Talk:Richard Feynman/Archive 1

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Feynman Solution to double slit experiment

Does this really belong here? Also, is it accurate (did Feynman really come up with this before age 12)? And is it verifiable?

NYT article?

Whoever wrote about the NYT article about the O-rings from the challenger explosion, could they maybe provide this reference? thx-- 22:13, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

2001 talk

Great article! I removed the link to the Feynman picture--I don't think we have permission to use it. (Do we?) Here's the link anyway, in case we do get permission: --Larry Sanger

I'll email them and ask if I can use it. Thanks for tidying it up. -- sodium

did feynman and einstein ever meet or collaborate?

According to his book "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", on one occasion when he was still a young professor Feynman very nervously gave a lecture to a group including Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, and some other famous physicists (he called them "monster minds"). Einstein just interjected one comment at the end. Then later in his career he was invited to join the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where Einstein was probably still working (not sure of the date...), but he rejected it b/c he would have no contact with students. Hope that helps. Mjklin

Feynman also met with Einstein at least once along with his thesis advisor, John Wheeler, to discuss research they were doing. This is mentioned in James Gleick's biography Genius.

Motion of Planets

After reading and listening to Feynman's Lost Lecture, I have become very dubious about this curious character. This book and recording provides an undisguised and revealing example of the man trying to explain science to undergraduates at Cal Tech. He was supposed to explain why the inverse-square law results in an elliptical orbit. He didn't. Worse, he moved quickly from that subject to an unrelated discussion of the behavior of particles in an atomic nucleus. His talk contained a few speaking errors and even one totally illogical statement concerning a person's ability to understand being determined at the beginning of time. Has Feynman been overvalued because of his eccentricities? Is this another "Emperor's New Clothes"? Lestrade 13:07, 2 October 2005 (UTC)Lestrade

Better still, have you just figured out that all human beings are fallible? Your revalation about Feynman is much like accusing a person of breathing. Everyone on this planet, including you, will babble incoherantly at times. Feynman nevertheless received the Nobel Prize. Picking apart another human being is not much of a feat, by the way, it's more like a cheap card trick; an illusion, designed to appear far more significant than it really is. A Nobel prize on the other hand, that is no illusion.

Phil 11:01, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

That sounds a little harsh. I've read (but not heard) some of his lectures and they are very good; of course, some editing has gone into it, but it's nothing like how you describe. Also, he seemed to be popular with his students; usually lecturers that bad would be booed off stage already! Enochlau 14:16, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
His seeming popularity may have been the apparent result of many characteristics: jocularity, ebullience, etc.. In the early 1960s Cal Tech students would not have booed a lecturer, especially one who gave tests. Feynman himself admitted to something like a fraud. He said that he solved the Nobel Prize-winning renormalization problem by "sweeping it under the rug." That is, he used creative mathematics to rid the answer of bothersome infinities.

Lestrade 17:02, 2 October 2005 (UTC)Lestrade

As the Old Mathematics Professor of George Polya's experience used to say: "My method of solving problems is to go around them." It appears that you would prefer that Fermi's method be used to attack a problem (in other words, straight over the difficulty). If you are looking for a derivation of the motion of the planets satisfying a conic section, you might try Shames' engineering mechanics book. The Caltech students are very smart and would have seen that derivation already. As far as I know, the conventional mathematical proof was not one of Feynman's priorities. But I must admit I do not feel like spending money on the tape or book to address your critiques. Now I am curious. Feynman used numerical integration to demonstrate the elliptical orbit, in his red books. Are you saying he used a completely different scheme? What was it? If you are saying he used none, might it be because Robert Leighton re-used the numerical integration scheme that Feynman alluded to? As I understand it, the lost lecture was part of the lecture series, and Leighton would have heard it. Ancheta Wis 18:53, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Feynman claimed to be using Euclidean geometry. He assumed that Newton also used Euclidean geometry. But, Newton actually used his own geometry, which utilized curvilinear figures, as well as nascent and evanescent limits. Also, Feynman stated that his demonstration included properties of Apollonius's conic sections, which he found to be difficult and quickly abandoned. Feynman is said to have devoted some time to the study of Newton, but he may have only studied the works on optics.

Lestrade 03:51, 3 October 2005 (UTC)Lestrade

If I may add my opinion - you're completely missing the point. Feynman's thinking here is that if one truly understands an idea, then one can describe it simply. If I recall correctly, he even mentions this at the beginning of the lecture, though it has been a year or two since I've listened to it. This lecture is already fairly widely known to have missed its mark with respect to what it tries to prove. The presence or lack of speaking mistakes says nothing of the man's ability to understand physics. Besides, he's from Queens (no offense to other folks from Queens). I think that Feynman has been valued quite correctly (note his Nobel Prize, work on the Challenger Disaster, and work on the atomic bomb - to name just a few). His use of creative mathematics, which in my opinion you have implied is a shortcoming, was in fact one of his strengths, which he admits in several of his popular works.

It would have been better if he had actually shown students how the inverse-square law necessarily results in an elliptic orbit, as advertised. Instead, he gave them a demonstration in public obfuscation. Feynman must have know that the inverse-square law could lead to hyperbolic and parabolic motions of planets , as well as elliptic. It is my opinion that, at the end of his lecture, not one student would have known why the inverse-square law results in an elliptic orbit. This can all be ignored with the assertion that calculus easily proves it, thus implying that anyone who doesn't see the Emperor's New Clothes, has defective perception.

Lestrade 12:56, 4 October 2005 (UTC)Lestrade

I'm unsure what your difficulty with this is. This lecture is known not to accomplish what it set out to accomplish. You're not stating anything new here. Making a generalization on Feynman's (or anyone's) character as a result of one lecture is suspect. Archimedes sought to calculate the number of grains of sand that would fill the universe in his Sand Reckoner. He got that wrong. In light of Archimedes' accomplishments, that can be overlooked. The situation is the same for Feynman. Have you read the other lectures that were prepared for the undergraduates?
My difficulty is with someone professing to explain an important topic and then not explaining it. Couple this with the convention that we must all pretend that the non-explanation was a great success. It may be lèse majesté to communicate this difficulty because of the general adulation for the speaker. I haven't read other lectures by Feynman. I am not discussing other lectures. Is it bad manners to analyze and dissect this lecture?

Lestrade 18:39, 4 October 2005 (UTC)Lestrade

Not at all, just bear in mind that it has been done. There are numerous documents even on the web dissecting this lecture already. I'm just unsure why you're posting it to an encyclopedia talk page. I'm not sure if I would consider deriving elliptical orbits with Euclidean geometry to be a topic of unsurpassed importance. And as I said before, there are existing critiques on this lecture - no one is pretending the explanation is a great success. I respect Feynman a great deal, but I've wondered in the past if this lecture was "lost" because of its failure to explain the topic - though that feels like tinfoil hat speak to me. It's not bad manners to analyze and dissect this lecture, I just question your choice of venue and motives.
As an addition to my previous comment, I see that there's an entry for the lost lecture which we're discussing - perhaps you should make an addition to the page with criticism and a summary of the problems with his derivations and conclusions. Right now it's just a brief summary of what the lecture is - it could use some fleshing out.

Thanks for the suggestion. I didn't know that Wiki had a page on it. Lestrade 12:15, 5 October 2005 (UTC)Lestrade

Nor did I until yesterday. It's linked in this article, second from the bottom in Books on Physics.

I haven't heard this particular lecture, but I heard Feynman many times in person. The first thing you have to understand is that he was popular because he was inspiring. He could, and would, tackle any problem 15 ways from Sunday, within a single lecture. He would do it while mixing in jokes, and he had great comedic timing. It was effective not only with students in his classes: I heard him give a talk on his current research direction in elementary particle physics, with content that surprised very advanced friends of mine - and he had 200 professors of physics rolling on the floor with laughter. Secondly, because he would think in so many directions at the same time, he could get distracted and go off in a direction other than what he had originally set out to do. Perhaps this is what happened in the case of this "lost lecture". I can report that on one occasion, I brought up a problem about the shape of the string (as a function of time) on a violin, and he attacked it 5 completely different ways in 15 minutes - and then, not having arrived at a final solution, admitted that he had failed to solve it in the time available for the session. It was an outstandingly successful failure: No one else I knew of could have come up with more than 3 such approaches in a day, and everyone was completely blown away with what he brought up. unsigned contribution 22:12, 22 October 2006

Arline or Arlene?

Google gives similar numbers for Arline Greenbaum vs Arlene Greenbaum, but the Arline number may be boosted by Wikipedia itself. In "What do you care what other people think?" Feynman himself calls her Arlene.

Gribben, Mehra, and Gleick all use Arline.

I did some additional digging. The original source materials spell her name "Arline" (source - J.Gleick, private correspondence). _What do you care..._ and _Surely You're Joking_ are transcribed audio histories, which were transcribed from recordings and then reviewed by Feynman - who by nature was not terribly concerned with consistencies of spelling. (source - R.Leighton, private correspondence). I also checked _Perfectly Reasonable Deviations_; the letters there use "Arline". Based on this, I recommend using the spelling "Arline" in this article. -- Danil
I just wrote an explanation into the article because I think this is pretty important (and a source of a lot of confusion). -- Starwiz 18:20, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

In my opinion, the spelling issue is not all that important and the extra explanation excessive. I would just spell it correctly and leave it at that, or insert "(sometimes incorrectly spelled Arlene)". Clarityfiend 07:42, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

Apparently, Feynman tended to use "Arlene," while Arline herself spelled it with an 'i.' I'm quite sure he name was legally "Arline" - it was Feynman that tended to spell it with an 'e.' -zachol 05:40, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

In Don't You Have Time to Think? (Feynman's personal correspondence, Penguin Books 2006; the same as Perfectly Reasonable Deviations..., I believe) Arline is explicitly used, including letters written by Feynman. Could be an editorial decision, though. Or not.


