Viewing The World As Richard Feynman

Richard Phillips Feynman was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as his work in particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin’ichirō Tomonaga.

Feynman developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions describing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World, he was ranked the seventh-greatest physicist of all time.

A few days ago, one of the Lexicans posted this to the Facebook Group:

Five great signs of intelligence:

• You’re not afraid or ashamed to find errors in your understanding of things.

• You take mistakes as lessons.

• You don’t get offended with accepting the facts.

• You are highly adaptable and very curious.

 • You know what you don’t know.

h/t Prof. Feynman

I don’t know if I would attribute this as a sign of intelligence, but a personality trait. If you look at people who truly changed the world, one thing stands out through all of their failures.


There is a famous quote by Thomas Edison in which a reporter asked him if he became discouraged from his failures in trying 1,000 times to create the incandescent light bulb. Edison replied that it wasn’t 1,000 failures, but 1,000 steps to success.

They don’t get locked into one path.

When I was programming computers, I found when confronted with a difficult problem the best thing to so at times was to step away from it. Then come back. It is too easy to get into one train of thought and not consider alternate paths.

I am reading a book on the Wright Brothers, and was surprised at how many trips they made from Ohio to Kitty Hawk NC to test their gliders

They didn’t become discouraged at setbacks but had dogged determination.

Reading this reminded me of a book on wilderness survival I reviewed some years ago. The author, a psychologist, reviewed actual cases in which people survived – or didn’t. People that you would believe – through their physical conditioning or backgrounds – should have survived and some of the most unlikely did survive.

Such as a girl in a dress who was the lone survivor of a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle. The other survivors decided to wait for help – which never came – and the girl remembered something her father taught her about streams. She followed one until it led to a village.

You have to be able see more than one way. To stop and analyze the situation.

Some more Feynman quotes that I find meaningful:

You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

“I… a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.”

“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

“If you thought that science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part.”

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Don’t pay attention to “authorities”, think for yourself.

If you can’t explain yourself to a first-year student, then you haven’t really understood.


Filed under Other Stuff

2 responses to “Viewing The World As Richard Feynman

  1. He was one of the greatest. Get a copy of his lectures at CalTech- simply marvelous. His non-technical books are a joy to read.

    • ohengineer

      Feynman is paid much attention anymore because he has said a few things that sit well with the crop of “science followers” on the left, who have no idea what science is. To those of that ilk, science can be settled because it can not be.

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