Richard Feynman

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pages: 795 words: 215,529

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick

Albert Einstein, American ideology, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Ernest Rutherford, gravity well, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sand Hill Road, Schrödinger's Cat, sexual politics, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, uranium enrichment

Each year when the Nobel prize talking comes around, of course you half think, maybe it’s possible.” F-W, 800–801. 378 THE WESTERN UNION “TELEFAX": Erik Rundberg to Feynman, 21 October 1965, PERS. 378 THE FIRST CALL HAD COME: F-W, 801; “Dr. Richard Feynman Nobel Laureate!” California Tech, 22 October 1965, 1. 378 WILL YOU PLEASE TELL US: F-W, 804. 378 WHAT APPLICATIONS DOES THIS PAPER: “Dr. Richard Feynman Nobel Laureate!” 378 LISTEN, BUDDY, IF I COULD TELL YOU: F-W, 804. 378 JULIAN SCHWINGER CALLED: Schwinger, interview. 378 I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE HAPPY: Feynman to Lucille Feynman, n.d., PERS. 379 [FEYNMAN:] CONGRATULATIONS: “Dr. Richard Feynman Nobel Laureate!” 379 THERE WERE CABLES FROM SHIPBOARD: F-W, 806. 379 HE PRACTICED JUMPING BACKWARD: Ibid., 808–9. 380 FEYNMAN REALIZED THAT HE HAD NEVER READ: Ibid., 812. 380 HE BELIEVED THAT HISTORIANS: Feynman 1965a. 380 WE HAVE A HABIT IN WRITING: Ibid. 380 AS I WAS STUPID: Ibid. 381 THE CHANCE IS HIGH: Feynman 1965c. 381 I DISCOVERED A GREAT DIFFICULTY: Ibid. 382 THE ODDS THAT YOUR THEORY: Feynman 1965a. 382 DR.

Genius The Life and Science of Richard Feynman James Gleick For my mother and father, Beth and Donen I was born not knowing and have only had a little time to change that here and there. —Richard Feynman CONTENTS PROLOGUE FAR ROCKAWAY •Neither Country nor City •A Birth and a Death •It’s Worth It •At School •All Things Are Made of Atoms •A Century of Progress •Richard and Julian MIT • The Best Path • Socializing the Engineer • The Newest Physics • Shop Men • Feynman of Course Is Jewish • Forces in Molecules • Is He Good Enough? PRINCETON • A Quaint Ceremonious Village • Folds and Rhythms • Forward or Backward? • The Reasonable Man • Mr. X and the Nature of Time • Least Action in Quantum Mechanics • The Aura • The White Plague • Preparing for War • The Manhattan Project • Finishing Up LOS ALAMOS • The Man Comes In with His Briefcase • Chain Reactions • The Battleship and the Mosquito Boat • Diffusion • Computing by Brain • Computing by Machine • Fenced In • The Last Springtime • False Hopes • Nuclear Fear • I Will Bide My Time • We Scientists Are Clever CORNELL • The University at Peace • Phenomena Complex—Laws Simple • They All Seem Ashes • Around a Mental Block • Shrinking the Infinities • Dyson • A Half-Assedly Thought-Out Pictorial Semi-Vision Thing • Schwinger’s Glory • My Machines Came from Too Far Away • There Was Also Presented (by Feynman) … • Cross-Country with Freeman Dyson • Oppenheimer’s Surrender • Dyson Graphs, Feynman Diagrams • Away to a Fabulous Land CALTECH • Faker from Copacabana • Alas, the Love of Women!

New York: Simon and Schuster. Leighton, Ralph. 1991. Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman’s Last Journey. New York: Norton. Lentricchia, Frank. 1980. After the New Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago. Leplin, J., ed. 1984. Scientific Realism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lewis, Gilbert N. 1930. “The Symmetry of Time in Physics.” In Landsberg 1982, 37. Lifshitz, Eugene M. 1958. “Superfluidity.” Scientific American, June, 30. Lindsay, Robert Bruce. 1940. General Physics for Students of Science. New York: Wiley and Sons. Lipset, Seymour Martin, and Ladd, Jr., Everett Carll. 1971. “Jewish Academics in the United States.” American Jewish Yearbook, 89. Lombroso, Cesare. 1891. The Man of Genius. London: Walter Scott. Lopes, J. Leite. 1988. “Richard Feynman in Brazil: Recollections.” Manuscript. Lopes, J.


pages: 182 words: 51,816

Six Not-So-Easy Pieces: Einstein’s Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, Matthew Sands

Albert Einstein, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring

At conveying this understanding, Richard Feynman was supreme. ROGER PENROSE December 1996 SPECIAL PREFACE (from The Feynman Lectures on Physics) Toward the end of his life, Richard Feynman’s fame had transcended the confines of the scientific community. His exploits as a member of the commission investigating the space shuttle Challenger disaster gave him widespread exposure; similarly, a best-selling book about his picaresque adventures made him a folk hero almost of the proportions of Albert Einstein. But back in 1961, even before his Nobel Prize increased his visibility to the general public, Feynman was more than merely famous among members of the scientific community—he was legendary. Undoubtedly, the extraordinary power of his teaching helped spread and enrich the legend of Richard Feynman. He was a truly great teacher, perhaps the greatest of his era and ours.

Feynman wrote The Character of Physical Law and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. He also authored a number of advanced publications that have become classic references and textbooks for researchers and students. Richard Feynman was a constructive public man. His work on the Challenger commission is well-known, especially his famous demonstration of the susceptibility of the O-rings to cold, an elegant experiment which required nothing more than a glass of ice water. Less well-known were Dr. Feynman’s efforts on the California State Curriculum Committee in the 1960s where he protested the mediocrity of textbooks. A recital of Richard Feynman’s myriad scientific and educational accomplishments cannot adequately capture the essence of the man. As any reader of even his most technical publications knows, Feynman’s lively and multisided personality shines through all his work.

2-8 Antimatter 2-9 Broken symmetries Chapter 3 - THE SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY 3-1 The principle of relativity 3-2 The Lorentz transformation 3-3 The Michelson-Morley experiment 3-4 Transformation of time 3-5 The Lorentz contraction 3-6 Simultaneity 3-7 Four-vectors 3-8 Relativistic dynamics 3-9 Equivalence of mass and energy Chapter 4 - RELATIVISTIC ENERGY AND MOMENTUM 4-1 Relativity and the philosophers 4-2 The twin paradox 4-3 Transformation of velocities 4-4 Relativistic mass 4-5 Relativistic energy Chapter 5 - SPACE-TIME 5-1 The geometry of space-time 5-2 Space-time intervals 5-3 Past, present, and future 5-4 More about four-vectors 5-5 Four-vector algebra Chapter 6 - CURVED SPACE 6-1 Curved spaces with two dimensions 6-2 Curvature in three-dimensional space 6-3 Our space is curved 6-4 Geometry in space-time 6-5 Gravity and the principle of equivalence 6-6 The speed of clocks in a gravitational field 6-7 The curvature of space-time 6-8 Motion in curved space-time 6-9 Einstein’s theory of gravitation INDEX ABOUT RICHARD FEYNMAN Copyright Page Also by Richard P. Feynman The Character of Physical Law Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics: The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures (with Steven Weinberg) Feynman Lectures on Computation (edited by Anthony J. G. Hey and Robin Allen) Feynman Lectures on Gravitation (with Fernando B. Morinigo and William G. Wagner; edited by Brian Hatfield) The Feynman Lectures on Physics (with Robert B.


pages: 261 words: 86,261

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman, Jeffrey Robbins

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, impulse control, index card, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, scientific worldview, the scientific method

And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students. 12 RICHARD FEYNMAN BUILDS A UNIVERSE In a previously unpublished interview made under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Feynman reminisces about his life in science: his terrifying first lecture to a Nobel laureate-packed room; the invitation to work on the first atomic bomb and his reaction; cargo-cult science; and that fateful predawn wake-up call from a journalist informing him that he’d just won the Nobel prize. Feynman’s answer: “You could have told me that in the morning.” NARRATOR: Mel Feynman was a salesman for a uniform company in New York City. On May 11, 1918, he welcomed the birth of his son Richard. Forty-seven years later, Richard Feynman received the Nobel Prize for Physics. In many ways, Mel Feynman had a lot to do with that accomplishment, as Richard Feynman relates.

In many ways, Mel Feynman had a lot to do with that accomplishment, as Richard Feynman relates. FEYNMAN: Well, before I was born, he [my father] said to my mother that “this boy is going to be a scientist.” You can’t say things like that in front of women’s lib these days, but that is what they said in those days. But he never told me to be a scientist. . . .I learned to appreciate things I had known. There was never any pressure. . . .Later when I got older, he’d take me for walks in the woods and show me the animals and birds and so on. . . .tell me about the stars and the atoms and everything else. He’d tell me what it was about them that was so interesting. He had an attitude about the world and the way to look at it which I found was deeply scientific for a man who had no direct scientific training. NARRATOR: Richard Feynman is now professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where he has been since 1950.

“Nature herself was proud of his designs, And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines, . . . Yet I must not give Nature all: Thy art, My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part. For though the poet’s matter nature be, His art does give the fashion; and, that he Who casts to write a living line, must sweat, . . . For a good poet’s made, as well as born.” What have Jonson and Shakespeare to do with Richard Feynman? Simply this. I can say as Jonson said, “I did love this man this side idolatry as much as any.” Fate gave me the tremendous luck to have Feynman as a mentor. I was the learned and scholarly student who came from England to Cornell University in 1947 and was immediately entranced by the slapdash genius of Feynman. With the arrogance of youth, I decided that I could play Jonson to Feynman’s Shakespeare.


pages: 335 words: 95,280

The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far by Lawrence M. Krauss

Albert Einstein, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

While they may be strange, the connections unearthed by Einstein and Minkowski can be intuitively understood—given the constancy of the speed of light—as I have tried to demonstrate. Far less intuitive was the next discovery, which was that on very small scales, nature behaves in a way that human intuition cannot ever fully embrace, because we cannot directly experience the behavior itself. As Richard Feynman once argued, no one understands quantum mechanics—if by understand one means developing a concrete physical picture that appears fully intuitive. Even many years after the rules of quantum mechanics were discovered, the discipline would keep yielding surprises. For example, in 1952 the astrophysicist Hanbury Brown built an apparatus to measure the angular size of large radio sources in the sky.

Schrödinger’s equation worked well to describe the energy levels of electrons in the outer parts of simple atoms such as hydrogen, where it provided a quantum extension of Newtonian physics. It was not the proper description when relativistic effects needed to be taken into account. Ultimately Dirac succeeded where all others had failed, and the equation he discovered, one of the most important in modern particle physics, is, not surprisingly, called the Dirac equation. (Some years later, when Dirac first met the physicist Richard Feynman, whom we shall come to shortly, Dirac said after another awkward silence, “I have an equation. Do you?”) Dirac’s equation was beautiful, and as the first relativistic treatment of the electron, it allowed correct and precise predictions for the energy levels of all electrons in atoms, the frequencies of light they emit, and thus the nature of all atomic spectra. But the equation had a fundamental problem.

Dirac’s discovery of antiparticles came as a result of his “guessing” the correct equation to describe the relativistic quantum interactions of electrons with electromagnetic fields. He had little physical intuition to back it up, which is one reason why Dirac himself and others were initially so skeptical of his result. Clarifying the physical imperative for antimatter came through the work of one of the most important physicists of the latter half of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman. Feynman could not have been more different from Dirac. While Dirac was taciturn in the extreme, Feynman was gregarious and a charming storyteller. While Dirac rarely, if ever, intentionally joked, Feynman was a prankster who openly enjoyed every aspect of life. While Dirac was too shy to meet women, Feynman, after the death of his first wife, sought out female companions of every sort. Yet, physics breeds strange bedfellows, and Feynman and Dirac will forever be intellectually linked—once again by light.


pages: 332 words: 109,213

The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, dark matter, double helix, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, kremlinology, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, undersea cable

Review of Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics (Basic Books, 2005), in The New York Review of Books, July 14, 2005. 23. Review of Richard Feynman, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman, edited and with an introduction by Michelle Feynman (Basic Books, 2005), in The New York Review of Books, October 20, 2005. 24. Bernal Lecture given at Birkbeck College, London, May 1972, published as Appendix D, pp. 371–389, to Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, edited by Carl Sagan (MIT Press, 1973). 25. Review of Richard Feynman, The Meaning of it All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist (Addison-Wesley, 1998); and John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (Yale University Press, 1998), in The New York Review of Books, May 28, 1998. 26. Foreword to The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman, edited by Jeffrey Robbins (Perseus, 1999).

Joseph Rotblat (Chapter 12) was unique as a scientist who walked out of the wartime Los Alamos bomb project when he learned that the threat of a German atomic bomb had disappeared. Norbert Wiener (Chapter 22) was a great mathematician who refused on moral grounds to have anything to do with either industry or government. Desmond Bernal (Chapter 24) was one of the founding fathers of molecular biology, and also a faithful member of the Communist Party and a passionate believer in Marxism. Three chapters (23, 25, and 26) are devoted to my teacher Richard Feynman, the physicist who most closely resembled Eric James. Feynman was another rebellious spirit who combined a serious dedication to science with joyful adventures in the world outside. The scientist who described most eloquently the role of the rebel in science was the paleontologist Loren Eiseley. Unfortunately Eiseley does not have a chapter in this book. He was a wonderful writer, best known to the general public through his books The Immense Journey and The Unexpected Universe, which tell poignant stories about the creatures, living and dead, that Eiseley encountered in the course of his work as a naturalist and fossil hunter.

The idea of matter in permanent free fall was hidden in the equations, but nobody saw it until it was revealed in the Oppenheimer-Snyder solution. On a much more humble level, my own activities as a theoretical physicist have a similar quality. When I am working, I feel myself to be practicing a craft rather than following a method. When I did my most important piece of work as a young man, putting together the ideas of Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger, and Richard Feynman to obtain a simplified version of quantum electrodynamics, I had consciously in mind a metaphor to describe what I was doing. The metaphor was bridge-building. Tomonaga and Schwinger had built solid foundations on one side of a river of ignorance, Feynman had built solid foundations on the other side, and my job was to design and build the cantilevers reaching out over the water until they met in the middle.


pages: 417 words: 103,458

The Intelligence Trap: Revolutionise Your Thinking and Make Wiser Decisions by David Robson

active measures, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, cognitive bias, corporate governance, correlation coefficient, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, deliberate practice, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, Flynn Effect, framing effect, fundamental attribution error, illegal immigration, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, knowledge economy, lone genius, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, pattern recognition, price anchoring, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, theory of mind, traveling salesman, ultimatum game, Y2K, Yom Kippur War

Norton. 2 The following article, an interview with one of Feynman’s former students, offers this interpretation: Wai, J. (2011), ‘A Polymath Physicist on Richard Feynman’s “Low” IQ and Finding another Einstein’, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-the-next-einstein/201112/polymath-physicist-richard-feynmans-low-iq-and-finding-another. 3 Gleick, J. (1992), Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics (Kindle Edition), pp. 30?5. 4 Gleick, J. (17 February 1988), ‘Richard Feynman Dead at 69: Leading Theoretical Physicist’, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1988/02/17/obituaries/richard-feynman-dead-at-69-leading-theoretical-physicist.html?pagewanted=all. 5 The Nobel Prize in Physics 1965: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1965/. 6 Kac, M. (1987), Enigmas of Chance: An Autobiography, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p. xxv. 7 Gleick, ‘Richard Feynman Dead at 69’. 8 Feynman, R.P. (1999), The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, New York: Perseus Books, p. 3. 9 Feynman, R.P. (2006), Don’t You Have Time to Think, ed.

He devoured the family encyclopaedia, and as a young adolescent he soon took to teaching himself from a series of mathematics primers – filling his notebooks with trigonometry, calculus and analytic geometry, often creating his own exercises to stretch his mind.3 When he moved to the Far Rockaway High School, he joined a physics club and entered the Interscholastic Algebra League. He eventually reached the top place in New York University’s annual maths championship – ahead of students from all the city’s schools. The next year, he began his degree at MIT – and the rest is history. Schoolchildren would later learn Ritty’s full name – Richard Feynman ? as one of the most influential physicists of the twentieth century. His new approach to the field of quantum electrodynamics revolutionised the study of subatomic particles4 – research that won him a Nobel Prize in 1965 with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger.5 (It was an accolade that none of Terman’s cohort would achieve.) Feynman also helped uncover the physics behind radioactive decay, and made vital contributions to America’s development of the atomic bomb during the Second World War, a role that he later deeply regretted.

‘An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they have done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with magicians . . . the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark . . . Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre.’6 But Feynman’s genius did not end with physics. During a sabbatical from his physics research at Caltech, he applied himself to the study of genetics, discovering the ways that some mutations within a gene may suppress each other. Despite his apparent inaptitude for drawing and foreign languages, he later learnt to be a credible artist, to speak Portuguese and Japanese, and to read Mayan hieroglyphs – all with the relentlessness that had driven his education as a child.


pages: 185 words: 55,639

The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything by John Gribbin

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking

As it is acted upon by external forces, it moves along a precisely determinable path, which, for the sake of argument, passes through, or ends at, point B. The quantum-mechanical view is different. We cannot know, not even in principle, both the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously. There is an inherent uncertainty about where the particle is going, and if a particle starts out at point A and is later detected at point B we cannot know exactly how it got from A to B, unless it is watched all the way along its path. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from the California Institute of Technology, applied this quantum-mechanical view to the history of particles as presented in the kind of space-time diagrams used by relativists. These are diagrams like graphs, with one axis representing time and the other space. Curves on the diagram (world lines) represent particle trajectories or histories, some of which are ruled out because they would involve travel faster than light, but many of which indicate valid ways for a particle to get from A to B.

But each path, direct or circuitous, fast or slow, has associated with it a definite probability (strictly speaking a ‘probability amplitude’), which can be calculated. The amplitudes are measured in terms of a quantity called action, which is energy×time, and which happens to be the unit Planck's constant, h, is measured in. Figure 1.5 Classical (that is Newtonian) physics says that a particle follows a definite trajectory from A to B. Richard Feynman's quantum mechanical ‘sum over histories’ approach says that we must calculate the contribution of every possible path and add them together. Also known as the ‘path integral’ approach, this explains, among other things, how a single electron (or a single photon) can pass through both holes in a double-slit experiment (see Figure 1.2) and interfere with itself. The probabilities of the world lines are not all ‘in step’ with one another, and like the amplitudes of ripples on a pond they can interfere with one another to reinforce the strength of one path while cancelling out the amplitudes of others.

But he moved to the United States with his parents as a baby, and obtained a B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1959. He then moved to Caltech, to begin his career in research, and spent three years struggling with a high energy experiment at an accelerator called the Bevatron, before he decided to concentrate on theory and began to investigate physicists’ understanding of the nature of the material world, under the guidance of Richard Feynman. As a newcomer to the field, he perhaps lacked some of the caution, or tact, of his elders, and when he realized that the eightfold way patterns of mesons and baryons could be explained in terms of combinations of two or three sub-particles, he immediately treated these sub-particles as real entities, which he called aces, and described them as such in his work. This bull-at-a-gate approach seems to have filled his superiors (not including Feynman) with horror—a horror only compounded by the success of what they saw as a naïve, unrealistic approach.


pages: 277 words: 87,082

Beyond Weird by Philip Ball

Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, dematerialisation, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes

Niels Bohr [Quantum mechanics] is a peculiar mixture describing in part4 realities of Nature, in part incomplete human information about Nature – all scrambled up by Heisenberg and Bohr into an omelette that nobody has seen how to unscramble. Edwin Jaynes Arguably the most important lesson of quantum mechanics5 is that we need to critically revisit our most basic assumptions about nature. Yakir Aharonov et al. I hope you can accept Nature as she is – absurd.6 Richard Feynman “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Richard Feynman said that in 1965. In the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, for his work on quantum mechanics. In case we didn’t get the point, Feynman drove it home in his artful Everyman style. ‘I was born not understanding quantum mechanics8,’ he exclaimed merrily, ‘[and] I still don’t understand quantum mechanics!’ Here was the man who had just been anointed one of the foremost experts on the topic, declaring his ignorance of it.

Contents Cover About the Book About the Author Title Page By way of introduction … No one can say what quantum mechanics means (and this is a book about it) Quantum mechanics is not really about the quantum Quantum objects are neither wave nor particle (but sometimes they might as well be) Quantum particles aren’t in two states at once (but sometimes they might as well be) What ‘happens’ depends on what we find out about it There are many ways of interpreting quantum theory (and none of them quite makes sense) Whatever the question, the answer is ‘Yes’ (unless it’s ‘No’) Not everything is knowable at once The properties of quantum objects don’t have to be contained within the objects There is no ‘spooky action at a distance’ The everyday world is what quantum becomes at human scales Everything you experience is a (partial) copy of what causes it Schrödinger’s cat has had kittens Quantum mechanics can be harnessed for technology Quantum computers don’t necessarily perform ‘many calculations at once’ There is no other ‘quantum’ you Things could be even more ‘quantum’ than they are (so why aren’t they)? The fundamental laws of quantum mechanics might be simpler than we imagine Can we ever get to the bottom of it? Notes Acknowledgements Bibliography Index Copyright About the Book ‘I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.’ Richard Feynman wrote this in 1965 – the year he was awarded the Nobel prize in physics for his work on quantum mechanics. Quantum physics is regarded as one of the most obscure and impenetrable subjects in all of science. But when Feynman said he didn’t understand quantum mechanics, he didn’t mean that he couldn’t do it – he meant that’s all he could do. He didn’t understand what the maths was saying: what quantum mechanics tells us about reality.

Sure, there’s no point in pretending that the maths is easy, and if you never got on with numbers then a career in quantum mechanics isn’t for you. But neither, in that case, would be a career in fluid mechanics, population dynamics, or economics, which are equally inscrutable to the numerically challenged. No, the equations aren’t why quantum mechanics is perceived to be so hard. It’s the ideas. We just can’t get our heads around them. Neither could Richard Feynman. His failure, Feynman admitted, was to understand what the maths was saying. It provided numbers: predictions of quantities that could be tested against experiments, and which invariably survived those tests. But Feynman couldn’t figure out what these numbers and equations were really about: what they said about the ‘real world’. One view is that they don’t say anything about the ‘real world’.


pages: 107 words: 33,799

The Meaning of It All by Richard P. Feynman

means of production, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

Feynman wrote The Character of Physical Law and Q.E.D.: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. He also authored a number of advanced publications that have become classic references and textbooks for researchers and students. Richard Feynman was a constructive public man. His work on the Challenger commission is well known, especially his famous demonstration of the susceptibility of the O-rings to cold, an elegant experiment, which required nothing more than a glass of ice water. Less well known were Dr. Feynman’s efforts on the California State Curriculum Committee in the 1960s where he protested the mediocrity of textbooks. A recital of Richard Feynman's myriad scientific and educational accomplishments cannot adequately capture the essence of the man. As any reader of even his most technical publications knows, Feynman’s lively and multisided personality shines through all his work.

Books published by Basic Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02412, or call (800) 255–1514 or (617) 252–5298, or e-mail special.markets@perseusbooks.com. 05 06 07 / 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 CONTENTS Publisher’s Note The Uncertainty of Science The Uncertainty of Values This Unscientific Age Index About Richard Feynman PUBLISHER’S NOTE In April 1963, Richard P. Feynman was invited to give a three-night series of lectures at the University of Washington (Seattle) as part of the John Danz Lecture Series. Here is Feynman the man revealing, as only he could, his musings on society, on the conflict between science and religion, on peace and war, on our universal fascination with flying saucers, on faith healing and telepathy, on people’s distrust of politicians—indeed on all the concerns of the modern citizen-scientist.

Research Associates, 102, 105 Statistical sampling, 84, 89–91 Stupidity, phenomena result of a general, 95 Systems, traffic, 118 Technology applications of, 62 and science, 50 Telekinesis, 68 Telepathy, mental, 71–74 Television advertising in, 85 looker, intelligence of average, 87–88 Testing, nuclear, 106–7 Theories, allowing for alternative, 69 Thoroughness, concept of, 17 Tops, spinning, 24–26 Traffic systems, 118 Troubles and lack of information, 91 Truth of ideas, 21 writing, 56 Uncertainties admission of, 34 dealing with, 66–67, 71 relative certainties out of, 98 remaining, 70–71 of science, 1–28 scientists dealing with, 26–27 of values, 29–57 Uncertainty, 67–68 Universe contemplation of, 39 origins of, 12 Unscientific age, 59–122 Values ethical, 43 moral, 120–21 uncertainty of, 29–57 Venus flying saucers from, 75 Mariner II voyage to, 109–12 Vocabulary, 116 War, dislike of, 32 Water, and deserts, 96 Weight, as not affected by motion, 24 Western civilization, 47 Witch doctors, 114 Words, as meaningless, 20 Writing truth, 56 ABOUT RICHARD FEYNMAN Born in 1918 in Brooklyn, Richard P. Feynman received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1942. Despite his youth, he played an important part in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during World War II. Subsequently, he taught at Cornell and at the California Institute of Technology. In 1965 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Sin–Itero Tomanaga and Julian Schwinger, for his work in quantum electrodynamics.


pages: 257 words: 80,100

Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, augmented reality, butterfly effect, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, index card, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Marshall McLuhan, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, self-driving car, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, wikimedia commons

ALSO BY JAMES GLEICK Chaos: Making a New Science Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier Isaac Newton The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood Copyright © 2016 by James Gleick All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Pantheon Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Toronto. Pantheon Books and colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Grateful acknowledgment is made to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company for permission to reprint excerpts from “Burnt Norton” and “The Dry Salvages” from Four Quartets by T.

It’s what you find out by looking at a clock.” He also says, “Time is the label we stick on different moments in the life of the world.” Physicists like this bumper-sticker game. John Archibald Wheeler is supposed to have said, “Time is nature’s way to keep everything from happening all at once,” but Woody Allen said that, too, and Wheeler admitted having found it scrawled in a Texas men’s room.*3 Richard Feynman said, “Time is what happens when nothing else happens,” which he knew was a wisecrack. “Maybe it is just as well if we face the fact that time is one of the things we probably cannot define (in the dictionary sense), and just say that it is what we already know it to be: it is how long we wait.” When Augustine contemplated time, one thing he knew was that it was not space—“and yet, Lord, we perceive intervals of times, and compare them, and say some are shorter, and others longer.”

Events in our universe can be connected, such that one is the cause of the other, but, alternatively, they can be close enough in time and far enough apart that they cannot be connected and no one can even say which came first. (Outside the light cone, says the physicist.) We are more isolated, then, than we may have imagined, alone in our corners of spacetime. You know how fortune-tellers pretend to know the future? It turns out, said Richard Feynman, that no fortune-teller can even know the present. Einstein’s powerful ideas spread in the public press as rapidly as in the physics journals and disrupted the placid course of philosophy. The philosophers were surprised and outgunned. Bergson and Einstein clashed publicly in Paris and privately by post and seemed to be speaking different languages: one scientific, measured, practical; the other psychological, flowing, untrustworthy. “ ‘The time of the universe’ discovered by Einstein and ‘the time of our lives’ associated with Bergson spiraled down dangerously conflicting paths, splitting the century into two cultures,” notes the science historian Jimena Canales.


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Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization by K. Eric Drexler

3D printing, additive manufacturing, agricultural Revolution, Bill Joy: nanobots, Brownian motion, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, conceptual framework, continuation of politics by other means, crowdsourcing, dark matter, double helix, failed state, global supply chain, industrial robot, iterative process, Mars Rover, means of production, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, performance metric, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, Thomas Malthus, V2 rocket, Vannevar Bush, zero-sum game

Both the word and the principle had precursors. Regarding the physical principle behind the concept, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman had earlier suggested that machines operating at this scale should be feasible and could indeed be used to direct atomically precise fabrication. He suggested this in a talk delivered in 1959, but the idea lay fallow for almost twenty years. Regarding the word itself, “nanotechnology” was an obvious yet ambiguous coinage patterned on “microtechnology”; I later learned that Norio Taniguchi had once used essentially the same term (“Nano-Technology”) in a conference paper to refer to ultra-high-precision machining and the like, a quite different range of technologies. (Richard Feynman, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Engineering and Science 23, no. 5 [1960]; Norio Taniguchi, “On the Basic Concept of ‘Nano-Technology’,” Proceedings of the International Conference of Production Engineering, Vol. 2.

These include favorable reaction kinetics and thermodynamics, adequate mechanical stiffness, and substantial geometrical separations between transition states leading to alternative reaction outcomes; each of these requirements stems from the need to constrain thermal fluctuations. 82The methods of organic chemistry aren’t widely understood: In his 1959 talk, Richard Feynman joked that “The chemist does a mysterious thing when he wants to make a molecule. He sees that it has got that ring, so he mixes this and that, and he shakes it, and he fiddles around. And, at the end of a difficult process, he usually does succeed in synthesizing what he wants.” (Richard Feynman, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Engineering and Science 23, no. 5 [1960].) Chapter 7: Science and the Timeless Landscape of Technology 90a timeless aspect of physical law, a latent structure: Scientific understanding of physical law has changed over time, but physical law itself has not, and within the accuracy of both laboratory measurement and cosmological observation, “physical constants” do indeed appear to be constant. 96Over the last four hundred or so years: Sean Carroll, “Cosmic Variance” blog at Discover Magazine, 16 June 2010 (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/06/16/reluctance-to-let-go/).

Over the years, more and more biomolecular structures have been mapped in atomic detail, first a few in the 1950s, and today, tens of thousands, earning Nobel Prizes for James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins for their discovery of the structure of DNA and for John Kendrew and Max Perutz for their use of X-ray diffraction techniques to provide the first atomically precise maps of protein structures. This emerging knowledge of biomolecular machinery intrigued Richard Feynman. At Caltech in 1959, speaking after dinner at a meeting of the American Physical Society, Feynman discussed the physics of artificial micro- and nanoscale machinery, “inspired by the biological phenomena in which chemical forces are used in a repetitious fashion to produce all kinds of weird effects (one of which is the author).” In his talk, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Feynman proposed the idea of using machine-guided motion to assemble molecular structures with atomic precision.


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Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster by Allan J McDonald, James R. Hansen

Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, transcontinental railway

Walking down the hall, I noticed a number of people in a large conference room watching a television monitor. The NASA Select TV channel was broadcasting live the first meeting of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. The chairman of the Presidential Commission was William P. Rogers, former Secretary of State for President Nixon. Other members were Neil Armstrong, Vice-Chairman and former astronaut and first man to walk on the Moon; Dr. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner in physics from California Institute of Technology; General Donald J. Kutyna, Commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Systems Command in Los Angeles; Dr. Sally Ride, NASA astronaut and first American woman in space; Dr. Eugene Covert, head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Robert Hotz, former publisher of Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine; Dr.

Rogers was clearly disturbed by what he was hearing: “I'm sure you can see the logic of what you're saying. You recommended against a flight on one night and then have meetings with NASA people and they seem anxious to go ahead, or at least they were asking questions about it, and they gave you some data and you checked back to your home office and you got word back from home office to go-ahead because the evidence is inconclusive!” “He said something about having something,” Commission member Richard Feynman noted. “He does have some data there from the people who made the decision, I guess,” Rogers allowed. “I have some of that, but I also have the material that was reviewed at the meeting by all three parties, because I was party to that.” “Which meeting now are we talking about?” Rogers asked. “This was the first meeting scheduled to review why we had any concerns about low temperature, and I have that as a matter of record.”

The flight rationale for STS-51L stated that the ability of the primary O-ring seal could be seriously degraded by the cold temperatures, but that the secondary O-ring would seal, which was in total violation of the established critical items list and should have required a waiver from the Mission Management Team prior to launch. The critical items list did not address O-ring resiliency even though it was an even more important issue relative to the ability of the O-rings to seal at the cold temperatures forecast for this launch—and this issue should also have been addressed in the waiver. Physicist Richard Feynman was very interested in the dynamics of the field-joint, particularly the pressure actuation and extrusion of the O-rings into the gap created by the motor pressure. I explained to Dr. Feynman how this occurred and why it was so important to understand the timing function in the early phases of ignition for assessing the ability of the O-rings to seal properly. “You suggested, Mr. McDonald, that the secondary seal would not be much affected by the temperature,” Feynman stated, “but now you are telling us that because of the complete or nearly complete loss of resilience—that is, the tendency to spring back—the secondary seal would require very little rotation to open.


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Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum by Lee Smolin

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Turing machine

Classification: LCC QC174.13 (ebook) | LCC QC174.13 .S6545 2019 (print) | DDC 530.12--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018045679 Version_2 For Dina and Kai All a musician can do is to get closer to the sources of nature, and so feel that he is in communion with the natural laws. —JOHN COLTRANE I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. —RICHARD FEYNMAN Contents Also by Lee Smolin Title Page Copyright Dedication Epigraph Preface PART 1. AN ORTHODOXY OF THE UNREAL ONE Nature Loves to Hide TWO Quanta THREE How Quanta Change FOUR How Quanta Share FIVE What Quantum Mechanics Doesn’t Explain SIX The Triumph of Anti-Realism PART 2. REALISM REBORN SEVEN The Challenge of Realism: de Broglie and Einstein EIGHT Bohm: Realism Tries Again NINE Physical Collapse of the Quantum State TEN Magical Realism ELEVEN Critical Realism PART 3.

One of the most contradictory was John Archibald Wheeler. A nuclear theorist and a mystic, he transmitted the legacies of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr to my generation through the stories he told us of his friendships with them. Wheeler was a committed cold warrior who worked on the hydrogen bomb even as he pioneered the study of quantum universes and black holes. He was also a great mentor who counted among his students Richard Feynman, Hugh Everett, and several of the pioneers of quantum gravity. And he might have been my mentor, had I had better judgment. A true student of Bohr, Wheeler spoke in riddles and paradoxes. His blackboard was unlike any I’d ever encountered. It had no equations, and only a few elegantly written aphorisms, each set out in a box, distilling a lifetime of seeking the reason why our world is a quantum universe.

The tiny community of specialists in quantum foundations either earned their tenure for other work, as Bell did, or, like Bohm, found places in out-of-the-way corners of the academic world. A few made careers in philosophy or mathematics, others by teaching in small undergraduate colleges. It was the promise of quantum computing that began, just before the turn of this century, to open doors to people who wanted to work on quantum foundations. The idea that quantum mechanics could be used to construct a new kind of computer was broached by Richard Feynman in a lecture1 in 1981. That talk, and other early anticipations of the idea, seemed to make little impression until David Deutsch, originally a specialist in quantum gravity who held a position at Oxford, proposed in 1989 an approach to quantum computation in the context of a paper on the foundations of mathematics and logic.2 In his paper, Deutsch introduced the idea of a universal quantum computer, analogous to a Turing machine.


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Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, bioinformatics, complexity theory, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, Ernest Rutherford, Gödel, Escher, Bach, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, New Journalism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, theory of mind, traveling salesman, uranium enrichment, Zeno's paradox

Venter and his team’s successful synthesis and insertion of a substitute bacterial chromosome opens up an entirely new field of synthetic biology that we will be revisiting in the final chapter. It is likely to yield more efficient ways to make drugs, grow crops or destroy pollutants. But in these and many other similar experiments, scientists did not create new life. Despite Venter’s achievement, life’s essential mystery continues to grin back at us. The Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman is credited with insisting that “what we can’t make, we don’t understand.” By this definition, we do not understand life because we have not yet managed to make it. We can mix biochemicals, we can heat them, we can irradiate them; we can even, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, use electricity to animate them; but the only way we can make life is by injecting these biochemicals into already living cells, or by eating them, thereby making them part of our own bodies.

You will remember that this enzyme is needed to dismantle the tadpole’s extracellular matrix so that its tissues, cells and biomolecules can be reassembled into an adult frog. It performed the same function in the dinosaur, and continues to perform that function in our bodies: dismantling collagen fibers to allow growth and re-formation of tissue during development and after injury. To see this enzymatic process in action, we will borrow an idea from a science-transforming lecture delivered by Richard Feynman to an audience at the California Institute of Technology in 1959 entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” The lecture is generally acknowledged as having been the intellectual foundation of the field of nanotechnology: engineering on the scale of atoms and molecules. Feynman’s ideas are also said to have inspired the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, in which a submarine and its crew were shrunk small enough to be injected into a scientist’s body to find and repair a potentially fatal blood clot in his brain.

Why these supposedly innocuous modifications to enzyme structure make such a dramatic difference remains something of a mystery within standard transition state theory; but it turns out that they make sense if quantum mechanics is brought into the picture. We will return to this discovery in the last chapter of the book. Yet another problem is that transition state theory has so far failed to deliver artificial enzymes that work as well as the real ones. You may remember Richard Feynman’s famous dictum, “What I cannot create, I do not understand.” This is relevant to enzymes because, despite knowing so much about enzyme mechanisms, no one has so far managed to design an enzyme from scratch that can produce anything like the rate enhancements delivered by natural enzymes.6 According to Feynman’s criterion, we do not yet understand how enzymes work. But take another look at figure 3.4 and ask the question: What is the enzyme doing?


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E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, British Empire, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Mercator projection, Nelson Mandela, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Stephen Hawking, Thorstein Veblen

Innovation in Maxwell’s Electromagnetic Theory, by Daniel Siegel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), takes a very detailed, at times polemical, look at the process of Maxwell’s creativity, including revealing contrasts with the overtheoretical French tradition; Christine M. Crow’s Paul Valéry and Maxwell’s Demon: Natural Order and Human Possibility (Hull, England: University of Hull Publications, 1972) brings out rich insights from a different examination of the French tradition. Richard Feynman would have had little use for Valéry or most historians, which is a pity, but for exploring the actual science of light, his writing (and research) has had few peers: along with the physics texts in the next entry, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, by Richard Feynman (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985) is a fine start. Du Châtelet and “Squared” Du Châtelet hasn’t been favored by her English language biographers, but readers with some French are in for a guide to further reading treat. Elisabeth Badinter had the excellent idea of doing a comparative biography of Emilie du Châtelet and Madame d’Épinay, and her Émilie, Émilie: l’ambition feminine au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Flamarrion, 1983) is a fast-paced, well thought out pairing of psychological portraits.

The letters are almost shatteringly direct: there are the brief moments of intellectual joy; then the self-torments, the insecurities, and the layers upon layers of posturing. How he and Lawrence overcame their own warinesses to become best friends—and then exhausted, dismayed enemies—is the drama in Nuel Phar Davis’s masterpiece Lawrence and Oppenheimer (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969). Richard Feynman’s best-selling reminiscences “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” ed. Edward Hutchings (New York: Norton, 1985) are vivid on the personal level; James Gleick’s Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics (New York: Pantheon, 1992), gives a far richer story of what Feynman and others experienced on the mesa. The best overall account of the U.S. and German projects is Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986), a deserved winner of the National Book Award.

He knew—instantly—that the young postgraduate physicists he needed in large numbers wouldn’t pass up work at MIT’s radar lab or other famous wartime projects to head to this unknown New Mexico site, simply on the basis of salaries, or offers of future jobs. They’d come only if they thought the top physicists in America were going there. Oppenheimer, accordingly, recruited the senior physicists first; the postgrads followed fast. He even got the authority-resistant genius Richard Feynman on his side. (Tell Feynman that something was a national emergency and his country needed him, and he’d give his mocking New York snort and tell you to get lost.) But Oppenheimer understood that Feynman was 147 adulthood so hostile in large part out of furious anger: his young wife had tuberculosis, and in this era before antibiotics it was likely she would soon die. Oppenheimer obtained a rare-as-gold wartime train pass so she could come to New Mexico; he also arranged a place in a hospital close enough to Los Alamos so that Feynman could visit her regularly.


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Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science by Ian Sample

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Donald Trump, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, uranium enrichment, Yogi Berra

Nature doesn’t impose an upper limit on how much energy the particle of light might have, and electrons could emit countless of these “virtual photons” all the time. Oppenheimer worked out that these fleeting photons could cause infinite changes in the energy of an atom. That was impossible, which could mean only one thing: there was something badly wrong with the theory. It was fine as a rough guide, but nothing more. One of the physicists Dyson fell in with at Cornell was Richard Feynman, a self-assured and brilliant New Yorker who was determined to rescue the beleaguered quantum field theory.4 In 1947, Feynman realized that, instead of worrying about each and every particle of light that popped into existence around an electron, it was better to pull back and view the particles more as a cloud of energy. Do this and you could redefine the mass and the charge of the electron.

