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‘t Hooft

by Michael Nielsen on May 6, 2004

How to become a good theoretical physicist, by Gerard ‘t Hooft. If anybody should know, I guess it’s ‘t Hooft.

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  1. I have been following your Website for some time. I also discovered Dr. t Hooft’s amazing site some months ago and wrote an essay about it on my own Weblog, “Electron Blue” entry:

    I wonder whether Dr. t Hooft really believes that one can learn theoretical physics up to a high level by oneself.

  2. Michael Nielsen permalink

    I looked around your site quite a bit (including the essay you mention). It is a very interesting and ambitious project you’ve set yourself, and I found several of your entries quite insightful. Good luck with it!

    As for your question of whether it is possible to learn theoretical physics on one’s own, for me at least it does make it substantially more difficult. It’s extremely easy to get stuck or demoralized when doing physics. (Getting demoralized is worse, I think — I’m of the opinion that physicists are nearly always stuck on something, but that’s not a problem if you have high morale.) Having other people to talk to can sometimes clear the confusion or lift your morale. There were times as a student when I would largely work on my own for up to 6 months, and I probably would have been better off working with others. Nowadays, when I want to learn something I find other people who are interested in learning it, and I try to teach them the subject as I learn it. It’s great for my morale, and I’m doing something for the greater good.

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