robertogreco + richardfeynman   37

0675 – being smart vs being kind - 1,000,000 words by @visakanv
"When I was a child, I was told that I was smart. I wasn’t great at socializing, but I was alright. I was the class clown, the smartass, so I did have some friends. But I never really developed the deep, lasting sort of friendships that some people have for life. Sometimes I felt like I was missing out, but most of the time – even now – I think of it as, ‘that’s just what life is like for misfits’. There’s good and bad, and that’s the ‘bad’. The price you pay.

It took me two decades to really begin to aspire to be kind.

What’s so good about being smart?

1. There is a certain intrinsic pleasure to knowing things. Richard Feynman describes this beautifully in “the pleasure of finding things out”. (He was also a very kind person, I believe.)

2. There’s a practical value to it. Smartness is generally correlated with making good decisions that lead to superior outcomes. (It’s necessary but insufficient – smartness is the sharpness of the knife. You still need to handle the knife well, and apply it to the right things. Lots of smart people obsessively sharpen their knives but don’t use it for anything useful or constructive.)

If you’re smart, in the conventional sense, you should recognize opportunities (in my view this requires sensitivity, in the ‘perceptive’ sense) and take advantage of them (in my view this requires strength, in the ‘executive’ sense). You should also spot potholes and avoid them. (Spotting the pothole is perception. Avoiding it is execution. Smartness is the gap between seeing and doing – smartness is orienting and deciding, maybe.)

3. There’s also a social aspect to smartness. I’m not saying that smartness guarantees social success (though I do believe that if you’re truly smart rather than superficially smart, you’ll figure out how to achieve your social desires and/or modulate them appropriately). What I mean is that there’s a sort of global subculture that venerates smartness. Think of all the tropes of trickster type characters, and how people love brilliant assholes like Tony Stark and Dr. House. If you’re smart, you can satisfy quite a lot of your social needs by scoring points with smartness geeks.

The smartness-as-spectator-sport trap

Here’s where it gets a little dicey – winning friends in most smartness tribes – their approval requires being right. It requires Winning. I’m talking about smartness as a contact sport for spectators. You get rewarded for the most brutal takedowns (“Liberal DESTROYED conservative with simple argument, leaves him SPEECHLESS!”)

When you start to get addicted to winning, you start to get attached. You start to avoid certain things – particularly areas that you’re not so sure about. You start picking your battles according to what’s winnable, rather than what’s most interesting or useful.

This is where we get to what separates the pros from the noobs. The smartest people embrace their ignorance. They are intimately familiar with the limitations of their models, and they are excited when they discover that they’re wrong about something. (I recall this book about physics – “Time, Space and Things” – where the author would spend paragraphs explaining the imperfections of all the models he was about to show us. It was lovely.)

Where does kindness enter the picture? Kindness nourishes (not coddles) fragile things and makes them strong

I find myself thinking about Pixar’s Braintrust. It’s a sort of council of storytellers who provide advice and counsel to whoever’s working on a story. They understand that ideas in their formative stages are precious, fragile things, like babies. You can’t shake them too hard at the start, or they’ll die. You need to nourish them and let them flourish first. You need to ask lots of exploratory questions with good-faith, rather than cross-examine them looking for flaws and mistakes. Once it’s found its legs, THEN you can start to challenge it, spar with it, and it’ll grow stronger as a result.

When I was younger, I truly believed that the best way to learn and grow and progress was to subject everything to relentless scrutiny. To debate, argue, attack from all sides. I still believe that that can be true in some cases, and that individuals who are deeply committed to learning and intellectual development can benefit tremendously from welcoming such behavior. Inviting criticisms and takedowns. Soliciting negative feedback.

BUT, I’ve also grown to learn that there’s this whole other side to the picture. What you see is NOT all there is. There’s a lot that you haven’t seen, that you can’t see – and if you saw it with an open mind, you’d almost definitely revise your model of reality.

In the past, I used to argue violently with everything and everyone. Not in a vicious way, just in a high-contact way. It was a sport, it was a way of life. With every fight, I was learning. (On retrospect, I was often just learning how to fight better, or to pick fights where I’d have a higher probability of winning, but that seemed like progress at the time.)

I lost some friends along the way, which I was sad about. But I usually found a way to live with it – mostly by convincing myself that they had in some way been too sensitive.

