The Key to Science a la Richard Feynman


On May 11, Richard Feynman, renowned quantum physicist, bongo drummer, and educator would have been 94. Feynman, who is considered to be one of the top ten physicists, died in 1988 from cancer. Notably, his last words were, “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.” In life and death he is remembered for his philosophy of scientific method and the great and ever-escalating questions each major discovery renders.

In a classic lecture from 1964, Feynman dissects the heart of scientific inquiry, process, and development as described by the scientific method.

In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it; then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right; then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is — if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.
 

Scientific understanding is born from ignorance, and human willingness to accept the difference between what we think and what we see. Only when in that space can we develop the methods and means to bridge the gap.


Attribution

Video: Brain Pickings


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