Study Hacks Blog Posts from July, 2021 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

On Pace and Productivity

July 21st, 2021 · 33 comments

One of the books I’m reading on vacation at the moment is John Gribbin’s magisterial tome, The Scientists. I’m only up to page 190 (which is to say, only up to Isaac Newton), but even early on I’ve become intrigued by a repeated observation: though the scientists profiled in Gribbin’s book are highly “productive” by any intuitive definition of this term, the daily pace of their work was incredibly slow by any modern standards of professional effectiveness.

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On the Myth of Big Ideas

July 16th, 2021 · 7 comments

I recently came across an article in the New Yorker archives that I greatly enjoyed. It was written by a Dartmouth mathematics professor named Dan Rockmore, and is titled: “The Myth and Magic of Generating New Ideas.” The essay tackles a topic that’s both central to my professional academic life, and wildly misunderstood: what it takes to solve a proof.

To capture the reality of this act, Rockmore tells a story from when he was a young professor. He was working with his colleagues to try to find a more efficient method for solving a large class of wave equations. “We spent every day drawing on blackboards and chasing one wrong idea after another,” he writes. Frustrated, he left the session to go for a run on a tree-lined path. Then it happened.

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On Twitter Addiction and its Discontents

July 6th, 2021 · 38 comments

Earlier this week, Caitlin Flanagan published a provocative essay in the Atlantic titled: “You Really Need to Quit Twitter.” In this instance, the label of “provocative” seems obligatory, even though an objective read of the piece reveals mainly common sense. Which serves to underline the whole point Flanagan is attempting to make.

The article reports on the author’s 28-day break from Twitter after her relationship with the service had become increasingly fraught.

“My family’s attitude toward my habit has been…concerned, grossed out, or disappointed,” Flanagan writes. “My employer had given up and adopted a sort of ‘It’s your funeral’ approach.” She could no longer escape what had become obvious:

“I know I’m an addict because Twitter hacked itself so deep into my circuitry that it interrupted the very formation of my thoughts.”

So Flanagan asked her son to change her password. She signed a contract saying no matter how much she begged, he shouldn’t let her back into her account before the month had passed. She called it “Twitter rehab.”

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