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re: why

As Roger pointed out, its not really necessary to analyse why APD
discussions are stimulating in order to enjoy them. Sort of like asking
why cookies taste good! Who cares when we have lots of them to eat,
right? But lets say there is a shortage of raisons...

What makes the discussions stimulating I suppose are the new ideas that
come out now and then. How can we ensure a continuing supply of new and
stimulating ideas?

One way is to read new books and seek out new people with interesting
ideas or wait passively for those people with new ideas to stumble upon
the APD. The active approach is bound to come up with more raisins.

Another way is to sit down and figure out, what are the questions, if we
could answer them, that would benefit the aquarium community. The
process of finding those answers is applied research.

A third way is to sit down and just think up interesting questions
without justifying the need to answer them. That's pure research. Sooner
or later somebody often comes up with an application for a pure research

That's three kinds of research but certainly research is not for
everyone. In fact a lot of us probably cringe at the mere thought of
test tubes and experiments. But if somebody comes up with a cool idea
for a CO2 reactor, well those same folks get interested or even come up
with ideas of their own. That's research too. 

I don't like it when people stick a label on research and insist that it
has to be done with experiments and statistics. There's a place for that
kind of learning but I think we need to look at the broadest definition
of the scientific method which is simply the systematic process of
seeking knowledge. The first step in that process is the recognition of
problems which need solving. But that's another subject I'll pursue

Seeking knowledge and research is not for everyone. Some people are
involved with the APD and other organizations for other reasons, such as
to learn or for self-fulfilment (self actualization). Giving out advise
on the APD is one way to meet that need but there are other challenges
like organizing a club or becoming involved with an international
organization like AGA. This is not intended to be a sales pitch for the
AGA; in fact, its a way of questioning the usefulness and purpose of
that kind of organization. That sort of self-examination can be a little
disturbing but it is also a means of renewal.

The thing I like about the way ideas flow in the APD is that its very
dynamic and everyone has an equal opportunity to express their ideas.
That's good. The problem is that the results are pretty hard to distil
and that's why a hobbyist periodical like TAG is good. Somebody has to
expend a concerted effort to research and write up a topic
comprehensively. An alternative to that approach is to write up your
articles and publish them on your own web pages. I have to admit that's
a pretty good approach; for one thing, the knowledge is free to anybody
who can find a link to your web page.

Steve     still pondering the Zen-ness of aquariums ;-)