Why Feynman Can’t Explain Magnets

by Mike Sententia on January 11, 2012

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It’s the same reason I can’t explain magick.

“Why does energy affect cellular growth?” I have no way of answering that question. I feel like I should be able to, but no matter how deep I dig, I can’t make it intuitive unless you’ve directly experienced this part of magick yourself. Why is that?

Richard Feynman has the answer. In this interview, he’s responding to the question “Why do magnets repel each other.” He shows why he can’t explain it in any sort of intuitive way, beyond simply saying that they do. Here’s the main quote:

But the problem, you see, when you ask why something happens, how does a person answer why something happens? For example, Aunt Minnie is in the hospital. Why? Because she went out, slipped on the ice, and broke her hip. That satisfies people. It satisfies, but it wouldn’t satisfy someone who came from another planet and who nothing about why when you break your hip do you go to the hospital…

But I really can’t do a good job, any job, of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else you’re more familiar with, because I don’t understand it in terms of anything else that you’re more familiar with.

Read the interview, it’s interesting and fairly short. Or watch the video here.

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