#229…SCIENCE, RELIGION, etc.: “3 Quotes About Learning”


Here’s a quotation about learning. Bland? Read slowly these simple words. It’s how we feel at A Dozen Seconds as we sort and sift–and share what our eyes fall upon at this site.


“I was born not knowing and

have had only a little time

to change that

here and there.”


Richard Feynman¹

American physicist, Nobel Prize (1965)



[For 2 more quotable quotes you need to use the DOOR.]




   In a very early post we emphasized that every day we should continually ask 3 questions: (1) What is? (2) What matters? and (3) Then what should I do? Since we start at zero in everything and there’s so much knowledge out there, we humans, with more limitations than we care to admit, have to pick and choose what we go after which beats sticking a wet finger in the air and following the crowd.

   That’s what growing up sensibly means.

  Or…we try to choose what’s important to learn and put it in a framework that we can build upon. And people we work with, friends, and those we love help us keep the right balance between focusing on special things and simply being aware.

   Adozenseconds.com is supposed to help with that.

   #1. Above, we cited Richard Feynman‘s words as honestly saying where we should begin, and how deep we should go–and, of course, win  a Nobel Prize along the way.

   #2. Next consider this:

   “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt is another step forward.”

Thomas Edison²



   This, perhaps, is wedging a “long view” into Feyman’s (implied) “short life.” Making a lightbulb?  This will or will not work. This chemical or treatment will or will not cure cancer; rule this in or rule it out (probably out). This will or will not be a better way to teach, or propel a rocket into space. Learning both “yes” or “no” (or “probably” yes or “probably” no) adds to our pile of knowledge though the results usually are hardly exciting. But after much trial and error (or failure) Edison got the bulb that really worked and, among other things, and with a modification here and there utterly transformed how our cities appear at night.

   #3. Finally (here) we offer (again) Leonard Susskind.

   “We may never be able to grasp [physical] reality. The universe and its ingredients may be impossible to describe unambiguously.”

Leonard Susskind³

      American Physicist

      (1940-         )

   This is not from a backwoods minister that went to a Bible school. Or from me. Rather it’s a sober conclusion from a pioneer in string theory, black hole physics, the multiverse, and explorer of the deep nature of small particle physics. The world “beneath” the best physics of the 20th century may be–and if you read Susskind’s popular essays closely, the “may never” degenerates into “probably never.” The human brain can go just so far.

   The same is true for science. In a roughly generally, but similar way, a doctor can use the latest remedy for a terrible disease and get marvelous results that he expects. Why? It’s been tested before and it works. But about the dance of the molecules that makes everything happen? Well, the doctor hasn’t a clue, though he’s pretty sure of the results.

   So, as we ask the 3 basic questions (total of 9 words), these 3 bumper-sticker quotes are especially appropriate for “dozen-second readers,” even for those who travel so slowly you can see their lips move as they strip words from a page (or screen). Together they acknowledge reality, honor patience, and encourage humility.

   Not bad traits for eager learners.


   ¹ Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize (one of 3 people) in Physics in 1965 “for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles.” (Compare these words to his simple quote.) Incidentally, two more of long list of memorable, and published, quotations are “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize,” and “I believe that scientists looking at nonscientific problems are just as dumb as the next guy.” We first saw the quote we began with in The Little Book of Essential Knowledge by Susan Aldridge, Elizabeth King Humphrey, and Julie Whitaker (Sweet Water Press), 2008.

   ² We found this quote (also) in The Little Book of Essential Knowledge.

   ³ Leonard Susskind is a prof at Stanford Univ. In addition to what was said above, he’s been with and/or has studied about the recent bigwigs of theoretical physics (in one case, for example, siding with some of the ideas of Niels Bohr against some of those of Einstein). He’s had a fascinating life and we’ve written about him earlier in post {2} and {3}. [You can find these quickly by putting {2} and {3} in the Search Rectangle at the upper left.]

Author: John Knapp