The Lab

The Pursuit of Knowledge

What are you obsessed with? Not physical addictions, but obsessions. The things that keep you awake at night, invade your dreams, and creep into all your waking thoughts. It could be a hobby restoring old cars, a new lover, the latest MMO game, a new theoretical physics concept, or learning a new software. Everyone has that time sink that inexplicably makes them happy or drives them mad. 

It seems to be an ongoing process, rather than a one time fix, for us to pine over an idea and exhaust its possibilites. Even at the cost of other things we love. Nicola Tesla, the mind behind many of todays foundational technologies like AC electricity, X-rays, Radio communication and Electric motors, was a notorious recluse. The majority of his life was spent in his lab focusing on projects, and the result was over 200 inventions, many of which changed the world forever.

As I get older, it seems easier to ignore that invitation out for a beer in favor of just working on a project. I regularly find myself staying up til the wee hours, just squeezing in that one last cherry on top of a design or researching a new concept. It’s often at my own expense, working outside of client budgets on my own time. That’s part of what inspired this post. According to society, that’s wrong. The only pursuit that’s worthwhile is chasing dollar signs and new shoes. I like new shoes, and having food to eat, but I don’t understand putting material possessions before your own pursuit of knowledge.

I recently watched a TED talk by Adam Spencer, who describes his life long love of Prime numbers. If you have about 20 minutes to spare, I recommend it. He finishes with his most exciting moment of 2012 – the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN. Just 50 years ago, Peter Higgs theorized around where mass comes from, and within his lifetime we built one of the most massive machines ever conceived to prove his theory.

“We thought it might be there, and we went and found. That is the essence of being human. That is what we are all about.”

-Adam Spencer

Don’t worry what other people think about your hobby. Keep chipping away at that sculpture. Finish that painting even if it takes all weekend. It might not be the Higgs Boson theory, but if it makes you happy, it’s worth the effort.

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