Richard Feynman on the Weirdness of Physical Reality

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For several days now, as regular readers know, I've been advertising my incomprehension of the Higgs boson. And--perhaps in an attempt to bolster my self-esteem--I've suggested that even physicists often fail to comprehend sub-atomic physics; or, at least, that they sometimes have to settle for a sheerly mathematical comprehension, because when they try to translate the math into a clear and coherent model that can be conveyed by words and pictured in the mind, that doesn't work.

Below is a truly classic comment on this subject by the late, great physicist Richard Feynman. It comes during his series of 1964 lectures called 'The Character of Physical Law,' which is available in book form. We join him when he's warning his audience (at Cornell University) how hard it's going to be to grasp his explanation of quantum physics. This part alone is well worth watching--and if you want to stay tuned for the subsequent 50-minute description of the classic "two-slits experiment," which illustrates the famously counterintuitive wave-particle duality, so much the better.

[h/t: Tim Heffernan]

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Robert Wright is the author of, most recently, the New York Times bestseller The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic. More

Wright is also a fellow at the New America Foundation and editor in chief of Bloggingheads.tv. His other books include Nonzero, which was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book in 2000 and included on Fortune magazine's list of the top 75 business books of all-time. Wright's best-selling book The Moral Animal was selected as one of the ten best books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review.Wright has contributed to The Atlantic for more than 20 years. He has also contributed to a number of the country's other leading magazines and newspapers, including: The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Time, and Slate, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism and his books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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