The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to learn

"We must abandon the guided tour through the art gallery of mathematics, and instead teach how to create the mathematics we need."

"the close, deliberate examination of everyone and everything, from the choice of complex exponentials as basis functions to the number of jokes in an after-dinner speech. Nothing is taken for granted or left unquestioned, but is picked up and turned over curiously, intently, searching for fundamentals."


"You must also mull things over, compare what I say with your own experiences, talk with others, and make some of the points part of your way of doing things."

"currently almost 90% of the scientists who ever lived are now alive!"

"when you hear quantitative remarks such as the above you turn to a quick modeling to see if you believe what is being said, especially when given in the public media like the press and tv."

"I am a veteran of learning enough to get along without at the same time devoting all my effort to learning new topics and thereby not contributing my share to the total effort of the organization."

"In science, if you know what you are doing, you should not be doing it. In engineering, if you do not know what you are doing, you should not be doing it."

"engineering is a matter of choice and balance rather than just doing what can be done."

"central planning has been repeatedly shown to give poor results (consider the Russian experiment, for example, or our own bureaucracy). The persons on the spot usually have better knowledge than can those at the top and hence can often (not always) make better decisions if things are not micromanaged."

"One of the main complaints was when using a symbolic system you didn’t know where anything was in storage—though"

"“The shoemaker’s children go without shoes.” Consider how in the future, when you are a great expert, you will avoid this typical error!"

"wonders what he is doing and why it is all necessary."

"John McCarthy suggested the elements of the language for theoretical purposes, the suggestion was taken up and significantly elaborated upon by others, and when some student observed he could write a compiler for it in lisp, using the simple trick of self-compiling, all were astounded, including, apparently, McCarthy himself. But he urged the student to try, and magically, almost overnight, they moved from theory to a real operating lisp compiler!"

"the inventor often has a very limited view of what he invented, and some others (you?) can see much more."

"by the year 2020 it would be fairly universal practice for the expert in the field of application to do the actual program preparation rather than have experts in computers (and ignorant of the field of application) do the program preparation."

"“Is programming closer to novel writing than it is to classical engineering?” I suggest yes! Given the problem of getting a man into outer space, both the Russians and the Americans did it pretty much the same way, all things considered, and allowing for some espionage. They were both limited by the same firm laws of physics. But give two novelists the problem of writing on “the greatness and misery of man,” and you will probably get two very different novels (without saying just how to measure this)."

"A scientist should not give talks merely to entertain, since the object of the talk is usually scientific information transmission from the speaker to the audience."

"do not get discouraged when you find your new idea is stoutly, and perhaps foolishly, resisted. By realizing the magnitude of the actual task you can then decide if it is worth your efforts to continue, or if you should go do something else you can accomplish and not fritter away your efforts needlessly against the forces of inertia and stupidity."

"In such a rapidly changing field as computer software, if the payoff is not in the near future then it is doubtful it will ever pay off."

"When you successfully use a computer you usually do an equivalent job, not the same old one."

"It has been estimated it takes about ten years of intensive work in a field to become an expert, and in this time many, many patterns are apparently laid down in the mind, from which the expert then makes a subconscious initial choice of how to approach the problem, as well as the subsequent steps to be used."

"It seems to me in the long run it is on the intellectual side of life that machines can most contribute to the quality of life."

"artificial intelligence is not a subject you can afford to ignore; your attitude will put you in the front or the rear of the applications of machines in your field, but also may lead you into a really great fiasco!"

"There is an old claim that “free will” is a myth; in a given circumstance, you being you as you are at the moment, you can only do as you do. The argument sounds cogent, though it flies in the face of your belief you have free will. To settle the question, what experiment would you do? There seems to be no satisfactory experiment which can be done. The truth is we constantly alternate between the two positions in our behavior. A teacher has to believe that if only the right words were said then the student would have to understand. And you behave similarly when raising a child. Yet the feeling of having free will is deep in us and we are reluctant to give it up for ourselves—but we are often willing to deny it to others!"

"you the reader should take your own opinions and try first to express them clearly, and then examine them with counterarguments, back and forth, until you are fairly clear as to what you believe and why you believe it."