Richard P. Feynman

(Richard Phillips Feynman)

Richard P. Feynman
Richard P. Feynman
  • Born: May 11, 1918
  • Died: February 15, 1988
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Physicist & Mathematician

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Richard Phillips Feynman was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

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... it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence rather than the unknown effects of extra-terrestrial intelligence. Human Nature
…trees are made of air, primarily. When they are burned, they go back to air, and in the flaming heat is released the flaming heat of the Sun which was bound in to convert the air into tree. And in the ash is the small remnant of the part which did not come from air, that came from the solid earth, instead. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
A very great deal more truth can become known than can be proved. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
All our secret papers were kept in wooden cabinets with rods and padlocks. If you wanted to, you could tilt the cabinets and remove the papers from the bottom. Secrecy & Transparency
An unknown must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
By honest I don't mean that you only tell what's true. But you make clear the entire situation. You make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. Nature ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
From a long view of the history of mankind — seen from, say, ten thousand years from now, there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade. History
Have no respect whatsoever for authority; forget who said it and instead look what he starts with, where he ends up, and ask yourself, "Is it reasonable? Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I already smell some rats. Space Exploration
I believe in limited government. I believe that government should be limited in many ways, …. 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 literacy 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 Freedom & Liberty
I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I have a policy of never going near Washington. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it Miscellaneous
if you do not appreciate the mathematics, you cannot see, among the great variety of facts, that logic permits you to go from one to the other Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
If you understand how a rainbow works, it does not make it less magnificent; it makes it more magnificent. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery? .. It would appear that, for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy. Space Exploration
It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama. Religion & God ;Humor ;Animals
It's a kind of Russian roulette. Space Exploration
Knowlege is of no real value if all you can tell me is what happened yesterday. It is necessary to tell what will happen tomorrow ... you must be willing to stick your neck out. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Looking back at the worst times [in history], it always seems that they were times in which there were people who believed with absolute faith and absolute dogmatism in something. And they were so serious in the matter that they insisted that the rest of the world agreed with them. History ;Human Nature
Looking back at the worst times, it always seems that they were times in which there were people who believed with absolute faith and absolute dogmatism in something. And they were so serious in this matter that they insisted that the rest of the world agree with them. And then they would do things that were directly inconsistent with their own beliefs in order to maintain that what they said was true. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Nature doesn't care what we call it, she just keeps on doing it any way she wants. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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…. 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 Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
One of the biggest and most important tools of theoretical physics is the wastebasket.
One of the most important aspects of science that I learned from my father was to distrust authority. Families, Children & Parenting
Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Sp close is life to life. The universality of the deep chemistry of living things is indeed a fantastic and beautiful thing. And all the time we human beings have been too proud to recognize our kinship with the animals. Humor ;Animals
The bedrock of science is the unwillingness to accept authority. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The exception tests the rule. Or, put another way, The exception proves that the rule is wrong." That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The fundamental basis of ethics must be chosen in some non-scientific way. Philosophy
The world is a dynamic mess of jiggling things. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity—and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
There are 100 Billion starts in the galaxy. That used to be an astronomical number. It's less than the national deficit. Now we should calm them economical numbers. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
There was nothing I knew that would indicate that if we could do it [create an atomic bomb], they [the Germans] couldn’t do it. Therefore I thought it was very important to try and cooperate. I felt I should do it in order to protect civilization. … Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy ;Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy
We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
With every new idea, it takes a generation or two until it becomes obvious that there's no real problem. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
All the evidence, experimental and even a little theoretical, seems to indicate that it is the energy content which is involved in gravitation, and therefore, since matter and antimatter both represent positive energies, gravitation makes no distinction.
Atoms are very special: they like certain particular partners, certain particular directions, and so on. It is the job of physics to analyze why each one wants what it wants.
Because atomic behavior is so unlike ordinary experience, it is very difficult to get used to, and it appears peculiar and mysterious to everyone - both to the novice and to the experienced physicist.
