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The Key to Science…and true knowledge…

Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics (he proposed the parton model).  Which is to say that he was pretty smart.  In a 1964 lecture, he summarized the critical thought process as utilized in the scientific enterprise, or at least the way science is supposed to be done, as follows (emphases guessed at):

Now I’m going to discuss how we would look for a new law. In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it (audience laughter), no, don’t laugh, that’s the truth. Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature or we say compare to experiment or experience, compare it directly with observations to see if it works.

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s WRONG. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is… If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.

Facts and data.  That’s how we are to roll.  Not feeling and emotions.

  1. 5 Dec 2012 at 8:39 AM

    “Facts and data. That’s how we are to roll. Not feeling and emotions.”

    If only we could somehow get our fellow citizens to realize this, Interface. Unfortunately we are now entrenched in an emotional-driven culture.

    Say, how did you get the ‘snowflakes’ to fall on your site? This is neat!

    • 6 Dec 2012 at 7:38 AM

      Mrs. AL, that is exactly the problem. My series on Postman’s work describes at least in part (although, IMHO, it describes a great deal of the part) how we’ve gotten here.

      As for snowflakes, WordPress sent out emails on how to turn this feature on. Just go to your Setting and at the bottom there’s a checkbox to “Show falling snow on my blog until January 4th.” Check the box and shazaam! I can pretend I’m back in Chicago while enjoying SC!

  2. 6 Dec 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I should enter one caveat regarding my use of the phrase “true knowledge.” I am referring here to knowledge of the world around us and what can be obtained therefrom by observation. There is another category of true knowledge that can only be obtained by revelation from someone else, i.e., knowledge about that which is not observational for various and sundry reasons. True knowledge of the theological falls, at least in part, into this category.

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