Mark Bear—a champion helmsman and neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—says he applies the same principles to racing and research.
“You begin with probabilities. You don’t know a priori whether heading off to the left side of the racecourse or the right is the way to go. So you collect information, make observations, test hypotheses. You do a few pilot experiments, sailing upwind a little in either direction, to see what looks promising. You make a plan, and take measurements of whether or not the plan is working. If you made a wrong guess, you make on-course corrections.
“But what really separates great sailors from less great sailors,” adds the HHMI investigator, “is that they see things that other people don’t.”
Photo: Jeff Barnett-Winsby