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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 Nature (12 quotes)

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As usual, nature’s imagination far surpasses our own, as we have seen from the other theories which are subtle and deep.
— Richard P. Feynman
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 162.
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For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
— Richard P. Feynman
Upon identifying the reason for the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger with his demonstration showing that O-rings grow brittle when cold by immersing a sample in iced water. Concluding remark in Feynman's Appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. In (Jan 1987). In James B. Simpson, Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations (1988).
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It always bothers me that according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space and no matter how tiny a region of time … I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities. But this speculation is of the same nature as those other people make—“I like it”,“I don't like it”—and it is not good to be too prejudiced about these things.
— Richard P. Feynman
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 57.
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Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.
— Richard P. Feynman
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 2001), 34.
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Philosophers have said that if the same circumstances don't always produce the same results, predictions are impossible and science will collapse. Here is a circumstance—identical photons are always coming down in the same direction to the piece of glass—that produces different results. We cannot predict whether a given photon will arrive at A or B. All we can predict is that out of 100 photons that come down, an average of 4 will be reflected by the front surface. Does this mean that physics, a science of great exactitude, has been reduced to calculating only the probability of an event, and not predicting exactly what will happen? Yes. That's a retreat, but that's the way it is: Nature permits us to calculate only probabilities. Yet science has not collapsed.
— Richard P. Feynman
QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), 19.
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The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, “But how can it be like that?” which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. … If you will simply admit that maybe [Nature] does behave like this, you will find her a delightful, entrancing thing. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possible avoid it, "But how can it be like that?" because you will get 'down the drain', into a blind alley from which nobody has escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.
[About wave-particle duality.]
— Richard P. Feynman
'Probability abd Uncertainty—the Quantum Mechanical View of Nature', the sixth of his Messenger Lectures (1964), Cornell University. Collected in The Character of Physical Law (1967), 129.
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The work I have done has, already, been adequately rewarded and recognized. Imagination reaches out repeatedly trying to achieve some higher level of understanding, until suddenly I find myself momentarily alone before one new corner of nature’s pattern of beauty and true majesty revealed. That was my reward.
— Richard P. Feynman
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1965).
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There’s Nature and she’s going to come out the way She is. So therefore when we go to investigate we shouldn’t predecide what it is we’re looking for only to find out more about it. Now you ask: “Why do you try to find out more about it?” If you began your investigation to get an answer to some deep philosophical question, you may be wrong. It may be that you can’t get an answer to that particular question just by finding out more about the character of Nature. But that’s not my interest in science; my interest in science is to simply find out about the world and the more I find out the better it is, I like to find out...
— Richard P. Feynman
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This law [of gravitation] has been called “the greatest generalization achieved by the human mind”. … I am interested not so much in the human mind as in the marvel of a nature which can obey such an elegant and simple law as this law of gravitation. Therefore our main concentration will not be on how clever we are to have found it all out, but on how clever nature is to pay attention to it.
— Richard P. Feynman
In The Character of Physical Law (1965), 14.
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We are very lucky to be living in an age in which we are still making discoveries. It is like the discovery of America—you only discover it once. The age in which we live is the age in which we are discovering the fundamental laws of nature, and that day will never come again. It is very exciting, it is marvelous, but this excitement will have to go.
— Richard P. Feynman
From transcript of the seventh Messenger Lecture, Cornell University (1964), 'Seeking New Laws.' Published in The Character of Physical Law (1965, reprint 2001), 172.
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What of the future of this adventure? What will happen ultimately? We are going along guessing the laws; how many laws are we going to have to guess? I do not know. Some of my colleagues say that this fundamental aspect of our science will go on; but I think there will certainly not be perpetual novelty, say for a thousand years. This thing cannot keep on going so that we are always going to discover more and more new laws … It is like the discovery of America—you only discover it once. The age in which we live is the age in which we are discovering the fundamental laws of nature, and that day will never come again. Of course in the future there will be other interests … but there will not be the same things that we are doing now … There will be a degeneration of ideas, just like the degeneration that great explorers feel is occurring when tourists begin moving in on a territory.
— Richard P. Feynman
In The Character of Physical Law (1965, 1994), 166.
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“Conservation” (the conservation law) means this … that there is a number, which you can calculate, at one moment—and as nature undergoes its multitude of changes, this number doesn't change. That is, if you calculate again, this quantity, it'll be the same as it was before. An example is the conservation of energy: there's a quantity that you can calculate according to a certain rule, and it comes out the same answer after, no matter what happens, happens.
— Richard P. Feynman
'The Great Conservation Principles', The Messenger Series of Lectures, No. 3, Cornell University, 1964. From transcript of BBC programme (11 Dec 1964).
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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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