I had a Kurt Cobain quote in mind – “Better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not”. It seemed radically profound at the time, but on retrospect that’s entire oversimplistic thinking. We have more than two options. (Also, I’m now the same age Kurt Cobain was when he died, and next year I’ll be older than he’ll ever be. Just a thought.)

Here’s what you miss if you’re unkind or non-kind: people opening up to you in private.

A lot of the most interesting information in the world is locked up inside other people’s heads.

If you care about having an interesting life, you have to care about winning over other people – so that you can access that information. If you really want to be smart, you’re going to have to tap into people’s perspectives, insights, questions and so on. You can’t learn it all from books and essays – because there’s a lot of “living knowledge” that never makes it into those things.

People only started opening up to me in private in the last 3-5 years or so, and it’s completely changed my life. I mean, I did have conversations with a handful of close-ish friends a decade ago, but now I have people actively coming to me and telling me things that they wouldn’t dare say publicly. And that’s some very powerful, very interesting stuff. It’s great at many levels. And it’s a very beautiful feeling to be that person that earns other people’s trust.

Just to wrap up – it’s possible to be both smart and kind, obviously. That’s the end goal. Being smart doesn’t mean you’re going to be kind, not-kind or unkind. Being kind doesn’t mean you’re going to be smart, not-smart or stupid.

What I’m saying is – there’s definitely a subset of smart people (and people who aspire to smartness) who think that being kind is unnecessary, or tedious, or for pussies, and so on. And I think that’s extremely unfortunate. Your intelligence gets enriched by kindness. That’s the case I’m making here."
visakanveerasamy  smartness  kindness  directives  intelligence  interestedness  listening  kurtcobain  learning  howwelearn  canon  winning  competition  spectators  action  activism  theory  richardfeynman  knowitalls  social  relationships  grace  reality  argument  2017 
june 2019 by robertogreco
A neuroscientist explains a concept at five different levels
"Wired recently challenged neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri to explain what a connectome is to people with five different levels of potential understanding: a 5-year-old, a 13-year-old, a college student, a neuroscience grad student, and an expert neuroscientist. His goal: “every person here can leave with understanding it at some level”.

Watching this, I kept thinking of Richard Feynman, who was particularly adept at describing concepts to non-experts without sacrificing truth or even nuance. See him explain fire, rubber bands, how trains go around curves, and magnets."

"The Connectome is a comprehensive diagram of all the neural connections existing in the brain. WIRED has challenged neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri to explain this scientific concept to 5 different people; a 5 year-old, a 13 year-old, a college student, a neuroscience grad student and a connectome entrepreneur."

[See also: "A biologist explains CRISPR to people at five different levels of knowledge" ]
bobbykasthuri  neuroscience  richardfeynman  science  video  explanation  communication  clarity  complexity  teaching  howweteach  classideas 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Want to Create Things That Matter? Be Lazy. - 99U
"The late Nobel-prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, was one the most brilliant minds of twentieth century science. To his colleagues at Cornell, however, he seemed lazy. As Feynman admitted in a 1981 interview: “I’m actively irresponsible; I tell everybody I don’t do anything; if anyone asks me to be on a committee…’no’ I tell them.”

The acclaimed post-modern science fiction author Neal Stephenson also comes across as lazy. In an essay titled “Why I am a Bad Correspondent,” Stephenson explains that he’s not that interested in spending time interacting with readers. Stephenson has no public e-mail address and asks that you don’t invite him to attend conferences or attempt to engage him in social media conversation. If you insist on trying to book him for an appearance, he warns “I almost never accept these and when I do, I charge a lot of money, I demand expensive travel arrangements, and I perform no prep work—I just show up and wing it.”

I’ve spent the past decade researching and writing about elite performers in creative fields. In this time, I’ve noticed that examples like Feynman and Stephenson are common. That is, many people who excel in producing things that matter have work habits that seem downright lazy by the standards in their field.

At first, this may just seem to be just another quirk of the high-performing set, but I argue that it’s worth diving deeper into this paradox as the underlying explanation provides useful insight for anyone looking to spend less time spinning their wheels and more time producing results the world cares about.


