Though his high school teachers wanted him to study either French or Latin, Rowan found languages rather boring subjects and, frankly, could not see the appeal of learning how to say the same thing in a different way. The small number of psycholinguistic facts he had to learn during his Bachelor in Psychology did little to persuade him to want to study language either. It was not until he came into contact with other scientific disciplines during his Bachelor and Master in Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience, that he began to see the beauty and wonder of the human capacity for language.
There, he realized that each scientific discipline had invented their own language, with their own technical vocabulary and jargony sentences. Though all of these scientific terms are difficult to learn for budding students, once they master these new concepts, they become capable of talking and thinking about the world in ways they could not fathom before! Rowan has been trying to learn new scientific languages ever since. Having seen the light, in his PhD on the neurobiology of reference, he studies how the brain is capable of identifying and keeping track of the objects and persons that words refer to, in order to learn how language enables us to talk and think about the world.
Why do scientists spend so much of their time thinking and theorizing? And why do some of their experiments seem so far removed from any conceivable practical use? In this article, I shall explain that scientists have good reasons for these admittedly odd practices.
Scientists have the reputation of being locked up in an ivory tower: from the outside it seems they are often more concerned with seemingly useless theoretical problems, rather than useful practical ones. In this article series, I would like to explain why scientists spend so much time on their apparent frivolous theories, and hopefully convince you that they do so for good reason.