There was a more serious problem that influenced Higgs’s future. He talked his options over with Charles Coulson, who warned him that quantum field theory was in a mess. “It’s the kind of field where you either achieve nothing or win a Nobel prize,” Coulson said. Higgs didn’t know it at the time, but Coulson’s fears were out of date: the problem he had in mind was the one that had been sorted out at least a year earlier by Freeman Dyson, Richard Feynman, and the others. Higgs decided to play it safe and stayed on at King’s College. His Ph.D. studies focused on theoretical problems in chemistry that were important for understanding the structure of molecules. When young scientists finish their Ph.D.s, they usually spend time in what can be an academic no-man’s-land of postdoctorate fellowships. 6 These are typically one- or two-year posts, and they serve universities well by keeping them supplied with cheap labor.

Weinberg’s theory didn’t set the world of physics alight overnight, though, and for good reason. Scientists feared that his theory suffered from the same problem that nearly sank quantum electrodynamics in the 1940s. Their worry was that, in certain circumstances, Weinberg’s theory might churn out results that included infinities. That meant it would predict particles doing things more often than always, which was clearly impossible. Richard Feynman had solved the trouble of infinities in quantum electrodynamics by inventing a technique called renormalization, and Weinberg was sure the same could be done for his theory. The only problem was, he had no idea how to prove it. The Singel Canal curves like a warm embrace around the ancient town of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Along its bank, three adjacent houses were once home to the university’s Theoretical Physics Institute.


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Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe by Marcus Chown

Albert Einstein, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, Carrington event, dark matter, Donald Trump, double helix, Edmond Halley, gravity well, horn antenna, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, microbiome, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine

This means liquid water, the prerequisite of terrestrial biology, may be present on their surfaces even though they may be far from the warmth of their parent sun. Consequently, exomoons, rather than planets like the earth, may be the most likely locations in our galaxy to find extraterrestrial life. 21. HEX APPEAL At the north pole of Saturn is a hurricane twice the size of the earth and the shape of a hexagon “Nature’s imagination’s so much greater than man’s. She’s never gonna let us relax.” —RICHARD FEYNMAN WHEN AIR CIRCULATES IN the earth’s atmosphere, it circulates—well—in a circle. Have you ever seen a triangular hurricane? Or a square one? Or a hexagonal one? Of course you haven’t. However, things are different at the north pole of Saturn. In 2007 NASA’s Cassini space probe flew over the ringed planet and captured the most bizarre image of a hexagonal arrangement of clouds turning around the pole.

The key thing is that the smaller the particle, the bigger its quantum wave.2 The smallest particle of familiar matter is the electron; it therefore has the biggest quantum wave. And it is because the electron wave needs tons of elbow room that atoms have to be so big relative to their nuclei—why they contain so much empty space.3 In fact, the wave nature of the electron is why atoms exist. As the American Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman said: “Atoms are completely impossible from the classical point of view.” What Feynman meant is that, according to the theory of electromagnetism, an electron whirling around a nucleus in an atom should constantly broadcast “electromagnetic waves” like a tiny radio transmitter. This should cause it to lose energy and spiral into the nucleus in less than a hundred-millionth of second. Atoms should collapse in on themselves.

How we discovered this remarkable fact—that we are far more intimately connected to the stars than even astrologers dared imagine—is a long and torturous story. First came the discovery that everything is made of atoms. “If in some cataclysm all of scientific knowledge were destroyed and only one sentence passed on to succeeding generations, what statement would convey the most information in the fewest words?” asked Richard Feynman. He had absolutely no doubt about the answer: “Everything is made of atoms.” Paradoxically, the fact that nature is ultimately made of tiny indestructible grains that cannot be changed into anything else became clear only after centuries of failed attempts to change one substance into another—for instance, lead into gold. But atoms are not only elemental; they are the alphabet of nature. As previously mentioned, by assembling them in different ways it is possible to make a galaxy or a tree or a mountain gorilla.


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The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, bank run, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, citation needed, Claude Shannon: information theory, clockwork universe, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, Donald Knuth, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Honoré de Balzac, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, lifelogging, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microbiome, Milgram experiment, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, Norman Macrae, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Simon Singh, Socratic dialogue, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, talking drums, the High Line, The Wisdom of Crowds, transcontinental railway, Turing machine, Turing test, women in the workforce

The clever young Thomasina says in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, “You cannot stir things apart,” and this is precisely the same as “Time flows on, never comes back.” Such processes run in one direction only. Probability is the reason. What is remarkable—physicists took a long time to accept it—is that every irreversible process must be explained the same way. Time itself depends on chance, or “the accidents of life,” as Richard Feynman liked to say: “Well, you see that all there is to it is that the irreversibility is caused by the general accidents of life.”♦ For the box of gas to come unmixed is not physically impossible; it is just improbable in the extreme. So the second law is merely probabilistic. Statistically, everything tends toward maximum entropy. Yet probability is enough: enough for the second law to stand as a pillar of science.

He had a detailed solution—soon known as his “diamond code”—published in Nature within a few months. A few months after that, Crick showed this to be utterly wrong: experimental data on protein sequences ruled out the diamond code. But Gamow was not giving up. The triplet idea was seductive. An unexpected cast of scientists joined the hunt: Max Delbrück, an ex-physicist now at Caltech in biology; his friend Richard Feynman, the quantum theorist; Edward Teller, the famous bomb maker; another Los Alamos alumnus, the mathematician Nicholas Metropolis; and Sydney Brenner, who joined Crick at the Cavendish. They all had different coding ideas. Mathematically the problem seemed daunting even to Gamow. “As in the breaking of enemy messages during the war,” he wrote in 1954, “the success depends on the available length of the coded text.

—Seth Lloyd (2006)♦ QUANTUM MECHANICS HAS WEATHERED in its short history more crises, controversies, interpretations (the Copenhagen, the Bohm, the Many Worlds, the Many Minds), factional implosions, and general philosophical breast-beating than any other science. It is happily riddled with mysteries. It blithely disregards human intuition. Albert Einstein died unreconciled to its consequences, and Richard Feynman was not joking when he said no one understands it. Perhaps arguments about the nature of reality are to be expected; quantum physics, so uncannily successful in practice, deals in theory with the foundations of all things, and its own foundations are continually being rebuilt. Even so, the ferment sometimes seems more religious than scientific. “How did this come about?”♦ asks Christopher Fuchs, a quantum theorist at Bell Labs and then the Perimeter Institute in Canada.


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Collider by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, gravity well, horn antenna, index card, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, statistical model, Stephen Hawking

To accommodate the fact that people observe only three dimensions of space and the dimension of time, theorists recalled an idea developed by Swedish physicist Oskar Klein in the 1920s and proposed that six of the dimensions are curled into a ball so tiny that it cannot physically be observed. That worked well mathematically but offered no incentive for experimenters to try to probe the theory. Given the inability to obtain experimental proof, string theory’s skeptics—Glashow and Richard Feynman, among the prominent examples—argued that it remained on shaky ground. Laboratory researchers were enticed to a greater extent by a more conservative application of supersymmetry, called the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM). Proposed in 1981 by Stanford University physicist Savas Dimopoulos, along with Howard Georgi, it offered a way of extending the Standard Model to include additional fields with the goal of preparing it to be part of a greater unified theory.

The details of how photons, electrons, protons, neutrons, and other constituents interacted with one another in the eons before atoms, and particularly in the first moments after the Big Bang reflect the properties of the fundamental natural interactions. Therefore, like colliders, the early universe represents a kind of particle physics laboratory; any discoveries from one venue can be compared to the other. The same year that Alpher and Gamow published their alphabet paper, three physicists, Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman of the United States and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga of Japan, independently produced a remarkable set of works describing the quantum theory of the electromagnetic interaction. (Tomonaga developed his ideas during the Second World War when it was impossible for him to promote them.) Distilled into a comprehensive theory through the vision of Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson, quantum electrodynamics (QED), as it was called, became seen as the prototype for explaining how natural forces operate.

Though it will crash particles together at lower energies than the SSC was supposed to—14 TeV in total instead of 20 TeV—most theoretical estimates indicate that if the Higgs is out there the LHC will find it. If all goes well, modern physics will soon have cause for celebration. 8 Crashing by Design Building the Large Hadron Collider The age in which we live is the age in which we are discovering the fundamental laws of Nature, and that day will never come again —RICHARD FEYNMAN (THE CHARACTER OF PHYSICAL LAW, 1965) Compared to the wild flume ride of American high-energy physics, CERN has paddled steadily ahead like a steam-boat down the Rhone River. Each milestone has been part of a natural progression to machines of increasing might—able to push particle energies higher and higher. While American high-energy physics has become increasingly political—rising or falling in status during various administrations—the independence of CERN’s directorship and its commitment, cooperation, and collaboration to carrying out projects already proposed have enabled it to successfully plot the laboratory’s course for decades ahead.


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Darwin Among the Machines by George Dyson

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, British Empire, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer age, Danny Hillis, Donald Davies, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, IFF: identification friend or foe, invention of the telescope, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, phenotype, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, spectrum auction, strong AI, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture, zero-sum game

“That was a problem involving highly non-linear hydrodynamics. At that time it was only just understood descriptively. And that became a problem that I think von Neumann became very much interested in. He wanted a real problem that you really needed computers for.”20 Software—first called “coding” and later “programming”—was invented on the spot to suit the available (or unavailable) machines. Physicist Richard Feynman served on the front lines in developing the computational methods and troubleshooting routines used at Los Alamos in early 1944, when desk calculators and punched-card accounting machines constituted the only hardware at hand. The calculations were executed by dozens of human computers (“girls” in Feynman’s terminology) who passed intermediate results back and forth, weaving together a long sequence, or algorithm, of simpler steps.

“Perhaps some day in the dim future, it will be possible to advance the computations faster than the weather advances,” hoped Richardson, “and at a cost less than the saving to mankind due to the information gained.”27 Richardson thereby anticipated massively parallel computing, his 64,000 mathematicians reincarnated seventy years later as the multiple processors of Danny Hillis’s Connection Machine. “We had decided to simplify things by starting out with only 64,000 processors,” explained Hillis, recalling how Richard Feynman helped him bring Lewis Richardson’s fantasy to life.28 Even without the Connection Machine, Richardson’s approach to cellular modeling would be widely adopted once it became possible to assign one high-speed digital computer rather than 64,000 human beings to keep track of numerical values and relations among individual cells. The faint ghost of Lewis Richardson haunts every spreadsheet in use today.

We have made only limited progress in the three hundred years since Robert Hooke explained how the soul is somehow “apprehensive” of “a continued Chain of Ideas coyled up in the Repository of the Brain.”47 What mind, if any, will become apprehensive of the great coiling of ideas now under way is not a meaningless question, but it is still too early in the game to expect an answer that is meaningful to us. 10 THERE’S PLENTY OF ROOM AT THE TOP We’re doing this the way you’d plan walkways in a park: Plant grass, then put sidewalks where the paths form. —JOE VAN LONE1 “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” was the title of an after-dinner talk given by physicist Richard Feynman at the California Institute of Technology on 29 December 1959. Feynman’s timing was perfect. He kept his audience awake with a series of outlandish speculations that soon turned out to be spectacularly right. “In the year 2000, when they look back at this age,” announced Feynman, “they will wonder why it was not until the year 1960 that anybody began seriously to move in this direction.” Imagining small machines being instructed to build successively smaller and smaller machines, Feynman estimated the orders of magnitude by which such devices could become cheaper, faster, more numerous, and collectively more powerful.


pages: 389 words: 112,319

Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Wiles, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, autonomous vehicles, Ben Horowitz, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, dark matter, delayed gratification, different worldview, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, fear of failure, functional fixedness, Gary Taubes, George Santayana, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Inbox Zero, index fund, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, late fees, lateral thinking, lone genius, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, multiplanetary species, obamacare, Occam's razor, out of africa, Peter Thiel, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Upton Sinclair, Vilfredo Pareto, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, Whole Earth Catalog, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra

noredirect=on&utm_term=.b81dd6679eee; Wyatt Andrews and Anna Werner, “Healthcare.gov Plagued by Crashes on 1st Day,” CBS News, October 1, 2013, www.cbsnews.com/news/healthcaregov-plagued-by-crashes-on-1st-day; Adrianne Jeffries, “Why Obama’s Healthcare.gov Launch Was Doomed to Fail,” Verge, October 8, 2013, www.theverge.com/2013/10/8/4814098/why-did-the-tech-savvy-obama-administration-launch-a-busted-healthcare-website; “The Number 6 Says It All About the HealthCare.gov Rollout,” NPR, December 27, 2013, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/12/27/257398910/the-number-6-says-it-all-about-the-healthcare-gov-rollout; Kate Pickert, “Report: Cost of HealthCare.Gov Approaching $1 Billion,” Time, July 30, 2014, http://time.com/3060276/obamacare-affordable-care-act-cost. 2. Marshall Fisher, Ananth Raman, and Anna Sheen McClelland, “Are You Ready?,” Harvard Business Review, August 2000) https://hbr.org/2000/07/are-you-ready. 3. Fisher, Raman, and McClelland, “Are You Ready?” 4. Richard Feynman, Messenger Lectures, Cornell University, BBC, 1964, www.cornell.edu/video/playlist/richard-feynman-messenger-lectures/player. 5. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “The FIDO Rover,” NASA, https://www-robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/systems/system.cfm?System=1. 6. NASA, “Space Power Facility,” www1.grc.nasa.gov/facilities/sec. 7. The discussion on the airbag tests for the Mars Exploration Rovers is based on the following sources: Steve Squyres, Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet (New York: Hyperion, 2005); Adam Steltzner and William Patrick, Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation (New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2016). 8.

They don’t bother us with ambiguity or let nuances get in the way of bumper-sticker sound bites. We put our mouths on the spigot of their seemingly clear opinions, happily removing the burden of critical thinking from our shoulders. The problem with the modern world, as Bertrand Russell put it, is that “the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Even after physicist Richard Feynman earned a Nobel prize, he thought of himself as a “confused ape” and approached everything around him with the same level of curiosity, which enabled him to see nuances that others dismissed. “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing,” he remarked, “than to have answers which might be wrong.” Feynman’s mindset requires an admission of ignorance and a good dose of humility. When we utter those three dreaded words—I don’t know—our ego deflates, our mind opens, and our ears perk up.

Newton’s laws of motion, for example, are poetic in their simplicity. Take his third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Centuries before the advent of human flight, this simple law explained how rockets reach space. The mass of their fuel goes down, and the rocket goes up. “The more we understand something,” Peter Attia explained to me, “the less complicated it becomes. This is classic Richard Feynman teaching.” Attia is a mechanical engineer turned medical doctor, a renowned expert in increasing people’s life span and health span. If you’re reading a study in medicine, he said, “and you see words like multifaceted, multifactorial, complex, to explain the current understanding,” the authors are basically saying, “We don’t know what the heck we’re talking about yet.” But when we really understand the cause of a disease or an epidemic, “it tends to be simple and not multifactorial.”40 Simple also has fewer points of failure.


pages: 339 words: 94,769

Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI by John Brockman

AI winter, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, David Graeber, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, finite state, friendly AI, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, invention of writing, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Laplace demon, Loebner Prize, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, Picturephone, profit maximization, profit motive, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, telemarketer, telerobotics, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K, zero-sum game

The Internet made his own work a lot easier and, he notes, acted as a leveler internationally: “When I grew up in India, if you wanted to get a book, it would show up six months or a year after it had already come out in the West. . . . Journals would arrive by surface mail a few months later. I didn’t have to deal with it, because I left India when I was nineteen, but I know Indian scientists had to deal with it. Today they have access to information at the click of a button. More important, they have access to lectures. They can listen to Richard Feynman. That would have been a dream of mine when I was growing up. They can just watch Richard Feynman on the Web. That’s a big leveling in the field.” And yet . . . “Along with the benefits [of the Web], there is now a huge amount of noise. You have all of these people spouting pseudoscientific jargon and pushing their own ideas as if they were science.” As president of the Royal Society, Venki worries, too, about the broader issue of trust: public trust in evidence-based scientific findings, but also trust among scientists, bolstered by rigorous checking of one another’s conclusions—trust that is in danger of eroding because of the “black box” character of deep-learning computers.

“THE SHTICK OF THE STEINS” My own writing about these issues at the time was on the radar screen of the second-order cybernetics crowd, including Heinz von Foerster as well as John Lilly and Alan Watts, who were the co-organizers of something called the AUM Conference, shorthand for “the American University of Masters,” which took place in Big Sur in 1973, a gathering of philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, each of whom was asked to lecture on his own work in terms of its relationship to the ideas of British mathematician G. Spencer-Brown as presented in his book Laws of Form. I was a bit puzzled when I received an invitation—a very late invitation indeed—which they explained was based on their interest in the ideas I presented in a book called Afterwords, which were very much on their wavelength. I jumped at the opportunity, the main reason being that the keynote speaker was none other than Richard Feynman. I love to spend time with physicists, because they think about the universe, i.e., everything. And no physicist was reputed to be as articulate as Feynman. I couldn’t wait to meet him. I accepted. That said, I am not a scientist, and I had never entertained the idea of getting on a stage and delivering a “lecture” of any kind, least of all a commentary on an obscure mathematical theory in front of a group identified as the world’s most interesting thinkers.

And I realized that all were engaged in writing a genre of book both unnamed and unrecognized by New York publishers. Since I had an MBA from Columbia Business School and a series of relative successes in business, I was dragooned into becoming an agent, initially for Gregory Bateson and John Lilly, whose books I sold quickly, and for sums that caught my attention, thus kick-starting my career as a literary agent. I never did meet Richard Feynman. THE LONG AI WINTERS This new career put me in close touch with most of the AI pioneers, and over the decades I rode with them on waves of enthusiasm, and into valleys of disappointment. In the early eighties the Japanese government mounted a national effort to advance AI. They called it the Fifth Generation; their goal was to change the architecture of computation by breaking “the von Neumann bottleneck” by creating a massively parallel computer.


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

There seemed to be a mystifying universal conspiracy among textbook authors to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed too near the realm of the mildly interesting and was always at least a long-distance phone call from the frankly interesting. I now know that there is a happy abundance of science writers who pen the most lucid and thrilling prose—Timothy Ferris, Richard Fortey, and Tim Flannery are three that jump out from a single station of the alphabet (and that's not even to mention the late but godlike Richard Feynman)—but sadly none of them wrote any textbook I ever used. All mine were written by men (it was always men) who held the interesting notion that everything became clear when expressed as a formula and the amusingly deluded belief that the children of America would appreciate having chapters end with a section of questions they could mull over in their own time. So I grew up convinced that science was supremely dull, but suspecting that it needn't be, and not really thinking about it at all if I could help it.

For all his achievements, however, Halley's greatest contribution to human knowledge may simply have been to take part in a modest scientific wager with two other worthies of his day: Robert Hooke, who is perhaps best remembered now as the first person to describe a cell, and the great and stately Sir Christopher Wren, who was actually an astronomer first and architect second, though that is not often generally remembered now. In 1683, Halley, Hooke, and Wren were dining in London when the conversation turned to the motions of celestial objects. It was known that planets were inclined to orbit in a particular kind of oval known as an ellipse—“a very specific and precise curve,” to quote Richard Feynman—but it wasn't understood why. Wren generously offered a prize worth forty shillings (equivalent to a couple of weeks' pay) to whichever of the men could provide a solution. Hooke, who was well known for taking credit for ideas that weren't necessarily his own, claimed that he had solved the problem already but declined now to share it on the interesting and inventive grounds that it would rob others of the satisfaction of discovering the answer for themselves.

Half a century later the whereabouts of the century's greatest astronomer remain unknown. For a memorial you must look to the sky and the Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990 and named in his honor. 9 THE MIGHTY ATOM WHILE EINSTEIN AND Hubble were productively unraveling the large-scale structure of the cosmos, others were struggling to understand something closer to hand but in its way just as remote: the tiny and ever- mysterious atom. The great Caltech physicist Richard Feynman once observed that if you had to reduce scientific history to one important statement it would be “All things are made of atoms.” They are everywhere and they constitute every thing. Look around you. It is all atoms. Not just the solid things like walls and tables and sofas, but the air in between. And they are there in numbers that you really cannot conceive. The basic working arrangement of atoms is the molecule (from the Latin for “little mass”).


pages: 209 words: 68,587

Stephen Hawking by Leonard Mlodinow

Albert Michelson, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Nelson Mandela, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

Einstein’s equations are in most cases extremely difficult to solve, so today we investigate their implications through the use of supercomputers, but the computer power available back then was feeble in comparison. Due to difficulties of that sort, when Stephen moved to Cambridge the practitioners of general relativity and cosmology were mainly mathematicians whose work was detached from reality and whose models of the universe were unrealistic. That kept them occupied, but nobody paid much attention to their papers. The low quality of the work prompted Caltech physicist Richard Feynman to write his wife from a 1962 conference on gravity in Warsaw, “Because there are no experiments this field is not an active one…there are hosts of dopes here and it is not good for my blood pressure: such inane things are said and seriously discussed that I get into arguments…” Most physicists concurred that questions of the origin of the universe were dead ends, but those were the questions that had won Stephen’s heart.

He showed that when you take quantum effects into account, you’re led to expect precisely the kind of radiation that Bekenstein’s nonzero entropy demanded and that general relativity could not provide. Quantum theory made it possible for Bekenstein’s entropy theory to be correct. Stephen said that he was annoyed at what he’d discovered and kept it quiet for a while. As he wrote in A Brief History of Time, “I was afraid that if Bekenstein found out about it, he would use it as a further argument to support his ideas.” But as Richard Feynman used to say, physicists don’t tell nature how things behave, nature shows physicists. So Stephen eventually accepted that Bekenstein was correct: black holes have nonzero entropy that is proportional to the surface area of their horizon; they have a nonzero temperature; and they slowly convert the matter and energy they have swallowed up into radiation that they emit back into space, gradually shrinking in the process until they eventually disappear.

The trips were all arranged by his friend Kip Thorne. Kip, who was about Stephen’s age, studied classical general relativity, the original Einstein theory without quantum modifications. At the other end of the Caltech theorist spectrum were two Nobel laureates who specialized in quantum theories and for the most part ignored general relativity. They were the two most influential theoretical physicists of their era, Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman. A decade after Stephen’s Fairchild year, I arrived at Caltech and had the office next to Murray, and down the hall from Feynman. Gell-Mann was “Murray” to me and to most people. He derived his greatest fame from discovering a mathematical scheme to classify and understand the properties of elementary particles. The achievement earned him comparisons with Dmitri Mendeleev, who accomplished an analogous feat when he invented the periodic table of elements.


pages: 124 words: 40,697

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow

airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Buckminster Fuller, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, fudge factor, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Mercator projection, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, the scientific method, Turing machine

As we improved our technology and expanded the range of phenomena that we could observe, we began to find nature behaving in ways that were less and less in line with our everyday experience and hence with our intuition, as evidenced by the experiment with buckyballs. That experiment is typical of the type of phenomena that cannot be encompassed by classical science but are described by what is called quantum physics. In fact, Richard Feynman wrote that the double-slit experiment like the one we described above “contains all the mystery of quantum mechanics.” The principles of quantum physics were developed in the first few decades of the twentieth century after Newtonian theory was found to be inadequate for the description of nature on the atomic—or subatomic—level. The fundamental theories of physics describe the forces of nature and how objects react to them.

Those who find those principles weird or difficult to believe are in good company, the company of great physicists such as Einstein and even Feynman, whose description of quantum theory we will soon present. In fact, Feynman once wrote, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” But quantum physics agrees with observation. It has never failed a test, and it has been tested more than any other theory in science. In the 1940s Richard Feynman had a startling insight regarding the difference between the quantum and Newtonian worlds. Feynman was intrigued by the question of how the interference pattern in the double-slit experiment arises. Recall that the pattern we find when we fire molecules with both slits open is not the sum of the patterns we find when we run the experiment twice, once with just one slit open, and once with only the other open.

It also holds together the protons and neutrons themselves, which is necessary because they are made of still tinier particles, the quarks we mentioned in Chapter 3. The strong force is the energy source for the sun and nuclear power, but, as with the weak force, we don’t have direct contact with it. The first force for which a quantum version was created was electromagnetism. The quantum theory of the electromagnetic field, called quantum electrodynamics, or QED for short, was developed in the 1940s by Richard Feynman and others, and has become a model for all quantum field theories. As we’ve said, according to classical theories, forces are transmitted by fields. But in quantum field theories the force fields are pictured as being made of various elementary particles called bosons, which are force-carrying particles that fly back and forth between matter particles, transmitting the forces. The matter particles are called fermions.


pages: 285 words: 78,180

Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life by J. Craig Venter

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asilomar, Barry Marshall: ulcers, bioinformatics, borderless world, Brownian motion, clean water, discovery of DNA, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, global pandemic, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, Mars Rover, Mikhail Gorbachev, phenotype, Richard Feynman, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Turing machine

I wanted to put new information into life, to create a digital code on my computer, use chemical synthesis to turn that code into a DNA chromosome, and then transplant that man-made information into a cell. I wanted to take us into a new era of biology by generating a new life form that was described and driven only by DNA information that had been created in the laboratory. This would be the ultimate proof by synthesis. 8 Synthesis of the M. mycoides Genome If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar. —Richard Feynman, 19881 Many believe that the most important innovations of human creativity are the result of some kind of visionary gift, a gift associated with such extraordinary and singular geniuses as Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein. I don’t doubt the incredible impact of individuals who can make great intellectual leaps, who can see further than anyone before them, and who discern patterns where others see only noise.

The third watermark included, alongside the names of several scientists, the second quotation: “See things not as they are, but as they might be,” attributed to one of Manhattan Project physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s early teachers and cited in the biography American Prometheus. The fourth watermark contained the remaining names of the forty-six scientists and a quotation from the Nobel Prize–winning quantum physicist Richard Feynman: “What I cannot create, I do not understand.” We had accomplished what had been only a wild dream almost fifteen years earlier, and had effectively come full circle. Starting with DNA from cells, we learned how to accurately read the DNA sequence. We successfully digitized biology by converting the four-letter chemical analog code (A, T, C, G) into the digital code of the computer (1s and 0s).

., 20021 Definitions are important in science. But sometimes it is just as important not to get too obsessed by them, particularly when you are venturing into a new area, as they can be distractions that hinder how you think and what you do. They can become a trap, as they did in the first half of the twentieth century, when scientists were certain that proteins were the genetic material. Richard Feynman issued a famous warning about the dangers of attempting to define anything with total precision: “We get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers . . . one saying to the other: ‘You don’t know what you are talking about!’ The second one says: ‘What do you mean by “talking”? What do you mean by “you”? What do you mean by “know”?’”2 When we unveiled the details of the first synthetic organism in our Science publication, we defined what we had done and how we had done it.


Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker

8-hour work day, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, bitcoin, British Empire, Brownian motion, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, collateralized debt obligation, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, Flash crash, forensic accounting, game design, High speed trading, Julian Assange, millennium bug, Minecraft, obamacare, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, publication bias, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, selection bias, Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Therac-25, value at risk, WikiLeaks, Y2K

The first human launch thus became known as Apollo 4, giving us the niche bit of trivia that Apollo 2 and Apollo 3 never existed. More than just O-rings When the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch on 28 January 1986, killing all seven people onboard, a Presidential Commission was formed to investigate the disaster. As well as including Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride (the first American woman in space), the commission also featured Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. The Challenger exploded because of a leak from one of the solid rocket boosters. For take-off, the space shuttle had two of these boosters, each of which weighed over 500 tonnes and, amazingly, used metal as fuel: they burned aluminium. Once the fuel was spent, the solid rocket boosters were jettisoned by the shuttle at an altitude of over 40 kilometres and eventually deployed a parachute so they would splash down into the Atlantic Ocean.

As part of the refurbishment, they were dismantled into four sections, checked to see how distorted they were, reshaped into perfect circles and put back together. Rubber gaskets called O-rings were placed between the sections to provide a tight seal. It was these O-rings that failed during the launch of Challenger, allowing hot gases to escape from the boosters and start the chain of events which led to its destruction. Famously, during the investigation, Richard Feynman demonstrated how the O-rings lost their elasticity at low temperatures. It was vital that, as the separate sections of the booster moved about, the O-rings sprang back to maintain the seal. In front of the media, Feynman put some of the O-ring rubber in a glass of iced water and showed that it no longer sprang back. And the 28 January launch had taken place on a very cold day. Case closed. But Feynman also uncovered a second problem with the seals between the booster sections, a subtle mathematical effect which could not be demonstrated with the captivating visual of distorted rubber coming out of a glass of cold water.

In my imaginary cartoon version of human evolution, the false positives of assuming there is a danger when there isn’t are usually not punished as severely as when a human underestimates a risk and gets eaten. The selection pressure is not on accuracy. Wrong and alive is evolutionarily better than correct and dead. But we owe it to ourselves to try to work out these probabilities as best we can. This is what Richard Feynman was faced with during the investigation into the shuttle disaster. The managers and high-up people in NASA were saying that each shuttle launch had only a one in 100,000 chance of disaster. But, to Feynman’s ears, that did not sound right. He realized it would mean there could be a shuttle launch every day for three hundred years with only one disaster. Almost nothing is that safe. In 1986, the same year as the disaster, there were 46,087 deaths on roads in the US – but Americans drove a total of 1,838,240,000,000 miles in that year.


pages: 288 words: 81,253

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, Cass Sunstein, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science, Filter Bubble, hindsight bias, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, loss aversion, market design, mutually assured destruction, Nate Silver, p-value, phenotype, prediction markets, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, urban planning, Walter Mischel, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

Researchers are entitled to keep data private until published but once they accomplish that, they should throw the doors open to give the community every opportunity to make a proper assessment. Any attempt at accuracy is bound to fall short if the truthseeking group has only limited access to potentially pertinent information. Without all the facts, accuracy suffers. This ideal of scientific sharing was similarly described by physicist Richard Feynman in a 1974 lecture as “a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results . . .” It is unrealistic to think we can perfectly achieve Feynman’s ideal; even scientists struggle with it.

Remember the thought experiment I suggested at the beginning of the book about what the headlines would have looked like if Pete Carroll’s pass call had won the 2015 Super Bowl? Those headlines would have been about his brilliance. People would have analyzed Carroll’s decision differently. Knowing how something turned out creates a conflict of interest that expresses itself as resulting. Richard Feynman recognized that in physics—a branch of science that most of us consider as objective as 2 + 2 = 4—there is still demonstrable outcome bias. He found that if those analyzing data knew, or could even just intuit, the hypothesis being tested, the analysis would be more likely to support the hypothesis being tested. The measurements might be objective, but slicing and dicing the data is vulnerable to bias, even unconsciously.

That should also be its communications guide, because true skepticism isn’t confrontational. Thinking in bets demands the imperative of skepticism. Without embracing uncertainty, we can’t rationally bet on our beliefs. And we need to be particularly skeptical of information that agrees with us because we know that we are biased to just accept and applaud confirming evidence. If we don’t “lean over backwards” (as Richard Feynman famously said) to figure out where we could be wrong, we are going to make some pretty bad bets. If we embrace uncertainty and wrap that into the way we communicate with the group, confrontational dissent evaporates because we start from a place of not being sure. Just as we can wrap our uncertainty into the way we express our beliefs (“I’m 60% sure the waiter is going to mess up my order”), when we implement the norm of skepticism, we naturally modulate expression of dissent with others.


pages: 345 words: 84,847

The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman, Anthony Brandt

active measures, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Burning Man, cloud computing, computer age, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Dava Sobel, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Frank Gehry, Google Glasses, haute couture, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, John Harrison: Longitude, John Markoff, lone genius, longitudinal study, Menlo Park, microbiome, Netflix Prize, new economy, New Journalism, pets.com, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, self-driving car, Simon Singh, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, wikimedia commons, X Prize

This skill lies right at the heart of the future innovator: looking around and breeding new solutions. After participating in the sailing seeds exercise, children will appreciate Nature’s designs their whole lives, because they’ve attempted new creations themselves. Even when the answer is fixed, creative teaching encourages students to find different ways of arriving at it. In 1965, the renowned physicist Richard Feynman was asked to review math textbooks for the California State Curriculum Committee (“18 feet of shelf space, 500 pounds of books!” he complained in his report). He felt that the modern method of teaching math, in which teachers train students in a single way of solving problems, was misguided. He argued that students should be directed to find as many ways as they can of reaching the correct solution: What we want in arithmetic textbooks is not to teach a particular way of doing every problem but, rather, to teach what the original problem is, and to leave a much greater freedom in obtaining the answer … We must remove the rigidity of thought … We must leave freedom for the mind to wander about in trying to solve problems … The successful user of mathematics is practically an inventor of new ways of obtaining answers in given situations.4 When encouraging alternatives, an effective strategy is to inspire students to go different distances from the hive.

“Partimenti Written to Impart a Knowledge of Counterpoint and Composition.” In Partimento and Continuo Playing in Theory and in Practice, edited by Dirk Moelants and Kathleen Snyers. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2010. Gladwell, Malcolm. “Creation Myth.” New Yorker. May 16, 2011. Accessed May 1, 2016. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/16/creation-myth> Gleick, James. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992. Gogh, Vincent van, and Martin Bailey. Letters from Provence. London: Collins & Brown, 1990. Gogh, Vincent van, and Ronald de Leeuw. The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. London: Allen Lane, Penguin Press, 1996. Gold, H.L. “Ready, Aim — Extrapolate!” Galaxy Science Fiction. May 1954. Göncü, Artin and Suzanne Gaskins. Play and Development: Evolutionary, Sociocultural, and Functional Perspectives.

Botía and Dimitris Charitos (Amsterdam: IOS Press Ebooks, 2013), accessed August 21, 2015, <http://ebooks.iospress.nl/volume/workshop-proceedings-of-the-9th-international-conference-on-intelligent-environments> 2 Shumei Zhang and Victor Callaghan, “Using Science Fiction Prototyping as a Means to Motivate Learning of STEM Topics and Foreign Languages,” 2014 International Conference on Intelligent Environments (Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society, 2014). 3 Amy Russell and Stephen Rice, “Sailing Seeds: An Experiment in Wind Dispersal,” Botanical Society of America, March 2001, accessed August 21, 2015, <http://botany.org/bsa/misc/mcintosh/dispersal.html> 4 James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992). 5 Kamal Shah et. al, “Maji: A New Tool to Prevent Overhydration of Children Receiving Intravenous Fluid Therapy in Low-Resource Settings,” American Journal of Tropical Medical Hygiene 92, no. 5 (2015), accessed May 11, 2016, <http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.14-0495> 6 Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (New York: Random House, 2006). 7 The school is the Renaissance Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound School.


The Gene Machine by Venki Ramakrishnan

double helix, Fellow of the Royal Society, ghettoisation, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Feynman, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

CHAPTER 1 An Unexpected Change of Plans in America WHEN I LEFT INDIA, I had my heart set on becoming a theoretical physicist. I was nineteen years old and had just graduated from Baroda University. It was customary to stay on to get a master’s degree in India before going abroad for a PhD, but I was eager to go to America as soon as I could. To me, it was not only the land of opportunity but also of rational heroes like Richard Feynman, whose famous Lectures on Physics had been part of my undergraduate curriculum. Besides, my parents were already there, as my father was taking a short sabbatical at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Since this was a last-minute decision, I had not taken the GRE exam that is a requirement for American graduate schools, and most universities would not even consider my application. The physics department at the University of Illinois initially accepted me, but when the graduate college found out I was only nineteen, they said that at best I could join as an undergraduate with two years of college credit.

Just being able to see detail had transformed biology from the anatomy of humans to the structures inside a cell. But what were all these things inside cells made of? Like all everyday matter, cells and their components are made of molecules, which are groups of atoms that are held together in a very specific way. The atomic theory of matter took such a long time to develop and is so important that Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, said that if all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed and only one sentence could be passed on to the next generations of humans, it should be ‘all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into each other.’ It is astonishing that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, without ever being able to see molecules, scientists not only deduced their existence but also their structure – the arrangement of the atoms that make up the molecule.

But the reality is that no matter how people may feel about prizes in the abstract, it is very hard to actually turn them down, especially something as grand as the Nobel Prize. It is enormously satisfying to know that your fellow scientists think so highly of you. It is also a great tribute to the students, postdocs, and staff who had risked their own careers on the project and without whom nothing would have been accomplished. And of course, the cash is always welcome. Even Richard Feynman, who disdained awards, had accepted it. I realized then that Måns was a man of real integrity. He had obviously put aside his differences with me about one aspect of our work and considered the bigger picture. At that level of discussion, even a slight lack of enthusiasm can sink a candidate. Had he been even slightly vindictive, he could easily have sidelined me from consideration and nobody would have known.


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Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, different worldview, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, scientific worldview, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

Thomas Merton1 The perfect age of the past, according to our best anthropological evidence, never existed. But a culture that sees life running inexorably downward is very different from a culture in which you can reach unprecedented heights. (I say “culture,” and not “society,” because you can have more than one subculture in a society.) You could say that the difference between e.g. Richard Feynman and the Inquisition was that the Inquisition believed they had truth, while Richard Feynman sought truth. This isn’t quite defensible, though, because there were undoubtedly some truths that Richard Feynman thought he had as well. “The sky is blue,” for example, or “2 + 2 = 4.” Yes, there are effectively certain truths of science. General Relativity may be overturned by some future physics—albeit not in any way that predicts the Sun will orbit Jupiter; the new theory must steal the successful predictions of the old theory, not contradict them.

They said the phrase “because of,” followed by the sort of words Spock might say on Star Trek, and thought they thereby entered the magisterium of science. Not so. They simply moved their magic from one literary genre to another. * 1. Search for “heat conduction.” Taken from Joachim Verhagen, http://web.archive.org/web/20060424082937/http://www.nvon.nl/scheik/best/diversen/scijokes/scijokes.txt, archived version, October 27, 2001. 31 Guessing the Teacher’s Password When I was young, I read popular physics books such as Richard Feynman’s QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. I knew that light was waves, sound was waves, matter was waves. I took pride in my scientific literacy, when I was nine years old. When I was older, and I began to read the Feynman Lectures on Physics, I ran across a gem called “the wave equation.” I could follow the equation’s derivation, but, looking back, I couldn’t see its truth at a glance.

It does seem plausible that if the Inquisition had been made up of relativists, professing that nothing was true and nothing mattered, they would have mustered less enthusiasm for their torture. They would also have been less enthusiastic if lobotomized. I think that’s a fair analogy. And yet . . . I think the Inquisition’s attitude toward truth played a role. The Inquisition believed that there was such a thing as truth, and that it was important; well, likewise Richard Feynman. But the Inquisitors were not Truth-Seekers. They were Truth-Guardians. I once read an argument (I can’t find the source) that a key component of a zeitgeist is whether it locates its ideals in its future or its past. Nearly all cultures before the Enlightenment believed in a Fall from Grace—that things had once been perfect in the distant past, but then catastrophe had struck, and everything had slowly run downhill since then: In the age when life on Earth was full . . .


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Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports From My Life With Autism by Temple Grandin

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, factory automation, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), social intelligence, source of truth, theory of mind, twin studies

Gardner describes Einstein as returning to the conceptual world of a child, and says that he was not hampered by the conventional paradigms of physics. It is interesting that autism is caused by brain immaturity. In many ways I have remained a child. Even today I do not feel like a grownup in the realm of interpersonal relationships. Some scientists are strictly analytical thinkers. The physicist Richard Feynman denied the validity of poetry and art. In his biography of Feynman, Genius, James Gleick wrote, “He would not concede that poetry or painting or religion could reach a different kind of truth.” Of course, many scientists do value poetry and share traits from both the creative and scientific end of the continuum, just as some scientists, artists, and highly analytical philosophers have some autistic traits.

I had to get through school by going through the back door, because I failed the math part of the Graduate Record Exam. My grades in high school were poor until I became motivated in my senior year. In college I did well in biology and psychology but had great difficulty with French and math. Most of the great geniuses have had very uneven skills. They are usually terrible in one subject and brilliant in their special area. Richard Feynman had very low scores on the Graduate Record Exam in English and history. His physics score was perfect, but his art score was in the seventh percentile. Even Einstein, after graduating from the Zurich Federal Institute of Technology, was not able to obtain an academic appointment. He annoyed big important professors when he told them that their theories were wrong. He had to take a job at the Swiss patent office.

