Feynman and the eighth-of-an-inch black hole

In my stumblings today, I wound up watching this Nova episode on Richard Feynman:

 

Now, this is partly notable because I'd been pretty sure there wasn't much on Feynman that I hadn't seen or read already. I'm a huge…well, not fan; I don't think there can be a Feynman "fan" since if you know anything about the man, you know he wouldn't have wanted them…but he's one of my favorite modern figures, and a person (or story of a person I guess, since I was just a child when he died) that I've always fervently, grinningly, intensely identified with.

"Why" is an interesting question — I think it's for the same reason that I gravitate towards the other people I do, as well — and why a great many of them are scientists. I would say that it's because they prove that "Interestedness" (a certain breed of Curiosity characterized by openness, acceptance, and enthusiasm for the process of discovery) is a type of reasoning, not at all incompatible with hard logical reasoning — it sits, I think, underneath it, and gives it a totally different character; like the difference between painting on canvas and paper and cloth.  Painting logic on Interestedness is so, so different than painting it on, say, that closed-off, goal-oriented type of Curiosity (Industry, I guess we could call it).  Feynman was a genius in the sense of hard logic, but it wasn't his skills with calculations or experimentation that made him famous or that make him such an enduring figure, in my opinion — it's the depth of his devotion to Interestedness.

Interestedness is a "yes" state; it's Curiosity focused on the Path.  As Feynman says in the video, "You have to understand that every plot, even though there's a high chance of failure as far as the ultimate aim was concerned, would always turn out to be a big adventure…"  Industry, in contrast, is seeking to learn things for a purpose — to make a drug, to start a company, to win a prize, or even to do something really beneficial like cure a disease; Industry isn't always *bad*, but it is always goal-focused and so, in my ever-so-humble opinion, can never achieve the astronomical results that thinking like Feynman's can.

Anyway.  Enjoy the Feynman; it's lovely.  <3

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut and lifelong autohacker ... long-term Ubersleep, shoeless winters, medication-free anti-depressants, and as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the fourth wall).
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8 Responses to Feynman and the eighth-of-an-inch black hole

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  5. Max says:

    Yeah, I have read this book not so long time ago. 

  6. anon says:

    Very insightful summary of "interestedness," I think that's a major factor in being a great scientist. However, as an engineer I'd argue that this isn't mutually exclusive with goal focused work. You can have "interestedness" that drives you to engineer a solution to a hard problem, just like you can with wanting to understand natural phenomena. The key is that you must have a burning passion for the problem itself or the methods you're apply to solve the problem- it can just be an ends to a means for something else.

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