Has anyone ever told you you were thinking about things too much?
Was it an annoying thing for them to say, perhaps dismissive?
When someone says that to me I usually point out how I like to play with ideas. Ideas to me are like blocks for a kid — I like to put them together in different ways to see what they look like together, I build structures with them, I look at them from different angles to see what they look like, I share what I’ve come up with with others to get their perspective, and I’m curious what other people have come up with to expand my repertoire.
To me playing with ideas is fun. Someone saying I’m thinking too much is like saying I’m having too much fun. I know what they they mean, but it doesn’t compute.
I mention this now because I was watching Richard Feynman videos. For those who don’t know, Richard Feynman was one of the great physicists of all time, certainly of the twentieth century United States. A documentary about him is called “The Best Mind Since Einstein.” Personally, I prefer reading Feynman’s views on nature and exploring it to any other. He has a great, child-like curiosity — the sort of thing we all wish we retained. He wants to share his discoveries with everyone. He sees beauty in exploration and respect for nature however it ends up, not just how he wants it to be. I learn as much from this perspective as from the specific science.
He also has a Brooklyn accent, revealing his working-class upbringing.
Anyway, the videos I was watching are a series called “Fun to Imagine,” recorded by the BBC in 1983, all online in twelve parts, each a few minutes long.
Video 1: Jiggling Atoms: Richard Feynman, one of America’s most renowned physicists, sits down in an armchair at his Californian home to explain the physics that underpins the world around us. In this first episode, he explores the beauty of the way atoms interact with each other and reveals why fires feel hot.
Video 2: Fire: Physicist Richard Feynman talks more about jiggling atoms and heat, and about what fire is.
Video 3: Rubber Bands: Physicist Richard Feynman thinks more about the ‘jiggling’ of atoms, and about rubber bands and how they ‘work’. Why do rubber bands stretch and contract? And why do two magnets feel as though there’s something in between them when they repel each other? These are simple enough questions but, as Professor Feynman explains, the answers are surprisingly complicated.
Video 4: Magnets (and ‘Why?’ questions…): Physicist Richard Feynman explains to a non-scientist just how difficult it is to answer certain questions in lay terms! A classic example of Feynman’s clarity of thought, powers of explanation and intellectual honesty – and his refusal to ‘cheat’ with misleading analogies.
Video 5: Bigger is Electricity!: Physicist Richard Feynman visits the dentist and wonders about the amazing phenomenon of electricity.
Video 6: Richard Feynman gives us a glimpse inside his head in this exploration of how we think about complicated ideas.
Video 7: The Train: Physicist Richard Feynman explains how a train stays on the tracks.
Video 8: Seeing Things: Physicist Richard Feynman thinks aloud about swimming pools and the wonders of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Video 9: Big Numbers and Stuff… (Part One of Two): Physicist Richard Feynman talks about the imagination needed to deal with some of things science has found out about the world and the universe.
Video 10: Big numbers and stuff (Part Two of Two)
Video 11: Ways of Thinking (Part One of Two) : Physicist Richard Feynman wonders about the different ways in which different people think about things.
Video 12: Ways of Thinking (Part Two of Two)
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