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Richard Feynman, Prelude in Eb minor

and Meaning of It All

Public Lecture by Vladimir Chaloupka
May 10, 2012 6:30 8:00 PM
Geballe Auditorium PAA 102, Physics/Astronomy building

On the eve of what would have been Richard Feynmans 94th
birthday, and at the conclusion of the Feynman year at the UW,
the lecture will celebrate his wisdom, love of life, love of science
and love of doubt. We will recall Feynmans distaste for formal
pomp and circumstance, Physics Nobel Prize and all, and we shall
acknowledge his passion for drumming as well as his regrettable
attitude towards classical music. Some rare as well as not-sorare
clips and still images will be shown and discussed. Feynmans
Central Mystery of Quantum Mechanics will be formulated for
poets and musicians, and maybe - physicists will appreciate it
from a new point of view.
A suitable choice for an advance reading might be the Study
Guide[1] for Feynmans Meaning of It All that was chosen as
the UW Common Book for 2011/2012. For the most part, the
lecture will be lighthearted, but when we do get serious, we will
illustrate what is perhaps the single most important sentence from
that Guide: Richard Feynman was an extraordinary human being,
and to study the complexities of his life will help you to deal with
the complexities of your own.

[1] Please see
CV of VC:

Vladi Chaloupka was born in what is now the Czech Republic,
when it was under Nazi occupation. He grew up in the country
subsequently dominated by the Soviet Union. In 1968 he
experienced a shock and awe invasion, and escaped to
Switzerland. There he obtained his PhD in Physics from the
University of Geneva, and worked as a particle physicist at CERN.
In 1975 he moved to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in
California, and in 1981 he came to the University of Washington.
After a career in experimental elementary particle physics, he is
now working on merging his life experience with his three
passions: science, music and human affairs, into one coherent
At the University of Washington, Dr. Chaloupka is Professor of
Physics, Adjunct Professor at the School of Music, and Adjunct
Professor at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.
Richard Feynman, Prelude in E
minor and Meaning of It All

Richard Feynman would have hated this lecture
Prelude in E
minor ???

Classical music music in the European tradition he found not
just dull but positively unpleasant. Above all it was the experience
of listening that he could not stand.

But maybe not.

What he hated was the pomp and snobism, but he was keenly
interested in learning new things, and maybe he would have
appreciated the complex issues of music notation we will briefly
discuss, as well as the use of music for very complex purposes.
Intro: Feynman and Bach

Feynman Facts Illustrated.

Selected Issues in (some) Depth:

Central Mystery of Quantum Mechanics

Grand Tour: At Home in the Universe

Doubt and Faith; Science and Religion

Bach Prelude in Eb and Chopin Etude in C#

Meaning of It All

Vladimir (Vladi) Chaloupka
At the University of Washington, Dr. Chaloupka is Professor of Physics, Adjunct
Professor at the School of Music, and Adjunct Professor at the Henry M. Jackson
School of International Studies.
(and he also is, BY FAR, the most modest professor on campus )

After a career in experimental elementary particle physics, he is now working on
merging his life experience with his three passions: science, music and human
affairs, into one coherent whole.

Note: This is not just a compilation of Feynman quotes and reminiscences. This is a
celebration of what I believe is the Feynman spirit: a substantial Feynman-inspired
lecture, with some original and perhaps controversial views. We will carefully
distinguish the views of:

1) Richard Feynman
2) VC

And views of VC are not necessarily shared by the assistants: Vladis students Alexa
Erdogan, William Fortney, Cameron Gerholt, Linda Thanh Duong, Eduardo Chiprez,
Monica Torres and Austin Hackett.
nor by the Physics Dept. or by the UW

Feynman Facts, Illustrated

Richard Phillips Feynman was born on May 11, 1918 in New York. By the
age of 15 he taught himself differential and integral calculus.

As a boy, Feynman taught himself to repair radio sets. Here he describes his
interaction with an unfriendly customer:

[the guy] says: "What are you doing? You come to fix the radio, but now you're
only walking back and forth!"
I say, "I am thinking!".
Then I said to myself , "All right, take the tubes out, and reverse the order" ... so
I changed the tubes around, stepped to the front of the radio, turned the thing
on, and it's as quiet as a lamb: it waits until it heats up, and then plays perfectly
- no noise.
When a person has been negative to you , and then you do something like
that, they're usually a hundred percent the other way, kind of to compensate.
He got me other jobs, and kept telling everybody what a tremendous genius I
was, saying, "He fixes radios by thinking!" The whole idea of thinking, to fix a
radio - a little boy stops and thinks, and figures out how to do it - he never
thought that was possible.
He obtained his PhD from the Princeton University; his
biographer James Gleick wrote: " At twenty-three ... there
was no physicist on earth who could match his exuberant
command over the native materials of theoretical science."
When Feynman gave his first seminar at Princeton, Albert
Einstein came to listen. In WWII Feynman joined the
Manhattan project building the first nuclear weapons; at age
24 he was appointed a group leader at Los Alamos.