Because the theory of quantum mechanics could explain all of chemistry and the various properties of substances, it was a tremendous success. But still there was the problem of the interaction of light and matter. Success
Before I was born, my father told my mother, 'If it's a boy, he's going to be a scientist.'
Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, 'But how can it be like that?' because you will get 'down the drain,' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.
Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth, or the complete truth so far as we know it. In fact, everything we know is only some kind of approximation because we know that we do not know all the laws as yet. Truth ;Nature
Einstein's gravitational theory, which is said to be the greatest single achievement of theoretical physics, resulted in beautiful relations connecting gravitational phenomena with the geometry of space; this was an exciting idea.
Europeans are much more serious than we are in America because they think that a good place to discuss intellectual matters is a beer party.
First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.
From the point of view of basic physics, the most interesting phenomena are, of course, in the new places, the places where the rules do not work - not the places where they do work! That is the way in which we discover new rules. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Gravitation is, so far, not understandable in terms of other phenomena.
I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
I decided to sell my drawings. However, I didn't want people to buy my drawings because the professor of physics isn't supposed to be able to draw - isn't that wonderful - so I made up a false name.
I don't believe in honors - it bothers me. Honors bother: honors is epaulettes; honors is uniforms. My papa brought me up this way.
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! Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I don't understand what it's all about or what's worth what, but if the people in the Swedish Academy decide that x, y or z wins the Nobel Prize, then so be it.
I got a fancy reputation. During high school, every puzzle that was known to man must have come to me. Every damn, crazy conundrum that people had invented, I knew.
I got a signed document from Bullock's saying that they had such-and-such drawings on consignment. Of course, nobody bought any of them, but otherwise, I was a big success: I had my drawings on sale at Bullock's! Success
I practiced drawing all the time and became very interested in it. If I was at a meeting that wasn't getting anywhere - like the one where Carl Rogers came to Caltech to discuss with us whether Caltech should develop a psychology department - I would draw the other people. Time
I think equation guessing might be the best method to proceed to obtain the laws for the part of physics which is presently unknown. Yet, when I was much younger, I tried this equation guessing, and I have seen many students try this, but it is very easy to go off in wildly incorrect and impossible directions.
I think that when we know that we actually do live in uncertainty, then we ought to admit it; it is of great value to realize that we do not know the answers to different questions. This attitude of mind - this attitude of uncertainty - is vital to the scientist, and it is this attitude of mind which the student must first acquire.
I thought one should have the attitude of 'What do you care what other people think!'
I want to marry Arline because I love her - which means I want to take care of her. That is all there is to it. I want to take care of her. I am anxious for the responsibilities and uncertainties of taking care of the girl I love. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
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.
I was a very shy character, always feeling uncomfortable because everybody was stronger than I, and always afraid I would look like a sissy. Everybody else played baseball; everybody else did all kinds of athletic things.
I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there. Time
I was terrible in English. I couldn't stand the subject. It seemed to me ridiculous to worry about whether you spelled something wrong or not, because English spelling is just a human convention - it has nothing to do with anything real, anything from nature. Nature
If I get stuck, I look at a book that tells me how someone else did it. I turn the pages, and then I say, 'Oh, I forgot that bit,' then close the book and carry on. Finally, after you've figured out how to do it, you read how they did it and find out how dumb your solution is and how much more clever and efficient theirs is!
If we have an atom that is in an excited state and so is going to emit a photon, we cannot say when it will emit the photon. It has a certain amplitude to emit the photon at any time, and we can predict only a probability for emission; we cannot predict the future exactly. Time ;Future
If you keep proving stuff that others have done, getting confidence, increasing the complexities of your solutions - for the fun of it - then one day you'll turn around and discover that nobody actually did that one!
If you realize all the time what's kind of wonderful - that is, if we expand our experience into wilder and wilder regions of experience - every once in a while, we have these integrations when everything's pulled together into a unification, in which it turns out to be simpler than it looked before. Time
In any decision for action, when you have to make up your mind what to do, there is always a 'should' involved, and this cannot be worked out from, 'If I do this, what will happen?' alone.
