I have been hearing different people saying this in different contexts for quite some time but I still don't quite get it.
I know that compact operators map bounded sets to totally bounded ones, that the perturbation of a compact operator does not change the index, and that the calkin algebra is an indispensable tool in the study of operators in the sense that 'essentially something' becomes a useful notion.
But I still suspect why they are 'small'. Now Connes says they are like 'infinitesimals' in commutative function theory, which makes me even more confused. So I guess I just post this question here and hopefully I can hear some quite good explanations about the reasoning behind this intuition.