THE MEANING OF IT ALL by Richard P. Feynman
Richard P. Feynman was one of this century's most brilliant theoretical physicists and original thinkers. Born in Far Rockaway, New York, in 1918, he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a BS in 1939. He went on to Princeton and received his Ph.D. in 1942. During the waryears he worked at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. He became Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cornell University, where he worked with Hans Bethe. He all but rebuilt the theory of quantum electrodynamics and it was for this work that he shared the Nobel Prize in 1965. His simplified rules of calculation became standard tools of theoretical analysis in both quantum electrodynamics andhigh-energy physics. Feynman was a visiting professor at the California Institute of Technology in 1950, where he later accepted a permanent faculty appointment, and became Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1959. He had an extraordinary ability to communicate his science to audiences at all levels, and was a well-known and popular lecturer. Richard Feynman died in 1988 after along illness. Freeman Dyson, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, called him 'the most original mind of his generation', while in its obituary The New York Times described him as 'arguably the most brilliant, iconoclastic and influential of the postwar generation of theoretical physicists'. A number of collections and adaptations of his lectures have been published,including The Feynman Lectures on Physics, QED (Penguin, 1990), The Character of Physical Law (Penguin, 1992), Six Easy Pieces (Penguin, 1998), The Meaning of It All (Penguin, 1999) and Six Not-So-Easy Pieces (Allen Lane, 1998; Penguin, 1999). The Feynman Lectures on Gravitation and The Feynman Lectures on Computation are both forthcoming in Penguin. His memoirs, Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman, werepublished in 1985.
The Meaning of It All Richard P. Feynman
Contents I.The Uncertainty of Science II.The Uncertainty of Values III.This Unscientific Age These lectures, given in April 1963, are published here for the first time. We are grateful to Carl Feynman and Michelle Feynman for making this book possible. I The Uncertainty of Science I WANT TO ADDRESS myself directly to the impact ofscience on man's ideas in other fields, a subject Mr. John Danz particularly wanted to be discussed. In the first of these lectures I will talk about the nature of science and emphasize particularly the existence of doubt and uncertainty. In the second lecture I will discuss the impact of scientific views on political questions, in particular the question of national enemies, and on religiousquestions. And in the third lecture I will describe how society looks to me—I could say how society looks to a scientific man, but it is only how it looks to me—and what future scientific discoveries may produce in terms of social problems. What do I know of religion and politics? Several friends in the physics departments here and in other places laughed and said, "I'd like to come and hear what youhave to say. I never knew you were interested very much in those things." They mean, of course, I am interested, but I would not dare to talk about them. In talking about the impact of ideas in one field on ideas in another field, one is always apt to make a fool of oneself. In these days of specialization there are too few people who have such a deep understanding of two departments of ourknowledge that they do not make fools of themselves in one or the other. The ideas I wish to describe are old ideas. There is practically nothing that I am going to say tonight that could not easily have been said by philosophers of the seventeenth century. Why repeat all this? Because there are new generations born every day. Because there are great ideas developed in the history of man, and these...