Feynman

“What I cannot build, I cannot understand.”

Richard Feynman invented a whole new way of talking about quantum electrodynamics when writing his PhD thesis at Princeton, which eventually helped him detail some of the properties of weak-force in particle physics in his Nobel prize winning work. Later he invented “Feynman’s diagrams” as an intuitive graphical representation of particle physics, which are still used in theoretical physics to this day.

However, he became famous in part through his maverick and distinctive antics. He was a real character: a very curious character. When at Los Alamos working on the atomic bomb, from picking the locks of his colleagues cabinets which contained top secrets, to playing games with the security personnel; naming a few of his antics which had earned him a well deserved reputation of being a trickster and an iconoclast. Freeman Dyson once wrote that Feynman was “half-genius, half-buffoon”, but later changed this to “all-genius, all-buffoon”. Quickly recognized by the intellectual giants of theoretical physics as a brilliant and quick mind, Feynman was sought out by the innovative thinkers of the day. Contemptous of titles, like all Rationals, when awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, he tried to figure out a way to get out of accepting it.

Learn, Unlearn, Learn

Feynman understood his father very early in his childhood. Melvin Feynman had not been able to pursue his own interest — science — because he never had the means to pay for advanced schooling. Luckily his son naturally had the same Temperament and interest, and Melvin got his wish that his son became a scientist.

Richard and Melvin were close, for they would take long walks and Melvin would talk to his son about the world. What Melvin did was to teach Richard to notice things.

“He … taught me: “See that bird? Its a Spencer’s warbler.” (I knew he didn’t know the real name.) “Well, in Italian it’s Chutto Lapittitda. In Portuguese, it is Bom Da Peida. … You can know the name of the bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know nothing whatsoever about the world. You’ll know about the humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it is doing — that’s what counts.” I learned very early from my father the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

Richard grew up loving to do experiments; he had a laboratory in the basement of his home. He excelled in school. He picked up an algebra book in elementary school and taught himself some parts of it. Gaining in his confidence, he continued learning on his own when he picked up calculus. In his senior year in high school physics, his teacher, Adam Bader, realized Richard was bored because he knew most of what is being taught, making it hard for him to pay close attention. Bader, a real scientist forced to teach in high school because of the Depression, gave him a book to learn higher order mathematics, such as Bessel functions, so that Richard was well in advance of other students of his age by the time he entered college at MIT.

Feynman claimed that his secret weapon was not his intelligence, but rather a strategy he learned in high school. According to Feynman, Bader, his physics teacher, asked him to stay after class one day and gave him a challenge. [1]

“Feynman,” Bader said, “you talk too much and you make too much noise. I know why. You’re bored. So I’m going to give you a book. You go up there in the back, in the corner, and study this book, and when you know everything that’s in this book, you can talk again.” 

So each day, Feynman would hide in the back of the classroom and study the book—Advanced Calculus by Woods—while the rest of the class continued with their regular lessons. And it was while studying this old calculus textbook that Feynman began to develop his own set of methods of analysis.

“That book showed how to differentiate parameters under the integral sign,” Feynman wrote. “It turns out that’s not taught very much in the universities; they don’t emphasize it. But I caught on how to use that method, and I used that one damn tool again and again. So because I was self-taught using that book, I had peculiar methods of doing integrals.

They [Inventor Rationals] are intensely curious and continously probe for possibilities, especially concerning complex problems… Inventors are the most reluctant of all the types to do things in a particular manner just because that is the way things have always been done.” [Please Understand Me II, p202]

Being very good at mathematics, Richard was initially interested in a degree the subject, but he couldn’t figure out what mathematics was good for and it was too abstract for his taste. He switched to electrical engineering, but found out quickly that wasn’t where his heart was either — it was too detailed. He settled on physics — just right — , “real” but not too abstract or too detailed, and useful.

At MIT he was in his element. He found a friend in Ted Welton. He and Welton helped each other learning quantum mechanics and relativity. Welton knew something of relativity and Richard knew something of quantum mechanics. There were no formal courses in quantum mechanics, so when they asked a faculty member, Phillip Morse, where they could learn it, Morse said “I will teach you.” Morse instructed them in his office, suggesting a research project as homework. Morse had a new invented a new method of calculation, and he had Welton and Feynman calculate some problems involving light atoms. Their results were useful to Harvard astronomers; Feynman reported these results to the astronomers, realizing that what he was doing was useful, not just an academic exercise. He liked that.

