Nima Arkani-Hamed on the important skill of turning big ideas into sharp questions
Physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed delivered a series of lectures on “Research Skills” in 2009 as part of the Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) program at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Here’s Arkani-Hamed talking about the most important skill of research:
It is a remarkable thing that some of the questions that people started thinking about 2000 years ago [are now “workable” on]. The intervening 2000 years have brought us to a place where we can actually work on them. And it is a meaningful thing to work on them. They have been sharpen to the point where you can work on them.
[In fact,] if I had to say: What is the real, overarching skill of research? [What is] the thing that you cannot be taught, but that has to be experienced? And that has to be gone through a number of times?
[It’s] this process of taking very big ideas and turning them into sharp questions that you can actually work on. That is the greatest skill of all.
And that’s something that I will try to get you some flavor of towards the latter part of the lectures.
You can also watch all other past PSI lectures (a). Or explore the whole library of videos at the Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive (PIRSA) (sidenote: “PIRSA is a permanent, free, searchable, and citable archive of recorded seminars from relevant bodies in physics. This resource has been partially modelled after Cornell University’s arXiv.org. Accessibly by anyone with internet, Perimeter aims to share the power and wonder of science with this free library.”) .