Feynman and the Bomb:
Soon [others] will be able to do to
Columbus, Ohio, what we did to
Hiroshima. And we scientists are
clever too clever are you not
satisfied? Is four square miles in one
bomb not enough? Just tell us how big
you want it!
In 1965 he received the Nobel prize for his fundamental
contribution to Quantum Electrodynamics - the QED theory
that explains, in Dirac words, "much of physics and all of

Gradually, Feynman developed an extraordinary teaching
ability (witness the famous "Feynman Lectures on Physics"
and the Oerstead Medal. With his easily recognizable accent
of a "philosopher from Brooklyn", he mixed the most
advanced concepts in physics with jokes, clever ideas and
deep insights into human condition.

On the first day of class, Scott recalled, "in the hall, there were
183 new freshman and a bowling ball hanging from the three-story
ceiling to just above the floor. Feynman walked in, and without a
word, grabbed the ball and backed against the wall with the ball
touching his nose. He let go, and the ball swung slowly 60 feet
across the room and back--stopping naturally, just short of
crushing his face. Then he took the ball again, stepped forward,
and said: 'I wanted to show you that I believe in what I'm going to
teach you over the next two years."
Alan Harris writes:

"Perhaps my most striking memory of a Feynman lecture was not
of one I attended, but of one being prepared for the class ahead of
me. I was doing my weekly lab work in the freshman physics lab.
At one point, as I walked out into the hall to get a drink of water, I
heard a familiar voice coming from the lecture room at the other
end of the hall. I peeked in to discover Feynman practicing to an
empty lecture hall the lecture he was to deliver an hour or so later.
It was a full dress rehearsal, with all the gestures, enthusiasm,
and chalkboard notations. The excellent choreography [of his
lectures] was no accident.
What impressed me so deeply was that here was the world's
most famous living physicist taking such care to present this
material to lower-division undergraduates."
Feynman and philosophy

Feynman was openly hostile toward scholarly philosophy, and did not
hesitate to express his opinions clearly. There is this story about the whole
Philosophy department marching out of the middle of a lecture he was
invited to give at some university (there is some evidence that it was in
fact the UW Department of Psychology during Feynmans visit here)..
And yet, he was quite a philosopher himself, his "Brooklyn" accent and
all. It often seems as if he wanted to show what a "folk-philosopher" can
contribute. And indeed - I find myself touched - both intellectually as well
as emotionally more by Feynman's "amateurish" rumbling on
imagination, doubt and God, than by learned, scholarly papers and books
by specialists. It is a great mind that speaks - as Marvin Goldberger writes
in "Most of the good stuff:

[for Feynman] "it didn't matter what the subject was; everything was
challenge to be understood, and usually in a totally unexpected way. He
approached problems with the attitude of a brilliant child unencumbered
with inhibitions of previous knowledge".

And part of Feynman attraction to the public, and his problem with
the scholars, was his plain language.

From Is Electricity Fire in Classic Feynman:

When Feynman participated in an interdisciplinary conference, the
stenographer said to him: Surely you are not a professor?. Why
do you think so? . Well, when the other fellas talk, I type what
they say, but I dont understand what theyre saying. But every
time you get up to ask a question or to say something, I
understand exactly what you mean ... so I thought you cant be a

In his "extracurricular activities" Feynman cracked a Mayan
code, played bongo drums and planned a trip to Tuva to hear
the art of throat singing. In 1986, he helped solve the
Challenger space shuttle disaster on live TV during the
Committee Hearing.

In addition to the work that was rewarded by a Nobel Prize in
Physics (1964), Feynman wrote a short paper that is
considered as the foundation of the whole new field of

and another short paper that is considered as a foundation of
the whole new field of Quantum Computing.

His bongo drumming was competent (and enthusiastic)
and his drawing and paintings were interesting (even
exhibited and sold ).

