Blog Category: Advice and inspiration

Writing CHI Rebuttals

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CHI rebuttals are due at the end of the week. What to do? What to write? How do you convince those reviewers (particularly Reviewer #3) that your work has merit, if only they would brush up on their understanding of regression analysis. I am not promising any miracles, but I’ve written and read a few rebuttals over the years. Here’s my take.

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Benoît Mandelbrot, 1924-2010

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I am saddened to hear that Benoît Mandelbrot has passed away. His The Fractal Geometry of Nature excited and intrigued me when I was in high school, though I admit that while I, like many others, examined all the pictures, I read only scattered parts of the text. The talk of his I attended as an undergraduate was the first technical talk by a famous mathematician that I understood, essentially, in full.  The popularity of fractals was due to the gorgeous pictures,  and was aided by the simplicity of some of the underlying mathematics, which made it accessible to so many, and to the connection of fractals to so many phenomena. That fractals appeared at all scales in nature, from galaxies, to coastlines, to trees, I knew from looking at his book, but their tie to economics was new to me. He struck me as arrogant, but in an endearing way since his pride in his contributions stemmed from his intense love of the work and his absolute conviction of its importance. He clearly enjoyed his maverick status as someone who worked in a different way than most mathematicians, and on non-standard mathematics. Although he taught us to look for self-similar patterns throughout the universe, we won’t find the like of him any time soon.

Research advice and a search challenge

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I was intending to write a post on the varied reasons mathematicians give for taking long walks as an aid to research. I couldn’t find my favorite quote, so instead I’m posting a search challenge.

I thought I remembered reading, in the book Littlewood’s Miscellany, something along the lines of the following advice:

Researchers spend the vast majority of their time feeling frustrated. To improve the ratio of time feeling fulfilled to time feeling frustrated, whenever you find a new result or succeed in completing a proof, take the time to enjoy it, preferably by taking a long walk.  Definitely don’t dive into the next problem, or go back and check the proof. There is plenty of time for that later.

However, it doesn’t seem to be in that book. Littlewood certainly approved of walking, and the tone of much of his advice is consistent with this quote, but this particular piece of advice doesn’t appear to be there.  I couldn’t find it in a web search either.

I would love to know the true source for this piece of wisdom.

Tcho chocolate bar to anyone who can track down the source!

Advice for researchers

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The Princeton Companion to Mathematics, which came out just a few month ago, contains a wonderful short section entitled “Advice to a Young Mathematician” with advice from five eminent mathematicians. I was in the need of inspiration this weekend, and found some in these personal statements. Below the fold you will find a few excerpts applicable to any researcher of any age.

Readers: Please help me and other readers of this blog by posting in the comments section pointers to your favorite sources of research advice.

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