A shallow thought about depth

Late at night, while I was browsing through my favourite blogs, it occurred to me that blogging is a shallow activity. Blog thoughts, like this one, scrape the surface of subjects that could be investigated in depth. Even a blogger as thoughtful as Steven Novella bounces from topic to topic, leaving the reader wondering what else can be said.

When I finished my Ph.D. dissertation (three decades ago!), I was for a few weeks the world expert in my field. It had taken me a long time (more than 20 years if you count primary school) to reach this depth of understanding; bound in a handsome green hard cover it comprises 323 pages. Now that’s depth.

Not that I’m boasting. The work I did back in the 1980s is now forgotten: flipping through the pages, I find myself baffled: I don’t at first glance understand the mathematics I produced. I guess it must have been right. Anyway, the bound thesis makes a dandy mouse pad.

Any research is soon surpassed. Other researchers, including me for a while,  took my results further. My work was just an eddy in the stream of progress; but a deep eddy.

About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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