My name is Jan and I’m a Ph.D. student in computational neuroscience at the MPI for Brain Research in Frankfurt. I’m excited about a lot of things, f.e. the brain, artificial intelligence, language, effective altruism, rationality, mathematics,…
Here is an apologia I wrote for my post on developmental neuroscience, although it applies pretty much to every post:
There is a story about John Nash that I like a lot. John Nash is a famous mathematician who got a (fake) Nobel prize for his work in game theory as well as a Hollywood adaptation starring Russell Crowe. But (if you trust his biography) his contribution to mathematics is at least as great. He had a very curious way of working:
Nash's main mode of picking up information he deemed necessary consisted of quizzing various faculty members and fellow students. [...] Some of his best ideas came "from things learned only halfway, sometimes even wrongly, and trying to reconstruct them - even if he could not do so completely.” (A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar, pg 68)
He started out with something very wrong, then went with his first (wrong) attempt at a solution to one of his colleagues, who helped make it slightly less wrong. Nash then repeated this procedure until, in the end, he had a working proof.
Apart from some hard questions about ownership (can Nash really claim that he produced the proof?) and the obvious issue that Nash turned very schizophrenic in his later years, I admire this way of working (at least for doing very hard research) and aspire to do the same. I really, really want to get answers - and I don't care if I have to recruit help and produce a lot of nonsense on the way. This is, of course, just a poor fig leave of a defense for all the nonsense I am producing on this platform. Mea culpa.