I recently watched a BBC documentary the DIVINE MICHELANGELO (http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2004/02_february/05/divine_michelangelo.shtml)
In the film, modern artists tried to recreate part of Michelangelo’s works like the David http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Michelangelo), and the main scene of the fresco painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel_ceiling. From picking the perfect marble to create the 5m tall David, to moving the marble downhill, and to moving the david from the artist’s workplace to the center of the city turned out to be non-trivial. The artist who painted on a ceiling for just two weeks suffered from neck and back pains, while Michelangelo took 4 years of days and nights to finish the 500 sqare meter ceiling.
In a word, without doing it, it’s difficult to have the empathy to appreciate the work. It’s the same with research. It’s easy to criticize other people’s work you have no experience with, but if you truely tried to find better ways of finishing similar jobs, you would have been more careful about your criticisms. Now, is empathy a good thing or a bad thing, that’s not important. What’s important is,
You make things work, the more you do — the more tasks you finish — the easier you will appreciate other people’s works, because you understand better what’s really the thing that makes the solution work. And because of that, the more likely you will apply the spirits of other people’s works to solve your own tasks and to finish more tasks.
In reaching these conclusions, I may have taken an engineering point of view, but actually this is the same with theories as well. The beauty of a theory is the solution it provides to solving a problem; it’s how well fit it is to the problem.