Theoretical physics and related math writing about topics in physics and math that i read national gas average 2012

We are concerned with great research here. Work that will get wide recognition. As most people realize, the average published paper is read by the author, the referee, and perhaps one other person. Classic papers are read by thousands. We are concerned with research that will matter in the long run and become more than a footnote in history.

Greatness is a matter of style. To achieve greatness, you must find your own style. Furthermore, a successful style in one age is not necessarily appropriate for another age. Cubism would not have gone over big during the realism period. (Note added by RM – What’s even greater is if you be the non-conformist and define the age.)

It seems better to live a life in which you do important things (important in your eyes, of course) than to merely live out your life. (Note added by RM – being important in your own eyes might be antithetical to gaining wide recognition.) Choosing the problem

Importance of the results of a solution does not make the problem important. In all the 30 years I spent at Bell Labs, no one to my knowledge worked on time travel, teleportation, or anti-gravity. Why? Because they had no attack on the problem. Thus an important aspect of any problem is that you have a good attack, a good starting place.

To illustrate, consider my experience at BTL. For the first few years I ate lunch with he mathematicians. They were more interested in fun and games than in serious work, so I shifted to eating with the physics table. There I stayed for a number of years until the Nobel Prize, promotions, and offers from other companies, removed most of the interesting people. So I shifted to the corresponding chemistry table where I had a friend. After that I had to eat with the engineers!

About four months later, my friend in Chemistry stopped me in the hall and remarked that my question had bothered him. He had spent the summer thinking about the important problems in his area, and while had had not changed his research he thought it was well worth the effort. A few weeks later I noticed that he was made head of the department. Many years later he became a member of the National Academy of Engineering. The one person who could hear the question went on to do important things and all the others — so far as I know — did not do anything worth public attention. (Note added by RM – how is becoming the head of the department and member of some academy count as having done good research?)

There are many right problems, but very few people search carefully for them. Great scientists all spend a lot of time and effort in examining the important problems in their field. Many have a list of 10 to 20 problems that might be important if they had a decent attack.

Some people work with their doors open in clear view of those who pass by, while others carefully protect themselves from interruptions. Those with the door open get less work done each day, but those with their door closed tend not know what to work on, nor are they apt to hear the clues to the missing piece to one of their “list” problems.

Hard work is a trait that most great scientists have. Most people do not work as hard as they easily could. However, many who do work hard — work on the wrong problem, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and have very little to show for it.

The first person to produce definitive results generally gets all the credit. Those who come in second are soon forgotten. (Note added by RM – again, the emphasis on fame, who got there first). Thus working on the problem at the right time is essential.

Einstein tried to find a unified theory, spent most of his later life on it, and died in a hospital still working on it with no significant results. Apparently, he attacked the problem too early, or perhaps it was the wrong problem. (Note added by RM – this is pure hindsight, you cannot predict this while he was working on it! Strongly disagree. Note the use of the word “apparently”).

There are a pair of errors that are often made when working on what you think is the right problem at the right time. One is to give up too soon, and the other is to persist and never get any results. The second is quite common. Knowing when you persist is not easy.

People are always claiming that success is a matter of luck, but as Pasteur pointed out, Luck favors the prepared mind. You succeed because you have prepared yourself with the necessary background long ago, without, of course, knowing then that it would prove to be a necessary step to success.

For example, when I first met Feynman at Los Alamos during the WWII, I believed that he would get a Nobel Prize. (Note added by RM – again emphasis on the Nobel Prize). His energy, his style, his abilities, all indicated that he was a person who would do many things, and probably at least one would be important.

Einstein, around the age of 12 or 14, asked himself what a light wave would look like if he want at the speed of light. He knew that Maxwell’s theory did not support a local, stationary maximum, but was what he ought to see if the current theory was correct. So it is not surprising that he later developed the special theory of relativity – he had prepared his mind for it long before. (Note added by RM – could you have told Einstein when he was 14 that his theory would succeed or fail?) Personal traits

Successful people exhibit more activity, more energy, than most people do. They look more places, they work harder, they think longer than less successful people. Constant effort to understand more than the surface feature of a situation obviously prepares you to see new and slightly different applications of your knowledge.

Shannon is a good example. When attacked while playing chess, he seldom, if ever, defended his position. Rather he attacked back. Such a method of playing soon produces a very interrelated board. It took me a while to realize that of course that is why he was able to prove the existence of good coding methods. Who but Shannon would think to average over all random codes and expect to find that the average was close to ideal? (Note added by RM – again, pure hindsight.)

You need a vision of who you are and where your field is going. The particular vision you have is less important than just having one – there are many paths to success. Therefore, it is wise to have a vision of what you may become, of where you want to go, as well as how to get there.

Another topic I must discuss is that of age. Historically, the greatest contributions of mathematicians, theoretical physicists, and astrophysicists are done when they are very young. On the other hand, apparently in music composition, politics, and literature, the later works are most valued by society. Other areas seem to fall in between these extremes, and you need to realize that in some areas you had better get going promptly. (Note added by RM – counterexamples in theoretical physics – Witten, Susskind, Strominger).

Of course I have consulted only those who did do great things, and have not dared to ask those who did not. Perhaps they would reply differently. But, as is often said, it is in the struggle and not the success that the real gain appears. In striving to do great things, you change yourself into a better person, so they claim. The actual success is of less importance, so they say. And I tend to believe this theory. (Note added by RM – a pathetic postscript).