...I can't understand it anymore but I felt very strongly then. I'd sat in a restaurant in New York, for example and I looked at the buildings and how far away, I would think, you know, how much the radius of the Hiroshima bomb damage was and so forth. How far down there was down to 34th Street? All these buildings, all smashed, and so on. And I got a very strange feeling. I would go along and I would see people building a bridge. Or, they'd be making a new road, and I thought, they're crazy, they just don't understand, they don't understand. Why are they making new things, it's so useless?
But for sure there were many EPIC distractions of a more general nature in that time.
I used to be like that when I was in my 20s, but as I get older if I get depressed it significantly reduces my productivity.
Behaviors related to smartphones, email, social media etc should be evaluated by their holistic impact on our life In the same way we do with alcohol, drug use, and other addictive behaviors.
The effect it's had on my state of mind is profoundly positive. I don't even hear notifications anymore and I am far more productive.
One can be quite relaxed but not at all focused and vice versa.
I think this is impressive compared to most users in here.
Yes, this article is both written and submitted by Jørgen.
To add information, Jørgen's Cantor Paradise is a paid subscription (a very good one) with occasional free articles. So what you identify as a prolific submission history can also identified by others, as self-marketing.
I wonder if anyone's written about a younger Dirac and any interactions he got into with his heros, and so on and so forth back as far as possible? I'm sure there's an amazing story to be told through following this "thread of knowledge" through time...
Also, I found the autobiography by Sagdeev (one of the <50 who finished the "Theoretical Minimum" of Landau) to have some nice anecdotes about Landau:
Roald Sagdeev, "The Making of a Soviet Scientist: My Adventures in Nuclear Fusion and Space"
Today's physics really bland. Either we look into some fantasy worlds we will never test (quantum foam & co), or extremely niche ones.
My sons are fascinated by science and I am lightly driving them towards biology (biophysics, bioinformatics, ...) because I feel this is where the revolutionary changes happen and will happen.
It is especially fascinating during the first 3 years, when you slowly discover some unexpected links between the disciplines. When I discovered Noether's theorem I was in awe.
Then it gest more and more abstract, drifting away from the reality (I do not have QM here in mind but rather its evolution).
Thanks to the confinement we have in France due to COVID, I had the opportunity to take over a part of the duties of the National Education services :) Telling my children about mechanics and all basic topics was awesome. I got over excited several times and they had to cool me down.
Physics will always be my first love, but the future is elsewhere.
The same thing happened to me. Many years later, I thought that it should be more popularly known, so I wrote this:
And now I am writing a book about it.
And if perchance you got to that conclusion because you believe you can't apply the scientific method to CS (as in: formulate a theory about how the world "is", design an experiment to test the theory, run the experiment, rinse, repeat), you are mistaken: when dealing with systems of exploding complexity (which is, btw and imo, what physics is all about as well), this is a very fruitful attack strategy.
In my country, Computer Science is exclusively theoretical study of some areas of mathematics. You don't go into CS to run experiments, just like in mathematics. You go to study theorems and complexity theory.
Anything related to the act of developing software is called Software Engineering/Informatic Engineering. Totally different things: as different as a mathematician and a bridge builder. In the real world there's an evident intersection between CS and SE, but in academia (in my country), CS _is_ math.
Being able to predict how complex and long simulations will be is great as well.
BTW I think that "Computer Science" is interpreted differently in different countries. In France for instance we have _informatique_ which means "things with computers" and usually is understood as "development" or "system/network administration". _
As the académie put it: "science du traitement de l'information"
"Je fais de la recherche en informatique" (I do research in <informatique>) would mean doing "computer science".
I am not sure what comes to mind to a native speaker of English when he heard "I work in computer science". Maye the same thing, actaully.
In which case "computer science" would be one "science" where you actually need to add "science" (as opposed to physics, biology, ...)
On the other hand, we have in French "Science de la Vie et de la Terre" - a school subject loosely grouping biology and geology.
The method that you describe is used in exploring mathematical landscapes, including CS. But, still, some people (like me) find it useful to distinguish between mathematics (including CS) and science, by which we mean empirical science. But I would agree strongly that the boundary is very fuzzy.
They are more into applied science (applied to everyday life). Theory of computation is certainly interesting, though.
and Wigner said, "He is a second Dirac, only this time human."
In short, some people think he was sexist at best and an abuser of women at worst.
I assure you his FBI file - https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/fbi... - is not vague, predatory, sensationalist, and does not cross-reference any discussion you may find on the web today.
His ex-wife reportedly testified that on several occasions when she unwittingly disturbed either his calculus or his drums he flew into a violent rage, during which time he attacked her, threw pieces of bric-a-brac about and smashed the furniture.
Feynman's autobiographical writings about women are also disgusting enough by modern standards.
I don't understand why you would think having developed an excellent physics course is incompatible with that (or vice versa).
He also drew useful diagrams, but you know ... :)
The fact he got his Nobel prize in part thanks to a way of representing interactions between particle is quite telling.
His books, and even more so his BBC interview (have yet to dive into the Physics lectures) completely changed my perspective on science.
I liked it, and wanted to love it, but watching him talk about fire and photosynthesis finally made it all click together.
Those weren’t abstract formulas, or curious and amusing concepts. All of it was deeply tied to everything around me, and somehow managed to make it all much more fascinating. I didn’t know the formulas, or the exact rules, but I got a general understanding of each of these processes and, feeling like a child once again, actually wanted to know more.
It was suddenly so obvious, and yet... why did it take all this time? And why couldn’t anyone else help me realise that earlier?
I certainly could blame the French education system, which isn’t really fond of making itself likeable or giving meaning to what it teaches, but still... it seems much more widespread than that.
