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Formulating a good science question

January 27, 2011

Mohan, mdashf


Lately I have been thinking a lot about pretty much everything

(there is an interesting difference between anything and everything)

1. Standard model and its projected (insignificant) incompleteness,
2. how to reformulate our present day approach in doing Physics on a world wide scale
so that the advantages of collaboration between formally different components of  this branch of science  works with effective communication

(Is science a bandwagon or it works better with conference, workshops where ideas are evaluated and worked on?)

3. how to extract more meaningful results from seemingly bizarre events and processes occurring in nature, how  to unify it all.
4. How to unify it with a purpose to shape the future of science rather than to satisfy our mundane hourly needs of coming up with a pretty intellectual looking commentary on something.
5. In the later piece of activities (or hyper-activities ?) the naives and novices are more of a bottlenecks than any useful positive or negative critique. But the Corona is sipped through  a bottle neck, right?   Well !! sometimes I am just perplexed by the lack of reasoning but who do I expect it from, when I run out of it I just go into the lap of nature for a while, if I could, and rejuvenate myself. And most of this I have been thinking on a rail bogey or something but I wouldn’t know until I hit the defunct keyboard on my macintosh.

Lately I am also thinking why we need to do something as undefined as science, the only raison d’être is passion?

The usual response of the illuminated is a learned silence and the response of one who is not is one of an overt sense of, I declare enlightenment, at-least I will not buzz with my self worth. No one questions your self worth no one can stop you from asserting it. It is not just linked with your self dignity. If its an argument just supply your reasoning and you will see your self worth and dignity is so connected to someone else’s that there is no real danger to it. It passes the immature intellectuals.

OK so passion is a good measure of someone’s true sincerity. But that is just the pinnacle of glory. Thats where Richard P. Feynman arrived through shear passion. Among other things and apart from passion he showcased pretty many different characters of science. The reasons and validity of doing a scientific enquiry cuts into much more than just passion. Like it or not a good deal of it is compulsion.

The naives and the newbies could often try  to counter that with their opinion making tendencies. But I think (counter to that) compulsion is as good as passion. We learn to be passionate because we are compelled to. Science is such a machine of compulsion. If you have been engrossed, try to get out of it without cutting your limbs and throat filaments.

Of-course you may define everything to be simple and cut with ease but that is not the compulsion everyone is facing. If you study the biographies of Niels Bohr you will see the same compulsions of scientific minds that you will see if you study Pauli.

(I come across some folks who argue that they know Physics because they studied it in college and they know Physicists because they hear about them on TV or internet sites where a lot is described in a way in which we tend to accept in a general way rather than any straightforward this is how it was. )

SO its really difficult to argue with someone who forms such impressions about the efficacy of your own studies when you have something outstanding to say, how much of experience counts is a good question but how much to counter someone’s ill-found opinions with a question is another subject, it all leads to opportunities to study science or history of science and so on, and lately I am a little concerned about such.

I met a middle aged folk in a rail bogey about 12 years ago and the person informed he works as a hydraulics engineer or something, back then I was done doing my Physics honors and already well versed in advance treatments of physics at that level such as coriolis force, generic coordinates  and such, I never studied canonical transformation but   there is any hard physics there, its all jam-packed into our course works so we could relax towards a senior career in Physics, who want to do Physics all his life unless its compulsion (showing as a passion).

I planned to finish all that I could not back then for several reasons but could never, when I saw the mind blowing negativities in higher academics and research it reminded me one thing, you do what you can afford to do and at-best you can be ambitious about the rest, why give up on something which is your compulsion, lets see if it turns into any passion 7 years from now, I believe it will be much more constraints than now, so the principle of affordability will always decide.

SO the point was I already understood simpler concepts such as inertia and laws of motion. I thought a lot about these back then as well, in my favorite rail bogey activity, jump to the top stair and read your book comfortably, its 1.5 hours of a trip and you know exactly where to and when  to get off, its usually the watch, on an average, but also  you know its never less than 1 hour 20 minute, so thats the alarm.

I overshoot my destination only one time in 2 years, its usually dark by the time you reach and a small mistake could be playing into it. OK so some of the times I am not reading any books because I am bored of the dark implications it has, so I enjoy a mundane trip sitting on the lower stairs and meeting funny intellectuals. So this hydraulic guy comes up with (his interest to know) what I am doing, a Post Grad in Physics, good I have a plus 2 degree in Physics and I consider myself a savvy, so savvy that I can claim superior knowledge to someone who is at-least formally more prepared if not a great scientist himself, this great scientist thing is a scorn in the psychology of some folks.

