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Richard Feynman

Sean Carroll has decided, using the words of TripleIntegral, to re-evaluate the actual achievements of Richard Feynman according to the contemporary criteria of political correctness. Sean is perhaps the first person who has applied this methodology of "humanities" to hard sciences (with a possible exception of Lysenkoists). He wrote about the "counter role model", as he describes Feynman, that
  • "[Feynman] didn't have wide-ranging intellectual interests outside of science ... He was a pretty narrow guy ... But [having broad interests] might make [him a] better human being[s]."

I happen to think that Feynman was not only one of five most original and important physicists of the 20th century, but he has also been an extraordinary human being. He was not only the father of the path integral approach to quantum mechanics and QED in particular, the originator of the Feynman diagrams, and theory of superfluids - but also the author of many other concepts such as nanotechnology and quantum computing (the breadth of these contributions already kind of ridicules the breadth of the contributions of other scientists mentioned in Sean's article).

But Feynman's virtues are not confined in science. Those of us who have read Feynman's books - and not only the subset that prefers Feynman's name as a part of their e-mail address - also know that he was a great teacher, a loving boyfriend, husband, and father, and a very successful writer with an extraordinary sense of humor. He was good at playing drums, painting, picking locks, and spotting errors and tricks. Feynman has decoded Mayan calendars, Mexican hieroglyphs, and he may be labeled as a social anthropologist focusing on cultures and languages of Japan, Brazil, Las Vegas, and Tuva (thanks to CIP for reminding me).

And he was a very honest person and a prototype of scientific integrity and independence; a curious, emotional, straightforward guy whose thinking was rooted in common sense. A person who believed that the people should be what they are, and they should not pretend that they're something else - and a man who lived in this way. He loved freedom - and freedom was one of the values that has made his life happy. And yes, he was also a man who was able to get very angry. ;-) He was also a guy who understood the modern world, including the world of politics and economy. A universal scientist that has mastered virtually all fundamental issues related to physics, biology, evolution, sociology, and technology. A thinker who always preferred to see how the things work, instead of learning what other people say.

Feynman's parents were rather ordinary people. Feynman's accent resembled ordinary Americans - well, the kind of accent that I would have hard time to follow. ;-) Let me admit that the huge concentration of the folks in academia whose parents - and indeed grandparents - were already scholars seems kind of sick to me. (Disclaimer: uncles are OK.) Feynman definitely did not fit this "rule". This allowed him to be independent of many prejudices that are widespread in the "intellectual" circles.

What do I think is the main reason behind Sean's bitter attack? Well, the main reason is that Feynman could not stand the pompous fools, if you allow me to use his own words. Honest fools are fine - we may always listen to them and try to help them. But the fools who pretend that they are smart are horrible. Feynman had zero tollerance for simpletons who were pretending that they were intelligent and amazing - the kind of dopes that also like to offer their "wisdom" on various blogs. The morons who sell a complete stupidity as a new kind of science that they demand to be appreciated by others. Those who abuse their status of "intellectuals" to pretend that their shallow opinions and speculations are more relevant than the verified common sense of ordinary people just because they "are" the smart ones and the chosen ones.

The rational readers of this blog who happen to know the far-left-wing nutcases who like to attend (not only) the Preposterous Universe understand very well why Feynman can't be welcome in that world. The readers of my blog probably know that I believe that even though Feynman may have been mistaken in a few isolated cases, he was definitely right in the bulk. Although Feynman may count as a universal genius, he was also a "narrow guy" in the appropriate sense of the word. However, Sean is absolutely wrong if he thinks that being a "narrow guy" in this sense is a bad thing.

Why was Feynman a narrow guy? Well, Feynman was a thinker who did not appreciate philosophy - the kind of picky thinking disconnected from reality that has provably made almost no progress for several millenia. Is this the reason for Sean's discomfort? Unlike Feynman the "counter role model", Weinberg is Sean's "role model". Nevertheless, even Steven Weinberg called a whole chapter in his book (Dreams on a Final Theory) "Against Philosophy". So I wonder whether philosophy is the reason. Similar comparison holds for religion. Maybe, the reason of Feynman's narrowness was that he did not consider Cargo Cult Science to be an alternative and equally good approach to reality, but rather a possible trap that we must avoid. I guess that David Bohm who became convinced that Uri Geller had had supernatural powers and who published a paper about it in Nature was intellectually broader. (I think that Sean could also think that David Bohm was broader because he joined the Communist Party in 1942.)

Apart from Feynman's negative opinion about the self-described intellectuals who enjoy the ritual, obfuscation, and pomposity of intellectuals, there also exist many reasons why Feynman's political opinions are not appreciated by the far-left-wing bloggers. What did Feynman think about socialism, for example? Well, he obviously re-invented classical liberal theory, the basis of libertarianism (to use the U.S. terminology):

  • So Warsaw is not very heavy and dull, as one hears Moscow is. On the other hand, you meet at every turn that kind of dull stupid backwardness characteristic of government—you know, like the fact that change for $20 isn’t available when you want to get your card renewed at the US Immigration Office downtown...
  • The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity—and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand. (What Do You Care What Other People Think, 90-91)

And what did Feynman think about the poverty of the third world?

  • There was a special dinner [at the interdisciplinary conference about the "ethics of equality"] at some point, and the head of the theology place, a very nice, very Jewish man gave a speech. It was a good speech, and he was a very good speaker, so while it sounds crazy now, when I’m telling about it, at that time his main idea sounded completely obvious and true. He talked about the big differences in the welfare of various countries, which cause jealousy, which leads to conflict, and now that we have atomic weapons, any war and we’re doomed, so therefore the right way out is to strive for peace by making sure there are no great differences from place to place....Everybody was listening to this, and we were all full of sacrificial feeling, and all thinking we ought to do this. But I came back to my senses on the way home...
  • The idea of distributing everything evenly is based on a theory that there’s only X amount of stuff in the world, that somehow we took it away from the poorer countries in the first place, and therefore we should give it back to them. But this theory doesn’t take into account the real reason for the differences between countries—that is, the development of new techniques for growing food, the development of machinery to grow food and do other things, and the fact that all this machinery requires the concentration of capital. It isn’t the stuff, but the power to make the stuff, that is important. But I realize now that these people were not in science; they didn’t understand it. They didn’t understand technology; they didn’t understand their time. (Surely You’re Joking, 282-283)

It's not just about serious politics. What did Feynman think about the gender disputes? Well, many readers describe various stories and rumors in the comments. Let me mention a joke that he used in his lectures to explain the concepts of velocity and derivatives:

  • "In order to get to the subtleties in a clearer fashion," Feynman says, "we remind you of a joke which you surely must have heard. At the point where a lady in a car is caught by a cop, the cop comes up to her and says, 'Lady, you were going 60 miles an hour!' She says, 'That's impossible, sir, I was traveling only seven minutes. It is ridiculous - how can I go 60 miles an hour when I wasn't going an hour?' How would you answer her if you were the cop? Of course, if you were really the cop, then no subtleties are involved; it is very simple: you say, 'Tell that to the judge!' But let us suppose that we do not have that escape and we make a more honest, intellectual attack on the problem, and try to explain to this lady what we mean by the idea that she was going 60 miles an hour. Just what do we mean? We say, 'What we mean, lady, is this: if you kept on going the same way as you are going now, in the next hour you would go 60 miles.' She could say, 'Well, my foot was off the accelerator and the car was slowing down, so if I kept on going that way it would not go 60 miles.' The lady can also argue this way: "If I kept on going the way I'm going for one more hour, I would run into that wall at the end of the street!' It is not so easy to say what we mean."

The feminists complained and they said that this was a typical example of a stereotype that the females were less good than the males in spatial orientation and physics. But of course, these feminists were completely wrong because the cop from Feynman's story was female, too! :-) By having criticized Feynman, the feminists revealed that they were victims of a much more serious prejudice - namely that the cops should always be male. (Well, except for the detail that the written version of his lectures contains the word "sir".)

As you can see in this article, it's unlikely that Sean Carroll himself believes that Feynman had less broad interests than the "better human beings", as Sean puts it. The real reason why Sean does not like Richard Feynman is different, and it is political in nature.

Feynman was not only a genius, but also a guy who could not understand the value of string theory when he was old. But he understood very well that the most likely reason was that he had just been too old to follow all the new developments - much like Einstein who was not flexible enough to appreciate quantum mechanics. And the string theorists were simply uncapable to explain to Feynman why their insights were important. Ironically, string theory and related developments have made Feynman's approach far more important than was previously thought and many string theorists feel like Feynman's acolytes.

