What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Further Adventures of a Curious Character
by Richard P. Feynman

Page 91: A fragment of a letter to wife written while attending a World Conference on Gravity.
I am not getting anything out of the meeting. I am learning nothing. Because there are no experiments this field is not an active one, so few of the best men are doing work in it. The result is that there are hosts of dopes here (126) and it is not good for my blood pressure: such inane things are said and seriously discussed here that I get into arguments outside the formal sessions (say, at lunch) whenever anyone asks me a question or starts to tell me about his "work". The "work" is always: (1) completely un-understandable, (2) vague and indefinite, (3) something correct that is obvious and self evident, but worked out by a long and difficult analysis, and presented as an important discovery, or, a (4) claim based on the stupidity of the author that some obvious and correct fact, accepted and checked for years, is, in fact, false (these are the worst: no argument will convince the idiot), (5) an attempt to do something probably impossible, but certainly of no utility, which it is finally revealed at the end, fails (dessert arrives and is eaten), or (6) just plain wrong. There is great deal of "activity in the field" these days, but this "activity" is mainly in showing that the previous "activity" of somebody else resulted in an error or in nothing useful or in nothing promising. It is like a lot of worms trying to get out of a bottle by crawling all over each other. It is not that the subject is hard; it is that the good men are occupied elsewhere. Remind me not to come to any more gravity conferences!

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