by Asim Jalis
Here is a post that John Baez posted on usenet, that I think is
From: John Baez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Re: Help, I'm arXiv drowning!
Date: 2003-03-05 13:47:02 PST
Serenus Zeitblom wrote:
> These days I seem to spend more time reading and trying to
> understand arxiv postings than doing actual work! How do other
> people, especially people like John Baez and Steve Carlip etc
> who [presumably] have teaching etc to do, find time to read all
> this stuff??!! Help!
"All" this stuff? Anyone who tried to read *all* the papers on
hep-th or gr-qc would quickly be reduced to a babbling wreck.
Even reading the abstracts is a serious mind-bender.
I think it's crucial to have an "angle" - a special point of view
on things that lets you quickly decide whether or not a paper is
interesting to you. My own "angle" is enough to instantly rule
out about 99% of the papers on the arXiv. I'm not interested in
keeping up with most work on string theory; I don't even keep up
with everything in loop quantum gravity; I have certain things I
want to think about, and I mainly read stuff related to that.
It's important not to get confused about this "angle" stuff: it's
not a matter of what *is* interesting in some mythical
"objective" sense, but what *you* happen to be interested in
*now*. So, a paper that's uninteresting today may become
interesting tomorrow. Only very boring people stay interested in
exactly the same stuff all their lives.
Choosing ones "angle" is an incredibly important ongoing process:
this is what determines whether you're doing important stuff or
just piddling around in some backwater. It's a very difficult
decision, because there's no objective standard of what's
"important" and what's a "backwater". You can't trust fashion!
It's better to have a guru - someone wise, with a broad view of
physics, who has been around for a while, who has opinions on
what's important and what's not. But, you should never
completely trust any guru! So, it's best to have several and