He went on to say in the same paper: “The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has proved itself trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it.” But my favorite of Einstein's words on religion is “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” I like this because both science and religion are needed to answer life's great questions. Even scientists such as Richard Feynman, who rejected religion and poetry as sources of truth, concede grudgingly that there are questions that science cannot answer. I am deeply interested in the new chaos theory, because it means that order can arise out of disorder and randomness. I've read many popular articles about it, because I want scientific proof that the universe is orderly. I do not have the mathematical ability to understand chaos theory fully, but it confirms the idea that order can come from disorder and randomness.


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The Burning Answer: The Solar Revolution: A Quest for Sustainable Power by Keith Barnham

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, carbon footprint, credit crunch, decarbonisation, distributed generation, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, hydraulic fracturing, hydrogen economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Naomi Klein, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, uranium enrichment, wikimedia commons

The end result of the mayhem is eight, contented, seated children, reluctant to get up when the music restarts. There are a few disappointed and hyperactive children, excluded from the game, like the electrons in the next, empty orbit. Why are full electron orbits so stable? There was still one more question for the physicists. How come electron orbits with two or eight outer electrons are so stable they can bond atoms together? One of my heroes from my particle physics days, the late Richard Feynman, provided the most stimulating mathematical account of quantum bonding using the simplest example: two hydrogen atoms forming a hydrogen molecule. When two hydrogen atoms share two electrons the total energy is lower than when the two atoms are separate, each with one electron. As noted earlier, when faced by two options, a high energy one and a low energy one, nature chooses the lower energy option.

Doughnuts, jelly, spinning tops and musical chairs; quantum theory is child’s play! Quantum bonding demonstrated by a quantum revolutionary? While a young postdoc in Berkeley I missed out on an opportunity to meet one of the greats of quantum physics. One of the highlights of my two years there was going to be presenting some results at a conference in Caltech, where I hoped to get the chance to hear one of my scientific heroes, Richard Feynman. In fact, the conference turned out to be one of the most traumatic in my research career. I was presenting work trying to reconcile apparently inconsistent data from different experimental teams with a quantum model. This model had been developed by my then boss and subsequent, long-term friend: the late Gerson Goldhaber. There was controversy about whether the data showed that one sub-nuclear particle was actually split into two different particles.

He would then have to leave the idyll that was Berkeley and run the risk of being drafted to Vietnam. The speaker was giving the impression to his listeners that he knew it all. I was some way past the group before it struck me … I had seen a photo of that face … he did know it all! I was too embarrassed to retrace my steps to join the throng to find what he was talking about. I like to think, however, that by reclining over a number of seats in the auditorium, Richard Feynman was illustrating the subtleties of quantum bonding. Quantum bonding and fossil fuels Quantum bonding explains the cornucopia of carbon-based molecules that make up our plastics, our fossil fuels and the even more complex molecules of life. The way quantum bonding explains all these amazingly different molecules was first worked out in the 1930s by another of my heroes, the American Linus Pauling.


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A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Brownian motion, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking

For these orbits the wave crest would be in the same position each time round, so the waves would add up: these orbits would correspond to Bohr’s allowed orbits. However, for orbits whose lengths were not a whole number of wavelengths, each wave crest would eventually be canceled out by a trough as the electrons went round; these orbits would not be allowed. A nice way of visualizing the wave/particle duality is the so-called sum over histories introduced by the American scientist Richard Feynman. In this approach the particle is not supposed to have a single history or path in space-time, as it would in a classical, nonquantum theory. Instead it is supposed to go from A to B by every possible path. With each path there are associated a couple of numbers: one represents the size of a wave and the other represents the position in the cycle (i.e., whether it is at a crest or a trough).

The most likely outcome seems to be that the black hole will just disappear, at least from our region of the universe, taking with it the astronaut and any singularity there might be inside it, if indeed there is one. This was the first indication that quantum mechanics might remove the singularities that were predicted by general relativity. However, the methods that I and other people were using in 1974 were not able to answer questions such as whether singularities would occur in quantum gravity. From 1975 onward I therefore started to develop a more powerful approach to quantum gravity based on Richard Feynman’s idea of a sum over histories. The answers that this approach suggests for the origin and fate of the universe and its contents, such as astronauts, will be described in the next two chapters. We shall see that although the uncertainty principle places limitations on the accuracy of all our predictions, it may at the same time remove the fundamental unpredictability that occurs at a space-time singularity.

The idea here is that when time travelers go back to the past, they enter alternative histories which differ from recorded history. Thus they can act freely, without the constraint of consistency with their previous history. Steven Spielberg had fun with this notion in the Back to the Future films: Marty McFly was able to go back and change his parents’ courtship to a more satisfactory history. The alternative histories hypothesis sounds rather like Richard Feynman’s way of expressing quantum theory as a sum over histories, which was described in Chapters 4 and 8. This said that the universe didn’t just have a single history: rather it had every possible history, each with its own probability. However, there seems to be an important difference between Feynman’s proposal and alternative histories. In Feynman’s sum, each history comprises a complete space-time and everything in it.


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Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, New Journalism, race to the bottom, random walk, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Skype, Solar eclipse in 1919, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, undersea cable, uranium enrichment

Fears of Communist influence and spies raged in Washington, of course, with Senator Joseph McCarthy at the helm of a notorious witch hunt that targeted anyone suspected of disloyalty. In Britain, Klaus Fuchs, a physicist at the same Harwell laboratory where Pontecorvo worked, confessed to spying for the Russians while employed by the Manhattan Project, and was swiftly convicted in a high-profile trial. In the United States, the FBI investigated others who worked at Los Alamos, including the colorful physicist Richard Feynman, who was known for his brilliance as well as his mischievous deeds, including picking locks of secure cabinets just to prove that he could. Feynman was cleared, but the federal agents found that a chemist named Harry Gold had acted as a courier for Fuchs. Gold, in turn, led them to Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were arrested on suspicion of espionage along with Ethel’s younger brother David Greenglass, a former machinist at Los Alamos.

He claimed to detect solar neutrinos, but only about one-third as many as Bahcall’s model calculations predicted. To detect any solar neutrinos at all, to peer into the heart of a star for the first time, would have been a remarkable feat—but what made headlines was the large discrepancy between theory and observation. Bahcall feared that Davis’s results meant his solar model was wrong. The young theorist appeared so glum at the Caltech meeting that the legendary physicist Richard Feynman, who had received a share of the physics Nobel Prize three years earlier for his work on the theory of quantum electrodynamics, asked him whether he would like to go for a walk. The two strolled around the campus, making small talk. Eventually, as recalled by Bahcall, Feynman tried to console him: “Look, I saw that after this talk you were depressed, and I just wanted to tell you that I don’t think you have any reason to be depressed.

Other useful sources include Randy Kennedy’s New York Times obituary (September 28, 1993), and Luisa Bonolis, “Bruno Pontecorvo: From Slow Neutrons to Oscillating Neutrinos,” American Journal of Physics 73, no. 6 (June 2005): 487–99. 58 “It occurred to me”: Quoted in Bruno Pontecorvo, “Fifty Years of Neutrino Physics: A Few Episodes,” in Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics, ed. Ettore Fiorini (New York: Plenum Press, 1982). 60 Klaus Fuchs: See “The Atom Spy Case” on the FBI website at www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/the-atom-spy-case. 60 Richard Feynman: See “The Feynman Files” at www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2012/jun/06/feynman-files-professors-invitation-past-iron-curt/. 61 newspapers at the time: The commotion and suspicions surrounding Pontecorvo’s disappearance were reflected in media reports at the time, including “Atom Man Flies Away” in Daily Express (London; October 21, 1950), “Atomic Expert Missing” in The Manchester Guardian (October 21, 1950), “Top Atom Expert Flees to Russia” in The Mail (Adelaide, Australia; October 21, 1950) and “Atom Scientist Mystery” in The Sydney Morning Herald (October 23, 1950). 62 Even the BBC: From “On This Day 1950: Hunt for missing atomic scientist,” online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october27/newsid_3091000/3091390.stm. 63 Pontecorvo revealed that: As recounted in Charles Richards, “Confessions of an Atom Spy,” The Independent, August 2, 1992. 64 Fred Reines: Biographical details of Fred Reines are based on his own recollections at www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1995/reines-autobio.html, and on William Kropp, Jonas Schultz, and Henry Sobel, Frederick Reines, 1918–1998: A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 2009). 67 With this design: Primary sources for describing the project are Fred Reines’s 1995 Nobel Prize Lecture, “The Neutrino: From Poltergeist to Particle” (online at www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1995/reines-lecture.html); E.


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Models. Behaving. Badly.: Why Confusing Illusion With Reality Can Lead to Disaster, on Wall Street and in Life by Emanuel Derman

Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Black-Scholes formula, British Empire, Brownian motion, capital asset pricing model, Cepheid variable, creative destruction, crony capitalism, diversified portfolio, Douglas Hofstadter, Emanuel Derman, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, fixed income, Henri Poincaré, I will remember that I didn’t make the world, and it doesn’t satisfy my equations, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, law of one price, Mikhail Gorbachev, Myron Scholes, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Feynman, riskless arbitrage, savings glut, Schrödinger's Cat, Sharpe ratio, stochastic volatility, the scientific method, washing machines reduced drudgery, yield curve

Let Someone Else’s Fingers Do the Walking Thinking for yourself is hard work, and models save mental labor. Like the vacuum cleaner and washing machine that promised to liberate suburban housewives of the 1950s from drudgery, models provide easy and automated ways of letting other people do the thinking for you. When I worked on my PhD thesis to test the Weinberg-Salam Model in the early 1970s, I carried out each calculation using Feynman diagrams, the cartoonlike representations invented by Richard Feynman in the late 1940s to systematize and enumerate the ways particles interact during collisions. Using a formal set of rules that Feynman developed with his inimitable blend of mathematics and intuition, rules that were later justified by the more rigorous mathematics of Freeman Dyson,13 I elaborated and drew all the possible diagrams that could occur in the Standard Model, and then, using Feynman’s rules, translated each picture into a mathematical formula and evaluated it.

MAXWELL MODELS THE LINES From a long view of the history of mankind—seen from, say, ten thousand years from now—there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell’s discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade. —Richard Feynman, Lectures on Physics The historic achievement of James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish mathematician and theoretical physicist with a very practical streak, was the unification of electricity and magnetism into a consistent set of equations for electromagnetic theory. Feynman, no mean achiever himself, is accurate about the magnitude of Maxwell’s discovery, which was the midpoint on the trajectory from Newton’s discovery of the laws of mechanics to Einstein’s theories of relativity.

New developments in mathematics, from calculus to topology, have often been initiated by physicists who, by means of intuition and persistence, have sneakily but sloppily invented new kinds of mathematics that were only later made rigorous by purists. Newton invented the calculus in the seventeenth century to handle mechanics, and its foundations were satisfactorily cleaned up years later by Augustin-Louis Cauchy and his contemporaries. In the late 1940s, reconnoitering around the technical difficulties of the Dirac sea, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, and Shin’ichiro Tomonaga found an ingenious way to suppress the technical infinities of quantum electrodynamics by means of a judicious combination of extreme care and chicanery. Their starting point was never to forget that the normal quotidian electron we “see” every day is not the bare electron. The normal electron is the fully dressed electron. Therefore, when we look at an electron, with our eyes or our apparatus, what we see—what we know as fact—is its dressed mass and charge.


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The Clockwork Universe: Saac Newto, Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern WorldI by Edward Dolnick

Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, complexity theory, double helix, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, lone genius, music of the spheres, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Simon Singh, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

How do rocks fall—faster and faster forever, or just until they reach cruising speed? How fast are they traveling when they hit the ground? Aristotle’s why explained the world, Galileo’s how described it. The new scientists began, that is, by dismissing the very question that all their predecessors had taken as fundamental. (Modern-day physicists often strike the same impatient tone. When someone asked Richard Feynman to help him make sense of the world as quantum mechanics imagines it, he supposedly snapped, “Shut up and calculate.”) Aristotle had an excellent answer to the question why do rocks fall when you drop them? Galileo proposed not a different answer or a better one, but no answer at all. People do not “know a thing until they have grasped the ‘why’ of it,” Aristotle insisted, but Galileo would have none of it.

., p. 39. 63 The “lust to find out”: William Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 60. 63 “what the Lord keeps secret”: Ecclesiastes 3:22–23, quoted in Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 60. 64 “If the wisest men”: Westfall, Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, p. 22. 64 How could anyone draw: Shapin, The Scientific Revolution, p. 82. 64 “absorbing, classifying, and preserving”: Allan Chapman, England’s Leonardo: Robert Hooke and the Seventeenth-Century Scientific Revolution, p. 40. 65fn Bacon’s zeal for experimentation: John Aubrey, Brief Lives (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 1982), entry for “Francis Bacon.” 65 Nature must be “put to the torture”: Ibid., p. 40. 65 dizzy and temporarily deaf: Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits, p. 56. CHAPTER 11. TO THE BARRICADES! 66 “I swear to you by God’s”: David Berlinski, Infinite Ascent, p. 66. 67 “like torches, that in the lighting”: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 330. 68 “I’ve known since yesterday”: Simon Singh, Big Bang (New York: Harper, 2004), p. 302. Richard Feynman tells the story in its classic, romantic form in his Feynman Lectures on Physics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1963), pp. 3–7, almost as soon as he begins. 68 For decades Hooke argued: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 347. 68 “Nothing considerable in that kind”: Ibid., p. 347. 68 “Do not throw your pearls”: Paolo Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, p. 18. 69fn The historian Paolo Rossi: Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science, p. 15. 70 “to improve the knowledge”: Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature, p. 348. 70 “not by a glorious pomp”: Ibid., p. 25, quoting Sprat, History of the Royal Society, pp. 62–63. 70 “a close, naked, natural way”: Sprat, History of the Royal Society, p. 113. 71 “All that I mean”: Carey, John Donne, p. 58.

Donald Olson, a Texas State University astronomer, has carried out similar work, notably a study of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. 93 “The falling body moved more jubilantly”: Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, p. 6. 93 “a book written in mathematical characters”: The passage is from Galileo’s Assayer (1623), available at http://www.princeton.edu/∼hos/h291/assayer.htm. 94fn Galileo’s intellectual offspring: Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, p. 58. 94 “the actuality of a potentiality”: Quoted in Joe Sachs, “Aristotle: Motion and Its Place in Nature,” at http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-mot/. The remark is quoted in slightly different form in Oded Balaban, “The Modern Misunderstanding of Aristotle’s Theory of Motion,” at http://tinyurl.com/y24yvwo. 94 “If the ears, the tongue”: Galileo, The Assayer. 95 “communicate in the language”: Charles Coulston Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity, p. 43. 95 “Do not all charms fly”: John Keats, Lamia, part 2. 95 “When I heard the learn’d astronomer”: Walt Whitman, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer.” 96 “Shut up and calculate”: The remark is nearly always attributed to Feynman, it seems to have been coined by the physicist David Mermin.


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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, availability heuristic, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, delayed gratification, fear of failure, feminist movement, functional fixedness, Lao Tzu, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Walter Mischel

When a physicist dreams up a new experiment or a biologist decides to test the properties of a newly isolated compound, he doesn’t always realize that his specific question, his approach, his hypothesis, his very view of what he is doing would be impossible without the elemental knowledge at his disposal, that he has built up over the years. Indeed, he may have a hard time telling you from where exactly he got the idea for a study—and why he first thought it would make sense. After World War II, physicist Richard Feynman was asked to serve on the State Curriculum Commission, to choose high school science textbooks for California. To his consternation, the texts appeared to leave students more confused than enlightened. Each book he examined was worse than the one prior. Finally, he came upon a promising beginning: a series of pictures, of a windup toy, an automobile, and a boy on a bicycle. Under each was a question: “What makes it go?”

Why, of all things to mention to Lestrade, does Holmes focus on this particular feature, and what is it doing in something as strict-sounding as the scientific method of the mind? Lestrade isn’t the first to turn his nose up at the thought of imagination playing a role in good old scientific reason, nor is Holmes alone in his insistence to the contrary. One of the greatest scientific thinkers of the twentieth century, Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman, frequently voiced his surprise at the lack of appreciation for what he thought was a central quality in both thinking and science. “It is surprising that people do not believe that there is imagination in science,” he once told an audience. Not only is that view patently false, but “it is a very interesting kind of imagination, unlike that of the artist. The great difficulty is in trying to imagine something that you have never seen, that is consistent in every detail with what has already been seen, and that is different from what has been thought of; furthermore, it must be definite and not a vague proposition.

Take the case of the artist Ofey. When Ofey first started to paint, he was a middle-aged physicist who hadn’t drawn a day in his life. He wasn’t sure he’d ever learn how. But learn he did, going on to have his own one-man show and to sell his art to collectors all over the world. Ofey, of course, is not your typical case. He wasn’t just any physicist. He happens to have been the Nobel Prize–winning Richard Feynman, a man of uncommon genius in nearly all of his pursuits. Feynman had created Ofey as a pseudonym to ensure that his art was valued on its own terms and not on those of his laurels elsewhere. And yet there are multiple other cases. While Feynman may be unique in his contributions to physics, he certainly is not in representing the brain’s ability to change—and to change in profound ways—late in life.


pages: 229 words: 67,599

The Logician and the Engineer: How George Boole and Claude Shannon Created the Information Age by Paul J. Nahin

Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, Edward Thorp, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, four colour theorem, Georg Cantor, Grace Hopper, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, New Journalism, Pierre-Simon Laplace, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, thinkpad, Thomas Bayes, Turing machine, Turing test, V2 rocket

Shannon displayed an early interest in “how things work,” building model airplanes, a radio-controlled boat, and a telegraph system linking his house to a friend’s a half-mile distant (with the help of a strategically located wire fence). He earned pocket money during high school by delivering telegrams and fixing radios at a local department store. (This was common among many youngsters in the 1920s and 1930s who went on to technical careers; a similar story is told by Richard Feynman in his famous 1985 autobiographical Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!) Following in the footsteps of his sister, he enrolled at the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1936 with double bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering. It was in a class there that Shannon was introduced to Boole’s algebra of logic. You can get an idea of Shannon’s growing mathematical abilities during those undergraduate years by reading a little note in the American Mathematical Monthly for January 1935 (p. 45).

One could calculate, if one wanted to … the kind of population you would have after a number of generations.”10 Both Burks and Bush strongly urged Shannon to publish, but he had lost interest in the topic, and, besides, he had other, more urgent matters that demanded his attention. With his PhD in hand, and after spending the summer of 1940 back at Bell Labs, Shannon used a National Research Council Fellowship for a year’s stay at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he worked under the great mathematician Hermann Weyl. Also there were such luminaries as John von Neumann and Albert Einstein. He might even have bumped into Richard Feynman, who was working on his PhD in physics at Princeton. Also there with Shannon was his first wife, Norma Levor (born 1920), whom he had married in 1939. Theirs was an intense, passionate, but ultimately doomed brief marriage, and Norma left him in June 1941. With all that going on in his life, it isn’t surprising that writing up his doctoral dissertation wasn’t high on Shannon’s list of things to do.

Bennett, “Notes on the History of Reversible Computation,” IBM Journal of Research and Development, January 1988, pp. 16–23. 5. Charles H. Bennett and Rolf Landauer, “The Fundamental Limits of Computation,” Scientific American, July 1985, pp. 48–56. The opening quotation to this chapter comes from this paper. 6. In Feynman Lectures on Computation (edited by A.J.G. Hey and R.W. Allen), Addison-Wesley, 1996, the American physicist Richard Feynman (1918–1988) says of this conservation property (p. 39): “Fredkin … demanded that not only must a gate be reversible, but the number of 1s and 0s should never change. There is no good reason for this [my emphasis], but he did it anyway.” Contrary to Feynman, you’ll see in the last section of this chapter that there can be, in fact, a very good reason for preserving parity. 7. Szilard’s 1929 German-language paper, “On the Decrease of Entropy in a Thermodynamic System by the Intervention of Intelligent Beings,” can be found in English translation in Harvey S.


pages: 114 words: 30,715

The Four Horsemen by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett

3D printing, Andrew Wiles, cognitive dissonance, cosmological constant, dark matter, Desert Island Discs, en.wikipedia.org, phenotype, Richard Feynman, stem cell, Steven Pinker

There’s never been a prophecy that’s been vindicated like that. Or anyone willing to place their reputation and, as it were, their life on the idea that it would be. DAWKINS: I was once asked at a public meeting, ‘Don’t you think that the mysteriousness of quantum theory is just the same as the mysteriousness of the Trinity or transubstantiation?’ And the answer of course is, [it] can be answered, in two quotes from Richard Feynman. One, Richard Feynman said, ‘If you think you understand quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory.’ He was admitting that it’s highly mysterious. The other thing is that the predictions in quantum theory experimentally are verified to the equivalent of predicting the width of North America to the width of one human hair. And so, quantum theory is massively supported by accurate predictions, even if you don’t understand the mystery of the Copenhagen interpretation, whatever it is.


pages: 339 words: 112,979

Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Mahatma Gandhi, music of the spheres, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steven Pinker, Zipf's Law

Quite the contrary; the solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle and, in any case, when you have solved one mystery you uncover others, perhaps to inspire greater poetry. The distinguished theoretical physicist Richard Feynman was charged by a friend that a scientist misses the beauty of a flower by studying it. Feynman responded: The beauty that is there for you is also available for me, too. But I see a deeper beauty that isn't so readily available to others. I can see the complicated interactions of the flower. The color of the flower is red Does the fact that the plant has color mean that it evolved to attract insects? This adds a further question. Can insects see color? Do they have an aesthetic sense? And so on. I don't see how studying a flower ever detracts from its beauty. It only adds. from 'Remembering Richard Feynman', The Skeptical Inquirer (1988) Newton's dissection of the rainbow into light of different wavelengths led on to Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism and thence to Einstein's theory of special relativity.

The precise barcodes of hydrogen and all elements are now accurately explained by the quantum theory, but this is where I have to make my excuses and leave. Sometimes I imagine that I have some appreciation of the poetry of quantum theory, but I have yet to achieve an understanding deep enough to explain it to others. Actually, it may be that nobody really understands quantum theory, possibly because natural selection shaped our brains to survive in a world of large, slow things, where quantum effects are smothered. This point is well made by Richard Feynman, who is also supposed to have said, 'If you think you understand quantum theory—you don't understand quantum theory!' I think I have been brought closest to understanding by Feynman's published lectures, and by David Deutsch's astonishing and disturbing book, The Fabric of Reality (1997). (I find it additionally disturbing because I cannot tell when I am reading generally accepted physics, versus the author's own daring speculations).

Especially when you add in the calls from people whose watches stopped the day before, people whose watches didn't stop but whose grandfather clocks did, people who died of heart attacks and their bereaved relatives phoned in to say that their 'ticker' gave out, and so on. This kind of coincidence is celebrated in the delightfully sentimental old song, 'Grandfather's Clock:' Ninety years without slumbering, Tick, tock, tick, tock, His life seconds numbering, Tick, tock tick, tock, It stopped ... short... never to go again When the old man died. Richard Feynman, in a 1963 lecture published posthumously in 1998, tells the story of how his first wife died at 9.22 in the evening and the clock in her room was later found to have stopped at exactly 9.22. There are those who would revel in the apparent mystery of this coincidence and feel that Feynman has taken away something precious when he gives us a simple, rational explanation of the mystery. The clock was old and erratic and was in the habit of stopping if tilted out of the horizontal.


pages: 696 words: 143,736

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Everything should be made as simple as possible, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, fudge factor, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, information retrieval, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jacquard loom, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, ought to be enough for anybody, pattern recognition, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, the medium is the message, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Whole Earth Review, Y2K

Time, March 16, 1998. 3 Hans Moravec, Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 108. 4 Ralph Merkle’s comments on nanotechnology can be found in an overview at his web site at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center <http://sandbox.xerox.com/nano>. His site contains links to important publications on nanotechnology, such as Richard Feynman’s 1959 talk and Eric Drexler’s dissertation, as well as links to various research centers that focus on nanotechnology. 5 Richard Feynman presented these ideas on December 29, 1959, at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). His talk was first published in the February 1960 issue of Cal Tech’s Engineering and Science. This article is available online at <http://nano.xerox.com/nanotech/feynman.html>. 6 Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986).

But just as we will eventually relinquish the extremely slow speed of our neurons, we will ultimately be forced to abandon the other restrictions of our protein-based chemistry. To rein-vent our cells, we look to one of the twenty-first century’s primary technologies: nanotechnology. NANOTECHNOLOGY: REBUILDING THE WORLD, ATOM BY ATOM The problems of chemistry and biology can be greatly helped if... doing things on an atomic level is ultimately developed—a development which I think cannot be avoided. —Richard Feynman, 1959 Suppose someone claimed to have a microscopically exact replica (in marble, even) of Michelangelo’s David in his home. When you go to see this marvel, you find a twenty-foot-tall, roughly rectilinear hunk of pure white marble standing in his living room. “I haven’t gotten around to unpacking it yet,” he says, “but I know it’s in there.” —Douglas Hofstadter What advantages will nanotoasters have over conventional macroscopic toaster technology?

Just as our human-created computational technology will ultimately exceed the capacity of natural computation (electronic circuits are already millions of times faster than human neural circuits), our twenty-first-century physical technology will also greatly exceed the capabilities of the amino acid—based nanotechnology of the natural world. The concept of building machines atom by atom was first described in a 1959 talk at Cal Tech titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” by physicist Richard Feynman, the same guy who first suggested the possibility of quantum computing.5 The idea was developed in some detail by Eric Drexler twenty years later in his book Engines of Creation.6 The book actually inspired the cryonics movement of the 1980s, in which people had their heads (with or without bodies) frozen in the hope that a future time would possess the molecule-scale technology to overcome their mortal diseases, as well as undo the effects of freezing and defrosting.


How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight by Julian Guthrie

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Frank Gehry, gravity well, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Oculus Rift, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, pets.com, private space industry, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, urban planning

Peter wanted to open every door and explore every subject. He was uncharacteristically silent, soaking in all of the details. He and his mom passed buildings 10 and 11 and stopped at building 8, the physics department. Created in the nineteenth century by MIT founder William Barton Rogers, the department had among its faculty and graduates a dazzling array of Nobel Prize winners and some of the field’s greatest minds, from Richard Feynman (quantum electrodynamics), Murray Gell-Mann (elementary particles), Samuel Ting and Burton Richter (subatomic particles), to Robert Noyce (Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel), Bill Shockley (field-effect transistors), George Smoot (cosmic microwave background radiation), and Philip Morrison (Manhattan Project, science educator). Physics classes at MIT had been flooded with students in the years following the launch of Sputnik and the success of Apollo.

The space shuttle Challenger had disintegrated seventy-three seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986, killing the seven astronauts, including a high school teacher, on board. The accident was found to be part mechanical failure, part management failure. Members of the Rogers Commission, appointed to determine the causes of the disaster, found among other things that NASA managers had not accurately calculated the flight risks. Commissioner Richard Feynman, the Caltech physicist and Nobel laureate, concluded, “The management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.” Burt had followed the commission’s findings only from afar. One of the more memorable things to come out of it was something he heard from test pilot Chuck Yeager, who would swing by to visit on occasion. Yeager was appointed to the commission and attended the first meeting, where discussion centered around the shuttle’s O-rings, which failed due to the cold temperatures on the morning of the launch.

Where no government filled the need and no immediate profit could fill the bill, the Orteig Prize stimulated multiple different attempts. Where $25,000 was offered, nearly $400,000 was spent to win the prize—because it was there to be won. Peter wanted to do for space what Orteig—through Lindbergh—did for aviation. He now had everyone’s attention. Peter told the cautionary story of Richard Feynman giving a Caltech lecture to the American Physical Society entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” where he spoke of building atomic- and molecular-size machinery. To promote the idea, Feynman offered $1,000 to the first person who could build a working electric motor no larger than one sixty-fourth of an inch on each side. He envisioned that novel technologies would have to be developed to permit the manipulation of individual atoms to win such a prize.


What We Cannot Know: Explorations at the Edge of Knowledge by Marcus Du Sautoy

Albert Michelson, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, banking crisis, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Black Swan, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Georg Cantor, Hans Lippershey, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Necker cube, Paul Erdős, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, technological singularity, Thales of Miletus, Turing test, wikimedia commons

The current theory of the very small – quantum physics – proposes that there are limits to knowledge built into the theory. As I try to divide my dice more and more, at some point I run up against a barrier beyond which I cannot pass, as my next Edge reveals. THIRD EDGE: THE POT OF URANIUM 5 It is absolutely necessary, for progress in science, to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature. Richard Feynman It’s extraordinary what you can buy over the Internet. Today a small pot of radioactive uranium-238 arrived in the post. ‘Useful for performing nuclear experiments,’ the advert assured me. I rather enjoyed the comments from other people who purchased a pot: ‘So glad I don’t have to buy this from Libyans in parking lots at the mall anymore.’ One purchaser wasn’t so happy: ‘I purchased this product 4.47 billion years ago and when I opened it today, it was half empty.’

It looks like the truly random thing sitting on my desk is not the casino dice I picked up in Vegas but the little pot of uranium I bought over the Internet. 6 How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another. Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I must admit that I am having real trouble with the counterintuitive nature of the quantum world. Apparently, this is a good sign. The quantum physicist Niels Bohr once declared: ‘If quantum physics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.’ Richard Feynman went even further, declaring that ‘no one understands quantum physics’. During a keynote address he made in his sixties he admitted: ‘Might I say immediately that we have always had (secret, secret, close the doors!) we have always had a great deal of difficulty in understanding the world view that quantum mechanics represents. I still get nervous with it.’ The mathematician in me hankers after some deterministic mechanism that will tell me when my pot of uranium is going to spit out its next particle.

So is the unknown of quantum physics home for a theistic God? If I was going to get anywhere in my attempts to understand whether a God could hide in the equations of quantum physics, I needed to talk to someone who was as much at home in a laboratory as in a cathedral. So I made a trip to Cambridge. THE VEGETARIAN BUTCHER John Polkinghorne learned his physics at the feet of Paul Dirac in Cambridge and then with Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann at Caltech. You can’t ask for better teachers than that. His research has, among other things, helped to confirm the existence of the quarks that many believe are the last step as I zoom in on my casino dice. Polkinghorne is back at his alma mater, so I arranged to meet him at his home in Cambridge. Having done a five-year research stint in Cambridge, I always enjoy a chance to visit even if my heart is with the dark-blue city of Oxford.


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, business climate, Cal Newport, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Clayton Christensen, David Brooks, David Heinemeier Hansson, deliberate practice, disruptive innovation, Donald Knuth, Donald Trump, Downton Abbey, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, follow your passion, Frank Gehry, informal economy, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Jaron Lanier, knowledge worker, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Merlin Mann, Nate Silver, new economy, Nicholas Carr, popular electronics, remote working, Richard Feynman, Ruby on Rails, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Snapchat, statistical model, the medium is the message, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game

This metric tends to grow over careers, which is why in many fields h-index goals are tied to certain career milestones. “To do real good physics work”: comes around the 28:20 mark in a 1981 TV interview with Richard Feynman for the BBC Horizon program (the interview aired in the United States as an episode of NOVA). The YouTube video of this interview that I watched when researching this book has since been removed due to a copyright complaint by the BBC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgaw9qe7DEE). Transcripts of the relevant quote, however, can be found at http://articles.latimes.com/1988-02-16/news/mn-42968_1_nobel-prize/2 and http://calnewport.com/blog/2014/04/20/richard-feynman-didnt-win-a-nobel-by-responding-promptly-to-e-mails/ and http://www.worldcat.org/wcpa/servlet/DCARead?standardNo=0738201081&standardNoType=1&excerpt=true. “Managers themselves inhabit a bewildering psychic landscape”: from page 9 of Crawford, Matthew.

Google Scholar, a tool popular among academics for finding research papers, even calculates your h-index automatically so you can be reminded, multiple times per week, precisely where you stand. (In case you’re wondering, as of the morning when I’m writing this chapter, I’m a 21.) This clarity simplifies decisions about what work habits a professor adopts or abandons. Here, for example, is the late Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman explaining in an interview one of his less orthodox productivity strategies: To do real good physics work, you do need absolute solid lengths of time… it needs a lot of concentration… if you have a job administrating anything, you don’t have the time. So I have invented another myth for myself: that I’m irresponsible. I’m actively irresponsible. I tell everyone I don’t do anything. If anyone asks me to be on a committee for admissions, “no,” I tell them: I’m irresponsible.


pages: 260 words: 77,007

Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-Like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You ... Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy by William Poundstone

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, big-box store, Buckminster Fuller, car-free, cloud computing, creative destruction, en.wikipedia.org, full text search, hiring and firing, index card, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lateral thinking, loss aversion, mental accounting, new economy, Paul Erdős, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, rolodex, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, sorting algorithm, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, The Spirit Level, Tony Hsieh, why are manhole covers round?, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

One of the first to solve the puzzle was the iconoclastic physicist and mathematician Stephen Wolfram. Born in London in 1959, Wolfram had been a child prodigy and had published an important paper on quarks at the age of seventeen. Three years later he had a PhD in particle physics from Caltech. In the 1980s, Wolfram received a MacArthur grant, worked at the Institute for Advanced Study, and collaborated with Richard Feynman. In 1987 he cofounded Wolfram Research to market Mathematica, the globally used calculating program for scientists and engineers. It took Wolfram just a single line of Mathematica code to solve the billboard’s puzzle. Let me explain what the billboard was asking. Start inside the brackets with the italicized lowercase letter e. This is Euler’s number, approximately 2.71828…. One way to explain e is to say that it’s a measure of the power of compound interest.

There’s a staircase and you’re allowed to ascend one or two steps at a time. How many ways are there to reach the Nth step? ? You have N companies and want to merge them into one big company. How many different ways are there to do it? ? What is the most beautiful equation you have ever seen? Explain. Five Engineers and How Not to Think Like Them The Value of Keeping Things Simple The great physicist Richard Feynman once applied for a job at Microsoft (so runs the guaranteed-apocryphal story). “Well, well, Dr. Feynman,” the interviewer began. “We don’t get many Nobel Prize winners, even at Microsoft! But before we can hire you, there’s a slight formality. We need to ask you a question to test your creative reasoning ability. The question is, why are manhole covers round?” “That’s a ridiculous question,” Feynman said.

“It is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment,” he once wrote. Dirac was notoriously eccentric and socially awkward, partly the result of autism. As a theoretical physicist, he saw the world as a puzzle to which beautiful equations were the key. To a remarkable degree, contemporary science (and many job interviewers) accept Dirac’s view of the world. For an amusing rebuttal, see Richard Feynman in the second volume of The Feynman Lectures on Physics, in which he makes the amazing claim that all of physics can be reduced to a single equation. The equation is U = 0 That’s it! That’s everything about the universe! Feynman was half-serious. Take an equation like E = mc2. It is said to be deep. Its so-called beauty rests with the fact that it explains so much with just a few marks on paper, a few black pixels on white.


pages: 393 words: 115,217

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Astronomia nova, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, cognitive bias, creative destruction, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Edmond Halley, Gary Taubes, hypertext link, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Jony Ive, knowledge economy, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, Murray Gell-Mann, PageRank, Peter Thiel, Philip Mirowski, Pierre-Simon Laplace, prediction markets, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, side project, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tim Cook: Apple, tulip mania, Wall-E, wikimedia commons, yield management

—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Miss Austen suggests that two competing forces tug at single men. Those of modest fortunes, in their younger and more aggressive years, may travel widely in the pursuit of fame, wealth, and glory. Let’s call that force “entropy.” Those of greater fortune, in their older and gentler years, want to settle down with a partner. They seek family, stability, and cable TV. Let’s call that force “binding energy.” The physicist Richard Feynman once said, “Learn by trying to understand simple things in terms of other ideas—always honestly and directly.” His disciple Lenny Susskind, my former graduate advisor, took that advice seriously. Lenny once explained to me a complex idea in topology, the study of surfaces, by saying, “Imagine an elephant, then take its trunk and shove it up its a—. That’s your surface.” In that vivid spirit, imagine the bottom half of a very large egg carton.

And we have seen how these ideas have come together, in a handful of examples, to win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries. So now, to close, let’s turn to another small topic: the history of our species. PART THREE THE MOTHER OF ALL LOONSHOTS When you have learned to explain simpler things, so you have learned what an explanation really is, you can then go on to more subtle questions. —Richard Feynman 9 Why the World Speaks English THE NEEDHAM QUESTION On a sunny day in August 1937, on the campus of Cambridge University in England, an attractive 33-year-old visitor knocked on the door of a renowned biochemist. Joseph Needham’s three-volume study of how embryos form and grow had been compared by reviewers to Darwin’s Origin of Species. Gwei-djen Lu had traveled two months and eight thousand miles, from Shanghai, to meet and possibly work with the legendary Dr.

Reprinted with permission from AAAS. Predicting when conflict will erupt: Science 352 (June 17, 2016): 1459. Reprinted with permission from AAAS. Tug-of-war: Antar Dayal, AntarWorks LLC. Launch of Sputnik: By permission of the Marcus family. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ds-04944. The DARPA team prepares: DARPA. Shredding the Dead Sea Scrolls: Antar Dayal, AntarWorks LLC. Richard Feynman: Tamiko Thiel, via Wikimedia Commons. Einstein and Kepler: Antar Dayal, AntarWorks LLC. Shen Kuo: Antar Dayal, AntarWorks LLC. Hooke, Boyle, and air pump: Rita Greer, via Wikimedia Commons. Papin’s discovery: Public domain. SOURCE NOTES Because sources mostly do not overlap between chapters, a bibliography is provided for each chapter, to make it easier for the reader to browse related subjects.


pages: 551 words: 174,280

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch

agricultural Revolution, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Bonfire of the Vanities, conceptual framework, cosmological principle, dark matter, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, first-past-the-post, Georg Cantor, global pandemic, Gödel, Escher, Bach, illegal immigration, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kenneth Arrow, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, pattern recognition, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, technological singularity, Thales of Miletus, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Review, William of Occam, zero-sum game

: Everett, Quantum Theory, and Reality (Oxford University Press, 2010) David Deutsch, ‘It from Qubit’, in John Barrow, Paul Davies and Charles Harper, eds., Science and Ultimate Reality (Cambridge University Press, 2003) David Deutsch, ‘Quantum Theory of Probability and Decisions’, Proceedings of the Royal Society A455 (1999) David Deutsch, ‘The Structure of the Multiverse’, Proceedings of the Royal Society A458 (2002) Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law (BBC Publications, 1965) Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All (Allen Lane, 1998) Ernest Gellner, Words and Things (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Basic Books, 1979) Douglas Hofstadter, I am a Strange Loop (Basic Books, 2007) Bryan Magee, Popper (Fontana, 1973) Pericles, ‘Funeral Oration’ Plato, Euthyphro Karl Popper, In Search of a Better World (Routledge, 1995) Karl Popper, The World of Parmenides (Routledge, 1998) Roy Porter, Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Allen Lane, 2000) Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers (Basic Books, 2001) Alan Turing, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, Mind, 59, 236 (October 1950) Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men (Faber, 2002) Vernor Vinge, ‘The Coming Technological Singularity’, Whole Earth Review, winter 1993 *The term was coined by the philosopher Norwood Russell Hanson.

But it does not matter what terminology you use, so long as it does not lead you to conclude that there is something worthwhile about the Persephone myth, or the prophet’s apocalyptic theory or the gambler’s delusion, just because it is testable. Nor is a person capable of making progress merely by virtue of being willing to drop a theory when it is refuted: one must also be seeking a better explanation of the relevant phenomena. That is the scientific frame of mind. As the physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.’ By adopting easily variable explanations, the gambler and prophet are ensuring that they will be able to continue fooling themselves no matter what happens. Just as thoroughly as if they had adopted untestable theories, they are insulating themselves from facing evidence that they are mistaken about what is really there in the physical world.

