Tuesday, January 15, 2013

works and days: crazy, but is it crazy enough?

// originally written: sunday, 6 january 2013

personality must play a significant role in being a mathematician, or any other kind of writer, artisan, or quantitative researcher. in particular, i'm starting to believe that you have to be a little crazy for this job .. which is to say:

crazy (or masochistic) enough to accept regular doses of frustration,
in exchange for potential results in the long run.

here the word potential is key, otherwise i would simply be describing patience of a technical or professional nature.

there is the very real possibility, however, that i still don't know how to do research at all.
maybe i don't know what i'm doing well enough so that i can roughly predict the outcomes. some of my more senior colleagues are apt in saying things like ..

"this should follow" / "something like this should be true"

.. with appropriate care in their choice of words, of course: should.

i've still not had the comfortable confidence to say the same. then again, it could be just a matter of personality and maybe i'm just risk-averse [1] about these things.
i keep thinking about how glad i am not to have a ph.d. student right now. at some point, though, i might start becoming part of the minority, amongst my colleagues. a few of them have already been picking up their own students ..

.. which is fine; it is i, not they, who would make a terrible advisor.

[1] .. which is a little inconsistent. you see, i'm fond of mountain climbing; heights bother me sometimes, but staring down at a 100m+ drop doesn't seem so bad, as long as the rope is in good shape and securely anchored.

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