White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hamming's Research Article

Richard Hamming, the well-known mathematician and computer scientist has a famous lecture titled you and your research. I believe his lecture is a must-read for all young researchers.

Hamming's tone carries some degrees of arrogance. Yet the long lecture is quite insightful and entertaining to read. The speech fills the reader with the philisophical equipment that a researcher from undergradute level all the way to PhD and professorship might need. Among many great points, there is this part about the whole philosophy of being researcher that I truly enjoyed:

"Well I now come down to the topic, ``Is the effort to be a great scientist worth it?'' To answer this, you must ask people. When you get beyond their modesty, most people will say, ``Yes, doing really first-class work, and knowing it, is as good as wine, women and song put together,'' or if it's a woman she says, ``It is as good as wine, men and song put together.'' And if you look at the bosses, they tend to come back or ask for reports, trying to participate in those moments of discovery. They're always in the way. So evidently those who have done it, want to do it again. But it is a limited survey. I have never dared to go out and ask those who didn't do great work how they felt about the matter. It's a biased sample, but I still think it is worth the struggle. I think it is very definitely worth the struggle to try and do first-class work because the truth is, the value is in the struggle more than it is in the result. The struggle to make something of yourself seems to be worthwhile in itself. The success and fame are sort of dividends, in my opinion. "
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