The laws of motion of the multiverse are deterministic, and apparent randomness is due to initially fungible instances of objects becoming different. In quantum physics, variables are typically discrete, and how they change from one value to another is a multiversal process involving interference and fungibility. 12 A Physicist’s History of Bad Philosophy With Some Comments on Bad Science By the way, what I have just outlined is what I call a ‘physicist’s history of physics’, which is never correct… Richard Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985) READER: So, I am an emergent, quasi-autonomous flow of information in the multiverse. DAVID: You are. READER: And I exist in multiple instances, some of them different from each other, some not. And those are the least weird things about the world according to quantum theory. DAVID: Yes. READER: But your argument is that we have no option but to accept the theory’s implications, because it is the only known explanation of many phenomena and has survived all known experimental tests.


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The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Berlin Wall, cuban missile crisis, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, gravity well, Henri Poincaré, invention of radio, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Murray Gell-Mann, period drama, Richard Feynman, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, strikebreaker, University of East Anglia

Interview with Lew Kowarski by Charles Weiner, 3 May 1970, AIP. 3 The typed manuscript of Dirac’s talk is in the Mudd Library, PRINCETON. 4 In Feynman’s theory, the probability that a quantum such as an electron will make a transition from one point in space-time to another can be calculated from a mathematical expression related to the action involved in moving between the two points, summed over all possible routes between them. 5 Interview by Charles Weiner of Richard Feynman, 27 June 1966 (CALTECH). See also Feynman’s Nobel Lecture and Gleick (1992: 226) and its references. 6 Interview with Freeman Dyson, 27 June 2005. Dyson noted that Feynman made the point repeatedly. 7 Quoted by Oppenheimer in Smith and Weiner (1980: 269). Wigner was one of the examiners of Feynman’s Ph. D. thesis; the other was Wheeler. The oral examination was held on 3 June 1942, and the examiners’ report is held in the Mudd Library, PRINCETON. 8 See Kevles (1971: Chapter 12) and Schweber (1994: Section 3). 9 Schweber (1994: Chapter 4); Pais (1986: 450–1); Dyson (2005). 10 Lamb (1983: 326).

Dirac was sensitive about the mark on the left side of his nose, the remains of a precancerous cyst, removed in the summer of 1977. For this reason, Noakes’s portrait of Dirac shows only the right side of his face. Dirac looked rather more resolute in the two chalk drawings by Howard Morgan in 1980, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery. 50 Feynman’s drawing is reproduced in the frontispiece of Kursunoglu and Wigner (1987). An example of Feynman’s ‘I’m no Dirac’ is in interview by Charles Weiner of Richard Feynman, 28 June 1966, p. 187 (CALTECH). 51 Lord Waldegrave points out that ‘the award was largely the result of the intervention of Victor Rothschild, the late Lord Rothschild, who was well placed at that time as a Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office as Head of the Central Policy Review Staff of Prime Minister Edward Heath’ (interview with Lord Waldegrave, 2 June 2004). 52 Letter from Manci to Barbara Gamow, 1 May 1973, LC. 53 Salaman and Salaman (1986: 70).

They have just arrived at Stockholm railway station, 9 December 1933, for the Nobel celebrations. Extract from a letter from Dirac to his friend Manci Balazs, 9 May 1935 Dirac and Manci on their honeymoon, Brighton, January 1937 The Dirac family in the garden of their Cambridge home, c.1946. Left to right: Dirac, Monica, Manci, Gabriel, Mary and Judy. Dirac and Manci (on the far left) with a party during a crossing of the Atlantic on the SS America, 2 April 1963 Dirac and Richard Feynman at a conference on relativity, Warsaw, July 1962 Dirac at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, c.1958 The Diracs’ home in Tallahasse, 223 Chapel Drive Kapitza and Dirac at the Hotel Bad Schachen, Lindau, summer 1982 One of the last photographs taken of Dirac, Tallahassee, c.1983 Abbreviations in Notes AHQP Archives for the History of Quantum Physics, multiple locations, provided by Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, Maryland., USA (http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/guides/ahqp/).


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The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard Susskind, Daniel Susskind

23andMe, 3D printing, additive manufacturing, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Keen, Atul Gawande, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Bill Joy: nanobots, business process, business process outsourcing, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, Clapham omnibus, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, commoditize, computer age, Computer Numeric Control, computer vision, conceptual framework, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, death of newspapers, disintermediation, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, full employment, future of work, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Hacker Ethic, industrial robot, informal economy, information retrieval, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, lifelogging, lump of labour, Marshall McLuhan, Metcalfe’s law, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Network effects, optical character recognition, Paul Samuelson, personalized medicine, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, semantic web, Shoshana Zuboff, Skype, social web, speech recognition, spinning jenny, strong AI, supply-chain management, telepresence, The Future of Employment, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, young professional

As Abraham Maslow, a leading psychologist, has noted: ‘I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat every problem as if it were a nail.’88 However, real-life problems do not always arise neatly labelled as the province of one professional or another. Everyday problems are messier than this—the life events that incline people to seek professional help might, ideally, call for the input of many experts, and not just one. Physics Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman makes an analogous point, relating to the way we chunk up the world around us: if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. … If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts—physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on—remember that nature does not know it!89 Not only are the professions themselves a human construct, therefore, but so too is the organization of the knowledge that they dispense—knowledge is generally structured and presented in libraries, in textbooks, and on websites, for research and learning purposes rather than for dissemination to endusers.

We find it hard to reconcile this view with the daily experience of professionals in action. They often work with informal, approximations of fields of knowledge. The purist may find these untenable (and they may be theoretically flawed), but they do seem to work in practice. For a stimulating related discussion, see David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery (1991). 88 Abraham Maslow, The Psychology of Science (1966), 15. 89 Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. 1 (1964), ch. 3.7 <http://www. feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_toc.html> (accessed 27 March 2015). 90 Discussed in Alex Frame, Salmond: Southern Jurist (1995), 30. 2 From the Vanguard In this chapter we change pace. We run through a group of different professions and offer a glimpse of the many ways in which they are changing, largely because of technology.

In 2007 it would have cost around $10 million to read a human genome. Now it costs a few thousand dollars.48 Companies like 23andMe, Navigenics, and deCODE offer commercial testing services from $99.49 In the field of ‘genome editing’, scientists search for problematic genes and actively intervene to change or remove them. Nanomedicine, the use of nanotechnology in a medical setting, is another field. Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s seventy-year-old prediction that we might one day ‘swallow the surgeon’50 has come true—there are already small nanobots that are able to swim through our bodies, relaying images, delivering targeted drugs, and attacking particular cells with a precision that makes even the finest of surgeons’ blades look blunt. (At Google X, one of Google’s research facilities, they are said to be developing a version of this.51) Non-humans are also playing a role.


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The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible by Lance Fortnow

Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, complexity theory, Donald Knuth, Erdős number, four colour theorem, Gerolamo Cardano, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, linear programming, new economy, NP-complete, Occam's razor, P = NP, Paul Erdős, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, smart grid, Stephen Hawking, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William of Occam

Perhaps the amount of time a computation takes might vary depending on the message encoded. A hacker might damage part of the system, such as by sticking a smart card in a microwave, and hope the resulting damaged computation may no longer keep secrets. We may have unbreakable codes, but building systems that will always keep secrets a secret may never come to be. Chapter 9 QUANTUM IN 1982, THE NOBEL PRIZE–WINNING PHYSICIST Richard Feynman noticed there was no simple way of simulating quantum physical systems using digital computers. He turned this problem into an opportunity—perhaps a computational device based on quantum mechanics could solve problems more efficiently than more traditional computers. In the decades that followed, computer scientists and physicists, often working together, showed in theory that quantum computers can solve certain problems, such as factoring numbers, much faster.

Works Cited Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, “New Directions in Cryptography,” IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 22, no. 6 (November 1976): 644–54. Craig Gentry, “Fully Homomorphic Encryption Using Ideal Lattices,” in Proceedings of the 41st Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (New York: ACM, 1979), 169–78. Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, “A Method for Obtaining Digital Signatures and Public-Key Cryptosystems,” Communications of the ACM 21, no. 2 (February 1978): 120–26. Chapter 9 My account of Richard Feynman’s role in quantum computing draws on David Deutsch’s work, “Quantum Computation,” Physics World, January 6, 1992. Works Cited Charles Bennett and Gilles Brassard, “Quantum Cryptography: Public Key Distribution and Coin Tossing,” Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Computers, Systems, and Signal Processing (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1984), 175–79. Charles Bennett, Gilles Brassard, Claude Crépeau, Richard Jozsa, Asher Peres, and William K.


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Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lone genius, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics

Start with any matter and energy distribution, expressed in the form of what is called the stress-energy tensor, Tμν, and the field equations of general relativity tell you the components of another mathematical entity, representing the geometry of spacetime, called the Einstein tensor, Gμν. The equation Gμν = 8πTμν (which can be written in various ways) is considered one of Einstein’s most important contributions, along with E = mc2 and the equation for the photoelectric effect. All three equations are carved into the Einstein Memorial in Washington, D.C., as testimony to his brilliance. An anecdote once told by acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman illustrates the ubiquity of Einstein’s field equations in modern discussions of gravitation. Feynman was invited to the first American conference on general relativity, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1957. When he arrived at the airport and was about to take a taxi to the conference, he didn’t know whether it was being held at the University of North 59 Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat Carolina or North Carolina State.

It is just abuse, nothing more.”34 Like Schrödinger, Einstein also set the argument aside. (He didn’t respond to the O’Nolan piece, which he probably didn’t even hear about.) However, it would be three more years until he resumed his correspondence with his old friend. Milestones In 1948, Princeton physicist John Wheeler, who lived near Einstein and often visited him, brought him exciting news. Wheeler’s brilliant student Richard Feynman had developed a unique approach to quantum mechanics, called “sum over histories,” that generalized Hamilton’s least-action principle to the study of how photons transfer between electrons and other charged particles to generate the electromagnetic force. In creating a force, the photon acts as what is called an “exchange particle.” (Its existence is required through Weyl’s gauge theory of electromagnetism.)

Albert Einstein to Arnold Sommerfeld, October 29, 1912, in Albert Einstein, The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, vol. 5, The Swiss Years: Correspondence, 1902–1914, English translation supplement, ed. Don Howard, trans. Anna Beck (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), Doc. 421. 7. Carl Seelig, Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography, trans. Mervyn Savill (London: Staples Press, 1956), 108. 8. Albert Einstein to Paul Ehrenfest, January 1916, in Seelig, Albert Einstein, 156. 9. Richard Feynman, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character (New York: Norton, 2010), 58. 10. Walter Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 105. 11. Erwin Schrödinger, translated and quoted in Alex Harvey, “How Einstein Discovered Dark Energy,” 2012, http://arxiv.org/abs/1211.6338. 12. Albert Einstein, “Bemerkung zu Herrn Schrödingers Notiz Über ein Lösungssystem der allgemein kovarianten Gravitationsgleichungen,” Physikalische Zeitschrift 19 (1918): 165–166, translated and edited by M.


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Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip Tetlock, Dan Gardner

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, availability heuristic, Black Swan, butterfly effect, buy and hold, cloud computing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, desegregation, drone strike, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, forward guidance, Freestyle chess, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, hindsight bias, index fund, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Kenneth Arrow, Laplace demon, longitudinal study, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mohammed Bouazizi, Nash equilibrium, Nate Silver, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, pattern recognition, performance metric, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, placebo effect, prediction markets, quantitative easing, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, stem cell, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

Druin Burch, Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine’s Beautiful Idea, and Our Difficulty Swallowing It (London: Vintage, 2010), p. 4. 5. Ibid., p. 37. 6. Ira Rutkow, Seeking the Cure: A History of Medicine in America (New York: Scribner, 2010), p. 98. 7. Ibid., p. 94. 8. Burch, Taking the Medicine, p. 158. 9. Richard Feynman, commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 1974. 10. Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist (New York: Basic Books, 2005), p. 28. 11. Ibid., p. 27. 12. Cochrane with Blythe, One Man’s Medicine, pp. 46, 157, 211, 190. 13. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), p. 209. 14. If you know cognitive psychology, you know that the heuristics-and-biases school of thought has not gone unchallenged.

Yet it was revolutionary because medicine had never before been scientific. True, it had occasionally reaped the fruits of science like the germ theory of disease and the X-ray. And it dressed up as a science. There were educated men with impressive titles who conducted case studies and reported results in Latin-laden lectures at august universities. But it wasn’t scientific. It was cargo cult science, a term of mockery coined much later by the physicist Richard Feynman to describe what happened after American airbases from World War II were removed from remote South Pacific islands, ending the islanders’ only contact with the outside world. The planes had brought wondrous goods. The islanders wanted more. So they “arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the planes to land.”9 But the planes never returned.


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Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension by Samuel Arbesman

algorithmic trading, Anton Chekhov, Apple II, Benoit Mandelbrot, citation needed, combinatorial explosion, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, digital map, discovery of the americas, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flash crash, friendly AI, game design, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, HyperCard, Inbox Zero, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Kevin Kelly, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, mandelbrot fractal, Minecraft, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, Parkinson's law, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, software studies, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Therac-25, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

As we will see, this orientation involves, among other things, each of us thinking the way scientists do when examining the massive complexity of biology. Despite all the overcomplication of the systems we vitally depend on, I’m ultimately hopeful that humanity can handle what we have built. This book is why. Chapter 1 WELCOME TO THE ENTANGLEMENT On a winter day early in 1986, less than a month after the Challenger disaster, the famous physicist Richard Feynman spoke during a hearing of the commission investigating what went wrong. Tasked with determining what had caused the space shuttle Challenger to break apart soon after takeoff, and who was to blame, Feynman pulled no punches. He demonstrated how plunging an O-ring—a small piece of rubber used to seal the joints between segments of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters—into a glass of ice water would cause it to lose its resilience.

Will Oremus, “Who Controls Your Facebook Feed,” Slate, January 3, 2016, http://www.slate.stfi.re/articles/technology/cover_story/2016/01/how_facebook_s_news_feed_algorithm_works.html. because of its creation by some perfect, infinite mind: “The worship of the algorithm” is discussed further in Ian Bogost, “The Cathedral of Computation,” The Atlantic, January 15, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/the-cathedral-of-computation/384300/. CHAPTER 1: WELCOME TO THE ENTANGLEMENT the Challenger disaster: James Gleick, “Richard Feynman Dead at 69; Leading Theoretical Physicist,” The New York Times, February 17, 1988, http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/09/21/reviews/feynman-obit.html. car began accelerating uncontrollably: For further information on “unintended acceleration” in Toyota vehicles, see Ken Bensinger and Jerry Hirsch, “Jury Hits Toyota with $3-million Verdict in Sudden Acceleration Death Case,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/24/autos/la-fi-hy-toyota-sudden-acceleration-verdict-20131024; Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger, “Runaway Toyota Cases Ignored,” Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2009, http://www.latimes.com/local/la-fi-toyota-recall8-2009nov08-story.html#page=1; Margaret Cronin Fisk, “Toyota Settles Oklahoma Acceleration Case After Verdict,” Bloomberg Business, October 25, 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-25/toyota-settles-oklahoma-acceleration-case-after-jury-verdict; Associated Press, “Jury Finds Toyota Liable in Fatal Wreck in Oklahoma,” New York Times, October 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/business/jury-finds-toyota-liable-in-fatal-wreck-in-oklahoma.html.


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The Infinity Puzzle by Frank Close

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Arthur Eddington, dark matter, El Camino Real, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh

The challenge was to compute the value that Lamb had found; “infinity” would not be accepted as the answer. The baton was being passed to a new generation of theorists. The gurus would be the two youngest members of the audience at Shelter Island: Still under thirty, and already veterans of the scientific war just ended, they were Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman. Only later would it become known that in Japan, completely independently, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga had already solved the puzzle. schwinger and feynman Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman were exact contemporaries. Born in 1918, in New York City, both were brilliant theorists, but there the comparisons end. Schwinger, from Upper Manhattan, was a small, heavy man, a natty dresser who spoke eloquently without notes, filling the board with equations written deftly with both hands. He aspired to elegance in all things, and achieved it.

In Cambridge, England, in the 1930s, astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, seduced by this numerology, inspired a Pythagorean cult.23 There have been spoofs connecting 137 to the biblical book of Revelation;24 one of the fathers of Quantum Electrodynamics—Julian Schwinger—had 137 as the vanity license plate on his sports car;25 and eighty years on, many of us continue to receive unsolicited papers from people who believe that they have found the true path to enlightenment with an explanation of this number. Physicist Wolfgang Pauli collaborated with Carl Jung, the psychologist, in a fruitless attempt to find deep significance in its value.26 The Point of Infinity 27 Richard Feynman himself described it as “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man,” adding that if the “hand of God” wrote that number, “we don’t know how He pushed his pencil.”27 This glimpse of the “hand of God” has tantalized physicists, and mystics, for eighty years. Recently we have discovered where to find an explanation. Experiments at the LHC may reveal the answer, as we shall see later.

Clarity came with a rush. The experiments claiming S or T turned out to be flawed, and new experiments favored a combination of V and A. Marshak discussed the matter with several colleagues, including Murray Gell-Mann, a young theorist who would almost single-handedly redefine the frontiers of particle physics. However, that would come later, as we shall see. Meanwhile, unaware of these developments, Richard Feynman had been traveling in Brazil that summer and also had realized that V – A offered a mathematically tantalizing, though apparently empirically useless, possibility. On his return he asked some of his Cal Tech experimental colleagues to brief him on developments in the weak interaction, and they told him that Gell-Mann thought that the evidence for the S interpretation looked doubtful and that the data pointed more toward the correct classification being V.


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Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, Asilomar, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, blue-collar work, British Empire, Brownian motion, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, DARPA: Urban Challenge, delayed gratification, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, friendly AI, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hydrogen economy, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, John von Neumann, life extension, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mars Rover, mass immigration, megacity, Mitch Kapor, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, postindustrial economy, Ray Kurzweil, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, social intelligence, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing machine, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, Wall-E, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Review, X Prize

So the total amount of aging still increased.) The principle of entropy can also be seen by looking behind a refrigerator. Inside the refrigerator, entropy decreases as the temperature drops. But to lower the entropy, you have to have a motor, which increases the heat generated behind the refrigerator, increasing the entropy outside the machine. That is why refrigerators are always hot in the back. As Nobel laureate Richard Feynman once said, “There is nothing in biology yet found that indicates the inevitability of death. This suggests to me that it is not at all inevitable and that it is only a matter of time before biologists discover what it is that is causing us the trouble and that this terrible universal disease or temporariness of the human’s body will be cured.” The second law can also be seen by the action of the female sex hormone estrogen, which keeps women young and vibrant until they hit menopause, when aging accelerates and the death rate increases.

And even at the height of the Cold War, both sides knew that poison gas and biological weapons could have unpredictable effects on the battlefield, and could easily escalate to a nuclear confrontation. All the arguments mentioned in this chapter, as we have seen, involved the manipulation of genes, proteins, and molecules. Then the next question naturally arises: How far can we manipulate individual atoms? The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. —RICHARD FEYNMAN, NOBEL LAUREATE Nanotechnology has given us the tools to play with the ultimate toy box of nature—atoms and molecules. Everything is made from these, and the possibilities to create new things appear limitless. —HORST STORMER, NOBEL LAUREATE The role of the infinitely small is infinitely large. —LOUIS PASTEUR The mastery of tools is a crowning achievement that distinguishes humanity from the animals.

The world economy could be thrown into disarray unless physicists can find a suitable replacement for silicon transistors to power our computers. The solution to the problem may come from nanotechnology. Nanotechnology might also, perhaps by the end of this century, create a machine that only the gods can wield, a machine that can create anything out of almost nothing. THE QUANTUM WORLD The first to call attention to this new realm of physics was Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, who asked a deceptively simple question: How small can you make a machine? This was not an academic question. Computers were gradually becoming smaller, changing the face of industry, so it was becoming apparent that the answer to this question could have an enormous impact on society and the economy. In his prophetic talk given in 1959 to the American Physical Society titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Feynman said, “It is interesting that it would be, in principle, possible (I think) for a physicist to synthesize any chemical substance that the chemist writes down.


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This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by John Brockman

23andMe, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, biofilm, Black Swan, butterfly effect, Cass Sunstein, cloud computing, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, data acquisition, David Brooks, delayed gratification, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Exxon Valdez, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, hive mind, impulse control, information retrieval, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, mandelbrot fractal, market design, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Carr, open economy, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, placebo effect, pre–internet, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, randomized controlled trial, rent control, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, Satyajit Das, Schrödinger's Cat, security theater, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Stanford marshmallow experiment, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen, Turing complete, Turing machine, twin studies, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game

Even for those who are online and uncensored, the most valuable information can be hard to find, buried in an unscientific media avalanche. Then there’s what we do with the information we have. The core of a scientific lifestyle is to change your mind when faced with information that disagrees with your views, avoiding intellectual inertia, yet many of us praise leaders who stubbornly stick to their views as “strong.” The great physicist Richard Feynman hailed “distrust of experts” as a cornerstone of science, yet herd mentality and blind faith in authority figures is widespread. Logic forms the basis of scientific reasoning, yet wishful thinking, irrational fears, and other cognitive biases often dominate decisions. What can we do to promote a scientific lifestyle? The obvious answer is to improve education. In some countries, even the most rudimentary education would be a major improvement (less than half of all Pakistanis can read).

A better understanding of the meaning of “probability”—and especially realizing that we don’t need (and never possess) “scientifically proved” facts but only a sufficiently high degree of probability in order to make decisions—would improve everybody’s conceptual toolkit. Uncertainty Lawrence Krauss Physicist, Foundation Professor, and director, Origins Project, Arizona State University; author, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science The notion of uncertainty is perhaps the least well understood concept in science. In the public parlance, uncertainty is a bad thing, implying a lack of rigor and predictability. The fact that global warming estimates are uncertain, for example, has been used by many to argue against any action at the present time. In fact, however, uncertainty is a central component of what makes science successful.

The person who has access to his unconscious processes and mines them without getting mired in them can try new approaches, can begin to see things in new ways, and, perhaps, can achieve mastery of his pursuits. In a word: Relax. It was ARISE that allowed Friedrich August Kekulé to use a daydream about a snake eating its tail as inspiration for his formulation of the structure of the benzene ring. It’s what allowed Richard Feynman to simply drop an O-ring into a glass of ice water, show that when cold the ring loses pliability, and thereby explain the cause of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Sometimes it takes a genius to see that a fifth-grade science experiment is all that is needed to solve a problem. In another word: Play. Sometimes in order to progress, you need to regress. Sometimes you just have to let go and ARISE.


pages: 233 words: 62,563

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Cepheid variable, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Georg Cantor, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking

The Theory of Everything is, in truth, a theory of nothing. Zero Banished: String Theory The problem is, when we try to calculate all the way down to zero distance, the equation blows up in our face and gives us meaningless answers—things like infinity. This caused a lot of trouble when the theory of quantum electrodynamics first came out. People were getting infinity for every problem they tried to calculate! —RICHARD FEYNMAN General relativity and quantum mechanics were bound to be incompatible. The universe of general relativity is a smooth rubber sheet. It is continuous and flowing, never sharp, never pointy. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, describes a jerky and discontinuous universe. What the two theories have in common—and what they clash over—is zero. The infinite zero of a black hole—mass crammed into zero space, curving space infinitely—punches a hole in the smooth rubber sheet.

They don’t go all the way to zero distance from the electron when they calculate the electron’s true mass and charge; they stop short of zero at an arbitrary distance. Once a scientist chooses a suitably close distance, all the calculations using the “true” mass and charge agree with one another. This is a process called renormalization. “It is what I would call a dippy process,” wrote physicist Richard Feynman, even though Feynman won his Nobel Prize for perfecting the art of renormalization. Just as zero punches a hole in the smooth sheet of general relativity, zero smooths and spreads out the sharp point charge of the electron, covering it in a fog. However, since quantum mechanics deals with zero-dimensional particle-points such as the electron, technically all particle-particle interactions in quantum theory deal with infinities: they are singularities.


Turing's Cathedral by George Dyson

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Benoit Mandelbrot, British Empire, Brownian motion, cellular automata, cloud computing, computer age, Danny Hillis, dark matter, double helix, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, finite state, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, housing crisis, IFF: identification friend or foe, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Norbert Wiener, Norman Macrae, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Paul Samuelson, phenotype, planetary scale, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, SETI@home, social graph, speech recognition, Thorstein Veblen, Turing complete, Turing machine, Von Neumann architecture

“He was in the right place at the right time with the right connections with the right idea,” remembers Willis Ware, fourth to be hired to join the engineering team, “setting aside the hassle that will probably never be resolved as to whose ideas they really were.”1 As World War II drew to a close, the scientists who had built the atomic bomb at Los Alamos wondered, “What’s next?” Some, including Richard Feynman, vowed never to have anything to do with nuclear weapons or military secrecy again. Others, including Edward Teller and John von Neumann, were eager to develop more advanced nuclear weapons, especially the “Super,” or hydrogen bomb. Just before dawn on the morning of July 16, 1945, the New Mexico desert was illuminated by an explosion “brighter than a thousand suns.” Eight and a half years later, an explosion one thousand times more powerful illuminated the skies over Bikini Atoll.

Feynman (1918–1988): American physicist and member of the wartime Los Alamos computing group. Abraham Flexner (1866–1959): American schoolteacher, educational reformer, and founding director of the IAS, 1930–1939. Simon Flexner (1863–1946): American philanthropist, Rockefeller Foundation officer, and older brother of Abraham Flexner. Stanley P. Frankel (1919–1978): American physicist, student of Robert Oppenheimer, and Los Alamos colleague of Richard Feynman; member of the original ENIAC and IAS thermonuclear calculation team; minicomputer design pioneer. Kurt Gödel (1906–1978): Moravian-born Austrian logician; arrived at the IAS in 1933. Herman Heine Goldstine (1913–2004): American mathematician, U.S. Army officer, ENIAC administrator, and associate director of the IAS ECP during 1946–1956. Irving John (Jack) Good (born Isadore Jacob Gudak; 1916–2009): British American Bayesian statistician, artificial intelligence pioneer, cryptologist, and assistant to Alan Turing during the British code-breaking effort in World War II.

The machines—three 601 multipliers, a 402 tabulator, a reproducer, a verifier, a sorter, and a collator—arrived, in huge wooden crates, without documentation or an installation crew. IBM was asked for the name of their best technician who had been drafted into the army, who was immediately given a security clearance and reassigned to Los Alamos, but this took time. In the interim, Stanley Frankel, a Berkeley graduate student of Oppenheimer’s who had been put in charge of the hand computing group, and Richard Feynman, a graduate student (and amateur safecracker) from Princeton who was game for any unauthorized challenge, managed to uncrate the machines and get them to work. Feynman and Frankel were hooked. “Mr. Frankel, who started this program, began to suffer from the computer disease that anybody who works with computers now knows about,” Feynman later explained. “The trouble with computers is you play with them.”


pages: 661 words: 169,298

Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Cepheid variable, Commentariolus, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, delayed gratification, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Solar eclipse in 1919, source of truth, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

., the ratio upon which they converge cannot be expressed exactly in terms of a fraction. The Pythagoreans discovered irrational numbers, and are said to have been so unsettled by them that they prescribed the death penalty to any of their sect who revealed their existence to the untutored multitudes. Hippasus was banished for defying the ban. He drowned at sea, a fate that the Pythagoreans ascribed to divine retribution. *Richard Feynman, Gell-Mann’s chief competitor for the title of World’s Smartest Man but a stranger to pretension, once encountered Gell-Mann in the hall outside their offices at Caltech and asked him where he had been on a recent trip; “Moon-TRW-ALGH!” Gell-Mann responded, in a French accent so thick that he sounded as if he were strangling. Feynman—who, like Gell-Mann, was born in New York City—had no idea what he was talking about.

Virtual particles may be thought of as representing the possibility, delineated by the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle, that a “real” particle will arrive at a given time and place: Like the pop-up silhouettes on a police firing range, they represent not only what is but what might be. As quantum physics sees it, every “real” particle is surrounded by a corona of virtual particles and antiparticles that bubble up out of the vacuum, interact with one another, and then vanish, having lived on borrowed, Heisenberg time. (“Created and annihilated, created and annihilated—what a waste of time,” mused Richard Feynman.)3 A free proton, say, is not alone in its travels, but is surrounded by a corona of virtual protons, the existence of which influences its behavior in ways that are not only observable but are, indeed, fundamental to the interactions of the proton as we know it. One example of the reality of virtual particles resides in the fact that the stars shine: To revisit the Coulomb barrier one last time, it is the structure of the virtual particle clouds surrounding protons that makes it possible for protons at the centers of stars to tunnel through one another’s electrical fields often enough for nuclear fusion to be maintained.

In his postdoctoral days Hawking and his colleague Roger Penrose demonstrated that general relativity implies that the universe began in a “singularity,” a state of infinitely curved space in which the laws of relativity break down; this proved, as Hawking put it, that “relativity predicts its own downfall.”10 But quantum theory might function where relativity did not, and in later years Hawking began to explore the prospect of understanding the origin of the universe in terms of quantum probabilities. His tools included “imaginary time”—a kind of time measured in terms of imaginary numbers—and Richard Feynman’s “sum over histories” method of doing quantum mechanics. Imaginary numbers make no sense when handled by customary mathematical rules. An example is the square root of —1, which will produce an “error” message if demanded of an electronic calculator. They work quite well, however, according to their own rules; imaginary numbers have been employed to excellent effect, for instance, in hydrodynamics.


pages: 262 words: 65,959

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Benoit Mandelbrot, cognitive dissonance, Donald Knuth, Erdős number, Georg Cantor, Grace Hopper, Isaac Newton, John Nash: game theory, Kickstarter, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, Norman Mailer, P = NP, Paul Erdős, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Schrödinger's Cat, Simon Singh, Stephen Hawking, Wolfskehl Prize, women in the workforce

He is arguing that mathematics and science dissect and unpick the elegance of the natural world. Keats believes that rational analysis will “unweave a rainbow,” thereby destroying its inherent beauty. By contrast, Lisa Simpson would argue that such analysis turns the sight of a rainbow into an even more exhilarating experience. Perhaps Lisa’s worldview was best articulated by the physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman: I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s 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, I think. And he says—“you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, 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 may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is . . .

My Erdős number is 4 and my Bacon number is 2, which puts me on a par with Jeff Westbrook. Moreover, I also appear to have a Sabbath number, which is generated as a result of musical collaborations linking me to a member of the rock band Black Sabbath. Indeed, according to the Erdős Bacon Sabbath Project (http://ebs.rosschurchley.com), I have an Erdős-Bacon-Sabbath number of 10, giving me the world’s eighth-lowest Erdős-Bacon-Sabbath number, on a par with Richard Feynman, among others! 9. Remember, Poindexter was the boy genius from Felix the Cat who inspired the name poindextrose, given to the pheromone discovered by Lisa in the episode “Bye, Bye, Nerdie” (2010). 10. Incidentally, when Lisa is in Moe’s Tavern talking to Professor Frink, he uses his laptop to show her an online video of Bill James, voiced by the real Bill James. 11. Larry Flynt is an American publisher of pornography.


pages: 212 words: 65,900

Symmetry and the Monster by Ronan, Mark

Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, conceptual framework, Everything should be made as simple as possible, G4S, Henri Poincaré, John Conway, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, New Journalism, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, V2 rocket

Later results will have been proved by assuming the truth of the false result, and they will then have to be completely re-proved. Mathematicians are very careful about this. An important result, one that will be used elsewhere, has to be proved to everyone’s satisfaction. Theorems are essential, and this is how mathematics makes progress. It is rather different from theoretical physics in this sense. As the famous physicist Richard Feynman said, ‘The whole purpose in physics is to work out a number, with decimal points, etc.! Otherwise you haven’t done anything.’* Well, in mathematics, the whole point is to state and prove a theorem. Some theorems, of course, are more important than others, and most are rather specialized results that map out the mathematical landscape. If part of that landscape ceases to be of concern to mathematicians its theorems may simply gather dust in the bowels of university libraries, but some results are of perennial relevance, and many of the early Greek theorems in Euclidean geometry are fine examples.

An electron appears as a wave, smeared out over space, but it is also a particle: if you manage to grab it, you grab all of it. You can never get only part of an electron. Quantum theory is a mysterious business, and as Niels Bohr himself said, ‘Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.’ With the passing of time one might expect that the subject would become easier to comprehend, but as the late Richard Feynman said in a comment in 1967, ‘I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.’* The wave nature of an electron means that as it orbits the nucleus of an atom, it is not at all like a planet orbiting the sun. It has to be treated as a wave encircling the nucleus, and that brings Lie groups into the picture. An atom exhibits spherical symmetry, and this suggests that the Lie group of rotations in three-dimensional space should be important in the structure of electron orbits.


pages: 480 words: 123,979

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters With Reality and Virtual Reality by Jaron Lanier

4chan, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, carbon footprint, cloud computing, collaborative editing, commoditize, cosmological constant, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, Firefox, game design, general-purpose programming language, gig economy, Google Glasses, Grace Hopper, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, impulse control, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, lifelogging, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Minecraft, Mitch Kapor, Mother of all demos, Murray Gell-Mann, Netflix Prize, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Snapchat, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, wikimedia commons

I was told there were towering mountains right there, but the smog never cleared enough for me to see them. Recent immigrants from Africa walking in the land of cars, purchases from electronics stores balanced on their heads, looking as out of place as I was. Cynthia, my obsession, turned out to be the daughter of the head of the physics department at Caltech. So that’s where we would hang out. She was the darling of the marvelous minds who huddled there, like Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann. I was never a student at Caltech, but rather the weird boyfriend of the department head’s charming daughter. It’s a kind of status. Feynman was generous with me, showing me how to form geometrical designs with one’s fingers to think about chirality; things like that. He was also a fun drummer and we’d play. Oddly, Caltech didn’t have much in the way of computer graphics going on at the time.

If I’m not great at remembering events, faces, or sequences, how do I know my life? I remember experiences in terms of ideas; how a story I lived through illuminated a deeper question. My experiences become allegories. I recall minutiae about conversations with people from decades ago that turned out to be important to me. The eccentric heiress, the Mexican general: all colorful, but also characters in the allegories that make up my personal cosmos. I remember Richard Feynman teaching me to make a tetrahedron with my fingers, Steve Jobs demonstrating how to amass the mysterious quality we call power by humiliating a hardware engineer while I shriveled at the spectacle, Marvin Minsky showing me how to predict when a technology would become cheap and mature (he used genomics as an example). As I hope has become clear by now, I also remember intimate subjectivities: moods and aesthetics.

Supposedly I evidenced having “seen things and known things” that could only be accessed through LSD. I was a pretty freaky and psychedelic guy, I suppose. Tim Leary had a nickname for me: “the control group.” I was the only person around the scene who had not taken drugs, so maybe I was the baseline. Maybe drugs made people straighter. Someone needed to be the control group. Many years later, when Richard Feynman knew his cancer was starting to overtake him, he decided it was time to experiment with LSD. The plan was to hang out with some hippie women in a hot tub at the edge of an unfenced cliff high above the waves in Big Sur.4 He asked the control group to be there, keeping a discreet distance to make sure he didn’t fall to the rocks. The man was hilarious on LSD. Couldn’t do arithmetic anymore. “The machine’s broken,” he said, pointing to his head in delight.


pages: 634 words: 185,116

From eternity to here: the quest for the ultimate theory of time by Sean M. Carroll

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Columbine, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, gravity well, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Laplace demon, lone genius, low earth orbit, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pets.com, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons

Those are the kinds of configurations that correspond to the largest number of rearrangements of the individual molecules, and correspondingly have the highest entropy the system can possibly have. A system that has the maximum entropy it can have is in equilibrium. Once there, the system basically has nowhere else to go; it’s in the kind of configuration that is most natural for it to be in. Such a system has no arrow of time, as the entropy is not increasing (or decreasing). To a macroscopic observer, a system in equilibrium appears static, not changing at all. Richard Feynman, in The Character of Physical Law, tells a story that illustrates the concept of equilibrium.129 Imagine you are sitting on a beach when you are suddenly hit with a tremendous downpour of rain. You’ve brought along a towel, but that also gets wet as you dash to cover. Once you’ve reached some cover, you start to dry yourself with your towel. It works for a little while because the towel is a bit drier than you are, but soon you find that the towel has gotten so wet that rubbing yourself with it is keeping you wet just as fast as it’s making you dry.

If we insist on being strongly skeptical, we might wonder whether not only our present mental states, but also all of the additional sensory data we are apparently accumulating, represent a random fluctuation rather than an accurate reconstruction of our surroundings. Strictly speaking, that certainly is possible, but it’s cognitively unstable in the same sense that we discussed in the last chapter. There is no sensible way to live and think and behave if that is the case, so there is no warrant for believing it. Better to accept the universe around us as it appears (for the most part) to be. This point was put with characteristic clarity by Richard Feynman, in his famous Lectures on Physics: [F]rom the hypothesis that the world is a fluctuation, all of the predictions are that if we look at a part of the world we have never seen before, we will find it mixed up, and not like the piece we just looked at. If our order were due to a fluctuation, we would not expect order anywhere but where we have just noticed it . . . We therefore conclude that the universe is not a fluctuation, and that the order is a memory of conditions when things started.

Wheeler’s influence has been felt not only through his ideas—he and Bryce DeWitt were the first to generalize the Schrödinger equation of quantum mechanics to a theory of gravity—but also through his students. In addition to Bekenstein, Wheeler was the Ph.D. supervisor for an impressive fraction of the scientists who are now leading researchers in gravitational physics, including Kip Thorne, Charles Misner, Robert Wald, and William Unruh—not to mention Hugh Everett, as well as Wheeler’s first student, one Richard Feynman. So Princeton in the early 1970s was a fruitful environment to be thinking about black holes, and Bekenstein was in the thick of it. In his Ph.D. thesis, he made a simple but dramatic suggestion: The relationship between black-hole mechanics and thermodynamics isn’t simply an analogy; it’s an identity. In particular, Bekenstein used ideas from information theory to argue that the area of a black-hole event horizon isn’t just like the entropy; it is the entropy of the black hole.215 On the face of it, this suggestion seems a little hard to swallow.


pages: 250 words: 73,574

Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today's Computers by John MacCormick, Chris Bishop

Ada Lovelace, AltaVista, Claude Shannon: information theory, fault tolerance, information retrieval, Menlo Park, PageRank, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush

Data could still be exchanged securely using cryptography, but it would be far more difficult to verify the source of any data received. This combination of a profound idea with such wide practical impact means that digital signatures are, without doubt, one of the most spectacular achievements of computer science. 10 What Is Computable? Let me remind you of some of the problems of computing machines. —RICHARD FEYNMAN (1965 Nobel Prize in physics) We've now seen quite a number of clever, powerful, and beautiful algorithms—algorithms that turn the bare metal of a computer into a genius at your fingertips. In fact, it would be natural to wonder, based on the rhapsodic rhetoric in the preceding chapters, if there is anything that computers cannot do for us. The answer is absolutely clear if we limit ourselves to what computers can do today: there are plenty of useful tasks (mostly involving some form of artificial intelligence) that computers can't, at present, perform well.

One exception is the second half of Database Systems, by Garcia-Molina, Ullman, and Widom, which gives plenty of details on the topics covered in this chapter. Digital signatures (chapter 9). Gail Grant's Understanding Digital Signatures provides a great deal of information about digital signatures and is reasonably accessible to those without a computer science background. Computability (chapter 10). The chapter's opening quotation is from a talk given by Richard Feynman at Caltech on December 29,1959. The title of the talk is “There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” and it was later published in Caltech's Engineering & Science magazine (February 1960). One unconventional, but very interesting, presentation of the concepts surrounding computability and undecidability is in the form of a (fictional) novel: Turing (A Novel about Computation), by Christos Papadimitriou.


pages: 264 words: 71,821

How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee

air freight, carbon footprint, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, food miles, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Skype, sustainable-tourism, University of East Anglia

In other words I’ve assumed that four-fifths of the energy in the fossil fuel is transferred into the shuttle fuel. That is about as efficient as hydrogen generation ever gets, and frankly I would be surprised if energy efficiency was NASA’s number one priority. I would be even more surprised if the manufacturing of the solid fuel was that efficient. Much more significantly, it might have been reasonable to add on a large chunk of footprint of NASA itself. Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who helped to investigate the Challenger disaster, describes the shuttle project as NASA’s somewhat unjustifiable raison d’être after the lunar landings.10 My third major omission is that I haven’t included any kind of weighting factor to take account of the high altitude at which the emissions are released. When it is actually in the air, the shuttle burns a different type of fuel from a normal plane, and it releases different gases.

