Richard Feynman Quotes

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We have written the equations of water flow. From experiment, we find a set of concepts and approximations to use to discuss the solution-vortex streets, turbulent wakes, boundary layers. When we have similar equations in a less familiar situation, and one for which we cannot yet experiment, we try to solve the equations in a primitive, halting, and confused way to try to determine what new qualitatitive features may come out, or what new qualitative forms are a consequence of the equations. Our equations for the sun, for example, as a ball of hydrogen gas, describe a sun without sunspots, without the rice-grain structure of the surface, without prominences, without coronas. Yet, all of these are really in the equations; we just haven't found the way to get them out... The test of science is its ability to predict. Had you never visited the earth, could you predict the thunderstorms, the volcanoes, the ocean waves, the auroras, and the colourful sunset? A salutary lesson it will be when we learn of all that goes on on each of those dead planets-those eight or ten balls, each agglomerated from the same dust clouds and each obeying exactly the same laws of physics. The next great era of awakening of human intellect may well produce a method of understanding the qualitative content of equations. Today we cannot. Today we cannot see that the water flow equations contain such things as the barber pole structure of turbulence that one sees between rotating cylinders. Today we cannot see whether Schrodinger's equation contains frogs, musical composers, or morality-or whether it does not. We cannot say whether something beyond it like God is needed, or not. And so we can all hold strong opinions either way.

Richard Feynman
Electrons, when they were first discovered, behaved exactly like particles or bullets, very simply. Further research showed, from electron diffraction experiments for example, that they behaved like waves. As time went on there was a growing confusion about how these things really behaved - waves or particles, particles or waves? Everything looked like both. This growing confusion was resolved in 1925 or 1926 with the advent of the correct equations for quantum mechanics. Now we know how the electrons and light behave. But what can I call it? If I say they behave like particles I give the wrong impression; also if I say they behave like waves. They behave in their own inimitable way, which technically could be called a quantum mechanical way. They behave in a way that is like nothing that you have seen before. Your experience with things that you have seen before is incomplete. The behavior of things on a very tiny scale is simply different. An atom does not behave like a weight hanging on a spring and oscillating. Nor does it behave like a miniature representation of the solar system with little planets going around in orbits. Nor does it appear to be somewhat like a cloud or fog of some sort surrounding the nucleus. It behaves like nothing you have seen before. There is one simplication at least. Electrons behave in this respect in exactly the same way as photons; they are both screwy, but in exactly in the same way... The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, "But how can it be like that?" which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. I will not describe it in terms of an analogy with something familiar; I will simply describe it. There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. So do not take the lecture too seriously, feeling that you really have to understand in terms of some model what I am going to describe, but just relax and enjoy it. I am going to tell you what nature behaves like. If you will simply admit that maybe she does behave like this, you will find her a delightful, entrancing thing. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possible avoid it, "But how can it be like that?" because you will get 'down the drain', into a blind alley from which nobody has escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.

Richard Feynman
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