That was the main article. What follows are the comments. No doubt, most of the comments will be posted by those who will feel threatened by this description of Feynman's viewpoints - the complete morons who are used to be treated as intellectuals. Those who believe that the more sissy, unrealistic, unnatural, egalitarian, diluted, postmodern, confusing, feminist, hypocritical, orthodox, ideological, and politically correct a given opinion is, the higher intellectual respect it deserves. Many of them will probably try to politicize this story about - let me say in advance that neither Feynman nor me have been registered Republicans.

Have fun! :-)

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reader Anonymous said...

Lubos, I wonder why you feel so threatened by my previous comment unless you happen to think that certain you-know-who describes well, a certain you-know-who, unless you happen to agree with me.

reader Anonymous said...


while I do realize it was terribly hypocritical of Sean to claim right-wingers aren't discriminated against and silenced, and then ban you for your right-wing views, don't you think that you are overreacting? Are you holding a grudge against Sean?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Feynman has been a true hero and I won't allow anyone to serve dirt on Feynman without a corresponding reaction. It is absolutely inappropriate for SC to judge RPF.

reader Quantoken said...

Richard Feynman is one of the finest physicist and he is also interested in many none-science things.

I would have no reservation in my respect for him. Not even the part that he doesn't like string theory :-)


reader Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that this article isn't really about Feynman but is instead an all out attack against Sean for hating Republicans (you're Republican, aren't you?) and banning you.

reader Anonymous said...

Do you really mean it when you equated egalitarianism with being a sissy and unrealistic? What do you propose instead? A hierarchy with LM on top?

reader Luboš Motl said...

No, I did not equate them. I enumerated egalitarianism, political correctness, unrealism, and sissiness as four typical (and perhaps related) diseases of the people under consideration.

And egalitarianism is certainly not better than the remaining three. Yes, egalitarianism is definitely worse than the scenario proposed in your last sentence ;-) - but there may be even better scenarios.

reader Anonymous said...

Feynman was hardly a loving boyfriend. Just read up any biography on him to see how he treated women.

reader Anonymous said...

No, not Arlene. Read up those sections where he womanized, went to bars and insulted and mistreated women badly with the goal of manipulating them into having sex with him. Read up on how he got women pregnant and then abandoned them.

reader Anonymous said...

Are we surprised that LM would approve of RPF's womanizing ways? Did we not see "feminism" there in the big list of Really Bad Stuff?

If you would, Lubos, please explain exactly how equal treatment of women is undesirable. Then explain how associating with mobsters and prostitutes (which RPF did, and was proud of) is desirable.

reader Anonymous said...

Prostitutes aren't really the problem. It's the pimps and smugglers and poverty who force women into prostitution that's really the problem.

reader CapitalistImperialistPig said...

As one of those "far left-wing nutcases" who reads Sean's blog (and you, I notice, seem to be another), I agree that Sean is competely wrong about Feynman.

Your reaction is over the top, though. A simple refutation would have been sufficient - and more persuasive.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks CIP and Quantoken for your feedback.

Anonymous: If you mean the sentence "Before I buy you a drink, I want to know one thing: will you sleep with me tonight?" - let me assure you that this is one of the 50 most entertaining moments of the book.

I am probably different from Feynman in these respects - and also, you should not forget that Feynman did not enjoy this way of picking girls - but it was definitely a Feynmanian story. When the feminists called him "sexist pig" while he visited Japan, you can bet which of these two sides I support.

I don't know anything about abandoning pregnant women. And I insist that he was a loving boyfriend, and this is especially about Arlene.

Feynman used to have friends among prostitutes. They were some of the most well-informed and intellectually broad women around - they knew all the physicists, for example. ;-) And yes, I agree with the other contributor who says that poverty - and pimps and smugglers - mostly determine their job. Which does not mean that you can't find bitches with a PhD. These are just statistically likely explanations.

"If you would, Lubos, please explain exactly how equal treatment of women is undesirable."

Equal treatment of women, in the sense that you apparently mean, is undesirable because it suppresses the free, natural behavior, feelings, and skills of the individuals, if it's applied universally. It does not appreciate the slightly different roles that the genders have been playing for thousands or millions of years; it manipulates the people to be something that they are not. And hence it does not sufficiently use the positive features that particular individuals, and both genders in average may offer. Such an approach that attempts to be egalitarian is therefore also using the available resources and skills inefficiently - which means that the whole society suffers a bit as a consequence. A complete sexual egalitarianism also attempts to introduce new social conventions into the society whose viability has not really been tested for a sufficiently long time.

Finally, insisting on treating women and people in general as identical subjects cripples the diversity and even the very attraction between both genders.

reader Anonymous said...

Feynman was a great physicist, but as a person he was about like everyone else, better than average in some ways, worse than average in others. His behavior, as some others have mentioned, caused real hurt to real people.

As to Lubos, he told us the Czech history/legend of a women's rebellion. Apparently, the women, tired of being treated as second-class, revolted, and in the revolt, even castrated some of the men. If Lubos is the typical Czech, then I can understand the rebellion. Anyway, ever since, I guess Czech men (or is it just Lubos) are in fear of losing the family jewels, and have the primal need to keep women in their place.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Until the Girls' War, Bohemia was ruled by the Queen Libuše. Obviously, the history after the great Libuše gave the women less power which some of them did not like. You may understand the rebellion. What's more important is that the rebellion was defeated, and the traditional order was restored. Incidentally, the castration was probably just an improvement of the web page - we certainly did not learn it this way at the basic school. :-)

reader Anonymous said...

Hey Lubos,

your blog rocks! You are the Bill O'Reilly of theoretical physics. I am sure you understand that that's a huge compliment.

Thanks for watching out for us. ;)

And carry on.

Best wishes!

reader Anonymous said...


are you familiar with the concept of projection in psychology?

reader Anonymous said...

Feynman was a rather arrogant physicist who liked to tell stories in a way which put others down and put himself in a flattering light. for a typical example, look at his Nobel lecture on QED. In the introduction, he not-so-subtly put Schwinger down for being formal, and you guys probably know of his dislike of Schwinger. Then, he boasts about how he was able to come up with path integrals "in the American style" on-the-spot while the hapless European physicist stood in awe and he tried to make it seem like a trivial exercise for himself. Then, he went on to put a poor graduate student Slotnik down and took another opportunity to boast about his abilities. Then, he goes on to talk about his intuition and trial-and-error style, which was an indirect criticism of the "formal" style of some of his competitors, especially Schwinger.

reader Anonymous said...

Sean said that Feynman did not have very broad interests. That's the way he was. Can't see how this is anyhow an "outrageous attack". Feynman aside, I don't think it's smart at all to be totally passionate about one thing and just forget about all else. Especially these days when, during his career, an average physicist contributes something significant with practically a zero probability. Why not enjoy interconnections in the whole of human culture? Wider interests would make physicists better company, which more often than not is nowadays found elsewhere. Sadly, people seem to prefer having their name in history and face in telly to just enjoying their stay.

reader Anonymous said...

Well Schwinger was a master craftsman but Feynman was a master magician--he had the ability to cut through "the gorp" as he put it, and get right to heart of the issue and see what mattered. You can see this in action with his famous O-ring demonstration at the shuttle disaster inquiry. He certainly possessed a deep physical insight. I don't think Feynman was "narrow" by any means--he realised there was a life outside of physics/science and he pursued it to the full with a lot of energy, and that there was much to learn from people who were not scientists. He was down to earth and did'nt look down on people just because they were'nt educated or intellectuals, unless of course they were the "pompous fools" he could not stand. I think a lot of the stories and anecdotes involving his womenising, topless bars, Las Vegas etc. may have been a bit exaggerated to impress and joke with his male students at the time and to advance his own legend. He was also a product of the age and culture he lived and grew up in. So it is not really fair to judge him by our modern so-called "politically correct" standards. A lot of these anecdotes are still hilarious.

Within physics he was also capable of working on a wide range of topics and his "arrogance" comes across to me as really just self confidence and hubris. He certainly built a sort of legend/cult around himself and had no problems with self promotion. There was a 2-part Horizon series in the early 90s(a science program in the UK) about the life of Feynman called "No Ordinary Genius", which I wish they would repeat (there is book with the same title I think). Sure he had his faults and his darker side like absolutely everyone does but there is always a geniune warmth and humour that comes across when you see him interviewed and see him lecture. He was also the very opposite of the stereotypical unattractive "nerdy" image the pubic all too often associate with a scientist/physicist. I could relate to that too.

