# A new way to success?

1. Jul 27, 2007

### pivoxa15

Today fields are becoming ever more specialised so people cannot be specialists in everything.

However it may be possible for one to study everything (i.e everything in physics) by doing 'every problem in physics that has been solved'. So one has a broad sense of the field but not specialised in any.

2. Jul 27, 2007

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
But one specialises so that one can undertake research on unsolved problems in a specific area. One cannot possibly study everything and research in every area-- this is just ridiculous! Someone who decided to take this philosophy and study "everything" will end up with no academic job-- noones going to employ someone who's ok at everything, but good at nothing.

3. Jul 27, 2007

### J77

You seem to ask this question in one form or another every month.

If you worry less about "reading/learning everything", you may find it easier, and that things will come more naturally.

You can only learn so much through what others have written.

Unless, of course, you read absolutely everything, ever written on a subject -- which, even if there was enough time available, would probably drive one mad.

And cristo has a good point -- you'd have to keep up with every new developement and you'd only be learning what others have written.

To be any good, you have to be there doing cutting-edge research -- writing the stuff yourself.

4. Jul 27, 2007

### pivoxa15

I am aware that this person who studies everything cannot undertake research very easily. Its very likely that this person cannot secure an academic job. So he/she is doing it their own sake/enjoyment. To make money maybe that person can just tutor or something.

The point is that the person can masters the basics of a lot of subjects but no cutting edge develolpment in any. Although if that person is good enough then you never know.

Last edited: Jul 27, 2007
5. Jul 27, 2007

### cristo

Staff Emeritus
So this person is studying everything in the field of physics in his own time for enjoyment, and making a living off being a tutor "or something"? It's hardly a good career plan is it? With all due respect, you appear to be living in a dream world!

6. Jul 27, 2007

### JasonRox

I rather solve one hard unsolved problem than 100 hard solved problems that I just read through.

7. Jul 27, 2007

### neutrino

Jack of all trades, master of none.

8. Jul 27, 2007

### EugP

I agree with you that a person must do what they love and they must get enjoyment from what they do, but the reality is that with having all this pleasure, that person will be living on the street, even with a tutoring job (I can't imagine those paying a lot).

Also, I don't see the point of solving every problem in anything. If you understand it, and I mean truly understand it, what's the point of solving it. For example (related to physics): If $$F = ma$$, $$m = 10kg$$ find F for $$a = 10 m/s^2$$, $$a = 15 m/s^2$$, $$a = 100 m/s^2$$.....

You see what I'm saying? What's the point of doing the same thing over and over if you understand how it works already?

Like cristo said, a person should study unsolved problems. The point of learning is to find out new things, not practicing what's already known.

9. Jul 27, 2007

### NeoDevin

The title could use some adjustment from "A new way to success" to "An old way to mediocrity"

10. Jul 27, 2007

### CPL.Luke

you can't say that someone who followed such a path would have no success, I'm sure they could find work on a large number of comittee's by virtue of being familiar with most topics that could come up. Or as a science advisor

or teaching at a small liberal arts college where they don't care about research.

11. Jul 27, 2007

### backdoorstudent

Welcome to the predicament of the short human lifespan - not enough time to learn all you want. The real talent is choosing what to ignore.

12. Jul 27, 2007

### NeoDevin

Yeah, but that's what I would call mediocrity

13. Jul 27, 2007

### pivoxa15

I guess this person could still solve an unsolved problem due to his/her strange background, that is knowing many fields. However it is extremely difficult because of lack of connections and not keeping up with the current technologies etc.

14. Jul 27, 2007

### ice109

"know how to solve every solved problem" - feynman

15. Jul 27, 2007

### wildman

I think that is fine if you are Feynman. And it is necessary if you want to solve the Unified Field Theory or such. But the other writers are right. If you are not a super genius, it is better to specialize.

16. Jul 28, 2007

### pivoxa15

I guess for a person that goes about it this way, the biggest obstacle is self discipline. Because he/she dosen't have the pressure of an institution and is not earning any money for solving the problems.