There are a few parts of this article that should be cleaned up so that this article doesn't appear on FARC, since I don't know much about the subject I thought I'd make suggestions here:

  1. Whats up with the references? There are some in text notes and no corresponding reference list. All the works in Works by Feynman have links but are not actaully linked from the text.
  2. Quotes should be moved to Wikiquote and removed, the second link to Wikiquote should be removed too.
  3. The personal life section is bitsy, and short sections need to be merged
  4. The three fair use images shoudl be tagged {{Non-free fair use in}} and fair use rationales need to be provided.

--nixie 10:56, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

I oppose removing the quotations about understanding. They are fundamental knowledge which will not propagate unless they are associated with this article, which is the most accessible article on the web. --Ancheta Wis 01:30, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

I have a big problem with: "his parents were Jewish and attended synagogue every Friday, although they were not ritualistic in their practice of Judaism." Attending a place of worship on a regular designated day is a perfect example of a ritual so the sentence is nonsensical. Did they keep kosher? Did they celebrate Yom Kippur? I think the sentence should cut unless more details are provided. --- matt

Feynman's IQ

Note that his relatively low IQ score as a youth is particularly counterpoised by his Princeton entrance exams, which would be enough to get him into a high IQ society. -- 21:08, 9 Feb 2006 (UTC)

I've never understood that convention, as even though he did exceedingly well in the Princeton exams and in scientific academia in general, his IQ was still approx. 124, barring him from entrance into any high IQ society. In short, I don't know how you can enter a high IQ society lacking the requisite high IQ without admitting to the poor descriptive power of IQ. Anyway, this isn't what I came here for, which is to ask a question: on what test did Feynman score 124? Feynman himself states that it was 'barely above average', which, on the Stanford-Binet scale (SD of 15 or 16, if I remember) is simply not true--it is well above average--; but on the Cattell scale, which has an SD of 24, it is precisely on the brink between high-average and above-average (or whatever silly term that they ascribe to the score), making Feynman's self-evaluation correct.

And it would be wise to note that an IQ of 124 is not low, and promulgating that misinformation is disingenuous--regardless of how many people on the internet claim to have IQs of 140.

The IQ score of 124 is just a single (almost-insignificant) datapoint, based on a test he took once as a child. The "low" score is probably an aberration, especially when put in the context the enormous breadth of his academic achievements. He might not have taken the test seriously, or been sick, or maybe a mistake was made when calculating the score, etc. I'm sure he could have easily scored better, had he wanted to.

Again, it is not a low score, and no dismissive explanation of his IQ is necessary to justify the 'enormous breadth of his academic achievements'. Trying to explain the score away with baseless claims about his state on the day of the test is a ridiculous attempt to make his achievements consonant with what lay-psychologists expect of a person with his IQ. As is often the case, IQ has shown itself to be a rather poor indicator of academic performance. I have never seen such a crude and temporary measure of intelligence defended so irrationally.

Did you ever consider that Feynman's unmatched interest, great creativity and profound dedication to science might have been the reason that he was so successful? His IQ may very well have been 124, but that is only a measurement of a very parochial set of characteristics--characteristics which become rather unimportant beyond a certain threshold. And besides--like I said--an IQ of 124 is considered high (assuming an SD of 15-16) and more than enough to be able to understand highly complex physical principles.

Moreover, it has still not been clarified as to what SD his IQ test used. BCAB 10:25, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

I think that the discussion above completely ignores the fact that IQ tests, in those days, largely focussed on verbal ability, including vocabulary. The fact that his verbal ability was merely above average is concordant with all other accounts of his ability. In mathematical ability he was clearly exceptional, winning the Putnam and numerous high school competitions, and in his later academic work. This remains only a small part of the IQ score, which is one of the reasons IQ is not a very good measure of anything. Danielfong 17:33, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

I think people's evaluation of his score is pointless until the IQ test that he took is evidenced. That's been my entire point: 124, fine--but on what scale? (The scale usually indicates the test.) And I understand your point, Danielfong, but a vague reference to IQ tests 'in those days' being 'focussed [sic] on verbal ability' doesn't satisfy. You may very well be right, but evidence is needed to make it a legitimate point. Until then, this is all just so much hand-waving.

BCAB 02:23, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

I have no direct evidence, and I'm not trying desperately to convince anyone, but AFAIK the only IQ test in use by psychologists for schools at that times was the Stanford LM, which you may obtain from university libraries to verify it's verbal bias. The scale would be a ratio IQ, which is not normed on a gaussian curve. Danielfong 23:42, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

I was not defending IQ testing. I felt that people were attempting to draw rather strong conclusions (about Feynman and about IQ tests) from statistically so little data. I wasn't trying to making excuses for Feynman's score or IQ testing in general; rather, I was pointing out that there are many variables and unknowns (including the exact nature or scale of the test, as many have pointed out). As for whether Feynman could do better on an IQ test if he had wanted to--fine, I'll retract that claim. Consider it just speculation on my part. User:AC 01:31, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

Psychometric testing is not a valid measure of one's intellect. A Putnam Fellow who repeatedly wins mathematics competitions and scores perfect on the GRE, which is comparable to an IQ test itself, not to mention Feynman's prolific scientific accomplishments, does not have a mere mental capacity represented by an IQ of 125. This single test is an anomaly in a long list of genius-level academic achievements. -- 23:40, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

The relationship between 'intelligence' and IQ is far more complicated, although IQ is one (bit over-rated) valid protocol for measuring intelligence. Generally it is, blindly assumed, by psychologists and layman, that the score somehow (under no theoretical basis) gives us an indication of the creative powers that are necessary to attack, deep, multifaceted problems which matter in the real-world. In fact, such problems (problems with unknown algorithms) on a number of other factors, a few of which are 'emotional' qualities, as well as Executive Functions (a suite of skills related to the development of the prefrontal cortex). What is immediately striking about Feynman's character, is his unusual level of enthusiasm and motivation towards scientific topics. We are certainly a ways from understanding human genius, in it's entirety.

Manhattan Project

The sections states that:

they did not "do the physics right"

Does anyone know what that means, or what it's referring to? FireWorks 02:45, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

He never told us. But his (un-used) solution involved the inverse half derivative where . To his classes, it was an aside to an entertaining problem: "What is one-half factorial?", which was part of the question "What are the eigenfunctions for ?". His entire agenda was to get us to play with things, to conduct research. --Ancheta Wis 10:17, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
So, I guess my question is, who is "they", and who said that they didn't "do the physics right", and whose solution was used? If that sentence is staying in the article, then these should be clarified. FireWorks 02:54, 25 February 2006 (UTC)
"They" would have been in the Theoretical divison (T). (Feynman was in the Computation section T-6 of division T; he was the one who said they did not "do the physics right".) The Project had equations to be solved on blackboards. Stan Ulam in his autobiography mentions being terrified by those equations, as he was expected to solve them, being a mathematician (Ulam had a collaborator for his own computations -- C.J. Everett from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who wore out his slide rule doing computations). But to repeat, Feynman's solution was unused in the Project; Feynman was a junior physicist at the time, and was not responsible for formulating the incorrect differential equation. --Ancheta Wis 03:18, 25 February 2006 (UTC)


"Feynman said he felt just as much respect for Bohr's reputation as anyone else, but that once anyone got him talking about physics, he couldn't help but forget about mere social considerations and just openly try to figure out how the physics worked."

I removed the words "mere" and "just openly" because it seemed kind of obviously POV and there was no citation indicating it was a quote. so the paragraph reads

"Feynman said he felt just as much respect for Bohr's reputation as anyone else, but that once anyone got him talking about physics, he couldn't help but forget about social considerations and try to figure out how the physics worked."

...which I still think should be sourced by author. In fact, a lot of things need to be sourced, but this one, just for starters. --Jentizzle 11:59, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

OK, I found it. The story's on page 116 of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!". Bohr's son Aage is the one who told Feynman afterwards. He also did the same thing with Hans Bethe. The clearest quote is actually from the Bethe anecdote, on page 95: You see, when I hear about physics, I just think about physics, and I don't know who I'm talking to, so I say dopey things like "no, no, you're wrong," or "you're crazy." I'm too new at this to know how to add the reference though. Clarityfiend 07:33, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

Arlene's illness

The article says that Arlene had tubercolosis.

This is quite an important point, not just a biographical detail. Richard himself describes it in one of his books, but I've forgotten which, and I've also forgotten the details. Perhaps somebody will correct the article?

Arlene was initially misdiagosed (tubercolosis???), or could not be diagnosed. Richard spent time with medical books and worked out correctly what she had (Hodgkins disease?) while the doctors were still floundering. Richard says in his book that that is where he got his lifelong distrust for what the experts say. 00:31, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for the note. I see that the article has been corrected to note that she was diagnosed with tuberculosis (not that she actually had it).

Actually you've got it reversed. In fact, the misdiagnosis was Hodgkins disease. The illness was tubercolosis. This is clear from the biographies. 21:44, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Partons versus quarks

The newest addition attributes quarks to Feynman. I would like to revise the sentence to either say partons or omit quarks altogether. --Ancheta Wis 09:55, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

omit Trödel 12:46, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

Stylistic Problems with this article

Maybe I'm crazy, but this article reads to me like a biography or an obituary, not an encylopedia entry.

For example: at the end of the Biography section: "His habit of direct characterization would sometimes disconcert more conventional thinkers; for example, one of his questions when learning feline anatomy was: "Do you have a map of the cat?" (referring to a zoological chart). When he spoke, it was with clarity."

