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Look for the simplest solution

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As he surveyed the skies one night in 1781, William Herschel noticed an object he first thought to be a comet.

Upon moving to a bigger telescope, though, Herschel realized that this was an undiscovered planet, subsequently named Uranus.

The peculiar thing about Herschel’s discovery isn’t so much the discovery itself. It was that, against common practice, Herschel switched to the higher-power telescope to study the object more closely.

At the time, astronomers thought that moving to a larger telescope would not improve their view of celestial objects, but Herschel simply checked it out and realized that this was true of stars but not other objects.

The lesson: Sometimes, the obvious solution is best.

— Adapted from William Herschel and His Work, James Sime, Nabu Press.

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