Monday, 10 November 2014

On the nature of research

photo: Asb
A recent Past Horizons article is about the ongoing research in translating the Phaistos disc and features a video with Dr. Gareth Owens who is coordinating research into deciphering the Linear A script.

What I personally found most interesting about the story was not any particular discovery but was its glimpse into the nature of research. Of course, there are many sorts of research from simply asking someone for an opinion through looking at previous research and checking its results. This sort of research is hardly time consuming and very little is invested in it. The research that Dr Owens speaks of with regard to the Phaistos disc and Linear A is another matter entirely. It always takes years and there is little guarantee of success. Often, it takes the work of many people, including specialists from related topics and disciplines. A "researcher" can often thus, more accurately, be called a "research coordinator". On some of the tougher research problems, reference is often made to the Rosetta Stone in looking for an important key to the solution as it was in the video. This key might be discovered through painstaking attention to details; through a hunch, or even through a dream as in the case of the discovery of the benzene ring. I used the phrase "Rosetta Stone" myself in reference to the key which enabled me to discover the chronology of Coriosolite coin die manufacture. When the mind is working very hard on such problems, much of these processes are going on in the unconscious mind and might present their solutions through dreams, visions, or just hunches. Only fools do not take such things seriously.

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