Physicist Arthur Leonard Schawlow: You Don't Need to Know Everything

"To do successful research, you don't need to know everything; you just need to know one thing that isn't known."

Physicist Arthur Leonard Schawlow was born May 5, 1921, and was one of the most respected 20th century experts on lasers. His work in optics and contributions toward the development of the laser spectrometer earned him a share of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics. Schawlow was a long-time faculty member at Stanford University where he was Physics department chair from 1966-1970. He died in 1999.

Schawlow, like so many other great physicists, possessed a witty lightness to his personality. Here are a couple notable quotations that do well to succinctly capture truths about scientific research:

"Anything worth doing is worth doing twice, the first time quick and dirty and the second time the best way you can."

"To do successful research, you don't need to know everything; you just need to know one thing that isn't known."

Sourceas quoted by Steven Chu and Charles H. Townes (2003). Biographical Memoirs V.83. National Academies Press. p. 201.

Interested in physics? You ought not miss this amazing lecture from Michio Kaku:

Related Articles
Keep reading Show less

Five foods that increase your psychological well-being

These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.

Mind & Brain

We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.

Keep reading Show less

For the 99%, the lines are getting blurry

Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.

What is the middle class now, anyway? (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs

For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.

Keep reading Show less