All data derived from the Forest Resources Assessment and the State of the World’s Forests published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 9. Shuttle data from Wikipedia. Other figures in my calculations were: 31 MJ per kg (14 MJ per lb.) for the solid fuel, 143 MJ per kg (65 MJ per lb.) for the hydrogen. I used 70 g CO2e per MJ as a general figure for emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and added 10 percent for their supply chains up to the point of combustion. 10. “What do you care what other people think?” (Richard Feynman, 1989) is a fascinating and entertaining account of the technical and management failures behind the disaster. Also recommended for anyone who is trying to get some clear thinking into a bureaucracy. 11. 4.6 tons per return trip if you live in Hong Kong. Flying London to Hong Kong is about the same as Los Angeles to Barcelona, see Flying from Los Angeles to Barcelona return. 1 million tons and beyond 1.


The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin, Richard Panek

Asperger Syndrome, correlation does not imply causation, dark matter, David Brooks, deliberate practice, double helix, ghettoisation, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, impulse control, Khan Academy, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mouse model, neurotypical, pattern recognition, phenotype, Richard Feynman, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, theory of mind, twin studies

On some deep, intuitive level, these geniuses understood the patterns in nature. And the relationship between art and science can go the other way too; scientists can use art to understand math. The physicist Richard Feynman revolutionized his field in the 1940s when he devised a simple way to diagram quantum effects: A straight, solid line represented particles of matter or antimatter, which traveled through space and time. Wavy or dashed lines represented force-carrying particles. When an electron moving in a straight line emitted a photon in a wavy line, the straight line recoiled to the right. Equations that took months to calculate could suddenly be understood, through diagrams, in a matter of hours. Richard Feynman taught physicists a new way to “see” quantum effects simply by deploying straight lines and wavy lines. From top to bottom: a muon at A kicking an electron at B out of an atom by exchanging a photon (wiggly line); an electron and positron annihilating at A and producing a photon that rematerializes at B as new forms of matter and antimatter; an electron emitting a photon at A, absorbing a second photon at B, and then reabsorbing the first photon at C. © SPL/Photo Researchers, Inc.


pages: 455 words: 133,719

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte

8-hour work day, affirmative action, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, blue-collar work, Burning Man, business cycle, call centre, cognitive dissonance, David Brooks, deliberate practice, desegregation, DevOps, East Village, Edward Glaeser, epigenetics, fear of failure, feminist movement, financial independence, game design, gender pay gap, glass ceiling, helicopter parent, hiring and firing, income inequality, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, profit maximization, Results Only Work Environment, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, sensible shoes, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Thorstein Veblen, women in the workforce, working poor, Zipcar, éminence grise

And that, Brown says, is what enables our species to innovate, create, solve old problems in new ways, and continuously adapt our behavior to thrive in an ever-changing and often dangerous world. Once managers at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab discovered that the best engineers had the richest play experiences—building soapbox derby racers, taking apart clocks, working with their hands—they began to include questions about a candidate’s play history in standard interviews.20 The Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman was a master of “serious play,” Brown says, who approached his work with a playful attitude. “I’d invent things and play with things for my own entertainment,” Feynman wrote in his autobiography. In the same spirit, he watched students in the cafeteria goof off by spinning plates. “For the fun of it,” he began to make calculations of the wobbles—“piddling around,” he said, which led to developing the “Feynman diagrams” to explain quantum electrodynamics and ultimately resulted in his Nobel Prize.21 In animal studies, life without play is bleak.

And what he finds in those who do not make time for play—in either attitude or activity—is often joylessness, rigidity, addiction, workaholism, diminished curiosity, and, at the core, depression. To help people reclaim their playful natures, he takes them back to their earliest memories of play, to remember what they loved doing as children so they can begin to build on it and figure out how to use it as adults—to bring creativity and passion to their work, like Richard Feynman, to foster intimacy, connection, and playfulness in their relationships at home with their partners and children and to make time to just have lighthearted fun for the soul. That’s what Brown saw Barbara Brannen, a woman he met in Colorado, do. Brannen was a successful executive in Denver with two kids and a busy life who, over time, found herself feeling increasingly overwhelmed, unsatisfied, sad, and so stressed-out from working all the time that she lost the use of her left arm.

Henig, “Taking Play Seriously.” 19. “Dr. Sergio Pellis,” University of Lethbridge, Research & Innovation Services (biography), www.uleth.ca/research/research_profiles/dr-sergio-pellis. Brown, Play, 33–42. 20. Brown, Play, 9–11. 21. Rebecca Abrams, The Playful Self: Why Women Need Play in Their Lives (London: Fourth Estate, 1997), 190–91. A hilarious video of Feynman playing the bongos with abandon will make you smile: “Richard Feynman Playing Bongos,” YouTube. 22. Stuart Brown, interview with author, March 9, 2012. Brown also referred to the experiment in his talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2010, “The Neuroscience of Play: What Play Does for You and Your Brain, and What Happens to You if You Don’t Play,” www.aspenideas.org/session/neuroscience-play-what-play-does-you-and-your-brain-and-what-happens-you-if-you-dont-play.


pages: 287 words: 87,204

Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution by John Gribbin

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, British Empire, Brownian motion, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lateral thinking, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, trade route, upwardly mobile

Historically, the work of both men is of equal importance; but I shall concentrate on one key experiment, carried out by Young, because it later played a crucial part in the development of an understanding of quantum physics. It is called, for reasons that will become obvious, the “double slit experiment” or, more colloquially, “the experiment with two holes.” Much later, the great American physicist Richard Feynman (1918–88) said that the experiment with two holes encapsulates the “central mystery” of quantum physics. We will see why later. In Young’s experiment, a beam of light (ideally, a single pure colour) is shone through a narrow slit in a thin sheet of card in a dark room, to produce a narrow beam. The light spreads out from the slit on the other side, and then encounters a second sheet of card, this time with two parallel slits in it.

Nor could anyone else in the 1930s, and Schrödinger’s paper stirred so little interest that, half a century later, when the American physicist John Cramer (b. 1934) did find a way to interpret the complex conjugate to provide a new understanding of quantum mechanics he did so in complete ignorance of Schrödinger’s 1931 paper. I have described Cramer’s “transactional interpretation” of quantum mechanics fully in my book Schrödinger’s Kittens, but it is worth going into a little detail here since it shows just how deep Schrödinger’s insight was. Although Cramer was unaware of this particular insight, one of the ideas that had set him thinking about waves travelling backwards in time was nearly as old. In 1940, Richard Feynman was a graduate student at Princeton University, working under the supervision of John Wheeler (1911–2008). He became interested in a problem known as radiation resistance, which in simple language means that it is hard to push charged particles like electrons around—they resist, more strongly than uncharged particles resist, and at the same time they radiate electromagnetic waves. But Feynman knew that Maxwell’s equations, which describe all electromagnetic radiation, are symmetrical in time (essentially for the same reason that Schrödinger’s wave function is symmetrical in time, although he did not make that connection in 1940).


pages: 261 words: 86,905

How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say--And What It Really Means by John Lanchester

asset allocation, Basel III, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, bitcoin, Black Swan, blood diamonds, Bretton Woods, BRICs, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, commoditize, creative destruction, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, David Graeber, disintermediation, double entry bookkeeping, en.wikipedia.org, estate planning, financial innovation, Flash crash, forward guidance, Gini coefficient, global reserve currency, high net worth, High speed trading, hindsight bias, income inequality, inflation targeting, interest rate swap, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kodak vs Instagram, liquidity trap, London Interbank Offered Rate, London Whale, loss aversion, margin call, McJob, means of production, microcredit, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, negative equity, neoliberal agenda, New Urbanism, Nick Leeson, Nikolai Kondratiev, Nixon shock, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open economy, paradox of thrift, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, purchasing power parity, pushing on a string, quantitative easing, random walk, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Feynman, Right to Buy, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, security theater, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, survivorship bias, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus, wealth creators, working poor, yield curve

Many fields of thought have ideas that are far more difficult to understand, but that don’t have the same sense of a linguistic perimeter around them. In physics, for instance, there are an enormous number of ideas of a complexity so great that they can’t really be grasped at all in ordinary language, but are available only to someone with an advanced level of math. Even then they are very hard to understand. The great physicist Richard Feynman, who knew his subject as well as anyone who’s ever lived, and who explained it better than anyone who ever lived, said in The Character of Physical Law, “I think I can safely say that no one understands quantum mechanics.” But you can still get a sense of what these fields of thought are about. Take the very obscure and difficult field of quantum chromodyamics. (As it happens, that was Feynman’s speciality.)

They have that degree of provisionality and tentativeness and, importantly, rebuildability. There’s a permanent invitation to take them apart and put them together again in a form that works better. People in the business know this perfectly well. They’re not stupid. But there is an inbuilt tendency for that definition creep, for Lego models to start turning into equations that have, in the great phrase of Richard Feynman, “the character of physical law.” There’s a visual metaphor for the process in the form of an amazing device called the Phillips machine, the creation of a remarkable New Zealander called Bill Phillips. After a roundabout route to the world of economics via a spell in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, Phillips set up a workshop in a south London garage. There, using recycled Lancaster bomber parts, he botched together a machine that used the flow of water to demonstrate the functioning of the entire British economy.


pages: 302 words: 83,116

SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

agricultural Revolution, airport security, Andrei Shleifer, Atul Gawande, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, Boris Johnson, call centre, clean water, cognitive bias, collateralized debt obligation, creative destruction, credit crunch, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, deliberate practice, Did the Death of Australian Inheritance Taxes Affect Deaths, disintermediation, endowment effect, experimental economics, food miles, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), John Nash: game theory, Joseph Schumpeter, Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, market design, microcredit, Milgram experiment, oil shale / tar sands, patent troll, presumed consent, price discrimination, principal–agent problem, profit motive, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, selection bias, South China Sea, Stanford prison experiment, Stephen Hawking, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, ultimatum game, urban planning, William Langewiesche, women in the workforce, young professional

Laboratory experiments are of course a pillar of the physical sciences and have been since Galileo Galilei rolled a bronze ball down a length of wooden molding to test his theory of acceleration. Galileo believed—correctly, as it turned out—that a small creation like his could lead to a better understanding of the greatest creations known to humankind: the earth’s forces, the order of the skies, the workings of human life itself. More than three centuries later, the physicist Richard Feynman reasserted the primacy of this belief. “The test of all knowledge is experiment,” he said. “Experiment is the sole judge of scientific ‘truth.’” The electricity you use, the cholesterol drug you swallow, the page or screen or speaker from which you are consuming these very words—they are all the product of a great deal of experimentation. Economists, however, have never been as reliant on the lab.

See also David Leonhardt, “What Makes People Give,” The New York Times, March 9, 2008. / 107 For more on disaster donations and TV coverage, see Philip H. Brown and Jessica H. Minty, “Media Coverage and Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami,” Southern Economic Journal 75, no. 1 (2008). THE VALUE OF LAB EXPERIMENTS: Galileo’s acceleration experiment is related in Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences, trans. Henry Crew and Alfonso de Salvio, 1914. Richard Feynman’s point about the primacy of experimentation comes from his Lectures on Physics, ed. Matthew Linzee Sands (Addison-Wesley, 1963). ULTIMATUM AND DICTATOR: The first paper on Ultimatum as it is commonly known is Werner Guth, Rolf Schmittberger, and Bernd Schwarze, “An Experimental Analysis of Ultimatum Bargaining,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 3, no. 4 (1982). For a good background on the evolution of such games, see Steven D.


pages: 283 words: 81,376

The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation That Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know About Life and the Universe by William Poundstone

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Black Swan, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, digital map, discounted cash flows, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, Elon Musk, Gerolamo Cardano, index fund, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, time value of money, Turing test

Perhaps the message is that we shouldn’t care so much about super-improbable worlds, nor stand too much on the distinction between zero probability and a vanishingly small probability. 1/137 Richard Feynman once suggested that physicists ought to post a sign with the number “1/137” in their offices. It would be a reminder of how much they don’t know. A physicist will recognize 1/137 as the approximate value of the fine-structure constant—in Feynman’s words, “one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics.” The fine-structure constant is a measure of how strong electromagnetic forces are. It is important because electromagnetic forces govern atoms, chemistry, and life. If the constant were much different from its observed value, there would be no atoms. That would mean no stars, no planets, no life, and no Richard Feynmans to contemplate it all. The fine-structure constant remains a mystery, though, because our physical theories have so far been unable to account for its value.


pages: 550 words: 154,725

The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, Black Swan, business climate, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, complexity theory, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, Edward Thorp, horn antenna, Hush-A-Phone, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Karl Jansky, knowledge economy, Leonard Kleinrock, Metcalfe’s law, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Picturephone, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Telecommunications Act of 1996, traveling salesman, undersea cable, uranium enrichment, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

From then on his job involved traveling to Europe in the summers and effectively serving as an intermediary between scientific ideas there and in the United States. More often than not, his writings addressed the behavior of matter and energy at the tiny, molecular—that is, quantum—level. Quantum mechanics, as it was beginning to be called, was a science of deep surprises, where theory had largely outpaced the proof of experimentation. Some years later the physicist Richard Feynman would elegantly explain that “it was discovered that things on a small scale behave nothing like things on a large scale.” In the quantum world, for instance, you could no longer say that a particle has a certain location or speed. Nor was it possible, Feynman would point out, “to predict exactly what will happen in any circumstance.” To describe the actions of electrons or nuclei at the center of atoms, in other words, was not only exceedingly difficult.

The precise reasons for the shift remained ambiguous, though some Labs members later reflected that by 1940 the specter of war had trumped the Bell System’s ugly traditions of bigotry. A slightly different explanation was that a meritocratic organization such as the Labs could perceive a competitive disadvantage of passing over the best scientists on religious grounds, an error they might have already made with the young Richard Feynman, a former colleague of Shockley’s at MIT who would eventually be drafted into the Manhattan Project.9 Whatever the explanation, some of the older and most hidebound scientists at the Labs found discomfort in this aspect of the Labs’ evolution, as well as in Kelly’s war mobilization effort. Lloyd Espenschied, for example, an inventor of the thick coaxial cables that carried phone conversations between major cities and a senior advisor to Oliver Buckley, was an avowed isolationist.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, http://www.nrc.gov/materials/fuel-cycle-fac/ur-enrichment.html. 5 Interview of James Fisk by Lillian Hoddeson, June 24, 1976, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD; www.aip.org/history/ohilist. 6 Charles Townes, How the Laser Happened (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 39. 7 Though Mervin Kelly used the words “scramble” and “unscramble” in his description of multiplexing and quartz filters, Bob Lucky points out that those terms erroneously suggest encrypted transmissions. It might be more precise to think of the telephone conversations of the era as “stacked” atop one another during the transmission process. 8 “Artificial Quartz Is Produced Here,” New York Times, September 19, 1947. 9 James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (New York: Vintage, 1993), p. 85. 10 Lloyd Espenschied, “Memo: Visit by a Young Investigator of the War Department,” January 25, 1944, 4:50 p.m. AT&T archives. 11 Buckley and Jewett traded memos on the Espenschied incident between late January 1944 and November 1944. 12 There is no evidence as to Mervin Kelly’s personal feelings, yet Kelly was the first Bell Labs executive to hire Jews—for the Labs’ efforts in radar and wartime development.


pages: 492 words: 149,259

Big Bang by Simon Singh

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Kickstarter, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

First you guess. Don’t laugh, this is the most important step. Then you compute the consequences. Compare the consequences to experience. If it disagrees with experience, the guess is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is or how smart you are or what your name is. If it disagrees with experience, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it. RICHARD FEYNMAN There were now two dominant theories fighting for control of the universe. In one corner was the Big Bang model, which had evolved out of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, thanks to Lemaître and Friedmann. It proposed a unique moment of creation followed by a rapid expansion, and sure enough Hubble had observed that the universe was expanding and the galaxies were receding. Also, Gamow and Alpher had shown that the Big Bang could explain the abundances of hydrogen and helium.

EDWARD TELLER (1908-2003), American physicist Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination. JOHN DEWEY (1859-1952), American philosopher Four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense, ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view, iii) this is true, but quite unimportant, iv) I always said so. J.B.S. HALDANE (1892-1964), English geneticist Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. RICHARD FEYNMAN (1918-88), American physicist A man ceases to be a beginner in any given science and becomes a master in that science when he has learned that he is going to be a beginner all his life. ROBIN G. COLLINGWOOD (1889-1943), English philosopher GLOSSARY Terms in italics have their own entry in the glossary. absorption The process by which atoms absorb light at specific wavelengths, allowing their presence to be detected by spectroscopy by identifying the ‘missing’ wavelengths.

The biggest problem with writing a book is that it completely takes over my life, and there are always lots of other things that I would like to do which get ignored. Even if I stopped writing for a decade, I could begin to explore some of these other interests. And many of these interests still relate to communicating science and mathematics, so to a large extent my answer to the previous question still holds true. TOP TEN Simon Singh’s Top Ten Favourite Books: Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! Richard Feynman The Making of the Atomic Bomb Richard Rhodes Chaos James Gleick Flatland Edwin A. Abbott A Mathematician’s Apology G.H. Hardy Our Final Century Martin Rees The Surgeon of Crowthorne Simon Winchester Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation Olivia Judson Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri The Phantom Tollbooth Norton Juster LIFE at a Glance Simon Singh was born in Somerset in 1964.


pages: 70 words: 22,172

How We'll Live on Mars (TED Books) by Stephen Petranek

California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, Elon Musk, Hyperloop, Jeff Bezos, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, nuclear winter, out of africa, Richard Feynman, trade route

A better idea might be to follow Robert Zubrin’s theory to populate Mars with bacteria and primitive plants to start the oxygenating process, which would then allow more advanced plants that produce far more oxygen to gain a foothold. Solar and cosmic radiation will be a concern for plants, but as we warm the planet and the atmosphere becomes denser—albeit with carbon dioxide—radiation damage will be greatly reduced. As noted in the previous chapter, although the massive amount of CO2 on Mars is a huge disadvantage to humans, it can be a boon to plants. Plants consume CO2 and expel oxygen. The late physicist Richard Feynman was fond of saying that trees aren’t really land plants—they grow from the air. They rely mostly on sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow, although most also need water from the ground. Plants should thrive in the Martian CO2 environment, and our genetic engineering abilities should allow us to re-create plants that grow far better and faster on Mars than anywhere else. In the end, genetics may be the key to breathable air.


pages: 669 words: 210,153

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

Airbnb, Alexander Shulgin, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Ben Horowitz, Bernie Madoff, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Black Swan, blue-collar work, Boris Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cal Newport, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, David Brooks, David Graeber, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, fear of failure, Firefox, follow your passion, future of work, Google X / Alphabet X, Howard Zinn, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Lao Tzu, lateral thinking, life extension, lifelogging, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mason jar, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Nelson Mandela, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, passive income, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, phenotype, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, post scarcity, post-work, premature optimization, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, software is eating the world, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Tesla Model S, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas L Friedman, Wall-E, Washington Consensus, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

Peter’s Path to Meditation 10% Happier by Dan Harris is the book that got Peter meditating regularly. After limited success with open monitoring or mindfulness meditation, he was introduced to Transcendental Meditation by a friend, Dan Loeb, billionaire and founder of Third Point LLC, a $17 billion asset management firm. ✸ Most-gifted or recommended books Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. The latter is a book about cognitive dissonance that looks at common weaknesses and biases in human thinking. Peter wants to ensure he goes through life without being too sure of himself, and this book helps him to recalibrate. ✸ Peter’s best $100 or less purchase? Peter has a monthly daddy/daughter date with his 8-year-old daughter.

and it’s interesting, because a lot of them will take a step back and they’ll fumble, because they’re so indoctrinated into the algorithm of ‘All I really need to do is identify high cholesterol and treat it’ versus understanding what purpose it serves in the human body.” TF: There is a big difference between understanding something (what you want in a physician) and simply knowing its name or labeling it. This is also one of the lessons that Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman’s father taught him. The story is contained in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, the most-gifted book of several people in this book, as well as in a wonderful short documentary called The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. “The rule is: The basics are the basics, and you can’t beat the basics.” “What you put in your mouth is a stressor, and what you say—what comes out of your mouth—is also a stressor.”

The Five Chimps Theory “There’s a theory that I call ‘the five chimps theory.’ In zoology, you can predict the mood and behavior patterns of any chimp by which five chimps they hang out with the most. Choose your five chimps carefully.” Lessons From Physics and the Russian Mob “I learned [the importance of honesty] from a couple of different places. One is, when I grew up, I wanted to be a physicist and I idolized Richard Feynman. I read everything by him, technical and non-technical, that I could get my hands on. He said: ‘You must never, ever fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.’ “So the physics grounding is very important because in physics, you have to speak truth. You don’t compromise, you don’t negotiate with people, you don’t try and make them feel better. If your equation is wrong, it just won’t work.


pages: 309 words: 91,581

The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It by Timothy Noah

assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, blue-collar work, Bonfire of the Vanities, Branko Milanovic, business cycle, call centre, collective bargaining, computer age, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Erik Brynjolfsson, Everybody Ought to Be Rich, feminist movement, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Gini coefficient, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, industrial robot, invisible hand, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, longitudinal study, low skilled workers, lump of labour, manufacturing employment, moral hazard, oil shock, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, performance metric, positional goods, post-industrial society, postindustrial economy, purchasing power parity, refrigerator car, rent control, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, The Spirit Level, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, union organizing, upwardly mobile, very high income, Vilfredo Pareto, War on Poverty, We are the 99%, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration, Yom Kippur War

“It may be hard to believe that purchasing a radio once took skilled sales personnel,” Goldin and Katz write, “but it did.” The earliest radios required home installation, and purchasers needed to be shown how to use them. Radio sales clerks doubled as yesterday’s equivalent to the Geek Squad, competing with radio hobbyists who hired themselves out for installation and repair work. As a boy growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens, the Nobel physicist Richard Feynman earned money during the Depression by fixing radios—tinkering with vacuum tubes, removing a burned-out resister, climbing onto neighbors’ roofs and fixing their antennae.22 Simple work for a budding genius, it required from mere mortals a high school education. High school education was better than vocational training because the general knowledge it imparted allowed for more flexibility. Goldin and Katz cite the example of telegraphy.

If anything, it went the other way, as artisans—for instance, gun makers, butchers, bakers, glassblowers, and shoemakers—were replaced by unskilled workers on assembly lines. But as production processes streamlined further, machines replaced the unskilled workers and higher-skilled workers were sought to manipulate the machines (Goldin and Katz, Education and Technology, 122). 19. Goldin and Katz, Education and Technology, 140, 161, 185. 20. Ibid., 198. 21. Ibid., 113, 177. 22. Ibid., 114, 118; Richard Feynman, quoted in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character, ed. Edward Hutchings (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997; originally published in 1985), 18–21. 23. Goldin and Katz, Education and Technology, 178–80, 248–49, 264. 24. Albert Parker Fitch, The College Course and the Preparation for Life: Eight Talks on Familiar Undergraduate Problems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), 177–78. 25.


pages: 288 words: 92,175

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

Bill Gates: Altair 8800, British Empire, computer age, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, financial independence, Grace Hopper, Isaac Newton, labor-force participation, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, music of the spheres, new economy, operation paperclip, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Steve Jobs, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra

There was only one way to find out: I’d have to ask them. JANUARY 1958 Launch Day The young woman’s heart was pounding. Her palms were sweaty as she gripped the pencil. She quickly scribbled down the numbers coming across the Teletype. She had been awake for more than sixteen hours but felt no fatigue. Instead, the experience seemed to be heightening her senses. Behind her she could sense Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, peeking at her graph paper. He stood looking over her shoulder, occasionally sighing. She knew that her every move was being carefully watched, her calculations closely studied. Her work would inform mission control if the first American satellite would be a success or a crushing failure. Hours earlier, before the satellite had been launched, her boyfriend had wished her luck.

At the Pentagon, von Braun turned to Pickering and said, “It’s yours now.” The rocket was out of their hands, and they could only hope it would be a success. Success or failure would be ascertained by those at JPL. Back in Pasadena, data began to come across the Teletype. Barbara started her calculations, her pencil moving furiously across the paper. Sitting at the light table, she could sense three very intimidating men towering over her: Richard Feynman, the famed physicist, now at Caltech; Feynman’s former PhD student Al Hibbs, now director of Space Science at JPL; and Lee DuBridge, the president of Caltech. Feynman stood behind her and peeked over her shoulder as she calculated the satellite’s velocity leaving Earth. He was unnaturally calm, a departure from his usually jumpy behavior. The calculations thus far looked promising. The satellite was moving with the right speed to overcome Earth’s gravitational pull and at the right angle to enter orbit.


pages: 315 words: 92,151

Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test

As well as the nanoparticles in sunscreens, we are starting to use nanotubes and nanofibers, which can be incredibly strong and electrically conductive, and sheets of materials a single atom thick like graphene, which have amazing properties that are quite different from more familiar bulky materials. If we were to build actual devices on this scale, we have to be able to undertake something far more complex. In fact, the only thing that is likely to be able to build a nanoscale machine is another such machine. The physicist Richard Feynman, one of the earliest to think about nanotechnology in a fascinating talk called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” suggested we could manage this by producing very small machines, which we could then use to make even smaller machines, which could then make smaller still, and so on. But even if this is the case we do have to be wary of the issues that face natural replication on this scale.

Information on Leonardo da Vinci’s automata from Marina Wallace (ed.), 30-Second Leonardo da Vinci (Lewes, UK: Ivy Press, 2014), p. 90. For more on the science fiction portrayal of the nanotechnology threat, see Michael Crichton, Prey (New York: Harper Collins, 2002). For more on nanotechnology, nanobots, and assemblers, see K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation (New York, Bantam, 1986). A transcript of Feynman’s talk is available at Richard Feynman (1959), Plenty of Room at the Bottom [online] MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy. Available at www.pa.msu.edu/~yang/RFeynman_plentySpace.pdf, accessed February 12, 2015. 6. DINOSAUR CONSTRUCTION The quote on grinding dinosaur bones is from Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park (London: Random House, 1993), p. 63. The discovery of T. rex hemoglobin is detailed in Mary H. Schweitzer et al, “Heme compounds in dinosaur trabecular bone,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the Unites States of America 94 (June 1997): 6291–96.


pages: 293 words: 88,490

The End of Theory: Financial Crises, the Failure of Economics, and the Sweep of Human Interaction by Richard Bookstaber

"Robert Solow", asset allocation, bank run, bitcoin, business cycle, butterfly effect, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, cellular automata, collateralized debt obligation, conceptual framework, constrained optimization, Craig Reynolds: boids flock, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, dark matter, disintermediation, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, epigenetics, feminist movement, financial innovation, fixed income, Flash crash, Henri Poincaré, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John Meriwether, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Long Term Capital Management, margin call, market clearing, market microstructure, money market fund, Paul Samuelson, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Piper Alpha, Ponzi scheme, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, railway mania, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, risk/return, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, sovereign wealth fund, the map is not the territory, The Predators' Ball, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, too big to fail, transaction costs, tulip mania, Turing machine, Turing test, yield curve

If I had escorted you into one of the cavernous rooms filled with “computers” during World War II’s Manhattan Project, you would have found scores of women toiling away with rudimentary calculators, being handed sheets of instructions and handing back other sheets with the results. (The person developing those instructions and devising the method for compiling the results was none other than the famed physicist Richard Feynman.) The women were like clerks, and were called computers because that is what they did. They did not need to know the nature of the underlying task; they simply had to execute a set of instructions without error. Hilbert argued for a large-scale mathematical initiative to devise mechanical procedures that they could follow by rote, that in the end could lead to the proof of any mathematical proposition, giving a decided yes or no to the question.

Eric Beinhocker, the executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, opines that the error of economics is not “in trying to be too much like the other sciences” but rather that “it has made too little effort.” Economics has “developed an axiomatic internally consistent self-contained theory” that is “more like theology than science.” Crises are messy and complex. The physicist Richard Feynman understood this; looking back at the 1987 crash, he reflected on how difficult physics would be if we had to worry about what the electrons were thinking. To understand and manage crises, economists must give up the myth that the economy is a simple mechanical equilibrium system. So what do we make of today’s standard neoclassical approach? What is the response, other than simply saying that context does not matter?


pages: 761 words: 231,902

The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil

additive manufacturing, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Brewster Kahle, Brownian motion, business cycle, business intelligence, c2.com, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, coronavirus, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, Dean Kamen, disintermediation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, factory automation, friendly AI, George Gilder, Gödel, Escher, Bach, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, linked data, Loebner Prize, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mitch Kapor, mouse model, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, premature optimization, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, remote working, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Rodney Brooks, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, telepresence, The Coming Technological Singularity, Thomas Bayes, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Y2K, Yogi Berra

In his view, it is feasible to express all information processes in terms of operations on cellular automata, so Wolfram's insights bear on several key issues related to information and its pervasiveness. Wolfram postulates that the universe itself is a giant cellular-automaton computer. In his hypothesis there is a digital basic for apparently analog phenomena (such as motion and time) and for formulas in physics, and we can model our understanding of physics as the simple transformation of a cellular automaton. Others have proposed this possibility. Richard Feynman wondered about it in considering the relationship of information to matter and energy. Norbert Wiener heralded a fundamental change in focus from energy to information in his 1948 book Cybernetic and suggested that the transformation of information, not energy, was the fundamental building block of the universe.60 Perhaps the first to postulate that the universe is being computed on a digital computer was Konrad Zuse in 1967.61 Zuse is best known as the inventor of the first working programmable computer, which he developed from 1935 to 1941.

But if you stay biological and don't reprogram your genes, you won't be around for very long to influence the debate. Nanotechnology: The Intersection of Information and the Physical World The role of the infinitely small is infinitely large. —LOUIS PASTEUR But I am not afraid to consider the final question as to whether, ultimately, in the great future, we can arrange the atoms the way we want; the very atoms, all the way down! —RICHARD FEYNMAN Nanotechnology has the potential to enhance human performance, to bring sustainable development for materials, water, energy, and food, to protect against unknown bacteria and viruses, and even to diminish the reasons for breaking the peace [by creating universal abundance]. —NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION NANOTECHNOLOGY REPORT Nanotechnology promises the tools to rebuild the physical world—our bodies and brains included—molecular fragment by molecular fragment, potentially atom by atom.

The revolution in nanotechnology, however, will ultimately enable us to redesign and rebuild, molecule by molecule, our bodies and brains and the world with which we interact.70 These two revolutions are overlapping, but the full realization of nanotechnology lags behind the biotechnology revolution by about one decade. Most nanotechnology historians date the conceptual birth of nanotechnology to physicist Richard Feynman's seminal speech in 1959, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," in which he described the inevitability and profound implications of engineering machines at the level of atoms: The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It would be, in principle, possible ... for a physicist to synthesize any chemical substance that the chemist writes down. . . .


pages: 778 words: 227,196

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, animal electricity, British Empire, Copley Medal, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Etonian, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Harrison: Longitude, music of the spheres, placebo effect, polynesian navigation, Richard Feynman, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, trade route, unbiased observer, University of East Anglia, éminence grise

* * * ♣ This is a line of argument that has a long scientific footprint, and can be found being used to great rhetorical effect today by Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. Against this, it is interesting to read the defence of the necessary and dynamic notion of ‘mystery’ by Humphry Davy in his lectures (see my Prologue), or by the great twentieth-century American physicist Richard Feynman in The Meaning of it All (posthumously published in 1999). Though not a religious man, Feynman believed that science was driven by a continual dialogue between sceptical enquiry and the sense of inexplicable mystery, and that if either got the upper hand true science would be destroyed. See James Gleick, Richard Feynman and Modern Physics (1992). ♣ This is possibly the first scientific identification of the famous ‘placebo effect’, although it would not be properly tested and defined until the 1950s. It has been claimed that over 30 per cent of all patients show a ‘placebo’ response, most notably in cases of depression, heart disease and chronic muscular pain.

Bibliography The Bigger Picture (In chronological order of publication) Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago UP, 1962-70 Albert Bettex, The Discovery of Nature (with 482 illustrations), Thames & Hudson, 1965 James D. Watson, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, 1968/2001 Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation, Danube edition, 1969 Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, 1973 Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin, Penguin, 1992 Lewis Wolpert, The Unnatural Nature of Science, Faber, 1992 James Gleick, Richard Feynman and Modern Physics, Pantheon Books, 1992 Michael J. Crowe, Modern Theories of the Universe from Herschel to Hubble, Chicago UP, 1994 Gale Christianson, Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995 Peter Whitfield, The Mapping of the Heavens, The British Library, 1995 John Carey (editor), The Faber Book of Science, Faber, 1995 Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: Volume I: Voyaging, and Volume 2: The Power of Place, Pimlico, 1995 and 2000 Michael Shortland and Richard Yeo, Telling Lives in Science: Essays in Scientific Biography, CUP, 1996 Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, 1996 Roy Porter, The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present, HarperCollins, 1997 John Gascoigne, Science in the Service of Empire, CUP, 1998 Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, Allen Lane, Penguin Press, 1998 Lisa Jardine, Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution, Little, Brown, 1999 Jonathan Bate, The Song of the Earth, Picador, 2000 Ludmilla Jordanova, Defining Features: Scientific and Medical Portraits 1660-2000, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2000 Patricia Fara, Newton: The Making of Genius, Macmillan, 2000 Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, Routledge, 2001 Thomas Crump, A Brief History of Science as Seen Through the Development of Scientific Instruments, Constable, 2001 Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, Picador, 2001 Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann, Oxygen (a play in 2 acts), Wiley, New York, 2001 Anne Thwaite, Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of P.H.

