Did you miss it? The power of curiosity and schoolboy naivety

I have been traveling and storing up some blog material. So I apologize if you have seen some of these stories, but in case not; here goes the first one. According to the Ottowa Citizen “An Indian-born teenager has won a research award for solving a mathematical problem first posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago that has baffled mathematicians ever since.” The problem was “to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance.” The student’s response to there was no solution was “well. there’s no harm in trying.” Man, I love that reply. It probably did not hurt that he learned calculus at 6. To me, however, I think the attitude is a big part of the success. It reminds me of tinkering. In story or research it is the willingness to say “What if” and see where it takes you. There are of course times when those who came before can tell you with good reason not to pursue something. But the cases where the question is known but no one has figured out how to solve it, the will to say let me give it try is hugely important. Even if you don’t succeed, what you discover along the way may be fruitful. Anyway, I rather liked the breakthrough and that youthful inquisitiveness won the day.

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3 Responses

  1. David Sanger says:

    Impressive but apparently not as groundbreaking as the papers have it.

    This analysis from professors at the university where he was interning:


  2. Ken Rhodes says:

    What is also impressive to me is that those two professors were able to write a learned article explaining the problem, the young man’s approach, and the other knowledge in the field, which I could understand. I betcha those two are good teachers.

  3. Deven Desai says:

    David, Great comment. Thanks for the update.