17. Jul 28, 2007

### pivoxa15

Could it be that an attitude like that produces a super genius? But I know a lot is in the genes.

18. Jul 28, 2007

### HungryChemist

And how do you know?

19. Jul 28, 2007

### pivoxa15

I assume you are asking me about "But I know a lot is in the genes."

I have read everywhere about it. i.e. Ian Stewart said that its not all hard work to produce a great mathematician.

Trainers for maths olympiads and so on said it takes natural ability mroe than anything else.

Remember we are talking here about a 'super genius'.

20. Jul 28, 2007

### durt

21. Jul 28, 2007

### JasonRox

I agree.

I'm going to be a senior next year, and I have learned enough to know that doing this is just whacked.

22. Jul 28, 2007

### pivoxa15

I am not surprised at the responses. It is also no surprise that people who have these ideas are struggling students who cannot keep up with the class. i.e I have a friend who also has this attitude because he couldn't keep up and received pass marks. His excuse was that he wanted to understand the material (first year maths) rather than take things in as the lecturer wants so went on with his own snail pace. I can see his point to some extent (Russell also complained about this but still received top marks) but its more to do with laziness and 'just not being good enough'. He quit maths and uni for a semester but is now getting into it again by doing programming and actually starting to enrol in maths again this semester. I think doing programming or logic does help in understanding maths espcially for students who are weak at maths.

Last edited: Jul 28, 2007
23. Jul 28, 2007

### G01

After reading this thread, I have to agree that this thread is ridiculous. Human beings cannot do everything by themselves. They just can't. This is why we work together to accomplish things. This is why people specialize and why we have theorists and experimentalists, why we have chemists and physicists, and why we have surgeons and primary care physicians. In order to accomplish the most, we HAVE to work together.

The plan you have talked about, pivoxa15, is ridiculous for the following reasons;

1. You cannot hope to learn everything in physics, even if you don't specialize, there is way too much to learn even to become mediocre in everything.

2. You would add nothing more to the state of human knowledge, since, as others mentioned, someone like this would probably not be able to solve any of the unsolved problems in science. Your plan, I do not mean to be rude, is somewhat selfish. Scientists do science for they're own interest and love for the subjects, but also to increase the knowledge of our species. The person who follows your plan would not be a scientist in this regard since he is only doing it for his own gain.

3. In order to have a career in science, you are going to need to specialize in something. Even in order to teach at a small liberal arts college, you would probably have to get a Master's degree if not a PhD, which imply specializing in some specific field.

4. You can still specialize and have a career in a specific field, fulfilling the requirements of #2 and #3 above and continue to learn other fields in your spare time. Sure, you won't be able to learn everything about physics this way, but you won't be able to do that anyway, as already mentioned in #1.

Last edited: Jul 28, 2007
24. Jul 28, 2007

### JasonRox

What are you talking about? I'm an A student. I'm a TA and was an RA.

I agree with everyone. It's just flat out dumb to go that route.

I'm sure many others on this Physics Forums have B an above averages, which I think is something to be happy about. And I think it's uncalled for to insult other members like that.

25. Jul 28, 2007

### jostpuur

The question that should one specialize in some particular field, or learn everything, is more delicate than it looks. There's lot ways to go that are somewhere in between. Even though it is obvious that nobody is "learning really everything", in my opinion sometimes people specialize too much, and it isn't good either.

I've seen people ignoring interesting problems merely because it isn't precisely their field, and it makes me wonder if they are interested in understanding anything. For example physicists constantly repeating "well mathematicians have proved that, we don't need to know about it..." That attitude can reduce their changes of succeeding in their own fields also. And on the other hand some mathematicians can be ignoring physics completely, even though they know that historically physics has motivated lot of mathematical development.

If you read your most important field enough, and other fields as much as time lets, I don't see a problem.

pivoxa15, you should of course work hard to show us that you can make your strategy work in reality, and not waste your time in attempt to prove it to us by explaining it.