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John Cook's profile photoSuresh Venkatasubramanian's profile photoPatrick Honner's profile photoJoerg Fliege's profile photo
This reminds be a bit of the principle that it is often easier to solve a more general problem than the specific one.
+Patrick Honner During my candidacy exam, my advisor asked me a simple question that I could not answer. He then said "Let me ask you a harder question." I was still lost. Then he said "Let me ask you an even harder question." Then I got it. He made the question sufficiently abstract that I could recognize it.
Cf the theory of approximation algorithms for NP-hard problems - cant solve it exactly easily, but can get close easily, and for some problems it just gets harder and harder as you get closer and closer
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