Feynman's quotes in the July 2001 issue of Linux Journal

Feynman's quotes in the July 2011 issue of Linux Journal

As I finish posting about our XOs reaching Tuva, I sit down to thumb through my copy of the July 2011 issue of Linux Journal (yes, its barely June, but publishers are an eager bunch, I suppose) I spot a column in their “Upfront” section, where they have a bunch of quotes. The first one was by Richard Feynman. The second one was …also by Richard Feynman. So was the third, and the fourth! In this issue all quotes are by Richard Feynman. Just as our XOs make it to Tuva. How serendipitous!

Maybe its just my overactive mind connecting the dots of Feynman ->Tuva ->XOs in Tuva->XOs running Linux->Linux Journal ->Feynman’s quotes.  More interestingly though, the last quote resonates oodles with this project and its depth.

Feynman quote from Linux Journal

Feynman quote in Linux Journal

“So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts.” – Richard Feynman

In Sugar, the learning environment used on OLPC XO laptops, we have an activity called Words.  In Words we look at different words, their meaning, pronunciation, translation in different languages, and learn about it in as contextual a way as possible. Sure, we could add other pieces to improve the context, but learning about words in this manner makes a whole lot of sense. I learned a lot of words a long time ago. 3500 words to be exact. I memorized these words from the Barron’s guide for GRE. This was the popular word list that many of us memorized for months before taking the exam. No context, no meaning, just the word and its definition as Barron’s defined it, so that we could score higher on GRE. Did it work? I’m not so sure. Twenty years later, I am a tenured professor at an American university, but the word list really didn’t get me here. I still don’t remember many of the words. What really brings me the “aha” moment every once in a while isn’t a memorized list, but its context.

For instance, when traveling in Italy, I saw the word “camera” used for the room I was staying in. A little research led me to understanding why the contraption for taking pictures is called a camera. A camera obscura, more accurately. Just then, the “aha” moment struck. In hindi, a room is called kamra (कमरा). How did the Indians get from the Latin camera to the Hindi kamra? Alexander the Great? Maybe. This would be a cool addition to the Words activity. An etymological exploration into the world of words.

So, discover on. Let’s see what else the world holds for us. That’s what the bossman would have wanted us to do anyway 🙂

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