Thought Experiment: a test in which one imagines the practical outcome of a hypothesis when physical evidence may not be available.
-Collins American Dictionary
While flying recently, I met a Chemistry graduate student who was on her way back home after attending a conference. She eagerly shared her ideas about wave theory and its practical applications on such things as pacemakers.
I had never met someone so passionate about science! She made chemistry and wave theory accessible even to a non-scientist like me. Being a mother of children who have a love/hate relationship with the subject of science, I found myself curious about her education.
“We are all scientists,” she said. Science is about being curious, seeing a beautiful and mysterious world and wanting to know more. She talked about “thought experiments” and how Einstein’s work on special relativity was the result of a thought experiment he conducted when he was only 16 years old. “We are not encouraged to be curious,” she said. The “why’s” and “how’s” are ignored and our children eventually stop asking questions. And by the time they get to school, she said, children have lost much of their curiosity.
It seemed to me that science and spirituality were not so dissimilar. I told her a bit about my work as a life coach, and that “thought experiments” seemed no different than mindfulness, where one watches, examines, and questions. She paused, then nodded, and said that she’d never particularly thought of herself as a spiritual person, but she could see the connection.
We began engaging in numerous “thought experiments”, asking each other spiritual, scientific and philosophical questions. We weren’t necessarily seeking answers, but rather were invigorated by the process of investigation. By the end of the conversation, we realized that we were both scientists and spiritual seekers. We realized that we are surrounded by opportunities for “thought experiments” And we realized that we must remember the childlike qualities of wonder, amazement and curiosity.