Perspective is Important

Stumbled on this intriguing story about a bright statistics postgrad.  He solved two famous problems in the field whilst mistakenly thinking they were simply routine homework questions.

Tales of statisticians: George B Dantzig

We’ll never know if he might have solved them even if he knew what they were, but the moral of the story resonated with me:

If Dantzig had known the problems were unsolved, he might not have made any serious attempt to solve them, whereas the “positive” assumption that they were not only solvable, but routinely solvable, focused his attention simply on finding the solution. Ignorance can thus be a help to the discoverer.

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