The key to explaining this lazy producer paradox is to introduce a more refined understanding of “work.” For many ambitious people, work is defined to be any activity that can potentially benefit you professionally. For most fields, of course, there are an endless number of things that satisfy this definition—from professors joining endless committees to writers maintaining exhausting social media presences. It’s due in large part to this generic notion of work that we spawned the culture of busyness that afflicts us today, where the measure of your success becomes synonymous with the measure of your exhaustion. This understanding of “work,” however, is flawed. It’s more useful to divide this activity into two distinct types of effort, deep and shallow:

1. Deep Work: Cognitively demanding tasks that require you to focus without distraction and apply hard to replicate skills.

2. Shallow Work: Logistical style tasks that do not require intense focus or the application of hard to replicate skills.

For example: solving a hard theorem is deep work, while chiming in on the latest departmental e-mail chain is shallow; writing a chapter of your novel is deep work, while tweeting about a novel you like is shallow. The shallow activities are not intrinsically bad, but they’re not skilled labor, and therefore offer (at best) a small positive contribution to your efforts to produce value.

If we rethink the laziness shown in our above examples through this lens, we realize what Feynman and Stephenson are really doing is eliminating large amounts of shallow work from their schedule to maintain a priority on deep work. By doing so, they’re taking advantage of the following crucial but overlooked reality: deep work is what produces things that matter in the world.

Richard Feynman, for example, could be lazy about many of the standard obligations of academics because he used that time to instead focus deeply on the ground-breaking ideas that made him famous. As he clarified in the interview mentioned above, “to do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time…it needs lots of concentration.”

Neal Stephenson justifies his snubbing of his readers for similar reasons. As he explained in his Bad Correspondent essay:

“If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.”

Both Feynman and Stephenson are making a case for prioritizing depth over shallowness. They recognize that deep work is what produces things that “will be around for a long time.” Whereas shallow work is an activity that can impede more important deep efforts and therefore cause more net harm than good. It might slightly help your writing career in the moment to be retweeted, but the long term impact of a distracting Twitter habit could be the difference between a struggling novelist and an award-winning star like Stephenson.


What’s the lesson to take away here? If you’re driven to produce things that matter, then you need to put deep work at the center of your professional life. To do so will probably require that you become lazier in the Feynman and Stephenson sense of the term: that is, you must treat with sluggish wariness efforts that keep you away from depth, regardless of how many small benefits they promise. Few people, of course, can completely eliminate shallow work from their professional lives, nor would they want to if they could. But shifting your general mindset toward one that embraces depth and shuns shallowness can make a big difference in the amount of value you produce.

To put it another way: become hard to reach, avoid new tech tools, be slow to answer e-mails, become blissfully ignorant of memes, turn down coffee requests, refuse to “hop on” calls, and spend whole days outside working in a single idea—these are exactly the type of lazy behaviors that can change the world."
creativity  productivity  focus  depth  2016  calnewport  via:austinkleon  richardfeynman  nealstephenson  howwework  work 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Teaching is Compression
"Teaching itself comes in at least two forms. It's not just about broadcasting knowledge. No matter how many students you have, if that's all you're doing you aren't making as much progress as you could. The internet is a powerful tool for Type I teaching, but it can't help much with Type II. That is why it is not a satisfactory replacement.

The second type of teaching is a form of compression, making things easier to understand. I don't mean simply eliding details, or making your proofs more terse. I mean compression in the time it takes to explain an idea and its implications.

Computer science is hard. Logic is hard. And that's fine. But if we leave this world as complicated as we found it then we've failed to do our jobs. Think about it this way: if the next generation learns at the same speed as yours, they won't have time to move beyond you. Type II teaching is what enables Type I progress.

Physics went through a period of compression in the middle of the last century. Richard Feynman's reputation wasn't built on discovering new particles or laws of nature, but for discovering better ways to reason about what we already knew. [1] Mathematics has gone though several rebuilding periods. That's why you can pick up a child's math book today and find negative numbers, the square root of two, and many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse. Every one of those mundane ideas was once the hardest problem in the world. My word, people died in arguments over the Pythagorean Theorem. Now we teach it to kids in a half hour. If that's not progress I don't know what is.

So how do we get there in computer science? How can we simplify what we already know so the next crop learns what they need to put our best efforts to shame?

