To do high, real good physics work you do need absolutely solid lengths of time, so that when you're putting ideas together which are vague and hard to remember, it's very much like building a house of cards and each of the cards is shaky, and if you forget one of them the whole thing collapses again. You don't know how you got there and you have to build them up again, and if you're interrupted and kind of forget half the idea of how the cards went together--your cards being different-type parts of the ideas, ideas of different kinds that have to go together to build up the idea--the main point is, you put the stuff together, it's quite a tower and it's easy [for it] to slip, it needs a lot of concentration--that is, solid time to thing--and if you've got a job in administering anything like that, then you don't have the solid time.
One way, that's kind of a fun analogy in trying to get some idea of what we're doing in trying to understand nature, is to imagine that the gods are playing some great game like chess, let's say, and you don't know the rules of the game, but you're allowed to look at the board, at least from time to time, in a little corner, perhaps, and from these observations you try to figure out what the rules of the game are, what the rules of the pieces moving are. You might discover after a bit, for example, that when there's only one bishop around on the board that the bishop maintains its color. Later on you might discover the law for the bisohp as it moves on the diagonal which would explain the law that you understood before--that it maintained its color--and that would be analogous to discovering one law and then later finding a deeper understanding of it. Then things can happen, everything's going good, you've got all the laws, it looks very good and then all of a sudden some strange phenomenon occurs in some corner, so you begin to investigate that--it's castling, something you didn't expect. We're always, by the way, in fundamental physics, always trying to investigate those things in which we don't understand the conclusion. After we've checked them enough, we're okay.
I got a kick, when I was a boy, [out] of my father telling me things, so I tried to tell my son things that were interesting about the world. When he was very small we used to rock him to bed, you know, and tell him stories, and I'd make up a story about little people that were about so high [who] would walk along and they would go on picnics and so on and they lived in the ventilator; and they'd go through these woods which had great big long tall blue things like trees, but without leaves and only one stalk, and they had to walk between them and so on; and he'd gradually catch on [that] that was the rug, the nap of the rug, the blue rug, and he loved this game because I would describe all of these things from an odd point of view and he liked to hear the stories and we got all the kinds of wonderful things--he even went to a moist cave where the wind kept going in and out--it was coming in cool and went out warm and so on. It was inside the dog's nose that they went, and then of course I could tell him all about physiology by this way and so on.
I have a friend who's an artist and he's 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, I think. And he says--"you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, 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, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is; but I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time I see much more about hte flower than he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter, there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure, 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 sens also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows that a science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and awe of a flower. It only adds; I don't understand how it subtracts.
My cousin, at that time, who was three years older, was in high school and was having considerable difficulty with his algebra and had a tutor come, and I was allowed to sin in a corder while (LAUGHS) the tutor would try to teach my cousin algebra, problems liek 2x plus something. I said to my cousin then, "What're you trying to do?" You know, I hear him talking about x. He says, "What do you know--2x 7 is equal to 15," he says "and you're trying to find out what x is." I says, "You mean 4." He says, "Yeah, but you did it with arithmetic, you have to do it by algebra," and that's why my cousin was never able to do algebra, because he didn't understand how he was supposed to do it. There was no way. I learnt algebra fortunately by not going to school and knowing the whole idea was to find out what x was and it didn't make any difference who you did it--there's no such thing as, you know, you do it by arithmetic, you do it by algebra--that was a false thing that they had invented in school so that the children who have to study algebra can all pass it. They had invented a set of rules which if you followed them without thinking could produce the answer: subtract 7 from both sides, if you have a multiplier divide both sides by the multiplier and so on, and a series of steps by which you could get the answer if you didn't understand what you were trying to do.