Then after a while, I’d help set them up. Pretty soon, we’re setting them up in a more complicated way: two white tiles and a blue tile, two white tiles and a blue tile, and so on. When my mother saw that she said, “Leave the poor child alone. If he wants to put a blue tile, let him put a blue tile.”
But my father said, “No, I want to show him what patterns are like and how interesting they are. It’s a kind of elementary mathematics.” So he started very early to tell me about the world and how interesting it is.
We had the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home. When I was a small boy he used to sit me on his lap and read to me from the Britannica. We would be reading, say, about dinosaurs. It would be talking about the Tyrannosaurus rex, and it would say something like, “This dinosaur is twenty-five feet high and its head is six feet across.”
My father would stop reading and say, “Now, let’s see what that means. That would mean that if he stood in our front yard, he would be tall enough to put his head through our window there” (We were on the second floor) “But his head would be too wide to fit in the window.” Everything he read to me he would translate as best he could into some reality.
It was very exciting and very, very interesting to think there were animals of such magnitude - and that they all died out, and that nobody knew why. I wasn’t frightened that there would be one coming in my window as a consequence of this. But I learned from my father to translate: everything I read I try to figure out what it really means, what it’s really saying.
* * *
...I got a telephone call from a pretty famous lawyer... who was at the time on the State Board of Education. He asked me if I would serve on the State Curriculum Commission, which had to choose the new schoolbooks for the state of California ... I must have had, by this time, a guilty feeling about not cooperating with the government, because I agreed to get on this committee. ...
... something would look good at first and then turn out to be horrifying. For example there was a book that started out with four pictures: first there was a wind-up toy; then there was an automobile; then there was a boy riding on a bicycle; then there was something else. And underneath each picture it said: “What makes it go?”
I thought, “I know what it is: They’re going to talk about mechanics, how the springs work inside the toy; about chemistry, how the engine of the automobile works; and biology, about how the muscles work.”
It was the kind of think my father would have talked about: “What makes it go? Everything goes because the sun is shining.” And then we would have fun discussing it:
“No, the toy goes because the spring is would up,” I would say.
“How did the spring get wound up?” he would ask.
“I wound it up.”
“And how did you get moving?”
“And food grows only because the sun is shining. So it’s because the sun in shining that all these things are moving”. That would get the concept across that motion is simply the transformation of the sun’s power.
I turned the page. The answer was, for the wind-up toy, “Energy makes it go.” And for the boy on the bicycle, “Energy makes it go.” For everything , “Energy makes it go.”
Now that doesn’t mean anything. Suppose it’s “Wakalixes”. That’s the general principle: “Wakalixes makes it go.” There’s no knowledge coming in. The child doesn’t learn anything: it’s just a word!
Όπως θάλεγε και ο Feynman, “I believe that has some significance for our problem!”
Το πρώτο απόσπασμα είναι από το βιβλίο “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” το δεύτερο είναι από το “Surely You’re Joking Mr.Feynman”. Και τα δυο είναι συλλογές από αυτοβιογραφικές αφηγήσεις.
Σ’ένα άλλο βιβλίο περί ακαδημαϊκού ύφους (τίτλο δε θυμάμαι), ο συγγραφέας (όνομα δε θυμάμαι) ψέγει τον Feynman που δημοσίευσε αυτές τις αφηγήσεις. Δεν ταιριάζει, λέει, σε ένα μεγάλο φυσικό να εκφράζεται με ύφος τόσο κουβεντιαστό (casual νομίζω ότι ήταν η λέξη) σα να θέλει να παραστήσει τον κοινό άνθρωπο, γιατί ο κοινός άνθρωπος δεν περιμένει από έναν επιστήμονα αυτού του κύρους, να μιλά και να γράφει όπως ο ίδιος.
Απαντώ με τα λόγια του μεγάλου φυσικού: “pompous fools drive me up the wall!”