Many of the products of science we take for granted were discovered by accident: penicillin, Viagra, anesthesia, the microwave oven, chewing gum, brandy, and even silly putty.
The key to those discoveries lies in the inventor’s openness to observations unrelated to the original experiment. Take for example, when in 1879, chemist Constantin Fahlberg went to dinner after a day of experimenting with coal derivates. As he ate dinner, he noticed something tasted particularly sweet, which he later traced to a chemical compound he’d spilled on his hand. That observation lead to the first artificial sweetener, later known as Saccharin.
On a far smaller scale, it brings to mind the time Stan Warren and I were evaluating a new circuit topology and, out of necessity, substituted the proper power transformer with one of the same voltage but 10 times the correct size. The audible difference between the correctly sized transformer and the massively oversized version was nothing short of extraordinary.
If we had been measuring the circuit’s performance instead of listening to it we would never have discovered the benefits of oversized power transformers.
There’s much to be said for the experiential experience.