In a wonderful piece on the limits of science, Robert Krulwich concludes with this bit of excellence:
… that’s the beauty of science: to know that you will never know everything, but you never stop wanting to, that when you learn something, for a second you feel crazy smart, and then stupid all over again as new questions come tumbling in. It’s an urge that never dies, a game that never ends.
I’d extend that line of thought to anything that’s tough, tricky, confounding, ambiguous and important: You may never get there, but you always have to try.
Houdini’s database stayed up, and it still played a role in the Obama campaign’s efforts on Election Day 2008. But it was clear that the system hadn’t been ready for the wave of data it was supposed to handle. “2008 was the ‘Jaws’ moment,” said Obama for America’s Chief Technology Officer Harper Reed. “It was, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to need a bigger boat.”
The software industry has a concept known as “legacy code,” meaning old stuff that is left in software programs, even after they are revised and updated, so that they will still work with older operating systems. The equivalent exists in newspaper stories, which are written to accommodate readers who have just emerged from a coma or a coal mine. — Michael Kinsley, “ Cut This Story!“