Ways of Thinking
Feynman fun to imagine
When I’m actually doing my own things and working in a high, deep and esoteric stuff that I worry about.
I don’t think I can describe very well what it’s like.
First of all, it’s like asking a centipede which leg comes after which, it happens quickly and I’m not exactly sure what flashes and stuff go in the head.
But I know it’s a crazy mixture of partial equations, partial solving in equations, then having some sort if picture of what is happening that the equation is saying it’s happening, but they’re not that well separated as the words I’m using and it’s a kind of a nutty thing, it’s very hard to describe, and I don’t know that it does any good to describe.
And there’s something that struck me, it’s very curious:
I suspect that what goes on in every man’s head might be very very different, the actual imagery or semi-imagery which comes, and when we are talking to each other at these high and complicated levels, and we think we are speaking very well, that we are communicating, but what we are really doing is having a some kind of big translation scheme going on for translating what this fellow says into our images, which are very different.
I fount that out because in the very lowest level. I wouldn’t go into much details but I got interested in…
Well I was doing some experiments and I was trying to figure out something about our time sense, and so what I would do is trying to count to a minute, actually say I’d count to 48 then it would be one minute, so I calibrate myself and I would count a minute in 48 think I was counting seconds but it’s close enough, and then it turns out if you repeat that you can do very accurately, when you get to 48 or 47 or 49, not far off, you’re very close to a minute.
And I was trying to find out what affected that time sense and whether I could do anything at the same time I was counting, and I fount that I could do many things I could, there were some things that not.
For example, I had great difficulty, I was in the university, I had to get my laundry ready, and I was putting the socks out, and I had to make a list “how many socks”, there were something like 6 or 8 socks and I couldn’t count them, because the counting machine was being used, and I couldn’t count them, until I found that I could put them in a pattern and recognize the number, and so I learned a way after practicing by which I could count the line of type in a newspaper and see them in groups 3,3,3,1 that;s a group of ten, 3,3,3,1 without saying the numbers just seeing the groupings, I could therefore count the line of types I was practicing in the newspaper, the same time I was counting internally the seconds, so I could do this fantastic trick of saying “48, that’s one minute and there are 67 lines of type” you see!
It was quite wonderful and I discovered many things I could read perfectly alright while I was counting and get an idea of what it was about. But I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t say anything. Because of course I was sort of trying to speak to myself, inside, I would say “1,2,3” or sort of in the head. Then I went down to the breakfast, and there was John Tukey was a mathematician at Princeton in the same time, and we had many discussions, and I was telling him about these experiments and what I could do, and he says “that’s absurd!” He said “I don’t see why you have any difficulty talking whatsoever and I can’t possibly believe that you could read”, so I couldn’t believe all this but we calibrated him. It was 52 for him to get to get to 60 seconds or whatever I don’t remember the numbers now, and then he said “alright, what do you want me to say? Mary had a little lamb. I can speak about anything, blah blah blah. 52! that’s one minute”. He was right. And I couldn’t possibly do that. And he wanted me to read, because he couldn’t possibly believe it. And then we compared note, and it turned out that when he thought of counting, what he did inside his head when he counted was he saw a tape with numbers it went “clink,clink”, the tape would change with numbers printed on it, he could see. Well since it’s sort of an optical system that he was using, and not voice. He could speak as much as he wanted but if he had to read, then he couldn’t look at his clock.
Whereas for me it was in the other way. And that’s where I discovered, at least in this very simple operation of counting, the great difference in what goes on in the head when people think they are doing the same thing. And so it struck me therefore, if that is already true at the most elementary level. That when we learn mathematics and Bessel functions, and the exponential and the electric field and all these things, that the imageries and the method by which we are storing it all and the way we think about it, could be really, if we get to each other’s head, entirely different. And in fact, while somebody sometimes has a great deal of difficulty to understanding a point which you see as obvious, and vice versa, it’s maybe because it’s a little hard to translate what you just said into his particular framework and so on.
Now I’m talking like a psychologist, and you know I know nothing about this