Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Miss Feynman's Wit

I was reminded yesterday of one of my favorite quotes from Richard P. Feynman, the late Nobel prize winning physicist,bongo drum player, artist, and personal idol. It exposes the deep inner feeling of most physicists in a way that anyone can understand. Without further ado:

Physics is to mathematics what sex is to masturbation.
-- Richard P. Feynman

Any dyed in the wool physicist will not only agree but cheer wildly for the aptness of the quote.

I was reminded of the quote because of an afterward on an Abstruse Goose cartoon that presented the quote and then supplied the rather tongue in cheek mathematicians answer - "And your point is ..?" Now anyone who has spent much time with me knows that two phrases that I use often are "Are you done blithering yet?" and "And your point is?" The cartoon struck me as great because it used a favorite quote from one of my heroes and poked at my own foibles. What more could one ask for from an afterward to a good cartoon?

I will leave you with a few other Feynman quotes that only get better with time:

  • Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it.
  • I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.
  • There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.
  • If you thought that science was certain - well, that is just an error on your part.
  • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard P. Feynman


  1. Those are great quotes. I love the one about economical numbers!

  2. these are some interesting quotes. my husband seems to share your sense of humor

  3. I agree that I am the easiest one to fool. Very interesting post Dan.

    By the way, I enjoyed your Microfiction contribution on my blog the other day. Very creative! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Excellent quotes -- I especially like the one about astronomical numbers :)

  5. Excellent quotes. I'm going to have to look up your Dr. Feynman. Sounds like a very interesting person.

  6. Feynman was a true science lover......


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