Rennan Barkana's Feynman & Einstein tribute page

Richard P. Feynman: May 11, 1918 - Feb. 15, 1988



Favorite quotes by (and about) Feynman and (below) by Einstein:

" He believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish on our ability to know, but as the essence of knowing. "
--- From "Genius" (Feynman biography) by James Gleik

" I believe in limited government. I believe that government should be limited in many ways, and what I am going to emphasize is only an intellectual thing. I don't want to talk about everything at the same time. Let's take a small piece, an intellectual thing.
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. "

--- Feynman, "The Uncertainty of Values", from The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist

" 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. "
--- Personal letter from Feynman to wife Gweneth (1963)

" ... although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind of work... The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that. I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen... So I wish to you... the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom. "
--- Feynman, about scientific integrity, from Cargo Cult Science (Commencement speech)

" ...the idea of distributing everything evenly is based on a theory that there's only X amount of stuff in the world, that somehow we took it away from the poorer countries in the first place, and therefore we should give it back to them. But this theory doesn't take into account the real reason for the differences between countries - that is, the development of new techniques for growing food, the development of machinery to grow food and do other things, and the fact that all this machinery requires the concentration of capital. It isn't the stuff, but the power to make the stuff, that is important."
--- Feynman, Surely You're Joking

" I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics... 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. "
--- Feynman, The Character of Physical Law (1965)

" We have always had a great deal of difficulty understanding the world view that quantum mechanics represents. At least I do, because I'm an old enough man that I haven't got to the point that this stuff is obvious to me. Okay, I still get nervous with it.... You know how it always is, every new idea, it takes a generation or two until it becomes obvious 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. "
--- Feynman, Simulating Physics with Computers appearing in International Journal of Theoretical Physics (1982) p. 471

" Quantum mechanics... has given rise to all kinds of nonsense and questions on the meaning of freedom of will, and of the idea that the world is uncertain. Of course we must emphasize that classical physics is also indeterminate, in a sense. It is usually thought that this indeterminancy, that we cannot predict the future, is an important quantum-mechanical thing, and this is said to explain the behavior of the mind, feelings of free will, etc. But if the world were classical - if the laws of mechanics were classical - it is not quite obvious that the mind would not feel more or less the same... already in classical mechanics there was indeterminability from a practical point of view. "
--- Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol 1, Sec 38-6

" We are very lucky to live in an age in which we are still making discoveries. It is like the discovery of America - you only discover it once. "
--- Feynman, The Character of Physical Law

" In this age people are experiencing the tremendous delight that you get when you guess how nature will work in a new situation never seen before. From experiments and information in a certain range you can guess what is going to happen in a region where no one has ever explored before... What is it about nature that lets this happen? That is an unscientific question: I do not know how to answer it, and therefore I am going to give an unscientific answer. I think it is because nature has a simplicity and therefore a great beauty. "
--- Feynman, The Character of Physical Law

" Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. "
--- Feynman, Address to the National Science Teachers' Association

" 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? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one - million - year - old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part... What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent? "
--- Footnote in The Feynman Lectures on Physics

" From a very 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 fade into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade. "
--- The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. II

"I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me."
--- Feynman, PBS Interview, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

" 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. "
--- Feynman, 1959 Interview (From Genius by James Gleick)

" We cannot define anything precisely! If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers, who sit opposite each other, one saying to the other, 'You don't know what you are talking about!' The second one says 'What do you mean by know? What do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you?', and so on. "
--- Feynman, The Character of Physical Law

" I was born not knowing and have only had a little time to change that here and there. "
--- Feynman, quoted in Genius by James Gleick

" For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. "
--- Feynman's Appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident

" I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring. "
--- Feynman's last words





Albert Einstein: Mar. 14, 1879 - Apr. 18, 1955



" Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. "
--- Einstein

" ...The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this. "
--- Einstein, in a 1955 letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind

" Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions. "
--- Einstein

" If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. ... I get the most joy in life out of music. "
--- Einstein, from an interview by G.S. Viereck in The Saturday Evening Post (October 1929)

" During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer... The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God... The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. "
--- Einstein, from a 1939 essay

" The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. "
--- Einstein

" A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. "
--- Einstein

" The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. "
--- Einstein

" Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler. "
--- Einstein

" Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. "
--- Einstein

" The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. "
--- Einstein

" Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. "
--- Einstein

" Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. "
--- Einstein

" A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. "
--- Einstein

" In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. "
--- Einstein


Back to Homepage