The Amateur Scientist The Amateur Scientist I was on my way to work, when I started to read this interesting story and I don’t deny that I was a little sceptical in the beginning. But the more I read, the more I wanted to know about this man and his unique ways to define Science. I finished reading it in about 15 minutes, it literally sucked me in. This is an attempt to analyze and explain to the “audience,” what my personal point of view is regarding this great genius, great mind, great scientist Richard Feynman. Defined by his colleagues as the “The brightest mind since Einstein,” he explains how he used everyday tools to make scientific discoveries.
How he describes his methods in a simple way makes science enjoyable and understandable, even to the average reader. I enjoyed reading the essay entitled “The Amateur Scientist,” by Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988). I found it to be very interesting and felt that Mr. Feynman was very thoughtful. Rather than explain in technical detail about his work in physics, Feynman instead related interesting anecdotes throughout his life, as a college student and graduate student at Princeton University, that gave to the reader an understanding of his work as a scientist.
The writing won my attention because his stories about his youth and his days at Princeton fascinated me. He was always exploring his environment to learn new things about science, especially how things worked. Feynman’s thirst for clever things to do and clever ways to do ordinary things were remarkable. One of the best anecdotes that illustrate this point, was his experience at Princeton detailing ants’ behavior. Feynman was constantly searching for the connection between hypothesis and truth, so one day at Princeton he started to observe the ants’ that were coming out on his windowsill.
The experiment with the ants is a reflection of this man’s mind, always in search for an answer. In this anecdote Feynman explains how, with only a bit of sugar, and a couple of pieces of paper, he was able to find out many things about ants’ behaviors. Feynman compares his study on the ants with the same kind of “experiment” he performed in Brazil, observing leaf-cutting ants. The author pointed out that, although the Brazilian ants seemed to be smarter, there are still some affinities with domestic ants. It is remarkable how Feynman discovered that ants have no sense of “geometry,” the goal of his experiment was to determine whether or not ants have some kind of communication and if they have the ability to find their way back where the “food” was.
In another part of the essay, Feynman describes how he passed his time in the “lab” when he was a young man. He enjoyed playing, building motors, and using whatever he had at his disposal to satisfy his curiosity as “scientist.” Then he describes how, firsthand, with only an old microscope and a lot of patience, you can observe and find out things that are not reported in books by people who presumably, had studied the subject. “These books always simplify things so the world will be more like they want it to be.” It was then that Feynman decided to observe the paramecium, under different circumstances, and discovered interesting things, which were not reflected in what books said about these microorganisms. The point is that no matter what the science’s books teach, you must always look for answers yourself to satisfy your thirst of knowledge. Beyond being a collection of instructive anecdotes, there is something genuine to learn from Feynman essentially, that you can make your way through life, especially if you are curious to discover. I think many of us believe this to be true, but understanding it and doing it are very different things, and Feynman showed us how to use one’s resources, and how to get the best out of them. Despite being a theoretical physicist, Feynman also spent a lot of time on understanding how things really work, and on making the perfect link between the theory and reality.
The “darning needles” or dragonfly story is an example of Feynman’s methods. He read in a book that dragonflies don’t sting, and accidentally he found out, at his own risk, that what the book said about these “darning needles” was accurate. Feynman pointed to the fact that people do not properly explore phenomena they encounter, arguing that scientists have the responsibility to search for the truth. This essay is a terrific exploration of one man’s experience discovering the world of science in an enjoyable way.