Richard Feynman Lectures

I hold Richard Feynman in huge regard. He was a fascinating human being, a Nobel laureate physicist, his research in physics was second to none. But he was also a legendary lecturer, in both the fields of physics, and perhaps surprisingly computer science. And even more, he was an exceptionally well rounded person, a gifted artist, an amateur safe cracker and more besides. I own a copy of his lectures on Physics, bought for me by my Mum who felt (probably correctly) that no-one else would buy an item that sounded so boring, though it was on my Amazon wish list. (Incidentally, I think some pages touch on issues like the paradox I presented on crashing cars, I haven’t had the leisure to study this more closely).

Recently it was announced (and one of my students kindly wrote to tell me) that Bill Gates had bought up the rights to his lecturers and was making them available. I do praise Bill Gates for his philanthropy, and would have praised him for this, but regrettably, the lectures are only available with Silverlight, and so it’s another of a long line of Trojan horses to ensure we buy into a new proprietary standard from Microsoft. A huge shame.

In my last, marathon article, I talked a little about models of reality. A point I didn’t make is that we have trouble accepting that; no matter how much we dislike aspects of reality, they remain the same despite that. Feynman encapsulated this beautifully in this YouTube snippet of his QED lectures (which I had showed to my final year students). I have attempted a limited transcript below, but you should hear it in Feynman’s excellent good humoured Brooklyn accent for full effect.

And then there’s the … kind of thing which you don’t understand. Meaning “I don’t believe it, it’s crazy, it’s the kind of thing I won’t accept.”

Eh. The other part well… this kind, I hope you’ll come along with me and you’ll have to accept it because it’s the way nature works. If you want to know the way nature works, we looked at it, carefully, […unsure of this bit…] that’s the way it works.

You don’t like it…, go somewhere else!

To another universe! Where the rules are simpler, philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy. I can’t help it! OK! If I’m going to tell you honestly what the world looks like to the… human beings who have struggled as hard as they can to understand it, I can only tell you what it looks like.

And I cannot make it any simpler, I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to simplify it, and I’m not going to fake it. I’m not going to tell you it’s something like a ball bearing inside a spring, it isn’t.

So I’m going to tell you what it really is like, and if you don’t like it, that’s too bad.

If you’d like to hear more from this fascinating man, can I suggest more YouTube videos showing an old BBC interview with him:

  1. Part One
  2. Part Two
  3. Part Three
  4. Part Four
  5. Part Five
  6. Part Six
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