Or in the Manhattan Project section: "Feynman was also sought out by the famous physicist Niels Bohr for one-on-one discussions. He later found out why. Most physicists were too much in awe of Bohr to argue with him, but Feynman had no such inhibitions, vigorously pointing out anything he considered to be flawed in his thinking."

It reads like a story, not an encylopedia entry.

Maybe it's just me, and Lord knows I couldn't do better. Just had to say something.

Maybe I’m crazy, but “this article reads to me like a biography,” followed by an example “at the end of the Biography section” is pretty funny. — Daniel Brockman 20:57, 26 March 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough, and I thought about that when I wrote it. But I assume you know what I mean. — Antar 15:53, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
I think this article is one of the better examples of how encyclopedia entries can be encyclopedic yet far more readable and lucid than your average encyclopedia article. enochlau (talk) 21:34, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

I would like too see this article to remain slightly unconventional because this is how Richard was, unconventional and disliking authority. I hope he will approve from wherever he is now. (Forgive me if I do not follow conventions myself in this posting)

I sympathize but do not agree, because that's not how Wikipedia is. This is an encyclopedia after all, not a fan site. Naphra 10:46, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

Grammatical error?

"Interestingly, Feynman once borrowed the car of physicist Klaus Fuchs in order to visit his sick wife, who was later discovered to actually be a spy." So his wife was later discovered to actually be a spy? News to me. JaWiB 03:59, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

I think adding a comma, to make it "Interestingly, Feynman once borrowed the car of physicist Klaus Fuchs, in order to visit his sick wife, who was later discovered to actually be a spy." would've made it correct. Current version is fine, though. -zachol 05:44, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

Better to place parenthesis around "who was later discovered to actually be a spy" and position the phrase after "Klaus Fuchs".

Precise dates

I notice that there are not many precise dates for parts of his life like "The Caltech years" or "Later years". In fact I don't seem to be able to find out when he was signed up to the Manhattan project, when he started teaching at Caltech etc. Could someone who knows these dates add them, possible in the subheadings: ==The Caltech Years (1900-2020)== etc Stevage 10:05, 7 April 2006 (UTC)

Somebody else will have to do clean up, but here is some raw data -- Danil

  • Feynman left Princeton for Los Alamos 28 March 1943 (Mehra)
  • Feynman arrived at Cornell beginning of November 1945 (Mehra)
  • Feynman joins Caltech autumn of 1950 (Mehra)
  • Rio sabbatical 1951-1952 Academic year (Mehra)

Error about Caltech

"Feynman did much of his best work while at Caltech, including research in:

  • Quantum electrodynamics. The theory for which Feynman won his Nobel Prize is known for its extremely accurate predictions[citation needed],[2]. He helped develop a functional integral formulation of quantum mechanics, in which every possible path from one state to the next is considered, the final path being a sum over the possibilities.[3]


Feynman QED work was published before he left Cornell for Caltech in 1950. There was one paper in 1951 on the operator calculus. Whole story can be found at: 'Feynman and the visualization of space-time processes.' Silvan S. Schweber. Reviews of Modern Physics, v58(2), p449, April 1986.

Could someone write a separate section on his QED work? It shouldn't be in the Caltech section. It's unarguably his most important work, and the story of its development is interesting on its own. The roles of Schwinger, Tomonaga, and Dyson can be referenced. 22:03, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Map of the Cat == zoological chart?

From the article:

for example, one of his questions when learning feline anatomy was: "Do you have a map of the cat?" (referring to a zoological chart).

In Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, part 2, it says that Feynman wanted to look for the map because he didn't know about the positions of the muscles relative to the nerves and the cat. It was the librarian who said "You mean a zoological chart!".

However, searching for zoological chart on search engines gives me taxonomy charts, not anatomy charts, so I'm getting the impression that the librarian was wrong to assume to that a map of the cat was a zoological chart. Maybe the article should be changed to mention "anatomy chart" or some other relevant term instead? --KJ 03:08, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

Edited to mention "anatomical chart." --KJ 00:12, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

It's more likely that Feynman himself erred when he mentioned the chart. He simply just made a mistake when retelling the story.


I think it may be wise for the quotes on Feynman's page to be taken down since there is a Wikiquote to house all of his man's great quotes. Please decide if we should or not.--Shawn 04:36, 14 May 2006 (UTC)

I took the quotes off but put them as a just in case:


  • "Dear Mrs. Chown, Ignore your son's attempts to teach you physics. Physics isn't the most important thing. Love is. Best wishes, Richard Feynman."
  • "Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation."
  • "Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."
  • "Mathematics is not real, but it feels real. Where is this place?"
  • "The same equations have the same solutions." (Thus when you have solved a mathematical problem, you can re-use the solution in another physical situation. Feynman was skilled in transforming a problem into one that he could solve.)
  • "When you are solving a problem, don't worry. Now, after you have solved the problem, then that's the time to worry."
  • "The wonderful thing about science is that it's alive."
  • "All fundamental processes are reversible."
  • "What does it mean, to understand? ... I don't know."
  • "What I cannot create, I do not understand." (Taken from his chalkboard after his death.)
  • "Know how to solve every problem that has ever been solved." (Taken from his chalkboard after his death.)
  • "But I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose—which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn't frighten me."
  • "To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature ... If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in."
  • "I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there's no real problem, but I'm not sure there's no real problem." (about Quantum Mechanics)
  • "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring" (last words).

-- 00:57, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

I don't recall the exact quote on the futility of Biblical religions orthodoxy: "The stage has become so vast to contain the drama". It's somewhere in the preface of his letters, 2005 or 2006, edited by the daughter Michelle and quoted by a colleague. The exact phrasing ? Bardon Dornal 12:52, 22 May 2006 (UTC)
  • "English is a lousy language." -- an offhand comment in class, one day. --Ancheta Wis 10:17, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Shouldn't there be references for these quotes? (Cj67 17:21, 17 June 2006 (UTC))

public-domain photo

Currently, the article is using a copyrighted color photo of Feynman under fair use in the lead. I believe the famous photo of Feynman playing the bongos is actually public domain, and therefore might be more appropriate for wp. A copy of the photo is here: . The BNL page gives a photo credit to Tom Harvey, but I think that's incorrect; the book Feynman's Tips on Physics, Addison-Wesley, 2006, uses it on the cover, and states that the photographer is unknown, and that the photo is from ca 1962. I'm sure AW (which is continuing to make money on Feynman's stuff) would love nothing better than to be able to show the photo was copyrighted, and I'm sure they did a routine copyright search on the photo before using it on the cover. Works published in the US before 1964 had to have their copyrights renewed after 28 years, or they expired, and since I assume AW did a copyright search, it sounds like the photo's copyright was not renewed. (Searching for copyright renewals of photos is pretty difficult.) In any case, the legal aspects of the bongo photo seem much safer than the legal aspects of the color one, so I'm going to go ahead and replace it.-- 22:48, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

The photo of Feynman playing the bongos that appears on the cover of "Feynman's Tips on Physics" was a present from Richard Feynman to Ralph Leighton. The original print hangs in Leighton's office. It is reproduced in "Feynman's Tips on Physics" by courtesy of Leighton, as stated on the copyrights page of the book. Regardless of the photo's legal status, permission should be sought to reproduce it as a courtesy to Leighton. Ralph Leighton can be contacted through the Feynman Lectures website: Michael A. Gottlieb (co-author,"Feynman's Tips on Physics") 2 June, 2006

I disagree that it's discourteous not to ask permission from Leighton. It's the same situation as reproducing a Van Gogh painting without permission from the current owner of the original canvas who has it hanging over his couch. If we knew who the original photographer was, it would be courteous to credit him or her.-- 22:54, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
Side Issue- Does anyone else find it ironic that Feynman's wikipedia entry is headed by a picture of him playing the bongos, while he himself refused to allow Encyclopedia Britannica to use this photo in their article on him? (This is from Gleick) Iluvcapra 23:56, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
See #Drum image. —Keenan Pepper 15:30, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Good article

I would like to promote this article to Good article status. It's a great and interesting text, even though there is large room for Peer review to do something with this and even make it a featured article. However, before any of that, we have to solve issues with these images:

Sverdrup❞ 23:44, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

  • I tried to take care of this. Nick Mks 18:19, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
  • I was not satisfied with Image:Nobel feynman.jpg being used here. It is a copyrighted image to the Nobel Prize Association, it is not a promotional image, and there are free alternatives available. So that means it doesn't qualify for fair use here. For some other fair use images I have added fair use rationales on the image pages. I think those are very valid.--Konstable 13:44, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Promoted - I am promoting this article to GA status.--Konstable 13:44, 15 June 2006 (UTC)


The link to the "subj based clips" of the Finding thinhgs out video seems to be broken. Are they no longer hosting the video? Can the link be removed? -- 03:00, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Feynman's invented notation

It would be a great idea if someone could add examples of what Feynman's ideosyncratic notation looked like. I've read that he thought sinx was amiguous, so he must have created something of his own. -- 19:14, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

He learned the concept from his father, who taught him that ideas transcend words and notation. This is clearly stated in the Ralph Leighton books. (Others using the same concept include Robert Lee Moore, where independent derivation of mathematical concepts was nurtured by decades of teaching, based on the axiomatic method, and then developing the concepts in a collegial atmosphere, in a remote school, the University of Texas. Thus the Texas students, instead of arcsin(x) might be given the notation Q(x) so that they couldn't even cheat by looking up something from a book. ) But back to your request; Feynman would sometimes write exponents as subscripts rather than superscripts; for example some number in a table, like Avogadro's number might have been written ; it was perfectly understandable to read from the blackboards; other examples, which are documented in the Feynman lectures in Physics, are the use of Blackboard bold to denote vectors, rather than the vinculum over a symbol. Another was a high-school question of his which was to find an expression for the half-derivative such that
where D is the derivative, an operator (rather than a function or a number)