In personal life Feynman was a loving husband, then a wild
womanizer, then loving husband again.

Here is how Freeman Dyson describes a 1946 cross-country trip
when they were caught up in a storm:

"The hotels were filled to capacity with stranded travelers. We
were lucky to find a room which Dick and I could share for 50
cents each. In that little room, with the rain drumming on the dirty
window panes, we talked the night through. Dick talked of his
dead wife, of the joy he had had in nursing her and making her
last days tolerable, of the tricks they played together on the Los
Alamos security people, of her jokes and courage. He talked of
death with the easy familiarity which can come only to one who
has lived with spirit unbroken through the worst that death can

He was modest and self-aggrandizing at the same time.

Feynman's colleague at Caltech and fellow Nobel Prize winner
Murray Gell-Mann wrote:

"[Feynman] surrounded himself with a cloud of myth, and he
spent a great deal of time and energy generating anecdotes
about himself. ... Many of the anecdotes arose, of course,
through the stories Richard told, of which he was generally the
hero, and in which he had to come out, if possible, looking
smarter than anyone else.

Somewhat strangely, Gell-Mann wrote this in Feynmans
obituary. Most colleagues would choose different occasion for
such a reminiscence, or a different reminiscence for such an
occasion but this was Murray Gell-Mann .

He was very kind and thoughtful most of the time, but very
rude some of the time.

In 1966 a Swedish encyclopedia publisher wrote asking for a
photograph of Feynman "beating the drum" to give "a human
approach to a presentation of the difficult matter that theoretical
physics represents." This was his reply:

Dear Sir,
The fact that I beat a drum has nothing to do with the fact that I
do theoretical physics. Theoretical physics is a human endeavor,
one of the higher developments of human beings, and the
perpetual desire to prove that people who do it are human by
showing that they do other things that a few other humans do
(like playing bongo drums) is insulting to me.
I am human enough to tell you to go to hell.
Yours, RPF

A complaint about his behavior, from a Caltech colleague:

Dear Dr. Feynman,
I believe that your comments at last week's Physics Colloquium
were arrogant, rude, and disruptive. In addition your attitude
appeared to encourage students (or post-docs?) sitting near you.
Their persistent giggling and snickering was annoying and rude.
Please consider this.
I remain, however, a great admirer of yours.
Sincerely, Heidi Houston.

Feynman replied by an Interoffice memorandum:

Thank you for your observations on my behavior at the
Colloquium. You are probably right.
on the other hand:

Feynman's thoughtful reply to a letter from a scholar from the

Dear Mrs. Kamp,
Thank you for your fan letter.
There are certainly more mysteries than knowledge and, perhaps,
more ways of finding things out than science. I like science
because when you think of something you can check it by
experiment; "yes" or "no", Nature says, and you go from there
progressively. Other wisdom has no equally certain way of
separating truth from falsehood. So I have taken the easy course
with easy methods, while [you] are pursuing far more difficult
matters with less to guide you.

Good luck with your endeavors.
Sincerely, Richard P. Feynman

And an apology to Swedish people:

And so, you Swedish people, with your honors, and your
trumpets, and your king - forgive me. For I understand at last -
such things provide entrance to the heart. Used by a wise and
peaceful people they can generate good feeling, even love,
among men, even in lands far beyond your own. For that lesson, I
thank you. Tack![1]

[1] Tack = Thank you in Swedish

Since 1978, Feynman went through four major surgeries
for his cancer, with remarkable courage and equanimity.
He died on February 15, 1988.

Richard Feynman was an extraordinary human being, and
to study the complexities of his life may help you to deal
with the complexities of your own.


End of the Feynman Facts Illustrated

Central Mystery
Of Quantum Physics
Example of Modern Physics:
The Central Mystery of Quantum Physics
1) click, click,..
Example of Modern Physics:
The Central Mystery of Quantum Physics
2) No clicks
Example of Modern Physics:
The Central Mystery of Quantum Physics
3) click, click,
Example of Modern Physics:
The Central Mystery of Quantum Physics
4) No clicks
So, we conclude (paraphrasing Einstein) that the most incomprehensible thing
about quantum mechanics is that it appears to be comprehensible.

Some 30 years ago, physicists (following Feynman) decided to stop agonizing
about the mystery of Quantum, and took it as resource to be exploited => the
field of Quantum Computing was born.