As an undergraduate, Feynman had learned that the fundamental problems in quantum electrodynamics were being pursued at the time. The last sentence in Dirac’s classic book gave him inspiration because it opened to door in new ideas — Dirac said, “It seems that some essential new physical ideas are needed here.”

“These men like Heisenberg and Pauli, who had worked on quantum electrodynamics and had been stuck with the difficulties of solving the problem of infinities, did not know anything; I’m going to show them how to do it!” — Richard Feynman

Comfortable in science circles, Richard wasn’t that comfortable in formal situations. The famous anecdote, being the title of one of his bestselling books, Surely you are joking, Mr. Feynman, Feynman tells of the classic interaction between him and a Provider Guardian, Mrs. Eisenhart, although Feynman did not know anything of Temperament. Going to Princeton tea, a tradition at Princeton for graduate students, Feynman, a new graduate student and being an unsophisticated, from a modest background, ethnic Jew, rube from the Bronx, first encountered the hidebound social world of the Protestant influential and well to do in the 1930’s.

… I had not social abilities whatsoever; I had no experience with this sort of thing. So I come up to the door, and there’s Dean Eisenhart, greeting new students: “Oh you’re Mr Feynman,” he says “We’re glad to have you.” So that helped a little, because he recognized me, somehow. I go through the door, and there are some ladies, and some girls, too. It’s all very formal and I’m thinking about where to sit down and should I sit next to this girl, or not, and how should I behave, when I hear a voice behind me. “Would you like cream or lemon in your tea, Mr Feynman?” — It’s Mrs. Eisenhart pouring tea.

“I’ll have both, thank you,” I say, still looking for where I’m going to sit, when suddenly I hear — “Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh. Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman.”

Subtle social conventions, well developed in this Guardian world, are easily violated by this oafish kind of Rational rube. However, Feynman, a keen observer of human behavior, eventually understood this encounter with this kind of human creature. Intuitively understanding the social dynamics, well beyond Mrs Eisenhart’s comprehension, Feynman did what most Rationals do with these social situations — ignored them whenever possible, and go his own way.

Different Drums and
A Different Drummer

Fredrick Reines recalled: “He was a marvelous guy. He looked like a hick and talked like a New Yorker. He was very considerate and kind, a really fine boss.” On the otherhand, said his long time friend Ted Welton of Feynman’s interaction with his colleagues, “We all saw him diplomatically, forcefully, usually with humor (gentle or not, as needed) dissuade a respected colleague from some unwise course. We all saw him forcefully rebuke a colleague less favored by his respect, frequently with ungentle humor. Only a fool would have subjected himself twice to such an experience.”

Rationals want to govern themselves, and also think for themselves. From an early age Rationals will not accept anyone’s else’s ideas without first scrutinizing them for error. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a widely accepted authority or not; the fact that a so-called “expert” proclaims something leaves the Rational indifferent. [Please Understand Me II, p185]

At Los Alamos, Feynman also met Niels Bohr. Bohr’s pseudonym at the Manhattan Project, for security, was Nicholas Baker. Even to the big guys at Los Alamos, Bohr was a great god. But Feynman always spoke his mind when talking physics. “I was always dumb about one thing. I never knew who I was talking to. I was always worried [only] about physics.” Bohr observed that trait in Feynman, so when Bohr came to Los Alamos again for an important meeting, he arranged to talk to Feynman about his ideas before calling in the other people. He knew Feynman would not be a sycophant, agreeing with his ideas just because he was Bohr.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.” — Feynman

Inventor Rationals include: Atul GawandeLarry PageElaine MorganLynn MargulisElon MuskSteve JobsJoseph James SylvesterFrances CrickPaul AllenWerner Von BraunWolfgang PauliAbraham LincolnMark TwainHedy LamarrJulius Sumner Miller, and Zhang Xin

The Boss

“The Boss,” as he was called by those under him, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili was born in Gori, Georgia, in the Russian Empire in 1878.  His father, “Besso,” became a drunk, and beat his wife, “Keke,” and son.  They moved a lot, and finally Besso abandoned Keke and Iosif.  Keke, born a serf, was a tough, but righteous and religiously pious woman; she also beat her son. Keke wanted her son to be a priest.

