“ I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and then many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go on to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a 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. ”
~ Richard Feynman; (Born 95 years ago today, May 11, 1918)
It’s okay … not to know the answer? I like that too.
Science is fundamentally amazing. There just isn’t a fact that isn’t remarkable. What drew me to write about science is that, although I had been a terrible student of science at school, I was certain that there must be some level at which even I could engage with science.
Bill Bryson, author of the fantastic book A Short History of Nearly Everything
Science: This is for everyone.
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.
This is Feynman’s opinion on the one scientific sentence to be passed on to the next generation.
(via Brain Pickings)
From "The Cosmos": an interview with Carl Sagan
- Jonathan Cott: So you're trying to wake people up a bit.
- Carl Sagan: Those are highly ethical motivations. But a lot of my motivation is that understanding science is fun. It's communicable fun.
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.
On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.
Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.
Which do you think is more exquisitely built? The cosmos or the human form?
One is a seemingly infinite collection of various condensations of matter, all expanding outward from the same genesis, existing independently across immense distances that turn even the simplest observations into time travel.
The other is a localized collection of biological units, each dependent on the summed contributions of the whole, and even on the contributions of life beyond itself, in order to exist at all. As the cosmos does, it arises from a single genesis, but its growth and organization rely on an intensely intricate choreography of signals, relationships and cooperation across distances small enough that we don’t distinguish them from the body as a whole.
One is built out small bits of the other, but the larger, in a way, does not exist except that it has been named by the smaller.