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A cloud with a silver lining

For the past few weeks I’ve been in pain much of the time, some sort of spasms in my neck and shoulder. Things are mostly better now, but last night I woke up at 5am and my neck was killing me. On the upside, I’d just been having a dream about multiple imputation and in the dream I had a brilliant idea of how to reconcile conditional and joint model specifications. Amazingly enough, when I awoke, I remembered the idea from the dream, and, even more amazingly, it really was a good idea. And, I was in pain and couldn’t fall back asleep. That was good news because that meant I didn’t forget the idea. I mentioned it to Jingchen in our midday meeting today and he didn’t shoot it down.

At this point, I don’t really know what will happen. Sometimes I have a sudden inspiration and is works out just as planned or even better than anticipated; other times, what seems like a brilliant plan goes nowhere. For this new idea, the next step is the hard work of pushing it through and seeing what happens.

If my new inspiration does work out, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it here on this blog. Or if it doesn’t happen, I’ll tell you that story too.

In the meantime, I can thank my neck pain for waking me up at just the right time.


  1. Jonathan says:

    Best of luck!

  2. numeric says:

    I’ve heard you referred to as a pain in the neck but I’m intrigued by the connection you make between pain and statistical advancement. In Soviet prison camps a common threat would be to “Come out without the last man”, meaning whoever was last would be killed or at least beaten severely. The same principle could be applied to non-productive tenured faculty–an unsolved reasearch problem could be announced and then the last faculty member to solve it would be untenured (killing and/or beating, while fun, is inhumane). Productivity among senior faculty would increase tremendously.

  3. Ian Fellows says:

    Sorry you are in pain. I hope that you feel better soon.

    Whenever I have a mathematical idea in a dream it always turns out to be a complete muddled, incomprehensible mess when the other half of my neurons have a chance to look at it.

  4. LemmusLemmus says:

    Hope you get better soon!

  5. Thanatos says:

    August Kekule would understand.

  6. Epanechnikov says:

    That is interesting. Demetrios Christodoulou has also conceived some powerful mathematical ideas while half asleep.

    I hope you feel better soon and wish you best of luck..

  7. Julia Chevan says:

    This Physical Therapist would be happy to trade consultation sessions with you. I might be able to help you relieve your pain or at least direct you to some good resources if you could help with my stats woes.

  8. Michael says:

    Great! Best of Luck!
    Hope You Get Well Soon!

  9. K? O'Rourke says:

    Interesting that you are sharing this.

    My old math and logic prof. argued that “how one came up with ideas” was no one’s business and it was rude to ask someone to share it and perhaps even rude even just to volunteer to share it.
    JG Gardin used to say “You can’t rule out a hypothesis by the way it was generated” (but you might decide it’s not worth your time to investigate it).

    And Peirce repeated claimed that to be creative, you had to first be confused: but that confusion could never be faked. Confusion seems to happen in a lot in my dreams.

    But it is probably also true that most confusion does lead to successful creativity ;-)
    Might also be helpful to get a sense of how you go about investigating its value. For instance, do you do a “Gauss” and first workout some trivial cases or start more generally/abstractly?

    Trust this post is a bit time delayed and the pain has resolved.