He learned this habit of mind in high school (to use an independent notation), which he attempted to impart to his students with ideosyncratic notation, merely trying to free their minds from the grip of authority. This notation was shorthand, of course, for something to be applied consistently, as in any mathematical notation. --Ancheta Wis 01:23, 28 June 2006 (UTC)


pronounced FINE-man; /ˈfaɪnmən/ in IPA)

Hi, I reverted FINE-min to FINE-man. I think FINE-man is better because "-man" has a schwa in fireman and policeman, akin to Feynman. (Most unstressed syllables in English have a schwa, regardless of the spelling.) --Kjoonlee 02:20, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

Drum image

Feynman says very clearly in WDYCWOPT that he hated being associated with that picture of him drumming. Does anyone know of another image we could lead with? Perhaps one made on the occasion of the Nobel Prize? Gazpacho

Come to think of it, that might have been in Gleick's biography instead. Gazpacho 17:22, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
That's not quite it, as I remember (and my memory is good). He was contacted by some (Swedish?) encylopedia who wanted to use the picture to (roughly speaking) show that theoretical physicists were actual human beings and that's what he didn't like -- pandering to some prejudice about scientists as inhuman calculating machines -- and so he refused permission to use the picture, ending his reply letter with "... I am human enough to tell you to go to hell." It wasn't the picture itself he disliked. 01:24, 18 August 2006 (UTC)
True, nevertheless, there's a point to it, and the same prejudice is being pandered here; Feynman the physicist was human enough, why try to "humanize" him any more, as if that was necessary? Him being a bongo-player wasn't exactly a defining characteristic anyway (Einstein isn't shown playing his violin either). Naphra 10:32, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

About his religion

Was he really atheist? I've listened to him speaking about God in some of his lectures about physics.

Yes, he says in either SYJ or WDYCWOPT that by a certain age he was a committed atheist. Gazpacho 17:23, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Incorrect Quotation

Feynman did not say "computer models are a disease" ... this is an untrue statement from one of Michael Crichton's books that has been repeated all over the net ... what Fenyman said was: "There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you 'play' with them! "

Javaman, the "computer models" misquotation does not appear in the article. I can vouch for your statement about "play", and how Nick Metropolis had fallen under its spell, as well. So from the pov of the article, we need do nothing. --Ancheta Wis 20:34, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Regular pot smoker?

I read in many places that Feynman was a regular pot smoker. Dr Lester Grinspoon comented in his book "Marijuana Reconsidered" that Feynman acknowledged his ongoing user of cannabis. Though, the only true source i've found (Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman) only describes one marijuana experience, at John Lilly's sensory deprivation tanks.

Any ideas, with sources or citations, that confirm that he was a regular pot smoker, as Carl Sagan was?

I thought Feynman stopped drinking because he noticed he wasn't his former self. (Can't cite sources, though.) I doubt you'll find anything saying he smoked regularly. --Kjoonlee 03:06, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
In Surely You're Joking, he says he stopped drinking because he was afraid of becoming an alcoholic, since he once wanted to drink while there was no social reason to do so. In the 'Altered States' chapter, he says that when he smoked pot, hallucinations came quickly in John Lilly's sensory deprivation tanks. Steiger 23:27, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Skepticism About Superstrings

I've been struggling through two recently-published books critical of string/superstring theory. Both of them quote comments Feynman made shortly before his death. Apparently, his anti-string comments are well known, an irritant to some and a rallying point for others. Shouldn't they be included here? Or maybe they have been but I missed it? --Christofurio 23:16, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Really Left-Handed?

The article says that Feynman was left-handed, although it seems that he preferred to write on a blackboard using his right hand. See the videos from the University of Auckland, hosted by Vega corporation, UK. Link is in the references.

Was he really so 'nice'

I'm not talking about his scientific merit, but some of his students claimed he was rather bad teacher, he didn't care much preparing the classes and wrote the 'Lectures on Physics' but as a teacher he was not considered to be very 'nice', in the sense he didn't want to explain things to his students is that true ?? -- 15:46, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Some evidence that he was a nice teacher: Most of the Good Stuff (specifically, the young woman explaining that she put up with his sexism because he was the only person who had explained quantum mechanics to her as though she should be able to understand it); the black board post mortem of Feynman's Lost Lecture, where you can listen to Feynman answering students' questions.

There is documented evidence that he may not have been a particularly good [i]advisor[/i]; I think Gleick addressed this in his biography. Danil Suits 20:38, 14 May 2007 (UTC)


Please, get rid of this hideous thing. Wikipedia has a standard page layout that should not be changed arbitrarily; it is designed the way it is for good reasons. The standard space after a lead section emphasizes how the page is structured and saves the reader from immediately getting overwhelmed by too much text. Some special pages perhaps require a nonstandard layout, but I see no reason here. Fredrik Johansson 13:44, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

GA Re-Review and In-line citations

Note: This article has a small number of in-line citations for an article of its size and currently would not pass criteria 2b.
Members of the Wikipedia:WikiProject Good articles are in the process of doing a re-review of current Good Article listings to ensure compliance with the standards of the Good Article Criteria. (Discussion of the changes and re-review can be found here). A significant change to the GA criteria is the mandatory use of some sort of in-line citation (In accordance to WP:CITE) to be used in order for an article to pass the verification and reference criteria. It is recommended that the article's editors take a look at the inclusion of in-line citations as well as how the article stacks up against the rest of the Good Article criteria. GA reviewers will give you at least a week's time from the date of this notice to work on the in-line citations before doing a full re-review and deciding if the article still merits being considered a Good Article or would need to be de-listed. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us on the Good Article project talk page or you may contact me personally. On behalf of the Good Articles Project, I want to thank you for all the time and effort that you have put into working on this article and improving the overall quality of the Wikipedia project. Agne 01:26, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Somewhere in this article it says Feynman had a "gentle wit". His wit could be decidedly ungentle, if he thought you were fooling yourself. I think there were many postdocs who gave talks at CalTech who could testify to that point! At least, this should be taken out. unsigned contribution 21:58, 22 October 2006

Elided 'gentle'. So that says perhaps the interviewer caught him in a gentle phase?<wink>. --Ancheta Wis 22:19, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

Books by and on Feynman

Is there a particular reason these books are not listed in the section Popular works by and about Feynman:

  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (contributor), Edward Hutchings (editor), W W Norton, 1984, ISBN 0-393-01921-7
  • What Do You Care What Other People Think?, Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (contributor), W W Norton, 1988, ISBN 0-553-17334-0
  • The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist, Richard Feynman, Perseus Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0738201669.
  • Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters Of Richard P. Feynman, Richard Feynman, Michelle Feynman, Basic Books, 2005 ISBN 0738206369
  • The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman, edited by Jeffrey Robbins, Perseus Books, 1999, ISBN 0738201081.
  • Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, James Gleick, Pantheon, 1992, ISBN 0679747044
  • QED and the Men Who Made It: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga (Princeton Series in Physics), Silvan S. Schweber, Princeton University Press, 1994, ISBN 0691036853.
  • Richard Feynman: A Life in Science, John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin, Dutton Adult, 1997, ISBN 052594124X.
  • Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life, Leonard Mlodinow, Warner Books, 2003, ISBN 0-446-69251-4

I realize that the first two are included in the omnibus Classic Feynman, but IMO it may be better to list them under the original titles. Since I am new to this page, I would like to confirm that there is no logical reason for excluding these titles - before I add them. Abecedare 04:40, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

The book

is also about Feynman. May be it can be also mentioned. Miraceti 12:21, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

High School Math Championship: What is this exactly?

It is stated in the article that during his last year of high school Feynman won the "New York University Math Championship". A Google search of “New York University Math Championship” only revealed references to Feynman but did not provide any information about the championship itself. Similarly, a search of the New York University home page did not reveal any references to this “math championship”.

And then I came across this reader’s letter to the New York Times:

To quote the letter: "...I was his friend, classmate and teammate on the Far Rockaway High School math team. When we competed in the Pi Mu Epsilon contest held at Columbia University, Richard came out first"

It seems clear that the high school competition in question is actually a Pi Mu Epsilon contest, held at Columbia University (not New York University), and therefore the Wikipedia entry is erroneous. Or are there several different contests? The Pi Mu Epsilon is a Honorary National Mathematics Society (website:

It would be great if more people could do more research to confirm this. Perhaps someone can make a quick call to James Gleick? Thanks. 07:06, 19 December 2006 (UTC)Winang

In Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, he mentions that he entered lots of math competitions, first as a team member, and later on as leader. --Kjoonlee 12:08, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

There is no doubt that Feynman entered a lot of math competitions, but I was just wondering whether there is such a thing as a "New York University Math Championship"; and what is the significance of this championship? (Why was it important?) Was this mentioned specifically in the Gleick biography or other sources? Because there seems to be no mention of it anywhere on the internet. 03:46, 30 January 2007 (UTC)Winang

Well, maybe not "anywhere on the internet" if you exclude google book search. This book says it. But that doesn't necessarily make it correct. The contest that I was familiar with was national, run by Mu Alpha Theta; I would have won at my school if my little brother hadn't been there. Dicklyon 03:53, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
This proves my point, anywhere there is any mention of "New York University Math Championship", it is always in connection to Richard Feynman. So basically this is just a circular reference. If the "New York University Math Championship" is real, it should be mentioned somewhere, independent of Feynman. I think this is just an error, and the actual competition is the aforementioned Columbia University competition. OK, is there any reader out there who has a connection with New York University and can check their historical records? Winang 15:57, 3 April 2007 (UTC)Winang
I don't think it proves your point at all and IMHO it's entirely possible that Feynman competed in both a NYU championship and a CU competition, as well as a national contest. --Kjoonlee 17:59, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

How long till it can be featured?

