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Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988)


American physicist; in the International Phonetic Alphabet his surname is rendered [?fa?nm?n], the first syllable sounding like "fine".
Richard Feynman
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?"
We have also found that certification criteria used in Flight Readiness Reviews often develop a gradually decreasing strictness. The argument that the same risk was flown before without failure is often accepted as an argument for the safety of accepting it again. Because of this, obvious weaknesses are accepted again and again, sometimes without a sufficiently serious attempt to remedy them, or to delay a flight because of their continued presence.
Feynman quotes
We are not to tell nature what she’s gotta be.
Feynman
While in Kyoto I tried to learn Japanese with a vengeance. I worked much harder at it, and got to a point where I could go around in taxis and do things. I took lessons from a Japanese man every day for an hour. One day he was teaching me the word for "see." "All right," he said. "You want to say, 'May I see your garden?' What do you say?" I made up a sentence with the word that I had just learned. "No, no!" he said. "When you say to someone, 'Would you like to see my garden? you use the first 'see.' But when you want to see someone else's garden, you must use another 'see,' which is more polite." "Would you like to glance at my lousy garden?" is essentially what you're saying in the first case, but when you want to look at the other fella's garden, you have to say something like, "May I observe your gorgeous garden?" So there's two different words you have to use. Then he gave me another one: "You go to a temple, and you want to look at the gardens..." I made up a sentence, this time with the polite "see." "No, no!" he said. "In the temple, the gardens are much more elegant. So you have to say something that would be equivalent to 'May I hang my eyes on your most exquisite gardens?" Three or four different words for one idea, because when I'm doing it, it's miserable; when you're doing it, it's elegant. I was learning Japanese mainly for technical things, so I decided to check if this same problem existed among the scientists. At the institute the next day, I said to the guys in the office, "How would I say in Japanese, 'I solve the Dirac Equation'?" They said such-and-so. "OK. Now I want to say, 'Would you solve the Dirac Equation?' -- how do I say that?" "Well, you have to use a different word for 'solve,' " they say. "Why?" I protested. "When I solve it, I do the same damn thing as when you solve it!" "Well, yes, but it's a different word -- it's more polite." I gave up. I decided that wasn't the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.




Feynman Richard quotes
If the professors of English will complain to me that the students who come to the universities, after all those years of study, still cannot spell "friend," I say to them that something's the matter with the way you spell friend.
Feynman Richard
We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?"
Richard Feynman quotes
You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won't believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!
Richard Feynman
This conference was worse than a Rorschach test: There's a meaningless inkblot, and the others ask you what you think you see, but when you tell them, they start arguing with you!
Feynman Richard quotes
I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.
Feynman
He is by all odds the most brilliant young physicist here, and everyone knows this. He is a man of thoroughly engaging character and personality, extremely clear, extremely normal in all respects, and an excellent teacher with a warm feeling for physics in all its aspects. He has the best possible relations both with the theoretical people of whom he is one, and with the experimental people with whom he works in very close harmony.
The reason for telling you about him now is that his excellence is so well known, both at Princeton where he worked before he came here, and to a not inconsiderable number of "big shots" on this project, that he has already been offered a position for the post war period, and will most certainly be offered others. I feel that he would be a great strength for our department, tending to tie together its teaching, its research and its experimental and theoretical aspects. I may give you two quotations from men with whom he has worked. Bethe has said that he would rather lose any two other men than Feyman from this present job, and E.P. Wigner said, "He is a second Dirac. Only this time human."
Feynman Richard
If an apple was magnified to the size of the Earth, then the atoms in the apple would be approximately the size of the original apple.
Richard Feynman
The electron is a theory we use; it is so useful in understanding the way nature works that we can almost call it real.




Richard Feynman quotes
The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. 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.
Richard Feynman
We scientists are clever — too clever — are you not satisfied? Is four square miles in one bomb not enough? Men are still thinking. Just tell us how big you want it.
Feynman quotes
The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty damn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress, we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain. Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question — to doubt — to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.
Feynman Richard
IF we are to replace standard numerical probability usage with engineering judgment, why do we find such an enormous disparity between the management estimate and the judgment of the engineers? 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.
Feynman Richard quotes
There were certain things I didn't like, such as tipping. I thought we should be paid more, and not have to have any tips. But when I proposed that to the boss, I got nothing but laughter. She told everybody, "Richard doesn't want his tips, hee, hee, hee; he doesn't want his tips, ha, ha, ha." The world is full of this kind of dumb smart-alec who doesn't understand anything.
Richard Feynman
A great deal more is known than has been proved.
Richard Feynman quotes
Feynman is the young American professor, half genius and half buffoon, who keeps all physicists and their children amused with his effervescent vitality. He has, however, as I have recently learned, a great deal more to him than that, and you may be interested in his story. The part of it with which I am concerned began when he arrived at Los Alamos; there he found and fell in love with a brilliant and beautiful girl, who was tubercular and had been exiled to New Mexico in the hope of stopping the disease. When Feynman arrived, things had got so bad that the doctors gave her only a year to live, but he determined to marry her and marry her he did; and for a year and a half, while working at full pressure on the Project, he nursed her and made her days cheerful. She died just before the end of the war.
Richard Feynman
If that's the world's smartest man, God help us.
Feynman Richard
To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature ... If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in.


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