How the f**k do magnets work?!?

Fri April 27 2012 by Christopher

I LOVE this excerpt from a Richard Feynman interview (transcribed here) where he responds to a question about the "feeling" of magnets repelling:

"Of course, it's an excellent question. But the problem, you see, when you ask why something happens, how does a person answer why something happens? For example, Aunt Minnie is in the hospital. Why? Because she went out, slipped on the ice, and broke her hip. That satisfies people. It satisfies, but it wouldn't satisfy someone who came from another planet and who nothing about why when you break your hip do you go to the hospital. How do you get to the hospital when the hip is broken? Well, because her husband, seeing that her hip was broken, called the hospital up and sent somebody to get her. All that is understood by people. And when you explain a why, you have to be in some framework that you allow something to be true. Otherwise, you're perpetually asking why."

It reminds me of nearly every conversation I have with my older son.  Lacking a deep knowledge base with which to form a frame of reference (though he does pretty well for a 3.5 year old), every answer leads to yet another question.  Eventually, the chain always ends with something like "well, that's just the way molecules work."  He hasn't started asking "What's a molecule?" just yet, but I'm sure that one is right around the corner...

I hope he never stops trying to understand everything!