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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Richard Feynman and the representation of reality


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was an American physicist best known for his contributions to quantum mechanics and Feynman diagrams. Freeman Dyson said,


"[Feynman] refused to take anybody's word for anything. This meant that he was forced to rediscover or reinvent for himself almost the whole of physics. It took him five years of concentrated work to reinvent quantum mechanics. He said that he couldn't understand the official version of quantum mechanics that was taught in textbooks, and so he had to begin afresh from the beginning." (Disturbing the Universe, 1979)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Feynman.




"If it turns out [physics] is like an onion with millions of layers and we're just sick and tired of looking at the layers, then that's the way it is!" (Quoted in No Ordinary Genius by Christopher Sykes)


"Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth so far as we know it." (The Feynman Lectures of Physics, 1964)


"We make not apologies for making these excursions into other fields, because the separation of fields, as we have emphasized, is merely a human convenience, and an unnatural thing. Nature is not interested in our separations and many of the interesting phenomena bridge the gaps between fields." (The Feynman Lectures of Physics, 1964)


"Don't misunderstand me, there are many, many aspects of the world that mathematics is unnecessary for... but we were talking about physics... to not know mathematics is a severe limitation in understanding the world." (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, 1999)


"So I hope you accept nature as she is - absurd." (QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, 1965)




"Mathematics is not just a language. Mathematics is a language plus reasoning. It's like a language plus logic. Mathematics is a tool for reasoning. It's in fact, a big collection of the results of some person's careful thought and reasoning." (The Character of Physical Law, 1965)


"It is really quite impossible to say anything with absolute precision, unless that thing is so abstracted from the real world as to not represent any real thing... [Pure mathematics] is not precise in any sense if you deal with real objects of the world..." (New Textbooks for the New Mathematics, 1965)


"So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turns out to be simple, like the chequer board with all it apparent complexities." (The Character of Physical Law, 1965)




"If you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid - not only what you think is right about it; other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you that of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked - to make sure the other fellow can tell they've been eliminated. "(Caltech commencement Address, 1974)