Gori was a rough and poor town.  Street gangs and crime were common, and Iosif, small but wiry, was known to participate in the fighting.  Nevertheless, Iosif was a good student.  The Russian language was required in the Russian empire, and Iosif learned it, but always had a Georgian accent. Education was by rote and corporal punishment was rampant; one teacher rapping the students’ knuckles if their eyes wandered.   Iosif won a scholarship to Seminary at the age of 16.  The seminary was very Spartan, dogmatic, and severe corporal and psychological punishment was normal.

In the seminary, he discovered revolutionary material, including Darwin and Marx, destroying his belief in religion.  “They are lying to us,” he said to a fellow student. Living a double life, one secret, at night, he got involved in Georgian revolutionary activities. He had chosen the name “Koba,” a Russian, fictional Robin Hood-like character. There, quite a few other students became revolutionaries from that Seminary at that time. Ioseph was dismissed for not taking an exam just before graduating, maybe because he couldn’t pay the rapidly rising fees.  He had become a revolutionary, joining an organization that later became the violent part of the Communist party, the Bolsheviks. It was a life of safe houses, forged documents, and secrecy.  Koba was brilliant at organizing workers and also mixing with criminal elements. He collected and directed “enforcers” like Kamo, a brutal, violent, sociopath.  While in prison, he became the boss of the prisoners: he was inured to physical punishment.

Sent to Baku by the revolutionary committee, Koba ordered the murders of many Black Hundreds (right-wing supporters of the Tsar), and conducted protection rackets and ransom kidnappings against the oil tycoons of Baku. He also operated counterfeiting operations and robberies. He befriended the criminal gangs; Koba’s gangsterism upset the Bolshevik and Menshevik intelligentsia, but he was too influential with Lenin and indispensable to be opposed.  As a revolutionary in Tsarist times, he was arrested eight times and escaped seven times, before the Russian Revolution in 1917; but he changed the facts after he was General Secretary, obscuring one of his arrests. It was suspected by some of his fellow Bolsheviks that Koba was a double-agent, a provocateur, for he seemed to go to-and-fro without any visible support, without difficulty, and was not arrested with everybody else in a particular Tsarist roundup.  Koba, most likely known by Lenin as a double-agent, played the game well, with internal party members sometimes sacrificed for the cause. No doubt Koba used this policy for his own purposes also. At one point, when complaints were getting serious, he was arrested, and rumors were dropped for the time being. Continue reading

Officious Busy-Bodies

“Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.”
What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

I have lost Wikipedia battles.  The latest I just discovered.

They are virtually nameless.  They just appear in the history of edits on a Wikipedia page.  They are vandals in the guise of “Wikipedia Administrators.”  Self appointed legal vandals, in the guise of upholding “Wikipedia standards and practices”.  Their religion is to enforce that the Wikipedia has conforming and superficial knowledge.  I believe there are some good Wikipedia Administrators out there, but I haven’t encountered one.  I have had battles with these “little Caesars” with their officiousness throughout the years.

Here is what this “Wikipedia Administrator” troll has to say about his “work” — what he doesn’t mention is his trashing and deleting of Keirsey Temperament Wikipedia pages:

My current Wikipedia programming project is Wikipedia:Typo Team/moss, which aims to spell-check, grammar-check, and style-check all of the English Wikipedia.

“spell-check, grammar-check, and style-check”  and deleting perfect legitimate material that had been on Wikipedia for more than a decade at least.

I call it: Ignorant Censoring

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Gestalt Science

modeling_relationA Viking Reader

Fearless Asymmetry and Symmetry

order_chaos_particle_biform
Chaos to Order,                                 Order to Chaos

My father died on July 30th, 2013 and I intend to honor him, if I can, by writing a blog about him and the consequences of me integrating his ideas every year.  First year,  Second YearThird Year, Fourth YearFifth Year, Sixth Year. this is the Seventh Year.

keirsey_seaweedMy father, near the end of his life, considered himself the last Gestalt Psychologist. When I was very young I was fearful of kelp seaweed: my father showed me that it couldn’t hurt me, so I shouldn’t be afraid of it.   I learned from him. If you understand something, you can reason about it.   If you only have a correlation, you can’t be sure of the factors. He was never afraid to question conventional wisdom or the current fashionable and entrenched ideas (however old or fast those ideas were).

