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Posts Tagged ‘Richard P. Feynman’

I was born not knowing and have only had a little time to change that here and there.
  —  Richard Feynman
Quoted by James Gleick in his book: “Genius
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On This Day In:
2013 Pillows
Steppin’
2012 Invincible Summer
2011 Being Objective
2010 First Things First…
Northwest Passages – Intro
Northwest Passages – Day One
Northwest Passages – Poetry
Northwest Passages – Evening One
Northwest Passages – Morning Two

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No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated.  Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literary or artistic expression.  Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines.  Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.
  —  Dr. Richard P. Feynman
From his book: “The Meaning Of It All
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Now, that there are unscientific things is not my grief.  That’s a nice word.  I mean, that is not what I am worrying about, that there are unscientific things.  That something is unscientific is not bad; there is nothing the matter with it.  It is just unscientific.  And scientific is limited, of course, to those things that we can tell about by trial and error.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book:  “The Meaning of It All
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There have been a lot of jokes made about ideas of uncertainty.  I would like to remind you that you can be pretty sure of things even though you are uncertain, that you don’t have to be so in-the-middle, in fact not at all in-the-middle.  People say to me, “Well, how can you teach your children what is right and wrong if you don’t know?”  Because I’m pretty sure of what’s right and wrong.  I’m not absolutely sure; some experiences may change my mind.  But I know what I would expect to teach them.  But, of course, a child won’t learn what you teach him.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book:  “The Meaning of It All
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For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book:  “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
[The above quote is from Feynman’s report on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (frozen O-rings – the danger of which was discounted by management).  It appears to me to be equally applicable in a host of other areas: biological warfare, fracking, corporate fishing and farming, etc.
If there is no global warming and we reduce/stop polluting, the Earth’s ecosystem continues and mankind lives; if there is global warming and we don’t reduce/stop polluting, the ecosystem collapses and most – if not all – of humanity perishes.  We can continue to roll the dice, but who’s fooling whom? — KMAB]
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It is a part of the adventure of science to try to find a limitation in all directions and to stretch the human imagination as far as possible everywhere.  Although at every stage it has looked as if such an activity was absurd and useless, it often turns out at least not to be useless.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book: “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out
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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?
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book:  “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out
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This morning I’ve added two new entries to my Poems page: Trees and Time Is…
“Trees” is, of course, a wonderful little poem – particularly for re-incarnated “Ents” (like me!).  I believe it was Robert Heinlein who said everyone should plant a tree at some point in their life.  I completely agree.  Planting trees is like having children.  It is a commitment to the future.  It is an expression of hope.  Time passing, seasons turning, growth rings and bark – just like life.
Have you hugged a tree lately?  As ridiculous as hugging trees may seem, it’s my experience that it’s very rare for someone to hug a tree and not leave it without a big smile on their face and usually a laugh (or chuckle) too.
Doesn’t everyone know the best cure for everything wrong with a person is hugs, smiles and laughter?  I think of them as living medicine.
“Time Is…” is actually a quote and not a poem.  But it has always had the “poem” feel to me.  I first read this quote when I was a youngster riding the San Francisco Muni bus to school.  They had a program to bring poetry and quotes to the masses.  I loved looking for the newest entry on each bus and occasionally you’d get on a bus which had multiple poems or all poems (instead of advertising)!  Then you had to move slowly down the length of the bus as you rode along to your destination.  If I ever had the money to do so, that’s one of the ways I’d pay-forward for the joy someone else gave me way back when.
Enjoy!
The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out  —  book review
Yesterday, I completed my fourth book by Richard P. Feynman.  This one is titled: “The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out” (1999©).  The book is a collection of short “works” (speeches, interviews, and writings) by Dr. Feynman and was edited by Jeffrey Robbins.  Some of the stories I’d already read in Feynman’s other books, but the writing is so clear and the thoughts so beautiful you’re not left feeling like you’ve paid for a new book and only got a re-hash.  Of course, there will be many quotes from this book appearing on this blog from time to time.  After all, I’m still working through the quotes from the other three books.
As usual (for this author), this book is book is both highly thought provoking and highly recommended.  I hate to admit it, but I’m really starting to feel compelled to buy and read some of his serious (non-story) books.  I feel as if I’ve met (and lost again) a long lost friend.  It’s a shame he’s passed away (back in 1988).