And we warn you to beware of claims such as:

We now know that the moon is demonstrably not there when nobody looks.
Quantum Physics says goodbye to reality.
Your observation not only creates a current reality, it also creates the history
appropriate to that reality."

And especially: do not take seriously concepts such as:

Knocking on Heavens door
Being on the threshold of reading His thoughts
The God Particle

These are signs of arrogance, ignorance or just a bad taste,
and some would say blasphemy.

Grand Tour: At Home in the Universe

the extremely small:
antiprotons, quarks, neutrinos, ...

the extremely large:
Sun / galaxies / superclusters of galaxies

the extremely fast:
Einstein's Special Relativity: simultaneity/spacetime

the extremely massive:
Einstein's General Relativity: Black Holes

And, in the middle of all scales, the extremely complex:
Molecular Biology / human brain / Art of Fugue

Slide to keep in mind during the Tour
It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe
beyond man, to think of what it means without man -
as it was for the great part of its long history, and as it
is in the great majority of places. When this objective
view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of
matter are appreciated, to then turn the objective eye
back on man viewed as matter, to see life as part of
the universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an
experience which is rarely described.

Richard Feynman
Tracks of elementary particles
(proton, anti-proton, electron,
positron , ) in a liguid hydrogen
Bubble Chamber.

Size of an anti-proton is about
0.000,000,000,001 m.
Fig. 19: Marvelous Molecular machines.
Left: spontaneous assembly and disassembly
of a microtubule.
Above: a kinesin molecule[sic] walks[sic] along a
microtubule, carrying an organelle
Both pix from inside(!) a cell of dia ~ 0.000,010 m


And recall spliceosome, topoisomerase, aminoacyl tRNA synthetase, ribosome,
Our Sun, 8 light minutes away, about 1,400,000 km in diameter (cf. Earth 12,000 km dia)
Stars orbiting a black hole (with a mass of 3.6 million Suns) in
center of Milky Way, 26,000 light years away. (You have to view
this in the slide show mode to see the animation.)
The Andromeda
2 million light years
away. The most
distant object visible
by naked eye (you
have to know where
to look, and find a
really dark place,
but the experience
is very much worth
Note: for details on when and how to see Andromeda, see ~huffman/m31.html
Each white dot represent a galaxy (with about 100 billions stars each) as determined by
the measurement results of the 2df galaxy survey. Note the distance scale.
Black hole (2.6 billion Suns) at the center of galaxy M87, 54 million light years
away. The faint yellow cloud is the galaxy itself; the visible dots are globular star
clusters (see next slide).
Globular cluster Omega Centauri
Hubble Ultra Deep Field, with galaxies up to 13 billion light years away
Only one thing comes to mind:
Psalm 19.1
[For the choir director; a psalm by David.]
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky displays what his hands have made.

and this comes to mind of believer and an
(educated) unbeliever alike
In some respects, science has far surpassed
religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any
major religion has looked at science and concluded,
"This is better than we thought! The Universe is much
bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle,
more elegant. God must be even greater than we
A religion, old or new, that stressed the
magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern
science might be able to draw forth reserves of
reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional
faiths. Carl Sagan in Pale Blue Dot
Science and Religion, Doubt and Faith.
For the student, when he learns about science, there are two sources of
difficulty in trying to weld science and religion together. The first source of
difficulty is this - that it is imperative in science to doubt; it is absolutely
necessary, for progress in science, to have uncertainty as a fundamental
part of your inner nature.
The second difficulty: Man is a latecomer in a vast evolving drama; can
the rest be but a scaffolding for his creation? [The scientific views]
appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all
arranged simply as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and
evil seems to be inadequate.
It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which
comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress
which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this
freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and
discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming
Richard Feynman
Science and Spirituality (as seen by VC)
Science is compatible with Faith.
Example: Francis Collins, Director of NIH:
Slide 1: Almighty God, who is not limited in
space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion
years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to
allow the development of complexity over long
periods of time.
Slide 2: Gods plan included the mechanism of
evolution to create the marvelous diversity of
living things on our planet. Most especially, that
creative plan included human beings.

