Richard Feynman

I hesitated. “I’m sad because you’re going to die.”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “that bugs me sometimes too. But not so much as you think.” And after a few more steps, “When you get as old as I am, you start to realize that you’ve told most of the good stuff you know to other people anyway.”

~ Danny Hillis and Richard Feynman from, https://blog.longnow.org/02017/02/08/richard-feynman-and-the-connection-machine/

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When I’m reading, pull-quotes leap out. It hard to catch the actual process, but what I think happens is that my mind free-associates to something that resonates. I think it’s the strength of the resonance that slams my attention onto the particular bit I’m reading. My mind races off along connections. It is rare that I read something through, and then think: “I should share this,” or, “I should write about this.” It is rare that I have to hunt around for something to quote; Rather it’s the usually metaphorical blinding flash, but sometimes visceral embodied flash, of the pull-quote that tells me I should share it.

After the third blinding flash of, “that’s a pull-quote I have to share,” I stopped counting. I spent an hour with this short read—it’s only a few minutes of reading. Over and over I was struck by some bit, and my mind raced off. Each time, delighted to see where I was going, and with no intention of reigning in my train of thought.

…but this bit that I pull-quoted — I really hesitated. It’s almost a bit of spoiler. I certainly hope you don’t feel like it’s a spoiler. I certainly hope you do go over and read it.

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Happiness

Wealth is not happiness nor is swimming pools and villas. Nor is great work alone reward, or fame. Foreign places visited themselves give nothing. It is only you who bring to the places your heart, or in your great work feeling, or in your large house place. If you do this there is happiness.

~ Richard Feynman

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Why why why why

And you begin to get a very interesting understanding of the world and all its complications. If you try to follow anything up, you go deeper and deeper in various directions.

~ Richard Feyman from, https://fs.blog/2012/01/richard-feynman-on-why-questions/

Asking ‘why’ is a well-known way to dig deeper into things. But being able to answer a ‘why’ question is something I don’t hear discussed. My mind is stuffed with information, ideas, skills, and experiences. (Yours is too.) That’s not particularly interesting, and it’s certainly not useful.

What is useful is being able to dive into all that stored information and experiences to then craft a thread which leads the questioner on a small journey of learning. Sure we can take the highway and zoom past all these details. But something it’s the better choice to drop into the off-ramp, and onto the secondary roads; Probably still don’t want to come to a complete stop—if we can help it—but if we take the scenic route and point out more of the details… well, we’re effectively, (both metaphorically and literally,) compressing our knowledge and passing it along.

To the secondary roads!

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Our responsibility

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.

~ Richard Feynman

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WolframAlpha

I wonder how many Sundays are between June 17th 2012 and today?

WolframAlpha: 79.

Ho. Lee. Crap. That’s awesome.

You do know about WolframAlpha, right? …the “computational knowledge engine”? No? Go there. Ask it things.

Stephen Wolfram is a character. (But anyone whose thesis committee contains Richard Feynman gets a complete pass in my book.) “This math stuff is annoying…” Bam! Mathematica. And if you want to really go “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!”, try to wrap your brain around, A New Kind of Science.

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Mathematics

To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature. C.P. Snow talked about two cultures. I really think that those two cultures separate people who have and people who have not had this experience of understanding mathematics well enough to appreciate nature once. […] Physicists cannot make a conversion to any other language. If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in. She offers her information only in one form; we are not so unhumble as to demand that she change before we pay any attention.

~ Richard Feynman

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Onward!

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. There are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the men of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant; if we suppress all discussion, all criticism, saying, ‘This is it, boys, man is saved!’ and thus doom man for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.

~ Richard Feynman from, http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/03/06/richard-feynman-responsibility-of-scientists/

Feynman wrote several great, short books that are not hard science. This, and “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”, are great places to start.

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