Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Map of the Cat
September 16, 2007 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Richard P. Feynman { Information Junkie PhD Atomic Bomber Professor/Lecturer on Physics + Mathematical Artist [DIY] + Nanotech Knowledgist 33.3% Nobel laureate + QEDynamic Speaker + Tiny Machinist + Challenger of Conclusions + Best-Selling WriterXBusted [outside Tuva] Star Trek TNG Shuttlecraft Pepsi Black/Blue U.S. Postage Stamp }
posted by Poolio (51 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
[with hover-over goodness]
posted by Poolio at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2007


Wtf?
posted by Anything at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2007


show off!
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2007


Is pretty. But is it useful?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:13 AM on September 16, 2007


Wtf?

Multiple-link FPP's are Poolio's M.O. (his posting history). I think he wants to distinguish himself with this style.
posted by ericb at 11:15 AM on September 16, 2007


Hey, have you heard of words? Or having a point?
posted by blacklite at 11:16 AM on September 16, 2007


I'll let my posting history (h/t to ericb) speak for itself.
posted by Poolio at 11:18 AM on September 16, 2007


What, no "skirt chaser" links or tag?
posted by loquacious at 11:21 AM on September 16, 2007


What, no "skirt chaser" links or tag?

I couldn't find any good sources for that... other than just basic stuff about his marriages.
posted by Poolio at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2007


he got a third of the money. i've never heard of fractional laureates before and i reject this notion.

hovering over "selling" gives you "google books-what do you care what other people think?" exactly.
posted by bruce at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2007


My favorite Feynman reference: "Albert Einstein was the smartest scientist the world has produced. Ricard Feynman was an alien sent here to teach us physics."

I love Feynman, his work sometimes makes me want to give up my Liberal Arts ambititions, and learn some real math.
posted by khaibit at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


dammit, Richard
posted by khaibit at 11:25 AM on September 16, 2007


I have a mental block on clicking any of these links until I've reverse-engineered the grammar of the post.
posted by Anything at 11:28 AM on September 16, 2007


Do you need a legend, Anything?
posted by Poolio at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2007


Oops... the hover-over for "Knowledgist" should be "Little Things That Jiggle"... not Jingle.
posted by Poolio at 11:32 AM on September 16, 2007


Needs more bongos and strippers... but dear god (trying to find more bongos and strippers) I see he's got a myspace page (apologies in advance if I'm the last person to know this)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:36 AM on September 16, 2007


This Poolio guy seems pretty cool.
posted by Tube at 11:40 AM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Explanation for the title of this post :)
posted by Poolio at 11:45 AM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Surely You're Joking...?" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" were required reading among the math-and-science set of my youth. Problem is, the lessons of those books -- social convention is for squares! If you're smart, you're probably always right about stuff, so make sure to let other people know how right you are and how wrong they are! -- work great if you're a world-class physicist with tenure, but are pretty bad advice if you're fifteen. Disclaimer: I haven't read these books since _I_ was fifteen, so I may be reacting more to Feynmann-filtered-through-disaffected-adolescents than to the man himself.
posted by escabeche at 11:47 AM on September 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


The full text of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman is available online, but I don't know if it would be bad form to link it?

you can find it by googling "Portions of this book appeared in Science '84 magazine"
posted by revfitz at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2007


Whoa, that second part was smaller in preview. What's the correct way to make smaller text?
posted by revfitz at 11:50 AM on September 16, 2007


::cries::
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2007


It would be very interesting to hear the tapes that Surely You're Joking... was created from. Were they ever made public?
posted by smackfu at 11:59 AM on September 16, 2007


Do I have to bust out my MetaFilter decoder ring for this?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:02 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Richard Feynman, along with a few other essayists, convinced me to stay in a science-related field. Too many departments are run as if they took a direction from Comic Book Guy. Entirely too nerdy, to the point where it is not only embraced but extolled as a virtue. I'm sure someone else can describe it better without coming off as making fun of nerds, but I just felt out of place amongst the extreme geekery. I don't know at what time intellectualism and math/science began to depart, but it is hurting both. It wasn't until I was taking a formal logic course in philosophy that I realized that I was actually good at math. Suddenly I didn't see mathematics as lowly and a collection of tables and axiomatic nonsense. There was some inherent beauty, and Feynman lead me to it.
posted by geoff. at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


skirt chaser

Not really a good reference, but I always liked the comic.
posted by zabuni at 12:09 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


These are great; ignore the ridiculous spoonfeeding advocates. I think Feynman is one of those guys I continually start to discount for the silly reason of his popularity. Then I crack The Lectures again, and remember that under it all, he was not simply one of the best Thinkers of our time, but one of the best Explainers, which I think may count for more.
posted by freebird at 12:11 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought Derrida had cornered the market on skirt-chasing.
Or so they say.
posted by phaedon at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2007


Do you need a legend, Anything?

That would be cheating.
posted by Anything at 12:23 PM on September 16, 2007


Feynman was a fascinating character. Thanks for the post!

In college I took a course on relativity and quantum mechanics. When we got to the first class on quantum mechanics, the professor, rather lecturing himself, played us a video of Feynman giving a lecture on the subject. It was very understandable and entertaining, but for some reason what I remember most about it is the quirky drawings Feynman made on the board. He managed to draw perfectly straight lines with complete ease, but when he needed to draw a wavy line, he had all sorts of trouble. He made like four attempts to draw a wave and ended up with something really wacky-looking.
posted by epimorph at 12:54 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


he got a third of the money. i've never heard of fractional laureates before and i reject this notion.

