Wednesday, April 29, 2009

in which research can be like .. homework?!?

if i think about a single research problem for too long, then i get sloppy. i chase after details that don't matter, rather than stick to the single, ultimate objective.

i liken this to spending too much time in front of a computer screen, when programming.

after a while, one starts writing code to fix previous code, whereas the objective should be writing code to fit the parameters of how the program is supposed to work. i remember this well, from my undergrad days: after coding for a few hours, leaving to eat, i'd return to the screen only to see ..

.. well, cr@p. useless, cr@ppy code.

to quote a friend of mine,
"don't attack the solution; attack the problem."

this is why i hesitate to spend entire days thinking about one problem.

however, there is a way out of this.
note the keyword: one.

a day can be split into several problems or projects. i think it took me too long in life to have discovered this .. or rather, rediscover.

when you think about it, this is exactly how one does homework problem sets. it's too risky to attack one problem until it's done; at some point, you need to have something to show for all that time and effort.

i guess i haven't done any homework in a while. a ph.d. will do that to you, i guess. (;

so lately i've been juggling problems. there is a risk in this:

if you attack one problem and are unsuccessful, then you mope and curse the world, life, etc. for a little while. on the other hand, if you attack several problems and are unsuccessful at each, then that depression lasts a little longer.

then again, maybe i should be doing what i would have done as a student with problem sets: talk to someone else, see if they could solve it. at any rate, i could use a few more collaborations.

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