How to read

kid_reading_boring-e1459526032134I thought I would say a few words on how to read physics and math texts, which is always at least half the work of doing research. The first step is to make sure you aren’t ever spinning your wheels when you read. If you get stuck on some point, or get confused, don’t waste your time. Read something else, come back tomorrow, or ask some one to clear up some points for you. It’s never good to just waste 3 hours pulling your hair out. (1 hour is acceptable.) Going along with that, always make sure you are awake. Sometimes you’re in a mood where you can read for 8 hours straight, and other times you can’t concentrate at all.

As for actually reading, make sure you understand the calculations being performed as well as possible. It should go without saying that you should be following around with a notebook of your own, doing the calculations discussed. It is far too easy to think you understand something. In physics research, it is always the most important to be able to calculate, not just be good at reading books. This is the hardest part of learning, to learn something well enough that you can reproduce it when you want to in the way you want to.

Reading is often an extremely slow process. A page every half an hour is pretty fast pace. A page every hour is also good. Often times I’ll have a moment of realization that I’ve been reading one page for an hour and wonder how much time I’ve spent reading all the physics I’ve ever read in my entire life.

What’s incredible about the process is that after all that time you really do learn something, even if it takes you 2 months. At any given moment it feels like you aren’t learning that much, but when you look back you realize how far you’ve come.

 

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