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Book: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

A fantastic book! A sort of autobiography of Richard Feynman. I wish I had read this book during my undergraduate studies. Feynman’s worldview would have helped me a lot to understand the world of science. But, I may not have understood many of his comments on American society and the circumstances of his time.

He was mostly interested in doing science, discovering culture(s), and having good time with blond beauties. His attitude towards the world is full of curiosity with an element of bravado (assuming all is true in the book).  I truly identify with Some of his following discussions.

  • Once he visited Brazil for a year.  After his teaching experience there, he realized that his students were only memorizing physics but not really understanding. He said that it was a very serious problem. This comment was very true with my education(including IITK) and I found most people around me had no interest in the subject and they were studying only to get better grades.
  • He tried to learn Art and see if there is any sense in doing it. He learned music and painting. His initial skepticism about the art eventually turns into respect. And, he also becomes amateur artist. I am still in the realm of skepticism.
  • Once he participated in a interdisciplinary conference about ethical problems in education related to equality. He was totally confused in the conversation and failed to follow the ideas of people from the other disciplines. He thought they talk in a very ill-defined manner. Definitions are rarely explicated. Sooner or later the conversation was lost in the jungle of jargon. I still feel that way in my own field of  research. Let alone talking to the people of the other fields.
  • This book hardly comments on politics of his time except the WWII. During that period, he built the bomb. And, he wasn’t much bothered by the consequences of building the bomb. He only wanted to solve a difficult problem. Military applications of science and technology are always challenging. A highly skilled technical person may easily find the challenge very seductive and forget the consequences of his actions.