Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman

Book Cover

Book Cover

In my previous post I had given a brief idea about this book and the author. But now that I have read it I think the book deserves a more elaborate blog. A scientist’s biography can not be more interesting than this one. Unlike Fermat’s last theorem, or E=mc2, every chapter/tale in this book in unbelievably entertaining and humorous.

In each Chapter Mr. Feynman tells some stories from his life. Sometimes its about a hypnotism experiment he took part in, or sometimes the tricks he played on fellow students. Never does Feynman tries to be humble or play it down, but he is supremely confident that he is a genius and he indeed proves it. His life is full of success stories. It like a first bencher who always got a first rank, got the most beautiful girlfriend and wins baseball championship. We all hate him because we are jealous of him.

When in MIT doing his graduation, for the engineering graphics class a few of his classmates wonder if the the french curves they use have any formula behind them. Remember its MIT, and guys out there are supposed to be very smart. So Feynman told them that those French Curves are indeed designed with a formula. The specialty of French Curves is that no matter how you hold them, the tangent to its lowest point (continuous) is always horizontal.

Did you get the joke? I too did not get it either initially. The joke is that, no matter which continuous curve you take, we have all learned that derivative of that curve at it’s minima (or maxima) is 0. Which means that the tangent will be horizontal. (Derivative of any curve at a point gives slope of the tangent at that point). The guys at MIT did not realize this and they were fooled.Feynman calls this “Fragility of Knowledge”.

Now, thats not all. The whole book is full of such jokes. There are some jokes which I did not get at all. Especially the one where Feynman fools Einstein’s assistant. I did not know anything about Einstein’s research on gravity and the concept of real time (isnt time real??) etc.

Feynman did a summer job of chief Chemist researcher in a company where his friend was VP, friends father was a president and the only two other employees were a salesman and a bottle washer. Within few months Feynman had invented method to electroplate several plastic materials. After a long time Feynman go to know that another big company with a full fledged Chemistry department was trying out the same and they stopped that R&D because Feynman’s research was already much ahead of them.

At another occasion Feynman took 6 aspirins and Coca Cola to rub off the popular belief that aspirin and cola when taken together results in instant death. There was debate over which should be taken first hence Feynman first took tablets and then coke, again he missed both and drank the mixture, then he took another 2 aspirins.He dint die, but he could not sleep that night and he invented what we call today Reiman Zeta functions.

Related Posts

1. Previous part of this blog

2. The Night I met Einstein

3. A beautiful Mind

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