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 Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman


Everything is made of atoms . That is the key hypothesis . The most important hypothesis in all of biology , for example , is that everything that animals do , atoms do .

In other words , there is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics .

This was not known from the beginning : it took some experimenting and theorizing to suggest this hypothesis , but now it is accepted , and it is the most useful theory for producing new ideas in the field of biology .

If a piece of steel or a piece of salt , consisting of atoms one next to the other , can have such interesting properties ; if water — which is nothing but these little blobs , mile upon mile of the same thing over the earth — can form waves and foam , and make rushing noises and strange patterns as it runs over cement ; if all of this , all the life of a stream of water , can be nothing but a pile of atoms , how much more is possible ?

If instead of arranging the atoms in some definite pattern , again and again repeated , on and on , or even forming little lumps of complexity like the odor of violets , we make an arrangement which is always different from place to place , with different kinds of atoms arranged in many ways , continually changing , not repeating , how much more marvelously is it possible that this thing might behave ?

Is it possible that that " thing " walking back and forth in front of you , talking to you , is a great glob of these atoms in a very complex arrangement , such that the sheer complexity of it staggers the imagination as to what it can do ?

When we say we are a pile of atoms , we do not mean we are merely a pile of atoms , because a pile of atoms which is not repeated from one to the other might well have the possibilities which you see before you in the mirror .