“Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which ‘are’ there.” -Richard Feynman


COMMENT: Here Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dick Feynman points out a truth that echoes constructivist theories of learning: that knowledge and understanding, rather than being passively absorbed by the learner, are actively constructed in the learner’s own mind. He is unique in that he emphasizes imagination to accomplish this. In his book, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman,” he talks about his own method for understanding new concepts. Feynman says he never tries to learn anything in the abstract, but always imagines a specific, concrete example how something might be applied. Then, he runs a series of simulated “experiments” in his head and keeps asking “what if” questions, adjusting his own mental model until the results of his “experiments” consistently match the theory or phenomenon he is trying to understand.

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