Certainly finding the third volume Quantum Mechanics volume of the red lecture series in my high school library was something of a revelation for me (they had the other volumes too but I liked this one the best). A real page turner.
I thought it was (and still is) a beautiful book. Most of the physics books I had seen up to then were very dry and colourless and offputting, and yes even downright boring. This book was totally different. It had soul. I did'nt understand a lot of it at the time but a lot of it I picked up. His simple and beautiful treatments of 2-state systems like the ammonia maser and the kaon system for example, you did'nt need a lot of math to understand these examples.
Feynman is also someone a lot of physicists feel like they knew personally even though they never met him. Feynman is still a good role model, especially if you feel that physics has perhaps gotton a bit too mathematical and abstract these days:) He is also a good role model for young physicists/scientists (or any professional) in the sense that his example also shows you that there can be (and should be) a rich life outside science that can compliment your professional life.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Juha: no. The statement that Feynman did not have broad interests was not the only lie (see my article for examples why it was a lie) and deeply insulting thing that was written in the Preposterous Universe.

Sean also wrote that Feynman would have been a "better human being" if he were different" and that "he was not and should not have been a role model". I just find these comments completely incredible especially because Feynman was the ultimate role model.

Feynman certainly did not "forget about everything else". He was passionate more or less about everything in the world - and he was good at it. The only source of tension here is that some people just find his style and opinions personally and politically inconvenient.

They don't like that Feynman disliked pretentious people probably because they belong to this category themselves. What about the "interconnections in the whole of human culture"? This is exactly about the interdisciplinary conferences Feynman attended on which lots of dopes who did not understand and did not want to understand the very elementary ideas behind the modern world but they painted themselves as very important - like the rabis who asked whether electricity was fire; the Jewish speaker who argued that "poverty was unnatural" and the developed world should undo the sins so that the third world will be "naturally rich" again. Is this the kind of trash (well, interconnections across the human culture, right?) that one should appreciate in order to be a "better human being"?

Feynman's Nobel lecture is a completely innocent story about the way how and why he was solving all these problems in QED, electrons' self-energy, and so forth. There is even no direct or indirect reference to Schwinger in the lecture, and I don't think that anything was about Slotnik the student.

I hope that it's not yet crime to think that the appreciation for the method of trial and error, diversity of ideas, and independence is essential for the progress on the big scale; formal methods are a particular tool to solve "finite problems" within a pre-established framework, and they are not the primary ally for making revolutions; and the "American" method of bringing ideas that simply work seems superior over the "European" methods which is one of the reasons why America has been a leader in science for the past decades.

reader Anonymous said...

Feynman is a hero of mine, but, like many heroes, he had his flaws.

Here, from his Nobel Lecture is where he makes poor Slotnick out to be a fool:

"One day a dispute arose at a Physical Society meeting as to the correctness of a calculation by Slotnick of the interaction of an electron with a neutron using pseudo scalar theory with pseudo vector coupling and also, pseudo scalar theory with pseudo scalar coupling. He had found that the answers were not the same, in fact, by one theory, the result was divergent, although convergent with the other. Some people believed that the two theories must give the same answer for the problem. This was a welcome opportunity to test my guesses as to whether I really did understand what these two couplings were. So, I went home, and during the evening I worked out the electron neutron scattering for the pseudo scalar and pseudo vector coupling, saw they were not equal and subtracted them, and worked out the difference in detail. The next day at the meeting, I saw Slotnick and said, 'Slotnick, I worked it out last night, I wanted to see if I got the same answers you do. I got a different answer for each coupling - but, I would like to check in detail with you because I want to make sure of my methods.' And, he said, 'what do you mean you worked it out last night, it took me six months!' And, when we compared the answers he looked at mine and he asked, 'what is that Q in there, that variable Q?' (I had expressions like (tan^{-1}Q) /Q etc.). I said, 'that's the momentum transferred by the electron, the electron deflected by different angles.' 'Oh', he said, 'no, I only have the limiting value as Q approaches zero; the forward scattering.' Well, it was easy enough to just substitute Q equals zero in my form and I then got the same answers as he did. But, it took him six months to do the case of zero momentum transfer, whereas, during one evening I had done the finite and arbitrary momentum transfer. That was a thrilling moment for me, like receiving the Nobel Prize, because that convinced me, at last, I did have some kind of method and technique and understood how to do something that other people did not know how to do. That was my moment of triumph in which I realized I really had succeeded in working out something worthwhile."

The digs against Schwinger are a little more veiled. Anyone familiar with the "debate" between them (in particular, Schwinger, who was also receiving a Prize) would have no trouble picking them out.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Well, Feynman obviously enjoyed his skills and powerful methods. ;-) But don't you just think that it's fair if someone points out that Feynman's calculation was a 180 times faster way to obtain a much more general results? Feynman was probably the only person who knew about this story.

reader Luboš Motl said...

And yes, many of us are unfamiliar with the Feynman/Schwinger debate which is why our judgement of the Nobel speech is probably more neutral.

reader Arun said...

is worth a read.

reader Quantoken said...

It shows Richard Feynman has very good training when he figure out a result in one night that the other guy took 6 months to figure out. But I think it reflected more on the part of stupidity of the 6 month guy, and less on the part of how good Feynman is.

I think an averagely intelligent person (by which I mean any one who is good enough to be one of the best within his classmates) should be able to do the same calculation within a few hours, if he had sufficient training. One needs to have solved at least 10,000 differential equation homework problems to be good at mathematics instinctions. During my college years I solved almost all the differential equations listed on that famous collection of 10000+ differential equation problems, by a Russian guy. Forgot the name of the book, but any one educated in eastern Europe must know it.

The Bohr-Einstein light box debate is another good example. It's really amazing that Bohr could come up with such an argument using GR to figure out just the right quantity required by the uncertainty principle. Although it was pure coincidence that way and his argument is ultimately wrong in logic. I do not know if any of them two ever realized the arguments were wrong. See:

reader Arun said...

Apart from Feynman, this also has to do with that mysterious distribution curve that Summers, Lubos etc., postulate exists and has relevance for how many women are in physics.

"Growing up in Far Rockaway on Long Island, Feynman spent his childhood repairing neighbors' radios and reading calculus texts for fun. Later, he gained admission to M.I.T. despite a mediocre high school record--a source of "in your face" satisfaction to the brash physicist who, upon returning home from Nobel ceremonies in Stockholm, looked up his IQ. It was 125. Feynman was ecstatic. "To win a Nobel Prize," he said, "is no big deal, but to win it with an IQ of 125, now that's something." "

reader Quantoken said...

"To win a Nobel Prize," he said, "is no big deal, but to win it with an IQ of 125, now that's something." "

That's absolutely awesome! That's one of the best parts I like Feynman's style.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi Arun,

concerning your story you linked: Chandrasekhar was special. You know that I disagree that the journalists should not try to describe science on two pages, in a simplified way - on the other hand, I have a full respect for Chandrasekhar's principled approach.

There is not enough information about Feynman's debate with the Omni editor. I suppose that she had to be annoying - judging by the fact she had hung up ;-) - kind of Nancy Hopkins, if you allow. This had to be a tense meeting, and if she apparently asked a stupid question that was moreover already published elsewhere, it's not so hard to imagine Feynman sending her back. ;-)

I would probably not do something like that, being a peaceful guy in personal contact, but I admire those who create pressure for journalists and others to do things right. It's very important.

You're not shocked that even though explosions of anger are common place and I don't admire anything about themselves, I fully sympathize with Feynman's comments about his anger. Some journalists and not only journalists are trying to create ficticious and complicated stories that belong to humanities whose goal is to distort the actual physics and its development in order to confirm some pre-determined, "politically correct" prejudices how science should look like.

All the best

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Arun,

no doubt, there is no exact proportionality between high school grades and the future achievements.

(Incidentally, a personal story: I hated the communist military-style atmosphere at the high school, and was permanently revolting against it. Which was not quite the only reason why I also got "4" (the 4th worst grade among 1,2,3,4,5) from chemistry and sometimes "3" from other subjects. The chemistry teacher has been a very energetic 200 kilogram lady.)

On the other hand, there is definitely a very positive correlation. Also, these two (or many) quantities exhibit similar distributions and gender dependence. Without loss of generality, you can talk about the other if you want to get qualitative results about the first.

It's great that the context allows Quantoken to write positive comments. To win the Nobel prize with the IQ of 50, that's really something. Good luck, Q! ;-)

Incidentally, I think that the usual tests to measure the IQ are pretty stupid, and if I had to choose a better measure, I would probably prefer the high school math tests over the IQ tests.


reader Anonymous said...

Well done Lubos. A little over the top. But the pretention and political correctness drips from Sean's blog and I'm glad you are exposing it.

reader Quantoken said...