As a clinical school psychologist he was on the front line against invasion of chemical psychiatry into K-12 schools, and he saw how they used “their pseudo-scientific expertise [and argot]” to fool and trap kids and parents into approving the use of brain disabling drugs, within the “educational system” and with the implicit pressure and blessing (and relieving of responsibility) of the teachers and administrators.  He also didn’t buy into the dominant paradigms of the first half of 20th century of Freudian psychology and the correlational “blank slate” behaviorism of Watson and Skinner.

“If you don’t understand something said, don’t assume you are at fault.”
— David West Keirsey

Throughout my discussions and debates with him in my lifetime, he talked about ideas.   We talked about philosophy, science, mathematics, computers, people, and life. 

to_explain_the_world_cover 

Continue reading

More Moore

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I was in his office.  I remember it to this day.  Think it was Sue Lapin who directed me to his room, but that’s another story.

wizard_child

He was a classic example of a gray haired, balding, absent-minded professor, his office shelves stuffed to the ceiling with books, papers, and other flotsam and jetsam of an academia life. There we were: two different generations —  he, my father’s generation, and me, a 50’s nerd baby boomer. The commonality was we were both computer nerds, interested in ideas and the nascent computer science field.   At the time I was just trying to get a job to support my education: a Masters degree at University of Wisconsin, Madison, far from my home in sunny SoCal.  I had driven the two thousand miles or so across the US for the first time in my life to get there.

We talked for about four hours non-stop about all kinds of things, the Chinese language is the only subject I remember: he was a fountain of knowledge, and both us could have gone on many Moore hours.  I probably didn’t know the significance of it at the time, except he did point me to a job which I got to support myself in that strange land.  A year and half later, I got a Masters in Computer Science, and left Madison to wander towards Enlightenment for the next 46 years, and hopefully beyond.

dmk_library_physics_math

But what I didn’t know at the time how important Ed Moore’s idea was:  Moore machines would become important to me for understanding the world. I needed to learn More about Moore and many other things — Slowly.

edward_f_moore
Edward F Moore

It took me awhile (about 40 years) to come back to his concepts and the basics of information and computer science:  armed with many knowledge domains that I initially failed and succeeded at, and revisited, as I did with Ed’s fast and slow ideas.

tortoise-hare

“The purpose of computing is for insight, not numbers” — Richard Hamming

I had personally encountered previous many individuals involved with the emerging computer field as an undergraduate, like Richard Hamming and John Seely-Brown, and later in graduate school, Paul Mockapetris, and in Artificial Intelligence and robotics research work (HRL) Carver Mead, Lynn Conway, and Steve Crocker and their work would be important in seeing the underlying patterns of computing, the Internet, and reality.

autocoder_manuals

But it was the work and ideas of Arvind and Kim Gostelow on PetriNets and Dataflow, while I was in graduate school, that I didn’t appreciate until recently.   They concentrated on theoretical computation.

‘Invert, always invert’
(‘man muss immer umkehren’)
— Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi

petri_mealy_moore_machine_spiral

Combining the three finite cellular automata architectures: Mealy machines, Moore machines, and Petri nets in a Gestalt Science methodology is the next step along the way of this wandering enlightenment.  And then there is even More Moore to be understood.

SporadicGroups.svg

To be continued…

Inverse Semigroups

Slow Ideas

Gestalt Science

The Digital Sand Reckoner

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

— William Blake

dave_grad_schoolarchimedes
New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized,
but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher
who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought
on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
Max Planck

elkies_power_five_formula

Connecting precise physical relationships between the finites and the infinites.

