When physics meets biology

oli5679 on May 15, 2018

There was a really good chapter on his time in a biology lab in his book, “Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman”. I have always remembered this quote:

When it came time for me to give my talk on the subject, I started off by drawing an outline of the cat and began to name the various muscles.

The other students in the class interrupt me: “We know all that!”

“Oh,” I say, “you do? Then no wonder I can catch up with you so fast after you’ve had four years of biology.” They had wasted all their time memorizing stuff like that, when it could be looked up in fifteen minutes.

sykh on May 15, 2018

Feynman was wrong on his view. The same thing could have been said of him and physicists. Oh, you spent your time memorizing formulas when it could be looked up in 15 minutes.

This is a nonsensical point of view for two reasons. [1] People in areas of their expertise tend to know a lot in that area off the top of their head because they have encountered this stuff so much that it has become memorized. That memorized knowledge comes from experience not a memorization exercise. [2] It’s also nonsensical because if you didn’t have a core set of knowledge memorized in your area of expertise and instead relied on spending 15 minutes looking up each fact necessary to understand a given situation you’d end up wasting your whole day just trying to understand the meaning of the problem.

— Hacker News



2023.02.22 Wednesday ACHK