Leaving the Quantum Enthusiast’s Comfort Zone
If you you want to harm the next cat you may encounter, it’s a sign you’re ready to leave a comfort zone of simple analogies of quantum mechanics. If it’s your cat, maybe it’s about the cat…
How long have you been voraciously consuming knowledge about quantum world? Or quantum computing? Or — as a matter of fact — any scientifically challenging topic which is cool at the moment? Deep learning, bioinformatics echoes? It’s time to move forward. Otherwise, you may stuck at one level and become bored or even annoyed with the subject you’ve been passionate about for quite some time. This is where the cat hate analogy kicks in. Yes, the Schrödinger one.
It’s truly amazing to be alive these days. We are flush with incredible free online educational materials that basically everyone has access to. As long as there is to some degree the English language barrier broken you are lucky enough to have access to the wider spectrum of the best resources. Fortunately, there are also small communities that efficiently locate the pearls in the web and engage with necessary translations.
I’m talking mainly about YouTube platform here. With some luck at the starting point and being focused while surfing online, you will avoid garbage and build a sort of a dashboard of precious resources.
However, there is a catch. Those are visually engaging , so you may get stuck as a spectator, a consumer of knowledge, thinking you’re learning something. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
I was trapped in a box like that. Still loosing myself in such an easy-accessed knowledge. Such a comfort!
Two examples first. If you somehow haven’t heard about PBS Space Time channel or Science Asylum, I strongly advise you to catch up. They present cosmology, quantum mechanics digging deep into the subfields of both. The level of details laid down in a digestible form is incredible. I remember the joy accompanied to understanding the Hawking radiation or how you can truly think of a mass as the manifestation of energy. But when you’re chilling with a drink and a tablet in hands, watching the same video for the sixth time within two months, it’s only about a passive joy, not improving your skills and knowledge. It’s no different than watching the news: easy to digest, easy to forget. I was a consumer not an active user. I somehow assumed that this experience allow new knowledge to just flow into my brain. Yes, “The Matrix”-style: “I know kung-fu”. I assumed I could put some interesting stuff in a sort of a cache memory (almost instantly accessed) and play with it whenever I want. Only later… I know, there are hundreds of cognitivists who can tell me this concept is proven to be silly. But I was still in “it’s just a fun with some benefits” phase. And “the later” hid far behind the horizon.
Why let the knowledge just wash away? It might be useful somehow, somewhere, somewhen. Practically the essence of exploration and appreciating the reality. Big words. Yet, hear me out. You can get nice dopamine releases with a different approach.
In my case probably one of the switches was flipped during exploring Grant Sanders’ 3Blue1Brown channel on YouTube. For millions of students without his series on calculus and linear algebra there would be a dire future ahead. You may say, it’s definitely not for me. Heavy maths is unreachable in my age and other excuses. You will be amazed if you somehow get convinced, though. The trick was to move a step forward, introducing an actively used notepad. No more description. Just launch his content and use your pencil. See what happens.
As soon as you feel ready for the full courses, there is no way you miss some from MIT or Stanford. They were present online before most of us realized it’s an option for an education. It’s still linear, not that interactive as it is demanded today, but it’s a bit romantic to pick ideas from pure blackboards with chalk orchestrated by true giants of education, like prof. Gilbert Strang, Lenard Susskind and many more.
I will not list here all precious resources, since after couple of the mentioned above, you will definitely find the same with recommendation engines on Google Search or YouTube. One bonus for Quantum Computing, though.
You may think it’s the same story everywhere, so it’s obvious you need to have your hands dirty if you’re honest about learning something. You may think it’s just for fun. It’s almost always is, but I was amazed how the forced onto yourself discomfort and feeling lost brought incredible amounts of joy. Everybody has particular approach to matters that are important. I took an unusual step and wanted to share with you. If you recognized similar patterns in your case, just know, there’s somebody else out there with his own story.
What’s my optimal approach? Gentle, sometimes easy materials are a nice warmup. But challenging yourself eventually with something “impossible”, however unpleasant it can be, is the essence of exploration you’ve already embarked on. Good luck!