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Richard Feynman explains why he cannot explain why magnets work the way they do

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7 Comments

  1. A fine man! Yes, he’s correct, at any level it ends up as “because it does”. Get down to the low-level forces, why are they like that (why isn’t gravity polar?)? Because that’s the way they are (or seem to be as far as is known at the moment[1]). And well before that most people will lose comprehension because (again as he said) models using “real things” (macro models) aren’t valid.

    (Interestingly, one “macro model” of some of the behaviour of quarks does exit — the Rubik Cube! But one pretty much has to be a mathematician to understand why…)

    [1] That’s another problem. The descriptions change frequently, as more is discovered. To most people that’s weird.

    • > (Interestingly, one “macro model” of some of the behaviour of quarks does exit — the Rubik Cube! But one pretty much has to be a mathematician to understand why…)

      that’s also cheating -- what you’re really saying is that the quarks and the rubik’s cube are described by the same mathematical model

      • True. Which points up that although some things may be explained as to /what/ they do, the question ‘why?’ has no answer which doesn’t ultimately come down to ‘because’.

        At which point I have some sympathy with my mother when I was a kid *g*.

  2. Thank you. That is profound. I shall show it to Adam.

  3. that was really good! the guy had a gift for communication

  4. I believe I would have very much enjoyed the dickens out of a conversation with Dr. Feynman. Because he’s right. It all boils down to “because”, but the boiling down process is fascinating and full of all kinds of interesting Stuff.

    “Milk or lemon, Mr. Feynman?” 🙂

  5. Like Mark Twain, Richard Feynman was a national treasure, someone who only comes along maybe once or twice a century.

    In an odd coincidence, I’m reading Feynman’s popular-science book “QED” (quantum electrodynamics), on “The Strange Theory of Light and Matter,” right now.

    It started from when our department was looking into revising our curriculum. The Computer Engineering faculty are going to make a new class on the “Physics of Computation,” which were inspired by the Feynman “Lectures on Computation,” which led to a discussion about his classic “Lectures on Physics,” which led me to looking into his most famous theoretical results, which were in the area quantum electrodynamics, and I thought that “electrodynamics” was a really cool-sounding word, like a supervillain would cackle and say “unleash the electrodynamics!”

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