I think this article is going really well, it should be featured —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 01:41, 24 December 2006 (UTC).

Member of RNA Tie Club

Richard Feynman was a member of RNA Tie Club. It was not related to physics but I feel it can be interesting to note that he was interested also in genetics. Miraceti 12:25, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Good point. I've started the RNA Tie Club article (maybe re-started it?). What were Feynman's contributions during/to the club? --Ojganesh (talk) 20:44, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Cancer and Death

Not much mention about his cancer and death, or how he dealt with it. ~ Rollo44 09:40, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

I am confused by that as well. Seems like a gross oversight. Evil Monkey - Hello 23:07, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Lectures on Computation

Should this book be added to the list of publications? Feynman Lectures on Computation --Rajah 19:45, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

"one of the first"

"He was also one of the first scientists to conceive the possibility of quantum computers." First or not? Is 100th out of 101 "one of the first", with the 101st being "one of the second"? "conceive": Publish? Publicly announce? Write in his diary? Communicate with the author through mental telepathy?


Who changed the main photo? The other one was great! Made him seem almost like a real human. DRosenbach (Talk | Contribs) 03:38, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

The one with the bongos had no appropriate license. It was great, though. Dicklyon 04:15, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
Still, there must be something more appropriate to use. is claimed to be PD on the commons, although as such a famous image I'm sure it could pass as fair use. Regardless, it _needs_ to be on this article. Modest Genius talk 23:31, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

Challenger disaster section

Hi, the #Challenger disaster section of the article seems a bit funny to me. I don't have WDYCWOPT with me right now so I can't check, but didn't someone *on* the commission tip him off about the O-rings? Anyway, I think I remember reading that the person mentioned something about cold temperatures off-handedly, saying that he heard it from someone in the air force or something like that. Feynman became very excited and did what the informant had wanted him to do, in retrospect, IIRC.

Also, the book says that Feynman had asked for a glass of ice water, but had to ask for his glass again and again... it turned out the ice water was delayed because the organizers had decided to get *everyone* glasses of ice water and so it took a lot of time; Feynman almost didn't get his chance.

These facts (if my memory is correct) seem to contradict the article. So... what do you say? Is my memory to blame? I've been wrong before (Talk:Gremlin#Publication) but I'm pretty sure this time. --Kjoonlee 23:59, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Yay! Things are moving in the right direction. --Kjoonlee 04:29, 9 June 2007 (UTC)


Why is this article tagged with synesthesia? None of his books mention that... AFAICT. Cite?WolfKeeper 16:19, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

The synesthesia article says "Feynman describes in his autobiography, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, that he had the grapheme → color type." Perhaps we should verify and say something in this article? Dicklyon 18:42, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

I suppose it's plausible. I checked the synesthesia page and after a few hops eventually found the following quote:

"When I see equations, I see the letters in colors – I don't know why. As I'm talking, I see vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde's book, with light-tan j's, slightly violet-bluish n's, and dark brown x's flying around. And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students."

Feynman, Richard. 1988. What Do You Care What Other People Think? New York: Norton. P. 59.


Now I know this sounds like nitpicking, but I find the line "Religion: Atheist" in the infobox somewhat oxymoronic. This has probably been discussed over and over again somewhere, but atheism just isn't a religion; particularly, I'd think, as Feynman understood it. Propose removing, or changing. Naphra 19:33, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

Changed to Religion: None (atheist) 20:05, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

In one of his interviews called something like "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out," Feynman emphasizes that as far as metaphysics (religious theory) is of concern, he is perfectly fine with not knowing. He was always a skeptic, and he never accepted theist religion, nor that of atheism. Therefore, I would classify his metaphysical philosophy as AGNOSTIC.

Unfortunately, your opinion probably isn't notable.WolfKeeper 02:21, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
Here[1] he describes God as invented. That's not agnosticism.WolfKeeper 02:23, 6 July 2007 (UTC)
"In those days, in Far Rockaway, there was a youth center for Jewish kids at the temple... Somebody nominated me for president of the youth center. The elders began getting nervous, because I was an avowed atheist by that time... I thought nature itself was so interesting that I didn't want it distorted like that [by miracle stories]. And so I gradually came to disbelieve the whole religion. (What Do You Care What Other People Think?, 1988, pp25-28.)" [2] That isn't either.WolfKeeper 02:25, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

main pic

It seems the main picture has been changed, but the caption hasn't - The badge ID pic has been moved further down the page. I'm gonna switch the captions, but it was the last change and I'm not sure there was consensus. Anyway, I'm just trying to keep captions matched properly - revert back to the old pic if you all think it's better. Jodamn 01:59, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

I have replaced the unfree book cover image by the badge ID as the main image, as it's a free image. --Abu badali (talk) 21:05, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Mental illness misdiagnosis

I think the Mental illness misdiagnosis section needs to be rewritten. He did belittle the fact, but he also wrote an honest letter to the authorities on why he shouldn't be drafted. --Kjoonlee 04:31, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

Feynman was rejected for the army in 1946 reportly due to mental illness.[citation needed] He got a 4F qualification on the draft. He reportedly heard voices, his grandmother was in asylum and suffered mental breakdown after his wife died. He belittled this fact in his biography Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!'

Deleted from article. Isn't notable enough to be mentioned in his biography as a separate section. --Kjoonlee 04:34, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

And is there a source? Sure there is. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! has all the details. --Kjoonlee 04:35, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
Then why the recent weasel word "reportedly" instead of saying what the source supports? Dicklyon 04:38, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
You'll have to read the book for the full answer, but the short answer is that Feynman wasn't happy with the way the interview was going. He provoked the psychiatrist a little (IMHO) and said that people were looking at him (yes, people in the hospital were looking at the ruckus) and he got stamped as an invalid and avoided the draft. He told stories about this at parties, but then someone said that they worked for the government (uh-oh) so Feynman had to write a letter saying that the test was in error. He said that he couldn't afford to get drafted because he had important scientific work for the government that he need to do. The result was that he didn't get drafted anyway. --Kjoonlee 05:02, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
So it wasn't really mental illness IMHO. He was answering truthfully at all times IMHO. (Especially the bit about hearing voices of his diseased wife, IMHO. They were so much in love; he might have imagined her voice.) --Kjoonlee 05:05, 30 April 2007 (UTC)
IRC I think he said he talked *to* her, he never said she talked back. :-) He said he heard voices when he was falling asleep, but I imagine that that is very common.WolfKeeper 02:30, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

Is a mental illness misdiagnosis as important as the rest of the sections in his biography section? The rest are Education, The Manhattan Project, Early career, The Caltech years, and Personal life.

It just isn't as important, and there's little room for improvement, particularly if it's labeled as "mental illness diagnosis." And he didn't belittle the diagnosis. He belittled the misdiagnosis. --Kjoonlee 20:08, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

First of all, its not MISdiagnosis, its diagnosis. To call it a misdiagnosis you have to have PROOF that it was wrong, and there is no such thing, whilst there is evidence, even admitted in the guys autobiography, that he was 4f. So, it is biased to say that it was misdiagnosis. His metal illness is important topic and it MUST be discussed. Physikalk 16:34, 3 May 2007 (UTC)
Proof or no proof, have you read the book? Does your link support what was written in the article? The answer to both questions is "No," IMHO. Tell me, why is it important? --Kjoonlee 17:27, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

Accessibility of TFLOP

The Feynman Lectures on Physics are perhaps his most accessible work for anyone with an interest in physics

Surely this isn't true at all; i.a. QED and Six Easy Pieces are much more accessible, although much more limited in scope as well. I feel this should be reworded. Naphra 21:40, 13 May 2007 (UTC)

I havent ever commented before, so sorry for not following conventions. Feynman Lecture in Physics is the most well known Physics text book, and acccessible in the sense that more people can read it , understand it , thus access it.

True, but even more people can understand, and thus access, e.g. QED or Six Easy Pieces; they are, if anything, meant for really anyone with an interest in physics, whereas TFLOP, with all the mathematics it contains, just isn't meant for the more general public, no matter how illuminating it can be to an undergrad physics student. I think the above phrase makes it sound as if Feynman never wrote anything for the general public. And "perhaps his most accessible work" is kinda weasel-wordish in any case. Naphra 00:25, 17 May 2007 (UTC)

Lightning fast mental calculation

I took out the claim that Feynman was known for this. I think it's being confused with the story about von Neumann (see here). Feynman was good at mential calculation and estimation, but not as good as Johnny, and it's not what he was known for. Dicklyon 15:36, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Feynman was slower than a skilled man with an abacus when it came to addition. He was faster with cube roots, though. ;) --Kjoonlee 21:43, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Feynman talked about using LSD in his famous 1974 address on cargo cult science

The article currently says: "According to Genius, the James Gleick biography, Richard Feynman experimented with LSD during his professorship at Caltech[citation needed]."

