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Using other people's results quickly

  1. Feb 16, 2010 #1
    When reading through books and stuffs: oftentimes you'll be presented with a formula. That formula is probably correct. However: how do you use it in a derivation correctly without wasting time deriving it yourself just to see All The Little Nuances that enter in significantly to how the equation/model is used?

    Example: I fumble around with negative signs in the tangent(something1) = something2-transcendental equation resulting for the eigenenergies of a quantum-finite-potential-well problem, and it's infuriating to waste time trying to use someone else's results when their sign-convention is misleading to me.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2010 #2


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    Derive it yourself, or at least look up the original derivations if the results isn't "obvious" or can't be checked somehow. There are a lot of examples of people even publishing results that are wrong simply because they used formulas without checking them.
    I occasionally work in area where quite a few of the papers that have been published in recent years contain the same (minor) error. The reason is that all of them cite the same review paper and that paper in turn cites quite a few older papers where all the formulas are written using CGS units; the author of the review has unfortunately made a mistake when converting one formula to SI units.
    As a result papers are still published where one of the characteristic values (a concentration) is wrong by a factor of pi (which, to be fair, doesn't really matter since it is an order-of-magnitude estimate anyway)....
    What they should have done (and we did) was to go back to the original publications...
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