Discover more from Unknown Unknowns
🤯Unknown Unknowns #58 - Happy 4th!
I've lived in my apartment for sixteen years but I just found this viewpoint.
It's at the top of a staircase. Maybe five people could stand at the top if you squeeze.
The only reason I found it is because my gym still isn't open yet so I decided to climb stairs. I go up until my heartrate hits 150 bpm and then I go down until my heartrate hits 130, then back up. So I found this great viewpoint. It's been there the whole time I've lived here and I never knew.
My stairs existed but I never knew about them. How many other fireworks did I miss? Or sunrises? Rainbows?
This article is another example of unknown resources. The ecosystem of academic papers restricts access to most researchers. Since science is based on building knowledge on previous knowledge, restricting access slows progress that would benefit everyone. Thankfully there are those working on making scientific papers open to the public.
But as bad as it is that billion-dollar multinationals are extracting huge, parasitic rents from our publicly funded knowledge-creation system, that's really just the tip of the iceberg. The real harms come from what this does to science and scholarship. Locking up all those papers means that researchers who aren't affiliated with wealthy institutions are denied access to the raw materials of study and experimentation.
The most recent Fields Medal winner (The Nobel Prize equivalent for Math) treats all of life as an Unknown Unknown. He came to mathematics by following his curiosity and he explores math with his curiosity.
One might say the same of his path into mathematics itself: that it was characterized by much wandering and a series of small miracles. When he was younger, Huh had no desire to be a mathematician. He was indifferent to the subject, and he dropped out of high school to become a poet. It would take a chance encounter during his university years — and many moments of feeling lost — for him to find that mathematics held what he’d been looking for all along.
To hear him tell it, he doesn’t usually have much control over what he decides to focus on in those three hours... He finds that forcing himself to do something or defining a specific goal — even for something he enjoys — never works. It’s particularly difficult for him to move his attention from one thing to another. “I think intention and willpower … are highly overrated,” he said. “You rarely achieve anything with those things.”
I'm not sure if I agree, but maturity is definitely a realization of your impotence, a humbling.
Another quote I like about maturity is attributed to Confucius: "A man has two lives, the second starts when he realizes he only has one"
Questions, suggestions, complaints? Email me me at [email protected]. Feedback welcome.
If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with a friend or two. And feel free to send anything you find interesting to me!
Leaving you in peace,