A few years after I gave some lectures for the freshmen at Caltech (which were published as the Feynman Lectures on Physics), I received a long letter from a feminist group. I was accused of being anti-women because of two stories: the first was a discussion of the subtleties of velocity, and involved a woman driver being stopped by a cop. There's a discussion about how fast she was going, and I had her raise valid objections to the cop's definitions of velocity. The letter said I was making the women look stupid. The other story they objected to was told by the great astronomer Arthur Eddington, who had just figured out that the stars get their power from burning hydrogen in a nuclear reaction producing helium. He recounted how, on the night after his discovery, he was sitting on a bench with his girlfriend. She said, "Look how pretty the stars shine!" To which he replied, "Yes, and right now, I'm the only man in the world who knows how they shine." He was describing a kind of wonderful loneliness you have when you make a discovery. The letter claimed that I was saying a women is incapable of understanding nuclear reactions. I figured there was no point in trying to answer their accusations in detail, so I wrote a short letter back to them: "Don't bug me, Man!
THE QUESTION IS, OF COURSE, IS IT GOING TO BE POSSIBLE TO AMALGAMATE EVERYTHING,AND MERELY DISCOVER THAT THIS WORLD REPRESENTS DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF ONE THING?
Until I was twenty I was sure there was a being who could see everything I did and who didn't like most of it. He seemed to care about minute aspects of my life, like on what day of the week I ate a piece of meat. And yet, he let earthquakes and mudslides take out whole communities, apparently ignoring the saints among them who ate their meat on the assigned days. Eventually, I realized that I didn't believe there was such a being. It didn't seem reasonable. And I assumed that I was an atheist.As I understood the word, it meant that I was someone who didn't believe in a God; I was without a God. I didn't broadcast this in public because I noticed that people who do believe in a god get upset to hear that others don't. (Why this is so is one of the most pressing of human questions, and I wish a few of the bright people in this conversation would try to answer it through research.)But, slowly I realized that in the popular mind the word atheist was coming to mean something more - a statement that there couldn't be a God. God was, in this formulation, not possible, and this was something that could be proved. But I had been changed by eleven years of interviewing six or seven hundred scientists around the world on the television program Scientific American Frontiers. And that change was reflected in how I would now identify myself.The most striking thing about the scientists I met was their complete dedication to evidence. It reminded me of the wonderfully plainspoken words of Richard Feynman who felt it was better not to know than to know something that was wrong.
I don't mind not knowing. It doesn't scare me.
Take this neat little equation here. It tells me all the ways an electron can make itself comfortable in or around an atom. That's the logic of it. The poetry of it is that the equation tells me how shiny gold is, how come rocks are hard, what makes grass green, and why you can't see the wind. And a million other things besides, about the way nature works.
CURIOSITY DEMANDS THAT WE ASK QUESTIONS,THAT WE TRY TO PUT THINGS TOGETHER AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND THIS MULTITUDE OF ASPECTSAS PERHAPS RESULTING FROM THE ACTION OF A RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBER OF ELEMENTALTHINGS AND FORCES ACTING IN AN INFINITE VARIETY OF COMBINATIONS
I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, 'How did he do it? He must be a genius!
I noticed that the [drawing] teacher didn't tell people much... Instead, he tried to inspire us to experiment with new approaches. I thought of how we teach physics: We have so many techniques - so many mathematical methods - that we never stop telling the students how to do things. On the other hand, the drawing teacher is afraid to tell you anything. If your lines are very heavy, the teacher can't say, "Your lines are too heavy." because *some* artist has figured out a way of making great pictures using heavy lines. The teacher doesn't want to push you in some particular direction. So the drawing teacher has this problem of communicating how to draw by osmosis and not by instruction, while the physics teacher has the problem of always teaching techniques, rather than the spirit, of how to go about solving physical problems.
Nature has a great simplicity and therefore a great beauty