Lubos said: "It's great that the context allows Quantoken to write positive comments. To win the Nobel prize with the IQ of 50, that's really something. Good luck, Q! ;-)"

Surely there does not seem to be a correlation between IQ and one's possibility of winning Nobel prize.

Curiously, has any one noticed that some of the most excellent mathematicians have a much higher probability of going into mental disorder than a normal person. Nash comes to mind but he is definitely not the only one. Or maybe that's because there is no math Nobel prize:-)

A more plausible explanation is these people really concentrated the usage of their brain on the few brain cells responsible for the concepts they work on, burned this 1% out due to overuse, and leaving the rest 99% of brain not exercised enough. All "experts" in narrow fields are like this, probably more true for string theorists who are so concentrated on their field they fail to realize there are other possibilities outside their realm and the world is much richer than a 10-D brane.

So it's good NOT to craw into the shell of a snail.

As for me, I do not think winning Nobel prize is a big deal at all. If you integrate Nobel laureates over time the result is divergent. But if some one can force them to take back some of the Nobel prizes awarded. That would be REALLY spectacular!!!

For example the Nobel prizes awarded to binary pulsar researchers, or the one dozen or so neutrinos of SN 1987A.


reader Anonymous said...

I would probably not do something like that, being a peaceful guy in personal contact,*ahem*, *ahem*, *ahem*

thank you very much

reader Luboš Motl said...

You're very welcome!

reader Arun said...

Just for reflection in idle moments - there has never been any empirical reason to push for all **men** to have equal rights, to be treated equally, to not discriminate among men based on supposed genetic endowment;

yet the world is a better place because we insist on equality against all the facts of life.

Our values are not slave to scientific reality. Our society does not have to be based on the Darwinian competition and selection found in nature. In fact, to be human is to break away from nature's way, to do things never found on earth prior to humans.

I reject Hitler's idea that East Europeans are inferior in some way to the (real or imagined) Germanic Aryans, and this is a statement of **human values** and **human ethics**. I do not leave open the possibility that "scientific evidence" could possibly show Hitler's prejudice to be scientific. I'm sorry, but there are certain cultural values that cannot be based on science, the nature of nature or of evolution. And the same goes with gender-based issues.


reader Arun said...

Lubos, you wrote "You're not shocked that even though explosions of anger are common place and I don't admire anything about themselves, I fully sympathize with Feynman's comments about his anger."

I'm not sure what you're trying to say. On what basis can you state anything about my mental state (shock or lack of shock)? I could have posted that link to illustrate that physicists are arrogant. Or I could have posted it because of the final sentences :

"In that instant, witnessing his curiosity evaporate, I realized this had nothing to do with me, nor with contempt for outsiders, nor with scorn for history. Rather, it had everything to do with Feynman's absorption in his own work - the same kind of absorption that made him a great physicist."

Please don't reduce the world into "for" and "against". Don't even reduce the world into a well-ordered set. People have many dimensions, and there is no ordering. (BTW, it is this constant reduction that I consider shallow, and not mastery of literature, art, music, science, etc.. An uneducated villager who appreciates the many facets of people without seeking to order them is less shallow than an ideologically blind polymath).


reader Luboš Motl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

reader Luboš Motl said...

"Just for reflection in idle moments - there has never been any empirical reason to push for all **men** to have equal rights, to be treated equally, to not discriminate among men based on supposed genetic endowment;"

Are you joking, Arun? So why do you think that tens of millions of people had to die to defeat Nazi Germany? Why did 6 millions of Jew had to die in the 1940s? Why do you think that they had to do the capitalist revolutions in the Netherlands and France? Why do you think that Martin Luther King is so famous?

"yet the world is a better place because we insist on equality against all the facts of life."

I don't know whether the world is a better place, but if it is, what you is not the first reason why it's better.

"Our values are not slave to scientific reality."

Your values may not be slaves, but all *events* in the Universe are definitely subjects to the laws of nature - and a scientifically based society is the society that is able to understand science and benefit from it.

"In fact, to be human is to break away from nature's way, to do things never found on earth prior to humans."

You can try to break away from anything, but you will never be able to break from the laws of nature. I agree that the whole civilization is about changing the apparent rules and values that used to seem permanent in the past, but even the new rules have to agree with the laws of physics such as the Standard Model and genetical links between the parents and daughters and sons. ;-)

"I reject Hitler's idea that East Europeans are inferior in some way to the (real or imagined) Germanic Aryans, and this is a statement of **human values** and **human ethics**."

Incidentally, Hitler realized well that the Czechs, for example, probably satisfied his (medieval) racial criteria better than the Austrians. ;-) Arun, it seems to me that you're trying to excite some kind of national hatred against the Germans or fear? I don't feel anything like that - you have no chance. These events belong to the history textbooks, and they have no influence on the younger generation in either nation. We're just not oversensitive about these issues. We don't feel the need to make everything "in just the opposite way" than in the 1940s. We know that there are (pretty minor) differences between the nations and we can live with them peacefully.

"I do not leave open the possibility that "scientific evidence" could possibly show Hitler's prejudice to be scientific."

Then you're not a scientist. If one formulates a very particular hypothesis or statement about the difference between nations and someone else finds it an interesting enough and testable conjecture, it can be tested. Whether or not a guy called Hitler said something that could be remotely related to the ultimate finding is completely irrelevant for the search of the truth.

These things are not too sensitive in Europe. Everyone in Europe realizes that the nations have, in average, different values and way of thinking. People can tell you a lot of stories about the French, Bavarians, anyone else. Are these things tabboo in the culture where you come from? Europe is unified in its diversity, and no one tries to pretend that there is no diversity - it would indeed be extremely stupid.

Most likely, the differences can mostly be explained by the different history in the past centuries, but there were also differences to start with, including genes, and new differences have been "written into the genes" by the subsequent history.

"I'm sorry, but there are certain cultural values that cannot be based on science, the nature of nature or of evolution."

I am sorry but I don't understand what leads you to this belief. Everything about the humans and their society as well as biology may be studied rationally, with the tools of science. It's just your private decision not to open some questions, but only thing that this decision means is that your opinion will be unscientific, and therefore irrelevant for a *scientific* discussion.

People are curious and these things can't remain taboos.

Yes, in democracy, you will always be able to vote that the rules of the society should neglect scientific facts - which is obviously what you want - but there will always be people who will stand against you. And the society who will prefer the rational approach will most likely dominate at the end over the irrational societies.

You can't change some basic rules of the Universe, and one of the vaguely formulated rules is that whoever tries to permanently hide the truth, for whatever reason, will eventually become the losing side.

Concerning your last comment: I was talking about Feynman's statements that the journalist was not really interesting in the beauty of physics, but rather some social distortions of what actually happened. Crease complained that Feynman was not interested in Crease - which I don't find so terribly surprising. Why should Feynman be?


reader Anonymous said...

I can not see how someone can do something relevant in physics without living it 24/24 hours.

Of course, some people can mistakenly seen some cultural logical or political activities as unrelated to physics, and then to claim that the guy is of "broad interests".

reader Anonymous said...

Godwin's law, guys!

reader Anonymous said...

"Apart from Feynman's negative opinion about the self-described intellectuals who enjoy the ritual, obfuscation, and pomposity of intellectuals...."

Jeez, you think *you* could follow some of his advice when you insult others because they're not at Harvard and don't hold a position in an ivory tower university...

reader Anonymous said...

Right, you are not "oversensitive" to ethnic comments precisely because you are insensitive to them.

reader TripleIntegral said...

It's a pretty typical PC tactic to re-evaluate actual achievment in many disciplines [art, literature, economics, politics] in light of whether someone's personal life met **today's** political correctness tests. I've never seen this done in the hard sciences before [except for maybe all the crap about Einstein's personal life a few years ago], and it's really stomach turning.

Who gives a flying fuck what Feynman's outside interests were?

Even so, as I understand it he actually had a lot of outside interests in things like music, gambling, lock-picking, mexican hieroglyphics, biology, nano-technology, computing, etc.

Was Feynam intetested in bullshit like philosophy of science, paranormal events, sociology - only in the situations where he was asked to debunk them.

What are Sean Carroll's outside interests expressed in his post except for prividing a weak, soft and cuddly image of physics to the outside, unrelated academic world?

In my opinion, there is nothing more annoying than liberal arts types trying to use physics to prove that "morals are relative", or "everthing is uncertain" or some other crap like that. Even worse are artists or novelists who write about physics and know nothing bout them [Lightman is an exception].

In terms of Feynman's relationship with women and feminists, the fact of the matter is, there is a marketplace between men and women, and just like any market, information is echanged, prices are set and the market clears at a competitive level. All the hysterical ranting in the world won't change that basic fact.