I believe these folks are never comfortable with what they are dealing with rather than who they are dealing with when they can not they show their vulnerable sides and call you a name. Little knowledge is never a dangerous thing, its a license (sign) of the dishonest person. No matter what let me give him a piece of a mind, son of a… Little do these folks realize what kind of son of a Gun. At any rate there are too many referees here so let me cut short.

So the hydraulic engineer comes up with some trashy explanation of Newtons laws and inertial frame of reference and so on.  Not that pretty many good students can come up with any good explanation, I mean you can ask a simple question about such to those who claim professional degrees in Physics and see the inconsistent explanations they give. Its rut mania its not any deep understanding, deep understanding is such a difficult paradigm one has to act on such for a life time before the understanding matches that of Einstein or  Feynman, and then remember the Feynmans I dont understand what I dont create, not many can apprehend what Feynman knew and what he did not knew, in praise you can say what he did not know was such a newer understanding, I think science of the highest kind often relies on remarks that sound useless.

What Feynman knew at age 23 is certainly outstanding and remarkable in any standard, how many people appreciated that, Hans Bethe and Openheimer for sure, not every outstanding jerk, now if I use the word average jerk you will criticize me for calling some one an average so the other possibility is an outstanding jerk, because the jerk is a given, but who does it apply to, certainly not the hydraulic engineer, this person comes up with idiotic arguments about laws of motion and inertia etc so I knew whats wrong with Physics from my preliminary days of thinking Physics. Of-course Physics attracts everyone alike. Its like a magnet. Ever read some one like Bohr proclaiming A Physicist is an atoms way of looking at itself.

There are millions such enlightenment Physicist go through, how would I know, I was at 23 what Feynman was at 23. At 27 he was a theoretician and I was an experimentalist, a little further he worked on QED and I worked on particle physics, there are so many things to tell you here that the best way would be to take a question and answer it. Little do I realize that these questions themselves haven’t been formulated. Whats a good science question? Little do you realize you should not argue with me about being a Niels Bohr or Heisenberg because their equations happen to be on every science text, and come up with a sinful pleasure, we hit the snob.

So this cuts the questions like are scientists arrogant, are physicists arrogant. I would not know your needs to be venomous like that, may be preceding to that question. I am just working on my mind and I am happy with or without it. To some extent I am trying to make things more clear by writing about things that I have done, why they are new but science is such an ocean you need to learn to swim this infinite body to feel any satisfaction in life (Steven Weinberg) In-fact you should concentrate on working to find out something better than involve yourself in a bitter wordplay and advise, of all advise your advise does not fit my requirements that is why I am like this, unwilling to see your stand point. I just make my peace in small jumps. eg if its a question of science you are welcome to take part but if you formulate yourself better it will help tremendously to see what is it that you are receiving in response than work day in and day out on presumptions of loss of virtue.

SO its not really easy to formulate a good science question. As I remarked earlier science is undefined, it takes perseverance and experience of a matter of decades before you see some light. SO I am tempted to define science is like  a tunnel. But then why go through a tunnel which is not well lit if its not a compulsion. I am not a ghost hunter who takes a tunnel for the passion of enjoying it. I think though its a good exercise to pursue, but its difficult to chose everything in life. SO I go with a little whim here and a little solitude there. Thats my formula, wanna appreciate such?

But this finding yourself in a dark tunnel that became your compulsion for quite some time this is a necessary consequence of science. Wonder how someone ends up here. Pure inspiration and a streak of adventure. I just wanna see what lies beneath, rather than take everything for granted. Without that my life is a further wastage, its a 2nd tier wastage, 1st was ending up doing science in the belief that you will be inspired by natures wonder formulas then you fall back on people for their help and support, its always the case. If you want to be mere selfless you have to realize either you fall in the category of a scientist so you need the same oxygen that another scientist guy needs, the second being you do not fall in the category of scientists so just enjoy what you have rather than what you dont that these scientist guys are enjoying, dont be jealous of someone’s efforts for couple years.

You dont know how much and where I walk before I get a free air ticket to attend a conference. And in these conference I usually have a contribution to make. At-least in most of it I have. I interact with science folks from everywhere I try to understand their psyche and their problems and their feelings and formulate my opinions based on such. I dont always go on air. I appreciate those people that appreciate who I have been before what they are seeing in me now, rather than those that  imagine based on their childish internet participation. It does not hurt, it amuses and then that becomes a silly feeling of who one should take an advise from and who one should not.