The second form of progress is closely related to the second form of teaching. To my mind, understanding and explaining are just opposite ends of the same process. The only way to prove that you understand something is to explain it to somebody else. Not even using the knowledge is an airtight proof. That's why teachers are always telling you to show your work, to explain step-by-step how you got to the answer.

The most powerful way I know of to understand and explain is through story. Rendering a complex idea into a simple example, analogy, metaphor or allegory simultaneously achieves compression and a way to spread that idea far and wide. Making a good story also forces you to think hard about ways to drive home both the idea and its implications."
teaching  compression  howweteach  explanation  analogy  2012  carlosbueno  richardfeynman  math  mathematics 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Into the Beast – Versions
"“I couldn’t care less about empathy,” said Natalie Jeremijenko. “I don’t see VR as a prosthetic for empathy. I refuse that. I think it’s bullshit.”

Few people have been working at the intersections between art, technology, and animals for as long as Jeremijenko, whose eccentric, restlessly interdisciplinary energy has produced an impressive array of bizarre projects. In 2009, she set up an installation along the East River in which participants could send a text message to a fish and receive a response recording its overall health and wellbeing; at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, a place where many of her ideas have been realized, she built a “Salamander Superhighway” across the road that would tweet whenever salamanders migrated through it, since salamanders, in her view, represent a better potential source of ethical meat than Google’s artificial burger; more recently, she enlisted kids from New York’s PS 153 to use “Feral Robot Dogs”—some of them disturbingly repurposed AIBOs—to sniff out soil contaminants in their local community.

In 2004, Jeremijenko was already thinking about what VR could do to connect humans and animals. But she wasn’t thinking about empathy, which she views as an “atomizing, individuating phenomenon” that should never be instrumentalized. Instead, she asked a counterintuitive question: what might VR be able to do to improve the material lives of animals themselves?

Inspired by the canard digérateur—or “digesting duck”—invented by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739, Jeremijenko created a fleet of duck and geese robots that could be operated by people wearing VR goggles (with beaks attached). After enlisting local kids from an LA public school, she encouraged them to drive their ersatz waterfowls directly into contact with real-life counterparts. The real ducks and geese never mistook the robots for other real ducks and geese. But the drivers could engage in rudimentary communication with them, learning quickly that a straight neck would be interpreted as aggressive behavior, a craned neck “would allow for a closer approach.” And they would see their interactions firsthand.

“I didn’t build a 3D environment, because we were in one,” she said. “I was actually using a physical avatar in physical space. But it constituted a critique of what it is we do with VR: whether it should be this closed world, fantastical, or whether it should allow us to understand the actual world.”

In one case, the project actually led to environmental change—or at least potential environmental change. After one mecha-goose found a nest full of smashed eggs, she and her team investigated and discovered the root cause: the park authorities had been using petrochemical fertilizers that had compromised the eggs’ structural integrity. They weren’t able to fix the situation, but they did discover a situation that might not have been discovered, precisely because they had been seeing things from a more gooselike POV. The project demonstrated one of Jeremijenko’s central theses in utter clarity: if and when VR and animals come together, the only worthwhile byproduct ought to be actual, material change. Anything else is mere escapism.

For the team behind In the Eyes of the Animal, escapism is the entire point. The project is premised on the idea that a blissful, peacefully psychedelic sensory experience can expand our vision—our moral vision—beyond the scope of the human. “Somehow it creates a cocoon,” Steel said. “It gives you this kind of isolation, in a similar kind of way that you get when you’re walking through the woods and you’ve got no mobile signal. It gives you space to think. It taps into the tranquil state of mind that you can get floating on the surface of water, or sitting on a mountain and looking at the view. That sense of presence.”

Jeremijenko would call bullshit. And in a lot of ways, she has a point, even though In the Eyes of the Animal has the advantage of being much more aesthetically and emotionally arresting than a VR-controlled duck sim in which you look for signs of petrochemical toxicity. Jeremijenko maintains that nothing good will happen from the perspective of environmental health if we let VR transport us to “nature” in the traditional sense: a space pristine, unpolluted, unaffected by our presence. VR could be an agent of real change in what she calls the “environmental commons”—a way of seeing how our animal neighbors actually live, not necessarily through their eyes but at the level of habitat. It could also be a dangerously effective way to ignore that commons: a way to strap on the headset and return to Xanadu while the world silently turns to waste."

