Stuart Dreyfus presents excerpts from Bellman, of dynamic programming fame, in RICHARD BELLMAN ON THE BIRTH OF DYNAMIC PROGRAMMING.
There’s a bit of research-related therapeutic talk here, and at least one provocative idea.
On logical scientific progress:
“Scientific developments can always be made logical and rational with sufficient hindsight. It is amazing, however, how clouded the crystal ball looks beforehand. We all wear such intellectual blinders and make such inexplicable blunders that it is amazing that any progress is made at all.
I strongly recommend the interesting study of these and related matters by Jacques Hadamard, the great French mathematician, in his book The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (Dover Publications, New York, 1945: paperback)”
On choosing your problem:
“Similarly, there are many questions that are difficult to answer, but hardly worth asking. The well-trained mathematician does not measure the value of a problem solely by its intractability. The challenge is there, but even very small boys do not accept all dares.”
“It is usually, if not always, impossible to predict where a theoretical investigation will end once started. But what one can be certain of is that the investigation of a meaningful scientific area will lead to meaningful mathematics. Inevitably, as soon as one pursues the basic theme of obtaining numerical answers to numerical questions, one will be led to all kinds of interesting and significant problems in pure mathematics”