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Publishing Mistakes To See Where They Can Go

There is a value to openly publishing inconclusive conclusions.

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My wife’s great uncle was Richard Bellman, one of the creators of the atomic bomb and someone who is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest mathematicians to ever live. After he met Albert Einstein he referred to him merely as a “good physicist,” which is a bit of a dig when coming from a mathematician. 

Bellman’s biggest contribution to knowledge was perhaps a mathematical equation for solving impossible seeming problems by breaking them down into smaller, solvable parcels. This system laid down the groundwork for AI and can also be used in everyday life — quagmires of travel are especially solvable via a dummied down version of the Bellman Equation. 

But one thing that I found especially interesting about this guy was that he openly publish random ideas — virtually unedited, unadulterated ideas in the raw. 

“If in the middle of the night he got an idea he would get up, write a paragraph about it, and then publish it in some journal,” his daughter once told me. “Sometimes a colleague would read it and find some mistake in it and would bring it up to him. He would just respond, ‘That’s great, now publish a paper about it saying why it’s wrong.'”

This was a move that was all about advancing knowledge, and he seemed to understand that missteps along one road could be enough to put someone else on track to continue the journey. 

For a writer, the equivalent of this is blogging. 

A blog is a testing ground for incomplete ideas. It is a place to shoot off random observations, opinions, and less-than-conclusive conclusions. This is done for a reason: putting such raw ideas and observations out there is a way to see how well they hold up, it’s a way of testing how far they can go. 

Sometimes doing this is just going to make you look amateur, but sometimes it will lead you to somewhere you would never get to otherwise. 


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Filed under: Blogging, Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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