Mystery science

Stuart Feinstein on science and uncertainty:

Questions…go places, take you down new avenues, generate curiosity and inspiration. They are the critical ingredients to new experiments. Of course, answers are important, but too often they are treated as an end. Think about the word “conclusion.” It is an answer drawn from data, but it can denote the end of the process, of the story, of the adventure. It is at once a determination and a termination. We may hear about the conclusive results in this or that study, or the conclusions to be drawn from this work, but the last thing a scientist wants is a conclusion in the sense of, “there ain’t no more to do.” For all the talk about drawing conclusions in scientific studies, there is relatively little in science that is conclusive.

You don’t expect an answer to everything, or you probably shouldn’t. Instead, you’ve got a workable way to live with provisionality. Science and science fiction both have at their hearts something sad and hopeful and warm and wry: stories about people running up against the edges of their answers and trying to live with endless questions.