Friday, July 29, 2011

Dyson reviews Feynman books

Freeman Dyson writes in the current NY Review of Books:
In the last hundred years, since radio and television created the modern worldwide mass-market entertainment industry, there have been two scientific superstars, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Lesser lights such as Carl Sagan and Neil Tyson and Richard Dawkins have a big public following, but they are not in the same class as Einstein and Hawking. Sagan, Tyson, and Dawkins have fans who understand their message and are excited by their science. Einstein and Hawking have fans who understand almost nothing about science and are excited by their personalities.

On the whole, the public shows good taste in its choice of idols. Einstein and Hawking earned their status as superstars, not only by their scientific discoveries but by their outstanding human qualities.
Outstanding human qualities? Is he kidding?

Hawking's famous personal quality is battling paralysis. I am not sure if he has others, as his two ex-wives had said bad things about him, and no one else wants to criticize a man in a wheelchair.

What are Einstein's? He seems to have been a horrible person on every level.
He [Feynman] never showed the slightest resentment when I published some of his ideas before he did. He told me that he avoided disputes about priority in science by following a simple rule: “Always give the bastards more credit than they deserve.”
That is how Einstein got credit for relativity. His rivals (Lorentz, Poincare, Grossmann, Levi-Civita, Hilbert) all had Feynman's attitude, and avoid disputes by giving Einstein more credit than they deserved. On the other hand, Einstein was extremely stingy with the credit, and cheated his colleagues at every opportunity. I document this in my book.

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