by J. Vazquez
August 20, 2019
May 11th of this year would have been Richard Feynman's 101st birthday. As a fan, I am quite disappointed that I missed hearing about the various celebrations in 2018 in honor of his 100th (see links below). If you missed it too, I hope you enjoy reading and hearing what others say about him as much as I do.
I don't remember exactly when I first became aware of Richard Feynman, but it started with my reading a couple of his books - I believe I got them around 2002 or 2003, while browsing at a Borders bookstore in New Orleans (a real physical bookstore that has since gone out of business). My favorite book is "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out." I've also read "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"
Right Photo Source
Here is my quick version of why I think so highly of him.
Physics degrees from MIT and Princeton
Member of the Manhattan project team in Los Alamos that produced the Atomic Bomb
1965 Nobel prize for Physics in for fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1965/feynman/facts/)
Feynman Diagrams - pictorial representations of the mathematical expressions describing the behavior of subatomic particles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feynman_diagram)
Member of the Rogers Commission, charged with investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogers_Commission_Report)
In addition to the above reasons for his recognition as one of the most famous physicists of the 20th century, I appreciate his high level of curiosity and enthusiasm when talking about the things he knows. And, of course, he was a great story-teller. To this effect, I strongly recommend you read his books. Reading his books and seeing some of his lectures, I get the sense that while he certainly knew he was quite smart, he never took himself too seriously and was always open to learn from anybody. He's even willing to admit when he's lucky.
My favorite story about Feynman is one where he accidentally points out a mistake on a set of blueprints. This is described in his "Los Alamos from below" speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY-u1qyRM5w). The video is over an hour long, but it's quite good/entertaining. The part about the blueprints starts at the 39min-15sec mark and goes on to the 46min 45sec mark.
I close with a series of links to various Feynman At 100 links. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. If you have/find a favorite passage/memory about Feynman or any other scientist, please share.