I am not sure what counts as a citation -- but I attended the 1974 graduation ceremony at Caltech where Feynman gave his famous address on Cargo Cult Science. In his talk, Feynman briefly described his personal experience using LSD in isolation tanks with John Lilly (a well known graduate of Caltech). In nearly every "transcript" of Feynman's talk that I have seen, this reference to LSD has been edited out. But it is likely that most of the many hundreds of people who personally heard Feynman that afternoon remember it. 01:09, 4 July 2007 (UTC) Bruce Hantover, BS, Caltech class of 1974

Well, drugs do funny things to one's memory, but I don't recall it, and I was in that graduating class, too. I remember the Cargo Cult Science part quite well, and often bring it up. Dicklyon 23:32, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

Peacock problems

This article has serious problems with peacock terms, WP:V. In particular a lot of the emotional stuff about his family life is inference by his biographers and colleagues which might be appropriate for a dedicated biography but isn't for WP. There should also be a lot less emphasis on his various hobbies because he is not notable for these. I will continue try to clean it up. Zargulon 23:29, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

I moved the tag into the section that I think you're referring to. Let me know if I got it wrong, because having such a tag in an appropriate place is very constructive, but otherwise not so. As to hobbies, I don't find that word in the article, but anyway it doesn't hurt to cover more than what one is noted for. Dicklyon 23:40, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

I removed the peacock tag having fixed some of the most egregious instances. The problems with the "family life" section are more to do with notability.. a large part of it is neither notable in itself nor throws light on what Feynman is notable for, but rather constitutes mildly interesting extemporizing which could be applied to the personal life of just about anyone. Zargulon 23:56, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

In all conscience I don't think you can remove the bongo playing as you have. He isn't a notable :bongo player but he notably did play bongo, and it's mentioned in many of his books, and there are images of him doing that in his physics lecture series. Given that, it should be replaced back in the article. He was fairly widely known as the bongo playing physicist.WolfKeeper 00:01, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I think he verifiably, but not notably, played the bongo. He might have been a good bongo player or he might have been a lousy bongo player who just did it to add to his personality cult. I feel putting it in is milidly insulting to dedicated bongo players, like I feel saying on WP that Paris Hilton plays the piano is insulting to my piano teacher who really plays the piano. If you must put it in, please don't put it in the lead. Zargulon 00:12, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
So let's get this straight, you don't actually know how well or badly he played, but nevertheless it's insulting to bongo players to even mention it? Yeah, right.WolfKeeper 00:50, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
It is unattested how well or badly he played. Zargulon 06:31, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I'll be home in a week. I can get exact information then. I know that he was a good bongo player, but I need to find the page numbers. Until then, keep it in or take it out, but a reference is coming. --Gimme danger 06:38, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
In James Gleick's biography, I remember a great deal of time spent on bongo playing. (He could play 10vs11, ten beats with one hand per eleven with the other, which is a feat few professionals can match.) Feynman is probably as notable for his personality as for his physics, so it's definitely notable. I'm away from home, so I can't provide a page number. --Gimme danger 01:21, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Gimme, I don't feel the 10vs11 makes him a good bongo player.. the person who can play the fastest piano scale in the world is likely to be someone who has played nothing but that particular scale. What would convince me (and wikipedia) is if notable famous bongo players said he was good. Otherwise I really don't see the verifiability or notability. It's also not clear how bongo playing constitutes a notable personality characteristic.. if he was actually interested in bongo playing, well there is nothing notable about doing something one is interested in. Zargulon 06:54, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
True. There's more extensive material in the Gleick biography, 10 vs 11 just sticks out in my mind. I'll check it out when I can. As far as I remember, he basically moved to Brazil for a year so that he could play in clubs. If that's true, I think it's notable enough for a biographical article. --Gimme danger 07:05, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Well, that makes sense. Zargulon 07:16, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
That's pure vandalism.WolfKeeper 00:55, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
That's pure cr*p. Zargulon 06:31, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
This was and is notable in every sense. You could probably get enough material together on it to form its own article, and it would still be notable. Instead you just arbitrarily deleted it. You pull this crap again, I'll just revert the updates entirely, and add warns to your talk page.WolfKeeper
I'm glad you admit that it is cr*p, but I will obey your instruction not to pull it from the page again because I understand from your statement that it is your mission in life to make sure that such cr*p stays on this page that you WP:OWN and I don't want to hurt your fragile feelings. Feel free to vandalize my talk page, my respect for your behavior couldn't get much lower. Zargulon 10:10, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
He's not alone, and your opinions on what is appropriate in a biographic article on a notable person seem to be at odds with the remainder of Wikipedia. I'd like to join Wolfkeeper et al. in requesting you stay out of it. (Speaking of ownership....) —Ryan McDaniel 15:28, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
What makes you think you know what my opinions are on what is appropriate in a biographic article on a notable person? What does "speaking of ownership" mean? Zargulon 16:59, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
What makes you think you know what my opinions are on what is appropriate in a biographic article on a notable person?
Because you've expressed them here, pretty clearly, I think. If what you've expressed here doesn't reflect your opinions about what should be included, could you describe them so we can come to some better understanding?—This is part of a comment by Ryan McDaniel , which got interrupted by the following:
I have expressed my judgement on specific details, meeting largely, although not completely, with disagreement. Feel free to extrapolate that into a caricature of having "opinions completely at odds with the remainder of Wikipedia"..but do you really feel I have forced my opinions on the article? Do you feel it was unreasonable of me to protest at being unconstructively reverted and abused for nothing other than good faith edits? Most of all why would an seemingly perspicacious person like you join in? Zargulon 22:54, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
What does "speaking of ownership" mean?
It means that it's ironic for you to reference WP:OWN when you seem to be dead-set on arguing with everyone else about what belongs, or doesn't, in this article. Sorry, don't take it the wrong way, I don't mean offense—I'm just trying to point out what may not be apparent to you, i.e., a case of the pot calling the kettle black, or, for a perhaps more relevant example, the parable of the mote and the beam. —Ryan McDaniel 19:04, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Congratulations on your effortless command of irony.. but can you try to explain what about my editing behaviour makes you believe that I feel that I own this article? Do you in fact really believe that I feel I own this article?? Zargulon 22:54, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

I've only now noticed this section. Didn't Feynman play bongos for a ballet in San Francisco or New York? I forget which. Playing bongos to choreographed dancing is definitely notable IMHO. --Kjoonlee 16:46, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

His hobbies are an important part of him, because since he was young he took pleasure in meeting new challenges. He learned biology ("Do you have a map of the cat?"), played bongo drums ("Indian Joe"), learned to draw ("Ofey"), played percussion in a samba troop ("No, I can't go to see the samba troop" — he was in it), learned to write Chinese calligraphy ("Big brother also knows how to write"), spoke Cantonese to a Mandarin-speaking Mrs Smith who tried to catch him off guard ("Ugh! I knew this would happen!"), and when he tried to look for an expert on Mayan hieroglyphics he got referred to himself ("There's this physicist.."), and he was expert enough to find that a "new" Mayan codex was actually a fake. I'm sure there are more cases, as Feynman stresses during one of his accounts that "[he] was once more being something that [he] was not". Quotes are not verbatim. --Kjoonlee 16:58, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

I give up. I hope you guys take your illiterate hero-worship somewhere else, this is an encylopedia. Zargulon 17:16, 9 July 2007 (UTC)

