He had the "courage to discard the cherished old ideas that are an obstacle to progress." Happy birthday!



Encountered--
Time: November 26, 2017
Place: AM bed reading
Pointer from: Tweet from Sabine Hossenfelder (@skdh)
Note type: Direct



Its a common misconception that scientists working at the frontier are
participants in an organized effort seeking to answer some well defined fixed
famous great questions. “What is the unified theory of all the fundamental
interactions?" “What was the origin of the universe?" But this is not how
it seems to those of us in the trenches.

The frontier of theoretical physics is a noisy, chaotic place. At any one
time, we have cherished old ideas, well confirmed in territory already mapped,
that we are very reluctant to give up. We also have a whole variety of
competing, different, unconfirmed new ideas vying for the best route forward
into new territory that require us to give up some of the old ideas. It’s
certainly not organized! I think that Stephen likes situations like this and
the surprises that upset the status quo.

Rather the questions are: “What is the right question?" “What do we keep
and what do we give up?" Stephen knows the answers. He has a remarkable
ability to see through all this clutter, to cut to the heart of the matter, and
to focus on the essentials. He also has the courage to discard the cherished
old ideas that are an obstacle to progress. Later when looked at in the right
way these seem inevitable. But that’s the genius.