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Mind of the Universe: Science in Progress

Erasmus University Rotterdam via Coursera


From William Harvey discovering the circulation of blood to Albert Einstein developing the theory of relativity: almost all scientific research starts from something odd and unexpected that hasn't been explained yet, and, subsequently, the scientist creatively imagining possible explanations for it, formulating hypotheses.

However, the problem with formulating hypotheses is the "theory-ladenness of observation": ones expectations and background theories curtail and determine what one observes. The best way to reduce the negative consequences of theory-ladenness of observation as much as possible, is not by adopting the highest methodological standards, but by continuing to think outside the box throughout the problem solving process, by tirelessly, creatively imagining alternative explanations and hypotheses.

In this learning experience you will be turned upside down by philosopher Tim de Mey, who will challenge you to think outside of your comfort zone. You will be challenged to reflect critically and creatively on what triggers your research, i.e., what is driving the scientist in you. Tim will show you how openness to and interaction with other disciplines generates new ideas, and how important it is that scientists, besides the possibilities of their own discipline, are also aware of its (and there) limitations. Take this challenge and you will construct the perfect out-of-the-box research question that will tease the Mind of the Universe scientists to explore even better answers in their research.

This online learning experience is a spin-off of The Mind of the Universe documentary series created by the Dutch broadcasting company VPRO and professor Robbert Dijkgraaf, Princeton University. A number of universities in the Netherlands have used the open source material of the documentary series as a starting point to create similar experiences.


  • What's on your mind?
    • We will discuss how your imagination can help you in becoming a successful scientist and how you turn your wonder into a well-considered research question.
  • Open up your mind
    • Now you know what's on your mind and created a research question, it is important to keep your mind open while working on possible explanations and contrasts. As you are about to learn in this week, it’s important to remain vigilant by continuing to use your imagination tirelessly.
  • Connect your mind
    • You now know what’s on your mind and how to keep your mind open. But how to continue? To keep alternative scenarios in mind, you will connect your mind to the minds of your peers. This will get you inspired by each other’s questions.
  • Make up your mind
    • You're almost there, but not quite yet. You've put your wonder into a research question with the help of your interdisciplinary team. It is now time to finalize your research question.

Taught by

Tim de Mey


4.7 rating at Coursera based on 13 ratings

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