The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes | Phil Plait

  • Published on Apr 11, 2019
  • Phil Plait was on a Hubble Space Telescope team of astronomers who thought they may have captured the first direct photo of an exoplanet ever taken. But did the evidence actually support that? Follow along as Plait shows how science progresses -- through a robust amount of making and correcting errors. "The price of doing science is admitting when you're wrong, but the payoff is the best there is: knowledge and understanding," he says.
    Get TED Talks recommended just for you! Learn more at
    The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more.
    Follow TED on Twitter:
    Like TED on Facebook:
    Subscribe to our channel:
  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 129

  • AS. I see The World

    Science: When you get something wrong. Move the goal post and invent something invisible a impossible to prove. Like dark matter and dark energy 😂

  • Machan
    Machan Month ago

    I remember him from discovery channel

  • Taav Jorden
    Taav Jorden 2 months ago

    Science's purpose is to describe reality consistently and reliably in order to predict a particular event in the future.

  • Mr. Derek Gets it!
    Mr. Derek Gets it! 2 months ago

    THE COLUMBINE SHOOTERS MOM GETS A CLIP. That loser should be jailed! No comments allowed so I'll leave a comment on every video! DO NOT CELEBRATE LOSER PARENTS THAT STOOD IN THE WAY OF HELP, when parents are responsible for their kids actions then we will see less death! SICKENING TO APPLAUD COLUMBINES SHOOTERS MOM SHAME,

  • Syed mdabdullah
    Syed mdabdullah 2 months ago

    I watch sci-fi movies a lot. I had a very misconception about scientists. I thought that scientists are the most boring people in the universe but this guy changed my thoughts since I watched crash course astronomy. He is awesome...... Just awesome

  • Chuck Bryan
    Chuck Bryan 2 months ago +2

    Mr. Plait is a fantastic presenter, and a great ambassador for science.

  • Ëë Mage
    Ëë Mage 2 months ago +2

    Then we have keyboard warriors with a PHd in Fox News, telling people of science that Climate Change is a hoax, brilliant!

    • El Emu
      El Emu 2 months ago

      Warriors of ignorance 😁 they are legion

  • Varun Darbhamalla
    Varun Darbhamalla 3 months ago +6

    I believe that Politics and worldly competitions should be far away from science. Give a like if ya'll agree !

    • El Emu
      El Emu 2 months ago +1

      Ohhh i give agree dude 😁👍👍👍👍👍

  • Invox
    Invox 3 months ago +6

    If politics worked like science... I can't even imagine how far humanity would be right now.
    Also, I love this guy.

    • tharusha fernando
      tharusha fernando 2 months ago

      I am planning to quote you.

    • Drkwll
      Drkwll 2 months ago

      How about if politics worked like optimization algorithms and evolutionary algorithms?

  • The Paper Pineapple
    The Paper Pineapple 3 months ago

    Why is this guy talking to the audience as if they've never heard of a scientific experiment before?
    "Here's what a hypothesis is," etc...
    This is a lecture for school children, not adults.

  • Hussein Nour
    Hussein Nour 3 months ago

    Discovery Channel LOL

  • SimSim
    SimSim 3 months ago +1

    Me at 8:42 : what just 2 und a half minutes left? I need more of this guy

  • أحمد مصيلحي .اعقلها وتوكل

    ضيفو الترجمة العربية

  • أحمد مصيلحي .اعقلها وتوكل

    Plaes trinsltion aribce

  • Mr. or Ms Gaming 今日 Today 游戲 PG

    2019-04-13 1454
    1 day

  • Inner Vigilance
    Inner Vigilance 3 months ago +2

    This is why I rejected the historical claims of Christianity.

  • sonoki82
    sonoki82 3 months ago +7

    Wow! An actual male giving a TED talk! I guess that satisfies the quota for 2019.

    • Mike Smith
      Mike Smith 3 months ago

      @sonoki82 No, it does not, as I already said. Keep going down, load more videos. It evens out.