The fact of the matter is there are only a few people who have managed to contribute in a highly significant way to physics. Feynman was one of them. Criticizing him doesn't get you any closer to being him.

reader Luboš Motl said...

That's right. Moreover, I think it's wrong to be sensitive about such issues.

Those who know me know that I am also a kind of patriot with a lot of various feelings etc. But these things just can't be allowed to take over and become more important than sober thinking.

The sensitivity to various ethnic facts, data, and comments is what caused most of the wars in the world, and a significant part of irrationality whose consequences were mostly bad.

Even today, the people who are sensitive about these issues are the most straightforward guides to the hell.

People must be realists and they must be able to accept the world as it is, otherwise we're in trouble. I am not the first one who thinks so.

Your know, even the founder of Czechoslovakia, the "daddie" Prof. Thomas Garrigue Masaryk (the president of Czechoslovakia 1918-1935 or so), see e.g. this page with some comments, was a realist.

Let me cite something that Masaryk (a philosopher) answered to Čapek:


Yes, I'm a realist, as I've been told, but I have romantic tendencies as well. I see no contradiction in that. I was personally closest to the romantic poets: Macha, Pushkin, Musset, Byron.

When I chose realism and the scientific method, I had to restrain my romanticism, impose a certain mental discipline on myself. Just as I overcame my Slav anarchy by means of Anglo-Saxon models, I overcame the Plato in me with Locke, Hume, and the other empiricists. People seem not to understand that criticism, especially harsh criticism, is often a conflict between the impulsive Slovak and sober Czech. Humans are not simple beings. I have suffered from the fact that adversaries and followers alike have wished to make me into a one-sided type.

Take my notorious rationalism, for instance. If I want to teach and make my points, I've got to use reasonable arguments, for heaven's sake. But always and in everything, in scholarship and in politics, my motivating force has been ethical in nature, and ethics I base on feeling, love, sympathy, and humanity. If I was once a one-sided rationalist, it was due to a fault in my philosophical education. Circumstances have often forced me to criticize both the right and the left, but my criticism did not stem from rationalism, or certainly nor from rationalism alone. Logic and feelings are not mutually exclusive.


reader Anonymous said...


if you claim that mistreating women is fine as long as it was done in a culture where it was acceptable or even the norm and that people ought to be judged according to the standards of their culture and time and not according to current standards, then why, it's YOU who is being the relativist here.

reader TripleIntegral said...

Hmmmm... I re-read my post and it doesn't seem to contain anything about mistreating women. It does imply that women are rational actors just like men who can make bad decisions and thus mistreat themeselves, I suppose.

As far as judging people by retro-active standards, that gets you into the PC jerk-off-land of saying things like Chaucer was sexist, Thomas Jefferson was a racist, etc., and thus only selected contemporary PC writers, artists, [and now even scientists] are noble and moral people. It's a nice way to waste your time if you don't have a real job, I guess.

To set the right example maybe we should take away Feynman's name from his diagrams - let's call them Noam Chomsky Digarams, or Oprah Winfrey Diagrams, or Susan Sarandon Diagrams, or maybe Sean Carroll Diagrams since he is so evolved?

reader Anonymous said...


the insensitivity lies in the person making ethnic comments, not the person who is rightfully offended. And it is precisely the insensitivity of those putting other ethnic groups down which provokes conflicts. Asking the victims to shut up and be "realistic" and accept the abuse is simply letting the offender get away with it.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Anonymous,

what you say is as logical as saying that sensitivity is not expected from a voltmeter, but rather from the button that turns on an electrical circuit.

If someone XY is sensitive about the very existence of science that studies the correlations and interrelations between various features of human beings - such as the variance of mathematical abilities and gender - then it is a problem of XY, not a problem of science.

As far as I know, there has been no offense discussed (or manifested) in this thread. So if you think that someone has been abusing someone else in this thread, then the official statement of the blog is that it is not the case, and indeed, all hypothetical "offenders" are allowed to get away with it.


reader Anonymous said...


if I may ask you, why are you so conservative and reactionary? Do you really believe the crap that you write?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Anonymous!

Sure, I do - most of the time. :-) Why? Because it's more or less the right mix of values and mechanisms that have been proved to make people reasonably happy and to work, unlike some experimental ideas that most likely don't work.

I am entertained by your terminology - especially by the word "reactionary". This is exactly how the communists before 1989 were describing those who did not support the Communist Party's attempts to improve the existing socialism and bring it to the form of perfect communism - the progress a la Marx.

The "progressives" (even the American ones), which I suppose is the opposite of "reactionary", have not convinced me so far that there a serious difference between them and the communists in the Soviet bloc. The main difference between these two groups is that the U.S. also have the moderates and conservatives that prevent the progressives from realizing their goals - the same goals that have already been realized starting in 1917 in almost half of the world. ;-)

All tbe best

reader Anonymous said...


So if someone is insulted with a racial slur then it is that person's fault for being offended?

Your logic makes no sense. Think about it you idiotic prick.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Incidentally, this Feynman controversy is an example of the apparent fact that the Czech communists were more moderate than many of the current U.S. "progressives".

The Czech translation of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, was normally and legally released before the Velvet revolution in 1989, with all of the comments about Feynman's greatness - despite the fact that it was known that he was a U.S. scientist who did not like socialism and government's control in general.

The communists just did not feel that Feynman is inconvenient enough so that they should try to place dirt or him, or even prevent the book from being published.

If the actual central committee of the Communist Party were replaced by a politically correct police a la The Preposterous Universe, I guess that the book would either not have been published at all, or it would be published with Sean's comments that Feynman was not a good human being.

By these things I want to say that far-left-wing believers are always naturally totalitarian-minded, and the only way how this threat is avoided is by keeping them politically irrelevant, much like in the U.S. where the progressives are disliked by most of the nation (which has kept the whole Democratic Party out of victories in major elections for quite some time).

Why are the "progressives" naturally totalitarian-minded? Because they simply want to make the behavior and and "official opinions" of the people different from reality and the truth. They don't want to allow the markets to choose the right products and companies. They don't want the people to choose their own job, according to their natural tastes and abilities. They don't want to allow the people to figure out (or even observe) whether different groups are equally ready for various activities. They want to construct a society according to some political prejudices.

The only way how this can work - and how the people can be convinced to "officially" think in a certain way - is to introduce a police state with a sufficient power that can guarantee that certain ideas will be punished and discouraged.

The progressive regime with the fundamentalist egalitarianism and other bizarre features is simply incompatible with democracy and human rights.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Concerning the "racial slur". It depends what is a "racial slur". You seem to use the term "racial slur" for anything that has anything to do with race. Yes, most of these things are not real slurs, and it is the "victim"'s fault is she or he is offended.

reader Anonymous said...

Alright since you are that stupid I will be more precise with my wording.

Racial Slangs such as N_gger.

reader Anonymous said...

Lubos u crackpot u forgot your medication again!

This blog is fast becoming the constructive definition of a crackpot. You sick bastard come over to my clinic now for your weekly electroshock!

Your Psychiatrist.

reader Luboš Motl said...

These are just words. Our textbooks of English (and some teachers) in Czechoslovakia taught us that the official English word for a black is a negro. I was just re-taught in the U.S. to use different words for various things, but sorry, I don't feel any emotions that would tell me that one word is better than another word.

Words are just conventions; reality is more important than the words.

Dear "Psychiatrist", your comment indicates that you may need some electroshocks yourselves. Do you really believe that you're my psychiatrist? It definitely looks so! Be sure that I don't have any psychiatrist.

reader Anonymous said...

Words and reality are not the same thing eh?

Has it ever occur to you that the people who use racial slurs against black people probably hate black people. Through these words are abuse and hate crimes and, possibly, violence. It is racial discrimination, and it's not ok. Do you really think that calling a black person a nigger is acceptable?

Surely it doesn't take half a brain to realize this.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Incidentally, I did not even know what vowel was missing in the text N*gger - my guess was that it was an "e". These are your private things, and I was never interested in these things too much.

In my opinion, it is completely stupid to get excited about some words. It's my understanding that this N*word is only used by stupid people who feel special emotions and who are typically (but not necessarily) racists, and on the other side there are also people who feel special emotions just when they think about the word.

Sorry but I don't feel anything. In my viewpoint, the people of all races enjoy the same human rights regardless of the terminology that is used to distinguish them. I am absolutely sure that the people from all races are much much better than what the average Englishman imagined 100 years ago when the word was said - but the words can change their meanings, too, as soon as the people change their opinions.

