- My scientific motto is a (not so famous) quote of Feynman: "All we do is draw little arrows on a piece of paper - that's all!"
- My Twitter visual profile is dedicated to him.
- I love viewing videos of his lectures or his interviews.
- I regularly go across his written works.
- I've spotted errata in his Physics Lectures, volume III (Quantum mechanics), most of them typo, but some substantial errors.
Curiously, I discovered him relatively late. When I followed quantum mechanics courses at university (somewhere between 1985 and 1989), my courses didn't refer to his lectures. I consider that as a missing. It was only after I took time to dig deeper into the quantum foundations (after 1996) that I came across his works. Reading his works was so enlightening for my comprehension of the fundamental laws of nature, that there are pieces that I could read tens of times and each time I would learn new things. Or better said: approach known things from a new point of view.
Feynman is deservedly one of the most quoted people (at the Selected Pages section of Wikiquote, he figures along with people like Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Einstein, Jesus or Shakespeare...). His words are inspiring and often explain physical truths in plain language, comprehensible to the layman. As for all quotes, there is a caveat: they must not be seen as an absolute truth. Or as Feynman stated it himself: Learn from science that you must doubt the experts.
Very early I was skeptic about one of Feynman's most famous quotes: nobody understands quantum mechanics. This is often requoted in a more or less transformed way (for example Dawkins' version: "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics"). Does this quote have a general and definitive value of truth? Or was it just that Feynman didn't know of anyone who could explain quantum mechanics in an understandable common sense way?
Chapter 1 of Feynman's quantum lectures gives some insight in the reasons of his belief that nobody understands quantum mechanics: "We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics." He goes on to describe the double-slit experiment (with electrons), showing that it is impossible to think of waves alone or of bullets alone (such explanations have been taken over by popular media like that given by "Granddaddy of all Quantum Weirdness"). And Feynman concludes with "No one has found any machinery behind the law. No one can explain any more than we have just explained. No one will give you any deeper representation of the situation." These are terrible sentences when repeated to hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of physics students since 1965. They mark a halt for any further investigation of the subject.
Fortunately, there are inventive unconventional physicists. There were already deeper theoretical representations given by physicists like De Broglie or David Bohm, showing how a particle may be directed by a guiding wave and thus yield all the experimental results of the double slit experiment, but this had never been put to proof during their lifetime with an experimental model.
Today, I think I can safely say that the quote "nobody understands quantum mechanics" is experimentally outdated. Couder and Fort, two French physicists, experimented with bouncing droplets on a liquid subtract and discovered that they exhibited quantum behaviour, without looking for any quantum analogy:
- droplet travelling in its wave,
- diffraction and interference patterns of travelling droplets similar to photon and electron diffraction patterns,
- attraction and repulsion of droplets embedded in their waves,
- symmetric and anti-symmetric orbital motion of droplets.
An upcoming paper of Couder's group in Physical Review Letters even suggests a quantum tunneling analogy with ordinary droplets: "Unpredictable tunneling of a classical wave-particle association", by A. Eddi, E. Fort, F. Moisy, and Y. Couder.
So today, Feynman's defeatist words about nobody understanding quantum mechanics are outdated. Please, experimental physicists, go ahead, be inventive and focus on experiments where ordinary macroscopic individual particles simulate quantum behaviour, polarization, bosonic and fermionic behaviour, inward bound forces, entanglement, quantum erasure, coupling of ordinary particles to their pilot-wave fields (gravitation, electromagnetism). Because all these quantum phenomena may be rationally understood with the help of experimental models. It's just a matter of inventivity. And we "will find someday that, after all, it isn't as horrible as it looks." ~ Feynman's Epilogue to his Lectures on Physics.