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Richard Feynman

Date de naissance: 11. mai 1918
Date de décès: 15. février 1988
Autres noms:Richard Feynman Philips,Richard Phillips Feynman,Ричард Филлипс Фейнман

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Richard Phillips Feynman est l'un des physiciens les plus influents de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle, en raison notamment de ses travaux sur l'électrodynamique quantique, les quarks et l'hélium superfluide.

Il reformula entièrement la mécanique quantique à l'aide de son intégrale de chemin qui généralise le principe de moindre action de la mécanique classique et inventa les diagrammes qui portent son nom et qui sont désormais largement utilisés en théorie quantique des champs .

Pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, il est impliqué dans le développement de la bombe atomique américaine. Après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, il enseigna à l'université Cornell puis au Caltech où il effectua des travaux fondamentaux notamment dans la théorie de la superfluidité et des quarks. Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger et lui sont colauréats du prix Nobel de physique de 1965 pour leurs travaux en électrodynamique quantique. Vers la fin de sa vie, son action au sein de la commission d'enquête sur l'accident de la navette spatiale Challenger l'a fait connaître du grand public américain.

Pédagogue remarquable, il est le rédacteur de nombreux ouvrages de vulgarisation reconnus. Parmi ces livres, les Feynman lectures on physics, un cours de physique de niveau universitaire qui, depuis sa parution, est devenu un classique pour tous les étudiants de premier cycle en physique et leurs professeurs. Il raconte aussi ses nombreuses aventures dans plusieurs ouvrages : Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! et What Do You Care What Other People Think? . Ce tome est lié au soutien moral que sa première épouse Arlene lui donnait, l'encourageant par ce biais dans sa poursuite intellectuelle en tant que libre-penseur.

Citations Richard Feynman

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„Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: In science, as well as in other fields of human endeavor, there are two kinds of geniuses: the “ordinary” and the “magicians.” An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what he has done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark. They seldom, if ever, have students because they cannot be emulated and it must be terribly frustrating for a brilliant young mind to cope with the mysterious ways in which the magician’s mind works. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber. Hans Bethe, whom Dyson considers to be his teacher, is an “ordinary genius”; so much so that one may gain the erroneous impression that he is not a genius at all. But it was Feynman, only slightly older than Dyson, who captured the young man's imagination. Mark Kac, in his introduction to Enigmas of Chance: An Autobiography (1985), p. xxv

„Feynman wasn't being immodest, he was quite right. The true secret to genius is in creativity, not in technical mechanics.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: Several conversations that Feynman and I had involved the remarkable abilities of other physicists. In one of these conversations, I remarked to Feynman that I was impressed by Stephen Hawking's ability to do path integration in his head. "Ahh, that's not so great", Feynman replied. "It's much more interesting to come up with the technique like I did, rather than to be able to do the mechanics in your head." Feynman wasn't being immodest, he was quite right. The true secret to genius is in creativity, not in technical mechanics. anecdote by Al Seckel: [http://www.fotuva.org/online/frameload.htm?/online/seckel.htm online]

„The fact that this danger did not lead to a catastrophe before is no guarantee that it will not the next time, unless it is completely understood. When playing Russian roulette the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: The acceptance and success of these flights is taken as evidence of safety. But erosion and blow-by are not what the design expected. They are warnings that something is wrong. The equipment is not operating as expected, and therefore there is a danger that it can operate with even wider deviations in this unexpected and not thoroughly understood way. The fact that this danger did not lead to a catastrophe before is no guarantee that it will not the next time, unless it is completely understood. When playing Russian roulette the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next. The origin and consequences of the erosion and blow-by were not understood. They did not occur equally on all flights and all joints; sometimes more, and sometimes less. Why not sometime, when whatever conditions determined it were right, still more leading to catastrophe? In spite of these variations from case to case, officials behaved as if they understood it, giving apparently logical arguments to each other often depending on the "success" of previous flights.

