Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! — Ralph Leighton and Richard Feynman

Jan van den Berg
Feb 29 · 2 min read

The next day I rolled up my picture, put it in the back of my station wagon, and my wife Gweneth wished me good luck as I set out to visit the brothels of Pasadena to sell my drawing.

Richard Feynman

Well, I definitely wasn’t expecting such sentences in this collection of anecdotes from famous popular physicist Feynman. But I can safely say, it certainly is in line with the rest of the book!

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! — Ralph Leighton and Richard Feynman (1985) — 368 pages

Richard Feyman, the eccentric Nobel laureate physicist lived a remarkable life. And he liked to tell stories. This combination makes this collection of stories in this book widely appealing and entertaining. There is surprisingly very little mention of hardcore science, and absolutely no mention of his most famous and arguably important finding. It is though, about everything else.

So you can expect stories about stories about: picking locks, building the A-bomb, cracking codes, painting, playing the bongos, teaching in South America, learning languages and — to my surprise — unabashedly chasing girls, and visiting topless bars and Las Vegas. Feynman was not your typical scientist.

However what shines through in all these stories are two things: Feyman’s almost unmatched curiosity in almost anything (except the social studies) and his relentless pursuit for applying critical — scientific — thinking in everything (go to the source, can you explain it in an example?). The combination of these factors make Feyman an extraordinary and relentless teacher. He wants to understand and greatly feels the need to explain things.

The book is a lot of fun and surprising on some level (I won’t spoil the fun). Even though some parts make your eyebrows raise.

Though he passed away in 1988, Youtube is filled with videos of Feyman explaining things and they are a pure delight. Here he is explaining fire:


Originally published at Jan van den Berg.

Jan van den Berg

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https://j11g.com

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