Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G

Paul Thagard
University of Waterloo
Whereas scientists formulate laws and theories to account for observations, inventors create new technology to accomplish practical goals. Scientific discovery and technological innovation are among the most important accomplishments of the creative human mind. The aim of this paper is to compare how scientists produce discoveries with how inventors produce new technology. After briefly reviewing an account of the recent discovery of the bacterial theory of ulcers, we show that a similar account applies to the discovery that dinosaurs became extinct because of an asteroid collision. Both these discoveries involved a combination of serendipity, questioning and search. We then describe how these three processes also contributed to a very important recent technological innovation, the development of the programming language Java. The paper concludes with a more general assessment of the similarities and differences between cognitive processes involved in discovery and invention
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