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Broad Or Narrow Understanding?

  1. Dec 17, 2005 #1
    This is a continuation of a debate we had in the calculus section.

    What kind of student or person would do better. A person with a shallow but broad understanding of life or a field? Or a person witha deep but marrow understanding of life ro a subject?

    I say shallow but broad. If you know a little of something about everything there's almost nothing you can't tackle. Learn the basics and you won't need to get to deep into everything. Don't devote too much time to 1 thing.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2005 #2
    This is actually a good question. I suppose it depends on the field.
  4. Dec 17, 2005 #3
    Depends on how you define success. In the end it will vary from individual to individual so there is no 'right' answer, which is why I don't like humanities :wink:

    Generic fortune cookie advice which is nonetheless true: Do what you enjoy, everything else will fall into place.
  5. Dec 17, 2005 #4


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    Broad but narrow. If you know a little about everything you may end up not knowing enough about anything.
  6. Dec 17, 2005 #5


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    OOps i mean deep but narrow lol :smile:
  7. Dec 17, 2005 #6
    job wise... broad
    professional wise..... narrow
  8. Dec 17, 2005 #7
    I think it's enough to say that have any type of experience with something that's isn't deep means, uh, just that; you don't know it deeply...if you're from the narrow side I think that will probably make perfect sense.
  9. Dec 18, 2005 #8
    OK I guessit goes into each subject. Say if you want to take physics wouldn't it be better to have a broad understanding of physics than just a detailed knowledge of particle physics?
  10. Dec 18, 2005 #9
    Detailed. Although the various subfields of physics are entangled in many ways top research at the respective fields is a highly specialized process. Knowing a little bit of this and that won't enable you to break into any field.
  11. Dec 18, 2005 #10
    Well not a little but a moderate to ample amount of each physics branch.
  12. Dec 18, 2005 #11


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    I would definitely say the person with a narrow, or that of preoccupation. There's really two things that make a good mathematician; attention span and fluid intelligence. Attention span because you need to focus sufficiently to prevent trivial errors which makes solving the problem more tedious, time consuming, and complex....each step matters, in that sense it's exact. Fluid intelligence, because this determines really your potential into how far into the problem you can see. In other words, most people can't advance upon a significant problem while taking a ****.

    One can master calculus in the formal sense, but it's the person who really gets into it that can pioneer the field. In that sense, the superficial understanding of the subject is relatively worthless. Power from mathematics comes from really delving into the subject. Any kind of nobel prize work requires such narrow understanding.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2005
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