Richard Feynman · 391 pages
Rating: (110.2K votes)
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing.”
“All the time you're saying to yourself, 'I could do that, but I won't,' — which is just another way of saying that you can't.”
“When it came time for me to give my talk on the subject, I started off by drawing an outline of the cat and began to name the various muscles.
The other students in the class interrupt me: "We *know* all that!"
"Oh," I say, "you *do*? Then no *wonder* I can catch up with you so fast after you've had four years of biology." They had wasted all their time memorizing stuff like that, when it could be looked up in fifteen minutes.”
“So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.”
“I couldn't claim that I was smarter than sixty-five other guys--but the average of sixty-five other guys, certainly!”
“Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that's the end of you.”
“What Do You Care What Other People Think?”
“– and pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are alright; you can talk to them and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible!”
“Well, Mr. Frankel, who started this program, began to suffer from the computer disease that anybody who works with computers now knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is you *play* with them. They are so wonderful. You have these switches - if it's an even number you do this, if it's an odd number you do that - and pretty soon you can do more and more elaborate things if you are clever enough, on one machine.
After a while the whole system broke down. Frankel wasn't paying any attention; he wasn't supervising anybody. The system was going very, very slowly - while he was sitting in a room figuring out how to make one tabulator automatically print arc-tangent X, and then it would start and it would print columns and then bitsi, bitsi, bitsi, and calculate the arc-tangent automatically by integrating as it went along and make a whole table in one operation.
Absolutely useless. We *had* tables of arc-tangents. But if you've ever worked with computers, you understand the disease - the *delight* in being able to see how much you can do. But he got the disease for the first time, the poor fellow who invented the thing.”
“I learned from her that every woman is worried
about her looks, no matter how beautiful she is.”
“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.”
“Learn what the rest of the world is like. The variety is worthwhile.”
“I always do that, get into something and see how far I can go.”
“You see, I get so much fun out of thinking that I don’t want to destroy this pleasant machine that makes life such a big kick.”
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.”
“There was a Princess Somebody of Denmark sitting at a table with a number of people around her, and I saw an empty chair at their table and sat down.
She turned to me and said, "Oh! You're one of the Nobel-Prize-winners. In what field did you do your work?"
"In physics," I said.
"Oh. Well, nobody knows anything about that, so I guess we can't talk about it."
"On the contrary," I answered. "It's because somebody knows something about it that we can't talk about physics. It's the things that nobody knows anything about that we can discuss. We can talk about the weather; we can talk about social problems; we can talk about psychology; we can talk about international finance--gold transfers we can't talk about, because those are understood--so it's the subject that nobody knows anything about that we can all talk about!"
I don't know how they do it. There's a way of forming ice on the surface of the face, and she did it!”
“You have to have absolute confidence. Keep right on going, and nothing will happen.”
“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding; they learn by some other way—by rote, or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!”
“That’s the trouble with not being in your own field: You don’t take it seriously.”
“innovation is a very difficult thing in the real world”
“The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels.” I went back and forth over it, and translated. You know what it means? “People read.”
“When I tried to show him how an electromagnet works by making a little coil of wire and hanging a nail on a piece of string, I put the voltage on, the nail swung into the coil, and Jerry said, “Ooh! It’s just like fucking!”
“I have to keep going to find out ultimately what is the matter with it in the end.”
“I wouldn’t stop until I figured the damn thing out–it would take me fifteen or twenty minutes. But during the day, other guys would come to me with the same problem, and I’d do it for them in a flash. So for one guy, to do it took me twenty minutes, while there were five guys who thought I was a super-genius.”
“Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that’s the end of you.”
“That was a very good way to get educated, working on the senior problems and learning how to pronounce things.”
“the whole problem of discovering what was the matter, and figuring out what you have to do to fix it–that was interesting to me, like a puzzle”
“How much do you value life?” “Sixty-four.”
“Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.”
“There were a lot of fools at that conference—pompous fools—and pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out.”
“That period had been the peak of his life, though he had not realized it then. It had gone by without time for reflection, ending while he was still thinking things were going to get better.”
“It must make you feel nice and young to say that being a man means nothing and being a woman means nothing and what matters is being a...person. How about being a spider, Gwyn. Let's imagine you're a spider. You're a spider, and you've just had your first serious date. You're limping away from that now, and you're looking over your shoulder, and there's your girlfriend, eating one of your legs like a chicken drumstick. What would you say? I know. You'd say: I find I never think in terms of male spiders or in terms of female spiders. I find I always think in terms of...spiders”
“I will fly, alone. Wearing my own pair of goggles, my view of the world just as unique, just as wonderful, and his was, but different. Mine.”
“One of the things I dread about becoming an adult is that sooner or later you begin letting sentimentality get in the way of simple logic.”
“He is a monk. On his card it says INNER PEACE CENTER. I will go there in February for a tea ceremony. Does he actually know more than I do about inner peace? If he met my relatives, would he have a nervous breakdown? What about his relatives? Do they drive him nuts? The truth is everybody gets on everybody's nerves.”
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