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In any field of inquiry, the beginner is more likely than the expert to make important contributions



Largely, I think this contention is problematic. On the one hand, in science history, much more important breakthroughs were achieved by the experts who had been in their fields for a longer time than those by beginners. On the other hand, in reality, the young beginners are obviously disadvantageous in that they lack professional knowledge and experience and equal opportunity as the experts get. However, the advantages of the youth can not be ignored, especially their active and relative free thinking style, courage to challenge the authorities, strong willing to bring up with new ideas, and the energetic devotion to scientific research. In retrospect, I contend there should be some reform in our education system and the youth should be guided to the frontier research by the masters and experts as early as possible to combine the advantages of both the beginners and the experts.



In history, much more important breakthroughs were achieved by the experts who had been in their fields for a long time than those by beginners. The structure of the winners of Nobel Prize is a strong support. As an authoritative study shows, the average age of the whole winners when they made the achievements that led them to the top award is 58 years, with the lowest 54 years in physics and the highest 63 in economy. We could see from the data that once a beginner wants to make great breakthrough, he has to be buried in the researches and experiments for more than 30 years. Moreover, anecdotes of each winner tell us there is a long way for the young beginners to go: Madame Curie spent more than 7 years to get the two radioactive elements Polonium and radium, and when she started this research, she was already a world famous professor in field of chemistry. Also, physicist JianXiong Wu started her experiment of proving her conjecture after she was selected as the excellent life-long professor in UC.Berkeley, and it cost her more than 4 years.



Beginners, who are usually the young students or researchers, have the intrinsic energy that the old experts will never regain: they have relative free thinking style without too much restrain from the existed ideologies, and they are courageous to challenge the authorities, have strong willing to bring up with new ideas, and could be wholeheartedly devoted to scientific research. These are valuable potentials and are quite necessary for making breakthrough in science realms.



However, many realistic factors make our young beginners unprepared and unqualified for making essential contribution in most field. On the one hand, they are lack of expertise and practical experience for they have never carried out the related research in the new field. Creative work is often based on the achievement of the predecessors and even master Newton ever admitted that “If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants”. Thus a beginner who study control algorithm has to absorb existed algorithms of the former experts, but not sit still and wait for his own, a potential great physicist have to read the original papers of the initiator of a related theory.

More importantly, in my view there are some holes in our education system in that the young beginners are not offered as many opportunities as we desire. In most universities, students who have good ideas find it difficult and impossible to communicate with experts in this field. Their ideas will be wasted once no one is available to guide them to turn the ideas into academic results. Thus, I call for a reform to solve this problem and beginners and students deserve to be guide to join in the frontier researches. Take the example of the youngest noble prize winner Lawrence Bragg (LB) for example. Bragg shared the noble Prize with his father, another famous physicist, for the success of analysis of crystal structure by means of X-ray. Yet, when asked about what is the most important attribute to his success in physics, he said it is his father’s guidance. Thus we could predict that when guided by the expert in the same field, the beginner tend to proceed faster than usual and could make significant contribution at a relative young age.



In short, this contention is largely problematic by exaggerating the contribution of the beginners to the scientific development. As analyzed, they do have the advantages but not made the best use by our education system. To solve this problem, schools should perform reforms to include more young beginners in the frontier research and get guided by the experienced experts.


Submitted by: zhangyang
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