There are many features of terminology that have bizarre historical twists. For example, the word Bulgaria is related to "bugger". My Bulgarian classmate from Rutgers was depressed when he learned about it in the Oxford Dictionary of English. ;-) The link apparently came from Turks who probably observed an inflow of people coming from current Bulgaria who often have had non-standard sexual practices, to put it neutrally.

Such things happened because people did not have a perfect knowledge about other societies in the past etc.

reader Luboš Motl said...

"Do you really think that calling a black person a n***er is acceptable?"

After many years in the U.S., I was kind of explained that this word existed and it is used in a certain context that I don't want to follow in detail because I probably don't share too many values with the people who are the likely users of this word. Some people explained me that this word was highly controversial and nearly banned, and they usually omitted at least the second character so that I did not even know for sure until now what the full word was.

The second character is different than in the similar word in Czech.

If they had not explained me that, it should be pretty clear that I would have had no reason to think that it was unacceptable. Is it so difficult to understand that non-native speakers don't necessarily have the same emotions about these things?

My understanding is that this word is not used by civilized people today, and even the other people usually use it in the upset psychological mode only.

However, the word has been the standard, casual English word 100 years ago for a word that we call differently today. I agree that these were times in which equality of people under the law was not fully respected, but I find it unreasonable to trash the whole English or U.S. society at that time just because they were using some *word*.

Today you may think that it is a symbol of violence, but 100 years ago it was a standard word. I don't know what problem you exactly want to solve. Should I start witchhunts against you because you've posted the full version of a magic word on my blog, or what do you expect me to do?

My blog does not follow any special local rules that a combination of 6 letters is unacceptable because of its magic power.

reader Anonymous said...

haha... i guess stupidity and ignorance knows no limit

reader CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Feynman was a rather arrogant physicist who liked to tell stories in a way which put others down and put himself in a flattering light. for a typical example, look at his Nobel lecture on QED. In the introduction, he not-so-subtly put Schwinger down for being formal, and you guys probably know of his dislike of Schwinger.Feynman was very competitive. The only other member of his generation in his intellectual class was Schwinger, and the fact that he had a strongly contrasting background and style might have helped stimulate the competition. I'm not aware of any deep personal animosity though, but if you are I'd like to hear about it,

His more famous competition was with (the slightly younger) Gell-Mann. Some people were offended by Gell-Mann's memorial commentary, which somewhat unflatteringly accused Feynman of surrounding himself with a cloud of myth, but my guess is that that old truth teller Feynman would have recognized the truth in that and been amused - and really sorry that he wouldn't get a chance to top Gell-Mann at *his* funeral.

Sidney Coleman, another Feynman friend, supposedly said that Feynman's idiosyncratic style was partly for show "climbing Mont Blanc" barefoot, just to show that he could. Maybe, but I doubt it. I think Feynman did things his way because that's what worked for him.

On another note, there might be hundreds of unpublished papers lurking in Feynman's black notebooks - I hoped they were saved and I wonder if any historians of science are working on them.

reader Luboš Motl said...

"Words and reality are not the same thing eh?"

Surprisingly, indeed, words and reality are not the same thing. I am sure that this new insight must be completely shocking for you.

"Has it ever occur to you that the people who use racial slurs against
black people probably hate black people."

I think that there is a correlation between these two phenomena, but not a perfect one. Well, some people hate some other people - unfortunately even without good reasons in many cases. For example, the people who use the word "reactionary" probably hate right-wing people, don't they? I think that it's bad if people hate each other, especially if they hate each other in whole groups, but if you asked me how I would design the law, I would probably not upgrade the use of a word to the level of a crime.

I have personally no problem whatsoever if someone calls me a "reactionary" because I know what they mean by it, and in my opinion it is not a negative thing in any important sense, what they mean. So why should be I offended?

If a society defines crimes that are composed from a single word, and if such a law is acceptable and justifiable and just a tollerable limitation of human freedoms, then the people like me simply respect this law. This does not mean that everyone must be excited about a law that makes a magic word illegal. Citizens are expected to respect the law, not to pray to it (and its creators) as a holy word.

reader Luboš Motl said...

"Words and reality are not the same thing eh?"

This discussion about the words vs. reality is exactly a Feynmanian topic - because he was probably more upset about the dopes that don't distinguish words from reality than I am. ;-)

Recall the story about "Energy makes it move" (one of the physics textbooks he was judging) in which he proposed that the children would have learned the same piece of NOTHING if "Energy" were replaced by "Wakalixes".

Yes, if you ask me whether I believe that the people who can't distinguish words from reality - or terminology from the truth and essence - are inferior, my honest answer is Yes.

reader Luboš Motl said...


Right, the Feynman - Gell-Mann rivality is much more well-known to me.

The "cloud of myth" comment by Gell-Mann is probably not offensive because everyone knows that it's partially true and a part of Feynman's style - that he would be proud about.

Gell-Mann also said many things that Feynman was not good for ordinary things where the conventional solutions worked. For example, I remember the comment that Feynman was humiliating the tradition to brush the teeth every day on a TV station. ;-) The total interview with GM about RPF however did not look too bad, I would say.

All the best

reader CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Feynman was a rather arrogant physicist who liked to tell stories in a way which put others down and put himself in a flattering light. for a typical example, look at his Nobel lecture on QED. In the introduction, he not-so-subtly put Schwinger down for being formal, and you guys probably know of his dislike of Schwinger.Feynman was very competitive. The only other member of his generation in his intellectual class was Schwinger, and the fact that he had a strongly contrasting background and style might have helped stimulate the competition. I'm not aware of any deep personal animosity though, but if you are I'd like to hear about it,

His more famous competition was with (the slightly younger) Gell-Mann. Some people were offended by Gell-Mann's memorial commentary, which somewhat unflatteringly accused Feynman of surrounding himself with a cloud of myth, but my guess is that that old truth teller Feynman would have recognized the truth in that and been amused - and really sorry that he wouldn't get a chance to top Gell-Mann at *his* funeral.

Sidney Coleman, another Feynman friend, supposedly said that Feynman's idiosyncratic style was partly for show "climbing Mont Blanc" barefoot, just to show that he could. Maybe, but I doubt it. I think Feynman did things his way because that's what worked for him.

On another note, there might be hundreds of unpublished papers lurking in Feynman's black notebooks - I hoped they were saved and I wonder if any historians of science are working on them.

reader Anonymous said...

Before this, I merely thought of Lubos as a typical conservative right-winger. Now, I realize that he belongs to the extreme right and is an utter bigot.

reader Anonymous said...

Since we are on the topic of Feynman, his nobel lecture and sexism, I discovered how he ended his lecture.

"So what happened to the old theory that I fell in love with as a youth? Well, I would say it's become an old lady, that has very little attractive left in her and the young today will not have their hearts pound when they look at her anymore. But, we can say the best we can for any old woman, that she has been a very good mother and she has given birth to some very good children. And, I thank the Swedish Academy of Sciences for complimenting one of them. Thank you."

reader TripleIntegral said...

One thing is for sure, forget about Feynman, or any other argument about the American situation or politics. The reason it is worth pushing back on PC liberalism is because of the general path down which it leads - the planet has been there, and the panet has suffered mightily.

People who have lived where the full force of evil represented by collectivism should be listened to.

The greatest tragedy of our time may be that in the precise instant where information about the recent past [and even the present!] is readily available - many of the educated classes reject the political ideas that will elevate the quality of life and gurantee the lives of billions of people because they are not fashionable.

Was Richard Feynman a prick? I don't know and I don't care. What's important is that the outraged voices of a self-important incompetent few don't get in the way of human progress.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

reader Anonymous said...

Considering his limited vocabulary, so much that he does not know the vowel that goes in the blank in n_gger, id oubt he has any clue to what a bigot is.

reader TripleIntegral said...

By the way - perhaps I can share something with the blog.

I had the unfortunate occurence to have to spend to days in jail a few months ago because of a driving violation.

I can assure you the the most frequent word used by black folks in my company was: Nigger, Niggah, NNNNNigaah, You my Niggah, AM I your Niggah?

Any variation at all.

What's the big deal?

Loosen up white boys!

How can you be cowed or ashamed or outraged by a word! It means you have no real beliefs or ideas! In context yes, but in sheer utterance no way.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear TripleIntegral, you have apparently had very entertaining inmates! By the way - my experience shows that most of the (infrequent) current discrimination against the women is done by women themselves, and the same probably holds for various other minorities.

I wonder what happens if one of the unstable debaters - for example the person whose biggest achievement is to know the vowel that goes in the blank in n_gger :-) - collapses (as indicated by the spelling "id oubt") - explodes and dies.

