Dmitry Kobak (kobak) wrote,
Dmitry Kobak

Search carefully and you always find something new

По ссылке от flying_bear: биографическая статья Гейма «Random walk to graphene», вдогонку к его нобелевской лекции. Захватывающее, впечатляющее и очень поучительное чтение: много раз упоминаются периоды работы по 100 часов в неделю. 14 часов в сутки без выходных! И это с женой и маленькой дочкой (в какой-то момент).
Available were submicron GaAs wires left over from previous experiments, all done and dusted a few years earlier. <...> The samples that my hosts considered practically exhausted looked like a gold vein to me, and I started working 100 hours per week to exploit it. This short visit led to two Physical Review Letters of decent quality, and I often use this experience to tease my younger colleagues. When things do not go according to plan, and people start complaining, I provoke them by proclaiming ‘‘there is no such thing as bad samples; there are only bad postdocs/students.’’ Search carefully and you always find something new.

With this idea in mind and, allegedly, on a Friday night, I poured water inside the lab’s electromagnet when it was at its maximum power. Pouring water over equipment is certainly not a standard scientific approach, and I cannot recall why I behaved so ‘‘unprofessionally.’’ Apparently, no one tried such a silly thing before <...> As a result, we saw balls of levitating water. This was awesome.

While preparing for a lecture in Stockholm, I compiled a list of my Friday night experiments. Only then did I realize a stunning fact. There were two dozen or so experiments over a period of approximately 15 years and, as expected, most of them failed miserably. But there were three hits, the levitation, gecko tape, and graphene. This implies an extraordinary success rate: more than 10%.

The most essential part of our 2004 report were the electrical measurements, and this required a lot of work. <...> Those were years of hard work compressed into just a few months, but we were excited as every new device got better and better, and we could work 24*7, which typically meant 14 hr days and no breaks for the weekends.

I have met many promising researchers who later failed to live up to their promise because they wasted their time on searching literature, instead of spending it on searching for new phenomena. What’s more, after
months of literature search, they inevitably came to the same conclusion: Everything they planned had been done before. Therefore, they saw no reason to try their own ideas and, consequently, began a new literature search. One should realize that ideas are never new. However brilliant, every idea is always based on previous knowledge and, with so many smart people around, the odds are that someone somewhere had already thought of something similar before. This should not be used as an excuse for not trying because local circumstances vary and, moreover, facilities change with time.


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