“The Little Engine That Could” is a popular children’s tale, clearly intended to impart a lesson about the power of positive thinking. Through self-encouragement, a small locomotive is able to pull a train up a tall, steep mountain he originally believed to be insurmountable. If you just believe hard enough, kids, you can do anything!
The physics of the story may be a bit dubious, although it is plausible that the work required to haul that train up that track is near the rated limits of the locomotive, allowing for genuine uncertainty about its ability to complete the task. According to this New York Times op-ed, the psychology may actually be the element that merits the most scrutiny. A purely Pollyannaish perspective is actually counter-productive; we need an equal measure of self-doubt to properly analyze our problems and identify solutions. [Read more…] about Science in Review: I Think I Can, I Think I Can’t