Scientists along the Franco-Swiss border created quite a buzz when they observed the Higgs boson once and for all, and I felt just that much better knowing that the universe works the way it’s supposed to. But it wouldn’t have fazed me one bit if these headlines announced that the scientists decided to abandon their search for the particle and build a new model to explain the basic structure of matter. Learning something new and true is easier if it doesn’t really matter (at least, to the person learning it).
On the other hand, news that’s closer to home can be harder to accept. Tell me that diversified conglomerates are more dynamic than small startups, or that the United States really is better than Canada at hockey, and you will have rocked at least part of my world.
The unfortunate irony, then, is that learning something that is both new and true seems to be extraordinarily difficult when it is extraordinarily important.