Thursday, November 17, 2005

My bread and butter

"Problem Y is really a form of problem X, and there are many known implementations of problem X."

Every research paper you've read says it. The book you're referring to says it. Yet you can't imagine how you can get Problem Y (which you have to implement) to look like Problem X. You struggle with the problem all day and can't solve it. You search the library and figure out three books (which happen to be across three different libraries on campus for some reason) that might help you solve the problem and you promise yourself to go look those up tomorrow.

Convinced that you're right and all the papers and books you're reading are wrong (and encouraged that almighty Google doesn't show up a solution to this problem) - you start writing an e-mail to your advisor to ask for help. This of course, is the first time you're writing a description of the problem that could be remotely described as coherent. Hlafway through the e-mail your brain goes, "wwwwwait a minuttttte!" A few hasty calculations later and you've solved your problem, which was really so simple a smart first year undergraduate would surely have seen it.

You feel grateful to all deities you believe in (and to some you don't) that you didn't send that mail to your advisor which would probably have resulted in your ranking moving from almost negative infinity to negative infinity. You also end up feeling, as on most other work days, like a complete idiot.

Welcome to the world of research.