• Question: You used sound and bubbles as a carrier - that is creative. Are there often times that you've seen scientists using unusual creative thoughts and ideas, or used them yourself? Do you think of yourself as creative? Or is that innovation just for the person with the main idea?

    Asked by IsabelT on 8 Jul 2020.
    • Photo: Kim Liu

      Kim Liu answered on 8 Jul 2020: last edited 8 Jul 2020 5:21 pm


      This is a really cool question ๐Ÿ™‚ The easy answer is: I am constantly seeing amazing and creative ideas from scientists in my group, my institute and when reading about new research. I have also been fortunate enough to try a very small number for myself. However, amazing creativity is not a necessity for excellent science – great science is also done asking very simple questions and working diligently through the solution. Nonetheless, there is always an extra thrill seeing an exciting out-of-the-box solution ๐Ÿ™‚

      The hard part of your question is to assess one’s own creativity, and it highlights the somewhat subjective nature of ‘creativity’. Honestly and without false modesty, I don’t think of myself as creative when compared to my peers. Having said this, seeing amazing ideas from others always feels exciting and fresh, but within one’s own mind, I think the same creativity would appear to manifest a lot more slowly. I always feel like I just ‘read something’ or ‘knew something’, when I use a ‘creative’ solution. Knowledge is the root of creativity; if you just ‘know’ a creative solution, is that still creative? I think it’s similar to this idea: “Any technology sufficiently advanced looks like magic.” Likewise – a very experienced scientist who has spent a lot of time learning and thinking at the cutting edge of science is more likely to produce an idea which is very creative to me ๐Ÿ™‚

      My final thought is this โ€“ a scientist cannot get by on creative thinking alone; universal to any scientific research is putting in effort to iron out the creases and get the details just so, whether that research seems incredibly creative or not ~

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 9 Jul 2020:


      Hi IsabelT – I think you’ve addressed a really important point here – people often assume that scientists are not (or cannot be) creative. They imagine that people are either ‘scientific’ or ‘artistic’. This is amplified by the way that science and the arts are taught at school – basically in their own little ‘boxes’. This is necessary in some ways to get a good grounding in the foundations of both art and science, but in reality, these two are completely essential to each other. All of the best scientists I’ve met have a creative edge – the ability to innovate and think ‘outside the box’ so that they can tackle a research question in many different ways and from many different perspectives. Equally I would argue that the greatest art I have seen is so effective because it exploits science – how the light falls on a object, how we sense and perceive colour and contrast, how our eyes can trick our brains into seeing something that isn’t really there….artists were applying these methods centuries ago, long before we understood anything about the brain or how our eyes work. Today there are some fabulous science communicators who really achieve a beautiful integration of science and art – often their art is inspired by scientific discoveries, and often our science is inspired by the art around us. Most scientists now get dedicated training in how to effectively communicate their science through various artistic media – papers, posters, presentations, film…the possibilities are endless. One thing I’ve noticed is that the really successful artists and scientists are masters of simplicity – distilling complex findings into a simple message, communicating a feeling or thought in a simple way – often this has the greatest impact on the world around us.

    • Photo: Tiffany Chan

      Tiffany Chan answered on 9 Jul 2020:


      Hi Isabel! This is a brilliant question, and there have already been some brilliant answers! I think that all scientific advances require a certain degree of creativity – many of the ‘obvious’ experiments have probably already been tried before!

      (Specifically re. the sound and bubbles bit because I’m assuming that was directed to me, there’s plenty of innovation that’s happening now to push that even further. for example, people are working at different ultrasound sequences to allow us to deliver drugs more efficiently/safely, looking at loading bubbles with drugs etc. so it’s not just the person with the main idea that has to be creative – we all have to in order to advance the idea and allow it to reach its full potential!)

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