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.


About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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2 Responses to Frustration

  1. David Yerle says:

    I am sorry to hear this. Research can be really frustrating at times, especially when you’re wasting time in something that’s not even the focus of your thesis. Hope things get better soon.

  2. zinemin says:

    Somehow I have the feeling your advisor is failing here. It is not fair to let someone be stuck on something for months within a diploma thesis. This is not normal (at least not in my subfield) and kind of mean. Maybe you should complain to him more.

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