Richard Feynman on Beauty
Richard Feynman conveys the wonder of science by describing the beautiful complexity of a flower:
I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and in many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.
– Richard Feynman, “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”
I was struck by Camus’ ability to discern hope where most others would see only despair. But as a teenager, and only more so in the decades since, I found that I couldn’t embrace Camus’ assertion that a deeper understanding of the universe would fail to make life more rich or worthwhile. Whereas Sisyphus was Camus’ hero, the greatest of scientists—Newton, Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Richard Feynman—became mine. And when I read Feynman’s description of a rose—in which he explained how he could experience the fragrance and beauty of the flower as fully as anyone, but how his knowledge of physics enriched the experience enormously because he could also take in the wonder and magnificence of the underlying molecular, atomic, and subatomic processes—I was hooked for good. I wanted what Feynman described: to assess life and to experience the universe on all possible levels, not just those that happened to be accessible to our frail human senses. The search for the deepest understanding of the cosmos became my lifeblood.
– Brian Greene, “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality”
by Reid Gower