Suzuki roshi, in his wonderful Zen mind, beginner's mind, talks about the mental approach necessary for the study of Zen. It's an open, naïve attitude, without preconceptions and without habits which limit thought into certain patterns. I think it's the same as that the scientist should employ.

Chess players understand the game and its moves and possibilities so well that they can quickly size up a situation. You may have seen masters playing a game by calling out moves to one another, without the presence of a board or pieces. It's not all about memory and concentration, but also the fact that each move is very well understood in its context within the game. Players' eyes flick from piece to piece moving rapidly down the lines of force and influence which the players know from experience and a deep understanding of the game. This enables expert players to plan many moves ahead - their mental model of the board and the possibilities has become efficient. In doing so the unlikely, disadvantageous, and extraneous moves and information have been discarded from the system. This could be called expert mind.

Such a mind is terrifically powerful within the boundaries of the known. Chess masters, at the beginning of their career, developed their game, their set of strategies and approaches which constitute their strength and also their weakness. The great players continue to expand and develop this skill set, by following further and further into the intricacies and consequences of their special style of play and also by testing and understanding its weak points and learning how to counter these as best possible.

The truly great players, however, the grand masters and the giants of their generation, do something else. Without giving up the expert mind, they never forget the mental attitude they had when first learning the game. They can see the lines of force, the moves they have discovered are powerful and the strategies they have found are productive. But at the same time they remember the naïve approach under which all possibilities remain open. It's this beginner's mind which can find new, wild, magical possibilities where the conventional wisdom sees only defeat.

Everyone does this when they first learn a new skill or investigate a new field. No limits exist because no limits are yet imagined. The mind is supple, calm but interested, ready to be amazed. It sees the whole rather than the meaning of the parts. But like a child or a fool, this mind is full of possibility but lacking in power. As experience grows limits are found, a mental model of the problem is formed, and the expert mind grows. Now the mind is powerful but limited and rigid.

I've heard people say that mathematicians do all their great work before they're 30. That discipline requires a beginner's mind more than any other, but science in general is like this. New ideas come not from fitting the data into the current understanding, but from letting the open, still, subconscious mind bring forth an entirely new conception which can be tested against the evidence. The expert mind is good at efficiently checking the fit of theory and data, and seeing the deep implications of data within theory. It's good at developing theory, massaging and reworking and conceptualising the inconsistencies.

But stand back from it all. Be awed by the wonder engendered by the universe. Let the whole picture strike you without attempting interpretation. This is how to make any discipline new again. It's Zen mind, scientific mind.