Moments of Clarity

I’m watching a Yahoo Research talk by Christos Papadimitriou. Reminds me of a grad school story…

I was hanging around the grad student lounge, chatting with a friend about the computational theory class and our difficulty in grasping all the concepts. Christos was a professor at UCSD at the time and had literally written the book on the subject.

In the middle of our chat Christos himself walked into the lounge to get a snack. We worked up the courage to admit our lack of understanding and asked him to enlighten us on the whole topic.

We sat around the table, soon to be joined by 3 more grad students, and Christos started talking.

I learned more in the next 45 minutes than I had in 6 months. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. For the next three days I felt I understood everything. Not just computational theory mind you, everything.

Within a week I was back to my clueless self, but those few days of clarity were amazing.

This is why I think physical presence in universities still matters, and where you go to school also matters. Lectures may be delivered as effectively online, but there’s much more to university than lectures.