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29.8.11

Accusing Richard Feynman of being anti women.

Richard Feynman wrote, I received a long letter from a feminist group. I was accused of being anti-woman because of two stories: the first was a discussion of the subtleties of velocity, and involved a woman driver being stopped by a cop. There's a discussion about how fast she was going, and I had her raise valid objections to the cop's definitions of velocity. The letter said I was making the woman look stupid.
The other story they objected to was told by the great astronomer Arthur Eddington, who had just figured out that the stars get their power from burning hydrogen in a nuclear reaction producing helium. He recounted how, on the night after his discovery, he was sitting on a bench with his girlfriend. She said, "Look how pretty the stars shine!" To which he replied, "Yes, and right now, I'm the only man in the world who knows how they shine." He was describing a kind of wonderful loneliness you have when you make a discovery.
The letter claimed that I was saying a woman is incapable of understanding nuclear reactions.
I figured there was no point in trying to answer their accusations in detail, so I wrote a short letter back to them: "Don't bug me, man!"
Needless to say, that didn't work too well. Another letter came: "Your response to our letter of September 29th is unsatisfactory ..."—blah, blah, blah. This letter warned that if I didn't get the publisher to revise the things they objected to, there would be trouble.
I ignored the letter and forgot about it.
A year or so later, the American Association of Physics Teachers awarded me a prize for writing those books, and asked me to speak at their meeting in San Francisco. My sister, Joan, lived in Palo Alto—an hour's drive away—so I stayed with her the night before and we went to the meeting together.
As we approached the lecture hall, we found people standing there giving out handbills to everybody going in. We each took one, and glanced at it. At the top it said, "A PROTEST." Then it showed excerpts from the letters they sent me, and my response (in full). It concluded in large letters: "FEYNMAN SEXIST PIG!"
Joan stopped suddenly and rushed back: "These are interesting," she said to the protester. "I'd like some more of them!"
When she caught up with me, she said, "Gee whiz, Richard; what did you do?"
I told her what had happened as we walked into the hall.
At the front of the hall, near the stage, were two prominent women in the American Association of Physics Teachers. One was in charge of women's affairs for the organization, and the other way Fay Ajzenberg, a professor of physics I knew, from Pennsylvania. They saw me coming down towards the stage accompanied by this woman with a fistful of handbills, talking to me. Fay walked up to her and said, "Do you realize that Professor Feynman has a sister that he encouraged to go into physics, and that she has a Ph.D. in physics?"
"Of course I do," said Joan. "I'm that sister!"
Fay and her associate explained to me that the protesters were a group—led by a man, ironically—who were always disrupting meetings in Berkeley. "We'll sit on either side of you to show our solidarity, and just before you speak, I'll get up and say something to quiet the protesters," Fay said.
Because there was another talk before mine, I had time to think of something to say. I thanked Fay but declined her offer.
As soon as I got up to speak, half a dozen protesters marched down to the front of the lecture hall and paraded right below the stage, holding their picket signs high, chanting, "Feynman sexist pig! Feynman sexist pig!"
I began my talk by telling the protesters, "I'm sorry that my short answer to your letter brought you here unnecessarily. There are more serious places to direct one's attention towards improving the status of women in physics than these relatively trivial mistakes—if that's what you want to call them—in a textbook. But perhaps, after all, it's good that you came. For women do indeed suffer from prejudice and discrimination in physics, and your presence here today serves to remind us of these difficulties and the need to remedy them."
The protesters looked at one another. Their picket signs began to come slowly down, like sails in a dying wind.
I continued: "Even though the American Association of Physics Teachers has given me an award for teaching, I must confess I don't now how to teach. Therefore, I have nothing to say about teaching. Instead, I would like to talk about something that will be especially interesting to the women in the audience: I would like to talk about the structure of the proton."
The protesters put their picket signs down and walked off. My hosts told me later that the man and his group of protesters had never been defeated so easily....
After my talk, some of the protesters came up to press me about the woman-driver story. "Why did it have to be a woman driver?" they said. "You are implying that all women are bad drivers."
"But the woman makes the cop look bad," I said. "Why aren't you concerned about the cop?"
"That's what you expect from cops!" one of the protesters said. "They're all pigs!"
"But you should be concerned," I said. "I forgot to say in the story that the cop was a woman!"

10.8.11

The pluses and minuses of Nachman of Uman.


The minuses:

(1) The groups founded on him are cults. ( Versions of the Rimbardo prison experiment.)

(2) Groups founded on him are innocent when it comes to science. But his paradigm of believing in all saints (tzadikim) can solve this problem in potential, since believing in all saints (tzadikm) includes Maimonides who made it his major project to marry Aristotle and Torah together.
The innocence in regard to science is also a problem in the Litvak world (see Genesis and the Big Bang) but at least there is acknowledgment of the validity of science in the realms where it applies.

Pluses are he was a true tzadik filled with great advice. If people would not have turned his "thing" into  a cult, he would be a great role model.


The major issue with Reb Nachman is the movement he was involved with was put into excommunication by the Gra for good reasons. Reb Nachman by himself is obviously amazing and fantastic. But combined with that movement,  that ruins the whole thing.



Appendix:
1) The Rambam (Maimonides) had a system. The idea of his system was that in the Torah there are no contradictions. and he expanded that to include the Talmud. So in his system there is no contradiction between Torah and Talmud. Furthermore he also had a modified Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian system {that he does not define exactly} and this system he assumes is the underlying world view of Torah.

The idea that there is no contradiction in Torah was common in the Middle Ages.  It led Aquinas to create his system based on his idea that there is no contradiction between the Old Testament and the NT and later people called the church fathers and Boethius. This is very different from today when people feel they individually interpret the Torah to mean what they feel it means to them. Or when groups interpret the Torah to mean what it means to their particular charismatic leader.

There is no idea that the Torah is a self constant whole that means something very specific and and nothing else. and that meaning can be discovered by human reason. For if it could not be discovered then why was the Torah given at all in the first place? So in terms of understanding the Torah we have to call the Middle Ages the "Age of Reason." the period stated after the middle ages we should call the age of darkness.

Even in Musar you can see this. Musar had three distinct periods: (1) The Middle Ages, (2)  then all Musar became Kabalistic, and then (3) the post Israel Salanter Musar which was getting back to \the Talmud kind of Musar