Citations Richard Feynman

„Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity — and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.“

—  Richard Feynman, livre What Do You Care What Other People Think?

(From a 1963 letter to his wife Gweneth, written while attending a gravity conference in Communist-era Warsaw.)
"Letters, Photos, and Drawings," p. 90-91
What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988)
Contexte: The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity — and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.

„I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination — stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern — of which I am a part… What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?“

—  Richard Feynman

volume I; lecture 3, "The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences"; section 3-4, "Astronomy"; p. 3-6
Contexte: Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars — mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is "mere". I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination — stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern — of which I am a part... What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined! Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?

„If you have a theory, you must try to explain what’s good and what’s bad about it equally. In science, you learn a kind of standard integrity and honesty.“

—  Richard Feynman, livre What Do You Care What Other People Think?

"Afterthoughts," p. 217-218
What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988)
Contexte: The only way to have real success in science, the field I’m familiar with, is to describe the evidence very carefully without regard to the way you feel it should be. If you have a theory, you must try to explain what’s good and what’s bad about it equally. In science, you learn a kind of standard integrity and honesty.

„Let us make recommendations to ensure that NASA officials deal in a world of reality in understanding technological weaknesses and imperfections well enough to be actively trying to eliminate them.“

—  Richard Feynman

Rogers Commission Report (1986)
Contexte: Let us make recommendations to ensure that NASA officials deal in a world of reality in understanding technological weaknesses and imperfections well enough to be actively trying to eliminate them. They must live in reality in comparing the costs and utility of the Shuttle to other methods of entering space. And they must be realistic in making contracts, in estimating costs, and the difficulty of the projects. Only realistic flight schedules should be proposed, schedules that have a reasonable chance of being met. If in this way the government would not support them, then so be it. NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative, so that these citizens can make the wisest decisions for the use of their limited resources.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

„The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. … No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.“

—  Richard Feynman

letter to Koichi Mano (3 February 1966); published in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman (2005), p. 198, 201
also quoted by Freeman Dyson in "Wise Man" http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18350, The New York Review of Books (20 October 2005)
Contexte: The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. … No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it. You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself — it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of the naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher's ideals are.

„Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad — but it does not carry instructions on how to use it.“

—  Richard Feynman

The Value of Science (1955)
Contexte: Of course if we make good things, it is not only to the credit of science; it is also to the credit of the moral choice which led us to good work. Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad — but it does not carry instructions on how to use it. Such power has evident value — even though the power may be negated by what one does with it.I learned a way of expressing this common human problem on a trip to Honolulu. In a Buddhist temple there, the man in charge explained a little bit about the Buddhist religion for tourists, and then ended his talk by telling them he had something to say to them that they would never forget — and I have never forgotten it. It was a proverb of the Buddhist religion:To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell.What then, is the value of the key to heaven? It is true that if we lack clear instructions that enable us to determine which is the gate to heaven and which the gate to hell, the key may be a dangerous object to use.But the key obviously has value: how can we enter heaven without it?

„The method of guessing the equation seems to be a pretty effective way of guessing new laws“

—  Richard Feynman, livre The Character of Physical Law

The Character of Physical Law (1965)
Contexte: …Dirac discovered the correct laws for relativity quantum mechanics simply by guessing the equation. The method of guessing the equation seems to be a pretty effective way of guessing new laws. This shows again that mathematics is a deep way of expressing nature, and any attempt to express nature in philosophical principles, or in seat-of-the-pants mechanical feelings, is not an efficient way.

„From a long view of the history of mankind — seen from, say, ten thousand years from now — there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.“

—  Richard Feynman

volume II; lecture 1, "Electromagnetism"; section 1-6, "Electromagnetism in science and technology"; p. 1-11
Contexte: From a long view of the history of mankind — seen from, say, ten thousand years from now — there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade.

„What I cannot create, I do not understand.“

—  Richard Feynman

on his blackboard at the time of death in February 1988; from a photo in the Caltech archives http://archives.caltech.edu/pictures/1.10-29.jpg
Contexte: What I cannot create, I do not understand.Know how to solve every problem that has been solved.

