27 August, 2004

The good news is...

Let's leave Hugo, Dostoevsky, Napoleon and the demonic revolutionaries for a moment. (A long moment, actually.) The good news is that, two weeks ago, I solved my research problem. It happened as I sat at my writing desk on Tuesday night, the tenth of August.

This came as something of a surprise to me, since I was just messing around with something I'd discovered the Friday before. After four years of struggle, I found it so unbelieveable that I forced myself to re-prove it the next day at work, without my notes. Amazingly, it worked. On Thursday the 12th, I went to Mass and thanked God, hoping in a mildly ridiculous way that this would miraculously prevent the appearance of a fatal flaw.

I insisted on holding my cards close to my chest. Until the following Sunday evening, only one person besides myself was aware that I had a solution of sorts. Even then, on Sunday evening, I confessed it only to two other close friends; I remained in mortal terror of some logical error.

Indeed, over the next few days my advisor did find a critical flaw. He considered it minor, and I fixed it the next day — he didn't even bother to look at the correction, only at the structure, so convinced was he that it was a minor error. Still, it did expose a bad error in my understanding of something important. Good to catch that.

Nevertheless, the solution now appears to be correct, and it has borne repeated scrutiny. This is the problem whose solution would have opened the door to graduation. So the next few weeks will be a flurry of work:

  • present the result to an internal seminar
  • take my preliminary oral exam Oct. 20th
  • prepare a paper to submit the result
  • start writing the thesis (I already started, but I haven't looked at it since I got stuck two years ago)
  • apply for jobs
  • &c &c &c
I'm bursting with excitement.

Not as much, perhaps, as two weeks ago. There is, of course, the remote possibility that the proof has an error, and I am not one to handle such disappointments well. (I stayed up until 4am to fix the previous error.)

For now however I'm positively bursting with excitement.

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