Talk:Richard Feynman

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Teaching quoteEdit

I found the following at [1]:

Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Laureate in physics, was once asked by a Caltech faculty member to explain why spin one-half particles obey Fermi Dirac statistics. Rising to the challenge, he said, "I'll prepare a freshman lecture on it." But a few days later he told the faculty member, "You know, I couldn't do it. I couldn't reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don't understand it."

Anybody here know a source for this quote/story? Thanks, Sam nead 19:10, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Ok, Gleick (p. 399) points to Goodstein's 1989 article in Physics Today. I'll read that and check back here. Sam nead 20:02, 9 September 2006 (UTC)
Goodstein also includes it in his "Special Preface" to the Feynman Lecture Series, dated 1989 as well. SarahLawrence Scott 03:21, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
The "faculty member" was David L. Goodstein, who included it in the book, "Feynman's Lost Lecture: The Motion of Planets Around the Sun", co-authored with his wife Judith R. Goodstein. In Chapter 2 (p45), the book says, "When I (D.L.G) started..." and the story continues through that chapter from that same first person perspective. On p52 the book says:

Fenman was a truly great teacher. He prided himself on being able to devise ways to explain even the most profound ideas to beginning students. Once, I said to him, "Dick, explain to me, so that I can understand it, why spin one-half particles obey Fermi-Dirac statistics." Sizing up his audience perfectly, Feynman said, "I'll prepare a freshman lecture on it." But he came back a few days later to say, "I couldn't do it. I couldn't reduce it to the freshman level. That means we don't really understand it."

Banaticus 03:51, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

BoldingEdit

I accidentally hit save while I was about to edit a copy of a comment I had pasted into the comment box while reverting the last change:

The comment had been: (You know what's annoying? Arbitrary bolding of text someone found particularly moving! Why not just bold the entire page? Someone, somewhere, is going to agree that the entire page is moving.)

I had intended to edit it in my reversion to:

You know what's annoying? A blanding of all text to the same level, and the inability to recognize some statements ARE more significant than others. Why not just quote everyone and everything? Because, to paraphrase a recent "Incredible" cartoon: to say everything is special is to say NOTHING is. Some things ARE more notable and more generally noted than others, and I am no disciple of the practice of always blanding everything down to the same level. ~ Achilles

To elaborate a bit. I believe pages are much more attractive and appealing when there is evidence of some actual thought, consideration and selection involved in them, rather than the wholesale gathering of any comments and statements that any half-wit could do. QUOTATION IS THE ART OF SELECTING WHAT SOMEONE SOMEWHERE DOES FIND SIGNIFICANT, and presenting quotes on pages here does involve an intelligent gauging of how significant most people might tend to find them. The option of bolding for emphasis of quotes or sections of quotes that someone finds significant has existed here since early on, and I for one, feel it should continue to be used. Why do we quote Feynman, and not his mother, or his next door neighbor? Because Feynman is known to have stated things that people find important, interesting, and often amusing. ~ Achilles 08:13, 23 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Feynman diagramsEdit

First of all, whoever did the pictures- wow. Amazing.

The only problem is that the picture going along with the quote about the electron going in any which way it liked is a picture of a Feynman diagram, which diagrams a particle interaction. His quote is about path integral formulation, which (among a significant amount of other things) helped resolve the problem about single electron interference patterns, in which beams that shot single electrons into a classical Young's double-slit setup produced an interference, which shouldn't happen with single electrons. (All of this can be found in Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time'.) Instead, [2] here is the relevant picture from Wikipedia. Changing to match.

...Or I would, if I knew how. Can someone help me on this? Thanks.

-SZero, [3] on W-Pedia.

The diagram suggested has now been used, as more illustrative of the notion; though I had thought even a basic Feynman diagram was sufficient to evoke the concept, the illustration of 3 of the potential paths is far more evocative. ~ Kalki 08:49, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

A poet once saidEdit

Does anyone know what poet Feynman is quoting? A web search only reveals Feynman as a source. Is he being coy here and quoting himself? SarahLawrence Scott 03:28, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

UnsourcedEdit

Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Richard Feynman.

  • Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about the way the world is.
  • If you can't explain something to a first year student, then you haven't really understood it.
    • Variant: "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't really understand it."
    • Sometimes attributed to Einstein
    • Cf. this from Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle:
Dr. Hoenikker used to say that any scientist who couldn't explain to an eight-year-old what he was doing was a charlatan.
  • Mathematics is not real, but it feels real. Where is this place?
  • Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds
  • Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.
  • The wonderful thing about science is that it's alive.
  • What does it mean, to understand? ... I don't know.
  • When you are solving a problem, don't worry. Now, after you have solved the problem, then that's the time to worry.
  • The potential energy of true love,
    can be calculated in many ways.

