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pianoforte611 comments on Open thread, 23-29 June 2014 - Less Wrong

3 Post author: David_Gerard 23 June 2014 07:21AM

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Comment author: jimmy 23 June 2014 07:15:50PM 13 points [-]

If all you have is a hammer, then you should be hammering on quite a few things that aren't nails. Heck, I've fixed a propane regulator by whacking it with a hammer. It's just that you should also.. you know.. buy some more tools.

If you're aware of the non-nailness of the thing in question, I don't see any problem with trying out your new tool on it - how else are you to learn its limits!? Using standard tools in a domain where it's not normally applied is often a source of fresh insight.

Comment author: pianoforte611 27 June 2014 02:53:20AM 2 points [-]

This is a really cool point. There's a relevant quote about how mathematicians use this technique:

Every supposed genius has a bag of tricks—a list of obscure technical methods that hardly anyone knows about, that they have mastered. Every time they hear about a problem, they go through the list mentally, to see if one of the tricks might work. They hardly ever do, but once every year or two, you get a match, and then you look brilliant, like you’ve had some staggering insight. But actually all you did was notice that percolation theory is applicable, or something.

It's from here