Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication

This statement has been attributed variously to Leonardo Da Vinci, Steve Jobs, and Clare Boothe Luce among others.  Whoever said it originally, Richard Feynman (1918-1988) lived it.

Richard Feynman-Wikipedia Public Domain

Feynman was a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of  Technology (Caltech).  He was a leading proponent in the field of quantum electrodynamics (QED).

  • QED describes how light and matter interact.
    • It is the first theory to achieve complete agreement between quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

Richard Feynman was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize For Physics in 1965.  In part, his award was in recognition of what looked like a series of doodles he drew that became Feynman_Diagram_of_Electron-Positron_Annihilation_v2_GNU License_Free_CC3.0known as Feynman Diagrams. (Here illustrating an electron-positron annihilation.)

He used these to visualize the behavior of sub-atomic particles.  The diagrams are a simplified representation of what otherwise could be expressed only in a highly complex, abstract formula that is difficult to understand and to apply.

Although “simplified,” the diagrams have become a standard tool of physicists for calculating probability amplitudes in theoretical particle physics, exemplifying the power of simplicity.

Simplicity is the essence of the insight we addressed in Not All Wandering Minds Are Lost.

The Great Explainer

Feynman was no ivory tower intellectual.  He would mix it up with nearly anyone.  It was common to see him wandering around the floors of other departments avidly engaged with students or other professors concerning their fields of study. One of his favorite pastimes was challenging colleagues to explain any idea they were working on or teaching, whatever it happened to be, using only simple terminology that could be understood by a novice.

He was known “The Great Explainer” for his uncanny ability to articulate even the most complex ideas, such as quantum physics, in a clear, straightforward way that nearly anyone could comprehend.

The Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman created the mental model that came to be known as the Feynman Technique.  It is an effective tool to improve your grasp of current information, to learn new information, to retain information, or to study for a test.  Beyond that, the technique

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Not All Wandering Minds Are Lost

River_river-krka-slovenia-autumn-nature-940367In 1870 a 23-year old budding inventor arrived from Scotland with his parents at their new home near the banks of the Grand River just outside of Brantford, Ontario, Canada.  He expected he would soon succumb to tuberculosis as his younger and older brothers had before him.  Instead, he survived and flourished in his new environment.  Over the next four years, he worked as a teacher while toiling painstakingly to invent a revolutionary new technology that remained just beyond his grasp.

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