Richard P. Feynman

Richard Feynman was an American physicist who is best known for his work on QED (quantum electrodynamics, and a pun on the Latin phrase ‘quod erat demonstrandum’). He also developed the now-standard Feynman diagrams and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

Feynman was a strong advocate for simplicity and explaining things so that the average person could understand them. He believed that anyone who understood something should be able to explain it to a layperson.

In fact, he believed this so vehemently that once, when he was asked to explain why spin one-half particles obey Fermi Dirac statistics, Feynman initially said that he would prepare a freshman lecture on the subject.

Later he admitted “You know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don’t understand it.” It’s also believed that Feynman said “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.”


Academic Papers

For Germans, all new knowledge is based on previous knowledge. Before Germans accept new knowledge, they need to see how it flows from current knowledge.

Academic works in Germany, including Master‘s and Ph.D. level theses, almost always begin with a full account of relevant context information: definition of terms, lengthy description of topic, current status of research, methodology applied. The context can amount to as much as one-third of the length of the paper. Some universities expect that it exceed one-half.


Blaubeuren

The Fall of 1981. My first time in Germany. Blaubeuren, a small town in Swabia. South of Stuttgart. I had signed up for a ten-week intensive course in German at the Goethe Institute. Grundstufe III (Base Level 3). My German back then weak, my memories of Blaubeuren today strong. I will never forget the very first impressions of Germany. The coolness and almost sweetness of the early morning air. The damp lawns and fields. The intense autumn colors of the foliage in a town nestled in the Swabian Alb. The schoolchildren hustling off to school.

The fascinating, yet mysterious, Benedictine Monastery from the 11th Century. The Blautopf  (literally blue pot or kettle), a large natural pool of deeply dark water giving access to a complex network of waterways under the hills surrounding Blaubeuren, with its age-old legends of mystery. The Swabian dialect of the region, a version of German I could only rarely understand. The wonderful baked goods I enjoyed each and every day after lunch.

Important in Germany is not to stick out too much. Is it because they don’t want to make others envious? Or because one should demonstrate how to maintain balance, not get a big head? Or demonstrate a proper balance between individualism and belonging to a group, whose help one may need at any time?

Whether giving presentations in grammar school, in high school or at the university level Germans train, practice and stress over and over again objectivity: stick to the facts, no emotions, avoid gaps in your argumentation, be so comprehensive that hardly any questions are necessary in the question and answer part after your presentation.

You see it in German résumés (curriculum vitae). Factual. Unemotional. Objective. No holes in the educational and professional background. Anticipate all the questions a potential employer might ask. Subjective and personal information is kept to a bare minimum. Adding things such as interests or hobbies is a new trend, imported from the U.S. and not a part of the German logic.


Selfie Election

Facing a Selfie Election, Presidential Hopefuls Grin and Bear It. July 4, 2015. Jeremy Peters and Ashley Parker. New York Times.

“Press that white button! This right here,” the former secretary of state instructed a technologically deficient fan in New Hampshire who was fumbling to work an iPhone camera. Her patience thinning, Hillary Rodham Clinton took matters into her own hands and jabbed the button herself.

Who wants their babies kissed or their yard signs autographed anymore? This is the Selfie Election. And if you are running for president, you have no choice but to submit.

Candidates can now spend an hour exhausting a line of eager selfie seekers. Jeb Bush has perfected a technique suited to his 6-foot-3 frame: For his shorter fans, he will take the picture with his own outstretched selfie stick of an arm.

“They just have to put up with it, because how do you decipher who is a fan and who wants to fill their profile with pictures of them with candidates?” said Mr. Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican, a political publication.

Senator Marco Rubio will indulge people who want selfies. But he often travels with a professional photographer who takes photos of him with voters as an aide trails behind, handing out index cards listing a website where supporters can go to download their pictures.

The benefit? Not only does the photographer speed the process and produce higher-quality images, but voters are asked to provide personal information on Mr. Rubio’s website. Before they can view their photos, Rubio supporters have told the campaign their name, their home and email addresses, which issues matter most to them and if they are willing to volunteer.


Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, an American author and journalist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, once lost a suitcase containing all but two of his manuscripts. The incident occurred when Hemingway was in Switzerland in 1922, before any of his fiction had been published.

The author had met with journalist and editor Lincoln Steffens who wanted to see more of Hemingway’s work, so Hemingway asked his wife, who was in Paris, to bring him his manuscripts. She packed all of the papers that she could find, but while she was waiting for her train at the Gare de Lyon she left her suitcase unattended for a short time, during which it was stolen.

When Hemingway complained about his loss to American poet Ezra Pound, Pound referred to the incident as a stroke of luck. The poet said that when Hemingway rewrote the stories, he would remember all of the good material, but forget all of the bad material. In this way his so-called problem would actually perfect his work.


Personal Experience

Although Americans strive to be analytical, objective, scientific, what most persuades them is experience. For Americans experience is fact, real data, empirical, irrefutable. Theory, logic, rigorous analysis are seldom more convincing than hearing a person say: “I was there. I saw it with my own eyes” or “We tried the approach and it worked”.

Empiricism is the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. As a philosophy, it emerged with the rise of experimental science and was developed in the 17th and 18th centuries by thinkers such as John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. The idiom “seeing is believing” signals the belief that people can only really believe what they experience personally.


Self-help

Americans pride themselves on being able to work through adversity, solve problems, have a positive and optimistic attitude. Americans believe in the power of motivation and self-motivation.

Self-help is deeply rooted in the American experience. Americans persuade by proposing how things can be done. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Coined by Elbert Green Hubbard, an American writer, publisher, artist and philosopher who was one of the most influential forces in American business in the early 20th century.


Pharma Sales Reps

According to a recent estimate, American drug companies spend $4 billion a year marketing directly to the American public, and an additional $24 billion marketing to health care providers. In 2014, a poll showed that 9 out of 10 big pharmaceutical companies spend more money on marketing than on research and development.

The median annual pay for pharmaceutical sales representatives in the U.S. is $66,814, compared to $37,316 for research technicians, $47,279 for research associates, $60,951 for civil engineers, $64,853 for mechanical engineers, $65,388 for physical therapists, and $66,823 for product development scientists.


Günter Jauch

Günter Jauch, moderator of the very popular German version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, is known for his dry, rational delivery and his uncanny ability to open up his quiz show guests with wit, irony and subject matter knowledge.


Walter Cronkite

Older Americans know the names Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. They were the most famous news anchormen of the historically dominant television news broadcasters ABC, CBS and NBC. For generations they informed the American people at six o’clock in the evenings about national and world events.

Sunday morning political talkshows are also linked to household names such as Tim Russert, George Stephanopoulos, Bob Schieffer. In style and tone these news shows were tailored to those respective individuals. It was, and still is, a question of branding, with the networks seeking to establish an almost personal relationship between news moderator and the audience, with the hope that viewers would trust the moderator with supplying them with critical news in precise, objective and investigative way.

And it’s no different in American politics, where it is often less about substance and more about personality, character and values, such as marriage, family, love of country and faith. Question marks in those areas mean questionable credibility. Americans first size up the candidate as a person, then they consider his or her politics.