.): Romanticism and Science, 249n Furneaux, Captain Tobias, 49 Fuseli, Henry, 105-6 galaxies see nebulae Galignani, Giovanni Antonio, 385 Galileo Galilei, 77, 86n, 171, 428 Galvani, Luigi, 296, 314, 444 Galvanic Society, 317 galvanism, 273, 285-6, 328-9 Gambia, river, 214-16, 221 Garland, Private William, 224 Garnerin, Jacques, 159 Garnett, Thomas, 292 gas lighting, 382 gases: in medical treatment, 251, 257, 272 Gay-Lussac, Joseph, 159, 297, 299, 345, 353-4, 398, 403n Geneva: Davy in, 433; see also Diodati, Villa Gentleman’s Magazine, 136, 408, 460 Geological Society, foundation, xix, 393 geology: Davy lectures on, 294; Davy on limits of knowledge in, 356; and religious belief, 451, 459; Lyell on deep time and, 454-5, 459 George II, King, 65, 68 George III, King: Banks meets on return from Tahiti, 42-3; Banks advises at Kew, 49; Omai presented to, 50; sends condolences to Banks for gout, 57; interest in astronomy, 99, 168; summons Herschel to court, 109-10; appoints Herschel King’s Personal Astronomer, 110-11; remark on Herschel, 110, 409; buys Herschel telescopes as royal gifts, 114; proposes sponsoring ballooning, 133; sees Lunardi’s balloon flight, 138; meets Lunardi, 139; finances Herschel’s forty-foot telescope project, 164, 176, 178, 180, 190; visits Herschel’s telescope project at The Grove, 177-8; mental decline, 180-1; praises Herschels to Lalande, 188; death, 395; bequeathes books to British Museum library, 404 George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV): interest in ballooning, 137-8; gives watch to Lunardi, 139; grants and honours to Herschel, 181; confers knighthood on Davy, 342; awards baronetcy to Davy, 369; accession to throne, 395 Gerard, John: Herbal, 8 Germany: as inspiration for Frankenstein, 328-30 Gibbon, Edward, 110 Giddy, Davies: letters from Davy, 199, 259, 274, 277; lends books to Davy, 251; Beddoes writes to on Davy, 252; Anna Beddoes runs away to, 280, 286; as guardian of Anna Beddoes’s children, 302; marries and changes name to Davies Gilbert, 302; supports Davy’s candidature for presidency of Royal Society, 397; supports Faraday’s election to Royal Society Fellowship, 402 Gilbert, Davies see Giddy, Davies Gillman, Dr John, 308, 321 Gillray, James, 277, 292 Gleick, James: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics, 313n Godwin, William: on property, 16n; published by Johnson, 106, 271; and Davy, 267-8; and authorship of Frankenstein, 325 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: on solitary scientific genius, xvii; essays on meteorology, 160; on nature of science, 247; in Jena circle, 315; on Newton’s Optics, 319; Jane Davy meets, 412; Humboldt praises, 440; ‘Empirical Observation and Science’, 249n, 443n; Treatise on Colour, 443n Goree (island), West Africa, 223 Gosse, Sir Edmund: Father and Son, 451n Göttingen: acquires Herschel telescope, 114, 168 Gray, Robert (later Bishop of Bristol), 351, 361, 365 Great Barrier Reef (Australia), 38n, 39 Great Reform Bill (1832), 437 Green, Joseph Henry, 306-7, 321-3; Spiritual Philosophy, 322 Green, William, 5-6, 10, 40 Grove, The (house), Slough, 165-6, 174-5, 188, 194 Guiccioli, Teresa, 380 Hachette, Pierre, 401 Haiti, 386-7 Hale-Bopp comet, 172n Hallam, Arthur, 451n Halley, Edmund: comet, 171-2 Hamblyn, Richard: The Invention of Clouds, 160n Hamilton, Sir William, 46n, 55, 221 Hamilton, Sir William Rowan, 447 Handel, George Frederic, 69 Hanover: Herschel family in, 65-9, 75; Caroline returns to, 409 Hardy, Thomas: Two on a Tower, 118n Harrington, Robert, 413; ‘The Death Warrant of the French Theory of Chemistry’, 273 Harrison, John, 47, 77, 109, 373n, 438n Hastenbeck, battle of (1757), 69 Hatchett, Charles, 339, 374 Hawkesworth, John: Account of Voyages Undertaken…for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere…by…Captain Cook, 44 Hawking, Stephen: images, 465n; A Brief History of Time, 88n Haydn, Joseph: The Creation, 107, 199 Haydon, Benjamin Robert: hosts ‘Immortal Dinner’, 318-19, 321n, 327; Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, 318-19 Hayes, Charlotte, 54 Hazlitt, William, 209 Heaton, James, 372 Heaven’s Gate cult, 172n Hebburn colliery, 368 Hecla, HMS, 396 Hector, Edmund, 145 Henderson, Thomas, 90n Henslow, John, 460-1 Hepworth, Dame Barbara, 237n Herapath, William, 284 Herculaneum: Davy investigates calcinated papyri rolls from, 376, 378, 380 Herodotus, 217 Heron, Ralph, 143, 155 Herschel, Alexander (William’s brother): home life in Hanover, 71, 75; moves to England, 80; moves to Datchet, 111, 114; accompanies William to Göttingen, 168; wife irritates Caroline, 169; and construction of William’s giant telescope, 177; wife’s death, 183; unhappy pre-marital love affairs, 195 Herschel, Anna (née Moritzen; William’s mother), 65-6, 68-71, 80, 89 Herschel, Caroline (William’s sister): passion for astronomy, 60, 63-4, 66, 82; keeps journal, 64, 71-2; upbringing, 65-7, 70-1; feels Lisbon earthquake, 68, 383; on William’s return to Hanover from England, 69, 75-6; stunted and disfigured by ill health, 71, 75, 80-1; joins William in England, 80-2; singing lessons, 80-2, 89; relations with William, 82-3, 86, 89, 174, 176, 196, 403n; as William’s assistant and helpmeet, 85-6, 89, 95, 117-18; millinery business in Bath, 89, 95; solo singing, 90; on Watson’s meeting with Herschel, 93; and William’s discovery of Uranus, 95-8, 104; and successful trial of William’s telescope at Greenwich, 109-10; moves to Datchet with William, 111, 114; keeps visitors’ book at Datchet, 114; describes astronomical observations, 115-17; compiles index of William’s remarks on practical observation, 116-17; William trains for independent observation, 117; on hazards of astronomical observation, 119-20; injures leg, 120-1; William credits with discovering small ‘associate nebula’, 124; and construction of William’s forty-foot telescope, 163, 175; moves house to The Grove, Slough, 165, 165-6; and visitors to The Grove, 168-9; and William’s absence in Göttingen, 168-9; concentrates on astronomical work, 169-70; operates Newtonian reflector (’small sweeper’), 169-70; Observation Book, 170, 173; discovers and observes new comets, 171-4, 176, 188, 193; published in Philosophical Transactions, 173; Fanny Burney visits, 175; large Newtonian sweeper telescope, 175; Maskelyne’s correspondence and friendship with, 175, 189, 193-5; reputation, 176, 193; on William’s single-mindedness, 176-7; secures royal stipend, 178-80, 384; and George III’s financial stipulations for telescope project, 180-1; affected by William’s courtship and marriage to Mary Pitt, 182-8; celebrates mounting of giant telescope, 182; destroys ten years of journals, 186-7; leaves Grove apartment for rooms in Slough, 188, 194-5; Lalande’s correspondence with, 189, 196; and dangers from forty-foot telescope, 191; astronomical achievements, 193; and birth of William’s son, 193; depicted in cartoon, 193; rides to visit Maskelyne in Greenwich, 193-4; confesses to loneliness, 195; on nebulae and galaxies, 196-7, 205, 208; Lalande praises, 201n; affection for nephew John, 202-3; imagination, 276; and nephew John’s career, 387, 389-90; assists nephew John in astronomical work, 406-7; cares for William in old age, 406-8; health problems, 407; returns to Hanover after William’s death, 409-11; awarded Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, 410-11; recalculates new Star Catalogue, 410; writes to nephew John, 410; fantasy on comet travelling, 426; lack of religious expression, 450; correspondence with John and family in South Africa, 462-4; public relations in old age, 463-4; ‘Book of Work Done’, 168, 171; Memoirs, 64 & n, 68, 121, 195, 410; Star Catalogue, 193-5 Herschel, Dietrich (William’s brother), 68, 71-2, 80 Herschel, Isaac (William’s father), 64-6, 68-71, 75-6 Herschel, Jacob (William’s brother), 65-71, 75-7, 79-80, 89, 166-7 Herschel, Sir John (William’s son): names Uranus’s moons, 102n; birth, 193; on solar system and nebulae theory, 198; in Paris as boy, 201; aunt Caroline’s devotion to, 202-3; Brighton holiday with father, 209; excels at Cambridge, 381-2; and founding of Astronomical Society, 384; career, 387-90; misgivings over Davy’s character, 397-8, 402; supports Wollaston for presidency of Royal Society, 397-8; awarded Copley Medals, 399-400, 464; Davy acknowledges in presidential speech to Royal Society, 399; Continental tour with Babbage, 405-6; Davy recommends for Athenaeum club, 405; favours women in science, 407; composes epitaph to father, 408; and Caroline’s return to Hanover, 409-11; Caroline sends Memoirs to in instalments, 410; contributes papers to Royal Society, 410; correspondence with Caroline, 410, 462-5; Davy appoints Secretary at Royal Society, 413; refers to Davy’s Consolations in Travel, 430, 455; candidacy for presidency of Royal Society (1829), 436-7; marriage and family, 436, 461; knighted, 437; investigates Fraunhofer’s lines on spectrum, 440; in debate on state of British science, 441-5; literary qualities, 442; attends British Association meetings, 447; Mary Somerville writes on, 458; search for unifying laws, 458; astronomical expedition to southern hemisphere (Cape Town), 461-5; Charles Darwin studies, 461; wealth from inheritances, 462; busy life, 463; reportedly discovers life on moon, 464-6; baronetcy and election to presidency of Royal Society, 465; portrait photograph, 465; achievements, 468; A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, 441-5, 448, 461 Herschel, Margaret Brodie, Lady (née Stewart; John’s wife), 46n, 64n, 186-7, 436, 447, 462-5 Herschel, Mary, Lady (earlier Pitt; née Baldwin), 165, 182-6, 389, 409, 462 Herschel, Sophie (William’s sister), 65-6, 76 Herschel, Sir William: discoveries and theories, xx, 63-4, 88, 90-1, 93; in Bath, 60, 75-7, 80, 95; constructs own telescopes, 60, 63, 83-7, 94; musicianship, 60, 67 & n, 72, 75-7, 89-90, 115, 188; self-taught astronomy, 60-1, 74, 77; Watson meets, 60-1, 92-3; background and family, 61, 63-7; studies and speculations on moon, 61-3, 87, 92-5; character and temperament, 65, 209-10; practical skills, 66, 87; serves in Hanoverian army, 67-70; moves to England, 68-70, 72-4; discharged from army, 71; linguistic skills, 72, 75; revisits Hanover, 72, 75-6; philosophical and religious reflections, 73; appearance, 75; Astronomical Observation Journal, 77, 87-8, 94, 96-7; brings Caroline to England, 80-2; relations with Caroline, 82-3, 86, 89, 120, 174, 196, 403n; Caroline assists, 85-6, 117-18; and double stars, 87, 90, 95; on nebulae and galaxies, 88, 123, 192-3, 196-8, 205, 208-9; membership of Bath Philosophical Society, 93; reading of night sky, 95, 115-16; discovers new planet (Uranus), 96-103, 208; meets British astronomers in London, 101-2; elected to Royal Society and awarded Copley Gold Medal, 102-3, 105; denies accidental discovery of Uranus, 103-4, 108, 367; correspondence with European astronomers about metal specula, 107-8; power of telescopes doubted, 108-9; summoned to meet George III, 109-10; telescope tried and proved at Greenwich, 109-10; appointed King’s Personal Astronomer, 111; commercial manufacture of reflector telescopes, 114; on physics and psychology of night observation, 115-16; ‘sweeping’ method, 115, 118, 120; and hazards of observation, 119-20; writes on celestial system and universe, 121-4, 191-2, 197-8, 204-5, 209-10, 391; catalogue of nebulae, 123, 176; interest in balloons, 135-6; proposes and builds forty- foot telescope, 163, 175-7, 181-2; moves to The Grove, Slough, 165-7; absence installing telescope in Göttingen, 167-8; and Caroline’s celebrity for discovering comet, 174; publishes papers with Royal Society, 176; single-mindedness, 176-7; requests and secures royal stipend for Caroline, 178-9; account book for telescope project, 180; and George III’s financial stipulations for telescope project, 180-1; knighthood, 181; personal finances, 181; courtship and marriage to Mary Pitt, 182-7; and operation of forty-foot telescope, 190; theoretical work, 191, 208; birth of son John, 193; domestic and married life, 193; discovers infra-red light, 199, 328; interest in extraterrestrial life, 199; studies sun, 199, 391; commissioned by War Office to provide spy telescope, 200; meets Napoleon in Paris, 200-1; on philosophical significance of astronomy, 203; on Time, 203-5; on objective observation, 249n; Davy cites, 288; in Walker’s composite portrait, 303; Keats on, 306-8, 323; Jane Apreece dines with, 340; isolation from Banks, 381; disagreement with son over career, 387-90; influence on Shelley, 390-1; reputation, 390, 399, 438; decline and death, 405, 407-8, 435; obituaries, 408-9; Davy writes on ideas of ever-evolving universe, 430; religious scepticism, 450; Brewster summarises work in life of Newton, 456; Mary Somerville writes on, 458; will and bequests to son, 462; ‘An Account of a Comet’, 100; ‘Astronomic Observations Relating to the Sidereal Path of the Heavens’, 208, 407; ‘Astronomical Observations Relating to the Construction of the Heavens’, 204; ‘Catalogue of Second Thousand Nebulae with Remarks on the Construction of the Heavens’, 191, 204; ‘The Description of a Forty Foot Reflecting Telescope’, 196; ‘An Investigation of the Construction of the Heavens’, 122; ‘Observations tending to investigate the Nature of the Sun’, 204; ‘On the Construction of the Heavens’, 122, 191, 197, 204; ‘On the Nature and Construction of the Sun’, 199; ‘On Nebulae Stars, Properly So-called’, 196-7; ‘On the Proper Motion of the Solar System’, 204; ‘One Thousand New Nebulae’, 118; Scientific Papers, 64n; ‘A Series of Observations on the Georgian Planet’, 191; ‘A Third Catalogue of the Comparative Brightness of Stars’, 196 Herschel-Shorland, John, 64n Hicks, Zachary, 40 Hodgson, Revd John, 351 Holmes, J.H., 372 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 190 Holmes, Richard: lectures at Royal Institution, 467; Shelley: The Pursuit, 121n Home, Sir Everard, 7-8 Homer: Iliad, 206-7 Hooke, Robert: Micrographia, 249n Hornemann, Friedrich, 212, 233 horse-dung: used for casting metal mirrors, 84 & n Hoskin, Michael, 94n; Caroline Herschel’s Autobiographies, 64n Houghton, Major Daniel, 212, 216 Household Words (magazine), 454 Houssa (mythical city), 220 Houssa (West African people), 228 Howard, Luke: Barometrographia, 160; On the Modification of Clouds, 159 Hubble, Edwin, 84n, 88, 90, 119n, 403n; The Realm of the Nebulae, 205n Hubble Telescope, 135 Humboldt, Alexander von, 43n, 232n, 310, 324, 370, 406, 439-40, 447, 458; Personal Narrative, 406, 445, 461 Hunt, Leigh, 353, 404 Hunter, John, 51, 308-9, 316, 320 Hunterian Collection, 307; Hunterian Museum, London, 309 Hunterian Orations, 308 Hutton, James, 104, 208, 294, 356, 455 Huygens, Christiaan, 77, 83, 93, 167, 200, 324 hydrogen: discovered, 127-8; in balloons, 131, 144, 146, 158; cheap production method, 156 Hypatia of Alexandria, 201n, 248 Iceland: Banks visits, 47, 54, 121n Illyria, 377-8, 419, 421, 428, 432 Inchbald, Elizabeth: A Magical Tale, or the Descent of the Balloon (play), 143 infra-red light, 199, 328 inoculation, 50 Institut de France: awards Prix Napoléon to Davy, 352 iodine, 354, 373 Ireland: attempted balloon crossing to England from, 157-8 Italy: Davy visits with Jane, 355, 377-8; Romantic wanderers in, 425 J, Miss (of Bristol), 263 Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 144 James, Frank A.J.L.: ‘How Big is a Hole?’


pages: 561 words: 157,589

WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly

4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Alvin Roth, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Bill Joy: nanobots, bitcoin, blockchain, Bretton Woods, Brewster Kahle, British Empire, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computer vision, corporate governance, corporate raider, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, deskilling, DevOps, Donald Davies, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Flash crash, full employment, future of work, George Akerlof, gig economy, glass ceiling, Google Glasses, Gordon Gekko, gravity well, greed is good, Guido van Rossum, High speed trading, hiring and firing, Home mortgage interest deduction, Hyperloop, income inequality, index fund, informal economy, information asymmetry, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invention of movable type, invisible hand, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, Lao Tzu, Larry Wall, Lean Startup, Leonard Kleinrock, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, microbiome, microservices, minimum viable product, mortgage tax deduction, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, obamacare, Oculus Rift, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, Paul Buchheit, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Ponzi scheme, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Sam Altman, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, SETI@home, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, smart contracts, Snapchat, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, social web, software as a service, software patent, spectrum auction, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, strong AI, TaskRabbit, telepresence, the built environment, The Future of Employment, the map is not the territory, The Nature of the Firm, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Davenport, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, transportation-network company, Travis Kalanick, trickle-down economics, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, ubercab, universal basic income, US Airways Flight 1549, VA Linux, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We are the 99%, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, Y Combinator, yellow journalism, zero-sum game, Zipcar

When faced with the unknown, a certain cultivated receptivity, an opening to that unknown, leads to better maps than simply trying to overlay prior maps on that which is new. It is precisely this training in how to look at the world directly, not simply to reshuffle the maps, that is at the heart of original work in science—and as I try to make the case in this book, in business and technology. As recounted in his autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, fabled physicist Richard Feynman was appalled by how many students in a class he visited during his sabbatical in Brazil couldn’t apply what they had been taught. Immediately after a lecture about the polarization of light, with demonstrations using strips of polarizing film, he asked a question whose answer could be determined by looking through the film at the light reflected off the bay outside. Despite their ability to recite the relevant formula when asked directly (something called Brewster’s Angle), it never occurred to them that the formula provided a way to answer the question.

When you start with what you want to accomplish, knowledge becomes a tool. You seek it out, and when you get it, it is truly yours. Stuart Firestein, in his book Ignorance, makes the case that science is not the collection of what we know. It is the practice of investigating what we don’t know. Ignorance, not knowledge, drives science. There’s also an essential element of play in both science and learning. In his autobiography, physicist Richard Feynman described the origin of the breakthrough that led to his Nobel Prize. He was burned-out and found himself unable to concentrate on work. Physics was no longer fun. But he remembered how it used to be. “When I was in high school, I’d see water running out of a faucet growing narrower, and wonder if I could figure out what determines that curve,” he wrote. “I didn’t have to do it; it wasn’t important for the future of science; somebody else had already done it.

For Gibson’s account of its origin, see “The future has arrived,” Quote Investigator, retrieved March 30, 2017, http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/01/24/future-has-arrived/. 21 a tin of biscuits wrapped in brown paper: I believe I first heard this story from George Simon. It is also recounted in “Alfred Korzybski,” Wikipedia, retrieved March 30, 2017, https://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Alfred_Korzybski#cite_note-4. 22 sufficiently to use them in real life: Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (New York: Norton, 1984), 212. 22 “Their knowledge is so fragile!”: Ibid., 36. CHAPTER 2: TOWARD A GLOBAL BRAIN 23 “The Open Source Paradigm Shift”: Tim O’Reilly, “The Open Source Paradigm Shift,” in Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software, ed. J. Feller, B. Fitzgerald, S. Hissam, and K. R. Lakhani (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005). Also available at http://archive. oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/paradigmshift_0504.html. 24 “an intellectual property destroyer”: Jim Allchin, quoted in Tim O’Reilly, “My Response to Jim Allchin,” oreilly.com, February 18, 2001, http://archive. oreilly.com/pub/wlg/104. 24 emerge at an adjacent stage: Clay Christensen, “The Law of Conservation of Attractive Profits,” Harvard Business Review 82, no. 2 (February 2004): 17–18. 25 I told free software advocates: There is a transcript of our exchange during the Q&A after my 1999 talk at the “Wizards of OS” conference in Berlin.


pages: 342 words: 95,013

The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling

airport security, Burning Man, cuban missile crisis, digital map, glass ceiling, Grace Hopper, half of the world's population has never made a phone call, Iridium satellite, market bubble, new economy, packet switching, pirate software, profit motive, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, thinkpad, Y2K

Van knew that fixing a spy satellite was a long-shot. Realistically speaking, how could one computer-science professor cure an ailing multibillion-dollar spacecraft? But Van also knew that the job was not hopeless. Such things sometimes happened in real life. For instance: Richard Feynman was just a physicist. But Feynman had dropped a chunk of rubber O-ring into a glass of ice water, and he had shown the whole world, on TV, how a space shuttle could blow up. If Van somehow solved Hickok’s zillion-dollar problem, that would prove that he, Derek Vandeveer, had a top-notch, Richard Feynman kind of class. Van had sacrificed a lot to get his role in public service. He’d given up his happy home, his family life, his civilian career, his peace of mind, and a whole, whole lot of his money. Van wanted to see real results from all that sacrifice.


pages: 400 words: 94,847

Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science by Michael Nielsen

Albert Einstein, augmented reality, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, Cass Sunstein, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, conceptual framework, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Donald Knuth, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Firefox, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, Kevin Kelly, Magellanic Cloud, means of production, medical residency, Nicholas Carr, P = NP, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, selection bias, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Simon Singh, Skype, slashdot, social intelligence, social web, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, University of East Anglia, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge

Pauling may have been widely acknowledged as the world’s leading chemist, but other chemists could see just as surely as Watson and Crick that Pauling’s structure was simply wrong. This strong shared praxis makes science well suited to collective intelligence. This strong shared praxis doesn’t mean that science is a clean and simple process. The actual day-to-day process of doing science is messy and speculative and filled with error and argument. The scientist Richard Feynman was so full of irrepressible brainwaves and “great” ideas, most of which later proved to be wrong, that according to his biographer James Gleick his cannier colleagues developed a rule of thumb: “If Feynman says it three times, it’s right.” The same could be said for many scientists. Often a scientist begins an investigation with little more than a whiff of an idea, a suspicion that some hypothesis is true.

Nature News, November 7, 2006. http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061106/full/news061106-6.html. [70] Jim Giles. PR’s “pit bull” takes on open access. Nature, 445:347, February 1, 2007. [71] Jeremy Ginsberg, Matthew H. Mohebbi, Rajan S. Patel, Lynnette Brammer, Mark S. Smolinski, and Larry Brilliant. Detecting influenza epidemics using search engine query data. Nature, 457:1012–1015, February 19, 2009. [72] James Gleick. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1993. [73] Sharad Goel, Jake M. Hofman, Sébastien Lahaie, David M. Pennock, and Duncan J. Watts. What can search predict? http://www.cam.cornell.edu/~sharad/papers/searchpreds.pdf, 2009. [74] Ben Goldacre. An intrepid, ragged band of bloggers. Guardian, July 29, 2009. http://www.badscience.net/2009/07/we-are-more-possible-than-you-can-powerfully-imagine/


pages: 398 words: 100,679

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, low earth orbit, mass immigration, nuclear winter, off grid, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

It was never intended for anything like this purpose, and lacks practical details and the organization for guiding progression from rudimentary science and technology to more advanced applications. Moreover, a hard copy would be unfeasibly large—and how could you ensure post-apocalyptic survivors would be able to get hold of a copy? In fact, I believe you can help society recover much better by taking a slightly more elegant approach. The solution can be found in a remark made by physicist Richard Feynman. In hypothesizing about the potential destruction of all scientific knowledge and what might be done about it, he allowed himself a single statement, to be transmitted securely to whichever intelligent creatures emerged after the cataclysm: What sentence holds the most information in the fewest words? “I believe,” said Feynman, “it is the atomic hypothesis . . . that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”

Also see the rebuttal to Lovelock’s proposal, “How Not to Save Science,” in Greer (2006), as well as more recent proposals for collating and preserving crucial knowledge in Kelly (2006), Raford (2009), Rose (2010), and Kelly (2011), and the humorous essential T-shirt for time travelers at http://www.topatoco.com/bestshirtever. the encyclopedia as a safe repository of human knowledge: Yeo (2001). Apollo program: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/Apollo.html. 100 million man-hours devoted to Wikipedia: Shirky (2010). Richard Feynman quote: “Atoms in Motion,” Chapter 1 in The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), now available free at http://feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/I_01.html. “These fragments I have shored against my ruins”: T. S. Eliot (1922), The Waste Land. fantasy of starting from scratch: In addition to the novels Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson already mentioned, a number of other fiction books explore the theme of using crucial knowledge to start over.


pages: 347 words: 97,721

Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines by Thomas H. Davenport, Julia Kirby

AI winter, Andy Kessler, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Automated Insights, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, business intelligence, business process, call centre, carbon-based life, Clayton Christensen, clockwork universe, commoditize, conceptual framework, dark matter, David Brooks, deliberate practice, deskilling, digital map, disruptive innovation, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, estate planning, fixed income, follow your passion, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Freestyle chess, game design, general-purpose programming language, global pandemic, Google Glasses, Hans Lippershey, haute cuisine, income inequality, index fund, industrial robot, information retrieval, intermodal, Internet of things, inventory management, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joi Ito, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, lifelogging, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Mark Zuckerberg, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, performance metric, Peter Thiel, precariat, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, social intelligence, speech recognition, spinning jenny, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Works Progress Administration, Zipcar

Meanwhile, even for those who perform the outsourced tasks that require minimal training, these mechanisms make it increasingly possible to concentrate on a certain type of work, develop real strength at it, and become known for mastery of some very specialized work—thus, to excel by stepping narrowly—because demand for it can be aggregated from all around the world. In short, it’s possible to think of narrow-stepping as taking the filet of work—it’s the satisfying stuff situated in the middle, with boring project management process above it and boring paperwork and other ancillary tasks below it. Richard Feynman, in his time one of the world’s best-known physicists, was capable of slicing out this filet back in his days at MIT. He simply refused to participate in all the usual housekeeping of a university academic department—the committee memberships, the candidate interviewing, the grant application writing, and so forth. He got away with it because he had a Nobel Prize—no one would dare say any of these activities was the best use of his time.

He calls them “slow learners” of the organization’s code—which he quickly points out is a compliment, because they are somehow more impervious than their peers to “those overarching ‘shalts’ and ‘shalt nots’ which govern the actions, imply the sanctions, and in time permeate the souls of organization members.” This allows them to keep seeing problems and opportunities in new ways. Reflecting on findings in personality psychology, he reports that three basic traits are key. Original thinkers are “low self-monitors,” so they don’t pick up on social cues dictating how they should act. Second, they avoid contact with coworkers. (Richard Feynman is a favorite example of Sutton’s.) And third, they have very high self-esteem. We suspect most people who choose to step narrowly today would match these criteria pretty closely. And while the technology and communications enablers we’ve described will swell their ranks and include many more people, probably those people will have more than just a touch of these tendencies, as well. They will be different than their peers in terms of their motivational psychology—and also in terms of their cognitive styles.


pages: 326 words: 103,170

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks by Joshua Cooper Ramo

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, British Empire, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, defense in depth, Deng Xiaoping, drone strike, Edward Snowden, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Firefox, Google Chrome, income inequality, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joi Ito, market bubble, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, packet switching, Paul Graham, price stability, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Metcalfe, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, Vernor Vinge, zero day

He drove a surplus fire truck. Faced with the urbane, powerful eighty-one-year-old founder of the largest radio and TV network in America, Danny jumped right into a passionate introduction of his ideas about connection and networks. Paley, coolly: “I didn’t understand a word you said.” Then he wrote Hillis a check for $4 million. Or there was the time that Danny asked the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman to tip him off about smart young scientists Thinking Machines might hire. Feynman, sixty-five years old, volunteered himself. For the next few years, he passed his summer vacations working alongside Hillis and his team. When it came time to test the first Connection Machine, it was some of Feynman’s data that helped reveal just how well the black box was doing its job. The architecture of their computer had cranked through what would have been a month’s worth of physics problems in hours.

., New York: Dover Publications, 1951). “not merely a medium”: Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso Books, 2000), 141. “Someday, perhaps”: William Daniel Hillis, “The Connection Machine” (PhD diss., MIT, 1985), 2. Adding, in case: Ibid., 19. He drove: Po Bronson, “The Long Now: Time-Traveling with Danny Hillis,” Wired, May 1, 1998. Feynman, sixty-five: W. Daniel Hillis, “Richard Feynman and the Connection Machine,” Physics Today 42, no. 2 (February 1989): 78. “At times”: Michael J. Black, review of The Connection Machine, by W. Daniel Hillis, AI Magazine 7, no. 3 (1986): 169. You can solve: Adam Beberg, “Distributed Systems: Computation with a Million Friends” (lecture, Stanford University Computer Systems Colloquium, April 30, 2008), at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zafB2GkMBk.


pages: 362 words: 97,862

Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain by Werner Loewenstein

Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, complexity theory, dematerialisation, discovery of DNA, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, informal economy, information trail, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Norbert Wiener, Richard Feynman, stem cell, trade route, Turing machine

It’s amusing that this concept should be ecumenical, while what theologians have been plying in this regard for centuries is not. Oh well, so it goes. However, we are still not quite home free. Missing from the definition is an objective measure. But how does one measure something ethereal like meaning? This question has preoccupied generations of philosophers, but for a scientist there isn’t much to take home from their musings in that regard. The physicist Richard Feynman liked to say—and did so with only the slightest twinkle in his eye—that the philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. To be fair, classical information theory isn’t of much help either, and if you expect an answer from its books, you will be disappointed. Shannon left meaning out of his formulation (see the appendix, equation 3). And he did it with full intent, so as not to mar the beauty of the information concept.

But if we cut across the morphological trivia, we can rustle up a definition in a few words: a quantum computer is a device that extracts information from quantum waves in superposition. So those haunting poltergeists in Ψ have their use after all, But I doubt that Schrödinger would have thought it would ever be that way. But so it goes. Eventually, once quantum theory had gotten over its long birth pangs, in the 1980s Richard Feynman, Paul Benioff, and David Deutsch advanced the notion that those superposed quantum states might be harnessed to store bits of information. Just as in a standard digital computer a set of capacitors obeying the rules of classical physics can store information, so in principle could a set of atoms—say, a string of hydrogen atoms—obeying the rules of quantum mechanics. In the digital computer the voltage between the plates of the capacitors represents a bit of information.


pages: 370 words: 97,138

Beyond: Our Future in Space by Chris Impey

3D printing, Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, AltaVista, Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, California gold rush, carbon-based life, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, discovery of DNA, Doomsday Clock, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Haight Ashbury, Hyperloop, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, life extension, low earth orbit, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, Oculus Rift, operation paperclip, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, phenotype, private space industry, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, technological singularity, telepresence, telerobotics, the medium is the message, the scientific method, theory of mind, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, wikimedia commons, X Prize, Yogi Berra

The frontier of telepresence is its merger with artificial intelligence, a development foreseen by computer science pioneer Marvin Minsky in 1980.7 A robot doesn’t need to be just a remote extension of a human; it can process information and make its own decisions. This will be exciting, but it will raise fascinating moral and ethical questions, especially if these semiautonomous robots come into contact with each other. Here Come the Bots Richard Feynman was an iconic physicist who won a Nobel Prize for his work in quantum theory. His delight in understanding how nature worked was infectious. In 1959, he wrote an influential essay titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” in which he argued that miniaturization of computers still had a long way to go. He talked about the limits of making machines and computers and realized that there might one day be technologies that could manipulate matter on the scale of individual molecules and atoms.8 That day has finally arrived.

After a call for proposals from museums and public institutions, NASA distributed the four remaining orbiters: original Shuttles Atlantis and Discovery, Challenger’s replacement Endeavor, and an atmospheric test orbiter named Enterprise. Kennedy Space Center, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the California Science Center, and the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City were the lucky recipients. 18. After the Challenger disaster, President Reagan formed the Rogers Commission to investigate. In their televised hearings, physicist Richard Feynman had a memorable moment when he dipped an O-ring into a cup of ice water to show how it became less resilient at the low temperatures at the time of launch. He was scathing about the wildly unrealistic estimates of reliability from NASA engineers and the stark failures of NASA management: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”


pages: 323 words: 100,772

Prisoner's Dilemma: John Von Neumann, Game Theory, and the Puzzle of the Bomb by William Poundstone

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, cuban missile crisis, Douglas Hofstadter, Frank Gehry, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Jacquard loom, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, statistical model, the market place, zero-sum game

Archives): “Neumann is one of the two or three top mathematicians in the world, is totally without national or race prejudice, and has an enormously great gift for inspiring younger men and getting them to do research.... The Neumanns rather like to hit the high spots socially. You know Princeton life is a bit fast and ‘cocktail partyish.’ On the other hand, Neumann is not high-hat in any way, and is most accessible to young students.” A flip and rather puzzling comment on von Neumann occurs in physicist Richard Feynman’s popular book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (1985). Feynman says that “Von Neumann gave me an interesting idea: that you don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in. So I have developed a very powerful sense of social irresponsibility as a result of Von Neumann’s advice. It’s made me a very happy man ever since. But it was Von Neumann who put the seed in that grew into my active irresponsibility!”

He was a fully qualified and talented physicist. He was an expert on isotope diffusion, the process by which radioactive elements are purified for use in the bomb. Fuchs was formally accused of transmitting atomic secrets to the Soviets four times between 1943 and 1947. For this he received only token payment, the largest amount being $400. As spies must be, Fuchs was pleasant and did not stand out in a crowd. He once lent his car to Richard Feynman so he could visit his wife in the hospital. In The Legacy of Hiroshima (1962) Teller wrote of Fuchs, “He was by no means an introvert, but he was a quiet man. I rather liked him.... Fuchs was popular at Los Alamos because he was kind, helpful and much interested in the work of others.” History has downplayed the military significance of Fuchs’s spying. He may have accelerated the Soviet Union’s work on the fission bomb, but that, after all, was an accepted fact when the Fuchs story hit the papers.


pages: 118 words: 35,663

Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing (Columbia Business School Publishing) by John E. Kelly Iii

AI winter, call centre, carbon footprint, crowdsourcing, demand response, discovery of DNA, disruptive innovation, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, global supply chain, Internet of things, John von Neumann, Mars Rover, natural language processing, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, planetary scale, RAND corporation, RFID, Richard Feynman, smart grid, smart meter, speech recognition, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

The change in resistance constitutes a change in state—the switch from zero to one that is the basis for computation. These devices, theoretically, could be packed densely on a chip and would require much less energy than today’s transistors—about ten times less power.4 Taking a longer view, there’s great potential in applying the principles of quantum mechanics to create a new kind of computational device. Quantum computing has been a Holy Grail for researchers ever since Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman challenged the scientific community in 1981 to build computers based on quantum mechanics. A classical von Neumann–type computer makes use of bits, where each bit represents either a one or a zero. In contrast, a quantum bit, or qubit, can represent a one, a zero, or both at once. Therefore, two qubits can be in the states 00, 01, 10, and 11 at the same time. For each added qubit, the total number of potential states doubles.


pages: 322 words: 107,576

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Asperger Syndrome, correlation does not imply causation, experimental subject, hygiene hypothesis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, John Snow's cholera map, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, p-value, placebo effect, publication bias, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), the scientific method, urban planning

‘In the heart,’ she explains, ‘chlorophyll aids in the transmission of nerve impulses that control contraction.’ A statement that is referenced to the second issue of a magazine called Earthletter. Fair enough, if that’s what you want to read—I’m bending over to be reasonable here—but it’s clearly not a suitable source to reference that claim. This is her PhD, remember. To me this is cargo-cult science, as Professor Richard Feynman described it over thirty years ago, in reference to the similarities between pseudoscientists and the religious activities on a few small Melanesian islands in the 1950s: During the war they saw aeroplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head as headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the aeroplanes to land.

All you’ve done is read a popular science book on them, and already you can see it’s hardly rocket science. Losing the lottery You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing… Richard Feynman It is possible to be very unlucky indeed. A nurse called Lucia de Berk has been in prison for six years in Holland, convicted of seven counts of murder and three of attempted murder. An unusually large number of people died when she was on shift, and that, essentially, along with some very weak circumstantial evidence, is the substance of the case against her. She has never confessed, she has continued to protest her innocence, and her trial has generated a small collection of theoretical papers in the statistics literature.


pages: 379 words: 109,612

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future by John Brockman

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asperger Syndrome, availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, biofilm, Black Swan, British Empire, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Danny Hillis, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, Frank Gehry, Google Earth, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, index card, information retrieval, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, lone genius, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, out of africa, Paul Samuelson, peer-to-peer, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, smart grid, social graph, social software, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telepresence, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, trade route, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

Some not unrealistic possibilities: friendlier high-temperature superconductors that would enable lossless power transmission, levitated supertrains, and computers that aren’t limited by the heat they generate; superefficient photovoltaics and batteries that would enable cheap capture and flexible use of solar energy and wean us off carbon burning; superstrong materials that could support elevators running directly from Earth to space. The prospects we can presently foresee, exciting as they are, could be overmatched by discoveries not yet imagined. Beyond technological targets, we can aspire to a comprehensive survey of physical reality’s potential. In 1964, Richard Feynman posed this challenge: “Today, we cannot see whether Schrödinger’s equation contains frogs, musical composers, or morality—or whether it does not. We cannot say whether something beyond it like God is needed, or not. And so we can all hold strong opinions either way.” How far can we see today? Not all the way to frogs or to musical composers (at least not good ones), for sure. In fact, only very recently did physicists succeed in solving the equations of quantum chromodynamics (QCD) to calculate a convincing proton, by using the fastest chips, big networks, and tricky algorithms.

Experimenters—indeed, undergraduate students in physics—have observed the approach to the final distribution, but they have never tried to compare their observations with any rate-of-approach formula, since, according to standard quantum mechanics, there is no rate-of-approach formula. Using the Internet, I was able to find raw data on electron interference, which I used to test the many-worlds formula. Most theorists can tell a similar story. But I sometimes wonder if later generations of theorists will be able to tell such a story. Discoveries can be made by analyzing raw data posted online today, but will this always be true? The great physicist Richard Feynman often claimed that “there will be no more great physicists.” Feynman believed that the great physicists were those who looked at reality from a point of view different from that of other scientists. He argued, in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, that all of his own achievements were due not to an IQ higher than other physicists’ but to his having a “different bag of tricks.” Feynman thought future generations of physicists would all have the same bag of tricks and consequently would be unable to move beyond the consensus view.


pages: 484 words: 104,873

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, additive manufacturing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, AI winter, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, artificial general intelligence, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bernie Madoff, Bill Joy: nanobots, business cycle, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Chris Urmson, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computer age, creative destruction, debt deflation, deskilling, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, financial innovation, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, Freestyle chess, full employment, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gunnar Myrdal, High speed trading, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, liquidity trap, low skilled workers, low-wage service sector, Lyft, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, McJob, moral hazard, Narrative Science, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, optical character recognition, passive income, Paul Samuelson, performance metric, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post scarcity, precision agriculture, price mechanism, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, rent-seeking, reshoring, RFID, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Sam Peltzman, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, software is eating the world, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, strong AI, Stuxnet, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, uber lyft, union organizing, Vernor Vinge, very high income, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce

From its inception, the field has been poised somewhere on the border between reality-based science and what many would characterize as pure fantasy. It has been subject to an extraordinary degree of hype, controversy, and even outright dread, and has been the focus of multibillion-dollar political battles, as well as a war of words and ideas between some of the top luminaries in the field. The fundamental ideas that underlie nanotechnology trace their origin back at least to December 1959, when the legendary Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman addressed an audience at the California Institute of Technology. Feynman’s lecture was entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” and in it he set out to expound on “the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale.” And by “small” he meant really small. Feynman declared that he was “not afraid to consider the final question as to whether, ultimately—in the great future—we can arrange the atoms the way we want; the very atoms, all the way down!”

Gary Marcus, “Why We Should Think About the Threat of Artificial Intelligence,” New Yorker (Elements blog), October 24, 2013, http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/10/why-we-should-think-about-the-threat-of-artificial-intelligence.html. 13. P. Z. Myers, “Ray Kurzweil Does Not Understand the Brain,” Pharyngula Science Blog, August 17, 2010, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/17/ray-kurzweil-does-not-understa/. 14. Barrat, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, pp. 7–21. 15. Richard Feynman, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” lecture at CalTech, December 29, 1959, full text available at http://www.zyvex.com/nanotech/feynman.html. 16. On federal research funding for nanotechnology, see John F. Sargent Jr., “The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Overview, Reauthorization, and Appropriations Issues,” Congressional Research Service, December 17, 2013, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34401.pdf. 17.


pages: 684 words: 188,584

The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era by Craig Nelson

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, continuation of politics by other means, corporate governance, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Doomsday Clock, El Camino Real, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, Project Plowshare, Ralph Nader, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, too big to fail, uranium enrichment, William Langewiesche, éminence grise

One had a mother-in-law with a reputation as a good potter, and the secret spread; her talent and her connections made her a fortune in blackware. Emilio Segrè sent a letter to his wife back in California and included a strand of his hair. She opened the letter, the hair was missing, and that was how the physicists discovered their mail was being read. A number of the émigrés were additionally unhappy to be surrounded by a razor-wire fence, which reminded them of Nazi prison camps. Junior physicist Richard Feynman discovered, however, that workers had put a hole in the Los Alamos fence as a shortcut, and he enjoyed exiting the property through that hole and then coming in through the security entrance, so the guards would always see him arriving, but never departing. The kids, too, discovered every hole the fence had to offer, as well as a treasure pile of toys to play with—lab equipment left out in the trash.

Though the army was fully against it for security reasons, Emilio Segrè insisted on touring Oak Ridge to make sure it was operating properly. He found that the Tennessee reactor employees thought they could use a small amount of water to contain the extract, having no idea the water would then become lethally radiant. They also didn’t realize that storing fuel in adjacent rooms against a shared wall could start a chain reaction. Segrè was horrified, and Oppenheimer sent in Richard Feynman to do a follow-up inspection. Feynman was told by his boss that, if the army refused to listen to the physicist, he should say, “Los Alamos cannot accept the responsibility for the Oak Ridge plant.” That suitably alarmed the army bureaucrats, and the physicists’ recommendations were followed. The Oak Ridge reactor was a proving ground for a much bigger operation. The small towns of Hanford, White Bluffs, and Richland in the dry sheep and vineyard inlands of Washington State were evacuated so that fifty-one thousand people—forty-seven thousand of them men—living in a city of barracks and the largest trailer park in history, could build seven nuclear power plants requiring twenty-five thousand gallons a minute of cooling Columbia River water on a half million acres to be known as Hanford Engineer Works.

On the mesa there was joy, for about twenty-four hours—parties, parades, drinking, singing, dancing—a celebration of triumph. Oppenheimer’s assistant Anne Wilson: “Feynman got his bongo drums out and led a snake dance through the whole Tech Area.” But a number woke up the following morning with hangovers, from both liquor and remorse. When Robert Wilson asked Oppenheimer why he seemed distressed, he replied, “I just keep thinking about all those poor little people.” Richard Feynman: “One man I remember, Bob Wilson, was just sitting there moping.” Bob Wilson told Feynman, “It’s a terrible thing that we made.” 8 My God, What Have We Done? ON May 25, 1945—two weeks after Germany’s surrender—Leo Szilard had an appointment to discuss the future of nuclear weapons with President Harry Truman at the White House. Instead, he was redirected to meet with former South Carolina senator and Secretary of State–designate James Byrnes to have a conversation that would define the postwar, Cold War Atomic Age.


pages: 733 words: 179,391

Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought by Andrew W. Lo

"Robert Solow", Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, algorithmic trading, Andrei Shleifer, Arthur Eddington, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, bank run, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, bonus culture, break the buck, Brownian motion, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, buy and hold, capital asset pricing model, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Carmen Reinhart, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computerized trading, corporate governance, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Diane Coyle, diversification, diversified portfolio, double helix, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Ernest Rutherford, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, Fractional reserve banking, framing effect, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, housing crisis, incomplete markets, index fund, interest rate derivative, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job satisfaction, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Meriwether, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, martingale, merger arbitrage, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, money market fund, moral hazard, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, old-boy network, out of africa, p-value, paper trading, passive investing, Paul Lévy, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, predatory finance, prediction markets, price discovery process, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative hedge fund, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, RAND corporation, random walk, randomized controlled trial, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Sam Peltzman, Shai Danziger, short selling, sovereign wealth fund, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical arbitrage, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, Thales and the olive presses, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tobin tax, too big to fail, transaction costs, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, US Airways Flight 1549, Walter Mischel, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

• 13 to walk on the moon; Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; and legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager. On June 6, 1986, a little over five months after the disaster, after conducting scores of interviews, analyzing all the telemetry data from the shuttle’s flight, sifting through the physical wreckage recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, and holding several public hearings, the Rogers Commission concluded that the explosion was caused by the failure of the Shuttle’s now-infamous O-rings on the right solid fuel booster rocket.4 The O-rings were large rubber seals around the joints of the booster rocket, rather like the gasket on a faucet. However, when exposed to cold temperatures, rubber becomes more rigid, and it no longer provides an effective seal. Richard Feynman demonstrated this in a simple but unforgettable way at a press conference.

The “quants” who could speak the new mathematical language of the Street—alpha, beta, mean-variance optimization, and the Black-Scholes/Merton option-pricing formula—were given great status and even greater compensation. It was the revenge of the nerds. But any virtue can become a vice when taken to an extreme, and the mathematization of finance was no exception. Finance isn’t physics, despite the similarities between the physics of heat conduction and the mathematics of derivative securities, for example. The difference is human behavior and the role of evolution in its development. The great physicist Richard Feynman, speaking at a Caltech graduation ceremony, once said, “Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings.” The financial crisis showed us that investors, portfolio managers, and regulators do have feelings, even if those feelings were mostly disappointment and regret during the last few years. Financial economics is much harder than physics. Introduction • 11 Warren Buffett once referred to derivative securities as “financial weapons of mass destruction”9 because of the difficulties in understanding the risks of exotic financial instruments.