    • sonoki82
      sonoki82 3 months ago

      Well, that tab shows a huge skew in favor of women. Further, a number of the putative males deliver talks in which they deride masculinity and manly virtues.

    • Mike Smith
      Mike Smith 3 months ago

      @sonoki82 The videos tab for this channel.

    • sonoki82
      sonoki82 3 months ago

      Checked where?

    • Mike Smith
      Mike Smith 3 months ago

      I just went and checked the ratio and it's basically 50/50 with slightly more females (not statistically significant). It just looks that way right now because there's often streaks of one or the other. It looks random.

  • abcmaya
    abcmaya 3 months ago


  • mhtinla
    mhtinla 3 months ago

    Did BLACKs discover black holes?

    • mhtinla
      mhtinla 3 months ago

      No, because one cannot see one's own hole.

  • boson96
    boson96 3 months ago +6

    I love science so much!

    • El Emu
      El Emu 2 months ago +1

      I am 51 and science have given me so much through the years. Science is a tool that cuts through lies like butter 🤗

  • flounder
    flounder 3 months ago +1

    It's too bad politics, religion and society don't function like the science Phil described. Also in school, teachers always stress that students need to be perfect in their homework, quizzes, exams, grades --- while mistakes are treated as criminal acts.

  • Ryan Heeguh
    Ryan Heeguh 3 months ago +1

    So basically I’m a scientific discovery 🥴

  • asdemilovato
    asdemilovato 3 months ago +2

    Phil serving humanity

  • George Klinger
    George Klinger 3 months ago +1


  • Turtle Von Nurtle
    Turtle Von Nurtle 3 months ago +3

    As a scientist, I feel like more often you find your self arguing with the scientists who double down on their mistakes and fight till the bitter end, or at least until the conversation has died down and they can change the subject in a face saving way. Moreover, I'd say that's the human side of science, because what's more human than refusing to admit you made a mistake?

  • phunnyfill
    phunnyfill 3 months ago

    The religion of science. I am astounded by how many people are freaking out over the black hole CGI "photograph". It takes more faith to believe in this crap then it does to believe in most other religions.
    Most science is factual and legitimate, but a great deal of astronomy and geology are completely fabricated. Unproven theory is called indisputable fact. You know I'm right, but hearing your religion is false is too much to bear for most. So, instead of intellectual honesty I am prepared for attacks and name calling.

    • fiona fiona
      fiona fiona 3 months ago +1

      Nothing is named an indisputable anything, you (as a likely religious person) just don't remember what sort of evidence we needed to prove it to sufficient certainty (like it took to convince the Vatican)

  • Chenxiao Xue
    Chenxiao Xue 3 months ago +1

    I, too, found admitting that I am wrong to be difficult until I started dating girls.

  • dryzalizer
    dryzalizer 3 months ago

    Nice talk Phil, you're a legend because of Crash Course Astronomy the best one ever!

  • Stephen Hazel
    Stephen Hazel 3 months ago

    i love this guy !!

  • John Tencza
    John Tencza 3 months ago +2

    Can this apply to Global Warming?

  • James Dale
    James Dale 3 months ago

    Wow! Phil Plait. "The Bad Astronomer". I was a fan, what, 13 years ago? I looked at the site. Under "what's new" I read 2006. So I gave up. Keep up the good work.

  • tadpole 444
    tadpole 444 3 months ago

    Yes!!!! :) yes.

  • fcastle
    fcastle 3 months ago

    Trillions of dollars later, science has done a crap job of curing cancer, in fact these days just about everyone has cancer...we can't even make roads that last or fix the billions of potholes in our roads, or failing bridges, waterlines and other infrastructure, it takes years to do basic road work, we did construction projects 70yrs ago that would be impossible now, we can't stop forest fires AT ALL, no science for is not getting us anywhere besides consumer products.