Your POV disturbs me. We are merely being descriptive. --Kjoonlee 17:32, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for giving up, Zargulon, as you came here and started taking stuff out without any understanding of the subject. Dicklyon 19:24, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
You're welcome, Dicklyon.. but why do you think that? Zargulon 22:09, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Because of things like the bongo removal. You didn't seem to know much about what Feynman was known for; it would have been more productive to call for citations before jumping to removals. Dicklyon 22:15, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
Why do you think I downsized the bongo story.. do you really think it was a matter of citations? Do you really think the article on Feynman in e.g. the Encyclopedia Britannica would mention his bongo-playing in the lead paragraph ??? Zargulon 22:50, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't put it in the lead paragraph. However, remember that the life of any notable person (which I don't object to biographing if they are dead) is going to contain material which wouldn't be interesting nor includable if the person wasn't notable. So we certainly cannot go by the criterion you proposed above: The problems with the "family life" section are more to do with notability.. a large part of it is neither notable in itself nor throws light on what Feynman is notable for, but rather constitutes mildly interesting extemporizing which could be applied to the personal life of just about anyone. If we went by that, we couldn't include place of birth, date of birth (all shared by thousands of people) or even a photo. Why not a photo? Well, if the person wasn't notable, would a photo of them (i.e., what is otherwise a photo of just some ordinary-looking guy) be "notable in itself?" Or would it "throw light" on what the person was notable for? Not unless they were notable for something that shows up in the personal photo, which isn't very likely with a physicist, is it? You see the point? SBHarris 00:14, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes and I disagree with it, but why are you changing the subject? Zargulon 06:56, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm quoting you. If you disagree, feel free to find fault with my logic. SBHarris 06:59, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Extrapolating from standardized photo/birth date inclusion to a non-standard large speculative family life section.. is called logic?? Why are you changing the subject anyway? Zargulon 07:05, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, logic. Your logic for not including family life details fails, if there are indeed STANDARDIZED photo, birthdate, sex, birthplace, death date, death place, burial place, blah, blah, anything for bios. Since none of these is notable in and of itself, nor throws light on what Feynman is notable for. Thus, logically, you are left either with arguing that the "standardized" information should not be standard here (if we follow your criteria for admissibility of information) or else you have to admit that somewhere your general argument fails. Who do you think sets these "standards," anyway? Do you think creating an infobox makes for a "standard"? No, it just means some Joe Blow created an infobox. There are other different ones, if you want to experiment with them. Now, if you're going to claim I'm changing the subject again, please state what you think the subject is. SBHarris 02:13, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
What makes you think you know what my criteria are? What have infoboxes got to do with it? Do you really think the Encyclopedia Brittannica article on Feynman would contain a sentence like "From his mother, Lucille, he gained the sense of humor that endured throughout his life." in the first paragraph after the table of contents? As for the subject, can you try to explain why "the bongo removal" indicates "lack of understanding of the subject"? Zargulon 07:04, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it would, if it were summarizing What Do You Care What Other People Think?. Its first chapter begins with his father's influence on him, and it ends with "In particular, she had a wonderful sense of humor, and I learned from her that the highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion." --Kjoonlee 07:55, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Do you actually know what the Encylopedia Brittannica is? Do you actually know what an encyclopedia is?? Zargulon 09:06, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Um, yes. See WP:NOT for the idea that Wikipedia is not a paper encylopedia, and this is free of many of the limitations of them. As for electronic encyclopedias, I think you might profit by checking out the electronic Britannica article on Feynman, which was written by Gleick [3] and which has a POV LEAD which should have you sending letters to the editor of Britannica, rather than pestering us here. A quote from a later section: "Feynman's stature among physicists transcended the sum of even his sizable contributions to the field. His bold and colourful personality, unencumbered by false dignity or notions of excessive self-importance, seemed to announce: “Here is an unconventional mind.”" Encyclopedic, you think? Yea or nay? SBHarris 05:36, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
SB, I'm sorry you feel pestered.. are you saying this "POV LEAD" is good or bad? Are you saying that WP:NOT explicitly permits "POV LEADS" on the grounds that WP is not a paper encyclopedia? I seem to have completely missed your point.. was there one? Zargulon 07:10, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
This POV lead is encyclopedic, since I got it from an encyclopedia (in fact, the Britannica). And it's about Feynman. These are facts. Now, it's you who above write: "Do you actually know what the Encylopedia Brittannica is? Do you actually know what an encyclopedia is??" In the context of the aforementioned facts, what exactly was YOUR point in this rhetorical question? Yes, I know what an encyclopedia is. Do you? Yes, I know what the Britannica is. Do you? (If you do, you might spell it correctly-- one t). Now, you know what the Britannica says about Feynman. What do you think that says about encyclopedias in general and the Britannica in particular? Be specific, since we seem to be talking past each other, in this article about Feynman, where you snidely bring up the Britannica and encyclopedias and wonder if we know about them. Yes, we do. So? SBHarris 00:34, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I am sorry that you find my behaviour snide; ironically you seem to be rejoicing in the fact that you have discovered a spelling mistake, and what you call a "POV Lead" in the electronic Britannica. Can you try to explain why you feel this is relevant to any criticisms I have made of this article, let alone any edits I have made? Or are you creating some kind of straw man? Zargulon 09:19, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Are you a troll, or just an idiot that acts like one?WolfKeeper 21:41, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
And as for bongos, "On the infrequent occasions when I have been called upon in a formal place to play the bongo drums, the introducer never seems to find it necessary to mention that I also do theoretical physics." --Kjoonlee 08:05, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
What point are you making with this comment? Zargulon 09:06, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
The point is that Feynman is claiming not to just be a physicist that happens to play bongos, but a reasonable bongo player that people enjoy listening to.WolfKeeper 00:49,
That is a tenuous inference, but you are completely free to a) believe he is making this claim b) believe the claim itself and even c) inflate the significance of his bongo-playing in your own mind; but don't you think that when you edit a WP article, you should observe the standards of evidence and notability, style and weight appropriate for an encyclopedia? Or do you see it as a challenge to revert as many other editors as possible? Zargulon 09:19, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Either you are too stupid to understand what he wrote or you are a troll, or both. In any case, go away you are making no contribution here.WolfKeeper 21:41, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Not peacock problems

Zargulon, it looks like your recent comments border on personal attacks on other editors' judgment. --Kjoonlee 11:29, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

What does the phrase "personal attack on other editors' judgement?" mean, if anything? Zargulon 12:04, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Feynman was notable for playing the bongos, perhaps more so than for being a theoretical physicist. ;) --Kjoonlee 11:31, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Your opinions are fascinating, but do you really think they justify your destructive behavior?. Zargulon 12:04, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Other editors who have opposed your opinions are all familiar with Feynman's life and his accounts as told in his books. I should point out that most of the information on his personal life is in Feynman's own words, with only a few exceptions. Have you read his books? Please answer yes or no. --Kjoonlee 11:39, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Yes. Do you know what an encyclopedia is? Please answer yes or no. Zargulon 12:04, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I do know what an encyclopedia is, and I also know what loaded questions look like. How am I destructive? --Kjoonlee 17:33, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
And I know what begging the question looks like.. if you know what an encylopedia is, you would know that editors are not reliable sources, so did you really have a good reason to ask whether I had read Feynmans' books? Why do you think I believe that you "are" destructive? Zargulon 17:48, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't agree about editors, so read my comments below. Hey, you said I had destructive behaviour. --Kjoonlee 17:53, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Behavior is not the same thing. I don't have any reason to believe that you are destructive. Zargulon 18:30, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Now you're just nitpicking. --Kjoonlee 20:56, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Have you specifically read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?? If so, how did you fail to notice that almost all info on his personal life came from his own words? --Kjoonlee 17:38, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
What makes you think I failed to notice that? Zargulon 17:48, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
You're just being nasty and you know it. Reread your first sentence in the section above and you say his biographical info is just inference.--Kjoonlee 17:53, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry you feel I'm being nasty.. I feel the same way about your unjustified and destructive reverts. I am also absolutely sure that no-one who has any experience with wikipedia believes that a wikipedia editor can ever be a reliable source. Rather, things must be referenced to external sources to be reliably sourced. This is a long-standing fact of Wikipedia policy and rightly so. As for Feynman's autobiographical work, well.. Jesus said about himself "I am the way, the truth and the light".. why don't you go to the Jesus wikipedia page and write "Jesus was the way, the truth and the light"? Not. Don't you see the absurd consequences of your viewpoint? Zargulon 18:30, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Do you have any diffs of me being destructive? --Kjoonlee 18:47, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
This was counterproductive (apart from the reference): the ones that followed it were also bad. Zargulon 18:53, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
It's all in the reference. So it's not counterproductive at all. ;) Besides, my following edits were cleanup-related. So cleanup is counterproductive now? --Kjoonlee 20:52, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
My edit which you reverted was a cleanup edit, and my edit was, as you correctly point out very far from counterproductive. You on, the other hand, reverted that cleanup edit.. why on earth did you do this?? Zargulon 21:24, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Cleanup != Deletion of valid content. --Kjoonlee 22:09, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Valid? Content?? Zargulon 22:50, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Sure! Valid content. In case you disagree, say so, instead of being nasty. But tell me, how are my following edits bad? Cite diffs and comment, please. --Kjoonlee 05:21, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry you still feel I am being nasty.. again maybe you should take a look at your own behavior. Why did you cite links which proved that you were wrong? Zargulon 07:10, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
To jump in here, there's a bit of a difference between the Jesus quote and material in a Feynman biography originally sourced from the man himself. In the first place, in the case of Feynman, there's a clear, traceable chain from the information source to Wikipeda. E.g., Feynman knew what his childhood was like, Feynman told the biography author, the biography author wrote it down and published it, and then someone cited that bio here on WP. Unless we believe that Feynman just made it up, or that the author just made it up, it's creditable information—and if we start calling published sources into doubt without some good reasons for doing so, we should probably remove a great deal of the content of Wikipedia. Second, what we're talking about is Feynman relating information about his life, childhood, etc., not making supernatural claims about himself—in that case, I think you'd be right to show some skepticism. While we're at it, Zargulon, could you follow standard indentation? It makes following conversations much easier. Thanks, Ryan McDaniel 19:04, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure you came in at the best moment.. Kjoonlee was just about to explain his reverts. Anyway I'm happy to follow any reasonable indentation scheme or to have my edits tidied by someone who knows about standard indentation (which I dont). First point.. perhaps you can think of more modern analogies where people have a vested material or psychological interest in creating their persona.. Paris Hilton? Saddam Hussein? Feynman? in any case, Feynman's autobiographical works are works of entertainment, not history. That means the criteria for emphasis and the criteria for objectivity are completely different from what is acceptable in Wikipedia. Zargulon 19:32, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Feynman's autobiographical works are works of entertainment, not history: Point conceded, but I don't think that makes the incidental history listed in them less trustworthy. Thus, if in a humorous auto-bio Feynman happened to say that he got his interest in physics from his father, I think that's (1) notable, and (2) from a creditable source, regardless of the intent of the book. I'm willing to debate what might be notable, but I think that's a somewhat separate discussion. (On a sidenote, I've reformmatted your reply above to give an example of indentation: this should also make it easier for Kjoonlee to put his response in the appropriate place. Basically, reply with one more ":" than the post you're replying to. Does that help?) —Ryan McDaniel 19:40, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
You are begging the question. By definition, it doesn't make what history is in it less trustworthy, but it sure makes the statements less historical. That source is notable for its entertainment value, which punters have voted with their book-buying dollars. As for its historical value, well there are holocaust denial papers with better peer review, so thank God that stuff isn't entertaining. As far as I know, normal WP practice is to say 'according to <his autobiography> F got his interest in physics from his father', if you think that his claims about where he got his interest in physics is notable. As for his mother and sense of humour, that is way under the radar for me. Zargulon 19:52, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I disagree that it's begging the question, and I'm not sure I follow your reasoning on why it's less historical. However, to bring this conversation back to the article at hand, can we talk about an example? Feynman is a notable person (seems obvious). Notable things about him include his achievements in physics (and other sciences), and his personality (very notable among those who knew him and still a part of the Caltech culture). Feynman attributes his interest in science (in part) to his father, his personality (in part) to his mother, thus helping to explain some of the notable things about him. Especially with citations, that sounds to me like something that can (and I would argue, should) be included in the article. How does that sit with you? —Ryan McDaniel 20:19, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
"Notable among those who knew him" does not imply "notable", very far from it.. surely you must see this. I am amenable to his father-interest-in-physics claim being in the article (after all, it is related to his being a physicist, which is what he is notable for) provided it is presented as his claim and not as a fact. As for a lot of the other stuff, I think the problem is that people here are very familiar with his books and using their contents too uncritically on Feynman's WP page. However Feynman is certainly notable as an author and many of his books certainly are notable enough for WP pages in their own right.. my preferred compromise would be that the people on this page who love his books spend relatively more time on the book pages and less time on the Feynman page. Zargulon 20:31, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
If it's specifically about the books, I agree with moving it to a separate page. However, I really do think that Feynman's personality was a notable aspect of his life. It set him apart from his peers and it has continued to shape the culture at Caltech. Assuming that we can agree that his personality was notable, how would you go about including it in this article? —Ryan McDaniel 21:05, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I think he was notable as an author (that should probably go in the lead on this page); the eccentric/humorous character he created in those books for himself, whether or not it was true to life, is notable within the context of those books and should be discussed on the WP pages for the individual books or a combined WP "Richard Feynman's autobiographies/literary works" page, and get a single-phrase mention in the part of this page that discusses his books. His influence on Caltech culture is fine for this page but must be sourced properly and should be given a paragraph on the page in a location which reflects the non-notability of Caltech culture relative to physics and authorship, i.e. right at the bottom. Zargulon 21:21, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Except that it wasn't just an "eccentric/humorous character he created in those books for himself", it was just how he was. Pranks at Los Alamos (and at Caltech). Working out of a topless bar. Being, in general, kind of a wacky guy. I agree that it shouldn't take any place of prominence in the article, but I think it's notable with respect to more than just his books or his time at Caltech. I haven't really got time to continue this thread for now, but I think it might be productive for us to carry on later. Fair? (And pax?) — Ryan McDaniel 21:35, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Pax. Zargulon 21:38, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