"Major new technologies of representation have a tendency to advertise themselves as ways of bringing us into closer contact with “nature”. They also have a tendency to do precisely the opposite. When the aquarium took Britain by storm in the 1850s, it was promoted as a glass box that could bring people into a completely new relationship with the inaccessible ocean depths; it also became a way of framing those depths, making them artificial, subjecting them to editorial control. One of the very first motion pictures was Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion, which revealed new truths about animal movement; another was Edison’s electrocuted elephant, which proved in the most darkly literal way that technology could destroy animals by making them into spectacles. Nature TV from the David Attenborough 1980s to now has been defined by its gradual, insistent movement toward intimacy: where we once observed them from a reserved distance, we now find ourselves among them, in their lives, in the fray. It has also been adept at hiding its own mediation, at pretending to be a form of closeness when it is really anything but.

We already know what some animal-centric VR experiences are going to look like, and others are pretty easy to imagine. Sir Attenborough himself has already collaborated on VR nature films, insisting that “you actually really are there—inside a rainforest, diving in the ocean or exploring a pyramid, wherever you want to go.” Apps like Ocean Rift unironically use the word “safari” to encapsulate the experience of coming that much closer to exotic creatures. These experiences still place us outside the animal, albeit an inch away. More will come, though, that attempt to place us “inside,” leveraging the power of empathy that seems to be the medium’s unique ethical promise. Much more than Jeremijenko, I’m inclined to think that a piece of software that takes a stab at interspecies empathy could form the basis for material change. I can imagine seeing from the eyes of an orca at SeaWorld. I can imagine feeling a rage that lingers.

At the same time, In the Eyes of the Animal, Jeremijenko’s VR waterfowl, and Theriomorphous Cyborg share one thing in common that should serve as a warning to the creators and consumers of empathy apps in general: all three envision “VR” as a means to “AR,” the self-enclosed app as a means to a more layered, more nuanced understanding of the world—or worlds—in which we live. Perhaps this ought to be the ethical litmus test for empathy apps: what they ask us to do with the experience we’ve had as soon as we take off the headset and return to the world. What they ask us to remember. What they ask us not to forget."
vr  virtualreality  empathy  nataliejeremijenko  via:anne  multispecies  ethics  mattmargini  escapism  pov  jakobvonuexküll  simoneferracina  philipkdick  rickdeckard  nonnydelapeña  border  borders  us  mexico  wilburmercer  richardfeynman  barneysteel 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Mark Eichenlaub's answer to Learning: Do grad school students remember everything they were taught in college all the time? - Quora
""you've got to forget the memorizing of formulas, and to try to learn to understand the interrelationships of nature. That's very much more difficult at the beginning, but it's the only successful way."

Feynman's advice is a common theme in learning. Beginners want to memorize the details, while experts want to communicate a gestalt.

Foreign language students talk about how many words they've memorized, but teachers see this as the most trivial component of fluency. Novice musicians try to get the notes and rhythms right, while experts want to find their own interpretation of the piece's aesthetic. Math students want to memorize theorems while mathematicians seek a way of thinking instead. History students see lists of dates and facts while professors see personality, context, and narrative. In each case, the beginner is too overwhelmed by details to see the whole. They look at a cathedral and see a pile of 100,000 stones."
richardfeynman  learning  understanding  via:tealtan  memorization  context  narrative  fluency  interconnectedness  nature  intelligence  details  interconnected  interconnectivity 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Edward Tufte Wants You to See Better : NPR
"Data scientist Edward Tufte (dubbed the "Galileo of graphics" by BusinessWeek) pioneered the field of data visualization. Tufte discusses what he calls "forever knowledge," and his latest projects: sculpting Richard Feynman's diagrams, and helping people "see without words.""
books  knowledge  knowing  2013  curiosity  seeing  art  data  interviews  learning  science  datavisualization  richardfeynman  edwardtufte  diagrams  foreverknowledge  from delicious
january 2013 by robertogreco
Politicizing Sandy · on Env
"Everything will change. The climate, our response, and my response to our response will be different in twenty years. It will never be solved. People will still die of one thing or another. There will be politics, valid and not, and wildfires, preventable and not. We have no cause to imagine that there’s an easy way to keep billions of humans healthy on a healthy planet. But we can free their hands. We can be, in Salk’s phrase, good ancestors.

