In school, there’s one curriculum, one right way to study science, and one right formula that spits out the correct answer on a standardized test. Textbooks with grand titles like The Principles of Physics magically reveal “the principles” in three hundred pages. An authority figure then steps up to the lectern to feed us “the truth.” As theoretical physicist David Gross explained in his Nobel lecture, textbooks often ignore the many alternate paths that people wandered down, the many false clues they followed, the many misconceptions they had. We learn about Newton’s “laws” — as if they arrived by a grand divine visitation or a stroke of genius — but not the years he spent exploring, revising, and changing them. The laws that Newton failed to establish — most notably his experiments in alchemy, which attempted, and spectacularly failed, to turn lead into gold — don’t make the cut as part of the one-dimensional story told in physics classrooms. Instead, our education system turns the life stories of these scientists from lead to gold.

Question) there are three objectives of the word "ignore". but there is no conjunction "and" in front of last objective (the many misconceptions they had). So, Is it possible that conjunction "and" is not used in parallel structure?

  • I think you are confusing "selective" and "optional". While "select" and "opt for" are synonyms, "selective" and "optional" are not. Sep 1 at 4:53
  • thank you for your point :) Sep 2 at 2:31

Yes, sometimes "and" is omitted. One reason is for style, to sound thoughtful or poetic. This is called asyndeton, and it may be what happened here.

But in this case, it's possible "and" was omitted because they're three sets of words describing the same thing, rather than three separate things. In that case, the second and third noun phrases are called appositives.

To me, these three phrases:

the many alternate paths that people wandered down

the many false clues they followed

the many misconceptions they had

all describe the one concept: the indirect routes that have led to our current understanding of Physics.

It's similar to saying, "I work in the Louvre Museum, the building right over there, the one with the huge glass pyramid in front." If I added "and" before the last phrase, it would sound like I was talking about three separate buildings.

  • 2
    I agree. The three consecutive noun phrases are in an appositive relationship - they're all referring to the same thing. Including and could be misleading, since that implies they're different things. Sep 1 at 12:16
  • @FumbleFingers Tx. Added the term
    – gotube
    Sep 2 at 2:26

Yes, in literary style a conjunction can be left implicit in certain contexts. It is a rhetorical device called asyndeton.

  • Tx. Added the term to my answer :)
    – gotube
    Sep 2 at 2:30

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