Cataclysmic Feelings

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

This question was posed by the legendary physicist Richard Feynman. He was asked to revamp the physics curriculum for undergraduate students at Cal Tech. The goal was to explain to them why physics mattered and how it should be taught to students in the hope of inspiring them to become physicists. Here was his answer to his own question:

I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.

He then goes on to explain that this one sentence would open up a world of scientific inquiry for a civilization eager to explore it. (You can read the whole lecture here.)

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