Slide 3: After evolution had prepared a
sufficiently advanced house (the human
brain), God gifted humanity with the
knowledge of good and evil (the moral
law), with free will, and with an immortal
Slide 4: We humans used our free will to
break the moral law, leading to our
estrangement from God. For Christians,
Jesus is the solution to that

But the principal aspect of evolution is suffering.
Carl Sagan:
In many nonhuman mammals, brothers and sisters of the same
litter compete for access to nipples; often, there is a least
competent infant, unsuccessful in elbowing its way to a nipple
the runt of the litter, who becomes progressively weaker with each
failed attempt to nurse. Such competitions weed out the weak.
Concern about cruelty and suffering doesn't, so far as we know,
enter into it.
So, are you really comfortable with a God using Evolution as His
Note that this is not Problem of Evil, this is Problem of Suffering.
(And then you perhaps feel some empathy towards the consistent
So science is compatible with Faith
(or rather: Faith can be made compatible with
Science if you try hard enough, and if you
interpret the Scriptures flexibly enough)
But Science does not emphasize Faith
Science emphasizes the importance of Doubt

Important Note:

Feynman was a non-combative atheist. Recall, from the end of
our Common Book: "I don't agree [with religion], and I will not
ridicule it, and I won't argue it." In this he is similar to Einstein or
even to the (old) Darwin, and very different from the "New
Atheists" such as Dawkins (The God Delusion), Harris (The End
of Faith ) or Hitchens (God is not Great).

"Today we cannot see whether [physics] contains frogs, musical
composers, or morality - or whether it does not. We cannot say
whether something beyond it like God is needed, or not. And so
we can all hold strong opinion either way".
(R. Feynman)

Spirituality by the Road Less Taken
(Summary by VC)
The worldview that Science inspires (does not prove or provide, just inspires):

Not faith, but spirituality

Not traditional, revealed religion:
too arrogant
Man was created to Gods image

Not secular humanism:
too arrogant
Man is the measure of everything

Deep, humble spirituality, valuing Doubt and loving Search

In short: in this view, traditional religions are NOT too spiritual or too humble;
but rather: they are NOT SPIRITUAL ENOUGH, and TOO ARROGANT
(they know the truth already.)
Excerpt from Prelude in E-Flat Minor
From Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

As a mathematically inclined child born into a musical family, I was
intrigued by the intricacies of musical notations long before I developed any
real understanding of music. At an early age I found my father's copy of
Bach's forty-eight Preludes and Fugues for the well-tuned piano, and studied
carefully the arrangements of sharps and flats in the key signatures. My father
explained to me how Bach worked his way twice through all the twenty-four
major and minor keys. [I was] fascinated by double sharps and double flats.
Why is there a special sign for a double sharp but none for a double flat? My
father did not know . I was giving him a hard time with my questions. I
noticed that Prelude No. 3 in C-sharp major is the first one that has double
sharps in it, and Prelude No. 8 in E-flat minor is the first one that has a double
flat. ..I asked my father to play No. 3 and No. 8 so that I could hear what
double sharps and double flats sounded like. I never grew tired of hearing the
delicious sound of that B double flat[1] in Prelude No. 8. Quite apart from its
unique key signature and its double flat, it is also outstanding musically. It is
pure Bach, and yet it carries a distinctive intensity of feeling that foreshadows

[1] This delicious sound of B double flat (B
) is in fact identical
to that of the ordinary A in fact, that is exactly what it is [DEMO].
In measure 26 of the Prelude in E-flat minor (with its six flats)
Bach modulates to E Major which normally has four sharps. The
chord E G# B [DEMO] and the sequence E B A G# [DEMO] in the
key of E Major is therefore rendered as Fb Ab Cb and Fb Cb Bbb
Ab in the key of Eb minor. This is not to be confused with the
expert discussions of the difference between for example D# and
Eb in this case, the piece simply modulates to the key of E
[2] In Vladis opinion, a much better comparison of this great Bach
(1685-1750) piece than Beethoven (1770-1827) is with the Etude
# 7 in C sharp minor, from Etudes Op. 25 by Frederic Chopin
(1810-1849). Both pieces have the structure of a duet between
the right hand and the left hand [DEMO] and both have the same
melancholy but intense feeling. If anything, it is the Bach piece is
closer to modern sensitivity, although Chopin is heartbreaking in
its sentimental expression.
J.S.Bach Preludio in Eb minor (#8 from Well Tempered Clavier Book I, BWV 853)
Frederick Chopin Etude in C# minor
(an extract from Op. 25 #7)
Back to Freeman Dyson:

