Thursday, August 02, 2007

Brazil, my wife

My stay in Brazil is coming to an end. I'm ready to come back. Ready to graduate. I have a friend who is coming to visit me for 18 days, and is bringing two fine ladies with him (one of whom is his girlfriend, how cool is that for them?).

We've probably all heard the legend about Archimedes and the king's crown... but we've probably all forgotten. One version is that the king had been given a crown of gold... but rumors caused him to question it's purity. He posed the question to Archimedes, "how do I know this is gold?" Archimedes troubled himself with the problem for sometime, skipping meals, not shaving... just engrossing himself in the search for a solution. Eventually Archimedes' wife convinced him to take a rest. She convinced him to go to the bath house and take a bath. As he lowered his body into the water he realized the amount of water spilling over the edge was the same as the size of his body, and was independent of his weight. Mass over volume, the formula for density was born. Archimedes ran into the streets naked and dripping screaming "Eureka! Eureka!" ("I've found it!").

Two things.
1. It appears that all truly great minds have an ability to focus their brain for long periods of time. It's said about Percy Bysshe Shelly, Einstein, Telsa, Archimedes, and so on. Einstein said "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." Tesla was said to construct entire machines piece by piece in his head, and start them running, weeks later he'd take them apart and inspect the for wear... in his mind. Sweet. (People like to talk about serendipity, but Archimedes would never have had the serendipitous moment without his utter mental commitment to the problem)

2. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to take a step back. Sometimes it takes a rest to get out of your rut, and use your existing knowledge to start down a new path that may or may not lead to the Pot O' Gold.

Well, Brazil has been my wife. I've had a lot of downtime here; I have noticed my problem solving ability has improved (in the sense of real world problems that don't have concrete answers). Interestingly enough, I discovered via the my email to grandma that my dad has a great ability to remove himself from situation and analyze things very objectively (forwarded it to mom... dad saw it and was not pleased...) I wonder how this affects his faith (dad is a pretty devout Christian), and how he learned the quality? He's the president of a facility in Tracy, CA and I have to know this ability comes in handy. Did he move up the ladder because he had the ability? Or because someone correctly saw the potential for ability? More importantly, why didn't he teach me this stuff... clearly I wouldn't have listened.. but I think he could have taught me just be asking good questions.

Anyway, I've been able to step back from a lot... and take a somewhat fresh look (I think if America and Congress could do this, Bush would be impeached, for example). For math nerds only: The problem is the solution space is not convex and we move towards solutions as if it should be... sometimes we get lucky.


Blogger Ryan said...

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11:05 PM  

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