On this day, February 15, Richard Feynman died in Los Angeles, in 1988. He was of course the Nobel physicist (1965) who was well known for his idiosyncrasies. One of them was that he played the Bongo drum (professionally), and furthermore, from repairing radios to picking locks… to painting and poetry he did it all. So on this day, I will print a poem from one of his lectures, The Value of Science:
I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think. There are the rushing waves … mountains of molecules, each stupidly minding its own business … trillions apart … yet forming white surf in unison.
Ages on ages … before any eyes could see … year after year … thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what? … on a dead planet, with no life to entertain.
Never at rest … tortured by energy … wasted prodigiously by the sun … poured into space. A mite makes the sea roar.
Deep in the sea, all molecules repeat the patterns of one another till complex new ones are formed. They make others like themselves … and a new dance starts.
Growing in size and complexity … living things, masses of atoms, DNA, protein … dancing a pattern ever more intricate.
Out of the cradle onto the dry land … here it is standing … atoms with consciousness … matter with curiosity.
Stands at the sea … wonders at wondering … I … a universe of atoms … an atom in the universe.
Here Feynman has given a mini lecture on science, from physics to chemistry to biology to evolution, to human consciousness. What is science but humanity?
And why couldn’t this lecture equally be called The Value of Art?