The Fantastic Mr Feynman

“You data types.”  That’s something I’ve actually heard several times.  It gets me thinking of this Feynman quote every time (see below).  

Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan are hero’s of mine because they weren’t just highly influential scientists but they had a poetic way of explaining things (for Sagan see The Pale Blue Dot which was part of a reading at my wedding).  Feynman was a real character (safe cracker one week, physicist the next) , a polymath and it’s well worth reading his life story if not his work.  In the quote below Feynman explains why knowledge/data can only ever be a good thing.  The more information you have, the more you appreciate what you are analysing.

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is, I can appreciate the beauty of a flower.

At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.” – Richard Feynman

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