Feynman on the pleasures of discovery

There is a poem by John Keats that shows his distrust of science and philosophy as alienating spiritual and aesthetic experiences from people. He thought that Newton's discovery of the nature of optical laws concerning reflection and refraction stripped rainbows of their aesthetic beauty by explaining the workings of light through cold and abstract general principles. The relevant part reads:
Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine -
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.
This pessimistic view of inquisitive disciplines is what inspired Richard Dawkins to write his book, Unweaving the Rainbow, which aims to show that the rigor of scientific inquiry does not preclude the possibility of aesthetic experiences; in fact, Dawkins argues, correctly in my opinion, that aesthetic judgments can be enhanced through better understanding of the nature of the universe.

The video below shows the eccentrically creative Richard Feynman, the famous Nobel laureate physicist, sharing some of his thoughts on the wonderful world of scientific pursuit, curiosity, education and aesthetic experiences as also enhanced by scientific understanding.


  1. By the way, yay Catskill mountains!!! That's ma'home...

  2. This is an awesome video! The vibrant personality behind the quantum dynamics that led to the technology responsible for, um, like, %75 of the GDP at this time -if capitalistic justice existed this guy would be rich. Ok, my favorite quote from the video: "To do the kind of real good physics work you do need absolute solid lengths of time. ... So I have invented another myth for myself: that I'm irresponsible. 'I'm actively irresponsible,' I tell everybody. I don't do anything. If anybody asks me to be on a committee to take care of admissions. No! I'm irresponsible, I don't give a damn about the students! (Course I give a damn about the students, but I know that somebody else'll do it.) And I take the view, 'Let George do it.' A view which you're not supposed to take ... So I'm selfish ok; I want to do my physics." It's ok Dick, we love you, and we forgive you for the Hiroshima thing too.


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