There are many scenarios. The one I like best is where large groups of well-informed people, openly and as consensually as possible, accepting differences of motivation and style, build climate stewardship into the economic systems of our species.

I won’t leave you with an act now! message. I would rather you didn’t think of this as an external goal, but as something you bring everywhere – to work, in public – the way you might carry any other serious ethical commitment. The right time to start politicizing the climate is whenever you do it."
jonassalk  ethics  economics  complexity  systems  algore  climate  kolkata  nyc  bangladesh  williammorris  richardfeynman  politics  climatechange  2012  hurricanesandy  charlieloyd  stewardship  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
The Syllabi: Researching Synesthesia
"The cause of synesthesia is still subject to research, but it’s generally believed to be the result of a genetic mutation on the X chromosome, explaining its dominance in woman and high heritability. Some researchers think its heritability could suggest an evolutionary benefit. Sickle cell anemia, for example, can be deadly, but also provides malaria immunity. Does synesthesia provide a similar benefit?

It might if you’re a mathmetician or an artist. One of the peculiarities of some forms of synesthesia is that equations are visualised in 3D space, which might help someone like physicist Richard Feynmann, another famous synesthete, with his work. David Hockney, also a synesthete, once told Robert Burton that when he was designing a piece of art intended to accompany a production of a Maurice Ravel piece, he listened to the relevant section of the score and “the tree painted itself.” It’s also been suggested that savants like Daniel Tammett get their incredible skills from…"
vladimirnabokov  danieltammett  davidhockney  vsramachandran  davideagleman  neuroscience  synesthesia  2012  richardfeynman  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
The ‘Dramatic Picture’ of Richard Feynman by Freeman Dyson | The New York Review of Books
"a scientist who was unusually unselfish…hated all hierarchies…wanted no badge of superior academic status to come btwn him & his younger friends…considered science to be a collective enterprise in which educating the young was as important as making personal discoveries…put as much effort into teaching as…thinking.

…never showed the slightest resentment when I published some of his ideas before he did…told me he avoided disputes about priority in science by following a simple rule: “Always give the bastards more credit than they deserve.” I have followed this rule myself. I find it remarkably effective for avoiding quarrels & making friends. A generous sharing of credit is the quickest way to build a healthy scientific community. In the end, Feynman’s greatest contribution to science was not any particular discovery. His contribution was the creation of a new way of thinking that enabled a great multitude of students & colleagues, including me, to make their own discoveries."
richardfeynman  freemandyson  books  humanity  humanism  unselfishness  hierarchy  leadership  teaching  learning  science  philosophy  physics  collectivism  discovery  collaboration  2011  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
YouTube - Symphony of Science - The Poetry of Reality (An Anthem for Science)
"The Poetry of Reality is the fifth installment in the Symphony of Science music video series. It features 12 scientists and science enthusiasts, including Michael Shermer, Jacob Bronowski, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Jill Tarter, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Feynman, Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, Carolyn Porco, and PZ Myers, promoting science through words of wisdom."
carlsagan  jilltarter  richarddawkins  jacobbronowski  stephenhawking  carolynporco  pzmyers  briangreene  lawrencekrauss  richardfeynman  neildegrassetyson  michaelshermer  wisdom  science  music  skepticism  knowledge  criticalthinking  collaboration  human  evidence  insight  discovery  unknown  from delicious
december 2010 by robertogreco
Institute for Advanced Study - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Richard Feynman on the place: "When I was at Princeton in the 1940s I could see what happened to those great minds at the Institute for Advanced Study, who had been specially selected for their tremendous brains and were now given this opportunity to sit in this lovely house by the woods there, with no classes to teach, with no obligations whatsoever. These poor bastards could now sit and think clearly all by themselves, OK? So they don't get any ideas for a while: They have every opportunity to do something, and they're not getting any ideas. I believe that in a situation like this a kind of guilt or depression worms inside of you, and you begin to worry about not getting any ideas. And nothing happens. Still no ideas come.

