Scientific Perspective applied to Programming

Posted November 29, 2021 by  ‐ 3 min read

Sharing inspiration I found after listening to Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Scientific Inquiry

In the book, Project Hail Mary, I was inspired by Grace’s ability to figure out where he was when he wakes up by using science. Additionally, he was able to solve complex problems he encountered by using science and math. Science is so elegant. By using the mundane: observations and questions, Grace was able to tackle problems throughout the book. It was the process of asking questions and trying to answer them which led to insights.

For example, Grace needed to figure out how much a ball given to him weighed in Zero-G. His first apporach was to use a centrifuge (ball, water, string, spin.) He was then able to measure the volume of the water to get the approximate weight. Grace later realizes the ball is composed of iron. He is able to calculate the volume of the ball using calipers to get the circumference along with a volume formula. Using the mass of iron listed on the periodic table he was able to arrive at the total mass. I think that’s really cool.

From this, I rediscovered the wonder in solving complex problems by simple observation and asking questions. It’s a patient process of following leads. It’s rewarding too. You are rewarded each time you solve a problem. Solving the problem is it’s own reward. It feels good to solve problems. A deep sense of accomplishment each time you struggle with a puzzle to eventually render it solved.

Grace didn’t ignore the things he noticed. He instead asked questions until he uncovered some obscure truth. That’s what I find so compelling, it’s the simple process of looking and asking.

Inspiration for Programmers

When I think about programming, the skill of problem solving (science) is used throughout each day of work. It’s a scientific perspective which provides the sense of wonder. The small mudane things we do each day are the foundations of scientific inquiry. We do science when we notice. We do science when we ask questions. We do science when we solve our questions and get our answers. Discoveries leading to further discovery. The idea of slowing down to take notice and observe. To treat each assignment like a science problem to be solved. All of life becomes a puzzle waiting for a willing eye. It’s a fun game that doesn’t end. The questions continue and wonder abounds.

If you make the goal of your tasks, not just the accomplishment of the task but also that of solving problems you won’t be bored but rather inpired and rewarded.