„They just went right on running rats in the same old way, and paid no attention to the great discoveries of Mr. Young, and his papers are not referred to, because he didn't discover anything about rats. In fact, he discovered all the things you have to do to discover something about rats. But not paying attention to experiments like that is a characteristic of cargo cult science.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: All experiments in psychology are not of this [cargo cult] type, however. For example there have been many experiments running rats through all kinds of mazes, and so on — with little clear result. But in 1937 a man named Young did a very interesting one. He had a long corridor with doors all along one side where the rats came in, and doors along the other side where the food was. He wanted to see if he could train rats to go to the third door down from wherever he started them off. No. The rats went immediately to the door where the food had been the time before.The question was, how did the rats know, because the corridor was so beautifully built and so uniform, that this was the same door as before? Obviously there was something about the door that was different from the other doors. So he painted the doors very carefully, arranging the textures on the faces of the doors exactly the same. Still the rats could tell. Then he thought maybe they were smelling the food, so he used chemicals to change the smell after each run. Still the rats could tell. Then he realized the rats might be able to tell by seeing the lights and the arrangement in the laboratory like any commonsense person. So he covered the corridor, and still the rats could tell.He finally found that they could tell by the way the floor sounded when they ran over it. And he could only fix that by putting his corridor in sand. So he covered one after another of all possible clues and finally was able to fool the rats so that they had to learn to go to the third door. If he relaxed any of his conditions, the rats could tell.Now, from a scientific standpoint, that is an A-number-one experiment. That is the experiment that makes rat-running experiments sensible, because it uncovers the clues that the rat is really using — not what you think it's using. And that is the experiment that tells exactly what conditions you have to use in order to be careful and control everything in an experiment with rat-running.I looked into the subsequent history of this research. The next experiment, and the one after that, never referred to Mr. Young. They never used any of his criteria of putting the corridor on sand, or of being very careful. They just went right on running rats in the same old way, and paid no attention to the great discoveries of Mr. Young, and his papers are not referred to, because he didn't discover anything about rats. In fact, he discovered all the things you have to do to discover something about rats. But not paying attention to experiments like that is a characteristic of cargo cult science. "[http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.htm Cargo Cult Science]", adapted from a 1974 Caltech commencement address; also published in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, p. 345

„Why should we care about Feynman? What was so special about him? Why did he become a public icon, standing with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking as the Holy Trinity of twentieth-century physics?“

— Richard Feynman
Context: Why should we care about Feynman? What was so special about him? Why did he become a public icon, standing with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking as the Holy Trinity of twentieth-century physics? The public has demonstrated remarkably good taste in choosing its icons. All three of them are genuinely great scientists, with flashes of true genius as well as solid accomplishments to their credit. But to become an icon, it is not enough to be a great scientist. There are many other scientists, not so great as Einstein but greater than Hawking and Feynman, who did not become icons.... Scientists who become icons must not only be geniuses but also performers, playing to the crowd and enjoying public acclaim. Einstein and Feynman both grumbled about the newspaper and radio reporters who invaded their privacy, but both gave the reporters what the public wanted, sharp and witty remarks that would make good headlines. Hawking in his unique way also enjoys the public adulation that his triumph over physical obstacles has earned for him. I will never forget the joyful morning in Tokyo when Hawking went on a tour of the streets in his wheelchair and the Japanese crowds streamed after him, stretching out their hands to touch his chair. Einstein, Hawking, and Feynman shared an ability to break through the barriers that separated them from ordinary people. The public responded to them because they were regular guys, jokers as well as geniuses. The third quality that is needed for a scientist to become a public icon is wisdom. Besides being a famous joker and a famous genius, Feynman was also a wise human being whose answers to serious questions made sense. To me and to hundreds of other students who came to him for advice, he spoke truth. Like Einstein and Hawking, he had come through times of great suffering, nursing Arline through her illness and watching her die, and emerged stronger. Behind his enormous zest and enjoyment of life was an awareness of tragedy, a knowledge that our time on earth is short and precarious. The public made him into an icon because he was not only a great scientist and a great clown but also a great human being and a guide in time of trouble. Other Feynman books have portrayed him as a scientific wizard and as a storyteller. This collection of letters shows us for the first time the son caring for his father and mother, the father caring for his wife and children, the teacher caring for his students, the writer replying to people throughout the world who wrote to him about their problems and received his full and undivided attention. Freeman Dyson, in [http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18350 "Wise Man"], The New York Review of Books (20 October 2005)

