He recounts how he he learnt this, while starting out as an Assistant Professor at Harvard, in a collaboration with Lionel Salem. Borden had performed some calculations using the Pariser-Parr-Pople (PPP) model for the electronic structure of conjugated organic molecules [for physicists an extended Hubbard model with long-range Coulomb interactions].
Lionel read my draft, and he promptly rewrote it. Lionel’s revised version, which was the one that we published, focused much more than my draft had on the explanation of the PPP results, rather than on the details of the calculations. This experience taught me a valuable lesson. Although describing the details of calculations and the results obtained from them is certainly important, it is even more important to write a clear, physical explanation of the results.
This was also the lesson that I learned from the papers that Roald Hoffmann published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although it was well-known that the Extended Hückel (EH) method that Roald used was quantitatively unreliable, Roald provided such convincing qualitative explanations of his EH results that it always seemed to me Roald’s EH results must be correct.I think these observations are just as relevant and important for physicists.
Aside: an earlier post sung the praises of Hoffmann's paper titles.
Borden then makes the important and worrying observation:
Perhaps the tremendous increase in the accuracy of electronic structure calculations during the past 40 years has had the undesirable consequence that computational chemists feel less obliged to provide the kind of detailed physical explanations of their results than Roald routinely furnished 40 years ago.