As usual, Paul nails it.
When you look at the lives of people who’ve done great work, you see a consistent pattern. They often begin with a bus ticket collector’s obsessive interest in something that would have seemed pointless to most of their contemporaries. One of the most striking features of Darwin’s book about his voyage on the Beagle is the sheer depth of his interest in natural history. His curiosity seems infinite. Ditto for Ramanujan, sitting by the hour working out on his slate what happens to series.
It’s a mistake to think they were “laying the groundwork” for the discoveries they made later. There’s too much intention in that metaphor. Like bus ticket collectors, they were doing it because they liked it.
But there is a difference between Ramanujan and a bus ticket collector. Series matter, and bus tickets don’t.
If I had to put the recipe for genius into one sentence, that might be it: to have a disinterested obsession with something that matters.
There is so much more to learn about how to do great work. As old as human civilization feels, it’s really still very young if we haven’t nailed something so basic. It’s exciting to think there are still discoveries to make about discovery. If that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in.
I broadly agree on the sweepstakes. I am deeply interested in NeuroOncology, but only for the unpredictable nature of gliomas. I know for sure that there are several pathways to push the envelope (fractionation, genomics and patient support) that we haven’t explored them all. As such, I developed a constellation of ideas that all help to understand the problem in perspective. I have gone on to win some degree of recognition for the mobile healthcare but I also understand that these are very early days. My peers don’t understand the technical limitations but that is not their fault. We have a lot to contend with our individual lives. As such, these are outside the core areas of radiation oncology.
The current flavour of the season is CAR-T Cell for solid tumours. I have specific ideas on it but will be sharing it as a write-up.