Had I never looked into a dictionary what "bigot" meant, I would have probably thought that it meant a person who is not a radical communist combined with an atheist combined with a feminist. Such an explanation of the word would agree with 99% of the appearances of the word that I've encountered in the States so far. ;-)

reader CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Anon - Before this, I merely thought of Lubos as a typical conservative right-winger. ..

No, Lubos is an almost entirely original right winger. I also think that he is in a sense reacting to the colectivism he experience in his youth and hence "a reactionary" in that sense. I do think he is wrong in equating American style liberalism with the communistic collectivism, though it seems to be less clearly differentiated in the minds of some American left-wing academics than it is in the minds of average American liberals.

To my mind, one of the greatest evils is unrestrained power, when it's in the hands of a one-party state, religious theocrats, or a corporate oligarchy. I'm not sure Lubos believes in these other threats - but I don't know.

reader Quantoken said...


I do not know why the discussion turned from Feynman to Hitler and then to the N word.

I am not offended by that particular word. But as a foreigner living in this country you really need to watch yourself for certainly things that you should never say or do. One little thing and you may be send packing going back home to Tzecho. Don't forget you may also have some not so friendly colleagues competing for the same tenureship you are struggling for, and they would be happy to see you fall.

Really it's good advice for your own good. You are not in a position affordable to say or do things politically incorrect yet. Once you become some one like Fernman, you can. But you are just a small potato now. You have natural enermies that you don't even realize until it's too late.

Not me, though. I am just the one watching from a distance with curiosity.

I do not understand why you keep the "sychiatrists" comment, and even argue with him? This guy repeated almost the same vulgarity on my BLOG so many times, that he must be some mental disorder. I was about to write some autobot to automatically remove any of his comments within the first nano second of their occurances. Why do you have to lower yourself by paying attention to some one clearly in a mental disorder.


reader Anonymous said...


reader Quantoken said...


Just want to provide a hook in your BLOG, because I have just obtained the correct theoretical value of the mass of the Top quark, and I am also able to explain why Top quark is much heavier than the other quarks.

Simply put:
Mt = (4*PI/ln(2))/alpha^2) * Me

Please verify that use your calculator before you read on on my blog:

I announce here I have successfully derived the correct mass of top quark, from GUITAR theory.

Before I provide the details, please reference my previous result, where I obtained the correct mass of proton, and the precise mass of neutron, up to 10 decimal places accuracy, using the best known neutron decay lifetime: you see in my previous reasoning, the intrinsic mass should equal to the entropy, i.e., the logarithm of number of intrinsic states, divided by ln(2). For proton, it's ln(2*(1*1! + 3*5! + 7!))/ln(2).

For top quark, I figured out due to confinement, its number of intrinsic states are

Omega = exp(4*PI/alpha), with alpha being the well known fine structure constant.

So the mass of top quark is:

Mt = ln(Omega)/ln(2)

Mt = (4*PI/alpha)/ln(2)

That value agrees with experimental value completely.

Keep in mind I am using the natural unit set in GUITAR, in which the fundamental mass unit M0 equals to electron mass divided by alpha, i.e., about 137 times electron mass.

Mt = (4*PI/alpha)/ln(2) * M0
Mt = (4*PI*137.03599911/ln(2)) * M0
Mt = 2484.386 * M0
Mt = 2484.386 * 137.03599911 * Me
Mt = 340450 * Me

We know Me (electron mass) is 0.511 Mev. So that gived the top quark mass to be:
Mt = 340450 * 0.511 MeV = 173970 MeV.

That completely agrees with the experimentally measured value of 174 GeV, within experimental error! See:

I shall provide more detail later, plus calculation of other quarks. But any one with a calculate can verify the above result in one minute.

So far I have provided amazing precise calculations of many fundamental particles, including proton, neutron, muon, W and Z bosons, Top quark. Not only they are absolutely accurate, but all of them are calculated using extremely simply formulas and absolutely no adjustable parameters. Is that numerology?

GUITAR theory is still a developing theory, but I am now quickly connecting all the dots together and by the time I am able to explain virtually all known elementary particles, not many people will still think it's numerology :-)


reader Anonymous said...

a radical communist combined with an atheist combined with a feminist

That's interesting. We have heard Lubos on communism and feminism, but this is the first time I have seen him talk about atheism. Is Lubos a good god-fearing Christian?

By the way: one of the strange things about Feynman's autobiographical writings is the stories about how he picked up women. The stories are painfully, obviously mendacious -- they read like the maunderings of a drunk Caltech sophomore. And yet Feynman's acolytes take them in hook, line, and sinker. Interesting. I knew someone who regularly attended the Caltech seminars in the Feynman days. It seems that F was so intensely obnoxious and obstructive that there was talk behind the scenes of attempting to ban him. Of course nobody dared to try it in the end. Some hero.

reader Anonymous said...

Feynman was the prototype 'big swinging dick' macho physicist, ever at pains to demonstrate his superiority to others. Men he outsmarted with a flash sum or insightful intuition; women he just bonked. (He was also a rather awful teacher/supervisor, failing to mark and grade exams and undermining the confidence of his graduate students, none of whom came to much. "The books" are not much use unless you already know and understand enough to appreciate how clever he is.) Others, without his undoubted genius, have adopted this persona and made physics the ongoing pissing contest/wankfest that Howard Georgi felt the need to decry recently. Most physcist fans of RPF are sad geek/nerds who couldn't pull their own dicks, never mind a real live woman (or man for that matter)

Phallocentrically yours

reader Anonymous said...

Well, I obviously can't say about Feynman since I've never met him, but I'm know physics professors who humiliate their students in class by making them appear dumb, physics advisors who supervise badly and then blame their graduate students for being dumb, seminar speakers in physics who try to make their audience feel dumb by constantly saying "as you all know in some undergraduate/graduate course" for things which not typically taught there and joke about exploiting graduate student labor, etc. It's also really commonplace to hear physics instructors and TAs talk about how dumb, uninterested their students are.

And it seems MOST physicists are like that.

reader Anonymous said...

You people don't get it at all, do you? Whites saying that they are not offended by racial slurs or ethnic comments or men saying that they are not offended by nasty behavior towards women.

And advising Lubos to "behave himself" until he gets a tenure is simply accepting the system. Why in the world should tenured professors get away with offensive behaviors and have the power to bully those lower in the pecking order than them? And why in the world is the best strategy for the underlings to keep quiet, submit to the authorities and wait until they get a tenure and then THEY in turn can bully others all they want? And in the meanwhile, on their way to their tenure track, they are given students to bully and harass as a way of diffusing their frustrations caused by the system.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear posters,

the logic of many of your posts, especially the anonymous ones, differs sharply from what I am used to call logic.

Concerning Christianity: I was defining what the word "bigot" could have meant according to virtually all experience I've had in the U.S. Being a believer is one of the primary reasons why someone is labeled a bigot, so I could not have omitted Christianity.

This has nothing to do whatsoever with my own beliefs. (That's right: I don't believe the Bible in any non-trivial sense.) If some pea-brains think that I must have an identical relation to all words that appear in the same sentence of mine, even though the sentence has nothing to do with my relations to these words, and that every sentence essentially says "something is very cool" or "something is very horrible", it's my duty to tell them that not everyone is using a one-bit microprocessor instead of the brain like they do, and there also exist more complicated sentences that others are able to construct. ;-)

Also, I just don't believe too much the comments about Feynman being a horrible teacher because it strikingly contradicts all other reports. So my first explanation is that the author of that comment was a politically correct policewoman or policeman.

Other pea-brains have partly succeeded in changing this discussion from Feynman to the N*word. I have nothing to do with that, I've never used this word in my life myself because I did not even know how to spell the word, I am definitely not a racist, and all the participants who are suddenly connecting me with the N*word - without any reason whatsoever - are complete idiots of the worst kind, and I encourage all readers who belong to the 2nd worst (or better) category to ignore the worst category.

On the other hand, I am also not among those who will say that the blacks are always the good ones and the whites must be the bad ones - in my optics this viewpoint is at least as bad as the opposite approach.

It's very likely that the unsigned anonymous weird posts are generated by 1 or 2 brainless typist(s) who want you to join, and my advise is to reject this advise and keep some common sense.

All the best

reader Anonymous said...

Robert said: Most physicist fans of RPF are sad geek/nerds who couldn't pull their own dicks,

Oh come on Robert, that's not true. Pulling their dicks is about all they ever do. Yes, the typical RPF fan reads all that horseshit about the great hero picking up women, and says, "WOW! I wish that worked for me!!!" He wears a stained T shirt with Maxwell's equations printed on it, broken glasses which he never cleans, ill-fitting jeans, has bad breath, plays dungeons and dragons, chess, bridge, and go, listens to heavy metal, reads nothing but science fiction and porn, and --- like the Man Himself --- is grotesquely insistent about how unpretentious he is, as if he had any choice.

reader Anonymous said...

