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'The Alchemist' is a novel that inspires all readers to follow their dreams while introducing them to exotic places and intriguing events that are designed to unite the East and the West. When you combine the quest of a shepherd, the mystery of the alchemist, the love of a maiden, and the discovery of treasure, you will find a story that holds great appeal.The Alchemist, a worldwide best seller, is a literary piece that offers intrigue that holds hope and a dialogue that challenges the reader's thinking, so it is no wonder that it has a growing readership that defies the barriers of East and West.The working assumption — the everything on earth must be made up from a single, primal sort of matter — led to centuries of hard work aimed at isolating the original stuff and rearranging it to the alchemists’ liking.
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We rarely know which missteps will become stepping stones in the advancement of knowledge, for the pursuit of truth requires a certain discipline of deferring judgment for periods longer than our appetite for instant answers allows.
That’s what the great physician, etymologist, poet, and essayist Lewis Thomas (November 25, 1913–December 3, 1993) explores throughout his timelessly rewarding 1983 essay collection Although Thomas was educated at Harvard and Princeton, served on the President’s Scientific Advisory Committee, and presided over the prestigious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, he wrote humbly and poetically from the self-described position of “a citizen and a sometime scientist.” In one of the essays, titled “Alchemy,” he starts someplace unlikely and leads us someplace monumental: Alchemy began long ago as an expression of the deepest and oldest of human wishes: to discover that the world makes sense.
It was not necessarily so: the work they were doing was hard and frustrating, but it was the start-up of experimental chemistry and physics…
They never succeeded in making gold from base metals, nor did they find a universal elixir in their plant extracts; they certainly didn’t rid the world of evil.People in my field, and some of my colleagues in the real “hard” sciences such as physics and chemistry, have a tendency to take lightly and often disparagingly the efforts of workers in the so-called social sciences. We do not acknowledge as we should the difference between the various disciplines within behavioral research — we speak of analytical psychiatry, sociology, linguistics, economics, and computer intelligence as though these inquiries were all of a piece, with all parties wearing the same old comical conical hats. The principal feature that the social sciences share these days is the attraction they exert on considerable numbers of students, who see the prospect of exploring human behavior as irresistible and hope fervently that a powerful scientific method for doing the exploring can be worked out.All of the matters on the social-science agenda seem more urgent to these young people than they did at any other time in human memory.This, it seems to me, requires study; mandates study.Will no one be casting an anthropological eye at the dilemma to be faced when human beings cease being human?Perhaps the greatest hubris of historical hindsight is knowing that everything we call progress has been made by systematic trial and error, yet tending to dismiss — even scoff at — the errors as embarrassments to the process of progress rather than essential parts of it.Take, for instance, Joseph Weber, whose spectacle of failed experiments made him the most derided scientist of his time yet paved the way for the detection of gravitational waves — one of the most monumental discoveries in the whole of modern science, as full of potential for revolutionary knowledge as the invention of the telescope.Very well, the country will survive, and the disciplines of psychology, sociology, economics, and their siblings will have to eat grass until their time comes again.But the basic research enterprise involved in thermonuclear warfare contains a staggering array of behavioral research questions, the purest kind of social science, questions never before asked about human behavior, deep ambiguities approachable only in an atmosphere of almost total uncertainty.In yet another prescient essay titled “Basic Science and the Pentagon,” Thomas stresses the urgency of funding basic science — science marked by “the absence of any predictable, usable product,” carried out “in an atmosphere of high uncertainty,” and built on “What if? ” questions — and the importance of incorporating social science into our most pressing research priorities.He writes: The present administration has no special fondness for the social and behavioral sciences, and the National Science Foundation is sharply reducing its funding — never generous at best — for these stepchildren of scholarship.