Saturday, October 19, 2013

An evening with Richard Feynman

The word "polymath", while accurate, falls short of describing him.  The term "Renaissance Man", while accurate, also falls short.  If there's a word that seems to describe how he ticked, it was always asking "why?"  He had a seemingly inexhaustible curriosity.

I hadn't ever heard the bit about how he would sketch the girls at the topless bar, but the scene (very mildly NSFW) was actually sort of sweet in how the girls remembered him.  What I had heard (actually back at Three Letter Intelligence Agency) - and what's missing from this  - was how he would crack safes at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.

And I'd never heard that he was room mates with Klaus Fuchs in Los Alamos.  It's plausible that he was the most interesting man in the world.  Stay curious, my friends.


R.K. Brumbelow said...

When I was 8 I was given 3 things:
My own subscription to Scientific American
Aha! Insight By Martin Gardner (Aha Gotcha was not yet published)
And most changing: The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

The world was wrapped in a mystery, but one that could potentially be understood. I went on to teach myself Calculus and Chemistry so I could understand Feynman and his wonderful lectures.

I think it was in Surely Your Joking Dr Feynman or What do you care what other people think where he talked about leaving the keys to the safe locked inside the safe along with the combination when he left Los Alamos.

With all my visits to sites over the years, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Miramar, Sandia, Livermore I met a lot of very interesting folks, but the one I never got to meet that I always wanted to was that certain bongo playing, safe cracking practical joker Feynman. He did offer some suggestions on my 4th grade science project though when I opted to do a presentation on Uranium hexafluoride gaseous diffusion and the reverse osmotic rate of flow across various membranes for varying isotopes. Then someone made a call and I flew to ORNL so, that was pretty epic in its day.

Anyway, my point is that Feynman was a very interesting and fun fellow who left a lasting impact on my life. We could still learn a lot from him, and I don't just mean Quantum Mechanics. His report on school textbooks and the challenger debacle should be required reading for everyone interested in politics and changing our world.

Unknown said...

I'd read Dr. Feynman's report on the Challenger, but didn't know about the one on school textbooks. I didn't know about the linked documentary either, so thanks to both of you for pointing out new-to-me items of interest!

Borepatch said...

R. K. Brumbelow, holy cow. If you are ever in the area, I *so* want to buy you a beer or three.

Or if I'm in your area ...

libertyman said...

Read "The Meaning of it All" and would have loved to have been to one of his lectures.

Sevesteen said...

His autobiography "Surely You Must be Joking Mr. Feynman" is a great read--Very funny in spots, interesting throughout. Lots of thoughts on education--the difference between memorization and application and his time on the California textbook committee.

Eseell said...

He also writes about his safecracking at Los Alamos in the autobiography Sevesteen mentioned.