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Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent by Douglas Coupland

British Empire, cable laying ship, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, Downton Abbey, Hibernia Atlantic: Project Express, hiring and firing, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Marshall McLuhan, oil shale / tar sands, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Turing machine, undersea cable, upwardly mobile, urban planning, Wall-E

Whereas digital computers require data to be encoded into binary digits (bits), quantum computation utilizes quantum properties to represent data and perform operations on these data. A theoretical model is the quantum Turing machine, also known as the universal quantum computer. Quantum computers share theoretical similarities with non-deterministic and probabilistic computers, like the ability to be in more than one state simultaneously. The field of quantum computing was first introduced by Richard Feynman in 1982. Although quantum computing is still in its infancy, experiments have been carried out in which quantum computational operations were executed on a very small number of qubits (quantum bits). Both practical and theoretical research continues, and many national government and military funding agencies support quantum computing research to develop quantum computers for both civilian and national security purposes, such as cryptanalysis.


pages: 147 words: 39,910

The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Barry Marshall: ulcers, bitcoin, Black Swan, colonial rule, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, delayed gratification, feminist movement, index fund, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, mandelbrot fractal, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ponzi scheme, Richard Feynman, statistical model, stem cell, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Thomas Bayes, Torches of Freedom

This book, and the volumes which will follow, are the books I wish had existed years ago when I started learning about mental models. These are my homage to the idea that we can benefit from understanding how the world works and applying that understanding to keep us out of trouble. The ideas in these volumes are not my own, nor do I deserve any credit for them. They come from the likes of Charlie Munger, Nassim Taleb, Charles Darwin, Peter Kaufman, Peter Bevelin, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, and so many others. As the Roman poet Publius Terentius wrote: “Nothing has yet been said that’s not been said before.” I’ve only curated, edited, and shaped the work of others before me. The timeless, broad ideas in these volumes are for my children and their children and their children’s children. In creating them, I hope to allow others to approach problems with clarity and confidence, helping to make their journey through life more successful and rewarding


pages: 396 words: 112,748

Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick

Benoit Mandelbrot, business cycle, butterfly effect, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, discrete time, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, experimental subject, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John von Neumann, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, Murray Gell-Mann, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, trade route

Renormalization had entered physics in the 1940s as a part of quantum theory that made it possible to calculate interactions of electrons and photons. A problem with such calculations, as with the calculations Kadanoff and Wilson worried about, was that some items seemed to require treatment as infinite quantities, a messy and unpleasant business. Renormalizing the system, in ways devised by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Freeman Dyson, and other physicists, got rid of the infinities. Only much later, in the 1960s, did Wilson dig down to the underlying basis for renormalization’s success. Like Kadanoff, he thought about scaling principles. Certain quantities, such as the mass of a particle, had always been considered fixed—as the mass of any object in everyday experience is fixed. The renormalization shortcut succeeded by acting as though a quantity like mass were not fixed at all.

Yes, chaos can light up black holes. “There are rational numbers to mine, fractal sets, and all kinds of truly beautiful consequences,” she says. “So on the one hand, people are horrified, on the other they’re mesmerized.” She does chaos in curved space-time. Einstein would be proud. AS FOR ME, I never returned to chaos, but readers might spot seeds of all my later books in this one. I knew hardly anything about Richard Feynman, but he has a cameo here (see here). Isaac Newton has more than a cameo: he seems to be the antihero of chaos, or the god to be overthrown. I discovered only later, reading his notebooks and letters, how wrong I’d been about him. And for twenty years I’ve been pursuing a thread that began with something Rob Shaw told me, about chaos and information theory, as invented by Claude Shannon. Chaos is a creator of information—another apparent paradox.


Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg, Lauren McCann

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, anti-pattern, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, bank run, barriers to entry, Bayesian statistics, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, business process, butterfly effect, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Attenborough, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, discounted cash flows, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Edward Snowden, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, fear of failure, feminist movement, Filter Bubble, framing effect, friendly fire, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, housing crisis, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, illegal immigration, income inequality, information asymmetry, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, John Nash: game theory, lateral thinking, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, Lyft, mail merge, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Metcalfe’s law, Milgram experiment, minimum viable product, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, nuclear winter, offshore financial centre, p-value, Parkinson's law, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, Potemkin village, prediction markets, premature optimization, price anchoring, principal–agent problem, publication bias, recommendation engine, remote working, replication crisis, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, school choice, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Shai Danziger, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, survivorship bias, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, uber lyft, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wikimedia commons

Safety concerns were ignored at the launch meeting. Why were safety concerns ignored? There was a lack of proper checks and balances at NASA. That was the root cause, the real reason the Challenger disaster occurred. As you can see, you can ask as many questions as you need in order to get to the root cause—five is just an arbitrary number. Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman was on the Rogers Commission, agreeing to join upon specific request even though he was then dying of cancer. He uncovered the organizational failure within NASA and threatened to resign from the commission unless its report included an appendix consisting of his personal thoughts around root cause, which reads in part: It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life.

Conclusion AS WE SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, this is the book we wish someone had given us when we were starting out in our careers. That’s because mental models unlock the ability to think at higher levels. We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about them, and that our book has helped you in your super thinking journey. Since many of these concepts may be new to you, you will need to practice using them to get the most out of them. As Richard Feynman famously wrote in his 1988 book, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, “I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” A related mental model is the cargo cult, as explained by Feynman in his 1974 Caltech commencement speech: In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now.


pages: 407 words: 116,726

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Astronomia nova, Bernie Sanders, clockwork universe, complexity theory, cosmological principle, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, four colour theorem, fudge factor, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Khan Academy, Laplace demon, lone genius, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Pierre-Simon Laplace, precision agriculture, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Socratic dialogue, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steve Jobs, the rule of 72, the scientific method

We wouldn’t have split the atom, unraveled the human genome, or put astronauts on the moon. We might not even have the Declaration of Independence. It’s a curiosity of history that the world was changed forever by an arcane branch of mathematics. How could it be that a theory originally about shapes ultimately reshaped civilization? The essence of the answer lies in a quip that the physicist Richard Feynman made to the novelist Herman Wouk when they were discussing the Manhattan Project. Wouk was doing research for a big novel he hoped to write about World War II, and he went to Caltech to interview physicists who had worked on the bomb, one of whom was Feynman. After the interview, as they were parting, Feynman asked Wouk if he knew calculus. No, Wouk admitted, he didn’t. “You had better learn it,” said Feynman.

In some cases, it tells us about things that never existed but could—if only we had the wit to conjure them. This, to me, is the greatest mystery of all: Why is the universe comprehensible, and why is calculus in sync with it? I have no answer, but I hope you’ll agree it’s worth contemplating. In that spirit, let me take you to the Twilight Zone for three final examples of the eerie effectiveness of calculus. Eight Decimal Places The first example takes us back to where we started, with Richard Feynman’s quip that calculus is the language God talks. The example is related to Feynman’s own work on an extension of quantum mechanics called quantum electrodynamics, or QED for short. QED is the quantum theory of how light and matter interact. It merges Maxwell’s theory of electricity and magnetism with Heisenberg’s and Schrödinger’s quantum theory and Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Feynman was one of the principal architects of QED, and after looking at the structure of his theory, I can see why he had such admiration for calculus.


pages: 338 words: 112,127

Leaving Orbit: Notes From the Last Days of American Spaceflight by Margaret Lazarus Dean

affirmative action, Elon Musk, helicopter parent, index card, Joan Didion, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, operation paperclip, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, risk tolerance, sensible shoes

“I worked on one part of it for a while, and then I’d be given more responsibility, and the parts I was responsible for would change. But we all worked on shuttle. We all worked to keep the astronauts safe.” Months later, the presidential commission tasked with investigating Challenger issued its report. The cause of the explosion had been the solid rocket boosters, whose faulty design combined with the unseasonably cold weather in Florida to create a catastrophic failure. A picture in the paper showed Richard Feynman, a physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project, smirking and holding up a piece of O-ring he’d been soaking in ice water to show that it became brittle. Sally Ride, also on the commission along with Neil Armstrong, sat a few seats away, looking pissed. She’d trusted her life to Challenger twice. Only recently, since her death, has it come to light that the key piece of information about the O-rings had been supplied to another member of the commission by Sally Ride herself.

As was expected, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB, pronounced “cabe” by insiders) found that the immediate cause of the disaster was a chunk of foam falling onto the tiles and that the organizational cause was a pattern of dismissing problems too easily, the “normalization of deviance” as Diane Vaughan put it so memorably in her study of Challenger. When a shuttle flew with a known issue and came back safely, the tendency among managers was to assume that the issue was not in fact a risk, using the previous success as “evidence.” “Try playing Russian roulette that way,” Richard Feynman remarked after Challenger. CAIB found that after a short period of vigilance, the same error of thinking had crept back into NASA decision making. The board stated in the report that “the causes of the institutional failure responsible for Challenger have not been fixed.” The return-to-flight mission after Columbia was on Discovery, as the return-to-flight mission had been after Challenger.


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Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

4chan, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Benjamin Mako Hill, butterfly effect, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, conceptual framework, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, disruptive innovation, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, drone strike, Edward Glaeser, Edward Thorp, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, Freestyle chess, Galaxy Zoo, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Gunnar Myrdal, Henri Poincaré, hindsight bias, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, iterative process, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, lifelogging, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, patent troll, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, Socratic dialogue, spaced repetition, superconnector, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, transaction costs, Vannevar Bush, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, WikiLeaks, X Prize, éminence grise

“These resources enable us to pursue manipulations and juxtapositions of ideas and data that would quickly baffle the un-augmented brain,” as Andy Clark, a philosopher of the extended mind, writes. Granted, it can be unsettling to realize how much thinking already happens outside our skulls. Culturally, we revere the Rodin ideal—the belief that genius breakthroughs come from our gray matter alone. The physicist Richard Feynman once got into an argument about this with the historian Charles Weiner. Feynman understood the extended mind; he knew that writing his equations and ideas on paper was crucial to his thought. But when Weiner looked over a pile of Feynman’s notebooks, he called them a wonderful “record of his day-to-day work.” No, no, Feynman replied testily. They weren’t a record of his thinking process. They were his thinking process: “I actually did the work on the paper,” he said.

Stray ideas could be preserved. “You can integrate your new ideas more easily, and thus harness your creativity more continuously, if you can quickly and flexibly change your working record,” he wrote. Engelbart was right. Studies show that when we use word processors we’re more iterative; we write our first drafts more quickly but then spend more time revising them. We do more of our thinking on the page, as Richard Feynman would have it, externalizing our thoughts first so that we can ponder them in front of us. Word processors and desktop publishing created a grassroots renaissance in print by making it easier for people to publish tiny, obsessive niche “zines,” the first blast of the DIY creativity that would later become routine on the Web. This same process is now beginning to apply to video. That’s what happens when you reduce a personal video camera, in the space of two decades, from a nine-hundred-dollar gadget the size of a shoebox to a Chiclet-sized component costing less than ten dollars and shoved into every laptop and phone.


pages: 501 words: 114,888

The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler

Ada Lovelace, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, blood diamonds, Burning Man, call centre, cashless society, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, digital twin, disruptive innovation, Edward Glaeser, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, experimental economics, food miles, game design, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, hive mind, housing crisis, Hyperloop, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, late fees, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, loss aversion, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mary Lou Jepsen, mass immigration, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, mobile money, multiplanetary species, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, out of africa, packet switching, peer-to-peer lending, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, QR code, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart contracts, smart grid, Snapchat, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supercomputer in your pocket, supply-chain management, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, Tim Cook: Apple, transaction costs, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, unbanked and underbanked, underbanked, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize

Perovskite’s ingredients are also widely available and inexpensive to combine. What do all these factors add up to? Affordable solar energy for everyone. Nanotechnology is the outer edge of materials science, the point where matter manipulation gets nano-small—that’s a million times smaller than an ant, eight thousand times smaller than a red blood cell, and two-and-a-half times smaller than a strand of DNA. The concept dates to physicist Richard Feynman’s 1959 speech, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” but it was K. Eric Drexler’s 1987 book, Engines of Creation, that really put nanotechnology on the map. Drexler described self-replicating nanomachines—meaning very tiny machines that can build other machines. Because these machines are programmable, they can then be directed to produce more of themselves, or more of whatever else you’d like.

Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2018,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2018. See: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy19osti/72399.pdf. Perovskite: Brian Wang, “First Commercial Perovskite Solar Late in 2019 and the Road to Moving the Energy Needle,” Next Big Future, February 3, 2019. See: https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2019/02/first-commercial-perovskite-solar-late-in-2019-and-the-road-to-moving-the-energy-needle.html. Richard Feynman’s 1959 speech, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”: Richard P. Feynman, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Engineering and Science, 1960. K. Eric Drexler’s 1987 book: Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (Anchor Library of Science) (Anchor Books, 1987). Researchers at Harvard built a nanoscale 3-D printer: Dan Ferber, “Printing Tiny Batteries, Wyss Institute,” June 18, 2013.


pages: 239 words: 45,926

As the Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Work, Health & Wealth by Juan Enriquez

Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, borderless world, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business cycle, creative destruction, double helix, global village, half of the world's population has never made a phone call, Howard Rheingold, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, more computing power than Apollo, new economy, personalized medicine, purchasing power parity, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Robert Metcalfe, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, spice trade, stem cell, the new new thing

Doug Brutlag, who teaches medicine and biochemistry at Stanford, gave a good overview of the problem during the AAAS meetings in San Francisco, February 17, 2001. Chapter IX: Nano World 1. And you could look at it on an atom-by-atom scale while figuring out what each atom is made of. Chad A. Mirkin, Seunghun Hong, and Jin Zhu, “Multiple Ink Nanolithography: Toward a Multiple-Pen Nano-Plotter,” Science, 286 (October 15, 1999): 523–25. 2. One of the great minds of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman, predicted this four decades ago. You can read his classic speech to the American Physical Society December 29, 1959, at www.zyvex.com/nanotech/feynman.html. You might also enjoy his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985). 3. There are alternative ways to power nano machines that may turn out to be easier to replicate, such as exothermic chemical reactions. See A.


pages: 677 words: 121,255

Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist by Michael Shermer

Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-communist, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, Chelsea Manning, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, creative destruction, dark matter, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Flynn Effect, germ theory of disease, gun show loophole, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, income inequality, invisible hand, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, Laplace demon, luminiferous ether, McMansion, means of production, mega-rich, Menlo Park, moral hazard, moral panic, More Guns, Less Crime, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, positional goods, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, Skype, social intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, WikiLeaks, working poor, Yogi Berra

In this type of multiverse, you could meet your doppelganger, and, depending on which universe you entered, your parallel self would be fairly similar or dissimilar to you, a theme that has become a staple of science fiction (see, for example, Michael Crichton’s Timeline). I am skeptical that this version of the multiverse will pan out, however, because the idea of there being multiple versions of me and you out there – and in an infinite universe there would be an infinite number of me and you – seems to me to be even less likely than the theistic alternative “God did it.” Still, as Richard Feynman famously quipped, “no one understands quantum mechanics,”26 so who am I to write off this theory considered legitimate by many quantum physicists? Brane and String Universes. Universes may be birthed when three-dimensional “branes” (a membrane-like structure on which our universe exists) moves through higher-dimensional space and collides with another brane, the result of which is the energized creation of another universe.27 A related multiverse is derived through string theory, which by at least one calculation allows for 10500 possible worlds, all with different self-consistent laws and constants.28 That’s a 1 followed by 500 zeros possible universes.

But it does strongly suggest that if your alternative explanation is based primarily on the cherry picking of data to fit only your hypothesis, and if it begins with a conclusion and works backward through the evidence to make it fit what you’d like to be true, it very likely means that you’re subject to the confirmation bias, which is a cognitive feature we are all subject to in which we look for and find confirming evidence for our beliefs and ignore or rationalize disconfirming evidence. Everyone does it. As the great Caltech physicist Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” Evidence for the confirmation bias abounds. In a classic 1981 experiment, for example, the psychologist Mark Snyder tasked subjects to assess the personality of someone whom they were about to meet, but only after they reviewed a profile of the person. One group of subjects were given a profile of an introvert (shy, timid, quiet), while another group of subjects were given a profile of an extrovert (sociable, talkative, outgoing).


pages: 695 words: 219,110

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, dematerialisation, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, urban renewal

By relinquishing everything beyond immediate experience, and ceasing to search for any kind of deeper understanding or deeper meaning, Sisyphus, Camus argued, triumphs. 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.

That is, it’s tempting to think of the waves emerging from the two slits as representing two possible histories for an individual electron—going through the left slit or going through the right slit—and since both waves contribute to what we observe on the screen, perhaps quantum mechanics is telling us that both potential histories of the electron contribute as well. Surprisingly, this strange and wonderful idea—the brainchild of the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, one of the twentieth century’s most creative physicists—provides a perfectly viable way of thinking about quantum mechanics. According to Feynman, if there are alternative ways in which a given outcome can be achieved—for instance, an electron hits a point on the detector screen by traveling through the left slit, or hits the same point on the screen but by traveling through the right slit—then there is a sense in which the alternative histories all happen, and happen simultaneously.

As these chapters will make clear, cosmological considerations wend their way through many mysteries at the heart of space, time, and matter. So on the journey toward modern cosmology’s insights into time’s arrow, it’s worth our while not to rush through the landscape, but rather, to take a well-considered stroll through cosmic history. III SPACETIME AND COSMOLOGY 8 Of Snowflakes and Spacetime SYMMETRY AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE COSMOS Richard Feynman once said that if he had to summarize the most important finding of modern science in one sentence he would choose “The world is made of atoms.” When we recognize that so much of our understanding of the universe relies on the properties and interactions of atoms—from the reason that stars shine and the sky is blue to the explanation for why you feel this book in your hand and see these words with your eyes—we can well appreciate Feynman’s choice for encapsulating our scientific legacy.


pages: 404 words: 134,430

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anesthesia awareness, anthropic principle, butterfly effect, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, false memory syndrome, Gary Taubes, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, laissez-faire capitalism, Laplace demon, life extension, moral panic, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Whether a mistake is made honestly or dishonestly, whether a fraud is unknowingly or knowingly perpetrated, in time it will be flushed out of the system by lack of external verification. The cold fusion fiasco is a classic example of the system's swift exposure of error. Because of the importance of this self-correcting feature, among scientists there is at best what Caltech physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman called "a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards." Said Feynman, "If you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results" (1988, p. 247). Despite these built-in mechanisms, science remains subject to problems and fallacies ranging from inadequate mathematical notation to wishful thinking.

Ubiquitous in the cryonics literature are reminders that the history of science and technology is replete with stories of misunderstood mavericks, surprise discoveries, and dogmatic closed-mindedness to revolutionary new ideas. The stories are all true, but cryonicists ignore all the revolutionary new ideas that were wrong. Unfortunately for cryonicists, past success does not guarantee future progress in any field. Cryonics presently depends on nanotechnology, the construction of tiny computer-driven machines. As Eric Drexler (1986) has shown, and Richard Feynman demonstrated as early as 1959, "There's plenty of room at the bottom" for molecular-size technologies. But theory and application are two different things, and a scientific conclusion cannot be based on what might be, no matter how logical it may seem or who endorses it. Until we have evidence, our judgment must remain, appropriately enough, suspended. Historical Transcendence— Is It So Small a Thing?


How I Became a Quant: Insights From 25 of Wall Street's Elite by Richard R. Lindsey, Barry Schachter

Albert Einstein, algorithmic trading, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, asset allocation, asset-backed security, backtesting, bank run, banking crisis, Black-Scholes formula, Bonfire of the Vanities, Bretton Woods, Brownian motion, business cycle, business process, butter production in bangladesh, buy and hold, buy low sell high, capital asset pricing model, centre right, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, computerized markets, corporate governance, correlation coefficient, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, currency manipulation / currency intervention, discounted cash flows, disintermediation, diversification, Donald Knuth, Edward Thorp, Emanuel Derman, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, fixed income, full employment, George Akerlof, Gordon Gekko, hiring and firing, implied volatility, index fund, interest rate derivative, interest rate swap, John von Neumann, linear programming, Loma Prieta earthquake, Long Term Capital Management, margin call, market friction, market microstructure, martingale, merger arbitrage, Myron Scholes, Nick Leeson, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, pensions crisis, performance metric, prediction markets, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, QWERTY keyboard, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, short selling, Silicon Valley, six sigma, sorting algorithm, statistical arbitrage, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, stochastic process, systematic trading, technology bubble, The Great Moderation, the scientific method, too big to fail, trade route, transaction costs, transfer pricing, value at risk, volatility smile, Wiener process, yield curve, young professional

Wonder what that meant? Putting It to the Test I graduated from MIT on schedule in the spring of 1987 and, having no thoughts other than to pursue my PhD, I found myself at Princeton that fall. I was surrounded by more Nobel-prize-winning physicists than I had ever imagined. This, after all, was the land of Albert Einstein and I myself was following in the footsteps on the great physicist Richard Feynman (he had also gone to MIT as an undergraduate). By October, I was as well-entrenched in class work as in research at Princeton’s premier radio-astronomy lab, where I was studying the nuances of millisecond pulsars. I had arrived. In fact, the intellectual aura at Princeton was somewhat intimidating; and as a first-year graduate student I was keenly aware some professors were known to grill students not just in class, but also during afternoon tea breaks, and even in the courtyard.

I brought the problem to my houseguests and politely asked them JWPR007-Lindsey May 7, 2007 16:55 Neil Chriss 111 to solve it for me. They said sure. But after a couple of days they told me they couldn’t do it. I was struck by this because they were supposed to be the best. Well, given the situation and the fact that the pressure was off, I decided to take a stab at it. In general, I had no hope of solving these sorts of problems. I had read Richard Feynman’s autobiography Surely You Must be Joking Mr. Feynman, and in the book he recounts how he had a reputation for solving really hard integrals just like the one I was saddled with. He claimed that his reputation came largely from knowing a certain trick that no one else knew. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if this worked for this problem? Now that the pressure was off and it didn’t matter whether I could solve it or not, I gave it a shot, more or less with the plan that I would try Feynman’s trick and that was about it.


pages: 692 words: 127,032

Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America by Shawn Lawrence Otto

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Berlin Wall, Brownian motion, carbon footprint, Cepheid variable, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, commoditize, cosmological constant, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dean Kamen, desegregation, different worldview, double helix, energy security, Exxon Valdez, fudge factor, ghettoisation, global pandemic, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, shareholder value, sharing economy, smart grid, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, University of East Anglia, War on Poverty, white flight, Winter of Discontent, working poor, yellow journalism, zero-sum game

The facts are the facts. But people do not consider only facts when making decisions, when investing in the stock market, when choosing a mate, when buying a house—or when voting. This is an important difference between scientists—who are trained to set aside emotions and to adjust their worldview to a careful, detailed consideration of the evidence—and everybody else. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman put it very well when he said, “The only way to have real success in science … is to describe the evidence very carefully without regard to the way you feel it should be. If you have a theory, you must try to explain what’s good about it and what’s bad about it equally.”41 Bacon said the same thing, essentially, in Novum Organum. This instills the values of honesty and integrity, which are impossible to fully adhere to when making a rhetorical argument whose purpose is to only present the information necessary to win.

In other fields, such as business, it’s different. For example, almost every advertisement you see is obviously designed, in some way or another, to fool the customer: The print that they don’t want you to read is small; the statements are written in an obscure way. It is obvious to anybody that the product is not being presented in a scientific and balanced way. Therefore, in the selling business, there’s a lack of integrity. —RICHARD FEYNMAN, 19881 THE SHADOW AAAS: THE ARMCHAIR ARMY OF ANTISCIENTISTS Freedom is the main driver of individualism in its relationship to democracy and to science, and that is the core message scientists need to stay focused on. That makes it ironic that many of the most pitched battles over science are being fought by people who proclaim the strength of their values of individualism and freedom quite loudly.


pages: 505 words: 142,118

A Man for All Markets by Edward O. Thorp

3Com Palm IPO, Albert Einstein, asset allocation, beat the dealer, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Black-Scholes formula, Brownian motion, buy and hold, buy low sell high, carried interest, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Claude Shannon: information theory, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, diversification, Edward Thorp, Erdős number, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, financial innovation, George Santayana, German hyperinflation, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, High speed trading, index arbitrage, index fund, interest rate swap, invisible hand, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Jeff Bezos, John Meriwether, John Nash: game theory, Kenneth Arrow, Livingstone, I presume, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Bachelier, margin call, Mason jar, merger arbitrage, Murray Gell-Mann, Myron Scholes, NetJets, Norbert Wiener, passive investing, Paul Erdős, Paul Samuelson, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, publish or perish, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, race to the bottom, random walk, Renaissance Technologies, RFID, Richard Feynman, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, rolodex, Sharpe ratio, short selling, Silicon Valley, Stanford marshmallow experiment, statistical arbitrage, stem cell, stocks for the long run, survivorship bias, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Predators' Ball, the rule of 72, The Wisdom of Crowds, too big to fail, Upton Sinclair, value at risk, Vanguard fund, Vilfredo Pareto, Works Progress Administration

My job was to teach upper-division modern algebra to the employees, using a text of my choice. The book I picked, A Survey of Modern Algebra by Birkhoff and MacLane, was legendary in the education of mathematicians. Each day I learned the material, then lectured on it the next. Vivian and I were invited to a house party by one of Tom Scott’s female friends from NCR. We were introduced to her boyfriend, Richard Feynman, who was sitting in an alcove, playing the bongo drums. A thirty-eight-year-old professor at Caltech, he was already regarded as one of the world’s most brilliant physicists. Feynman later won a Nobel Prize and subsequently commanded national attention when he publicly explained the tragic Challenger disaster that killed seven astronauts, using a glass of ice water and a rubber ring. I had been told this story about Feynman and roulette in Las Vegas: Watching a man placing $5 bets on red or on black, Feynman told him betting against the casino was a losing proposition and that he, Feynman, would be happy to play the part of the casino.

Assuming the truth of the story, even one of the world’s greatest physicists may not have realized that he needed a much larger bankroll to cover the risk he was taking. Understanding and dealing correctly with the trade-off between risk and return is a fundamental, but poorly understood, challenge faced by all gamblers and investors. If anyone knew whether physical prediction at roulette was possible, it should be Richard Feynman. I asked him, “Is there any way to beat the game of roulette?” When he said there wasn’t, I was relieved and encouraged. This suggested that no one had yet worked out what I believed was possible. With this incentive, I began a series of experiments. One evening not long after we married, Vivian’s parents arrived for dinner and I wasn’t there. Their brief search found me in our bedroom with a funny V-shaped wooden trough.


The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides by Garr Reynolds

deliberate practice, fear of failure, Hans Rosling, index card, Mahatma Gandhi, Maui Hawaii, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs

These barriers might include reading off notes, standing behind a lectern, failing to make good eye contact, speaking too softly, or using jargon or language that is formal, stiff, or fails to appeal to the audience’s emotion and natural curiosity. Now, some do believe that technical professionals and scientists are necessarily dry, boring speakers, unable to communicate the relevance of their work to the greater public. But this is not so. Richard Feynman, for example, was a brilliant Nobel Prize–winning scientist who was a passionate teacher and communicator, able to engage students and general audiences with great enthusiasm and clarity. Carl Sagan, of course, was known for his ability to talk clearly and passionately about the cosmos. Today, one of my favorite communicators—Neil deGrasse Tyson—is also a scientist. Tyson is an astrophysicist with a great mind, infectious curiosity, and an amazing ability to inspire and inform audiences through his natural, conversational delivery style.


Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations by Garr Reynolds

Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, business intelligence, business process, cloud computing, Everything should be made as simple as possible, Hans Rosling, Kickstarter, lateral thinking, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra

These are different variations of the idea of using pictures in place of simple lines or bars. Even though the data is very simple, it takes more work to understand the numbers. The numbers in this simple bar chart are easy to read quickly, but the numbers become harder to see when a picture graph is used to show the same information. (Images in slides from iStockphoto.com.) You can always recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity. —Richard Feynman, physicist Stephen Few’s Graph Design IQ Test Stephen Few is one of the leading authorities in the field of data visualization and business intelligence. Through his company, Perceptual Edge, he focuses on the effective analysis and presentation of quantitative business information. Stephen is a remarkable presenter and a highly sought after speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is the author of several books on data information visualization, including his latest best-seller Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis (Analytics Press, 2009).


pages: 177 words: 54,421

Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Airbnb, Ben Horowitz, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Burning Man, delayed gratification, Google Glasses, Jeff Bezos, Joan Didion, Lao Tzu, Paul Graham, Ponzi scheme, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, side project, South Sea Bubble, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steve Jobs, Upton Sinclair

Instead, I have tried to arrange these pages so that you might end in the same place I did when I finished writing it: that is, you will think less of yourself. I hope you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve. INTRODUCTION The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. —RICHARD FEYNMAN Maybe you’re young and brimming with ambition. Maybe you’re young and you’re struggling. Maybe you’ve made that first couple million, signed your first deal, been selected to some elite group, or maybe you’re already accomplished enough to last a lifetime. Maybe you’re stunned to find out how empty it is at the top. Maybe you’re charged with leading others through a crisis. Maybe you just got fired.


pages: 209 words: 53,175

The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel

"side hustle", airport security, Amazon Web Services, Bernie Madoff, business cycle, computer age, coronavirus, discounted cash flows, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, financial independence, Hans Rosling, Hyman Minsky, income inequality, index fund, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, Long Term Capital Management, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, new economy, Paul Graham, payday loans, Ponzi scheme, quantitative easing, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, stocks for the long run, the scientific method, traffic fines, Vanguard fund, working-age population

Geologists can look at a billion years of historical data and form models of how the earth behaves. So can meteorologists. And doctors—kidneys operate the same way in 2020 as they did in 1020. But investing is not a hard science. It’s a massive group of people making imperfect decisions with limited information about things that will have a massive impact on their wellbeing, which can make even smart people nervous, greedy and paranoid. Richard Feynman, the great physicist, once said, “Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings.” Well, investors have feelings. Quite a few of them. That’s why it’s hard to predict what they’ll do next based solely on what they did in the past. The cornerstone of economics is that things change over time, because the invisible hand hates anything staying too good or too bad indefinitely.


pages: 573 words: 157,767

From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel C. Dennett

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Andrew Wiles, Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Build a better mousetrap, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, computer vision, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fermat's Last Theorem, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information asymmetry, information retrieval, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, social intelligence, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, trickle-down economics, Turing machine, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

We tend to overlook the importance of the fact that we have voluminous experience of many people independently coming up with the same answer to multiplication and division questions, for instance, but if that were not our experience, no amount of analytic reflection on the intrinsic necessity of mathematics—or the existence of a benign God—would convince us to trust our calculations. Is arithmetic a sound system of calculation? Probably—so very probably that you can cheerfully bet your life on it. “Look Ma, no hands!” Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking about them. —Alfred North Whitehead What I cannot create, I do not understand. —Richard Feynman I have argued that the basic, bottom-up, clueless R&D done by natural selection has gradually created cranes—labor-saving products that make design work more effective—which have opened up Design Space for further cranes, in an accelerating zoom into the age of intelligent design, where top-down, reflective, reason-formulating, systematic, foresighted R&D can flourish. This process has succeeded in changing the balance of selective forces that shape us and all other organisms and in creating highly predictive theories that retrospectively explain the very processes of their own creation.

Domingos notes (p. 133) that in 2005, a patent was issued for a genetically designed factory-optimization system (General Leslie Groves, they are closing in on you). Architects have begun using genetic algorithms to optimize the functional properties of buildings—for instance their strength, safety, use of materials, and use of light and energy. In scientific research, machine learning is being harnessed to solve, by brute force, problems that are simply beyond human analysis. It is noteworthy that the late Richard Feynman, brilliant theoretical physicist that he was, spent many of his last days exploring the use of supercomputers to solve problems in physics that defied his wizardry with equations. And he lived to see his maxim rendered more or less obsolete. While it may still be true that what you cannot create you cannot understand, creating something is no longer the guarantee of understanding that it used to be.


pages: 936 words: 252,313

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease by Gary Taubes

Albert Einstein, California gold rush, cognitive dissonance, collaborative editing, Drosophila, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental subject, Gary Taubes, invention of agriculture, John Snow's cholera map, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, phenotype, placebo effect, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Robert Gordon, selection bias, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, twin studies, unbiased observer, Upton Sinclair

Throughout this process, I necessarily made judgments about the quality of the research and about the researchers themselves. I tried to do so using what I consider the fundamental requirement of good science: a relentless honesty in describing precisely what was done in any particular work, and a similar honesty in interpreting the results without distorting them to reflect preconceived opinions or personal preferences. “If science is to progress,” as the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman wrote forty years ago, “what we need is the ability to experiment, honesty in reporting results—the results must be reported without somebody saying what they would like the results to have been—and finally—an important thing—the intelligence to interpret the results. An important point about this intelligence is that it should not be sure ahead of time what must be.” This was the standard to which I held all relevant research and researchers.

This is what had always worried those investigators who were skeptical of Keys’s hypothesis. “Questions should be pursued about biological mechanisms that might help explain low [total cholesterol]: disease associations,” noted the report from the 1990 NHLBI workshop. Nonetheless, public-health recommendations to eat low-fat diets and lower cholesterol would remain inviolate and unconditional. In 1964, when the physicist Richard Feynman presented what would become a renowned series of lectures at Cornell University, he observed that it was a natural condition of scientists to be biased or prejudiced toward their beliefs. That bias, Feynman said, would ultimately make no difference, “because if your bias is wrong a perpetual accumulation of experiments will perpetually annoy you until they cannot be disregarded any longer.” They could be disregarded, he said, only if “you are absolutely sure ahead of time” what the answer must be.

EPILOGUE The community of science thus provides for the social validation of scientific work. In this respect, it amplifies that famous opening line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “All men by nature desire to know.” Perhaps, but men of science by culture desire to know that what they know is really so. ROBERT MERTON, Behavior Patterns of Scientists, 1968 The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. RICHARD FEYNMAN, in his Commencement Address at Caltech, 1974 ON FEBRUARY 7, 2003, THE EDITORS OF Science published a special issue dedicated to the critical concerns of obesity research. It included four essays written by prominent authorities, all communicating the message of the toxic-environment hypothesis of the obesity epidemic and the belief that obesity is caused by “consuming more food energy than is expended in activity.”


pages: 198 words: 57,703

The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, gravity well, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, supercomputer in your pocket, the scientific method

I have had the honour of giving two of these, the last one in 2013, when I talked about the subject of this chapter: quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is seen, quite rightly, as the most fascinating, yet at the same time most mind-boggling and frustrating scientific theory ever devised by humankind. In a particular segment of my lecture at the Ri, I discuss the famous ‘two-slit experiment’, which describes what the American physicist Richard Feynman called the ‘central mystery of quantum mechanics’. After outlining just how astonishing the results of the two-slit experiment are—subatomic particles, fired one by one through a screen with two narrow slits in it, behaving as though they each travel through both slits at once, and giving rise to an interference pattern on a second screen—I issued a challenge to my audience. If anyone were able to come up with a ‘commonsense’ account of how this is possible, they should get in touch with me, as they will no doubt be up for a Nobel Prize.


pages: 330 words: 59,335

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William Thorndike

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Berlin Wall, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, Claude Shannon: information theory, collapse of Lehman Brothers, compound rate of return, corporate governance, discounted cash flows, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Gordon Gekko, intangible asset, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, NetJets, Norman Mailer, oil shock, pattern recognition, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, shared worldview, shareholder value, six sigma, Steve Jobs, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Born in 1916 in tiny Haslet, Texas, Singleton was a highly accomplished mathematician and scientist who never earned an MBA. Instead, he attended MIT, where he earned bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in electrical engineering. Singleton programmed the first student computer at MIT as part of his doctoral thesis, and in 1939 won the Putnam Medal as the top mathematics student in the country (future winners would include the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman). He was also an avid chess player who was 100 points shy of the grandmaster level. After graduation from MIT in 1950, he worked as a research engineer at North American Aviation and Hughes Aircraft. He was then recruited by the legendary former Whiz Kid Tex Thornton, to Litton Industries, where, in the late 1950s, he invented an inertial guidance system that is still used in commercial and military aircraft.


pages: 194 words: 57,925

The Heartfulness Way: Heart-Based Meditations for Spiritual Transformation by Kamlesh D. Patel, Joshua Pollock

financial independence, Lao Tzu, medical residency, Richard Feynman

The snakebite is a proximal cause. It triggers his preexisting samskara to fear death. On top of that samskara, he now has a new one: the fear of snakes. “The formation of samskaras is progressive, you see. New ones are offshoots of previous ones. It is like the process by which we learn. If you don’t know the alphabet, you can’t possibly read Shakespeare. If you don’t know some physics, you can’t understand Richard Feynman. Similarly, what we make of the world around us depends upon our previous experiences.” “But not every impression comes as a result of our experiences,” I said. “For instance, in your example, a snakebite caused a person to develop a phobia of snakes. But phobias don’t always arise out of personal experience. A person can be afraid of snakes without ever having been bitten.” “Some try to make sense of these things in a fantastical way,” said Daaji.


pages: 197 words: 60,477

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport

Apple II, bounce rate, business cycle, Byte Shop, Cal Newport, capital controls, cleantech, Community Supported Agriculture, deliberate practice, financial independence, follow your passion, Frank Gehry, information asymmetry, job satisfaction, job-hopping, knowledge worker, Mason jar, medical residency, new economy, passive income, Paul Terrell, popular electronics, renewable energy credits, Results Only Work Environment, Richard Bolles, Richard Feynman, rolodex, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, web application, winner-take-all economy

The research driving Rule #2 taught me that these plateaus are dangerous because they cut off your supply of career capital and therefore cripple your ability to keep actively shaping your working life. As my quest continued, therefore, it became clear that I needed to introduce some practical strategies into my own working life that would force me to once again make deliberate practice a regular companion in my daily routine. According to popular legend, Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize–winning theoretical physicist, scored only a slightly above-average IQ of 125 when he was tested in high school. In his memoirs, however, we find hints of how he rose from modest intelligence to genius, when he talks about his compulsion to tear down important papers and mathematical concepts until he could understand the concepts from the bottom up. It’s possible, in other words, that his amazing intellect was less about a gift from God and more about a dedication to deliberate practice.


Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies (Academic Edition) by Bo Bennett

Black Swan, butterfly effect, clean water, cognitive bias, correlation does not imply causation, Donald Trump, equal pay for equal work, Richard Feynman, side project, statistical model, the scientific method

Explanation: Everybody has their own brain, not one we all share. Although I have met many people who seem not to have their own brain. This form of reasoning is invalid, therefore, fallacious. Exception: None. Quantum Physics Fallacy* Description: Using quantum physics in an attempt to support your claim, when in no way is your claim related to quantum physics. Perhaps the greatest mind in quantum physics, Richard Feynman, once said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” And he may be right. People recognize that this is perhaps the most bizarre, paradoxical, and incomprehensible area of study, that is also a respectable science. So, if you can manage to connect the truth of your argument to quantum physics, it would be unlikely that there would be many people who know enough about quantum physics to assert that your connection is invalid, thus your argument gains credibility out of ignorance.


pages: 836 words: 158,284

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Timothy Ferriss

23andMe, airport security, Albert Einstein, Black Swan, Buckminster Fuller, carbon footprint, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, correlation does not imply causation, Dean Kamen, game design, Gary Taubes, index card, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, life extension, lifelogging, Mahatma Gandhi, microbiome, p-value, Parkinson's law, Paul Buchheit, placebo effect, Productivity paradox, publish or perish, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, survivorship bias, Thorstein Veblen, Vilfredo Pareto, wage slave, William of Occam

The Lung Vacuuming Technique (www.ftrain.com/lungvacuuming.html) This 20-second lung reboot is used by opera singers to regulate breathing. Useful for both sports training and minimizing stage fright. End of Chapter Notes 5. I know nothing of this type of behavior, of course. ON LONGER AND BETTER LIFE LIVING FOREVER Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun There is nothing in biology yet found that indicates the inevitability of death. —Richard Feynman, co-recipient of 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. —Socrates This will be the shortest chapter on life-extension ever written. Let it begin, as all good short chapters do, with a story of two monkeys: Canto and Owen. Housed at the University of Wisconsin, these two rhesus monkeys are as close to identical as possible, with one exception. Canto is on a diet.