Continue reading

Let’s be Reason-able

blind_justice

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection [opportunity] of [under] the laws. [14th Amendment of the American Constitution, modified by DMK]

“All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground …”  Sarah Grimke

The Notorious Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

ruth_ginsburg

“Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

Continue reading

Bourdain

In the Heart of Darkness and Lightbourdain_congo_river

On June 8, 2013,  ‘Congo’ — Season 1, Episode 7 of Parts Unknown was aired on CNN.

“It is the most relentlessly fucked-over nation in the world, yet it has long been my dream to see Congo. And for my sins, I got my wish.” Bourdain starts the episode off on a dramatic note as he tries to recreate his favorite book, Heart of Darkness.

On June 8, 2018, he committed suicide while on location in France for Parts Unknown.  The suicide appeared to be an “impulsive act“.

Continue reading

Slow Ideas

Comparative Science and Relational Complexity

We would debate for hours.

Over decades.

Only the educated and self-educated are free.

My father died on July 30th, 2013 and I intend to honor him, if I can, by writing a blog about him and the consequences of me integrating his ideas every year.  First year,  Second YearThird Year, Fourth Year, Fifth Year  This is the sixth year.

When I was young, my father would introduce and discuss, around the dinner table, the ideas of philosophers, scientists, and historians: like Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, Georg Hegel, William James, Arthur Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Oswald Spengler, Will Durant, Ayn Rand, Milton Erickson, and Jay Haley, to name a few.

I had a question early on “How and Why does the World Work?” He had a more difficult question: “What are the long-term patterns of an ‘Individual’s Human Action?” He was clinical school psychologist, who was identifying deviant habits of children, parents, and teachers. He was developing techniques aimed at enabling them to abandon such habits. His methods of research and reasoning enabled him to evolve his ideas into a coherent system. His model of Human Temperament has helped many people to better understand themselves and others.

He was good at qualitative reasoning, wholistic thought: the Gestalt (despite [and because] of having lots of training in statistics). I became good at quantitative reasoning: conventional science and mathematics. Between the two of us, as we debated, I realized that there was a middle way, much more powerful than ad hoc wholistic reasoning or ad hoc atomistic reasoning, when they are used separately. The new middle way, The Slow Idea, is using Comparative Science and Relational Complexity in conjunction as fields of scientific endeavor using systematic qualitative and quantitative reasoning together. To some extent: (hard and soft) science, mathematics, and computer science are towers of Babel, not able to understand each other’s argot and considered irrelevant to other.

The idea ofSlow Ideas <=> Fast Ideas

The root of this idea appeared just recently, thanks to Atul Gawande. He and Matt Ridley noted that ideas operate very much in an evolutionary manner.

Fast Ideas and Slow Ideas

FAST IDEAS WORK

eventually, SLOW IDEAS WORK BETTER, and longer

Atul Gawande introduced the idea of slow and fast ideas with an example from the 19th century. The fast idea was anesthesia and the slow idea was antiseptics. To quote him:

“Why do some innovations [ideas] spread so swiftly and others so slowly? Consider the very different trajectories of surgical anesthesia and antiseptics, both of which were discovered in the nineteenth century.”

“The first public demonstration of anesthesia was in 1846…”

“The idea [anesthesia] spread like a contagion, travelling through letters, meetings, and periodicals. By mid-December, surgeons were administering ether to patients in Paris and London. By February, anesthesia had been used in almost all the capitals of Europe, and by June in most regions of the world.”

Antiseptics, on the other hand, was a slow idea. It took decades for antiseptics to accepted by doctors, who had no incentives to change their practices that didn’t help them immediately. Blood stained clothes was a sign of a experienced surgeon; and washing hands, sterilizing instruments, and keeping hospitals clean seemed unnecessary. Germ theory was dismissed by doctors because the “germs” were not readily observed. Miasma Theory still was used as an excuse to not change.

Hey buddy, can you spare a Para-digm?

“Science advances one funeral at a time.” — Max Planck

“The trouble with specialists is that they tend to think in grooves” — Elaine Morgan

Establishment science needs to protect themselves from quacks, but it also resists slow ideas that are not easily incorporated into the current fashionable (often fast) ideas. This is natural, this is the way evolution works. However, Kuhnian revolutions (as in Margulian-Darwinian evolution) are necessary in science to progress and leap across the Quantum Gap.