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Innovation is a very difficult thing in the real world.
  —  Richard P. Feynman, Ph.D
From his book: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
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Although my mother didn’t know anything about science, she had a great influence on me as well.  In particular, she had a wonderful sense of humor, and I learned from her that the highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
From his book: “What Do You Care What Other People Think?
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I’ve been caught, so to speak — like someone who was given something wonderful when he was a child, and he’s always looking for it again.  I’m always looking, like a child, for the wonders I know I’m going to find — maybe not every time, but every once in a while.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
from his book: “What Do You Care What Other People Think?
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Everything he read to me he would translate as best he could into some reality.
…I learned from my father to translate: everything I read I try to figure out what it really means, what it’s really saying.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
from his book: “What Do You Care What Other People Think?
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I’ve always been very one-sided about science, and when I was younger I concentrated almost all my effort on it.  In those days, I didn’t have time, and I didn’t have much patience, to learn what’s called the humanities.  Even though there were humanities courses in the university that you had to take in order to graduate, I tried my best to avoid them.  It’s only afterwards, when I’ve gotten older and more relaxed, that I’ve spread out a little bit.  I’ve learned to draw and I read a little bit, but I’m really still a very one-sided person and I don’t know a great deal.  I have a limited intelligence and I use it in a particular direction.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
from his book: “What Do You Care What Other People Think??
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Well, it’s Monday of Labor Day Weekend.  The weekend has flown by, again…
Book Review:
Saturday, I completed my third Richard P. Feynman book:  “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”  The first book was a collection of three lectures.  The second was the sequel to this book.  So, now I’ve read them in completely the wrong order.  It’s not you, Dr. Feynman, it’s me.  Sometimes even when you buy them correct, you end up reading them wrong.  The doctor is still funny and his observations about human nature are still accurate, but this book is referenced in the sequel and some of the ideas are expanded on in the lecture series, so sometimes reading this seemed like it was re-hashed.  Again, this book is a compilation of stories about the life and adventures of Dr. Feynman.  It’s a very fast read because he led an interesting life and because he is able to describe his adventures in a humorous and self-deprecating way. Highly recommended!
Family:
Yesterday, Hil and I went to Sunday Mass and I found, once again, the readings spoke to me personally. They were:
7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.
9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.
— Ezekiel 33:7-9
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
— Psalm 95:2
8 The only thing you should owe to anyone is love for one another, for to love the other person is to fulfil the law.
9 All these: You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and all the other commandments that there are, are summed up in this single phrase: You must love your neighbour as yourself.
10 Love can cause no harm to your neighbour, and so love is the fulfilment of the Law.
— Romans 13:8-10
Ezekiel struck me because it reinforced in me the view that we have a responsibility to each other to tell each other when a person is acting badly (against God’s wishes).  The failure to say anything is enough to warrant your own accountability for the action (you did not do yourself).  Interestingly, it does not say we are compelled to act to prevent an action – only that we must speak out against the action.
The Psalm was actually one of several verses stated, but this was the line which gave me pause.  I’ve been reading a number of posts in Facebook, by various individuals who are against some of the changes in the practice of the Mass since Vatican II.  Among the objections were the music, singing and dancing.  The views seemed to be the music was trivial (folk-song-ie, popular), the singing was about the participants instead of about God, and dancing altogether.  It seems the “current” Mass is “lateral/horizontal” (about the Church members) instead of “vertical” (praise to God).  As a consequence, I’ve been reading the words to the song lyrics more closely instead of just singing along.  Are they more about “me” or about “God”?
To be honest, this view has never entered my mind before and I find it puzzling.  My first reaction was: “You folks seriously need to get a Life!” Last week, I examined the songs and verses from “the other side of mind” and I concluded there may be more to this than I at first gave any credit.  After yesterday, though, I’ve decided – no, my first impression was correct.  Some of what goes on in the service is about “Me” instead of about God, but seriously, does anyone think God cares?  I may feel a little put off by folks dancing (“look at me”), but they may be put off just as much when I sing out loudly.  In other words: “To each their own in the celebration of your faith!”
I wonder if it is possible to “love your neighbor” if you are wrapped up in whether someone else’s dancing or singing in Mass is about them or about praising God?
