Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hush, hush, don't rush

What is wrong with my long-term memory? I seem to have forgotten too many things from the past. Well, not forgotten, but they're hidden in some remote, dusty corner of my brain. Specifically, I mean mathematical knowledge here: What were properties of Crank-Nicholson, what's the use of a positive definite matrix, and why, oh why do the Navier-Stokes equations look only remotely familiar?

Have I been out of it for too long? Well, two years of computer science cannot be that devastating, can they?
Were the former Computational Science students educated in a too broad, but too little `in depth' fashion? Possibly, from database programming, along electrodynamics, to numerical PDE analysis, we've had it all. Still, most physics and mathematics courses were good enough. The fact that I'm able to realize that I've almost forgotten so many things indicates that I know of the existence of all these many things.
I think I know the true answer: I'm rushing through things too much. Get into any matter quickly, solve some problems for it, implement it, or write a short report on it, and proceed to what's next. Some computer science courses even included an 'open-book exam', which allowed me to pass without having studied the matter in advance at all. Common sense is a good thing to have, but to have more factual knowledge would also be very good.

So at the moment I'm taking a fresh-up course in computational fluid dynamics, and one in numerical linear algebra. For the latter, I don't have time now, caused by two courses in linear algebra and calculus that I teach, and one in scientific computing that I assist in. Although cfd is interesting, I feel the urge of doing my own research, some serious deadlines coming up within months and I've only just started. Or do we sense my old "rush-on-to-what's-next"-mistake again here? I guess so...

The problem is: when I see interesting things lying ahead of me, I get enthusiastic. At the moment I would love to start implementing and experimenting right away, whereas it is better to first catch up with the field by reading others' papers. That's what I'm doing right now. Fortunately I have some open ends in my own previous work, which I can work on even now already, gives some variety from day to day.

Analyzing oneself is not too difficult, but changing one's bad habits is a whole different story. I hope I'll succeed!


Blogger Costyn said...

Hey Arthur,

I'd just like to say that you're not the only one with the dusty memory. Its a frightening experience to realize that something you've worked so hard on in the past is only a dim memory at the present. You know you knew how to do it, but you wouldn't be able to reproduce it in the present even if your life depended on it.

Its very frustrating, embarassing even, at times, especially when working with others; you feel you should know it, but yet no knowledge pours forward. You sit there and mumble something about faulty memory...

I console myself with the thought that when working on something, somewhere in my mind a bell will ring which will kick a lazy neuron to life which will grudginly hand over some half pieces of information - I'll recognize it: I know it exists and I probably can figure out where I once saw it/knew it and can look it up again in a textbook.

In conclusion, I don't think you're rushing into things. Its just one of the bugs of the brain (or is it a feature for survival?). Don't dwell on it too much, but learn new things which interest you. My theory is spending more time on it now may get it to stick a little better, but if you don't look at the material for a year, having spent an extra month on it won't help really that much. You'll still have to go back to your textbooks...

12:41 AM  
Blogger Arthur said...

Haha, Costyn, that's a comforting thought. Especially the 'mumbling something about faulty memory' got me smiling :D

9:19 PM  

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