Monday, October 22, 2007

I am a Feynman Fan

Richard Phillips Feynman

Nobel laureate, got one for Physics, for his work on Quantum Electrodynamics. Legendary physics teacher ,wrote the world famous and very widely read The Feynman Lectures on Physics. All genius – all buffoon. I chanced upon a documentary in which Feynman is talking about himself, it’s like an interview, and came to know what a wonderful and wondrous man he was. And I must admit that I feel sad that somebody like me could never ever get to attend his “legendary” physics class. He was so curious, so madly into science. He pursued it with such a zeal and fervor, it’s like every fragment of his DNA had been coded for the passionate pursuit of science. And I mean Science, not just Physics. He got a Nobel for physics, but he worked as a chemist for some time, did research in biology with some top-notch people for a year, not to mention that he was a mathematician as well. Feynman’s father had a monumental role in shaping his mind. Right from his childhood, he was encouraged by his father never to take things at their face value, to think, to ponder over problems, to question things. He sowed the seeds of curiosity in him. It made me realize how a parent can shape up the future of his child. I doubt whether Feynman would have been the Great Nobel Laureate Feynman, had his father not been there. He played pranks, he loved dancing, he learnt to sketch, and he was a fearless thinker when it came to Physics. Once, when Neils Bohr and his son came to America, they asked him to come and have a discussion with them. And why him, because Bohr observed that this guy was not afraid of him, not afraid of the Great Bohr. He spoke his mind, if he thought something was crazy, he spat it right out. If he thought it was great, he said it with his heart. In his own words, when he was thinking about Physics, he could not think about anything else, and so came out the words without any hesitation. His language, it was pure American that his spoke. No fancy words. He did not want the Nobel Prize , and when he was woken up in the middle of the night and told about it , he answered the phone as if it was just another call , and went back to sleep . He did NOT want the Nobel Prize! According to him, the joy of discovery, the pleasure of finding things out and the fact that people found his discovery useful and were using it, was the real prize for him. He did want any accolade for that. Once again, the credit goes to his father for inculcating such strong values in him. What a man!


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mg said...

Richard Feynman did not write The Feynman Lectures on Physics - not one word of it. Feynman gave lectures which were tape-recorded, his blackboards were photographed, and from these materials The Feynman Lectures were created - by other people. The lectures in The Feynman Lectures on Physics follow Feynman for the most part (except two of them that were given by Matthew Sands), but they are not literal transcriptions. Feynman's recorded lectures had to be edited, often severely. They were also artfully illustrated. The work of editing and illustration was done by Matthew Sands, Robert Leighton, and many other people. If you look at the cover or title page of these books you will see that the authorship is "Feynman, Leighton and Sands." Without Leighton and Sands these books would not exist. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that Feynman wrote The Feynman Lectures on Physics. This is a myth. In fact, Feynman did not write much at all; he didn't like writing and preferred to let other people do his writing for him. I suggest that you listen to the tapes of some of the original lectures - for example Volume III, chapter 6, "Spin 1/2" - and compare it to the written lecture in the book. You will find that while the basic ideas came from Feynman, the spoken lecture is almost incomprehensible, and full of mistakes, while the written lecture is faultless and clear (thanks to Matthew Sands who edited and illustrated this lecture).

Kislay said...

I had absolutely no idea . I just assumed that since he gave them , he must have written them . Anyways , can you tell me how can I get my hands on these lectures ? And thanks for correcting me .