Nothing happens because there's not enough real activity and challenge: You're not in contact with the experimental guys. You don't have to think how to answer questions from the students. Nothing!"
education  princeton  science  thinking  ideas  richardfeynman  teaching  explaining  constraints  freedom  challenge  motivation  instituteforadvancedstudy  freemandyson  alberteinstein  paulerdos  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
Feynman the Teacher « Pedagogue Padawan
[via: ]

"I think, however, that there isn't any solution to this problem of education other than to realize that the best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher -- a situation in which the student discusses the ideas, thinks about the things, and talks about the things. It's impossible to learn very much by simply sitting in a lecture, or even by simply doing problems that are assigned."
education  relationships  learning  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  lcproject  richardfeynman  conversation  lectures  teaching  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
Some Thoughts of a Scientist on Inquiry, by Bruce Alberts [.pdf]
"certainly easy to recognize another, much more familiar type of science teaching, in which teacher provides student with large set of science facts along with many special science words that are needed to describe them. In worst case, teacher of this type of science is assuming that education consists of filling a student’s head w/ huge set of word associations...This would seem to make preparation for life nearly indistin-"

[via: ]
teaching  science  inquiry  inquiry-basedlearning  learning  education  schools  brucealberts  richardfeynman  understanding  projectbasedlearning  memorization  rote  tcsnmy  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  experience  filetype:pdf  media:document  pbl  rotelearning 
july 2010 by robertogreco
when richard feynman (3 January 2010, Interconnected)
"When Richard Feynman refuses to explain how magnets work he fidgets and bounces and puffs in a way I recognise from a friend with long-term mental illness, who does this when he gets excited and gets really into explaining a topic. ... The repulsion of magnets is the same as the repulsion you get when you push your hand against the sofa and it pushes back.
richardfeynman  physics  magnets  definitions  explaining  magneticforce  brain  excitement  mattwebb  mentalillness  2010  mentalhealth 
january 2010 by robertogreco
LRB · Steven Shapin · The Darwin Show
"Darwin insisted on his intellectual ordinariness. He wanted it publicly understood that his native endowments were no more than average, that he had to overcome a youthful tendency to sloth and self-indulgence, that he had wasted his time at university, that becoming a serious naturalist owed much to good luck, that he had achieved what he had mainly through close observation, discipline, hard work and a genuine passion for science. ... Newton is ascetically ‘wholly other’, bent on destroying intellectual competitors; Galileo is a manipulator of patronage...Einstein is a man who loved humanity in general but treated his wives and his daughter as disposable appendages; Pasteur is a Machiavellian politician of science...Feynman is a philistine, a sexual predator, an over-aged adolescent show-off. This is what has now become of towering genius, of those who discover nature’s secrets. First we make them into icons and then we see how iconoclastic we can be. Darwin alone escapes whipping."
darwin  evolution  science  history  biology  discipline  observation  work  workethic  cv  sloth  laziness  intellect  serendipity  luck  chance  life  biography  galileo  richardfeynman  newton  genius  louispasteur  alberteinstein  philosophy  culture  slavery  amateur  amateurism  money  influene  compromise  personality  charlesdarwin 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Feynman at his best | MetaFilter
""Fun To Imagine"is a BBC series from 1983 featuring theoretical physicist Richard Feynman thinking aloud. What is fire? How do rubber bands work? Why do mirrors flip left-right but not up-down? All is explained in his lovely meanderingly lucid manner.
richardfeynman  physics  metafilter  bbc  lectures  science 
december 2009 by robertogreco
The Civil Heretic - Freeman Dyson - Profile -
"All 6 Dysons describe eventful child­hoods w/ people like Feynman coming by...father...always preaching virtues of boredom: “Being bored is the only time you are creative”...Around the Institute for Advanced Study, that intellectual Arcadia where the blackboards have signs on them that say Do Not Erase, Dyson is quietly admired for candidly expressing his doubts about string theory’s aspiration to represent all forces and matter in one coherent system. “I think Freeman wishes the string theorists well,” Avishai Margalit, the philosopher, says. “I don’t think he wishes them luck. He’s interested in diversity, and that’s his worldview. To me he is a towering figure although he is tiny — almost a saintly model of how to get old. The main thing he retains is playfulness. Einstein had it. Playfulness & curiosity. He also stands for this unique trait, which is wisdom. Brightness here is common. He is wise. He integrated, not in a theory, but in his life, all his dreams of things.”"
freemandyson  skepticism  science  play  curiosity  diversity  tcsnmy  physics  futurism  future  climate  globalwarming  time  weather  boredom  creativity  sandiego  geneticengineering  tinkering  learning  habitsofmind  howwework  richardfeynman  generalists  attention  nuclearweapons  algore  optimism  intellect  genius  interdisciplinary  problemsolving  ingenuity  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  orthodoxy  heretics  belief  debate 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Cargo cult - Wikipedia
"A cargo cult may appear in tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced, non-native cultures. The cult is focused on obtaining the material wealth of the advanced culture through magical thinking, religious rituals and practices, believing that the wealth was intended for them by their deities and ancestors."

