Science Cafe July 2017: Catching ideas in science
The monthly Science Cafe was held in the Bilik Serbaguna of Faculty of Medicine on 11th July 2017 (Tuesday) with the title "Catching ideas in science". The talk was given by Prof. Dr. Ng Kwan Hoong from the Department of Biomedical Imaging and the University of Malaya Research Imaging Centre. Prof. Ng gave examples of some creative research ideas and explained how new ideas in science are generated. The sharing session started with the definitions of the word "idea" with quotes coming from the likes of philosophers and scientists such as Linus Pauling and Marvin Misky. Then, Prof. Ng demonstrated how there are 5 steps of producing ideas i.e. 1) gather raw material, 2) process the material, 3) forget the subject, 4) appearance of the idea, 5) test the idea. He also showed that creativity is linked to idea and it is needed in science. Quoting the Nobel laureate physicist, Max Planck, he elaborated that scientists need artistically creative imagination for new ideas. The talk carried on with examples of scientific discoveries that came from serendipity and that have made impacts in the world. These ideas come by accident, by chance and is a sudden inspiration. The role serendipity plays in discoveries in science include the X-ray by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, antibiotic Penicillin by Alexander Fleming, Velcro by George de Mestral and microneedles by researchers in Kansai University, Japan. Prof. Ng further introduced to us the Ig Nobel Price which is held annually by Harvard University. The award ceremony honours achievements in science that first make people laugh but at the same time make people think. In a nutshell, it celebrates unusual findings and researches that are not of the norm. Awardees from the year 2001, 2002 and 2013 - 2016 and their respective research findings were shared. Prof. Ng moved on to say that there are still many big questions of life and science which requires ideas to solve. He showed his current pursuit of trying to understand the cries of babies before concluding that research should be fun. Overall, the sharing session was amusing and eye-opening. The event saw almost a full house. During the question and answer/comment session, Prof. Debra Sim of Department of Pharmacology and Prof Yvonne Lim, Deputy dean of Faculty of Medicine pointed out that researchers are bound by their KPIs, requirement to publish, requirements of grant providers and how grand providers do not look at it the same way, despite agreeing that some fun should be injected into research. Nonetheless, the audience agreed that research and science should be fun and enjoyable and these pursuits can be achieved along the way as we fulfill our responsibilities.