Vecka 18 – You and Your Research

Richard Hamming: You and Your Research, ett väldigt bra tal som Richard Hamming hade på Bell Labs år 1986. Finns väldigt många bra stycken ur detta tal tycker jag.

The title of my talk is ”You and Your Research.” It is not about managing research, it is about how you individually do your research. I could give a talk on the other subject — but it’s not, it’s about you. I’m not talking about ordinary run-of-the-mill research; I’m talking about great research. And for the sake of describing great research I’ll occasionally say Nobel-Prize type of work. It doesn’t have to gain the Nobel Prize, but I mean those kinds of things which we perceive are significant things. Relativity, if you want, Shannon’s information theory, any number of outstanding theories — that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity — it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime.

Detta nedan är en ganska kul grej som handlar om när Hamming sätter sig med kemisterna i matsalen.

I went over and said, ”Do you mind if I join you?” They can’t say no, so I started eating with them for a while. And I started asking, ”What are the important problems of your field?” And after a week or so, ”What important problems are you working on?” And after some more time I came in one day and said, ”If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t think it is going to lead to something important, why are you at Bell Labs working on it?” I wasn’t welcomed after that; I had to find somebody else to eat with! That was in the spring.

Sedan fortsatte det så här:

In the fall, Dave McCall stopped me in the hall and said, ”Hamming, that remark of yours got underneath my skin. I thought about it all summer, i.e. what were the important problems in my field. I haven’t changed my research,” he says, ”but I think it was well worthwhile.” And I said, ”Thank you Dave,” and went on. I noticed a couple of months later he was made the head of the department. I noticed the other day he was a Member of the National Academy of Engineering. I noticed he has succeeded. I have never heard the names of any of the other fellows at that table mentioned in science and scientific circles. They were unable to ask themselves, ”What are the important problems in my field?”

If you do not work on an important problem, it’s unlikely you’ll do important work. It’s perfectly obvious. Great scientists have thought through, in a careful way, a number of important problems in their field, and they keep an eye on wondering how to attack them. Let me warn you, ”important problem” must be phrased carefully. The three outstanding problems in physics, in a certain sense, were never worked on while I was at Bell Labs. By important I mean guaranteed a Nobel Prize and any sum of money you want to mention. We didn’t work on (1) time travel, (2) teleportation, and (3) antigravity. They are not important problems because we do not have an attack. It’s not the consequence that makes a problem important, it is that you have a reasonable attack. That is what makes a problem important. When I say that most scientists don’t work on important problems, I mean it in that sense. The average scientist, so far as I can make out, spends almost all his time working on problems which he believes will not be important and he also doesn’t believe that they will lead to important problems.

Summeringen är följande:

In summary, I claim that some of the reasons why so many people who have greatness within their grasp don’t succeed are: they don’t work on important problems, they don’t become emotionally involved, they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck. I’ve told you how easy it is; furthermore I’ve told you how to reform. Therefore, go forth and become great scientists!

important problems. Om man funderar lite på det och om jag väljer att fundera på klimatet, CO2, energi, osv. Så tänker jag att energilagring är ett av de större problemen. Lite då och då så får man ofta se grafer på att sol och vind är nu billigare än fossila bränslen. Okej, det är ju bra. Om det är sant. Ja det kanske är sant, om man fokuserar på endast på några få utvalda faktorer. Att sol och vind subventioneras talar sitt tydliga språk, det är något annat än priset som spelar roll. Sol och vind är ju relativt värdelöst om man inte kan bestämma när man vill ha sin energi. Hade sol och vind varit så bra och billigt, borde det inte behöva subventioneras eftersom marknaden skulle fasa ut fossila bränslen av automatiskt. Så just nu tror jag att ett av de viktiga problemen inom mitt område som jag skulle kunna arbeta med är energilagring, sol och vind finns där redan. Därför tänker jag att lära mig mer om ämnet under sommaren när terminen är slut och se vad jag kan göra. Min tanke nu är att använda vätgas som energilagring tillsammans med sol och vind hade löst många av klimatproblemen.

You need to keep up more to find out what the problems are than to read to find the solutions. The reading is necessary to know what is going on and what is possible. But reading to get the solutions does not seem to be the way to do great research. So I’ll give you two answers. You read; but it is not the amount, it is the way you read that counts.

Detta är också från Richard Hammings tal och följande är bra från Ed Boydens, How to Think.

Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.

Så jag får hitta något bra att läsa och läsa det på rätt sätt helt enkelt.

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