Family:
After Mass, we picked up Mom and went to visit my sister Carm for a BBQ.  My brother Sean was there with his son, and I got to chat with Art (Carm’s husband), and Patrice (one of Carm’s sons).  I really wanted to discuss learning with my sister – she has a master’s degree in education, but we were only able to have a brief conversation.  Basically, I’m interested in if there is a systematic method of conveying “understanding”, not just memorization of steps in a learning environment.  I explained my goal is to train some folks in the use of a tool for using databases and all I’ve ever been able to come up with are examples and “performance based training” (a training concept I learned back in my Army days).  With PBT, the instructor shows and tells the steps, walks the student through each of the steps and then the student performs the steps.  If they are not able to perform the steps, the instructor goes back to step one (show and tell). My sister was not sure there was any superior way.
Subsequently, on the drive home, I posed the same question to my daughter who works in the California State Dept. of Education.  Her response was there is no such thing as a silver bullet and every class situation and student will be different.  Over dinner we continued the conversation, but it seems with our years of education – classes, apprenticeships, core curriculum – we still don’t have a proven system.
Neither response was very encouraging.
I guess the question is: Can we stimulate curiosity and the ability to apply specific learning to general (new) situations (extrapolation and interpolation) systematically?
At the moment, my response is – I don’t know…
Song Lyrics:
Since I finished a book, I went out an bought another handful.  And – since my local used bookstore was having a sale, I also picked up a DVD series:  “The Greatest American Hero“.  I watched the pilot and the first episode today – and I loved it!!  It’s a Sci-Fi comedy crime series about and odd couple who are handed an alien spacesuit which grants one of the couple superpowers.  Robert Culp plays the FBI Agent (the straight guy) and William Katt plays the superhero (gets the suit and the girl).  The “girl” is played by Connie Sellecca – Katt’s character’s lawyer / girl friend / eventual wife.  The series originally came out in 1981 and I remember watching at least some of it on TV.
Anyway, I found the pilot brilliant!!  It has lots of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” moments in it and it’s funny and reasonably well written and acted (it’s just a superhero show, it’s not meant to be Shakespeare).  I understand it’s also on Netflix and Hulu – so check it out.  The title song is: “Believe It Or Not” and it’s one of those one hit wonders that will stay stuck in you head for a week.  But it’s also fun!  So, who cares?  Check out the lyrics on my poems page and then go listen to it on YouTube.  It’s great!!
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Suppose two politicians are running for president, and one goes through the farm section and is asked, “What are you going to do about the farm question?” And he knows right away — bang, bang, bang.  Now he goes to the next campaigner who comes through.  “What are you going to do about the farm problem?”  “Well, I don’t know.  I used to be a general, and I don’t know anything about farming.  But it seems to me it must be a very difficult problem, because for twelve, fifteen, twenty years people have been struggling with it, and people say that they know how to solve the farm problem.   And it must be a hard problem.  So the way that I intend to solve the farm problem is to gather around me a lot of people who know something about it, to look at all the experience that we have had with this problem before, to take a certain amount of time at it, and then to come to some conclusion in a reasonable way about it.  Now, I can’t tell you ahead of time what conclusion, but I can give you some of the principles I’ll try to use — not to make things difficult for individual farmers, if there are any special problems we will have to have some way to take care of them,” etc., etc., etc.
Now such a man would never get anywhere in this country, I think.  It’s never been tried, anyway.  This is in the attitude of mind of the populace, that they have to have an answer and that a man who gives an answer is better than a man who gives no answer, when the real fact of the matter is, in most cases, it is the other way around.  And the result of this of course is that the politician promises can never be kept.  It is a mechanical fact; it is impossible.  The result of that is that nobody believes campaign promises.  And the result of that is a general disparaging of politics, a general lack of respect for the people who are trying to solve problems, and so forth.  It’s all generated from the very beginning (maybe — this is a simple analysis).  It’s all generated, maybe, by the fact that the attitude of the populace is to try to find the answer instead of trying to find a man who has a way of getting at the answer.
 —  Richard P. Feynman
from his book:  “The Meaning Of It All
[Actually, I think we’ve already elected this politician to be President (once so far, anyway) — well, except for the part about him being a “general” and all. — KMAB]
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