Sunday, March 20, 2005

Surely You're Joking!

Richard Feynman was a Physics Professor and won a nobel prize in 1965 for his work in quantum electrodynamics QED.

What makes him approachable is his rather irreverent view of anything or anyone that claims to know it all. He has written books on some of his complex theories on QED but what I enjoy most is his two books, "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" and "What do you care what other people think?"

The first describes his many adventures including a social engagement where he said he could sniff out which book several of the guests handled in the library, sort of like a blood hound. He talks about Project Manhattan (at Los Alamos lab) where the atomic bomb was designed. He also talks about some of the safes he learned to crack while there.

In the second book he describes the presidential commission he was part of to determine the cause of the Challenger space shuttle explosion and of course his break through and discovery of the failure of the o-rings.

None of his words are stuffy or difficult but simple and very easy to understand. He always keeps you laughing about all the people that thought he was so smart but how there was always a logical reason and approach to how he solved puzzles. One of the was when people panicked that one of the safes could not be opened when a manager was away on vacation and could not be reached. He went upstairs and tried the combination that was delivered with the safe, figuring the manager had never bothered to change it. Sure enough he was back down in one minute. The secretary couldn't believe he'd accomplished the safe crack in such a short time. He shrugged and said it was nothing.

Great reads both of them. If you want something deeper but still understandable read his book QED.

One of the most important tools of physics is the wastebasket. -Richard Feynman