Richard Feynman

'What Do You Care What Other People Think?': Further Adventures of a Curious Character

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    Simon Dunlophas quoted6 years ago
    Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad—but it does not carry instructions on how to use it
    Simon Dunlophas quoted6 years ago
    And when a child catches on to an idea like that, we have a scientist. It is too late* for them to get the spirit when they are in our universities, so we must attempt to explain these ideas to children.
    Simon Dunlophas quoted6 years ago
    Bad can be taught at least as efficiently as good
    Simon Dunlophas quoted6 years ago
    In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    Hardly anyone can understand the importance of an idea, it is so remarkable. Except that, possibly, some children catch on. And when a child catches on to an idea like that, we have a scientist. It is too late* for them to get the spirit when they are in our universities, so we must attempt to explain these ideas to children.
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    Through all ages of our past, people have tried to fathom the meaning of life. They have realized that if some direction or meaning could be given to our actions, great human forces would be unleashed. So, very many answers have been given to the question of the meaning of it all. But the answers have been of all different sorts, and the proponents of one answer have looked with horror at the actions of the believers in another—horror, because from a disagreeing point of view all the great potentialities of the race are channeled into a false and confining blind alley. In fact, it is from the history of the enormous monstrosities created by false belief that philosophers have realized the apparently infinite and wondrous capacities of human beings. The dream is to find the open channel.
    What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence?
    If we take everything into account—not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn’t know—then I think we must frankly admit that we do not know.
    But, in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries—certainly a grand adventure!
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad—but it does not carry instructions on how to use it.
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    Stands at the sea,
    wonders at wondering: I
    a universe of atoms
    an atom in the universe.
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time.
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    But I would like not to underestimate the value of the world view which is the result of scientific effort. We have been led to imagine all sorts of things infinitely more marvelous than the imaginings of poets and dreamers of the past. It shows that the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man. For instance, how much more remarkable it is for us all to be stuck—half of us upside down—by a mysterious attraction to a spinning ball that has been swinging in space for billions of years than to be carried on the back of an elephant supported on a tortoise swimming in a bottomless sea.
    Azhar Karzhaspayevahas quoted2 years ago
    Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty—some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.
    Владислав Стержановhas quoted6 years ago
    It’s natural to explain an idea in terms of what you already have in your head. Concepts are piled on top of each other: this idea is taught in terms of that idea, and that idea is taught in terms of another idea, which comes from counting, which can be so different for different people!
    I often think about that, especially when I’m teaching some esoteric technique such as integrating Bessel functions. When I see equations, I see the letters in colors—I don’t know why. As I’m talking, I see vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde’s book, with lighttan j’s, slightly violet-bluish n’s, and dark brown x’s flying around. And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students.
    Владислав Стержановhas quoted6 years ago
    We talked about it a while, and we discovered something. It turned out that Tukey was counting in a different way: he was visualizing a tape with numbers on it going by. He would say, “Mary had a little lamb,” and he would watch it! Well, now it was clear: he’s “looking” at his tape going by, so he can’t read, and I’m “talking” to myself when I’m counting, so I can’t speak!
    After that discovery, I tried to figure out a way of reading out loud while counting—something neither of us could do. I figured I’d have to use a part of my brain that wouldn’t interfere with the seeing or speaking departments, so I decided to use my fingers, since that involved the sense of touch.
    I soon succeeded in counting with my fingers and reading out loud. But I wanted the whole process to be mental, and not rely on any physical activity. So I tried to imagine the feeling of my fingers moving while I was reading out loud.
    I never succeeded. I figured that was because I hadn’t practiced enough, but it might be impossible: I’ve never met anybody who can do it.
    By that experience Tukey and I discovered that what goes on in different people’s heads when they think they’re doing the same thing—something as simple as counting—is different for different people. And we discovered that you can externally and objectively test how the brain works: you don’t have to ask a person how he counts and rely on his own observations of himself; instead, you observe what he can and can’t do while he counts. The test is absolute.
    Владислав Стержановhas quoted6 years ago
    Clearly, peace is a great force—as are sobriety, material power, communication, education, honesty, and the ideals of many dreamers. We have more of these forces to control than did the ancients. And maybe we are doing a little better than most of them could do. But what we ought to be able to do seems gigantic compared with our confused accomplishments.
    Why is this? Why can’t we conquer ourselves?
    Because we find that even great forces and abilities do not seem to carry with them clear instructions on how to use them. As an example, the great accumulation of understanding as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior seems to have a kind of meaninglessness. The sciences do not directly teach good and bad.
    Through all ages of our past, people have tried to fathom the meaning of life. They have realized that if some direction or meaning could be given to our actions, great human forces would be unleashed. So, very many answers have been given to the question of the meaning of it all. But the answers have been of all different sorts, and the proponents of one answer have looked with horror at the actions of the believers in another—horror, because from a disagreeing point of view all the great potentialities of the race are channeled into a false and confining blind alley. In fact, it is from the history of the enormous monstrosities created by false belief that philosophers have realized the apparently infinite and wondrous capacities of human beings. The dream is to find the open channel.
    What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say to dispel the mystery of existence?
    If we take everything into account—not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn’t know—then I think we must frankly admit that we do not know.
    Владислав Стержановhas quoted6 years ago
    We are all sad when we think of the wondrous potentialities human beings seem to have, as contrasted with their small accomplishments. Again and again people have thought that we could do much better. Those of the past saw in the nightmare of their times a dream for the future. We, of their future, see that their dreams, in certain ways surpassed, have in many ways remained dreams. The hopes for the future today are, in good share, those of yesterday.
    It was once thought that the possibilities people had were not developed because most of the people were ignorant. With universal education, could all men be Voltaires? Bad can be taught at least as efficiently as good. Education is a strong force, but for either good or evil.
    Communications between nations must promote understanding—so went another dream. But the machines of communication can be manipulated. What is communicated can be truth or lie. Communication is a strong force, but also for either good or evil.
    The applied sciences should free men of material problems at least. Medicine controls diseases. And the record here seems all to the good. Yet there are some patiently working today to create great plagues and poisons for use in warfare tomorrow.
    Nearly everyone dislikes war. Our dream today is peace. In peace, man can develop best the enormous possibilities he seems to have. But maybe future men will find that peace, too, can be good and bad. Perhaps peaceful men will drink out of boredom. Then perhaps drink will become the great problem which seems to keep man from getting all he thinks he should out of his abilities.
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