Posts Tagged ‘scientific method’

Richard P. Feynman on Busting Loose

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

tomsausalito1I love this quote from Six Easy Pieces, by Richard P. Feynman, on the scientific method. It fits so well with Robert’s saying that Busting Loose is “a model that is close enough to The Truth that it brings practical value to playing The Human Game. Feynman’s final three sentences are an elegant way of saying that an individual player’s Mission and Purpose are too big to be known while actively playing The Human Game. Enjoy.

“A few hundred years ago, a method was devised to find partial answers to questions such as: How many colors are there?  What is common to different kinds of sound?  Is sand perhaps nothing but a great number of very tiny rocks?  Is the wind a sloshing of the air analogous to the sloshing motion of the water in the sea?

Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method.  We shall have to limit ourselves to a bare description of our basic view of what is sometimes called fundamental physics, or fundamental ideas which have arisen from the application of the scientific method.

What do we mean by “understanding” something?  We can imagine that this complicated array of moving things which constitutes “the world” is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing.  Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules.  The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics. Even if we knew every rule, however, we might not be able to understand why a particular move is made in the game, merely because it is too complicated and our minds are limited.  If you play chess you must know that it is easy to learn all the rules, and yet it is often very hard to select the best move or to understand why a player moves as he does.  So it is in nature, only much more so; but we may able to at least to find all the rules. Actually, we do not have all the rules now.  (Every once in a while something like castling is going on that we still do not understand.)

Aside from not knowing all of the rules, what we really can explain in terms of those rules is very limited, because almost all situations are so enormously complicated that we cannot follow the plays of the game using the rules, much less tell what I going to happen next. We must, therefore, limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game.  If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world.”