[extropy-chat] Modesty (was RE: Peak Oil meta-news)

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Thu Mar 9 00:47:26 UTC 2006

For maybe twenty years I was suckered by Feynman into believing
that he was quite modest. Especially cute was his praise of a
nameless teacher who inspired a student to extend the principle
of least action to a key element in the 1940's quantum revolution.
(Lectures on Physics, Volume 2, Chapter 19.)

If you know a bit about the principle of least action, and you 
know what happened in the late 1940's, then you gradually deduce
that Feynman was praising *his* own teacher, and giving that 
teacher credit for inspiring him to develop the path formulation.
It really *is* charming.

But from tales of safe-cracking (which, Feynman fails to inform
anyone was de rigeur among all the students), to hints from a
number of colleagues, to a careful reading of "Surely You're
Joking", describing him as modest is a really big laugh!

I don't know about Einstein; could be. But let's not be gulled by 
a person's *own* writings!


> I'd be interested in your or anyone else's pointers to things people take to
> be the theoretical consensus on modesty.  Do you have particular quotes
> by Einstein and Feynman in mind, for example?

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