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Currently everyone wants to appear perfect. No one admits weaknesses. No one publishes unfinished things.

We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or to describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So there isn't any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work. “The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics,” Nobel Lecture by R. Feynman

Possibilities to change this are:

  • Open online research notebooks;
  • Publish things that didn't work, so others don't have to waste time on dead ends;
  • Publish unpolished things.
  • Always publish code with papers (also calculations in Mathematica notebooks etc.)

Sharing our successes and our mistakes will let the public see how research is done, and let our colleagues see the work as a whole, including ideas that are left out of the final polished work.

And I have come to realize that blogging was more than just a fun way to spend idle time. In fact, I think blogging provided me with something really valuable that I will need going forward.

It seems to be true, at least for me, that the only way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else. From my perspective, teaching an interesting idea to someone else has three important effects on the teacher:

  1. First, teaching forces the teacher to sharpen their own thinking: to identify the features of the idea that are most essential, to develop multiple parallel ways of understanding and explaining the idea, and to tie the idea firmly to a wider base of knowledge.
  2. Second, teaching cements the idea in the teacher’s own memory. There is no better way to learn a story than to become the storyteller.
  3. Third, and perhaps most importantly, teaching allows one to reconnect in a personal way with the excitement behind the idea being taught, and to rekindle one’s love for the topic.

In short, this blog has been my outlet for teaching ideas that I love. And I have realized that such teaching is immensely valuable for me, not just as a hobby, but as a tool for professional and personal development. I love physics, and I want to make a career as a physicist. This is a surprisingly daunting goal sometimes, but, in my final analysis, it turns out to be precisely the reason why I need to “waste time” blogging about physics.

Brian Skinner

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