I didn’t have a good illustration for this post, so here’s a fabulous photo of a polar bear from wikicommons.
When I was a callow PhD student I once walked in on a fellow callow PhD colleague watching a video lecture from MIT on bioinformatics.
The colleague said words to the effect of “This is strange, these are meant to be really smart MIT students in a postgraduate lecture, but they keep asking really stupid questions”.
That question, formed that way, made me realise something I should have known a decade earlier.
What I realised was that you don’t get into an MIT masters course only because you were a naturally gifted genius. These people asking the questions got there because any time something happened in a lecture that they didn’t understand they damn well stopped the lecture until the understood it. So for every minute of their undergraduate life they had been learning.
By comparison, I asked almost no questions during my undergraduate degree, I would wander in and start thinking about food, or Judo, or the pattern of light on the walls – and I’m mortified by that memory, just like I’m mortified by the fact that I used to think there was something strange about the people asking questions. The stranger thing was that I was turning up just so I could think about other things.