You should change your area of expertise every 10 years. Here’s why.
To have breakthrough ideas, try veering off your original field of study.
Lee attended Harvard University for graduate school receiving a Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1979. He held postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, The Institute for Theoretical Physics (now KITP) in Santa Barbara and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago. This was followed by faculty positions at Yale, Syracuse and Penn State Universities, where he helped to found the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry. In September of 2001 he moved to Canada to be a founding member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, where he has been ever since.
Lee's main contributions to research are so far to the field of quantum gravity. He was, with Abhay Ashtekar and Carlo Rovelli, a founder of the approach known as loop quantum gravity, but he has contributed to other approaches including string theory and causal dynamical triangulations. He is also known for proposing the notion of the landscape of theories, based on his application of Darwinian methods to Cosmology. He has contributed also to the foundations of quantum mechanics, elementary particle physics and theoretical biology. He also has a strong interest in philosophy and his three books, Life of the Cosmos, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity and The Trouble with Physics are in part philosophical explorations of issues raised by contemporary physics.
LEE SMOLIN: People often speak of the beginner's mind, this wonderful ability of people, when they come new to a subject, to have an idea, to see something that's novel, that everybody else has missed that leads to a breakthrough. And this is a thing of beauty. I've experienced it myself, which I am very fortunate to say. And I have observed it a few times in my career in other people's work.
But here is the thing that I think is not true. What's not true is that it's tied, necessarily, to age so that you only get one shot. There is a thing that physicists often say. You see, all these great discoveries, like Newton-- Newton was 22, and then 24. Einstein was 26. Heisenberg was 23. Bohr was 28, et cetera.
So there is this tendency to say, you've got to have not only a fresh mind, but a young mind. And let me tell you what Chandrasekhar, who was one of the great astrophysicists of the 20th century-- indeed, of every time-- said to me when he was in his late 70s. He said, most people say that you only get one chance, and then you-- then you get in the way. Then you're useless. But he didn't think that was true, and it wasn't true in his own life.
You just had to change your subject every 10 years. So every 10 years, Chandra took the last 10 years of work, wrote a textbook, put all the calculations and all his notes in a box, put them on a shelf, and walked out and looked for something else to study. Somebody else in the domain of physics and astronomy and so forth. Because that's what he was interested in. But something completely different.
And then 10 years later, he was the master of a field. He put-- he wrote the book, he put it in a box. He put it on the shelf. And he was still doing this when he was in his late 70s, and indeed, into his 80s. And so I think it's very important to take Chandrasekhar seriously and change.
In my own life, I have always wanted to work on quantum gravity, and I've always wanted to work on quantum foundations. And I even have some themes that go through most of my thinking, most of my work. But I change direction. I change point of view. I change approach. That's why I'm not -- unlike Chandrasekhar who is my dear, dear, close friend, I don't stay on the same subject.
- People often mistake young minds as having a prerogative in making great scientific discoveries. However, finding innovative solutions is less a matter of youth and more about having a fresh take on things, a subject.
- One tip in developing innovative solutions is to venture off from your original field of study — in that tangent, you'll be able to grasp things with a "fresh" take. You may be able to spot incongruities or connections that others have overlooked because of their overfamiliarity.
- To keep your mind constantly engaged, perhaps even to recapture a sense of wonder, change up the subject you're most engrossed in.
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Researchers find a key clue to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.
- A new study says solar and lunar tide impacts led to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.
- The scientists show that tides created tidal pools, stranding fish and forcing them to get out of the water.
- The researchers ran computer simulations to get their results.
Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the Tides<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9913a65f847775722d7c23d40d78938b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dBwNadry-TU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Experts explain how lie detectors work, what happens in the brain when we tell lies and how accurate polygraph tests are.
- In a 2002 study, 60 percent of people were found to lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation, with most people telling an average of two or three lies. The polygraph, invented in the early 1920s, detects physiological responses to lying (such as elevated heart and respiratory rates as well as spikes in blood pressure.
- Three main areas of the brain are stimulated during deception: the frontal lobe, the limbic system, and the temporal lobe.
- According to the American Polygraph Association, the estimated accuracy of a polygraph can be up to 87 percent.
