The most vital lesson from your work

Seed Magazine had a short article that captivated my imagination for the last few days:

If you only had a single statement to pass on to others summarizing the most vital lesson to be drawn from your work, what would it be? Seed asked eleven scientists this question.

I was pretty disappointed with the answers, but upon re-reading the question, I realized that it’s probably due to differences of interpretation. The only answer that I liked was from Steve Strogatz, who said:

You can make sense of anything that changes smoothly in space or time, no matter how wild and complicated it may appear, by reimagining it as an infinite series of infinitesimal changes, each proceeding at a constant (and hence much simpler) rate, and then adding all those simple little changes back together to reconstitute the original whole.

This is a pretty loose understanding of what is “from” means in “drawn from your work”. I don’t think Strogatz claims he invented infinitesimal calculus, just that has in work this has been a vital idea (the most vital? total orderings are tough sometimes.)

What’s the most vital lesson to be drawn from your work?


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2 responses to “The most vital lesson from your work

  1. My single statement: Stop computing, start abstracting.

  2. @modelpractice: I like it! 🙂 I have just returned from the “8F” workshop, which made me think hard about exactly this, now that I hear you say it.

    It also made me think hard about communication channels, such as blog vs stack exchanges. In relation to that, there is a great discussion going at the or-exchange with a lot of good answers from OR researchers.