Since I am not a woman, this test was found from a non-Hunter source: http://www.anylabtestnow.com/Tests/Female_Tests.aspx MUSCLES OF THE BODY (PARTIAL) THE VALUE OF SELF-EXPERIMENTATION All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. —Ralph Waldo Emerson It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. —Richard Feynman This chapter was written by Dr. Seth Roberts, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California–Berkeley and professor of psychology at Tsinghua University. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and The Scientist, and he is on the editorial board of the journal Nutrition. I started self-experimentation when I was a grad student. I was studying experimental psychology; self-experimentation was a way to learn how to do experiments.


pages: 208 words: 67,288

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Buckminster Fuller, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, false memory syndrome, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, phenotype, Richard Feynman, the scientific method

Then you work out that you could well have been dreaming about her somewhere around 3 a.m. And before you know where you are, the ‘approximately’ and the ‘somewhere around’ get left out of the story as it does the rounds until it becomes: ‘She died at exactly 3 a.m., and that is exactly the moment when my cousin’s friend’s wife’s granddaughter was dreaming about her.’ Sometimes we can actually pin down the explanation of a weird coincidence. A great American scientist called Richard Feynman tragically lost his wife to tuberculosis, and the clock in her room stopped at precisely the moment she died. Goose-pimples! But Dr Feynman was not a great scientist for nothing. He worked out the true explanation. The clock was faulty. If you picked it up and tilted it, it tended to stop. When Mrs Feynman died, the nurse needed to record the time for the official death certificate. The sickroom was rather dark, so she picked up the clock and tilted it towards the window in order to read it.


pages: 221 words: 64,080

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon

AltaVista, Atul Gawande, business cycle, commoditize, creative destruction, hedonic treadmill, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, selection bias, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thorstein Veblen, young professional

As Tufte pointed out, the unfortunate price of simplification is, wel , oversimplification. Not to mention the additional tax paid out in the form of pedantry. Imagine if you were to go to a dinner party only to discover that al of the guests had decided to present their stories in PowerPoint format. Yes, the evening would be informative, but it would also be a bore. When I was in col ege, I remember reading a book by the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman, entitled Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! What was interesting about the book was that it appeared to be nothing more than a compilation of rambling anecdotes—about his personal life, his teaching, his work. And yet the weight of these anecdotes crept up on you, so that by the time you finished the book it was impossible to regard it as anything less than a finely honed indictment of the scientific discipline.


pages: 239 words: 56,531

The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine by Peter Lunenfeld

Albert Einstein, Andrew Keen, anti-globalists, Apple II, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, business cycle, butterfly effect, computer age, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, don't be evil, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, East Village, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, Grace Hopper, gravity well, Guggenheim Bilbao, Honoré de Balzac, Howard Rheingold, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mercator projection, Metcalfe’s law, Mother of all demos, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, PageRank, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, planetary scale, plutocrats, Plutocrats, post-materialism, Potemkin village, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Robert X Cringely, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, social software, spaced repetition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson, the built environment, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the medium is the message, Thomas L Friedman, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, walkable city, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

How meaning manifests itself via the culture machine often links directly back into the specific histories of the individual media being simulated, and their traditions of authorship and reception. What follows here catalogs some of the strategies that these media have followed in this new era. T SIDEBAR The Soviet Man Who Fell to Earth Of all the delightful thought experiments that theoretical physics has given birth to, from Erwin Schrödinger’s cat to Richard Feynman’s Brownian ratchet, my favorite is Albert Einstein’s “twins paradox.”4 This story of two brothers explains the 49 CHAPTER 3 relativity of space and time. The first brother travels into space, while the other stays on Earth. The space farer is on a fast rocket and goes on a ten-year journey. When he returns home, though, he finds out that his brother has aged twenty years during his trip. This seeming paradox can be explained because of the way that traveling close to light speed shifts the vantage point for time.


pages: 244 words: 68,223

Isaac Newton by James Gleick

Albert Einstein, Astronomia nova, complexity theory, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Richard Feynman, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

He is an elegant writer, brisk without being shallow, excellent on the essence of the work, and revealing in his account of Newton’s dealings with the times.” —Financial Times James Gleick ISAAC NEWTON James Gleick is an author, reporter, and essayist. His writing on science and technology—including Chaos, Genius, Faster, and What Just Happened—has been translated into thirty languages. He lives in New York. ALSO BY JAMES GLEICK Chaos: Making a New Science Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier Isaac Newton at forty-six, portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1689 (illustration credit Frontispiece) FIRST VINTAGE BOOKS EDITION, JUNE 2004 Copyright © 2003 by James Gleick All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.


pages: 243 words: 65,374

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

A. Roger Ekirch, Ada Lovelace, big-box store, British Empire, butterfly effect, clean water, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, germ theory of disease, Hans Lippershey, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telescope, inventory management, Jacquard loom, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Live Aid, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, megacity, Menlo Park, Murano, Venice glass, planetary scale, refrigerator car, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, transcontinental railway, Upton Sinclair, walkable city, women in the workforce

It may be more intuitive to keep historical narratives on the scale of individuals or nations, but on some fundamental level, it is not accurate to remain between those boundaries. History happens on the level of atoms, the level of planetary climate change, and all the levels in between. If we are trying to get the story right, we need an interpretative approach that can do justice to all those different levels. The physicist Richard Feynman once described the relationship between aesthetics and science in a similar vein: 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.


pages: 245 words: 12,162

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation by William J. Cook

complexity theory, computer age, Computer Numeric Control, four colour theorem, index card, John von Neumann, linear programming, NP-complete, P = NP, p-value, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, traveling salesman, Turing machine

Quantum Computers DNA, bacteria, amoeba, and optical TSP solvers all have an all-tours-atonce aspect, but they also require resources that grow exponentially with the number of cities. For a genuine Saunt Grod’s machine, we may need to leave behind biology and classical physics. Indeed, a more likely candidate arises through the adoption of properties of quantum mechanics, first proposed for use in computing devices by Richard Feynman. The basic component of a quantum computing device is the qubit, an unusual analog of the 0/1-bits used to represent information on classical computers. A qubit can hold the value 0 or the value 1, but it can also take on both these values simultaneously. Some magic via quantum mechanics gives the real possibility of examining all TSP tours at once: if we have 100 qubits, then together they can simultaneously encode 2100 possibilities.


pages: 208 words: 67,582

What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society by Paul Verhaeghe

Berlin Wall, call centre, cognitive dissonance, deskilling, epigenetics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, income inequality, invisible hand, jimmy wales, job satisfaction, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Louis Pasteur, market fundamentalism, Milgram experiment, new economy, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, post-industrial society, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Stanford prison experiment, stem cell, The Spirit Level, ultimatum game, working poor

And the ‘it’s all in the genes’ argument is of very little use here: genes code primarily for proteins, and that’s about it. The leap from proteins to behaviour is gigantic, and as things stand we have no idea how to bridge the divide. The metaphorical ‘explanations’ that we take to be true merely illustrate the dominance of a certain scientific conviction during a certain period. As the Nobel prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman so elegantly put it, there’s a ‘difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something’. As is so often the case, it’s easier to say what something isn’t. Decisions are steered by gut feelings, but not according to some algorithmic system that responds to input in a set way. If that were true, our behaviour would be extremely predictable, and that clearly isn’t the case. What’s more, a rigid decision-making system of that kind would be at odds with our huge capacity to adapt.


pages: 272 words: 66,985

Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction by Chris Bailey

"side hustle", Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Cal Newport, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, Clayton Christensen, correlation does not imply causation, deliberate practice, functional fixedness, game design, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Parkinson's law, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Skype, twin studies, Zipcar

In addition to reaching an impasse with their problems, the famous thinkers arrived at solutions to them after being spurred by an external cue. Archimedes figured out how to calculate the volume of an irregular object when he noticed his bathwater overflowing. Newton came up with his theory of gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree—probably the best-known insight trigger in history. For his habitual scatterfocus routine, renowned physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman would sip 7UP at a topless bar, where he could “‘watch the entertainment,’ and, if inspiration struck, scribble equations on cocktail napkins.” CONNECTING EVEN MORE DOTS Simply entering habitual scatterfocus mode will enable you to experience the remarkable benefits I’ve covered so far. But if you want to level up even further, here are six ways to do so. 1. Scatter your attention in a richer environment.


pages: 391 words: 71,600

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella, Greg Shaw, Jill Tracie Nichols

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, Amazon Web Services, anti-globalists, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bretton Woods, business process, cashless society, charter city, cloud computing, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, equal pay for equal work, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, fault tolerance, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, Google Glasses, Grace Hopper, industrial robot, Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Mars Rover, Minecraft, Mother of all demos, NP-complete, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, place-making, Richard Feynman, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, special economic zone, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, telepresence, telerobotics, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Tim Cook: Apple, trade liberalization, two-sided market, universal basic income, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, young professional, zero-sum game

In today’s classical computing world, our brain thinks and our thoughts are typed or spoken into a computer that in turn provides feedback on a screen. In a quantum world, some researchers speculate that there will be no barrier between our brains and computing. It’s a long way off, but might consciousness one day merge with computation? “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet,” the Danish Nobel physicist Niels Bohr once said. A later Nobel physicist, Richard Feynman, proposed the notion of quantum computing, unleashing today’s global pursuit to harness quantum mechanics for computation. Among those racing to understand it are Microsoft, Intel, Google, and IBM as well as startups like D-Wave and even governments with hefty national defense budgets. The shared hope is that quantum computing will utterly transform the physics of computing itself. Of course, if building a quantum computer were easy, it would have been done by now.


pages: 225 words: 70,180

Humankind: Solidarity With Nonhuman People by Timothy Morton

a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, David Brooks, Georg Cantor, gravity well, invisible hand, means of production, megacity, microbiome, phenotype, planetary scale, Richard Feynman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Slavoj Žižek, Turing test, wage slave, zero-sum game

There is no “bridge” between pi and the nearest rational number (the continuum hypothesis). Pi exists in another dimension. Spectral humankind, in recovery from the Severing, is able to talk to Severed humankind, its very own self. And it does this from a futural mode that is truly a dimension that haunts and scoops out the present from the inside. Because the non-Severed symbiotic real is … well, real. It is ongoing. Quanta are described by Richard Feynman as “tiny jiggling things,” and it’s quantum data that humans need. They need to find it in a black hole, which is a terribly serious-seeming, non-wiggly thing. But if gravity is like the other forces, it must be quantized. It must come in tiny jiggling blobs of energy—gravitons. Perhaps gravity is not grave after all. By definition, gravitons would not have time or space as we know them because gravitons produce space-time: that is the noise they make to beings such as us.


Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima by James Mahaffey

clean water, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Google Earth, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, loose coupling, Menlo Park, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, uranium enrichment, wage slave, wikimedia commons

Examining the situation at Oak Ridge, Segré found that no workers knew that they were making an explosive, much less that it was a very tricky one, and only a few top officials were aware of the problem of bringing together a critical mass. They had been given the talk, but it had mentioned only the problem of stacking metal bricks, and they had no idea that water diluting the active substance only made it easier to produce a runaway reaction. The accumulating stores of wet uranium at Oak Ridge were on the verge of disaster. Oppenheimer responded to Segré’s grim report by dispatching his best man, Richard Feynman, immediately to the scene. Feynman was only 27 years old, the youngest group leader in the mass of heavy thinkers gathered at Los Alamos. Working under the director of the theoretical division, Hans Bethe, he was one of the few natural-born Americans on the T-section payroll. He grew up in Far Rockaway, New York, and earned his physics degrees at MIT and Princeton. He had quickly established a reputation as a quick mind with brilliant insights and an ability to find the problem in any aspect of the complex bomb development.

It was probably closer to 40,000 rem or 400 sieverts, which would drop an elephant. 57 If you are amazed by some of the detailed information available concerning Soviet nuclear work, read an example of glasnost in the Proceedings of ICNC’95, Vol. 1, pp. 4.44-4.47, “Criticality Measurements at VNIITF Review,” V.A. Teryokhin, V.V. Pereshogin, and Yu.A. Sokolov. Chapter 3 A Bit of Trouble in the Great White North “A scientist need not be responsible for the entire world. Social irresponsibility might be a reasonable stance.” —advice given to young physicist Richard Feynman by mathematician Johnny von Neumann The decade of the nineteen-fifties is often cited as a dull period of time, lacking the excitement and colorful excesses of the following decade, the sixties. The sixties exploded with John Kennedy, the Beatles, recreational pharmaceuticals, space travel, and hippies. What did the fifties give us? Dwight Eisenhower and black-and-white television?


pages: 289 words: 22,394

Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie

cognitive dissonance, Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach, joint-stock company, New Journalism, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, publish or perish, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy

We already started to explore evolutionary psychology in the discussion of our four basic drives and the nature of communication. Now let’s take a detailed look at the subject that forms the core of evolutionary psychology and eternally one of our favorite topics: sex. ttt 88 C hapter six S ex : The Root of A ll Evolution “Science is a lot like sex. Sometimes something useful comes of it, but that’s not the reason we’re doing it.” — Richard Feynman The most fascinating discovery of the new field of evolutionary psychology is the central role that sex plays, and has played, in shaping our modern behavior and culture. Weaving a twisted path connecting Freud, male chauvinism, puritanism, and womanizing, evolutionary psychology explains the complexity and contradiction inherent in human behavior as never before. As you read this, remember: evolutionary psychology is about tendencies—predispositions and historical artifacts of evolution.


pages: 238 words: 73,824

Makers by Chris Anderson

3D printing, Airbnb, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Apple II, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Buckminster Fuller, Build a better mousetrap, business process, commoditize, Computer Numeric Control, crowdsourcing, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, death of newspapers, dematerialisation, Elon Musk, factory automation, Firefox, future of work, global supply chain, global village, IKEA effect, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, Internet of things, inventory management, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, Menlo Park, Network effects, private space industry, profit maximization, QR code, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Rubik’s Cube, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, slashdot, South of Market, San Francisco, spinning jenny, Startup school, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize, Y Combinator

That exponential growth comes from the phenomenon of “compound learning curves”: breakthrough discoveries in semiconductor research come frequently enough (about every three years) and build on their predecessors so effectively that progress accelerates at this breakneck pace. Why do all industries not enjoy this pace of improvement? Because semiconductors are still a relatively new field in the long arc of scientific research. They are built on the quantum mechanics and material science breakthroughs of the early twentieth century, a remarkable period of discovery that opened an entirely new domain of physics. As Richard Feynman famously said, “there’s a lot of room at the bottom,” at the atomic level of matter, and we’re still just beginning to plumb it. What is the analogy for manufacturing? Nothing so grand as a new physics. Instead, it is simply the combination of the technologies that the original Moore’s Law brought us: computers, digital information, the Internet, and, most important of all, connected people.


pages: 280 words: 79,029

Smart Money: How High-Stakes Financial Innovation Is Reshaping Our WorldÑFor the Better by Andrew Palmer

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, algorithmic trading, Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, availability heuristic, bank run, banking crisis, Black-Scholes formula, bonus culture, break the buck, Bretton Woods, call centre, Carmen Reinhart, cloud computing, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, computerized trading, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, diversification, diversified portfolio, Edmond Halley, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, family office, financial deregulation, financial innovation, fixed income, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gordon Gekko, high net worth, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, implied volatility, income inequality, index fund, information asymmetry, Innovator's Dilemma, interest rate swap, Kenneth Rogoff, Kickstarter, late fees, London Interbank Offered Rate, Long Term Capital Management, longitudinal study, loss aversion, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, McMansion, money market fund, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, Myron Scholes, negative equity, Network effects, Northern Rock, obamacare, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, railway mania, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, short selling, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, statistical model, Thales of Miletus, transaction costs, Tunguska event, unbanked and underbanked, underbanked, Vanguard fund, web application

The essence of the efficient-markets hypothesis, which was formulated in 1970 by a University of Chicago economist named Eugene Fama, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize for Economics, is that markets are rational. The hypothesis posits that market prices incorporate all the publicly available information on a given security and that people respond rationally to this information. The desire to make simplifying assumptions is understandable in finance—“Can you imagine how hard physics would be if electrons had feelings?” is the question Richard Feynman, a physicist, once asked—but this one takes the cake. Humans are not always rational, and markets are swayed by sentiment as much as logic. Instead of the efficient-market hypothesis, Lo champions something called the “adaptive-market hypothesis,” which takes the world as it is rather than as it should be. The AMH accepts that some market behavior is hardwired. Our brains have been programmed by evolution to respond to emotions such as fear and greed.


pages: 269 words: 74,955

The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World's Most Mysterious Air Disasters by Christine Negroni

Air France Flight 447, Airbus A320, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Charles Lindbergh, Checklist Manifesto, computer age, crew resource management, crowdsourcing, low cost airline, low cost carrier, Richard Feynman, South China Sea, Tenerife airport disaster, Thomas Bayes, US Airways Flight 1549

Information can be scrutinized and analyzed in ways not previously possible, and this Internet-enhanced coalescing of the world’s brain power will certainly continue to grow. This book is a part of that evolution as I hypothesize about MH-370 and other disasters that have mystified the world. PART ONE Mystery I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things. —NOBEL PRIZE–WINNING THEORETICAL PHYSICIST RICHARD FEYNMAN The Clipper On the last leg of a journey halfway around the world, Pan American Airways captain Leo Terletsky began to worry. And when Captain Terletsky worried, everybody else on the flight deck worried, too. “His anxiety caused him to shout at copilots, issue orders and immediately countermand them. He infected his crews with his own anxiety,” wrote Horace Brock, who flew a few times with Terletsky and didn’t much like it.


pages: 280 words: 75,820

Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher

Albert Einstein, Atul Gawande, Build a better mousetrap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, epigenetics, Frank Gehry, fundamental attribution error, Isaac Newton, knowledge worker, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, McMansion, music of the spheres, Nelson Mandela, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Walter Mischel, zero-sum game

Given a hard problem to figure out—the nature of gravity, perhaps—most people might think about it for a while, then get tired and forget about it. A genius such as Isaac Newton, however, has enough “mental energy” to pay rapt attention to the same thing for a long time without wavering: “I keep the subject constantly before me and wait until the first dawnings open little by little before me into the full light.” His modern successor, Richard Feynman, had a similarly protean absorption in his subject. Upon presenting their presumably new, hard-won theories, his colleagues often found that the legendary physicist had done the math many years before and not even bothered to publish the results. As one peer put it, “Feynman had signed the guest book and already left.” Lesser mortals can be very talented and stay enthusiastic for a little while, says Duckworth, “but they can’t sustain that kind of interest.”


pages: 255 words: 76,834

Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda

1960s counterculture, anti-pattern, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, bash_history, Charles Lindbergh, conceptual framework, Donald Knuth, en.wikipedia.org, HyperCard, Kickstarter, Lao Tzu, premature optimization, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Robert X Cringely, Silicon Valley, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, zero-sum game

Product design should strive for a depth, for a beauty rooted in what a product does, not merely in how it looks and feels. Form should follow function, even though this might seem like a strange notion for pixels on a screen, but it’s not if you believe the appearance of a product should tell you what it is and how to use it. Objects should explain themselves. It’s impossible to overstate how much this matters, and to illustrate, I’ll draw a comparison. Near the beginning of Atoms in Motion, Richard Feynman’s first lecture introducing his two-year introductory course on physics, this famous scientist, Nobel laureate, and free-thinker extraordinaire offers his idea about the importance of atoms: If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?


pages: 249 words: 77,342

The Behavioral Investor by Daniel Crosby

affirmative action, Asian financial crisis, asset allocation, availability heuristic, backtesting, bank run, Black Swan, buy and hold, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, compound rate of return, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, endowment effect, feminist movement, Flash crash, haute cuisine, hedonic treadmill, housing crisis, IKEA effect, impulse control, index fund, Isaac Newton, job automation, longitudinal study, loss aversion, market bubble, market fundamentalism, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, moral panic, Murray Gell-Mann, Nate Silver, neurotypical, passive investing, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, science of happiness, Shai Danziger, short selling, South Sea Bubble, Stanford prison experiment, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, stocks for the long run, Thales of Miletus, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, tulip mania, Vanguard fund

Research by Steven Sloman of Brown and Philip Fernbach at the University of Colorado shows that having to teach a concept has a humbling effect that brings our beliefs more in line with our actual understanding. The pair have used this technique to moderate beliefs about everything from single payer healthcare to, well, toilets and have found that, “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding.” This exercise is commonly referred to as the Feynman Technique and is named for the theoretical physicist of the same name. Richard Feynman, known for his work in quantum mechanics, set forth a simple, three-part formula for gaining greater knowledge: Figure out what you don’t know. Educate yourself. Teach it to a child or novice. Feynman’s technique, elegant in its simplicity, speaks both to the human tendency to overestimate our own capabilities and to conflate complexity with understanding. The act of writing, teaching or explaining a concept to an absolute beginner has a humbling effect that provides a more accurate measure of our understanding.


pages: 284 words: 72,406

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland, Jj Sutherland

Baxter: Rethink Robotics, business cycle, call centre, clean water, death of newspapers, fundamental attribution error, knowledge worker, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, minimum viable product, pets.com, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Shai Danziger, Silicon Valley, Tony Hsieh, Toyota Production System

At one point in the early 1980s, executives from Fuji-Xerox traveled to America to study how the famous space agency did things. When they implemented the same procedures back in Japan, they immediately saw quality drop, the failure rate go up, and their ability to deliver sink like a stone. They quickly abandoned the process, saying it was likely to produce catastrophic error. The Rogers Commission that examined the 1986 Challenger disaster agreed. As physicist Richard Feynman famously wrote in Appendix F of the Commission’s report: “It would appear that, for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.” 4 The fact is, when you look at the best teams—like the ones that existed at Toyota or 3M when Takeuchi or Nonaka wrote their paper, or the ones at Google or Salesforce.com or Amazon today—there isn’t this separation of roles.


pages: 284 words: 79,265

The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Wiles, bioinformatics, British Empire, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Chelsea Manning, Clayton Christensen, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, David Brooks, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Galaxy Zoo, guest worker program, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, index fund, invention of movable type, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, life extension, Marc Andreessen, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nicholas Carr, P = NP, p-value, Paul Erdős, Pluto: dwarf planet, publication bias, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, scientific worldview, social graph, social web, text mining, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation

They show, for example, that something known as the branching process was discovered in the mid-1840s, only to be rediscovered in the 1870s, then again in 1922, 1930, 1938, 1941, and 1944. The Erdo˝s-Rényi random graph, written about by Paul Erdo˝s and Alfréd Rényi in 1960, was first examined in 1941 by Paul Flory, the chemist and Nobel laureate. As Stigler’s Law of Eponymy states: “No scientific law is named after its discoverer.” Naturally, Stephen Stigler attributes this law to Robert Merton. Extreme cases of this can especially be found during times of war. Richard Feynman, the celebrated physicist, shared the Nobel Prize with two other physicists, including Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. Tomonaga’s work was conducted in Japan during World War II, so even though Feynman later reached similar results, Tomonaga’s work at the same time did not spread to the scientific world or to the West. This sort of situation was most pronounced during the many decades of the Cold War.


pages: 258 words: 73,109

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Bernie Madoff, Broken windows theory, cashless society, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Credit Default Swap, Donald Trump, fudge factor, new economy, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Shai Danziger, shareholder value, Steve Jobs, Walter Mischel

Even when our feeble explanations have little to do with reality. We’re storytelling creatures by nature, and we tell ourselves story after story until we come up with an explanation that we like and that sounds reasonable enough to believe. And when the story portrays us in a more glowing and positive light, so much the better. Cheating Myself In a commencement speech at Cal Tech in 1974, the physicist Richard Feynman told graduates, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” As we have seen so far, we human beings are torn by a fundamental conflict—our deeply ingrained propensity to lie to ourselves and to others, and the desire to think of ourselves as good and honest people. So we justify our dishonesty by telling ourselves stories about why our actions are acceptable and sometimes even admirable.


pages: 369 words: 80,355

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger

airport security, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, book scanning, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, Debian, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, future of journalism, Galaxy Zoo, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, linked data, Netflix Prize, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pluto: dwarf planet, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, slashdot, social graph, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

A new strategy for knowing our world is emerging, but we are not passive in its arrival. 4 The Expertise of Clouds A Brief History of Experts On February 3, 1986, President Reagan issued Executive Order 12546, establishing a Presidential Commission to report on why the Space Shuttle Challenger had blown up five days earlier, one minute and thirteen seconds after it took off.1 The report begins with a calm, factual recounting of the disaster in intervals of a thousandth of a second: the first puff of gray smoke at 0.678 seconds; the “continuous, well-defined plume” of flame at 59.262 seconds; the “circumferential white vapor pattern” at 73.124 seconds; the Challenger “totally enveloped in the explosive burn” milliseconds later. The report concludes with recommendations in nine areas to remedy engineering faults, procedural flaws, and political pressures on NASA. It is easy to see why this report is held in such high regard. The commission was headed by former Secretary of State William Rogers and included generals, physicists (including Richard Feynman), astronauts (including Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong), test pilots (Chuck Yeager), and rocket scientists. It took a broad look at the causes of the failure and produced an evidence-based document that led to needed improvements in NASA’s processes. The report saved lives. And it did so by embodying the very best of traditional expertise: A relative handful of highly trained and credentialed experts came together, followed a careful process, agreed on conclusions, wrote them down, and published them.


pages: 266 words: 86,324

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Atul Gawande, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, correlation coefficient, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Donald Trump, feminist movement, forensic accounting, Gerolamo Cardano, Henri Poincaré, index fund, Isaac Newton, law of one price, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, Pepto Bismol, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Bayes, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!

Only after a colleague arranged for a computer simulation in which Erdös watched hundreds of trials that came out 2 to 1 in favor of switching did Erdös concede he was wrong.6 How can something that seems so obvious be wrong? In the words of a Harvard professor who specializes in probability and statistics, “Our brains are just not wired to do probability problems very well.”7 The great American physicist Richard Feynman once told me never to think I understood a work in physics if all I had done was read someone else’s derivation. The only way to really understand a theory, he said, is to derive it yourself (or perhaps end up disproving it!). For those of us who aren’t Feynman, re-proving other people’s work is a good way to end up untenured and plying our math skills as a checker at Home Depot. But the Monty Hall problem is one of those that can be solved without any specialized mathematical knowledge.


pages: 281 words: 79,958

Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Michael Specter

23andMe, agricultural Revolution, Anne Wojcicki, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Asilomar, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Drosophila, food miles, invention of gunpowder, out of africa, personalized medicine, placebo effect, profit motive, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Simon Singh, Skype, stem cell, Ted Kaczynski, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, twin studies, Upton Sinclair, X Prize

By 1986, America had become so confident in its ability to control the rockets we routinely sent into space that on that particular January morning, along with its regular crew, NASA strapped a thirty-seven-year-old high school teacher named Christa McAuliffe from Concord, New Hampshire, onto what essentially was a giant bomb. She was the first participant in the new Teacher in Space program. And the last. The catastrophe was examined in merciless detail at many nationally televised hearings. During the most remarkable of them, Richard Feynman stunned the nation with a simple display of show-and-tell. Feynman, a no-nonsense man and one of the twentieth century’s greatest physicists, dropped a rubber O-ring into a glass of ice water, where it quickly lost resilience and cracked. The ring, used as a flexible buffer, couldn’t take the stress of the cold, and it turned out neither could one just like it on the shuttle booster rocket that unusually icy day in January.


pages: 294 words: 80,084

Tomorrowland: Our Journey From Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler

Albert Einstein, Alexander Shulgin, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Burning Man, carbon footprint, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, Dean Kamen, epigenetics, gravity well, haute couture, interchangeable parts, Kevin Kelly, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, North Sea oil, Oculus Rift, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, personalized medicine, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, private space industry, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, theory of mind, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

But we do know that with biotechnology accelerating exponentially, sooner or later, we are going to find out. 4. Immortality is one thing — playback is another. See, Cochrane’s idea is not simply to capture a life. He also wants to make that life available to others. Education is the real point of the Soul Catcher. And it will be an education unlike any other. Take the late, great physicist Richard Feynman, considered one of the most brilliant minds in recent history. According to biographers, Feynman’s genius was not linear and orderly but rather radical and intuitive. In his mind, A + B did not equal C. It equaled Z. How Feynman’s brain produced such leaps is unknown. But if the physicist had been hooked up to the Soul Catcher — which would record his life — and the Soul Catcher was further connected to some sort of total experience playback device, this might make his A + B = Z intuition not just knowable, but experienceable — meaning teachable.


pages: 360 words: 85,321

The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling by Adam Kucharski

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, beat the dealer, Benoit Mandelbrot, butterfly effect, call centre, Chance favours the prepared mind, Claude Shannon: information theory, collateralized debt obligation, correlation does not imply causation, diversification, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Edward Thorp, Everything should be made as simple as possible, Flash crash, Gerolamo Cardano, Henri Poincaré, Hibernia Atlantic: Project Express, if you build it, they will come, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, locking in a profit, Louis Pasteur, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, p-value, performance metric, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, random walk, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, statistical model, The Design of Experiments, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

Encompassing mathematics, psychology, economics, and physics, gambling is a natural focus for researchers interested in random—or seemingly random—events. The relationship between science and betting is not only benefiting researchers. Gamblers are increasingly using scientific ideas to develop successful betting strategies. In many cases, the concepts are traveling full circle: methods that originally emerged from academic curiosity about wagers are now feeding back into real-life attempts to beat the house. THE FIRST TIME PHYSICIST Richard Feynman visited Las Vegas in the late 1940s, he went from game to game, working out how much he could expect to win (or, more likely, lose). He decided that although craps was a bad deal, it wasn’t that bad: for every dollar he bet, he could expect to lose 1.4 cents on average. Of course, that was the expected loss over a large number of attempts. When Feynman tried the game, he was particularly unlucky, losing five dollars right away.


pages: 302 words: 84,428

Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side by Howard Marks

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Albert Einstein, business cycle, collateralized debt obligation, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, financial innovation, fixed income, if you build it, they will come, income inequality, Isaac Newton, job automation, Long Term Capital Management, margin call, money market fund, moral hazard, new economy, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, risk-adjusted returns, risk/return, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, secular stagnation, short selling, South Sea Bubble, stocks for the long run, superstar cities, The Chicago School, The Great Moderation, transaction costs, VA Linux, Y2K, yield curve

People’s decisions have great influence on economic, business and market cycles. In fact, economies, business and markets consist of nothing but transactions between people. And people don’t make their decisions scientifically. Some take history, facts and data into account, and some approach their decisions as “economic men.” But even the most unemotional and stoic among them are subject to human influences and the loss of objectivity. Richard Feynman, the noted physicist, wrote, “Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings!” That is, if electrons had feelings, they couldn’t be counted on to always do what science expects of them, so the rules of physics would work only some of the time. The point is that people do have feelings, and as such they aren’t bound by inviolable laws. They’ll always bring emotions and foibles to their economic and investing decisions.


pages: 306 words: 82,765

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Brownian motion, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, David Graeber, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Edward Thorp, equity premium, financial independence, information asymmetry, invisible hand, knowledge economy, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, mental accounting, microbiome, moral hazard, Murray Gell-Mann, offshore financial centre, p-value, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, principal–agent problem, Ralph Nader, random walk, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, survivorship bias, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, urban planning, Yogi Berra

Stampedes happen in cinemas—say, when someone shouts “fire”—because those who want to be out do not want to stay in, exactly the same unconditionality we saw with kosher observance or panic selling. Science acts similarly. As we saw earlier, the minority rule is behind Karl Popper’s thinking. But Popper is too stern, so let us leave him for later and, for now, discuss the more entertaining and jovial Richard Feynman, the most irreverent and playful scientist of his day. His book of anecdotes, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, conveys the idea of the fundamental irreverence of science, which proceeds through a similar mechanism as the kosher asymmetry. How? Science isn’t the sum of what scientists think, but exactly as with markets, it is a procedure that is highly skewed. Once you debunk something, it is now wrong.


pages: 289 words: 87,292

The Strange Order of Things: The Biological Roots of Culture by Antonio Damasio

Albert Einstein, biofilm, business process, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, double helix, Gordon Gekko, invention of the wheel, invention of writing, invisible hand, job automation, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, Thomas Malthus

Kram and Steven E. Finkel, “Rich Medium Composition Affects Escherichia coli Survival, Glycation, and Mutation Frequency During Long-Term Batch Culture,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 81, no. 13 (2015): 4442–50. 9. Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, “Accord des différentes lois de la nature qui avaient jusqu’ici paru incompatibles,” Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences (1744): 417–26; Richard Feynman, “The Principle of Least Action,” in The Feynman Lectures on Physics: Volume II, chap. 19, accessed Jan. 20, 2017, http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/​II_toc.html. 10. Edward O. Wilson has written extensively on the complex social life of insects. His book The Social Conquest of the Earth (New York: Liveright, 2012) provides an overview of this spectacular field of research. 11. As noted earlier, the consistent relationship between feelings and homeostasis breaks down during intense negative feelings.


The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number by Mario Livio

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, cosmological constant, Elliott wave, Eratosthenes, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, mandelbrot fractal, music of the spheres, Nash equilibrium, Ralph Nelson Elliott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Thales of Miletus, the scientific method

Impacts of astronomical bodies (comets or asteroids) several miles in diameter caused the dinosaurs to perish and paved the way for the dominance of the mammals. The evolution of theories of the universe was also sporadically punctuated by quantum leaps in understanding. Newton's theory of gravitation and Einstein's General Relativity (“I still can't see how he thought of it,” said the late physicist Richard Feynman) are two perfect examples of such spectacular advances. How can we explain these miraculous achievements? The truth is that we can't. That is, no more than we can explain how, in a world of chess that was used to victories by margins of half a point or so, in 1971 Bobby Fischer suddenly demolished both chess grandmasters Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen by scores of six points to nothing on his way to the world championship.


pages: 254 words: 81,009

Busy by Tony Crabbe

airport security, British Empire, business process, cognitive dissonance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, fear of failure, Frederick Winslow Taylor, haute cuisine, informal economy, inventory management, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, loss aversion, low cost airline, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, placebo effect, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, science of happiness, Shai Danziger, Thorstein Veblen, Tim Cook: Apple

Market Research Once you have your first hypothesis, speak to five people who know you well at work, and get their feedback on your brand. Reflect and adapt it. EXPERIMENT Live Up to Your Brand How could you make the next email you write, or the next report, or the next meeting you attend a chance to live true to your brand? High-Leverage Signals What creative ideas could you come up with to subtly reinforce your brand? Chapter 8 Walk Your Own Path (Fixing Radios by Thinking) Richard Feynman became one of the greatest theoretical physicists of the twentieth century and won the Nobel Prize. As a twelve-year-old, he set up a little lab in his room, bought his first radio and, rather than listening to it, he took it apart. He soon became quite good at fixing radios. This was in the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, so a boy who could fix radios cheaply was useful. On one occasion, he was picked up by a client who seemed far from convinced that this boy wouldn’t be a waste of his time and money.


Seeking SRE: Conversations About Running Production Systems at Scale by David N. Blank-Edelman

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, algorithmic trading, Amazon Web Services, bounce rate, business continuity plan, business process, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, continuous integration, crowdsourcing, dark matter, database schema, Debian, defense in depth, DevOps, domain-specific language, en.wikipedia.org, fault tolerance, fear of failure, friendly fire, game design, Grace Hopper, information retrieval, Infrastructure as a Service, Internet of things, invisible hand, iterative process, Kubernetes, loose coupling, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, microservices, minimum viable product, MVC pattern, performance metric, platform as a service, pull request, RAND corporation, remote working, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ruby on Rails, search engine result page, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, single page application, Snapchat, software as a service, software is eating the world, source of truth, the scientific method, Toyota Production System, web application, WebSocket, zero day

The rise of AI is happening now because we have enough data5 from all of the big data initiatives out there and cheap GPUs6 for machine learning algorithms to churn on. In addition, what’s surprising about deep learning is how simple it is. Last decade, no one suspected that we would achieve these incredible results with respect to machine perception problems. Now, it turns out that all you need is sufficiently large parametric models trained with gradient descent on sufficiently many examples. It’s not complicated, it’s just a lot of it. Richard Feynman, in the 1972 interview, Take the World from a Different Point of View So that gives us a fairly good idea of why we now can do deep learning in such a reachable way and who to blame for the whole thing — gamers and games. Next, we’ll explore three different machine learning techniques: decision trees, neural networks, and long short-term memory networks. Decision trees Decision support tools that use a tree-like graph or model of decisions and their possible consequences, including chance–event outcomes, resource costs, and utility.

Printed, reprinted, edited, and copied in dozens of places in subsequent years, but currently canonically available at jofreeman.com. If you read only one article, read this one. The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks, 1975. Of course. Covers Conway’s Law and a lot more. The Rogers Commission report on the Challenger disaster, published in 1986. But mostly Appendix F, being the “personal observations” of Richard Feynman, who could not reach any agreement with the rest of the committee and threatened to remove his endorsement from the report if his chapter was not included. (In homage, and out of the same necessities, there are a handful of Obama-era internal policy papers that include an appendix singly authored by one Mikey Dickerson. I don’t think anyone ever realized what I was doing.) How Complex Systems Fail published by Richard Cook at the University of Chicago in 1998, available online.


pages: 362 words: 95,782

Stephen Fry in America by Stephen Fry

Bretton Woods, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, Columbine, Donald Trump, illegal immigration, intermodal, jimmy wales, Jony Ive, Kickstarter, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Upton Sinclair, urban sprawl, Yogi Berra

I said it was perverse of me to be cheered up by the thought of the Manhattan Project, and of course much about it was terrifying, tragic and wholly lamentable. However I have always been excited by Big Science, by the minds, insights and achievements of great physicists. After a morning of faded hippies, bad art and tacky artefacts, it comes as a relief to know that the discipline and hard-headed reality of science have their place in New Mexico too. One of my all-time heroes is the Nobel Prizewinning Richard Feynman: my heart beats faster and my eyelids flutter at the very mention of his name. He worked in Los Alamos in the late forties as a very, very young man. In one of his essays he writes about taking a cab through New York on his way back from Los Alamos to Princeton. He sees men working on new skyscrapers and wants to shout out at them, ‘Don’t bother! The whole world is going to end soon. There’s no point building anything!’


pages: 356 words: 95,647

Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking by Charles Seife

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Brownian motion, correlation does not imply causation, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gary Taubes, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Mikhail Gorbachev, Norman Macrae, Project Plowshare, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, the scientific method, Yom Kippur War

Los Alamos, perched on a mesa in the New Mexico desert, was the intellectual heart of the Manhattan Project. Other facilities, such as one at Oak Ridge in Tennessee and another at Hanford in Washington, were crucial to figuring out the best way to separate bombworthy uranium-235 from the much more common uranium-238 and how to manufacture plutonium-239.2 However, the big minds roamed at Los Alamos: Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman, Stanislaw Ulam, John von Neumann, Enrico Fermi, and Edward Teller. Teller, a Hungarian émigré and, arguably, a better theoretician than Oppenheimer, was brought to the University of Chicago in mid-1942 by the Manhattan Project just as it was getting under way. When Teller arrived, nobody assigned him a task, so he set to work trying to design the ultimate weapon, more powerful even than the one the project’s scientists were trying to build.


The Fractalist by Benoit Mandelbrot

Albert Einstein, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brownian motion, business cycle, Claude Shannon: information theory, discrete time, double helix, Georg Cantor, Henri Poincaré, Honoré de Balzac, illegal immigration, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, linear programming, Louis Bachelier, Louis Blériot, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, Olbers’ paradox, Paul Lévy, Richard Feynman, statistical model, urban renewal, Vilfredo Pareto

After the ordeal ended, he relaxed in his chair and, in a completely different tone of voice, concluded, “It was a very nice lecture. I learned a great deal.” My Keplerian Dream Acquires a Bit of Focus To have witnessed the birth of a field from close by was an experience I never forgot. It provided exhilarating proof that someone with my bent might have a chance after all. There was much talk of physics having dominated the first half of the twentieth century, leaving the second half for biology. Even Richard Feynman tried his hand in Delbrück’s lab. I never seriously thought of moving over, but I felt energized and kept looking for analogous openings closer to my strengths. The timing was ideal because several new developments that had been “bottled up” by war conditions were being revealed in a kind of fireworks I saw on no other occasion. My restless curiosity led me to read works that were widely discussed when they appeared: Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine by Norbert Wiener, and Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern.


pages: 313 words: 91,098