The Daily Nash-on

a mindstream from just another statistic…

Surely, you’re joking, Mr.Feynman !

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I’ve been reading the book by the Richard P. Feynman. And its a wierd book…because it moves from the laughable, to the insightful , to the abstract, to the human, to the philosophical side and to the scientific side of things almost as instantly as you can say “Poof”. (I don’t know why you’d say that, but its a short enough word to explain my point.)

Anyhow, before I talk about the book, I’ll talk about the man. Any physics chaps who come across this undoubtedly know and possibly worship his genius…but he was a lot more than a scientist : a drummer, a philanderer and a particular. 🙂

Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) (surname pronounced FINE-man; /ˈfaɪnmən/ in IPA) was one of the most influential American physicists of the 20th century, expanding greatly the theory of quantum electrodynamics. As well as being an inspiring lecturer and amateur musician, he helped in the development of the atomic bomb and was later a member of the panel which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. For his work on quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga.

Feynman did much of his best work while at Caltech, including research in:

* Quantum electrodynamics. The theory for which Feynman won his Nobel Prize is known for its extremely accurate predictionsFeyQED,QEDsel. He helped develop a functional integral formulation of quantum mechanics, in which every possible path from one state to the next is considered, the final path being a sum over the possibilities.FeyQM

* Physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, where helium seems to display a lack of viscosity when flowing. Applying the Schrödinger equation to the question showed that the superfluid was displaying quantum mechanical behavior observable on a macroscopic scale. This helped enormously with the problem of superconductivity.

* A model of weak decay, which showed that the current coupling in the process is a combination of vector and axial. (An example of weak decay is the decay of a neutron into an electron, a proton, and an anti-neutrino.) Although E.C. George Sudharsan and Robert Marshak developed the theory nearly simultaneously, Feynman’s collaboration with Murray Gell-Mann was seen as the seminal one, the theory was of massive importance, and the weak interaction was neatly described.

According to Professor Steven Frautschi, a colleague of Feynman, Feynman was the only person in the Altadena region to buy flood insurance after the massive 1978 fire, predicting correctly that the fire’s destruction would lead to land erosion, causing mudslides and flooding. The flood occurred in 1979 after winter rains and destroyed multiple houses in the neighborhood.

Feynman traveled a great deal, notably to Brazil, and near the end of his life schemed to visit the obscure Russian land of Tuva, a dream that, due to Cold War bureaucratic problems, never succeededLei91. During this period he discovered that he had a form of cancer, but, thanks to surgery, he managed to hold it off.

Feynman did not work only on physics, and had a large circle of friends from all walks of life, including the arts. He took up painting at one time and enjoyed some success under the pseudonym “Ofey”, culminating in an exhibition dedicated to his work. He learned to play drums (frigideira) in acceptable samba style in Brazil by persistence and practice, and participated in a samba “school”. Such actions earned him a reputation of eccentricity.

Feynman had very liberal views on sexuality and was not ashamed of admitting it. In Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, he gives advice on the best way to pick up a girl in a hostess bar and drew a decoration for a massage parlor. His favorite place was nude/topless bars, which he used to visit six times a week. In addition, he admitted to being a cannabis user as well as having experimented with LSD and Ketamine. Feynman also enjoyed bike riding and being interviewed.

And now for a few quotations by him :

# “Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation.”
# “Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”

And his last words : “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”

What others said about him :

* The “Feynman Problem Solving Algorithm”, as facetiously observed by a colleague, Murray Gell-Mann in the NY Times, was:

1. write down the problem;
2. think very hard;
3. write down the answer.

* The noted physicist E.P.Wigner described him as “He is second only to Dirac#. Only this time human”.

# referring to Paul Dirac , founder of the field of Quantum Physics

So what do you say, a man of many dimensions, dont you think ?


Written by Nash

July 8, 2005 at 3:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Excellent write up, I will save this post in my Reddit account. Have a good evening.

    Martin Ackert

    June 14, 2010 at 11:39 am

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