Reality Straight Up!

Thoughts & Observations of a Free Range Astrophysicist

Who will help you ask the right questions?

How We Know and Why You Should Care

A Scientist’s Perspective

If knowledge is power, isn’t it a good idea to make sure that knowledge is reliable? Given a choice, it is probably best to go with what works.


There are questions that ought to be on your mind every day. “How can I avoid the sort of mistakes that are currently responsible for 80% of lost value?” “Where do I look for the next big idea?” “What does effective leadership and teamwork look like in a world where the ground is constantly shifting under your feet and you can’t turn around without facing high-stakes decisions?”

I’ve spent much of my career living with one foot on the frontier of knowledge itself, and the other foot among the nuts and bolts of challenging and complex real-life projects. Based on that experience and perspective I have some answers to those questions. Those answers will be grounded in a very straightforward idea: given a choice it is probably best to go with what works.

Here are the highlights:

  • Effective leadership, teamwork, innovation, and just about everything else depend ultimately on the quality of our knowledge. You can’t make good decisions unless the knowledge upon which those decisions are based is sound.
  • Chances are that right now, at this very moment, a lot of what you think that you know is wrong and at some point down the road it’s going to bite you in the butt.
  • The reason that much of your knowledge is wrong is that our everyday ways of arriving at knowledge don’t work. In fact, quite often they are exactly backwards.
  • By changing the way you approach knowledge it is possible both to avoid deadly mistakes and to discover opportunities for innovation.
  • Reliable knowledge doesn’t come from showing that your ideas are right. Instead, reliable knowledge comes from doing your best to show that your ideas are wrong.
  • Ignore this at your peril. This standard of knowledge isn’t easy or comfortable, but it beats every other game in town, hands down. The question isn’t whether it’s worth your time to reassess your approach to knowledge. The question is whether you can afford not to.

In the articles that follow I will develop these ideas and follow them where they lead. Some of those articles will have a very strategic focus. Others will look at questions as far ranging as the philosophical underpinnings of knowledge and the neurophysiology of the brain. Still others will offer personal perspective.

All will be relevant to the practical question of how best to make decisions when it matters. Regardless, I hope that you find them interesting, and hope even more that they have a practical effect on the way that you make decisions and think about the world.

How We Know and Why You Should Care ^ A Scientist’s Perspective  © Dr. Jeff Hester
Content may not be copied to other sites. All Rights Reserved.

Reality Straight Up!

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Click on thumbnail to select post:

  • COVID-19 Arrives  The Humanitarian Disaster is HerePosted in Thoughts
  • Correctly Predicting Failure  It’s time for scientists to get loudPosted in Thoughts
  • Typhoid Mary on Two Wheels  Spreading COVID one lap at a timePosted in Thoughts
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  • After COVID’s First Wave  No getting back to normalPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • COVID-19  Cutting through the confusionPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • Great Deceiverism 101  Explanation or Theory? Therein lies the rub.Posted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • One Step at a Time  The  not-so-mysterious origin of lifePosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • The Mind’s Siren Call  Being certain is a primrose pathPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • Constrained Hallucinations  How the brain uses science to perceive the worldPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • Entropy Redux  Why our universe isn’t boringPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • Currently new cases of COVID-19 in Arizona are doubling every 7 days. ICU beds in the state are already full. The rest of the country isn’t that far behind us. You do the math.

  • Now is not the time for scientists to be circumspect and silent. We are on the short end of a battle over whether truth even matters. If scientists do not stand up for what is real, who will?

  • The morning cyclist in my neighborhood may not be standing in the Michigan Statehouse carrying a gun and demanding her right to spread contagion far and wide, but she may as well be.

  • You know those nice charts and graphs that make it look like we are over the hump of COVID-19 and that things are about to get better? Those predictions are dead wrong, with an unfortunate emphasis on “dead.”

  • Imagine three gregarious scientists, each with the gift of the gab, all coping with stay-at-home orders. Of course we started a livestream/podcast talk show! What else would we do? Welcome to the kickoff episode of Scientists Stuck Inside.

  • Even after COVID-19 kills hundreds of thousands in the U.S. over the coming weeks, we will still be almost as vulnerable to the pandemic as we are today. We’d all love to “get back to normal” after that, but the price could be a second wave, worse than the first. Some see us facing either economic Depression or allowing vast numbers of preventable deaths, but that is a fool’s choice. There are better options if we have the will to find them.

  • There is a lot of information about COVID-19 out there, much of it misleading. When looking at the future, start with what the science really says.

  • If someone can’t tell you how they would know that they are wrong, they don’t have a clue whether they are right.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Once seemingly incomprehensible, the origin of life no longer seems such a mystery. Most of what once appeared as roadblocks are turning out to be superhighways.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Being certain lights up our brains like a junkie’s next hit. Literally. Unfortunately, being certain and being right are two very, very different things.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • The unique worlds we each consciously inhabit – the only worlds we will ever experience – are constrained hallucinations, products of hypothesis testing by our predictive brains.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • A month’s worth of sunlight could pay the entropy bill for a billion years of biological evolution. Entropy is evolution’s best friend.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

Over his 30 year career as an internationally known astrophysicist, Dr. Jeff Hester was a key member of the team that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. With one foot always on the frontiers of knowledge, he has been mentor, coach, team leader, award-winning teacher, administrator and speaker, to name a few of the hats he has worn. His Hubble image, the Pillars of Creation, was chosen by Time Magazine as among the 100 most influential photographs in history.
©Dr. Jeff Hester LLC, 5301 S. Superstition Mountain Dr., Suite 104 #171, Gold Canyon, AZ 85118