Paul Dirac, fully Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac

Paul
Dirac, fully Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac
1902
1984

English Theoretical Physicist, shared Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger, formulated Dirac Equation which described behavior of fermions predicting the existence of antimatter

Author Quotes

If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards — in heaven if not on earth — all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.

I think it is the general rule that the originator of a new idea is not the most suitable person to develop it, because his fears of something going wrong are really too strong.

I think it is a peculiarity of myself that I like to play about with equations, just looking for beautiful mathematical relations which maybe don’t have any physical meaning at all. Sometimes they do.

I should like to suggest to you that the cause of all the economic troubles is that we have an economic system which tries to maintain an equality of value between two things, which it would be better to recognize from the beginning as of unequal value.

I must say that I am very dissatisfied with the situation, because this so called good theory does involve neglecting infinities which appear in its equations, neglecting them in an arbitrary way. This is just not sensible mathematics. Sensible mathematics involves neglecting a quantity when it turns out to be small - not neglecting it just because it is infinitely great and you do not want it!

I must say that I also do not like indeterminism. I have to accept it because it is certainly the best that we can do with our present knowledge. One can always hope that there will be future developments which will lead to a drastically different theory from the present quantum mechanical theory and for which there may be a partial return of determinism. However, so long as one keeps to the present formalism, one has to have this indeterminism.

I learnt to distrust all physical concepts as the basis for a theory. Instead one should put one's trust in a mathematical scheme, even if the scheme does not appear at first sight to be connected with physics. One should concentrate on getting interesting mathematics.

I found the best ideas usually came, not when one was actively striving for them, but when one was in a more relaxed state… I used to take long solitary walks on Sundays, during which I tended to review the current situation in a leisurely way. Such occasions often proved fruitful, even though (or perhaps, because) the primary purpose of the walk was relaxation and not research.

I do not see how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time. They are in opposition. In science you want to say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say ... something that everyone knows already in words that nobody can understand.

I consider that I understand an equation when I can predict the properties of its solutions, without actually solving it.

I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest – and as scientists honesty is our precise duty – we cannot help but admit that any religion is a pack of false statements, deprived of any real foundation. The very idea of God is a product of human imagination. I do not recognize any religious myth, at least because they contradict one another.

Hopes are always accompanied by fears, and, in scientific research, the fears are liable to become dominant.

God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world.

As time goes on, it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which Nature has chosen.

Art and science have their meeting point in method.

Anecdotally, when Oppenheimer was working at Göttingen, Dirac supposedly came to him one day and said: Oppenheimer, they tell me you are writing poetry. I do not see how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time. They are in opposition. In science you want to say something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry you are bound to say... something that everybody knows already in words that nobody can understand.

A great deal of my work is just playing with equations and seeing what they give.

A good many people find this unpleasant; Einstein has always objected to it. The way he expressed it was: The good God does not play with dice. Schrodinger also did not like the statistical interpretation and tried for many years to find an interpretation involving determinism for his waves. But it was not successful as a general method.

A good deal of my research in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problem, but simply examining mathematical equations of a kind that physicists use and trying to fit them together in an interesting way, regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later to have an application. Then one has good luck.

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.

Disappointment, defeat, despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.

Author Picture
First Name
Paul
Last Name
Dirac, fully Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac
Birth Date
1902
Death Date
1984
Bio

English Theoretical Physicist, shared Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger, formulated Dirac Equation which described behavior of fermions predicting the existence of antimatter