Wednesday, January 7, 2009

From the First Principles

Rubik's Cube
Staying on with Feynman ...
Most of his biographers, editor, lecture notes compiler agree on two facts:

Feynman was a fantastic teacher
Feynman worked things out for himself, from the first principles.

So, working out concepts from the first principles helped Feynman to come up with unique perspective. On the other hand this amounts to reinventing the wheel.

What surprises me is that none of the 'Feynman authorities' made the logic leap from fact#2 to fact#1. It was because Feynman worked out things for himself that he was a fantastic teacher.

Here's a lesson for all teachers, lecturers, mentors and, most importantly, parents. You can teach best only when every aspect of what you are teaching is absolutely clear to you.

And here's a test for you to figure out if you have understood a topic well or not. If your student / child / subordinate asks you a dumb question - some would say, there are no dumb questions - and you get irritated at that so-called-dumb question, then you do not have mastery on that topic.

Actually the source of irritation is not that dumb question. It is your subconscious mind that is getting irritated at your inability to handle the question.

We can extrapolate this to our everyday situation.

If a situation is irritating you, and you feel inclined to shout out in frustration, then the source of the frustration, perhaps, is your inability to handle the situation; not the situation itself. Working out the solution to the situation from the first principles - it may not be possible to do it at the spur of the moment; could be done later - will let you handle the family of such problems when your encounter them next. (You will be surprised how apparently dissimilar problems, when shred of all externalities, are oh-so-similar.

Think about it.

Note: For a fantastic biography on Feynman read Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick.

The picture used here belongs to Sarah Williams. Please visit her gallery to see more such pictures.

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