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Some of Richard Feynman's Wonderfulness

Here is some especially good Feynman stuff from the book Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track:

Page xix: Feynman wanted to marry, but worried he was being too impulsive. So he marked a day on his calendar a few months ahead and planned only to propose if he still felt the same way on that day. It's wonderful how he was willing to second guess his own judgment in an area where he knew he might make mistakes. In the event, he still felt the same way and proposed on the marked day. It must have been very tempting to propose early since he felt so strongly. After a few weeks of feeling like that he could have thought, "I have waited. I still feel the same. Nothing is going to change. I've done my experiment. I should propose now." But Feynman had the integrity to wait. One of the things Feynman told us about science is that it helps us to avoid fooling ourselves, which is normally very easy. It's also easy to fool yourself when you're in love, so I think it was very wise of him to wait the full duration.

Page xix:
Of my father's many skills, this willingness to play the fool—and to let me think he could be completely outfoxed by my clever thinking—was the one that shaped my childhood more than any other.

I [Feynman's daughter] was simply unaware for many years that he was revered as a supreme intellect.
Feynman's humility is impressive. He didn't even mention his status to his children. Many people, including Feynman, have said we should not trust in authorities and experts, or take them too seriously. Feynman once defined science as belief in the ignorance of experts. But Feynman took this attitude much further than most people. He really didn't want to listen to authorities, or have anyone listen to his. And he wouldn't even passively let it happen if people wanted to treat him as an authority; he made a genuine effort to prevent it.

Of course, some people won't listen to Feynman no matter what he says about how they should use their own judgment. Rather, they have completely ignored what he said so they can treat his every word as revealed truth. :)

Page xx: Feynman taught his daughter some shortcuts an alternate approaches for solving math problems. Her teacher scolded her for not solving the problems in "the right way". Feynman went to speak to the teacher, who didn't know who Feynman was and treated him like an idiot. The teacher even accused Feynman of not knowing anything about math. Finally Feynman stopped biting his tongue. In the long run he had to teach math to his daughter personally. His humble attitude is admirable, as well as his involved parenting.

Page 373: Feynman's last words before he died in 1988 were: "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."

Elliot Temple on April 5, 2008

Comments (9)

> And he wouldn't even passively let it happen if people wanted to treat him as an authority; he made a genuine effort to prevent it.

how so?

> Finally Feynman stopped biting his tongue.

what do u mean? What did Feynman do?


Anonymous at 5:43 AM on October 15, 2019 | #13797 | reply | quote

> how so?

said stuff to address it

> what do u mean? What did Feynman do?

RAFO


Anonymous at 11:28 AM on October 15, 2019 | #13799 | reply | quote

an earlier marriage decision

The story above was about Feynman's third marriage, when he was around 40.

His decision to marry his first wife is also interesting (in the first chapter of the book). She was ill with tuberculosis and his parents were concerned that her illness would drag him down financially and career-wise. He wrote to both his parents and carefully addressed numerous potential problems with getting married. His conclusion was that he didn't think the marriage would interfere with his career plans and that therefore he was going ahead with it. Many people do not think through reasons to get married to someone and reasons not to.


Anne B at 3:29 PM on October 16, 2019 | #13809 | reply | quote

A bit later, Feynman is making arrangements to move to Los Alamos with his wife. He writes to people about possible places for her to live and receive medical care (pp. 20-21). It struck me that I would have been embarrassed or ashamed or something to be asking about special arrangements for a sick spouse. Feynman is confident. He's got a bunch of ideas and he's figuring out which would work out best.


Anne B at 3:44 PM on October 16, 2019 | #13810 | reply | quote

> It struck me that I would have been embarrassed or ashamed or something to be asking about special arrangements for a sick spouse.

this is weird to me. why would you be embarrassed or ashamed to do that?

like, what do you imagine happens when ppl in that situation ask for special arrangements for a sick spouse? do you think ppl respond with scorn when ppl ask for special arrangements for a sick spouse?

I imagine that employees would be genuinely happy to help.


Anonymous at 6:20 AM on October 17, 2019 | #13819 | reply | quote

I would have been ashamed that I had a sick spouse and ashamed that I had to ask people to go out of their way to accommodate us.

I'd imagine that people would wonder if it was worth having me there once they found out I was going to be extra trouble.


Anne B at 10:03 AM on October 18, 2019 | #13828 | reply | quote

#13828

why do you think you'd be ashamed of those things?

do you have a memory from childhood that you think might have been the seed for this shame you have now?

I'm reminded of a movie (supposedly based on true story) about how the US used to be before laws about disabled ppl. A disabled person went to a restaurant and the waitress asked him to leave because he made other people feel uncomfortable. (The disabled person looked like he had whatever disease that Stephen Hawking had.)


Anonymous at 7:08 AM on October 19, 2019 | #13839 | reply | quote

#13839

I don't have a particular memory related to this. I do think it's common in our culture to be ashamed of chronic illness or disability or something.


Anne B at 1:50 AM on October 20, 2019 | #13864 | reply | quote

why ashamed?

I notice that in #13819 Anonymous asked:

> why would you be embarrassed or ashamed to do that?

I answered a different question in #13828. I answered what I would have been ashamed about, not why I would have been ashamed.

Anonymous asked again in #13839:

> why do you think you'd be ashamed of those things?

I didn't and don't have an answer. I said it's common in our culture. That implies that my "why" could be the same as many other people's "why"s. But it doesn't say what that "why" is or might be.

I didn't realize at the time that I hadn't answered Anonymous' question. I realized it later when I made a discussion tree of the conversation, as described in this thread:

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/fallible-ideas/jr4QWBX6pRU/H33i2oigAQAJ


Anne B at 3:23 PM on November 4, 2019 | #14157 | reply | quote

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