My Professor says I have no talent - should I persist?

  • Thread starter Erebus
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  • #51
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Quote from wiki about outliers:
"Outliers asserts that success depends on the idiosyncrasies of the selection process used to identify talent just as much as it does on the athletes' natural abilities."
He do not deny that talent exists, just that talent alone do not get you anywhere. The book is not to be taken as a scientific paper, but as a thought provoking text challenging the the common view of what a genius is.

But for example I believe that a large part to who can do maths and who can't is how well you can preserve your memories. Humans usually alters memories to fit the current situation, but if that process gets in the way of maths you will never be able to advance that high since your brain is then full of logical fallacies and you would create more of them constantly. So people who are bad at altering the memories would be better at maths, but at a cost since altering memories is a very important process required to tackle psychological issues such as depression.
Yes. Thats true but you are missing the point. Those who were deemed as talented in their field practiced developing their skill most of the time. Because the author of Outliers have said that both chris langan and robert oppenheimer both have equal intelligence but Oppenheimer became a successful scientist because of the environment he grew up in, where his parents encouraged his interest in science and Langan's parents were either apathetic towards his talents or they were unsupportive of furthering his talents. The author says that Bill gates love and talent for computers would not have developed if he did not go to a school that had a large computer, a rarity in schools in the sixties and he would not have spent much of his spare time on the computer at his school compared to his fellow students. Same case for the beatles.

Your environment can influence your performance in a certain field and can deter you from recognizing your own talents or potential in a certain field. The author gives an example that students at a school performed poorly in math , but when they went to a school that were more attentive to the students needs, their performance in math improved greatly. Jaime escalante improved
 
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  • #52
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Quite frankly, I don't feel I'm smart enough to do theoretical physics.
I also had this doubt and my Professor (in this way we remain in topic) said to me
"I don't know if you are the smartest guy I've had teached. I mean, you're surely not stupid but the point is not simply about smartness. Is a combination of intelligence, persistency and most of all: foolness. The point is not than if you're intelligence enough, the point is that if you are crazy enough to follow an idea and say something brilliant evenif the world is going to treat you like a fool."
 
  • #53
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Yes. Thats true but you are missing the point.
I don't think so, read what I wrote:
talent alone do not get you anywhere.
Which was basically the point of your post. Talent still matters, but you need other things too. That is the point. You can't measure talent in current proficiency unless it is world class, but that doesn't mean that talent isn't there. The point is that two equally talented people can develop extremely differently depending on social factors. But none of this contests that talent is important.

I don't think that there is any scientific study that shows that talent doesn't exist. To me this just looks like an internet myth that have spread way too much.
 
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  • #54
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I know I'm in the wrong place to be saying this, but I can't see why people would dream about studying pure mathematics.
LOL Neither can a lot of people I've talked to. I guess I'm just an odd duck that way. Math, like music, is an art form, in my opinion :)
 
  • #55
turin
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The only way to interpret what your advisor told you is, "Find a different adviosr; stop bothering me." I doubt that it has anything to do with your actual aptitude. Find a different advisor.
 
  • #56
chiro
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Don't let some snotty nose ******* tell you that you're not good enough. If you want to be a pure mathematician at any cost you will more than likely exceed at it even if it takes you a little longer than expected. If everyone listened to idiots like that we would probably still be in the stone age.
 
  • #57
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Indeed, I don't know what the appeal is of being a pure mathematician but if it is your dream you should through caution to the wind and pursue it at all costs.
 
  • #58
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This is an interesting and important post. It touches on some very important issues, personal and global. I'm in the same boat, minus the comment from the advisor. Here's how I'm going to decide what to do with myself: for the next 10 months or so, I'll be studying by a** off, both physics and math. I'm already in a graduate program in math, so I'll have to make extra effort to study physics by myself in my spare time. In October and November 2010, I'll be taking the GRE subjects tests in both math and physics. The results in those will decide, to large degree, whether I'm going for a PhD in physics, math, or not at all. This is far from a perfect way to cut the knot, but at least it's straightforward and simple. You might want to consider something along these lines.
Standardized test have their detractors and disadvantages, but like it or not, they are the only way you have to compare yourself in a standardized, objective, controlled manner with other potential grad students/mathematicians/physicists from all across the world.
 
  • #59
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This is an interesting and important post. It touches on some very important issues, personal and global. I'm in the same boat, minus the comment from the advisor. Here's how I'm going to decide what to do with myself: for the next 10 months or so, I'll be studying by a** off, both physics and math. I'm already in a graduate program in math, so I'll have to make extra effort to study physics by myself in my spare time. In October and November 2010, I'll be taking the GRE subjects tests in both math and physics. The results in those will decide, to large degree, whether I'm going for a PhD in physics, math, or not at all. This is far from a perfect way to cut the knot, but at least it's straightforward and simple. You might want to consider something along these lines.
Standardized test have their detractors and disadvantages, but like it or not, they are the only way you have to compare yourself in a standardized, objective, controlled manner with other potential grad students/mathematicians/physicists from all across the world.
That sounds like a solid (very scientific) approch, but what you love most should have an influence on your decision too. If you love them equally, why not do both? (Except for the fact that you'll be, like, eighty by the time you finish lol).
I've decided that talent comes from love. If you love something enough, and work at it enough, it becomes a part of you, and you learn to approach it a natural, almost intuitive way. Love matters more than initial skill.
Ha! I appear to have answered my own question :)
 
  • #60
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I just want to add a little point here that may not have been mentioned. People don't have a good understanding of what it takes to do math, and what it means to be a high level mathematician. That's not because people are stupid, it's just that math is a bit of a complicated subject and it takes a long time to start to get a feel for what it's really all about.

To make a long story short, mathematics in many ways is just like a mental athletic contest, where instead of muscles, you have memory and reasoning competence. IMO, the difficulty of some subjects like abstract algebra is due mainly to the fact that you just have to concatenate (and remember) such long chains of reasoning. In general, mathematics relies on skills of working within a lot of formal modes -- being able to work well with LOTS of highly specified definitions. This is constrasted to say, physics, where experimentalists work with few strict, formal definitions, and the reasoning process is more blended with intuition and statistical inference. In other words, it's much more "user friendly". Now, I don't mean to imply that people who are bad at math are stupid. Some people just have a lot more difficulty interacting with the "maximally formalized" subject that is mathematics. People's brains just don't work the same way, I figure.

So being good at mathematics is a rather strange skill and talent plays a big part. I wouldn't let the professor's comments discourage you too much, but I think you should perceive that the situation is rather strange in mathematics and in particular, the required skills are much stranger than the average physicist skills or just general scientific skills. It is good to keep persisting in the subject, but at some point you have to decide for yourself if you feel you are actually well suited for the peculiarities of the discipline.
 
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  • #61
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the average physicist
Please, there is a huge difference between applied, experimental, numerical and mathematical physics. Same as how there is a big gap between applied and pure maths, the difference between mathematical physics and the corresponding mathematical focuses is razor thin.
 

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