I still enjoy dirty works in science

Nowadays I spend more time in supervising someone than in my own project, and I am also involved in many other collaboration projects. A good thing is that as I discuss on various topics in spin-orbitronics, this really helps me to have a broader and comprehensive perspective on the field. However, I cannot spend too much time in every projects, and I rather try to understand the gist of ideas and motivations. As human brains are not developed for multi-tasking, situation of having multiple projects simultaneously make me exhausted. Importantly, it seems to take away a “fun” part of doing science. In my experience, even for a seemingly boring project, at the end I find a lot of interesting aspects as I start to understand more things that are not so obvious from the surface. Often we get a result that goes against our intuitiion and we are surprised by that. After spending some time, there is a moment when everything perfectly makes sense.

In this week, I had a chance to work on a tight-binding model and symmetry reduction of the Hamiltonian. In the beginning, this has been done by my master student, but he found that the final result does not make any sense: We have seen a net orbital magnetic moment even though the system posesses the time-reversal symmetry. Quite often, this signals that there must be a rather dumb mistake. Since it’s quite difficult to find a mistake from one’s own notes, I decided to work on the problem independently from the master student. To be honest, I was a bit impatient in the beginning as I had many other works which have priority. But once I started to work on it, I forgot about it and started to enjoy doing science. Especially, now that I knew most of the technical details, we could have nice discussion on the same page (so far, quite often I only checked the final result and see whether it makes sense in terms of symmetry or microscopics, etc.). At the end, we end up having hours of stimulating discussion, although I left a dirty part of the calculation to the student.

This little moment in this week started to make me realize that doing science is not only about making general statements. Every scientific arguments should be based on solid data, which requires understanding of technical side of the work as well. Details and technical aspects really matter in many cases, if you want to really understand and “feel” a physical mechanism that we study. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but I do enjoy dirty works in science, still!

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