Apart from a few meetings, I spent the bulk of my day working through what I assumed should be a simple mathematical problem. For whatever reason, and despite my best efforts, my brain just didn’t want to process or comprehend it. I spent hours staring at it, trying to approach it from different angles – but to no avail. Perhaps my brain knew it was Friday.
Normally this would annoy me. I mean, I’m supposed to be a mathy/staty kind of guy. In my mind, it should be second-nature for me to review an equation and automatically know it, understanding every possible nuance. I shouldn’t look at a formula and think What the hell is that? unless of course the formula is flawed. And none of this should require any in-depth thinking. I should just get it.
While I realize this is an unreal expectation, there have been times where I have found myself beyond frustrated because something wouldn’t click. In most cases, a nap, a meal, a drink – all have served to put me back on track. In the cases where this didn’t help, perseverance won out – eventually.
After struggling with the problem for several hours today, I wandered to Starbucks to chat with Gerarda. The intent was not to chat statistics over coffee, but I did query her for advice. This, apparently, was the seed that I needed. While she didn’t have the answer, she suggested the same strategy that I had considered prior to meeting her. After our coffee I spent a few more hours poking away at the equations. While the solution still eludes me, I know that I am close. I can feel it.
Why do I mention all of this? Well, first, I need to remember that I’m not expected to know all the maths. I am, however, expected to be able to devise methods to find the answers – to push the boundaries of our collective knowledge. This may seem obvious to most, but for whatever reason it’s usually the first thing I forget. Further, I need to remember that I have amazing colleagues and friends for a reason. The old adage is correct: two heads are better than one. Sometimes the solution can be found in a simple conversation with someone who speaks the same language. And of course, it’s always great to have an alternate point of view, or in my case, a similar point of view to encourage a potential path to a solution.
For now I’m going to keep plugging away. The solution is close. I can feel it.
- Just Call Me Double 0 Pi (consumedbywanderlust.wordpress.com)
- Supercomputing to solve a superproblem in mathematics (rdmag.com)
- Your Brain Can Be Nice or Logical, But Not Both At Once (geekosystem.com)