Frank Oppenheimer and the world he made up: highlights

Frank Oppenheimer has unique insights on education, the importance of being curious, and interacting with the physical world to build intuition and engage the senses. The Exploratorium, a San Francisco Science museum is a testament to his thinking.  Some excerpts from the book about his life:

Real sightseeing is getting out of the train, wandering at will, getting lost, lingering as long as you like, and trying things just for the heck of it, can't be guided and you can't have an agenda.

Play is most important quality to cultivate at any age.
Robert's advice to frank(he was always giving him books, advice , and encouragement): try to understand thoroughly and honestly the few things in which you are most interested; because it is only when you have learnt to do that, when you realize how hard and how very satisfying it is, that you will appreciate fully the most spectacular things like relativity".

Woods of natural phenomena: importance of play for the heck of it and the random interacting with the physical world= real experiences, which have now been lost to packaged education and computers.

Treating the public like smart people capable of understanding anything, avoiding looking down on them by presenting science in a way that makes them feel dumb and making them think that there is always someone else who's clever and understand this stuff better than they'll ever will. Honesty about the material used in the Exploratorium.

The museum is a family of interconnected phenomena that, in the mind of audience, give rise to an underlying understanding, an overview of disparate aspects of life.

The explainers( teenagers), designing a social atmosphere that encourages interaction with one and others. Individual exploring is different than 2 ppl exploring together. When together, People  point out things to each other. The place can be designed to engage more ppl in conversation by providing more reasons to: no bathroom signs, ask someone...

Judging kids based on grades is bad. Schools' primary function was to keep kids away of adults way. Spending time with the young shouldn't not be a waste of time. Solution is to make schools an adjunctive education, complementing libraries, museums, community organizations, and media.

Engaging with the world on deeper levels.
Make teachers eager to teach what they've learned and kids engaged with all senses. Addicts to learning.

Artists make intellectual decisions and scientists make aesthetic ones

Things, toys should be nice in the aesthetic sense bc it engages the sensibilities of a person.

Art n science make you notice things in the world

Scientists tell us about nature, artists tell us about human experience

The world is always changing and artists show us what's possible the in human experience ( environment) while science tell us whats possible in the physical world and how we can change it.

Art is analogous to science in that both can provide insight into something that didn't exist before in human experience or nature.

Being curious/ understanding is the highest civic duty. It is like sex in that it serves practical purposes but we do it for fun. Making science inaccessible and having the individual give up on understanding things is dangerous and make people rely on others to make decisions. They think if they can't understand why bother which leads to them not making a good contribution to society. What's needed is not informed citizenry but rather the confidence that one can figure things out for themselves.. if they tried.

Learning how to think can not be imparted,  it comes from experience. What can be done in this regard is install curiosity n the satisfaction that comes with understanding things

The best way to make learning addicts is to make them teachers. Humans are so eager to share what they discover on their own. It's not abt right answers, it's abt thinking things through.

Science should inform human values and the good life. They're not separate

People fear what they don't understand and other people is what they most don't understand.

A changing( evolving) universe as it relates to democracy( rise in status). If you understand deeply the nature of the universe, it being constantly evolving, you can apply that onto your life and change your economical situation.

There is no problem in having duality of opinions. Instead of right n wrong, there can be both rights under the right circumstances. Depending on the context, two solutions can exist to one problem. Two opposing views can be held about same subject. No matter. Think Wave/particle; Pro abortion/pro life.  life(depending on the situation); Islands of purpose in a purposeless universe.

Science is not for prediction and control. It provides little of both. It rather helps us understand phenomena

The use of persuasion in education as opposed to coercion: Understanding, explaining why things are the way they are.

Science is not an oracle, it shows you what's already been there, waiting to be discovered.

Children must have the choice to listen to the teacher. Learning happens when you figure things out on your own and manipulate stuff. You get to build intuition.

bad for education: Measuring learning according to quantitative measures( grades, what's visible) as opposed to what's tacit(intuition).
Good for education: Allowing things to happen, giving more options that might strike a chord with ppl based on their various backgrounds and interests is the way to educate.

Rules were excuses people made for failing to take the time to make thoughtful decisions.

Doing things on idealistic terms as opposed to practical, for the principal, the ideal, and the idea as opposed to the personality of the ppl involved.

Democracy for the people because the emperor  might make mistakes and someone need to point that out.
For building intuition and aesthetics

Frank fought for the admission to the musuem to be free. He couldn't think of the Exploratorium as a business. Flat hierarchy was his way: open to the new, and everyone.

Complementary principal in quantum mechanics where accepting mutually exclusive truths come naturally out of the physics.

Be present fully with the things you take on in life. Do things that you think are important and that only you can do it. Interact more with the world, get involved with as much projects a you can. Engage all your senses.


the worst thing a son of a hitch can do is to turn you into a son of a batch

Artists and  scientists are the official noticers of society.
It's not the real world, it's the world we made up
Take things seriously not too personally.

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