Lubos, your ponderous and unwiedly efforts to get Sean to respond to your inane post has not succeeded. If you don't recall, he's out of town. Nonetheless, this was all pretty amusing.

reader Anonymous said...

The other anonymous poster was right about Feynman. He was well known for being obnoxious during seminars, pretending to be a "village idiot" and giving many speakers a hard time.

And yes, he sometimes forgot (or maybe couldn't be bothered) to grade his student's homework and exams. He even used their homework as scrap paper. Talk about disrespectful!

He also had a very high dropout rate for the courses that he taught. That doesn't sound like a good instructor, does it? After jumping about randomly during his courses, he gave very hard exams to his students.

reader Anonymous said...

He also used to be a regular LSD user and acted obnoxiously in public under its influence.

reader CapitalistImperialistPig said...

So many so eager to dis Feynman! And all anonymous. One said:

He was well known for being obnoxious during seminars, pretending to be a "village idiot" and giving many speakers a hard time.
I think the "village idiot" description came from Douglas Hofstadter. Feynman was amused (says Hofstadter).

He was proud of sitting in the front row and asking "dumb" questions - questions that always had a serious point. It was his style when he was a grad student dealing with Bohr and other "Monster Minds" and he didn't change it when he himself became a famous Nobelist. Caltech colloquia were pretty brutal in those days, between Feynman's questions and Gell-Mann ostentatiously reading a newspaper somewhere else.

These tactics were doubtlessly intimidating and perhaps a bit childish, but if you survived your colloquium there you knew you were golden. Or so they say.

The complaints of Feynman exploiting women also seem a bit much. He loved pretty women and they loved him. I can't see how that equates to exploitation.

A lot of top physicists are ultra-competitive and occasionally obnoxious, but have you ever talked to a few heart surgeons, fighter pilots, or CEO's? Competitive fields attract competitive people.

reader Anonymous said...

The entire field of theoretical physics reeks of testosterone and machoness. It also happens to be one of the most male dominated fields in existence. Coincidence? I think not.

reader mark said...

I have to speak as a historian and not as, are many of you, someone trained in physics.

Richard Feynman was one of the great minds of the 20th century. He was exceeded by Einstein of course and Godel. Probably also by Bohr and Heisenberg.

Admittedly, a few other names might be debatable. All others would be laughable.

Don't pick up the very bad ad hominem habit, now endemic in the humanities, of judging the importance of a person's life work by their irrelevant idiosyncracies. Lubos was right to go ballistic.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Mark,

thanks for your professional perspective. I mostly agree with your judgements although even our fellow (German) Czech Kurt Gödel may be debatable. Don't get me wrong, these were very deep and cool results and thoughts.

All the best

reader Anonymous said...

"Richard Feynman was one of the great minds of the 20th century. He was exceeded by Einstein of course and Godel. Probably also by Bohr and Heisenberg."

I speak as a logic student. I don't think that Goedel's name deserves to be on the list. Several of his results were very important in logic, but I'm not aware of any of them which is significantly useful in any field outside of this subfield of math. His philosophy was also extremely restricted to one specific subarea, and I think he only published one paper outside of logic and philosophy (which was about general relativity). He was incredibly brilliant, to be sure, but his work has little broad-spectrum importance. Of course, most work by brilliant people in the twentieth century is of this nature. Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, etc. all were brilliant but their work was very specialized, so it's quite difficult to compare it to the work of people in other fields. The only exception which springs to my mind is John Von Neumann, who had a dramatic influence on *many* areas of math, physics, and computer science.

For the most part, I think that the age of widely brilliant people is gone, and was ushered out by Von Neumann. The work that remains in science is, for the most part, incredibly technical and requires years of training to master any one field.

reader Anonymous said...

Einstein was in a league of his own obviously. For 25 years he dominated nearly all aspects of physics, including the foundations of qm. Even in his later life, he accomplished more than 99% of all physicists ever will.

Heisenberg/Bohr/Dirac. I might throw some mathematicians in there like Von Neumann and Weyl. But Feynmans name is on a very short list thereafter.

reader mark said...

What about Godel's hypothesis regarding the nature and reality of time ? My understanding, albeit a layman's, is that this was quite significant. Where does that fit within today's theoretical physics ?

Now something I'm better qualified to remark upon:

Lucas wrote:

"For the most part, I think that the age of widely brilliant people is gone, and was ushered out by Von Neumann. The work that remains in science is, for the most part, incredibly technical and requires years of training to master any one field."

Ironically, this argument was also being made near the end of the Newtonian era in the late 19th century before Einstein's papers on relativity.

Social scientists often describe thought as having two aspects " Vertical", the traditional kind that ranges from the general up toward very precise and esoteric levels of expertise. We are very, very, good at producing this type of thinker.

Then " horizontal" which is the visionary and intutitive kind of thinking making insightful leaps across disciplines, often in the process making new discoveries.

These breakthroughs in turn lead to new areas for vertical thinkers to extrapolate and develop. We are not so good at producing these thinkers - in fact we usually attribute this capacity to inherent creative talent. Why ? Obviously traditional training was needed to make high-level leaps in the first place.

The widely brilliant people, the Newtons, DaVincis, Teslas, Einsteins and the like are the horizontal thinkers. They shatter the boxes we find ourselves thinking within.

Perhaps if we find that our higher institutions are not producing thinkers of this kind then maybe our inculcation of the disciplinary framework/paradigm in which they are expected to work is overly rigid ?

reader Anonymous said...

As an interesting side-note about (not)buying drinks: there is a website,,
with many articles on the subject of picking up women, and their advice is identical with Feynman's. So, you can disagree with his way of formulating the problem, but you can't deny that he has (once again) found the right solution.

reader Mayan36 said...

Hey Lubos,

If you or anyone really wants to know what Feynman was all about, check out this great website about a new book, which is dedicated to a collection of Feynman's letters at BasicFeynman.


reader Rod said...


Have you read Sean Carroll's latest attack on Feynman?

Now Feynman is officially a sexist. The PC mob is taking over the world. Lame, lame, lame.


reader Richard said...

I'm utterly amazed that anyone could consider the 'Humanities' unworthy of study. I think that is if anything can be considered to cheapen Feynman, then it's that. I'm a professional historian, in the form of a high school history teacher, (albeit one who has massive subject knowledge, and whose weakness is 'dumbing down' lessons. (WTF has happened to the education system in the 12 years since I was in school?) ) and it just hurts me. I mean I don't know about seeing social sciences as not being proper subjects, or scientific. I've never lied to myself enough to think I'm a scientist beyond my addiction to science work by Dawkins, or some such, but surely History is PREDICTIVE. You can see patterns in history and learn from the past. To cast that into a dustbin because it isn't science pisses me off. So if Feynman had no respect for my discipline, then I don't really care, but it annoys me that anyone could believe such idle rubbish. If he was so damn multi-talented, then why the lack of 'range'?
As to how he treated women... any prat can tell that his stories are hugely exaggerated, and 45percent made up at any rate. Often a punchline in his 'surely you're joking' book is probably total BS, hinging on a ridiculous coincidence. I doubt he was all that bad. Women stick up for themselves, they aren't passive. If they wanted to hit him for being a twat then they would have.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Come on, Richard. History is not a "science" according to the contemporary English terminology, which assumes the creation of hypotheses that are being eliminated by experiments (which only includes natural sciences), and concerning the predictivity, history is simply not reproducible.

Everything in the history happens once. You can see patterns but there are no rules to dictate which patterns are more important than others so these guesses are bound to remain completely vague and it is very questionable whether the professional historians would be better in predicting new historical events than other, ordinary people.

Feynman knew too well what he was talking about. The same comment applies to his propositions about women and all these things.

reader Zephir said...

By such definition astrophysics is not science as well, because you cannot make experiments in it - only observations. And whole evolutionary theory is based on non-scientific, experimentally non-testable conclusions (you can never go into cosmic scale or history and start some experiments), etc..

reader Unknown said...

I don't get it.
Wouldn't Mozart have been a greater arist if he were also a sculptor ? So what ?
I don't read/ like RF because I think he's ethically
I do it selfishly, because I feel I can some understanding of nature I can't get elsewhere.
I also feel vicariously smart ( temporarily)

reader Unknown said...

I don't get it.
Wouldn't Mozart have been a greater arist if he were also a sculptor ? So what ?
I don't read/ like RF because I think he's ethically
I do it selfishly, because I feel I can some understanding of nature I can't get elsewhere.
I also feel vicariously smart ( temporarily)

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