    The simplest is based on two details
    her height and what she weighs.
    • Remarks after bongo drum session at Caltech (13 Jul 1953)


Not a quoteEdit

"First you guess. Don't laugh, this is the most important step."

What Feynman actually said is on the quotes page under "Character of Physical Law". A snippet of this 1965 Cornell tape was used in "The Best Mind Since Einstein".

Another unsourced quoteEdit

"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

Feynman certainly said the second sentence: in "Cargo Cult Science" and in "What is and What Should be the Role of Scientific Culture in Modern Society". But I can find no evidence that he said the first sentence, so I'm removing it from the main page. DanStyer (talk) 18:10, 21 February 2014 (UTC)

Letter to Marcus Chown's motherEdit

There seems to be some confusion about what was in Feynman's letter to Cosmology writer Marcus Chown's mother. I've just heard a radio documentary featuring Chown quoting the letter as "Dear Mrs Chown, Ignore your son's attempts to teach you Physics. Physics is not the most important thing, love is. ". Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/ts5mm/ listen from 25:23 (annoyingly, it'll disappear from the BBC site on Saturday evening (on 25/09/10))

I did listen to this program a few months ago, and this is more information to work with in terms of how the statement has come to be paraphrased or misquoted by various individuals, including the recipient, but I believe that I have also actually seen a photograph of the post-card in question which contains the phrase as currently quoted in the article. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 03:11, 7 April 2011 (UTC)

"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics."Edit

The quote, exact words, "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics." is very very widely attributed to Feynman-- at the moment, a full-phrase exact match search on that in Google hits "about 16,500" pages. Skimming them, almost all attribute it to him by name (the remaining few just say "as a famous physicist once said", etc.; none seem to attribute it to anyone else)...

And the wording is very much in his style, and the content sure is...

And me and about 16,500 of my closest friends think it's an excellent quote!...

But I can't find anywhere that actually gives a source! What to do?

It sounds like something he went around saying. Maybe he could be caught saying it in Six (Not So) Easy Pieces? Or someone could find an actual colleague having written "As Dr. Feynmann often said... [or once said to me, etc.]"?

Any help appreciated. -- Sburke 15:19, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

This is probably a paraphrase of the quote attributed to Niels Bohr: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it." ~ Ningauble 15:52, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

I am familiar with this quote, but I'm not sure this is the form I originally heard it in: "There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics." http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/02/15/is-relativity-hard/

"Physics is like sex..."Edit

A disputed quote on this page is "Physics is like sex. Sure you can get some interesting results, but that's not why we do it." Somewhere in Leonard Susskind's "The Theoretical Minimum" online lecture series he says something to the effect of "as my friend Dick Feynman used to say, 'physics is to sex as mathematics is to masturbation' - but I think he meant it in the sense that with physics, you're doing it with a partner". I can't remember which lecture this is in though, so it's hard to really source. 94.192.113.3 19:34, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

You have it backwards – it should obviously be "physics is to mathematics as sex is to masturbation", as your way around doesn't even make sense. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:40, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
Yup, slip of the keyboard. :) 163.1.230.48
The original way is fine. Analogies satisfy the parallelogram law. A:B::C:D == A:C::B:D --74.66.20.170 02:36, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

On his blackboard at the time of his deathEdit

I found this http://archives.caltech.edu/search_catalog.cfm?results_file=Detail_View&recsPerPage=1&firstRecToShow=9&search_field=Richard%20Feynman%20blackboard&entry_type=Photo&photo_id=&cat_series= in contrast with the quote "What I cannot create, I do not understand." given here. It seems a reliable source, but I'm not sure of the sentence on this image, if anyone could read that...: —This unsigned comment is by 78.12.154.37 (talkcontribs) .

It seems to read:
In what sense is what happens at one place in a string independent of what happens to another point also in the string but distant?
The caltech archives are certainly a fairly reliable source, but this seems only a portion of the blackboard, and it seems much more was written on it beyond this image. ~ Kalki·· 13:21, 15 February 2013 (UTC)

This photo was taken in 1974, which was not near "the time of his death" (1988) DanStyer (talk) 00:24, 6 December 2013 (UTC)

A nice quote on the nature of physics / science: can't pin-point the sourceEdit

"If you want to know the way nature works, we looked at it, carefully, (look at it, see) that's the way it looks! You don't like it..., go somewhere else! To another universe! Where the rules are simpler, philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy. I can't help it! OK! If I'm going to tell you honestly what the world looks like to the... human beings who have struggled as hard as they can to understand it, I can only tell you what it looks like."

The source is indicated as 'QED: Photons -- Corpuscles of Light' in the this online comment, however I couldn't really find the exact source.137.250.86.102 19:39, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

Last modified on 22 April 2014, at 19:39