    • BJ C
      BJ C 3 months ago +2

      1. Cancer is not one disease. It’s a huge number of diseases that all relate to uncontrolled cell growth, but in many different ways.
      2. The cancer cure rates today are DRASTICALLY better than they were 20 years ago and a universe away from what they were 60 years ago.
      3. The science is there and has been done for long lasting materials. But politics (and lobbyists) and some times costs get in the way. I think your problem is with politics. (Mine certainly is on this issue).
      4. Same, but to a lesser degree for forest fire science: politics and people’s inability to trust advancements in science when they are contrary to traditional approaches. Again, a problem with people’s distrust of science (and misunderstanding it).
      5. I wouldn’t crap on science; if you think about it, things really are much better now in virtually every metric and science has played a role in all of them.

  • josh mcgee
    josh mcgee 3 months ago

    yet again another TED talk that doesn't talk about what it says in the title

    • BJ C
      BJ C 3 months ago +1

      It was exactly as described. The discussion of the search for exoplanets was a tool to highlight the fact that science is a process. And, that process, is critical to advancement. The title should reflect the overarching message.

  • RubyDivina
    RubyDivina 3 months ago +1

    I recognised his voice before I recognised his face 😄

  • Punya Pratyusha Sethi
    Punya Pratyusha Sethi 3 months ago

    Hey it's the goat man

  • TheValinov
    TheValinov 3 months ago

    first picture of a black hole was brought to the public and you are talking about exoplanets.. pfff, old farts

    • BJ C
      BJ C 3 months ago +1

      Of course, without the advancements in science and tech that the search for exoplanets brought us, we wouldn’t have been able to acquire and process the images of the black hole. And you are missing the bigger point of his lecture: that science is a process. We are talking about the most misunderstood aspect of science and one that leads to many folks’ distrust of science. The search for and discovery of exoplanets was a tool to highlight this, not the singular point of his entire lecture. I’d say these farts are pretty important, lol.

  • Alex
    Alex 3 months ago

    You can very well discover a lot without making mistakes. Why do we want to make people think science is so easy and coincidence? 👎

    • Alex
      Alex 3 months ago

      @Brooke B so Newton, Einthoven, Darcy and others who had a clear goal they reached not by mistake all didn't understand what science is about?

    • Brooke B
      Brooke B 3 months ago

      It is clear that you are not familiar with science.
      He isn’t referring to a pharmaceutical scientist making a mistake and accidentally killing people.
      He is referring to discovery. It was once accepted that the Earth was the center of the universe, if we assumed science is ALWAYS correct we would never know the wiser.
      When you start a new experiment you have to have a hypothesis, as he mentioned.
      Often, it is wrong.
      So you change it.
      Experiment again.
      And repeat this process until you have something tangible or realize you have been wrong the entire time.

      Not once did he say science was easy.
      He said science was human.

  • quamrul siddiqui
    quamrul siddiqui 3 months ago +2

    The reason result is not science but the methodology is.

  • Music ; }
    Music ; } 3 months ago

    These guys get a lot of $$$ to sit around & dream...... I keep hearing in America there is no money for this OR that... emmmm...... I also have observed that people whom have enough $$$ create "Job"s, for their own. Example, I knew this family, the husband made mega buck but dumb as a box of rocks for he could not see or detect what I saw, that his wife whom brought in 2 Africans from the 3rd world to Educate & support them while they lived in their home, they were F'king his wife & her daughter the whole time. The daughter is a complete Ho' & her parents set her up in a shoppe so they could make it look liked she worked calling her self an Artist....while giving Blows on the side downtown. Crazy, upside down world we live in.

  • anticosmopolitan
    anticosmopolitan 3 months ago

    Oh, guess who floats up to the top yet again, shilling as always for the establishment? Yep, crazy old Moon hoax-supporting Phil from the early days of the Internet. These days speaking (neurotically) in the name of not just astronomy, but all of science. The modesty, Phil! I mean you own science don't you? TED is a hilarious platform for all manner of freakery.

    • BJ C
      BJ C 3 months ago +2

      I hope you get the help you need.

