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Monday, September 12, 2005

but will it sink?

the very frustrating thing about my life and the way I do research is the discrepancy between how hard I think of myself as working and how hard I really am. Even after all this time, in the midst of the most intense period of work, I am constantly feeling lazy, useless, and overly privileged. I know that I must be working hard because I wake up at 6 AM, pretty much frozen with thioughts about this paper. I get out of bed, go into the other room, and basically stare at the wall for half an hour before the freeze thaws and something resembling perspective starts to obtain once more. And out of the calm comes new space to think about this paper again. So I have plugged a hole. I worked yesterday and found the explicit forms for these coupling terms for the damping coefficients. I had sort of worked them out before, but now I added all the terms. Also I looked at the phases of the eigenvectors and chose them so that they reduce to simple expressions when the coupling is turned off. These were necessary, low level things to do. This is not the painting or varnishing of the boat. This is the putting of structural planks into place, ones which if they happened not to fit would render the whole thing quite shaky.
So, fine, this is my working style. Even at this late in the game, there are still major structural pieces to work on. I just wish that my internal rewards system and feelings of pride and self worth would be upadated corresponding to my real working style. Why should I feel so bad after finishing a good piece of work? Is this somehow emotionally necessary in order to get the work done? Or is it just a remnant of a view of work in which if you don't break a sweat or have something concrete to show for your efforts then it wasn't real work?
The result of this conflicting view is that there are also the opposite moments... moments when wonderful results seem to materialze out of thin air, when from a dirty pile of boards, a fleet of ships forms at the simple waving of a hand. But the good feelings from that don't last long for they are then followed by guilt... if its all so easy for me, then why haven't I done more, more, more, more.


Anonymous said...

Haben die doch tatsaechlich unser Rohr gesehen - bei dem Seegang...

Froggita said...

According to Babel Fish, the above person's comment says "Nevertheless actually our pipe (or reed) saw - in the swell"
Maybe someone who actually knows german could translate.

Are you feeling bad because you're telling yourself all about how it should have gone?

It is hilarious about your car!

Boaz said...

That "anonymous" sure is right on! I'll take the advice immediately and take those pipes out of the ocean.

No, I don't really feel bad when looking back on the progression of work. I feel bad during the intermediary phases, where I've gotten some useful thinking done about the project but don't have anything concrete to show for it. I guess to some extent I feel bad when its done, wondering why I couldn't do it faster, or why what now seems so obvious wasn't at the time. But that's the whole point of doing conceptual work, the final product should be simple and clear. Fortunately my advisor knows these things about the process and appreciates my accomplishments along the way...

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Hey Boaz! That's a hilarious story about your car. You should get a Kryptonite lock for it and attach a BIC pen to the windshield. ;-) Glad it all turned out well! I'm sure you'll be carrying your laptop around with you from now on.

Ugh, about the German sentence. If you're still contemplating what to do after physics, I'd recommend you for a career in the Navy. The sentence doesn't say anything about what to do with the "pipe", but you apparently have the right instincts.

Boaz said...

Jan, thanks for the clarification on the German! I wonder, do I know this anonymous commenter?
Anyway, its good to know that my metaphorical boat building skills will be appreciated in the Seegang. My grandfather was in the navy and liked to tell us how he was the only sailor who couldn't swim.

Yes, I'd heard before about this issue with Toyota keys but had forgotten it. Maybe they're extremely idealistic and imagine a time when there are community cars with no one owner. I look forward to that day, but these old Toyotas may have turned to dust by then.