"the bit on teaching"

Kjoonlee, I'm not sure the bit on teaching should be condensed into one phrase. What would be the motivation? —Ryan McDaniel 18:51, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Well, "inspirational" seems a bit POV. We need something to replace it. --Kjoonlee 20:53, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
Or cite it—I'd be willing to bet we can find at least one physicist who's verifiably said they were inspired by Feynman. I just wasn't sure what you meant by the "one phrase" part. —Ryan McDaniel 20:56, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
If we cite it it should be something like "so-and-so physicist thinks Feynman was inspirational" not "was inspirational (ref: because so-and-so physicist says so)". And I'm not sure if that will fit into the current bit... --Kjoonlee 21:00, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
That's fair (unless, of course, we can find something that says "90% of physicists cite Feynman as an inspiration", but I'm not holding my breath...). On the other hand, what are WP's policies on generalizing? I.e., if "several" "prominent" physicists cite Feynman as an inspiration, for some definition of "several" and "prominent", is it okay to say that he was inspirational? (Honestly asking here, I don't know.) —Ryan McDaniel 21:09, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
The reason you don't know, is the question doesn't have an answer and never will. Suppose you actually (by some miracle) had a published and citable poll (from a "reputable source") that 90% of physicists thought Feynman was the bee's knees. But that's just one poll. It's one guy's claim, essentially. Other polls may show different results. Okay, now you cite 5 polls find that (lo!) 4 out of 5 polls show that physicists chew Feynman gum. Great, but now you're synthesizing a POV. Okay, now you find somebody else who cites those 5 polls, and you cite them. Wow. But now you're back to just one POV article on poll results, so start over. In fact, there are very few historical facts that you cannot get to the bottom of citable material in about 3 steps, and find that you're now stuck with violating NPOV, because somebody has failed to do (and publish in a "reputable place") the data synthesis, at the level of opinion you're at. Just as here. You can talk about majority opinion, but how do you prove it? With a majority of polls? Says who? Wikipedia likes to pretend this doesn't happen, but in fact, it's so in most cases. And if you require NPOV all the way down, you get to the end in EVERY case, just as the child asking "Why?" will find that very shortly, at some level, explanations stop. At some level knowledge summation stops. And the funny thing is that Wikipedia doesn't even encourage citations of such end level knowledge opinion summations. It calls them "tertiary sources", yuk, yuk. Well, when you run out of secondary sources, call me. SBHarris 01:07, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I think in practice if you found 2 or 3 people that said that 'Feynman was an inspiration in teaching' or words to that effect, and they were notable and you referenced them you could get away with saying 'Feynman was an inspiring teacher[1][2][3]'. It's not OR; because they said it, and it's their POV, so that's OK; provided you accurately paraphrase it's all good.WolfKeeper 01:35, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
It's their POV indeed. So how do you put it in? If you collect the references yourself in pursuit of synthetically ADVANCING a single POV by enumeration of people who agree with it (which you surely are doing) then YOU violate NPOV policy as written (not that I'm defending Wiki policy here; I merely report it). In truth, it's actually nearly impossible to follow Wiki policy here. But everybody pretends this emperor (and I'm sure you know who the emperor here IS) has clothes. SBHarris 01:46, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
No, if they really are all saying essentially the same thing, then you're not enumerating them, you're just including their POVs. That's not against any rules provided theirs is a reasonably common POV.WolfKeeper 02:06, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm going to agree with Wolfkeeper. Perhaps the better way to phrase it (assuming we can find said scientists in the first place) would be to say "Feynman inspired a generation/generations/whatever of scientists...[1][2][3]" I'd think that would avoid the synthesis problem. —Ryan McDaniel 02:54, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Actually no, that might be marginally OR because you would have to additionally show that the people you quote were from different generations :-) You'd probably get away with it in 99.9% of cases though.WolfKeeper 04:49, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
  • [outdent] I'll just quote WP:NPOV: "It is not sufficient to discuss an opinion as fact merely by stating "some people believe..." as is common in political debates.[4] A reliable source supporting that a group holds an opinion must accurately describe how large this group is. In addition, this source should be written by named authors who are considered reliable." Now, how are you going to do this? And if you do do it, how are you going to defend it? I'm afraid it's turtles all the way down. Here's another from WP:NOR:Editors often make the mistake of thinking that if A is published by a reliable source, and B is published by a reliable source, then A and B can be joined together in an article to advance position C. However, this would be an example of a new synthesis of published material serving to advance a position, and as such it would constitute original research.[2] " That rather includes finding that person A holds an opinion, and B holds the same opinion, and thus we can conclude (advancing the argument by putting them together) that multiple people hold this opinion. Yes, I know, you're going to come back and say that this policy might forbid using logic and common sense, if you believe induction by enumeration is a sort of logical common sense. Indeed it does. But I didn't make the policy. SBHarris 03:43, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
First, having (re)read WP:NOR, I disagree that the policy forbids enumeration, but I don't think we even have to go there. Saying "Feynman inspired several physicists", or "several notable physicists", or something, and providing examples, seems to be entirely within the scope of Wikipedia. Wales' quote that the point is to avoid "novel narrative or historical interpretation" doesn't apply here: there's nothing new or novel about saying Feynman was a good (dare I say, inspirational) teacher—it's one of the things he was known for! I agree that we want to avoid "peacock words" (great phrase, by the way), but I would really like to find a way to resolve the current debate that includes giving Feynman his due as far as his impact as a teacher, and it just surprises me to see the discussion the word "inspirational" has drummed up. —Ryan McDaniel 03:57, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Such arguments are most easily circumvented by simply putting a reference. There's no shortage of books that talk about him and his lectures and teaching as "inspirational". Dicklyon 04:21, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
I agree, but that part seems to be where the conversation with Zargulon got off track. I'm just trying to make sure that relevant information about Feynman gets included in a manner that doesn't prompt people to yank it back out again. —Ryan McDaniel 04:51, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Nobody can get away with yanking sourced statements. If it's an opinion, they can provide a balancing sourced opinion on the other side, if any such significant alternatives exist; but I don't think you'll find reliable refs saying Feynman was an uninspiration or mediocre teacher. Dicklyon 21:23, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, it needs to be read in context, I don't agree that simple collating of some people's POV that are supporting a position constitutes originality. If you enumerate when somebody hadn't already then that probably does theoretically constitute OR; since you would be excluding other possible interpretations of the data and using your own (so if you said that there was 70% majority) then that's OR.WolfKeeper 04:49, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
If you think that the wikipedia is problematic, I strongly recommend you not look into patents. ;-) Compared to patents, wikipedia is sanity and light.WolfKeeper 04:49, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Um, why don't we just summarize known facts? His teaching in Brazil (and what he found there) and his use of a huge pendulum come to mind. --Kjoonlee 10:30, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

I guess his Feynman Lectures on Physics can ultimately be used as a source as well, to describe his way of teaching. --Kjoonlee 10:32, 13 July 2007 (UTC)
Summarizing known facts is fine, but you still need a source, because not everyone knows the same facts you know. If you don't include a source, your work is much more likely to be hacked by someone who recalls things differently from you. If you include a source, like an online link to a book such as the ones I pointed about above, then anyone who recalls differently can check your verifiable reliable source and get set straight. And no, the Feynman lecture on physics do not themselves serve as a source for what a great and inspiration teachere he was, because they don't say that (or maybe they do in a preface by someone; you can check). Dicklyon 21:19, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

I think where Zargulon went wrong was in yanking things at the same time as he was tagging other statements with "citation needed". It is absolutely legitimate to call for citations, and then to remove those items a bit later is nobody provides the citations; anyone who wants the info back into the article should take on the burden of finding a source. But he took stuff out without giving it a chance, and the process went off into the weeds of editors' opinions instead of what is verifiable in reliable sources. Finding reliable sources for this stuff is very easy with Google Book Search; someone just has to do a bit work to back up what they want in the article. If Feynman is famous for playing bongos, find a book that says so. Dicklyon 21:31, 13 July 2007 (UTC)