TITLE: What It Feels Like To Do Research AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 06, 2015 3:11 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In one sentence:
Unless you tackle a problem that's already solved, which is boring, or one whose solution is clear from the beginning, mostly you are stuck.
This is from Alec Wilkinson's The Pursuit of Beauty, about mathematician Yitang Zhang, who worked a decade on the problem of bounded gaps between prime numbers. As another researcher says in the article,
When you try to prove a theorem, you can almost be totally lost to knowing exactly where you want to go. Often, when you find your way, it happens in a moment, then you live to do it again.
Programmers get used to never feeling normal, but tackling the twin prime problem is on a different level altogether. The same is true for any deep open question in math or computing. I strongly recommend Wilkinson's article. It describes what life for untenured mathematicians is like, and how a single researcher can manage to solve an important problem. -----