The Key to Science (and all learning) is…?

The Key to Science (and all learning) is…? November 19, 2012

… being wrong and learning from being wrong.

Steven Ross Pomeroy:

In 1964, the occasionally enigmatic but always energetic physicist, Dr. Richard Feynman gave a lecture at Cornell University to a packed hall of eager, young scholars. Feynman’s demeanor was crisp and purposeful that day, a style reinforced by his sharp appearance. The professor’s hair was neat and tidy, and he was keenly attired in a trim, tailored suit.

His right hand grasping a piece of chalk, his left had nestled in his coat pocket, Feynman started to speak. “I’m going to discuss how we would look for a new law,” he said in his unvarnished Queens accent, referring to his work as a theoretical physicist.

Feynman walked over to the chalkboard and began to write. His oration continued, almost in a manner synced with his scribbling. “First we guess it… Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what it would imply. And then we compare those computation results… directly to observation to see if it works.”

Feynman paused, removed his left hand from his coat pocket, and strode back over to the lectern to briefly peruse some notes. He then launched right back into his sermon.

“If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong,” he asserted, craning his neck forward and adroitly pointing his left hand at the chalkboard to accentuate the point. “In that simple statement, is the key to science.”


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