You and Your Research

1 04 2009

Just read this excellent talk You and Your Research by Richard Hamming.

It’s an inspiring read. Some excerpts:

One of the characteristics of successful scientists is having courage. Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can. If you think you can’t, almost surely you are not going to. 

 

I think that if you look carefully you will see that often the great scientists, by turning the problem around a bit, changed a defect to an asset.

 

If you are deeply immersed and committed to a topic, day after day after day, your subconscious has nothing to do but work on your problem. And so you wake up one morning, or on some afternoon, and there’s the answer.

 

If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t think it is going to lead to something important, why are you at Bell Labs working on it?

 

It is a poor workman who blames his tools  the good man gets on with the job, given what he’s got, and gets the best answer he can.

 

it is not sufficient to do a job, you have to sell it

 

Yes, doing really first-class work, and knowing it, is as good as wine, women and song put together

 

You find this happening again and again; good scientists will fight the system rather than learn to work with the system and take advantage of all the system has to offer

 

The appearance of conforming gets you a long way

 

By taking the trouble to tell jokes to the secretaries and being a little friendly, I got superb secretarial help

 

Another thing you should look for is the positive side of things instead of the negative. I have already given you several examples, and there are many, many more; how, given the situation, by changing the way I looked at it, I converted what was apparently a defect to an asset

 

In summary, I claim that some of the reasons why so many people who have greatness within their grasp don’t succeed are: they don’t work on important problems, they don’t become emotionally involved, they don’t try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and they keep giving themselves alibis why they don’t. They keep saying that it is a matter of luck. I’ve told you how easy it is; furthermore I’ve told you how to reform. Therefore, go forth and become great scientists!

Kinda made my day actually!

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