TITLE: What It Feels Like To Do Research
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: February 06, 2015 3:11 PM
DESC:
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BODY:
In one sentence:
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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.
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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,
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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.
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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.
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