A few words about Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman   I came across this little animated film via an article on Richard Feynman at the Telegraph UK. You really should watch it. It won’t take much of your time; it’s barely more than a minute long. It’s a wonderful animation created to accompany some of Feynman’s comments on science and beauty from an interview in 1981.

Richard Feynman may have been one of the greatest American physicists of the 20th century. He was without a doubt one of the most colorful. I highly recommend reading the semi-autobiographical “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” and “What do YOU Care What Other People Think” – books full of anecdotes, adventures and science. He was a man of genius, to be sure, but his greatest strength was his insatiable curiosity. He dove headlong into any little thing that piqued his interest and his enthusiasm can’t help but sweep you along for the ride.

Feynman diagram

Feynman diagram

If you want more physics, I recommend “QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” (That’s QED as in Quantum Electro-Dynamics), wherein he describes the theory that won him a Nobel Prize and the diagrammatic language he created to describe it. Feynman has a knack for clear description that makes even a scientific dilettante like me feel like they can almost grasp quantum mechanics.  For slightly less esoteric physics, try “Six Easy Pieces” – six essays from his landmark series of Lectures on Physics considered the “easiest” and most accessible to the general reader (“easiest” being a relative term, mind)

Feynman doodles

Feynman doodles

You could say Feynman was a bit of a dilettante himself. He had a visual style of problem solving, as evidenced by the diagrams he created to help decipher quantum mechanics, and he had an interest with the artist’s way of seeing the world. As the interview clip shows, he felt that scientific vision was in no way antithetical to aesthetic appreciation. Quite the contrary, scientific inquiry only gives us more to appreciate. Feynman addressed his artistic curiosity with the same gusto he brought to everything else. He began drawing in the 40’s and took lessons to improve his skills. He continued drawing and painting until his final days. A lifelong admirer of the female form, he tended towards nude figure drawing. It also gave him an excuse to indulge his modest vice of frequenting strip clubs – now it was research.

Feynman art

He was actually pretty good!

   Gregarious, witty, absolutely brilliant – charming yet blunt, eccentric yet down-to-earth; Richard Feynman is definitely on my list of top five people, living or dead, whom I would want to sit down and have coffee with.

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