It's okay... Feynman didn't like honors.
posted by Poolio at 1:05 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pauline Kael has that same effect on 15 year old liberal arts nerds escabeche;)
posted by vronsky at 1:18 PM on September 16, 2007


I check out anything that might be about cats...
posted by kindalike at 1:32 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


He also played the bongos.
posted by phrontist at 1:41 PM on September 16, 2007


"Surely You're Joking...?" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" were required reading among the math-and-science set of my youth. Problem is, the lessons of those books -- social convention is for squares! If you're smart, you're probably always right about stuff, so make sure to let other people know how right you are and how wrong they are! -- work great if you're a world-class physicist with tenure, but are pretty bad advice if you're fifteen. Disclaimer: I haven't read these books since _I_ was fifteen, so I may be reacting more to Feynmann-filtered-through-disaffected-adolescents than to the man himself.

You're remembering correctly, esabeche. I just reread Surely You're Joking... this summer, and I found his arrogance to be nauseating. But I guess if you've never walked into a room and not been the smartest person in it, that's what happens.
posted by Kwine at 2:05 PM on September 16, 2007


You know who else played the bongos.
posted by sexymofo at 3:20 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like Poolio's posts. It's like a fun puzzle, with knowledge as my reward! Can't beat that!
posted by lazaruslong at 3:21 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


It happens fairly often that the Nobel prize is shared.
posted by Catfry at 3:34 PM on September 16, 2007


Feynman is a hero and his vids and audio are tough to find online. Thank you for this excellent post!
posted by McLir at 4:23 PM on September 16, 2007


I read both of his books last year and didn't find anything remarkably arrogant or adolescent about them (I'm 26.) I suppose I could understand how some might find his narrative voice and mannerisms annoying, but I don't think arrogance is the right trait to ascribe to him, especially in light of the video interview posted above. We're trained, socially, to look at gestures like disavowing honors as secretly meaning "I'm TOO GOOD for this honor." We're trained to look suspiciously at overt displays of intelligence or ability (real or imagined on the part of the holder), as brinksmanship, games to jockey for social position. And that training is not entirely wrong, because a lot of the time that is true.

But I don't really think that was all that important to him, or true of him. He was an individual who saw and understood the world in a way that was a bit different from most. To put it simply, I think he just had a different set of priorities than what people would care about him. I think he saw that as a waste of time, distracting us from the real truths out there, and said as much. Is that overly simplistic? Yeah, probably. But I admire the purity of it every time I'm frustrated with all the stupid pointless games that we as human beings make each other play.

He wrote a letter to his first wife after she died that was one of the most heartbreaking things I've ever read (located here, at the very bottom of the page). I don't know how it reads on its own, but in the context of those books, it reveals a side of him that isn't readily apparent. I'm sure my reaction to it was informed in part by my emotional state at the time, but I'm still affected if I go back and read it now, because it's filled with a really raw kind of grief that allowed me to connect with him on a human level and not just an intellectual one.
posted by Kosh at 4:49 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Arrogance: The act or habit of arrogating, or making undue claims in an overbearing manner; Wiki

I loved his books a did not find them overbearing nor -- in particular -- undue.
posted by Bovine Love at 5:17 PM on September 16, 2007


I've just finished reading about 6 books in a row about the Manhattan Project, the above-ground testing in Nevada, and related subjects, like Hanford and Oak Ridge, but haven't read any Feynman, yet. Might have to pick up one of his reminiscences. Thanks for the very thorough post.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:17 PM on September 16, 2007


wonderful
posted by onkelchrispy at 7:32 PM on September 16, 2007


That interview where he speaks low of honors has an amazing bit about his reaction after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hisroshima and Nagasaki. If you can imagine Feynman talking about suicidal depression, that is what it's like.

Plus he has that working class accent going for him. He was an amazing amazing man. The memoirs apparently were forgettable, as I have read them and forgot them. I will never part with my Feynman Lectures on Physics.

(In the foreward to his Lectures he says he doesn't think they are very good; the word he uses is "failure".)
posted by bukvich at 9:09 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Devills Rancher: If you haven't yet, read "Atoms in the Family" by Ms. Oppenheimer herself.
posted by loquacious at 9:36 PM on September 16, 2007


Best explainers indeed. He avoids jargon like the plague. I think of him CONSTANTLY whenever I go to a lecture or presentation here at work. People really do just jam as much jargon as they can in either through laziness or through a desire to make themselves seem smart. But I agree with Einstein: If you can't explain something to a kindergartener, you don't understand it yourself.
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Brilliant!
posted by Lezzles at 6:03 AM on September 17, 2007


There's a film due out next year focusing on Feynman's involvement in the Challenger investigation, starring David Strathairn as Feynman.
posted by Poolio at 3:15 PM on September 17, 2007


There was another one with Matthew Broderick as Feynman called Infinity. He directed it too. Anyone ever seen it?
posted by smackfu at 9:17 PM on September 17, 2007


smackfu - the IMDB page for that movie is the "∞" link at the end.

FWIW, I found the movie to be a total letdown.
posted by Poolio at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2007


It's all Greek to me!
posted by GoodAaron at 11:27 AM on September 18, 2007


« Older Sunday Night, later named Michelob Presents Night ...  |  Pat Condell is back. This tim... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments