Richard Feynman – Ode To A Flower

There is beauty all around us, but we often forget to take notice of it. In a conversation with his artist friends, famous physicist Richard Feynman talked about the difference between looking and seeing and how it relates to finding knowledge and mystery. His words were so eloquent that they gave birth to a short animation called “Ode to a Flower.” Talented designer Fraser Davidson, made a lovely short animation for that part of the interview above.

In his conversation with his artist friends, Feynman talked about the fact that people can look at a flower and not really see it. He noted that to really see the beauty of the flower, one must take the time to appreciate it. According to Feynman, the beauty of the flower is not just in its form but in the intricate details that most people often overlook.

In “Ode to a Flower,” Feynman mentions that he looked at a flower and found it just as fascinating as any other scientific phenomenon. He realized that by paying attention to the small details of the flower, he was able to uncover the mysteries of nature. This realization allowed him to understand that true knowledge comes from identifying the big picture and appreciating the beauty in the smaller things.

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe…

I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Feynman believed that the mystery drives scientists to understand and appreciate the world. In his own words: “There’s all the excitement of trying to understand and find out what is unknown. There are all the different levels of uncertainty that you have to master until you get to understand it truly.” The flower was just a small piece of the universe that Feynman explored and learned from, but it was a crucial one that sparked his curiosity and fascination.

Feynman’s thoughts apply to scientific discoveries and have important lessons for the rest of our lives, too. We often forget to stop and appreciate things around us in our busy lives. By looking, we can find beauty, joy, and fascination, even in the simplest things. We can uncover the mysteries of life and learn to appreciate things that might have gone unnoticed. We can learn the importance of being curious and exploring the unknown.

In conclusion, Feynman’s thoughts were beautifully put into words and then brought to life by the skilled animation of Fraser Davidson. Feynman’s conversation with his artist friends and “Ode to a Flower” reminds us that we need to look closely to find beauty and appreciate the mysteries of the world. The world is full of wonders, and by learning to appreciate the smaller things, we can cultivate curiosity and wonder and truly see the world in a different light. So, take some time out of your busy schedule to stop and smell the flowers and see their real beauty.

You may also enjoy reading these:

• 12 Beautiful Richard Feynman Books for Physics Enthusiasts
• Richard Feynman’s Notebook: How He Taught Himself Calculus
• The Beautiful Drawings of Richard Feynman

Ali Kaya


Ali Kaya

This is Ali. Bespectacled and mustachioed father, math blogger, and soccer player. I also do consult for global math and science startups.

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