Archive for May 18th, 2008

Brad DeLong is a …

May 18, 2008

Utopian neoliberal optimist.

HowTo: get started with research

May 18, 2008

Niket at nOnoscience has some pointers:

1. Read (and listen);
2. Think (and understand); and,
3. Do (and verify).

He goes on to expand on each of these.

While I do agree that this indeed is great advice, I would add “Not necessarily in that order” in bold, to the list. Every student, at the beginning of his/her career, thinks that research progresses linearly — you read, you listen, you think, you understand, you get your basics right, and then, do. However, hardly ever, it works in practice. In reality, you do; and, what you do is mostly nonsense. Then, you try to read, listen, and think. You get some right, and some you don’t. You go back and do it again. In fact, to reach a stage wherein you can say, I did and verified, it might take a few iterations.

Of course, it might vary from person to person; but, in my own case, the best way to approach a problem/area, is to choose some paper (any paper — if it is a good one, it is better in the sense that the number of iterations might reduce a bit) in the area, and try and reproduce its results. Along the way, of course, to consciously remind oneself to read, listen, and think brings in plenty of understanding. Then, try another, if you have not come up with some ideas of your own. In all, if you tried and reproduced three key papers, you might even become a reasonable authority.

A time sink called Firefox

May 18, 2008

On my coming back to India, for the first time, I have been using a computer which is not connected to the internet most of the times; and, I can vouch for the different feel that Paul Graham mentions in his latest piece:

If you try this trick, you’ll probably be struck by how different it feels when your computer is disconnected from the Internet. It was alarming to me how foreign it felt to sit in front of a computer that could only be used for work, because that showed how much time I must have been wasting.

Wow. All I can do at this computer is work. Ok, I better work then.

That’s the good part. Your old bad habits now help you to work. You’re used to sitting in front of that computer for hours at a time. But you can’t browse the web or check email now. What are you going to do? You can’t just sit there. So you start working.

Take a look!