Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I don't want to know that much about penguins...

[Lowerbounds, Upperbounds] reproduces a famous speech titled 'You and your research' by Richard Hamming. The entire speech makes for excellent reading, but I thought this excerpt, from discussions at the end, was very insightful. Replace 'book' by 'blog', and there you go...

In the short-haul, papers are very important if you want to stimulate someone tomorrow. If you want to get recognition long-haul, it seems to me writing books is more contribution because most of us need orientation. In this day of practically infinite knowledge, we need orientation to find our way. [....]

The present growth of knowledge will choke itself off until we get different tools. I believe that books which try to digest, coordinate, get rid of the duplication, get rid of the less fruitful methods and present the underlying ideas clearly of what we know now, will be the things the future generations will value. Public talks are necessary; private talks are necessary; written papers are necessary. But I am inclined to believe that, in the long-haul, books which leave out what’s not essential are more important than books which tell you everything because you don’t want to know everything. I don’t want to know that much about penguins is the usual reply. You just want to know the essence.
In unrelated news, March of the Penguins is playing in Philadelphia right now.

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