Even Feynman Couldn’t Admit He Was Wrong

A close acquaintance of mine found a critical error in one of Feynman’s seminal papers about 40 years ago. Feynman never admitted the error publicly, but after about five years acknowledged it privately. It never got corrected.

Human nature.

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22 Responses to Even Feynman Couldn’t Admit He Was Wrong

  1. BobW in NC says:

    Feynman had great insights to science in his writings and presentations that any layperson could appreciate (e.g., his 1974Cal Tech address).

    But, as you point out, Steven, he was human. Please publish this mistake with comment, so that we all can know it, too.

    Many thanks!

    Bob W.

    • Unfortunately it involves someone who has no interest in being publicized on this blog.

      • Baa Humbug says:

        Sounds like Bill Gray

      • policycritic says:

        Make sure you leave a record of it for posterity, somewhere. 😉

      • Rob Ryan says:

        Why does stating the error publicize a person? Hard to believe that the error itself involved some fact about a person. While it’s certainly plausible that Feynman made a critical error, had it pointed out, admitted it privately after five years but never publicly, having a blogger state that it happened with no indication of what the error was and no evidence other than a second hand claim is hardly convincing.

        • ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz……..

        • Rob Ryan says:

          Yeah, thought so…

        • Let me get this straight. Are you accusing me of lying?

        • Rob Ryan says:

          No, how would I know? I’m saying that I don’t know if it happened, I don’t know if you’re friend is mistaken (or lying), I don’t know if you’re mistaken (or lying). What I’m saying is that, given Feynman’s reputation and status (after all, you quote him on your page, even though I strongly doubt that that quote also intends to say that “science is the belief in the expertise of ignoramuses”) the contention that Feynman acted in this way seems to be something that you’d want to either back up or leave alone. Instead, we’re left with “take my word that I’ve taken my close acquaintance’s word that this is exactly what happened but I can provide nothing other than the claim.” It’s not a secret that Feynman was human and therefore imperfect.

        • The story is accurate

      • Jimbo says:

        Don’t publish the person’s name, just the mistake?

  2. daveburton says:

    That is disappointing, considering the idea he expressed so well:

  3. tom0mason says:

    If Feynman took 5 years to admit a mistake, even the only in private, how long will it take these scamming ‘climate scientists’?

    • Yoshi says:

      That will have to be considered by a future generation.

      • Edmonton Al says:

        It won’t happen. They will all be dead.
        Remember we are past the tipping point.

        • stewart pid says:

          You beat me to it Al … they will take their short comings to the grave unless they end up in some sort of an inquiry and even then we have seen how the powers that be gave a “get out of jail card” to Mickey Mann & Jones.

      • tom0mason says:

        Unfortunately I fear you’re correct.

    • Jimbo says:

      Science advances one funeral at a time unfortunately. We may have to wait 30 to 50 years. 🙁

      • Jimbo says:

        History may well remember them for all the wrong reasons. It will also serve as a warning to to Nobel Prize committee.

  4. Neal S says:

    Perhaps things are different for programmers with respect to admitting mistakes.
    Programmers are often confronted with their errors, and if they ignore or refuse
    to change something, then incorrect operation or bad results will continue.

    The only way to get correct operation or results is to address the error(s) that had
    previously been made. Doubling down on prior mistakes is NOT a winning strategy
    in programming.

    I will admit that especially with respect to programming, I make mistakes all the time.
    But unlike some others, once I have become aware of mistaken ideas or beliefs,
    I do everything I can to correct my oversight or prior lack of understanding.

  5. Climetards will never admit their mistake, they will just deny it like they denied the 1970’s global cooling scam. “We never said the globe was warming, that was just journalists.”

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