In talking about the impact of ideas in one field on ideas in another field, one is always apt to make a fool of oneself.
In the Raphael Room, the secret turned out to be that only some of the paintings were made by the great master; the rest were made by students. I had liked the ones by Raphael. This was a big jab for my self-confidence in my ability to appreciate art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Investigating the forces that hold the nuclear particles together was a long task.
Is science of any value? I think a power to do something is of value. Whether the result is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how it is used, but the power is a value. Power ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
It always seems odd to me that the fundamental laws of physics, when discovered, can appear in so many different forms that are not apparently identical at first, but, with a little mathematical fiddling, you can show the relationship.
It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.
It has been discovered that all the world is made of the same atoms, that the stars are of the same stuff as ourselves. It then becomes a question of where our stuff came from. Not just where did life come from, or where did the earth come from, but where did the stuff of life and of the earth come from? Life
It has not yet become obvious to me that there's no real problem. I cannot define the real problem; therefore, I suspect there's no real problem, but I'm not sure there's no real problem.
It is a curious historical fact that modern quantum mechanics began with two quite different mathematical formulations: the differential equation of Schroedinger and the matrix algebra of Heisenberg. The two apparently dissimilar approaches were proved to be mathematically equivalent.
It is always good to know which ideas cannot be checked directly, but it is not necessary to remove them all. It is not true that we can pursue science completely by using only those concepts which are directly subject to experiment. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn't get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of man. History ;Hope
It is necessary to look at the results of observation objectively, because you, the experimenter, might like one result better than another.
It's the way I study - to understand something by trying to work it out or, in other words, to understand something by creating it. Not creating it one hundred percent, of course; but taking a hint as to which direction to go but not remembering the details. These you work out for yourself. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I've always been very one-sided about science, and when I was younger, I concentrated almost all my effort on it. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry. Nature
Often one postulates that a priori, all states are equally probable. This is not true in the world as we see it. This world is not correctly described by the physics which assumes this postulate.
Once I get on a puzzle, I can't get off.
Once you have a computer that can do a few things - strictly speaking, one that has a certain 'sufficient set' of basic procedures - it can do basically anything any other computer can do. This, loosely, is the basis of the great principle of 'Universality'.
People are always asking for the latest developments in the unification of this theory with that theory, and they don't give us a chance to tell them anything about one of the theories that we know pretty well. They always want to know things that we don't know.
People often think I'm a faker, but I'm usually honest, in a certain way - in such a way that often nobody believes me!
Perhaps one day we will have machines that can cope with approximate task descriptions, but in the meantime, we have to be very prissy about how we tell computers to do things. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Physics has a history of synthesizing many phenomena into a few theories. History
Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. I, too, can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Quarks came in a number of varieties - in fact, at first, only three were needed to explain all the hundreds of particles and the different kinds of quarks - they are called u-type, d-type, s-type.
Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate. Religion & God
The correct statement of the laws of physics involves some very unfamiliar ideas which require advanced mathematics for their description. Therefore, one needs a considerable amount of preparatory training even to learn what the words mean.
The drawing teacher has this problem of communicating how to draw by osmosis and not by instruction, while the physics teacher has the problem of always teaching techniques, rather than the spirit, of how to go about solving physical problems. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The extreme weakness of quantum gravitational effects now poses some philosophical problems; maybe nature is trying to tell us something new here: maybe we should not try to quantize gravity. Nature
The fact that the colors in the flower have evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; that means insects can see the colors. That adds a question: does this aesthetic sense we have also exist in lower forms of life? Life
The first amazing fact about gravitation is that the ratio of inertial mass to gravitational mass is constant wherever we have checked it. The second amazing thing about gravitation is how weak it is.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
The idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
The ideas associated with the problems of the development of science, as far as I can see by looking around me, are not of the kind that everyone appreciates. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The internal machinery of life, the chemistry of the parts, is something beautiful. And it turns out that all life is interconnected with all other life. Life
The most obvious characteristic of science is its application: the fact that, as a consequence of science, one has a power to do things. And the effect this power has had need hardly be mentioned. The whole industrial revolution would almost have been impossible without the development of science. Power ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The most remarkable discovery in all of astronomy is that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth.