  • Tara Lacey
    Tara Lacey 3 months ago

    Why are there always a bunch of idiots in the comment sections of scientific videos? 🙄

  • Sassy Cat
    Sassy Cat 3 months ago +23

    I remember when I was 6 and I found out the sun was a star. I was like.... No way! The sun is the sun! A star is a star! And when I thought of stars, I legit thought that stars looked like your typical 5 pointed star, like something you would draw or what was on top of a Christmas tree....

  • Nightcor EDM
    Nightcor EDM 3 months ago

    Sorry but the secret of success is making mistake by letting youth take drugs and have depression.

  • Ігор Кондратьєв

    They say I look like an animated hero.
    Is it true?

    • malak mimi
      malak mimi 3 months ago +1

      Yeh you are really look like an animated character, oh my god you'r eyes are really big you can't be human lol

  • Ahmed M
    Ahmed M 3 months ago +1

    I don't think Richard Dawkins ever admit that he is wrong if he gets proven wrong about evolution.

    • Pale Moon
      Pale Moon 3 months ago +1

      yeah, bcuz there's evidence we're made of clay and created by God, right? Lol or just believe some so called "holy" book

    • Tara Lacey
      Tara Lacey 3 months ago

      @Ahmed M What are some examples of actual scientific "evidence" that debunks evolution?

    • Ahmed M
      Ahmed M 3 months ago

      @Tara Lacey yea, and there are lots of evidence to debunk evolution. I mean evolution is fact/real, but human evolution never happened.

    • Tara Lacey
      Tara Lacey 3 months ago

      You're talking about evolution by NATURAL SELECTION, which has mountains of evidence to back it up.

  • Peter
    Peter 3 months ago

    Scientists built observatories? That's a new one. You're welcome....engineers (the one's who actually built them).

    • Peter
      Peter 3 months ago

      @Leander Barreto You men the umpa lumpas? :P

    • Leander Barreto
      Leander Barreto 3 months ago

      Scientists had engineers who had construction workers build observatories

    • BJ C
      BJ C 3 months ago +1

      Though, is “scientist” not an umbrella term for many fields? I personally view engineers as scientists, too. (Engineering follows the same scientific process). I understand your point, but to follow that logic, we should also talk about the construction workers so we don’t cause offence.

    • Pale Moon
      Pale Moon 3 months ago +1

      like saying Apple built iphone when it's actually built by chinese workers in china

  • mehmet adiyaman
    mehmet adiyaman 3 months ago


  • Christine Gontari
    Christine Gontari 3 months ago

    Finally a ted that isn't political cancer.

    • Christine Gontari
      Christine Gontari 3 months ago +1

      @BJ C It's virtue signaling trash plain and simple. Fat shaming? Really? That made a ted or how about the insane ted where a lady tried to justify child molestors? Mmmmmm? Trust me you don't want to talk politics with me because I live in reality. I may force you into your safe space.

    • BJ C
      BJ C 3 months ago

      God forbid we listen and discuss politics. It’s not like it affects everybody. Is it that the politics you see reflected on most TED talks isn’t what you’d like?

  • Renato Andrade
    Renato Andrade 3 months ago +2

    Grongratulations frontal Brazil. Nice vídeo!

  • Rick Harold
    Rick Harold 3 months ago +1


  • Tantiwa Hopak
    Tantiwa Hopak 3 months ago

    Hey, I know this guy 👍

  • Somnath Choudhari
    Somnath Choudhari 3 months ago

    😍 👍

  • Dallel Bedjaoui
    Dallel Bedjaoui 3 months ago +5

    This video will only be understood by those who love science

  • What_are_we_doing ?
    What_are_we_doing ? 3 months ago +1

    Did you put this on Google podcast before uploading it here or am I wrong?

    • Philippe Lignon
      Philippe Lignon 3 months ago

      The TED talk are published as podcasts a few days before they are published on RUclip.

