There is a certain loose-end to my thesis upon which I have been working for the past three months or so; everything else is done. I thought that I’d had this loose-end sewn up at the end of June or so, but I found (when writing the thesis) that I’d made a mistake and that my results did not hold. My Thesis Advisor therefore sent me back to solve it again, something that I attempted using a variety of different methods…none of them successful.
Two weeks ago, I thought I had finally devised a solution; but in going back over it once again, I found a typo in my computer code which, when corrected, meant that the method I was using no longer produced meaningful results.
So I did what any good physicist would do and tried another method. And another. And another. And finally, a few weeks ago, I found a method that works. Except it turned-out, upon closer inspection, that it did not in fact work.
I now think that I am able to prove, with a fair degree of certainty, that my failure thus far at finding this result is owing to the fact that it does not actually exist. But still, I am annoyed. I trust that anyone would be after spending months of their lives, time they will never get back, chasing-down something which proved to be an illusion.
I have been so close to just throwing-up my hands and rage-quitting this thesis more times than I can count. It seems like completion is a sort of an asymptote to my efforts. I can get within some infinitessimal distance epsilon of the end, but I can never actually finish.
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to, at this point, assume that my null-result is valid; that the solution I am looking for plain doesn’t exist. It is, of course, entirely possible that I made some error in reasoning; that some sharp mathematician on my committee will point this out. But you know what? I am running fast out of wit, and I am entirely bereft of patience. And this result is so tangential to the main thrust of my thesis that, frankly, I don’t see that it’s worth spending however many more months it would take to make absolutely certain my result is perfect. I am going to write-up my thesis, I am going to hand it in, I am going to defend, and then frankly I am going to find some other academic discipline to make the focus of my attention, because this hyper-specialization is killing my soul.
I signed-up for physics to understand the universe; this is not what I signed-up for.