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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Learn to solve every problem that has been solved

Feynman had that on his final blackboard. Crazy? Even for Feynman? An admirable ambition, nonetheless.

At what point did this become impossible for even the smartest human alive? What if we amend it to Learn to solve every important problem that has been solved? (For some threshold of importance...)

Feynman's TO LEARN list:

Bethe Ansatz, Kondo Effect, 2-D Hall Effect, "accel. temp" = Unruh Effect?, Non-linear classical Hydrodynamics

Do I know anyone well-acquainted with all of these topics? I can think of a few people who come close ...

While it may be impossible to achieve Feynman's goal, I'm surprised that more people don't attempt the importance threshold-modified version. Suppose we set the importance bar really, really high: what are the most important results that everyone should try to understand? Here's a very biased partial list: basic physics and mathematics (e.g., to the level of the Feynman Lectures); quantitative theory of genetics and evolution; information, entropy and probability; basic ideas about logic and computation (Godel and Turing?); ... What else? Dynamics of markets? Complex Systems? Psychometrics? Descriptive biology? Organic chemistry?

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