[via: ]
cargocult  society  culture  religion  science  anthropology  psychology  politics  technology  richardfeynman  cult 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Corruption in textbook-adoption proceedings: 'Judging Books by Their Covers' [via:]
"In 1964 the eminent physicist Richard Feynman served on the State of California's Curriculum Commission and saw how the Commission chose math textbooks for use in California's public schools. In his acerbic memoir of that experience, titled "Judging Books by Their Covers," Feynman analyzed the Commission's idiotic method of evaluating books, and he described some of the tactics employed by schoolbook salesmen who wanted the Commission to adopt their shoddy products."
textbooks  richardfeynman  pedagogy  schools  corruption  education  learning  language  humor  mathematics  physics  science  politics  teaching  absurdity  perpetualabsurdity 
october 2008 by robertogreco
The Feynman-Tufte Principle: A visual display of data should be simple enough to fit on the side of a van - Scientific American
"Feynman diagrams are the embodiment of what Tufte teaches about analytical design: "Good displays of data help to reveal knowledge relevant to understanding mechanism, process and dynamics, cause and effect." We see the unthinkable and think the unseeabl
richardfeynman  edwardtufte  infographics  symbols  design  communication  display  physics  data  information  michaelshermer 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Feynman Online
"This web site is dedicated to Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988), scientist, teacher, raconteur, and musician. He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb, expanded the understanding of quantum electrodynamics, translated Mayan hieroglyphics, and cut t
richardfeynman  science  physics 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Theory: Feynman Diagrams (SLAC VVC)
"The diagrams he introduced provide a convenient shorthand for the calculations. They are a code physicists use to talk to one another about their calculations."
diagrams  physics  richardfeynman  science 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Breaking spaghetti [as once briefly investigated by Richard Feynman and Danny Hillis]
"Bent dry spaghetti do not break in half but instead in three or more pieces. With the aim to explain this surprising phenomenon, we studied a related problem, namely the dynamics of an elastic rod that is bent quasi-statically and then suddenly set free.
richardfeynman  science  physics  spaghetti  math  dannyhillis 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Playful Thoughts: A Problems from Richard Feynman
"There are many interesting brain teasers associated with the great physicist Richard Feynman. I like them because they are easy to state and understand, but they can be hard to solve. Here are four of them. The first one is easy, the second one is a litt
richardfeynman  games  puzzles  logic  physics  brainteasers  science 
may 2008 by robertogreco
The Feynman Lectures on Physics Website
"to share information about The Feynman Lectures on Physics: *stories of how The Feynman Lectures on Physics influenced your life (or others') *physics/math problems and their solutions *URL's (links) relevant to The Feynman Lectures on Physics "
richardfeynman  physics  science  math  teaching  learning  textbooks  lectures  education 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Museum Syndicate: Works of Art By Artist Richard Feynman
"well known for his interesting & amusing lectures. However, not many know that he was also an artist, working under the pseudonym Ofey. Most of his work bears the Ofey signature and his primary area was drawing. He was also an avid bongo player."
richardfeynman  drawings  art  physics 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Photo Essay: Unlikely Places Where 'Wired' Pioneers Had Their Eureka! Moments
"irony is almost always have pen & paper; I write all time...on this occasion when I had idea of my life, I didn't have pen. For 4 hours my head was buzzing...probably the best thing, because I ended up working whole thing out before I got off train."
writing  inspiration  invention  creativity  place  thinking  ideas  circumstance  postits  napster  richardfeynman  music  harrypotter  jkrowling  post-its 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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