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Richard Feynman – How you feel about it isn’t really important

March 11, 2015

(introducing the subject of quantum electrodynamics)

“So now you know what I’m going to talk about. The next question is, will you understand what I’m going to tell you? … No, you’re not going to be able to understand it. Why, then, am I going to bother you with all this? Why are you going to sit here all this time, when you won’t be able to understand what I am going to say? It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see, my physics students don’t understand it either. That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does. … It’s a problem that physicists have learned to deal with: they’ve learned to realize that whether they like a theory or they don’t like a theory is not the essential question. Rather, it is whether or not the theory gives predictions that agree with experiment. It is not a question of whether a theory is philosophically delightful, or easy to understand, or perfectly reasonable from the point of view of common sense. … Please don’t turn yourself off because you can’t believe Nature is so strange. Just hear me all out, and I hope you’ll be as delighted as I am when we’re through.”

(from QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter [1985])

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