Feynman reminds us that we’re lucky to live in a time where we have the opportunity to make discoveries. The Character of Physical Law is a series of seven lectures by physicist Richard Feynman concerning the nature of the laws of physics. We’re all “connecting one step to another”, “both from working at the ends and working in the middle, and in that way, we are gradually understanding this tremendous world of interconnecting hierarchies.”, “There seem to be a lot of unrelated concepts; but with a more profound understanding of the various principles, there appear deep interconnections between the concepts, each one implying others in some way.”. Feynman says there’s an art to guessing nature’s laws. I think it is because nature has a simplicity and therefore a great beauty.”. Each discovery happens only once. Feynman delivered the lectures in 1964 at Cornell University, as part of the Messenger Lectures series. Unfortunately, the craft of natural lawmaking faces a big challenge. “You have to learn the tricks; it is just a series of rules that people have found out that are very useful for such a thing.”. That all of the lectures are present means that complex ideas can be developed properly and delivered over a few chapters. (See above.) His lecture series made it clear to me why Bill Gates had referred to Feynman as the “best teacher [he] never had”. Some of this mystery may or may not be a property of nature itself. While we know today that Newton’s laws were incomplete descriptions, the conservation of angular momentum (to our knowledge) remains a valid and universal principle. Science has an element of uncertainty. “It is not unscientific to make a guess… It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible”. Free download or read online The Character of Physical Law pdf (ePUB) book. We also exhibit a habit for organising and categorising what we know. Vague theories are also less useful to us, given we can neither prove it right or wrong. The law of gravitation, an example of physical law 2. And if you’re making predictions that extend beyond your observable range, then there must be some uncertainty. “Philosophically, you like them or do not like them; and training is the only way to beat that disease… As long as physics is incomplete, and we are trying to understand the other laws, then the different possible formulations may give clues about what might happen in other circumstances”. In any case, how does one even know what the best axioms are? There appears a grand tapestry in nature for us to uncover. Even if they’re computationally equivalent, different ideas offer different philosophical and psychological value. Minerva Review accepts no responsibility for any claim, damage or loss as a result of material included on this website. One cannot help but appreciate the care and joy that Feynman takes with language and teaching. By contrast, the Euclidean or Greek tradition focused on a set of axioms that contain the consequences that follow. The interconnections are strong in some areas, and weak in others. These include the laws for gravitation, electromagnetism, nuclear interactions and so on. It’s a large puzzle with many different and proliferating pieces. “If you thought science was certain – well, that is just an error on your part”. We know in thermodynamics for example that temperature is referring to the speed of jiggling atoms in an object or system. Furthermore, there are infinite ways to guess at something. Feynman’s point is that there are many possible and reasonable places to start in the journey of discovery.  The journal The Physics Teacher, in recommending it to both scientists and non-scientists alike, gave The Character of Physical Law a favorable review, writing that although the book was initially intended to supplement the recordings, it was "complete in itself and will appeal to a far wider audience". That’s what makes science, at least to Feynman, very exciting. And if our guesses disagree with observation, then the law is wrong, no matter how beautiful or elegant it seems. the principles of conservation). For example, Feynman describes how we can state the law of gravitation in three different but equivalent ways: (1) Newton’s law (action at a distance); (2) the field method (potential at the centre); and (3) the minimum principle (path of least action). While this model was not a description of reality, the equations that came from it were consistent with observations. This speaks again to the hierarchies and interconnections of ideas. Disclaimer: Minerva Review has prepared all material on this website for general information purposes only. It could be in our guess, computation and/or comparison. Not only does it test the limitations of our ideas, it may reveal something new about our assumptions, models and understanding of the world. Like relativity, there was an accumulation of paradoxes that we could not explain with the laws were known. Feynman also points out how two physicists discovered quantum mechanics, independently and very differently. If we attack every idea with a ‘why’, we’ll soon find ourselves up against the boundaries of theory and evidence. And that special day will never happen again. He knows that they are all equivalent, and that nobody is ever going to be able to decide which one is right at that level, but he keeps them in his head, hoping that they will give him different ideas for guessing.”. Rather than an essay on the most significant achievements in modern science, The Character of Physical Law is a statement of what is most remarkable in nature. What is the character of our physical laws? He likens the process of discovery to a wonderful jigsaw puzzle. The even bigger challenge is finding what we should substitute in its place. As Feynman puts it, “it is necessary for the very existence of science that minds exist which do not allow that nature must satisfy some preconceived conditions”. And if we wish to learn this art, we might look at history first. This material must not be considered investment advice or used to make an investment decision. And if reasoning rests on this interconnected web, then logic can flow and follow in many directions. Here, there is the distinction between scientific prejudice and absolute certainty. The BBC recorded the lectures, and published a book under the same title the following year; Cornell published the BBC's recordings online in September 2015. Babylonian schools focused on producing large quantities of examples and relations to derive a general rule. A Man for All Markets – Edward Thorp on blackjack, investing and life, Richard Feynman. “Psychologically, we must keep all the theories in our heads, and every theoretical physicist who is any good knows six or seven different theoretical representations for exactly the same physics. His answer: sometimes we just have “to stick our necks out”. Some observation in the future could debunk what we think we know. Symmetry in physical law 5. Similarly, Feynman says “if we take the derivation too seriously, and feel that one [theory] is only valid because another is valid, then we cannot understand the interconnections of the different branches of physics.” We have to use our incomplete knowledge to guess new laws and theories that “extend beyond the proof”. We don’t yet have explanations for the machinery that underly nature’s most fundamental phenomena.