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„The old problems, such as the relation of science and religion, are still with us, and I believe present as difficult dilemmas as ever, but they are not often publicly discussed because of the limitations of specialization.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public. When we look at the past great debates on these subjects we feel jealous of those times, for we should have liked the excitement of such argument. The old problems, such as the relation of science and religion, are still with us, and I believe present as difficult dilemmas as ever, but they are not often publicly discussed because of the limitations of specialization. remarks (2 May 1956) at a [http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/49/2/Religion.htm Caltech YMCA lunch forum]

„I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It's difficult to describe because it's an emotion. It's analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the whole universe: there's a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run "behind the scenes" by the same organization, the same physical laws. It's an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It's a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion. It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe. Part 5: "The World of One Physicist", "But Is It Art?", p. 261

„While I am describing to you how Nature works, you won't understand why Nature works that way. But you see, nobody understands that.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: While I am describing to you how Nature works, you won't understand why Nature works that way. But you see, nobody understands that. p. 10

„How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time?“

— Richard Feynman
Context: Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit. These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all; one needs one's heart to follow an idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God — more, one who disbelieves in God? Is the modern church a place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of such doubts? So far, have we not drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? Is this not the central problem of our time? remarks (2 May 1956) at a [http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/49/2/Religion.htm Caltech YMCA lunch forum]

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„He was thinking and clowning simultaneously.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: A truer description would have said that Feynman was all genius and all buffoon. The deep thinking and the joyful clowning were not separate parts of a split personality. He did not do his thinking on Monday and his clowning on Tuesday. He was thinking and clowning simultaneously. Freeman Dyson, 1988 remark, as published in From Eros to Gaia (1992), p. 314

„I have a limited intelligence and I've used it in a particular direction.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: I've always been rather very one-sided about the science, and when I was younger, I concentrated almost all my effort on it. I didn't have time to learn, and I didn't have much patience for what's called the humanities; even though in the university there were humanities that you had to take, I tried my best to avoid somehow to learn anything and to work on it. It's only afterwards, when I've gotten older and more relaxed that I've spread out a little bit — I've learned to draw, and I read a little bit, but I'm really still a very one-sided person and don't know a great deal. I have a limited intelligence and I've used it in a particular direction. "[http://www.worldcat.org/wcpa/servlet/DCARead?standardNo=0738201081&standardNoType=1&excerpt=true The Pleasure of Finding Things Out]", p. 2-3, transcript of BBC TV Horizon interview (1981): [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEwUwWh5Xs4&t=2m53s video]

„It is not unscientific to make a guess, although many people who are not in science think it is.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: It is not unscientific to make a guess, although many people who are not in science think it is. Some years ago I had a conversation with a layman about flying saucers — because I am scientific I know all about flying saucers! I said “I don’t think there are flying saucers”. So my antagonist said, “Is it impossible that there are flying saucers? Can you prove that it’s impossible?” “No”, I said, “I can’t prove it’s impossible. It’s just very unlikely”. At that he said, “You are very unscientific. If you can’t prove it impossible then how can you say that it’s unlikely?” But that is the way that is scientific. It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible. To define what I mean, I might have said to him, "Listen, I mean that from my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence." It is just more likely. That is all. chapter 7, “Seeking New Laws,” p. 165-166: [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2NnquxdWFk&t=37m21s video]

„In science, as well as in other fields of human endeavor, there are two kinds of geniuses: the “ordinary” and the “magicians.” An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better.“

— Richard Feynman
Context: In science, as well as in other fields of human endeavor, there are two kinds of geniuses: the “ordinary” and the “magicians.” An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what he has done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark. They seldom, if ever, have students because they cannot be emulated and it must be terribly frustrating for a brilliant young mind to cope with the mysterious ways in which the magician’s mind works. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber. Hans Bethe, whom Dyson considers to be his teacher, is an “ordinary genius”; so much so that one may gain the erroneous impression that he is not a genius at all. But it was Feynman, only slightly older than Dyson, who captured the young man's imagination. Mark Kac, in his introduction to Enigmas of Chance: An Autobiography (1985), p. xxv

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