The original reason to start the project, which was that the Germans were a danger, started me off on a process of action, which was to try to develop this first system at Princeton and then at Los Alamos, to try to make the bomb work. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The philosophical question before us is, when we make an observation of our track in the past, does the result of our observation become real in the same sense that the final state would be defined if an outside observer were to make the observation?
The situation in the sciences is this: A concept or an idea which cannot be measured or cannot be referred directly to experiment may or may not be useful. It need not exist in a theory.
The thing that doesn't fit is the thing that's the most interesting: the part that doesn't go according to what you expected.
The universe is very large, and its boundaries are not known very well, but it is still possible to define some kind of a radius to be associated with it.
There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you 'play' with them! Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
There is always another way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before. I don't know what the reason for this is. I think it is somehow a representation of the simplicity of nature. Nature
There is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics.
There were several possible solutions of the difficulty of classical electrodynamics, any one of which might serve as a good starting point to the solution of the difficulties of quantum electrodynamics.
Things on a very small scale behave like nothing that you have any direct experience about. They do not behave like waves, they do not behave like particles, they do not behave like clouds, or billiard balls, or weights on springs, or like anything that you have ever seen.
Today we say that the law of relativity is supposed to be true at all energies, but someday somebody may come along and say how stupid we were.
Today, all physicists know from studying Einstein and Bohr that sometimes an idea which looks completely paradoxical at first, if analyzed to completion in all detail and in experimental situations, may, in fact, not be paradoxical.
Trying to understand the way nature works involves a most terrible test of human reasoning ability. It involves subtle trickery, beautiful tightropes of logic on which one has to walk in order not to make a mistake in predicting what will happen. The quantum mechanical and the relativity ideas are examples of this. Nature
Until I began to learn to draw, I was never much interested in looking at art. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
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. Time ;Future
We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics.
We do not know where to look, or what to look for, when something is memorized. We do not know what it means, or what change there is in the nervous system, when a fact is learned. This is a very important problem which has not been solved at all.
We get the exciting result that the total energy of the universe is zero. Why this should be so is one of the great mysteries - and therefore one of the important questions of physics. After all, what would be the use of studying physics if the mysteries were not the most important things to investigate?
We seem gradually to be groping toward an understanding of the world of subatomic particles, but we really do not know how far we have yet to go in this task.
We're always, by the way, in fundamental physics, always trying to investigate those things in which we don't understand the conclusions. After we've checked them enough, we're okay.
What goes on inside a star is better understood than one might guess from the difficulty of having to look at a little dot of light through a telescope, because we can calculate what the atoms in the stars should do in most circumstances.
What one fool can understand, another can.
When I was a young man, Dirac was my hero. He made a breakthrough, a new method of doing physics. He had the courage to simply guess at the form of an equation, the equation we now call the Dirac equation, and to try to interpret it afterwards.
When I was about thirteen, the library was going to get 'Calculus for the Practical Man.' By this time I knew, from reading the encyclopedia, that calculus was an important and interesting subject, and I ought to learn it. Time
When I would hear the rabbi tell about some miracle such as a bush whose leaves were shaking but there wasn't any wind, I would try to fit the miracle into the real world and explain it in terms of natural phenomena.
With the exception of gravitation and radioactivity, all of the phenomena known to physicists and chemists in 1911 have their ultimate explanation in the laws of quantum electrodynamics.
Working out another system to replace Newton's laws took a long time because phenomena at the atomic level were quite strange. One had to lose one's common sense in order to perceive what was happening at the atomic level. Time
You're unlikely to discover something new without a lot of practice on old stuff, but further, you should get a heck of a lot of fun out of working out funny relations and interesting things. Humor

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