What happens in your brain when you lie?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU5ODY0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDU4OTUzMX0.GHs9ZTFWtuC8IGBQTLsM4qd2LFriJZFuAn4whFj-GZ0/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C19%2C0%2C101&height=700" id="c3d06" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4747d0e2eb354c19bc9d0749c2d28f26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="concept of lying polygraph test" />
Image by Shidlovski on Shutterstock<p>We all lie. Some might argue it's human nature. In a 2002 study, 60 percent of people were found to lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation, with most people telling an average of two or three lies. Some lies are small, some are bigger, some are done out of kindness, and some done out of malice. But a lie is a lie, and the way that your body reacts when you lie is the same.</p><p><strong>Lying is an inherently stressful activity. </strong></p><p>When you engage in a false narrative (or a lie), your respiratory and heart rate will increase and you may even start to sweat. While people may vary in the ability to tell a lie, most of the time your body will react in this same way. Exceptions to this rule are, for example, psychopaths, who lack empathy and therefore do not exhibit the typical physiological stress responses when telling a lie. </p><p><strong>Brain imaging studies have shown what really happens in the brain when you tell a lie. </strong></p><p>Lying generally involves more effort than telling the truth, and because of this, it involves the prefrontal cortex. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-art-of-lying/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2001 study</a> by late neuroscientist Sean Spence (University of Sheffield in England) explored fMRI images of the brain while lying. Participants answered questions about their daily routine by pressing a yes or no button on a screen. Depending on the color of the writing, they were to answer either truthfully or with a lie. </p><p>The results showed participants needed more time to formulate a dishonest answer than an honest one, and certain parts of the prefrontal cortex were more active when they were lying. </p><p><a href="https://mashable.com/2013/12/20/psychology-of-lying/?europe=true#:~:text=When%20we%20lie%2C%20it%20stimulates,memories%20and%20creating%20mental%20imagery." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Further research</a> explains that three main areas of the brain are stimulated during deception - the frontal lobe works to suppress the truth, the limbic system activates due to the anxiety that comes from lying, and the temporal lobe activates in response to retrieving memories and creating mental imagery (fabricating a believable lie). </p><p><strong>Research also suggests lying becomes easier the more you do it. </strong></p><p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27775721/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In a 2016 study</a>, Duke psychologist Dan Ariely and his colleagues showed how dishonesty can alter your brain, making it easier to tell lies in the future. When people told lies, the scientists noticed a burst of activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in fear, anxiety, and emotional responses. When the scientists had their subject play a game in which they won money by deceiving their partner, they noticed the negative signals from the amygdala begin to decrease. </p><p>"Lying, in fact, desensitized your brain to the fear of getting caught of hurting others, making lying for your own benefit down the road much easier," wrote Jessica Stillman for <a href="https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/the-science-of-lying-more-you-do-it-easier-it-gets.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">INC</a>.</p>
How do lie detectors work?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU5ODY3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzg5MDU0OX0._xLKh6Lu15CNNf0eoLNROD6XGuqiT2R8pKxq0TECV2A/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C193%2C0%2C1994&height=700" id="db217" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="092c4388f3cea4afb66387c522754519" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="lie detector illustration" />
The polygraph will be able to detect if someone is telling the truth 87 percent of the time.
Image by OllivsArt on Shutterstock<p>In 1921, a California-based police officer and physiologist John A. Larson created an apparatus that simultaneously measures continuous changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate to aid in the detection of deception. This was the invention of the polygraph, which is commonly referred to as a lie detector.</p><p>Seven years before this, in 1914, an Italian psychologist (Vittorio Benussi) published findings on "the respiratory symptoms of a lie," and in 1915, an American psychologist and lawyer (William M. Marston) invented a blood pressure test for the detection of deception.</p><p>The accuracy of polygraph tests has been called into question for nearly as long as they've existed. These machines detect typical stress responses to telling a lie. This means increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate. Some people are naturally good liars, or become better with controlling these stress responses, and can manage to stay calm during a lie detector test. </p><p><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-nature-deception/202001/do-lie-detector-tests-really-work#:~:text=It%20does%20work%20much%20of,trained%20polygraph%20examiner%20can%20tell.&text=They%20estimate%20the%20accuracy%20of,lying%20or%20telling%20the%20truth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the American Polygraph Association</a> (made up largely of polygraph examiners), the estimated accuracy of a polygraph can be up to 87 percent. That means that in 87 out of 100 cases, the polygraph will be able to detect if someone is telling the truth.</p><p>If the person lies but doesn't have the stress symptoms of telling that lie, they will pass the test. Similarly, innocent people may fail the test due to being anxious about taking it to begin with and therefore emitting the elevated heart, respiratory, and blood pressure rates that can be detected. </p>
A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.
- AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
- At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
- Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Why this matters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTkyODg5NX0.O3S2DRTyAxh-JZqxGKj9KkC6ndZAloEh4hKhpcyeFDQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3770d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3c27b79d4c0600fb6ebb82e650cabec0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Area in which trees were located
Credit: University of Copenhagen<p>As important as trees are in fighting climate change, scientists need to know what trees there are, and where, and the study's finding represents a significant addition to the global tree inventory.</p><p>The vegetation Brandt and his colleagues have identified is in the Western Sahara, a region of about 1.3 million square kilometers that includes the desert, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahel" target="_blank">the Sahel</a>, and the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/subhumid-zones" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sub-humid zones</a> of West Africa.</p><p>These trees and shrubs have been left out of previous tabulations of carbon-processing worldwide forests. Says Brandt, "Trees outside of forested areas are usually not included in climate models, and we know very little about their carbon stocks. They are basically a white spot on maps and an unknown component in the global carbon cycle."</p><p>In addition to being valuable climate-change information, the research can help facilitate strategic development of the region in which the vegetation grows due to a greater understanding of local ecosystems.</p>
Trained for trees<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2MDQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk5NTI3NH0.fR-n1I2DHBIRPLvXv4g0PVM8ciZwSLWorBUUw2wc-Vk/img.jpg?width=980" id="e02c0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79955b13661dca8b6e19007935129af1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Martin Brandt/University of Copenhagen<p>There's been an assumption that there's hardly enough vegetation outside of forested areas to be worth counting in areas such as this one. As a result the study represents the first time a significant number of trees — likely in the hundreds of millions when shrubs are subtracted from the overall figure — have been catalogued in the drylands region.</p><p>Members of the university's Department of Computer Science trained a machine-learning module to recognize trees by feeding it thousands of pictures of them. This training left the AI be capable of spotting trees in the tiny details of satellite images supplied by NASA. The task took the AI just hours — it would take a human years to perform an equivalent analysis.</p><p>"This technology has enormous potential when it comes to documenting changes on a global scale and ultimately, in contributing towards global climate goals," says co-author Christian Igel. "It is a motivation for us to develop this type of beneficial artificial intelligence."</p><p>"Indeed," says Brandt says, "I think it marks the beginning of a new scientific era."</p>
Looking ahead and beyond<p>The researchers hope to further refine their AI to provide a more detailed accounting of the trees it identifies in satellite photos.</p><p>The study's senior author, Rasmus Fensholt, says, "we are also interested in using satellites to determine tree species, as tree types are significant in relation to their value to local populations who use wood resources as part of their livelihoods. Trees and their fruit are consumed by both livestock and humans, and when preserved in the fields, trees have a positive effect on crop yields because they improve the balance of water and nutrients."</p><p>Ahead is an expansion of the team's tree hunt to a larger area of Africa, with the long-term goal being the creation of a more comprehensive and accurate global database of trees that grow beyond the boundaries of forests.</p>
Erin Meyer explains the keeper test and how it can make or break a team.
- There are numerous strategies for building and maintaining a high-performing team, but unfortunately they are not plug-and-play. What works for some companies will not necessarily work for others. Erin Meyer, co-author of No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, shares one alternative employed by one of the largest tech and media services companies in the world.
- Instead of the 'Rank and Yank' method once used by GE, Meyer explains how Netflix managers use the 'keeper test' to determine if employees are crucial pieces of the larger team and are worth fighting to keep.
- "An individual performance problem is a systemic problem that impacts the entire team," she says. This is a valuable lesson that could determine whether the team fails or whether an organization advances to the next level.