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So you are not very smart, what's next?

  1. Dec 2, 2013 #1

    just a general question, so since most of us are not Euler, Fermat , Andrew Wiles or Terrence Tao, how do we make contribution to science/mathematics?

    I major in mechanical engineering , graduating this year, and I am likely to attend graduate school since I'm more interested in research, a professor already offered me a RA position next year. But I realize that we can't all be the greatest, so how exactly does what we do help if we are not the smart guy?

    it would seem that what takes us a year can probably be acheived by the smarter guys in months or maybe weeks. just thinking about what we do don't matter makes me kind of depressed.

    maybe all us not so smart people should just serve food at Mcdonalds?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2013 #2


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    You should leave the RA job for someone else and go serve food at McDonalds. Cheers!
  4. Dec 2, 2013 #3
    it was supposed to be sarcastic, of course I don't think that's what we should all do.

    I would like to know if anyone can give a big picture of why us smaller guys are needed besides processing data and helping out with writing programs.
  5. Dec 2, 2013 #4
    Basically, us smaller guys are needed because there aren't a lot of geniuses.
  6. Dec 2, 2013 #5
    Ask not what you can contribute to science. Ask what science can contribute to you.

    Seriously. It's about knowing and understanding more today than you did yesterday. When that's the case, you've been enlarged and enriched.
  7. Dec 2, 2013 #6
    Very nice and dandy. But at the end of the day, I want to get a job and put food on the table...
  8. Dec 2, 2013 #7


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    One of my early mentors in industry put it this way: if some genius hacks a path through an unknown jungle with his machete, but nobody follows him to keep the path open and turn it into a highway, he might as well not have bothered. There's no shortage of "stuff" to work on. You just have to figure out how to make your ambitions match up with the real world situation you are in.
  9. Dec 2, 2013 #8
    You don't have to have pushed physics and math forward to get paid for engineering something.
  10. Dec 2, 2013 #9


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    This is one of several posts of this nature I've seen you respond with recently. It's not productive, it's hardly civil, and it has quite low quality (three things that Physics Forums "values", according to the home page).

    I think posters would be much better served if replies did not come laced with sarcasm, especially from a "science adviser."

    To the OP:
    I agree largely with others. I find it quite satisfying to make incremental but steady contributions to my niche of physics. Much of science is done in small steps, not giant bounds.
  11. Dec 2, 2013 #10


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    Really? I thought that WannabeNewton's reply was a perfect riposte to the OP's last line. Which was also "not productive", "hardly civil" and of "quite low quality". The OP wasn't just sarcastically consigning himself to a food service job at McDonald's (in itself a rather derogatory and elitist mode of thought) - he was encompassing pretty much everyone in this forum as well.

    Perhaps Science Advisors should be held to a higher standard of restraint? But don't forget that all us "staffers" here (Science Advisors, Homework Helpers, Mentors, etc.) are basically unpaid volunteers. We're human too. So expect us to react in all-too-human ways, at least some of the time.

    In any case, getting back to the original post, I believe the OP answered his own question. Let's look at this line:

    The key thing is that those "geniuses" were not really contemporaries. There was always a genius that came before. So what if Euler had said, "I'm no Fermat, so I'll just be an innkeeper"? Or what if Wiles had said, "I'm no Euler or Fermat", so I'll just run a public house"? And Tao had said "I'm no Euler, Fermat or Wiles, so I'll just serve food at McD's"? It's almost like "inductive despair". *This* mode of thinking is certainly not productive and of very low quality.
  12. Dec 2, 2013 #11


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    Clearly it was wrong to act sarcastic towards someone who equated a lack of intelligence with the acquisition of a McDonalds job. I mean it's not like that's offensive to anyone right? I should just shrug it off and stay on my high horse. What kind of person would I be if I actually took note of pointless insolence? Clearly a bad one. Thank you for the insight.
  13. Dec 2, 2013 #12
    What? Did you just call that grade F meat, scavenged from the local dump FOOD?!

    I've read too many disgusting stories about fast-food chains to ever attempt to eat there again. I'd rather eat boiled potatoes.
  14. Dec 2, 2013 #13


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    Speaking of not being smart, in a few days I will be an amoeba. Will someone please throw some Amoeba Chow at me from time to time?
  15. Dec 2, 2013 #14

    Vanadium 50

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    I want to better understand why you think you will be best in the world at making hamburgers? After all, if that's the standard for pursuing a career, and considering that McDonalds has 1.7M employees, the odds of being better than all of them seems rather slim.
  16. Dec 2, 2013 #15


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    Einstein once said:It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
    Also:I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.
    Maybe we don't agree with Einstein because we think he was really smart,but what he is saying is correct in that its not just a very smart guy who's going to change everything.
    If someone is smart,he does that just a little sooner,but just a little sooner!
    The main point about making important discoveries,is that you should really care about what you're doing.Not thinking its you're job and you have to do it.You should love it and live with it.You should think about it 95% of the time you're not asleep.You should be really persistent and patient.And you should try very hard.And then you can see that there is only little difference between you and a smarter guy.
    But if you don't agree,its OK,just one thing:Don't think everyone else here is like you!
  17. Dec 3, 2013 #16
    I guess I really should apologize for belittling fast food service workers if i did in any way, I worked at KFC for a while in HS so I should know better, again, I express my deepest regrets for saying that.
  18. Dec 3, 2013 #17

    Often times I find it really frustrating that someone in class is able to answer questions and "see" things very quickly, where I usually have to go home and sit down and think about things before they make sense.

    I do work hard, the difference between myself and genius have been in fact a motivation for me to work harder, but I find that is very defeating whenever some of these people can see things more clearly than others and acheive success.

    I agree with most of you, perhaps I just need to keep working harder to try to succeed, after all it can't hurt me for doing something I enjoy doing, and even if I don't get to publish anything too useful, at least I can help the smarter guys to deal with problems they find boring.

    who knows, maybe if I'm lucky I can even be like Wronski, everything I said is wrong but one is important enough to end up on a textbook. (Wronskian)
  19. Dec 3, 2013 #18
    Theres a saying that goes "a man who increases his knowledge, increases his sorrow"

    I can't remember the physicist who said it, but he said "the more I learn about the Universe, the more useless it appears"

    character > knowledge

    the way I see knowledge is like a map, some ppl know the entire map back to front, all the locations, points etc. but they don't know where their going, their lost, they cant decide, their too many variables

    some ppl on the other hand only know where their going and thats it
  20. Dec 3, 2013 #19


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    The farther along in your physics courses you go, the more you will find that your experience is extremely common and that "seeing things very quickly" slowly fades away (unless there's a Feynman somewhere in the class). Don't worry about it.

    Furthermore, some concepts in physics don't just click in a matter of minutes; they can take weeks of utilization before doing so. It took me forever before I got down the concept of rotation in general relativity.
  21. Dec 4, 2013 #20

    I see. Are there ways that you can improve your speed of understanding? or you just have to have been exposed to lots of ideas for that?
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