I used to talk a great deal with my father, especially during the early years of
the war, about the morality of fighting and killing. Many years later I was
reminded of these discussions between me and my father when I read the
transcript of Oppenheimer's security hearing. The dramatic climax of the
three-week hearing came near the end, when the physicist Edward Teller
appeared as a witness for the prosecution and confronted Oppenheimer face
to face. Teller was asked directly whether he considered Oppenheimer to be a
.security risk. He answered with carefully chosen words:
"I thoroughly disagreed with him in numerous issues and his actions frankly
appeared to me confused and complicated. To this extent I feel that I would
like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better,
and therefore trust more.
. By lending his voice to the cause of Oppenheimer's enemies, [Teller]
had lost not only the friendship but the respect of many of his colleagues. He
was portrayed by newspaper writers and cartoonists as a Judas, a man who
had betrayed his leader for the sake of personal gain. A careful reading of his
testimony at the trial shows that he intended no personal betrayal. He wanted
only to destroy Oppenheimer's political power, not to damage Oppenheimer
personally. But the mood of that time made such fine distinctions meaningless.
In the summer of 1955 I rented a big house in Berkeley for my growing
family. The house that we rented for the summer stood on the hill overlooking
the Berkeley campus. One Sunday morning we went for a walk up the
hill, leaving the house open as usual. When we came back through the trees
to the house, we heard a strange sound coming through the open door. The
children stopped their chatter and we all stood outside the door and listened.
It was my old friend from long ago, Bach's Prelude No. 8 in E-flat minor.
Superbly played. Played just the way my father used to play it. For a moment
I was completely disoriented. I thought: What the devil is my father doing
here in California?
We stood in front of our Berkeley house and listened to that prelude.
Whoever was playing it, he was putting into it his whole heart and soul.
We waited until the music came to an end and then walked in. There, sitting
at the piano, was Edward Teller. We asked him to go on playing, but he
excused himself. He said he had come to invite us to a party at his house
and had happened to see that fine piano begging to be played. We accepted
the invitation and he went on his way.
That was the first time I had spoken with him since our encounter six
years earlier in Chicago. I decided that no matter what the judgment of
history upon this man might be, I had no cause to consider him my enemy.
Freeman Dyson in Disturbing the Universe

So, what is the Meaning of It All?

Remarkably enough, the summary of the Feynman 1963 Lectures
at the UW was given eight years earlier, in Feynman's address
("The value of science") to the 1955 autumn meeting of the
National Academy of Sciences. It was the kind of address usually
given by Nobel Prize winners; this one was given full ten years
before winning the prize in 1965. It contains, often word per word,
the most important parts of the text of our Common Book. The
ending of the addresses the question of "the meaning of it all":

"Through all ages of our past, people have tried to fathom the
meaning of life. They have realized that if some direction or
meaning could be given to our actions, great human forces would
be unleashed. So very many answers have been given to the
question of the meaning of it all. But the answers have been of all
different sorts, and the proponents of one answer have looked
with horror at the actions of the believers in another ........

What, then, is the meaning of it all? If we take everything into
account - not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we
know today that they didn't know - then I think we must frankly
admit that we do not know.

Now you may feel a sort of a disappointment: after great headline

What is the Meaning of It All?
you are told
I dont know

But Feynmans I dont know is loaded with meaning. He

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.

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not
unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens
of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do
what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass
them on. It is our responsibility to leave the people of the future a
free hand.
Richard Feynman
To which I add: yes, there are tens of thousands of years in the
future but only if we dont cut it short by our own foolishness.
This is the topic of a major new course on Science and Society I
am teaching, and all I can tell you today is that I think Feynman
would likely agree. He approvingly quoted the Buddhist teaching:
To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same
key opens the gates of hell.

Closing on the conclusions: a poem in prose by James Gleick:

[Richard Feynman] taught himself how to hold a crowd with his
not-jazz, not-ethnic improvisational drumming, and how to sustain
a two-handed polyrhythm of not just the usual three against two
and four against three but - astonishing to classical musicians -
even seven against six and thirteen against twelve. He taught
himself how to write Chinese, a skill acquired specifically to annoy
his sister and limited therefore to the characters for "elder brother
also speaks". ... He taught himself how to discourage autograph
seekers and refuse lecture invitations, how to hide from
colleagues with administrative requests, how force everything
from his field of vision except for his research problem of the
moment, how to hold off the special terrors of aging that shadow
scientists, then how to live with cancer, and how to surrender to
And we give the last word to Richard Feynman himself, with an excerpt
from his "science poem that starts with:

... I stand here at the seashore, alone, and start to think.

The poem ends with:

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here it is

atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.