the pleasure of finding things out

Richard Feynman at his best talking about himself in an honest and direct way. His schooling and the influence his father had on him, always trying to understand why things are as they are, rather than remembering by rote. After college and a PhD at Princeton supervised by John Wheeler, Feynman was one of the most gifted mathematicians alive. The wartime call to work at Los Alamos and work on the atom bomb came. This was at the time it was possible that the Nazis could develop it first and use it against the Allies. Feynman is painfully honest that he did not reappraise the situation once the war was won in Europe. There was no possibility the Japanese would develop the atom bomb but he was caught up in the project for its own sake and did not consider how it would be used. After the war he had the offer of a Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton but he turned it down, going to Cornell instead where he taught physics from 1945 to 1950. He says he thinks he was depressed during this time, thinking of the destruction caused in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and perhaps fearing that nuclear weapons would be used again in another war. He turned down another offer from Princeton to go to Caltech where the was no pressure to produce results. That pressure was taken by the staff who had hired him. He describes how the observation of the rotation of a plate thrown into the air during lunch led to the development of the mathematics that led to his sharing the Nobel Prize for developing the theory of quantum electrodynamics. It felt to him as if he was playing a game so he was able to relax and be creative.  An independent thinker and a breath of fresh air who continued to be creative in a wide range of fields, until his death.  he was among the earliest advocates of the importance of nanotechnology.

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