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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > Richard P. Feynman Quotes > Atom

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Richard P. Feynman
(11 May 1918 - 15 Feb 1988)

American theoretical physicist who was probably the most brilliant, influential, and iconoclastic figure in his field. His lifelong interest was in subatomic physics. In 1965, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in quantum electrodynamics.


Richard P. Feynman Quotes on Atom (8 quotes)

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All things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence ... there is an enormous amount of information about the world.
His suggestion that the most valuable information on scientific knowledge in a single sentence using the fewest words is to state the atomic hypothesis.
— Richard P. Feynman
Six Easy Pieces (1995), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  Knowledge (1128)

Astronomy is older than physics. In fact, it got physics started by showing the beautiful simplicity of the motion of the stars and planets, the understanding of which was the beginning of physics. But the most remarkable discovery in all of astronomy is that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on the earth.
— Richard P. Feynman
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6.
Science quotes on:  |  Astronomy (175)  |  Atom (251)  |  Beautiful (81)  |  Beginning (114)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Earth (487)  |  Kind (99)  |  Made (14)  |  Motion (127)  |  Older (5)  |  Physics (301)  |  Planet (199)  |  Remarkable (34)  |  Same (92)  |  Showing (6)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Star (251)  |  Start (68)  |  Understanding (317)

Everything is made of atoms ... Everything that animals do, atoms do. ... There is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics.
— Richard P. Feynman
In The Feynman Lectures (1963), 8.
Science quotes on:  |  According (8)  |  Act (80)  |  Animal (309)  |  Atom (251)  |  Everything (120)  |  Law (418)  |  Living (44)  |  Made (14)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Physics (301)  |  Point (72)  |  Understood (9)  |  View (115)

Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? This value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this silence is that you have to know how to read music. For instance, the scientific article may say, “The radioactive phosphorus content of the cerebrum of the rat decreases to one-half in a period of two weeks.” Now what does that mean?
It means that phosphorus that is in the brain of a rat—and also in mine, and yours—is not the same phosphorus as it was two weeks ago. It means the atoms that are in the brain are being replaced: the ones that were there before have gone away.
So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.
— Richard P. Feynman
'What do You Care What Other People Think?' Further Adventures of a Curious Character (1988), 244.
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (181)  |  Memory (81)  |  Phosphorus (15)

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.
— Richard P. Feynman
'Viewpoint' Interview (with Bill Stout) for Los Angeles KNXT television station (1 May 1959), printed in Michelle Feynman (ed.) Perfectly Reasonable Deviations (from the Beaten Track) (2006), Appendix I, 426. Also quoted in James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (1992), 372. Gleick adds that KNXT “felt obliged to suppress” the interview. It was not broadcast until after Feynman, asked to redo the interview, wrote back with a letter objecting to “a direct censorship of the expression of my views.”
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (309)  |  Atom (251)  |  Big (33)  |  Complicated (38)  |  Difference (208)  |  Drama (10)  |  Evil (67)  |  Fantastic (7)  |  Good (228)  |  Human Being (54)  |  Marvelous (13)  |  Motion (127)  |  Planet (199)  |  Range (38)  |  Science And Religion (267)  |  Stage (39)  |  Struggle (60)  |  Time And Space (30)  |  Tremendous (11)  |  Universe (563)  |  View (115)

Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is “mere.” 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?
— Richard P. Feynman
In 'Astronomy', The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1961), Vol. 1, 3-6, footnote.
Science quotes on:  |  Ammonia (11)  |  Artist (46)  |  Atom (251)  |  Beauty (171)  |  Desert (27)  |  Eye (159)  |  Feeling (79)  |  Gas (46)  |  Harm (31)  |  Heaven (118)  |  Imagination (209)  |  Immense (28)  |  Jupiter (17)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Light (246)  |  Marvelous (13)  |  Meaning (87)  |  Mere (41)  |  Methane (6)  |  Million (89)  |  Mystery (125)  |  Night (73)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Part (146)  |  Past (109)  |  Pattern (56)  |  Poet (59)  |  Science (1699)  |  Seeing (48)  |  Silent (18)  |  Sphere (40)  |  Spinning (7)  |  Star (251)  |  Stretch (8)  |  Truth (750)  |  Vast (56)  |  Vastness (9)  |  Year (214)

Shortly after electrons were discovered it was thought that atoms were like little solar systems, made up of a … nucleus and electrons, which went around in “orbits,” much like the planets … around the sun. If you think that’s the way atoms are, then you’re back in 1910.
— Richard P. Feynman
In QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985, 2006), 84.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Electron (66)  |  Nucleus (30)  |  Orbit (58)  |  Planet (199)  |  Solar System (48)  |  Sun (211)  |  Theory (582)  |  Think (205)

The sun atom shakes; my eye electron shakes eight minutes later, because of a direct interaction across.
— Richard P. Feynman
In his Nobel Prize Lecture (11 Dec 1965), 'The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics'. Collected in Stig Lundqvist, Nobel Lectures: Physics, 1963-1970 (1998), 156.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  Electron (66)  |  Eye (159)  |  Interaction (28)  |  Minute (25)  |  Shake (19)  |  Sun (211)


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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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