The Great Explainers

I greatly admire people whom can explain complicated topics simply. Here are 2 of the greats:

RICHARD FEYNMAN

“Feynman has been called the “Great Explainer”. He gained a reputation for taking great care when giving explanations to his students and for making it a moral duty to make the topic accessible. His guiding principle was that if a topic could not be explained in a freshman  lecture, it was not yet fully understood.“–via Wikipedia

THE KEY TO SCIENCE, EXPLAINED

“In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it; then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right; then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is — if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.”

–Richard Feynman, via Brainpickings


CARL SAGAN

We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.via carlsagan.com

“Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences.

…Sagan’s ability to convey his ideas allowed many people to better understand the cosmos—simultaneously emphasizing the value and worthiness of the human race, and the relative insignificance of the Earth in comparison to the universe.”

“My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.”

–via Wikipedia

ON THE BALANCE BETWEEN SKEPTICISM & OPENNESS

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones. If all ideas have equal validity then you are lost, because then, it seems to me, no ideas have any validity at all.

Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with the world and especially in dealing with the future. And it is precisely the mix of these two modes of thought that is central to the success of science.

–Carl Sagan, from PositiveAtheism.org, via Brainpickings

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