We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
(I) once asked Richard Feynman whether he thought of mathematics and, by extension, the laws of physics as having an independent existence. He replied: The problem of existence is a very interesting and difficult one. if you do mathematics, which is simply working out the consequences of assumptions, you'll discover for instance a curious thing if you add the cubes of integers. One cubed is one, two cubed is two times two times two, that's eight, and three cubed is three times three times three, that's twenty-seven. If you add the cubes of these, one plus eight plus twenty-seven- let's stop there - that would be thirty-six. And that's the square of of another number, six, and that number is the sum of those same integers. one plus two plus three...Now, that fact which I've just told you about might not have been known to you before. You might say Where is it, what is it, where is it located, what kind of reality does it have?' And yet you came upon it. When you discover these things, you get the feeling that they were true before you found them. So you get the idea that somehow they existed somewhere, but there's nowhere for such things. It's just a feeling...Well, in the case of physics we have double trouble. We come upon these mathematical interrelationships but they apply to the universe, so the problem of where they are is doubly confusing...Those are philosophical questions that I don't know how to answer.
Is no one inspired by our present picture of the universe? Our poets do not write about it; our artists do not try to portray this remarkable thing. The value of science remains unsung by singers: you are reduced to hearing not a song or poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.
We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover up all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So there isn't any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work.
If you're teaching a class, you can think about the elementary things that you know very well. These things are kind of fun and delightful. It doesn't do any harm to think them over again. Is there a better way to present them? The elementary things are easy to think about; if you can't think of a new thought, no harm done; what you thought about it before is good enough for the class. If you do think of something new, you're rather pleased that you have a new way of looking at it. The questions of the students are often the source of new research. They often ask profound questions that I've thought about at times and then given up on, so to speak, for a while. It wouldn't do me any harm to think about them again and see if I can go any further now. The students may not be able to see the thing I want to answer, or the subtleties I want to think about, but they remind me of a problem by asking questions in the neighborhood of that problem. It's not so easy to remind yourself of these things.