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The Art of Asking “Stupid” Questions March 21, 2009

Posted by keithkchan in Philosophy, Whatever.

These few days we tried to verified the approximation used in some guys’ paper, who claimed to have done what we have done. In their paper they used the spherical approximation, instead of solving the equations exactly. When I showed my advisor the results, he immediately said that it must be wrong since in the large scales the nonlinear effects should not matter. I then spent a couple of days to check if there were stupid mistakes that I have made. Indeed I did, but it was not related to the major problem. Although the conventional wisdom was that the linear regime should not be affected by the nonlinear effects, the equation we solved were highly nonlinear, this was not obvious to me. I went to press him, and we finally realized that in the spherical approximation the nonlinear effect in the high k can indeed influence the scale physics. Incidentally, this partially suggests the answer to my previous question if quantity is more important than quality. Those guys write many papers, quality may fluctuate a bit.

I often ask questions most of them are probably stupid. I think the real good physicists certainly know the importance of asking questions. Sometimes, some concepts may be so “obvious” to them they did not even think about it. Like in the case of my advisor who is regarded as an expert in this field, but he could still miss something sometimes.

I believe that if I keep on asking questions I will be able to good questions sometime. The most important thing is not to stop asking questions, even if they are are stupid. After all, it is not clear if it is stupid a priori.



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