I think there is a limit to which scientists can interact with those that are not directly or indirectly participants of science action, the added risk of this statement being I enjoy the inspiration of many that do not take part and a difficult paradigm need to be understood well before one spills his opinions. I believe therefore I am a strongly opinionated person because my views divulge more often than not. SO I think I have developed a suitable personality trait because every character tendencies are not natural, something developed over the years become a natural tendency, what comes out as a good is to be tested by time. NOT by people.

NOW there is something called formulating a science question. The above is the backdrop one has to see such involvement, to get an idea about whats involved at-least in an ideal way. Because what I am opinionating I am doing so as I said after interacting with 100s scientists and non scientists of the world, after working pain stakingly through days and nights of undefined science problems.  I have literally formulated and worked successfully on 1000s of questions before I could find a figurative solution to a daunting Physical problem.

SO here and now, I proclaim, its also enlightening to see what happens in human behavior, human actions and psychology of communities. We jump with our presumptions and procreated , mass customized behavior rather than an individualistic inquisitive zeal. We find it comforting to be a member of a mass to hide our follies than to be a member of the sky and learn from our own mistaken persona. I believe no (good) science can ever come out of this. So I will cut some slack here and beg pardon from the scientific community for over speaking and formulate a few commandments to formulating good science so that a remarkable result can be achieved.

If you follow such you can apply science everywhere except science as its propagating has been through a collective understanding. SO, individualistic efforts are nonetheless field defining, perspective generating and such. If everything is seen to be dark with the individual the collective effort are no less dark than the individual sum. Everywhere its the physical principles (are principles physical  ? ) SO here is a list.

1. Think about everything you intend to do, in isolation from other problems. The rule is at-least think.
2. Select a problem. This is a process, that can be a month long involvement or even linger to eternity. If it is the later either you are a genius or you better abstain.
3. Discuss the statement of the problem in your science community. Your thesis advisor is a honorable employer, if you are ambitious you have to plan an additional dimension.

4. Most people chose a problem that is in someway already worked out, its just a way to finish the problem in couple years and obtain a formal position and lead a comfortable life. It has got nothing to do with science. Science works despite of the fact that these people are a burden. Science works because there are checks and balances in the form of enthusiastic youth and kind senior people, rather than any traditional formulas such as a reference letter. The reference letters or any traditions are simply a farce. They have positive things to tell but they will also be very manipulative. The senior people have seen pretty much all of scientist tendencies. The youth is necessarily inspired because everyone forms their  path based on least action. Least action is where all the complicacies and inconsistent possibilities cancel.  The burdensome resource eaters are just a sophisticated reality of science of any time. Einstein distasted this. Every serious scientist distastes this.

5. Once your problem is selected study extensively what has been done and what has not been. No magic formula here. There will be pretty many factors here. Peer consultation, literature study, advise and mentoring from suitable scientists, hearing the unsuitable scientists with patience, because their long term frustrations may be a good substitute to a hard earned perspective. I chose the middle path always. Take it all, think it through, evaluate and come up with your ideas. Its tiring and murky. Thats my reputation in the community.  (Your reputation comes from what you have eaten, if you eat electrons you are a brilliant physicist, if you are at eating…pardon me)

6. Work at the problem like a pro. Everyone likes confidence. Only a few are real pros. Most burdensome resource eaters know how to fake this. It becomes a science problem in itself to differentiate between the two. That is why I describe the commandments in terms of all possible players.

7. Learn from the success and learn from the failures. The ones that have never performed any action are a special kind of participant, they work to inspire you. Dont dissatisfy them but they are the ones that form the opinion, you must always look at your failures. Thats the kind of agony aunt prescription I dont dislike. Agony aunts can never behave pleasant uncles. They are telling there is nothing called celebration. Its not true. Failures can be celebrated but why be so skew symmetric. Lets also celebrate our success.

(this is not for politicians they are always celebrating, thats why they go to elections)

This world is so negative as long as you dont give them a piece of mind they dont coincide with your approach. After that they know what you mean. You mean pure pleasure and they call it evil. Its OK.

8. If you finish in time, You will celebrate at 55, if you did not you will always celebrate. It just becomes a PIA for you to decide how to lead your life for what you have been making so much hue and laugh.

 

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