Archive for May 30th, 2009

The pleasure of finding things out

May 30, 2009

Have you read this book? You might try it.

<i>The Pleasure of Finding Things Out</i> by Richard P. Feynman

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard P. Feynman

I’ve owned it for a year or two at least. A few minutes ago I flipped through it at random. The name of a magazine, Omni, caught my eye. I read from some old interview.

One day I’ll be convinced there’s a certain type of symmetry that everybody believes in, the next day I’ll try to figure out the consequence if it’s not, and everybody’s crazy but me. But the thing that’s unusual about good scientists is while they’re doing whatever they’re doing, they’re not so sure of themselves as others usually are. They can live with steady doubt, think “maybe it’s so” and act on that, all the time knowing it’s only “maybe.” Many people find that difficult. They think it means detachment or coldness. It’s not coldness! It’s a much deeper and warmer understanding, and it means you can be digging somewhere where you’re temporarily convinced you have the answer, and somebody comes up and says, “Have you seen what they’re coming up with over there?”, and you look up and say Jeez! I’m in the wrong place! It happens all the time.

I stopped reading, and I realized the book in my hands was no longer a book. It was a pearl, mirror-smooth and big around as a medicine ball, and I was cradling it in my arms. The man shat wisdom, people. You would too if your mind did nothing but think all day, every second. Unfortunately, we live in a world where “genius” is a rare gift bestowed on the genetically chosen few, and me and the other stereotypes are too busy clocking our time to say otherwise.