Freitag, 20. April 2018

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out:

Richard Feynman:

"All those students are in the class: Now you ask me how should I best teach them? Should I teach them from the point of view of the history of science, from the applications? My theory is that the best way to teach is to have no philosophy, [it] is to be chaotic and [to] confuse it in the sense that you use every possible way of doing it. That's the only way I can see to answer it, so as to catch this guy or that guy on different hooks as you go along, [so] that during the time when the fellow who's interested in history's being bored by the abstract mathematics, on the other hand the fellow who likes the abstractions is being bored another time by the history—if you can do it so you don't bore them all, all the time, perhaps you're better off. I really don't know how to do it. I don't know how to answer this question of different kinds of minds with different kinds of interests—what hooks them on, what makes them interested, how you direct them to become interested. One way is by a kind of force, you have to pass this course, you have to take this examination. It's a very effective way. Many people go through schools that way and it may be a more effective way. I'm sorry, after many, many years of trying to teach and trying all different kinds of methods, I really don't know how to do it."

"I got a kick, when I was a boy, [out] of my father telling me things, so I tried to tell my son things that were interesting about the world. When he was very small we used to rock him to bed, you know, and tell him stories, and I'd make up a story about little people that were about so high [who] would walk along and they would go on picnics and so on and they lived in the ventilator; and they'd go through these woods which had great big long tall blue things like trees, but without leaves and only one stalk, and they had to walk between them and so on; and he'd gradually catch on [that] that was the rug, the nap of the rug, the blue rug, and he loved this game because I would describe all these things from an odd point of view and he liked to hear the stories and we got all kinds of wonderful things—he even went to a moist cave where the wind kept going in and out—it was coming in cool and went out warm and so on. It was inside the dog's nose that they went, and then of course I could tell him all about physiology by this way and so on. He loved that and so I told him lots of stuff, and I enjoyed it because I was telling him stuff that I liked, and we had fun when he would guess what it was and so on. And then I have a daughter and I tried the same thing—well, my daughter's personality was different, she didn't want to hear this story, she wanted the story that was in the book repeated again, and reread to her. She wanted me to read to her, not to make up stories, and it's a different personality. And so if I were to say a very good method for teaching children about science is to make up these stories of the little people, it doesn't work at all on my daughter—it happened to work on my son—okay?"

"Because of the success of science, there is, I think, a kind of pseudoscience. Social science is an example of a science which is not a science; they don't do [things] scientifically, they follow the forms—or you gather data, you do so-and-so and so forth but they don't get any laws, they haven't found out anything. They haven't got anywhere yet—maybe someday they will, but it's not very well developed, but what happens is on an even more mundane level. We get experts on everything that sound like they're sort of scientific experts. They're not scientific, they sit at a typewriter and they make up something like, oh, food grown with, er, fertilizer that's organic is better for you than food grown with fertilizer that's inorganic—may be true, may not be true, but it hasn't been demonstrated one way or the other. But they'll sit there on the typewriter and make up all this stuff as if it's science and then become an expert on foods, organic foods and so on. There's all kinds of myths and pseudoscience all over the place.
I may be quite wrong, maybe they do know all these things, but I don't think I'm wrong. You see, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something, and therefore I see how they get their information and I can't believe that they know it, they haven't done the work necessary, haven't done the checks necessary, haven't done the care necessary. I have a great suspicion that they don't know, that this stuff is [wrong] and they're intimidating people. I think so. I don't know the world very well but that's what I think."

"To do high, real good physics work you do need absolutely solid lengths of time, so that when you're putting ideas together which are vague and hard to remember, it's very much like building a house of cards and each of the cards is shaky, and if you forget one of them the whole thing collapses again. You don't know how you got there and you have to build them up again, and if you're interrupted and kind of forget half the idea of how the cards went together—your cards being different-type parts of the ideas, ideas of different kinds that have to go together to build up the idea—the main point is, you put the stuff together, it's quite a tower and it's easy [for it] to slip, it needs a lot of concentration—that is, solid time to think—and if you've got a job in administrating anything like that, then you don't have the solid time. So I have invented another myth for myself—that I'm irresponsible. I tell everybody, I don't do anything. If anybody asks me to be on a committee to take care of admissions, no, I'm irresponsible, I don't give a damn about the students—of course I give a damn about the students but I know that somebody else'll do it—and I take the view, "Let George do it," a view which you're not supposed to take, okay, because that's not right to do, but I do that because I like to do physics and I want to see if I can still do it, and so I'm selfish, okay? I want to do my physics."

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