are working well and the people are qualified and alert a verified failure is a great result. To quote Lagowski once more, “No is an answer, too.”

Have you ever had a Successful Failure in science? Comment on it.

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Author:

Dr. Darren L. Williams (pchem4u) is an Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry at Sam Houston State University. When he is not blending solvents, he is tinkering with contact angle measurements, FTIR microspectroscopy, etc. http://www.shsu.edu/~chm_dlw/ . He welcomes your comments and questions by phone (936-294-1529) and by email (williams “at” shsu.edu).

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