  • Kurt E. Clothier
    Kurt E. Clothier 3 months ago +7

    What, you mean my analysis of people near me on the bus that responded when I criticized their shoes isn't enough to form a conclusion about the happiness of dog owners that recently quit smoking? Well, there goes millions of dollars of research grants!

    • Morty Sanchez
      Morty Sanchez 3 months ago +3

      Did you also do this to dog owners who didnt quit, non dog owners who did quit, and non dog owners that didnt quit? And control groups? (Mayne dog owners who quit smoking that you dont criticize, and maybe a randomized group)
      Also, do have a way to correlate happiness to their reaction to your criticism?
      Do you have a standardized way of criticizing their shoes?

  • daddyleon
    daddyleon 3 months ago +5

    This would've had a very different vibe yet contain the same factual message if it was delivered by a scientist at..Ratheon.

  • Louis Cotteta
    Louis Cotteta 3 months ago +1

    Fantastic vid :)

  • Dominick Oquin
    Dominick Oquin 3 months ago +1


  • Vennie Thompson
    Vennie Thompson 3 months ago +5

    Making mistakes may or may not help with scientific discoveriy. Scientific discovery is locating, identifying and analyzing both MISTAKES AND PREVIOUS OMISSIONS in understanding of what things are and how they work. Not so much just making mistakes, but locating and figuring from them regardless of who made them.

    • Vennie Thompson
      Vennie Thompson 3 months ago

      @The Nothing Man Actually I have no problem with making mistakes. Nor do I have any problem with correcting or being corrected. Usually narcissistic assholes make the kind of comment you just made. As the guy in the video said part of the he process is admitting when you're wrong. Narcissists can't be on the he dime when the finger is pointed at it as the place where wrong is.

    • The Nothing Man
      The Nothing Man 3 months ago +2

      You're one of those guys who has to be right about everything aren't you?

  • Not an epic gamer
    Not an epic gamer 3 months ago +2

    What would happen the day we know everything in the Universe? (although I think that wouldn't ever happen)

    • Drkwll
      Drkwll 2 months ago

      @heerak sharma How do you know if science can't explain everything?

    • Tara Lacey
      Tara Lacey 3 months ago

      @heerak sharma There is currently no evidence to back up superstitious beliefs. So no, logical people would not resort to that.

    • Dimitar Stanev
      Dimitar Stanev 3 months ago +1

      @heerak sharma what makes you so sure? No evidence exists that there is a spiritual world. We sure don't know everything and that doesnt give you the right to push your biased opinions in the voids of human knowledge.

    • Raffier Utomo
      Raffier Utomo 3 months ago

      We click the Im feeling lucky button

    • Dominick Oquin
      Dominick Oquin 3 months ago

      We would become bored, and hit the surprise button.

  • H A C A N
    H A C A N 3 months ago +73

    I am obsessed with him since Crash Course Astronomy 👀❤

  • Chinmai Naregal
    Chinmai Naregal 3 months ago +40

    I remember him from CrashCourse!!!

  • Education - Education
    Education - Education 3 months ago +3

    Where is Arabic? We need to understand it .

  • Sirius Lupin
    Sirius Lupin 3 months ago +3

    Phil plait astronomy

  • Master of Intelligence - Official Channel

    *SUPER secret to scientific discoveries*

    • es j
      es j 3 months ago


  • Aadarsh Sharma
    Aadarsh Sharma 3 months ago +1

    A place where you are always welcome to think in a different way but in a positive manner that can even change the world...

  • Attia ali mousy
    Attia ali mousy 3 months ago +1


  • Felix Racine
    Felix Racine 3 months ago +1


  • Kenjiro García
    Kenjiro García 3 months ago +1

    Crash course!

  • Tanvir Ahmed
    Tanvir Ahmed 3 months ago +3

    It's science, bro!

  • Tiến Trần
    Tiến Trần 3 months ago +1


  • Darlene Bamba
    Darlene Bamba 3 months ago +1


  • Random Kid
    Random Kid 3 months ago +1