„How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time?“

—  Richard Feynman

remarks (2 May 1956) at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/49/2/Religion.htm
Contexte: Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit.
These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all; one needs one's heart to follow an idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God — more, one who disbelieves in God? Is the modern church a place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of such doubts? So far, have we not drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time?

„In spite of these variations from case to case, officials behaved as if they understood it, giving apparently logical arguments to each other often depending on the "success" of previous flights.“

—  Richard Feynman

Rogers Commission Report (1986)
Contexte: The acceptance and success of these flights is taken as evidence of safety. But erosion and blow-by are not what the design expected. They are warnings that something is wrong. The equipment is not operating as expected, and therefore there is a danger that it can operate with even wider deviations in this unexpected and not thoroughly understood way. The fact that this danger did not lead to a catastrophe before is no guarantee that it will not the next time, unless it is completely understood. When playing Russian roulette the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next. The origin and consequences of the erosion and blow-by were not understood. They did not occur equally on all flights and all joints; sometimes more, and sometimes less. Why not sometime, when whatever conditions determined it were right, still more leading to catastrophe?
In spite of these variations from case to case, officials behaved as if they understood it, giving apparently logical arguments to each other often depending on the "success" of previous flights.

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

—  Richard Feynman

Rogers Commission Report (1986)
Contexte: Let us make recommendations to ensure that NASA officials deal in a world of reality in understanding technological weaknesses and imperfections well enough to be actively trying to eliminate them. They must live in reality in comparing the costs and utility of the Shuttle to other methods of entering space. And they must be realistic in making contracts, in estimating costs, and the difficulty of the projects. Only realistic flight schedules should be proposed, schedules that have a reasonable chance of being met. If in this way the government would not support them, then so be it. NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative, so that these citizens can make the wisest decisions for the use of their limited resources.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

„It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is.“

—  Richard Feynman

volume I; lecture 4, "Conservation of Energy"; section 4-1, "What is energy?"; p. 4-2
Contexte: It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is. We do not have a picture that energy comes in little blobs of a definite amount. It is not that way.

„This is not yet a scientific age.“

—  Richard Feynman

The Value of Science (1955)
Contexte: Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers, you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.

„While I am describing to you how Nature works, you won't understand why Nature works that way. But you see, nobody understands that.“

—  Richard Feynman, livre QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

Source: QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), p. 10

„In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public.“

—  Richard Feynman

remarks (2 May 1956) at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/49/2/Religion.htm
Contexte: In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public. When we look at the past great debates on these subjects we feel jealous of those times, for we should have liked the excitement of such argument. The old problems, such as the relation of science and religion, are still with us, and I believe present as difficult dilemmas as ever, but they are not often publicly discussed because of the limitations of specialization.

„I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world.“

—  Richard Feynman

Part 5: "The World of One Physicist", "But Is It Art?", p. 261
Contexte: I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It's difficult to describe because it's an emotion. It's analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the whole universe: there's a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run "behind the scenes" by the same organization, the same physical laws. It's an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It's a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion. It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.

„You'll have to accept it. It's the way nature works. If you want to know how nature works, we looked at it, carefully. Looking at it, 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.“

—  Richard Feynman

Sir Douglas Robb Lectures, University of Auckland (1979); lecture 1, "Photons: Corpuscles of Light" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLQ2atfqk2c&t=24m2s
Contexte: There's a kind of saying that you don't understand its meaning, 'I don't believe it. It's too crazy. I'm not going to accept it.'… You'll have to accept it. It's the way nature works. If you want to know how nature works, we looked at it, carefully. Looking at it, 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, okay? 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.

„It's a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion. It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.“

—  Richard Feynman

Part 5: "The World of One Physicist", "But Is It Art?", p. 261
Contexte: I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It's difficult to describe because it's an emotion. It's analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the whole universe: there's a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run "behind the scenes" by the same organization, the same physical laws. It's an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It's a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion. It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.

„Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this.“

—  Richard Feynman

Response when asked whether he called himself an atheist or an agnostic. The Voice of Genius: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries by Denis Brian (1995), Basic Books, p. 49.
Contexte: [I call myself] an atheist. Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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