Richard Feynman on the Weirdness of Physical Reality

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 The Evolution of God and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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