Friday, 5 November 2010

Feynman on Magnetism

Here is a video of Richard Feynman talking about magnetism.

Now the reason this is more interesting is the debate on Sean Carroll's Blog about whether you think Feynman is being arrogant of being honest. Now his view is similar to that from Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen in their books The Collapse of Chaos and the Science of Discworld where they talk about "lies to children".

However, the question is older than this, and is really the same on that Plato was talking about with the cave allegory in The Republic. When we give explanations do we ever give complete and definitive explanations or are they all transitory - explanations for now that will be replaced by better explanations in the future. Does knowledge depend on context?

For me Feynman was forgetting that scientists always have a duty to explain and to educate and to not assume that the level of thought of the person you are answering is far below your own. This may be the case sometimes but I prefer to find that people can manage more complex explanations than you would expect. If you get to see the Horrible Science Theatre Show then there they emphasize the problem of scientists avoiding giving explanations. In this case Feynman also cheated by making it a "why" question when it did not start out as one, but his final explanation is very good.

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