“When Feynman faces a problem, he’s unusually good at going back to being like a child, ignoring what everyone else thinks… He was so unstuck — if something didn’t work, he’d look at it another way.”
— Marvin Minsky, MIT
My fascination with Richard Feynman continues unabated. Feynman was an irreverent and influential theoretical physicist, Nobel laureate, and, most importantly, perpetually curious.
He’s the one who brought us such wisdom as “If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong” and “But the problem, you see, when you ask why something happens, how does a person answer why something happens?”
His genius wasn’t limited to physics either, he comments on the beauty of the natural world, challenges the notion that a scientist cannot see beauty.
He is perhaps best known for his role on the Rogers Commission, formed by President Regan to investigate The Challenger crash. Not only did Feynman discover what lead to the disaster, but he ensured the reasons were brought to light despite the pressure placed on him to acquiesce by the Commission. (learn more)
Happily I’ve discovered another great Feynman treasure in the form of a 2011 graphic novel by author Jim Ottaviani and illustrator Leland Myrick. The novel captures the essence of Feynman’s character — both his brilliance and his eccentricities. I couldn’t put it down.
Feynman liked a certain amount of trouble.
In his 1974 Caltech commencement address, Feynman mentioned one of his most famous quotes: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Part of why I love Feynman is that he could ignore the opinions of others when they were wrong. This isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds but I bet it leads to better outcomes.
He was also quite the character. He didn’t always rub people the right way.
Part of the reason I loved this book was the way it highlighted groupthink and social norms and how Feynman had a different way of looking at the world.
On his work on the Atomic Bomb.
Anyone who ever wanted to know more about Richard Feynman, quantum electrodynamics, the Atomic Bomb, Physics, the outrageously obscure nation of Tuva, or how a great physicist ended up teaching freshman physics (his lectures) look no further than this rich book. The book would also make an amazing gift to any high school grad.
If you’d rather watch something than read, the BBC documentary, No Ordinary Genius, is for you.