So... I wouldn’t be surprised if he is both directly and indirectly responsible for many other physicists actually getting into research and developing this "intuition" that comes with truly understanding.
Edit: Also, his explanation is the first satisfying one I’ve ever gotten to "What is fire?" since I started asking the question over a decade ago.
I’d also say the path integral is not what he is most known for among practicing physicists, but that’s another story (I recommend “QED and the Men Who Made It: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga@).
“When after some weeks I had a chance to talk to Oppenheimer, I was astonished to discover that his reasons for being uninterested in my work were quite the opposite of what I had imagined. I had expected that he would disparage my program as merely unoriginal, a minor adumbration of Schwinger and Feynman. On the contrary, he considered it to be fundamentally on the wrong track. He thought adumbrating Schwinger and Feynman to be a wasted effort, because he did not believe that the ideas of Schwinger and Feynman had much to do with reality.
I HAD KNOWN THAT HE HAD NEVER APPRECIATED FEYNMAN, but it came as a shock to hear him now violently opposing Schwinger, his own student, whose work he had acclaimed so enthusiastically six months earlier. He had somehow become convinced during his stay in Europe that physics was in need of radically new ideas, that this quantum electrodynamics of Schwinger and Feynman was just another misguided attempt to patch up old ideas with fancy mathematics.”
 Dyson F. Disturbing the Universe. Henry Holt and Co, 1979 ISBN 9780465016778.
This quote and an earlier one I made are from Oliver Consa's 2020 paper: "Something is rotten in the state of QED".
But they spent time around him in a working context, and they are all absolutely clear in their minds that, beyond the showmanship, he was a genius.
There are parts where he goes totally /r/redpill that would get him in trouble today if he were still alive.
Could you please rephrase what you wrote here, but without using the word "problematic" when describing a person? Thank you very much.
To do this requires resisting this sort of provocation in oneself—i.e. waiting until the activation dies down, and then either moving on to something else or finding a more interesting response to share. More on that here: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor....
Also, please don't use allcaps for emphasis and please don't go on about downvotes. These things are all in the site guidelines—would you please review them (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html) and stick to the rules when posting here? We'd appreciate it, because we're trying to avoid the internet hell in which everything becomes consumed by the never-ending flamewars.
I wonder if perhaps this opinion of Feynman as a showman has gotten more popular over the decades as Feynman and the physicists who knew him passed away, and more and more of us are exposed to him only through his lectures and books. (If you'll excuse an aside: a bit like Bill Simmon's thesis on the basketball greats Bill Russell vs. Chamberlain -- those of us looking back on history, with only artifacts, may draw conclusions that would be ridiculous at the time.) I don't know if this is the case, but it's a fun speculation.
Freeman Dyson, one of Feynman's closest friends (and a prodigious scientist in his own right; died last year) regularly described Feynman as a "fast calculator rather than a particularly deep thinker".
IIRC Dyson picked Fermi as the greatest physicist he'd ever met – much to the dismay of reporters, who of course expected Dyson to name his buddy Feynman :-)
“When Dyson met Fermi, he quickly put aside the graphs he was being shown indicating agreement between theory and experiment.
His verdict, as Dyson remembered, was “There are two ways of doing calculations in theoretical physics. One way, and this is the way I prefer, is to have a clear physical picture of the process you are calculating. The other way is to have a precise and self-consistent mathematical formalism. You have neither.”
When a stunned Dyson tried to counter by emphasizing the agreement between experiment and the calculations, Fermi asked him how many free parameters he had used to obtain the fit. Smiling after being told “Four,” Fermi remarked, “I remember my old friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.” There was little to add.”
 Segre G., Hoerlin B. The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age. Henry Holt and Co, 2016 ISBN 9781627790055
This quote is from Oliver Consa's 2020 paper: "Something is rotten in the state of QED".
> I remember the very first time I met [Pauli] at a conference in Zurich. He was talking with a whole group of people about Julian Schwinger, who had just come to Switzerland. Schwinger was a brilliant young American who had done some very fine work. He was a rival of Feynman; they were the two geniuses then. Pauli was saying that Schwinger told us all this stuff that actually made sense, not like that nonsense Dyson has been writing. At that point I came walking up with a friend of mine, Markus Fierz, who was also a Swiss scientist. With a twinkle in his eye, Fierz came up to Pauli and said, “Please allow me to introduce you to my friend, Freeman Dyson.” Pauli said, “Oh that doesn’t matter. He doesn’t understand German.” Which of course I did. That was a good beginning and we were friends right from the very first day.
HN is therefore likely a good place to remind people of such...
"Feynman looked up that paper and expanded on it", yes, science doesn't happen in a vacuum? Standing on the shoulders of giants etc
On the other hand, as a child I have enjoyed very much the Feynman Lectures on Physics, much more than most other similar books.
I am certainly very grateful to him, because his work had a very positive influence on me, when I was young.
He had great teaching ability. That justifies his fame. Just like Gilbert Strang deserves his fame.
You should not neglect the role of politics and presentation in academia.
As science became increasingly a valuable commodity, it attracted a lot of people with perverse incentives: politicians, administrators, research managers, status-hungry individuals etc. I see what’s happening and it’s not pretty.
Frankly, I think it’s not a healthy environment and this academic system would not last too long. Smart people will leave, as they realize this has become an industry not different from banking or any other, except the currency is fame and reputation, and stakes are so low. It’s no longer like 1930s, and people like Feynman helped set the stage for a new eta.
And it’s not surprising at all, once you learn that politics and showmanship actually pay off.
Being a showman doesn't mean that Feynman was only a showman. Indeed, one can hardly be an effective educator without a strong touch of showmanship in presenting ideas.
The amount of cynical consipratory thinking in HN horrifies me.