May 16, 2011

"I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring."

Said Richard Feynman, who died in 1988, at the age of 69. There's a new book about his life, which was marked by the death of this first wife, who died after only 2 years of marriage:
Feynman was stricken and turned, as some kind of compensation, to the predatory pursuit of women – dating undergraduates, visiting prostitutes, and sleeping with the young wives of several colleagues while an academic at Cornell University.

At the age of 31, having never ventured outside the United States, he visited Rio de Janeiro, where he lectured at the Centro Brasiliero de Pesquisas Friscas during the day. In the evening, he played drums for a samba band or picked up women – he particularly liked air stewardesses – in the bar of the Miramar Palace hotel.

He was eventually snared by Mary Louise Bell – "a platinum blonde with a penchant for high heels and tight clothes," according to Lawrence Krauss. They married in 1952 and divorced shortly afterwards. "He begins working calculus problems in his head as soon as he awakens," Bell complained to a divorce judge. "He did calculus while driving, while sitting in the living room and while lying in bed at night."
He also did calculations "while sitting at the strip bars [which he] visited because he claimed they helped him concentrate."

The topic is: the intersection of death, sex, and math. Discuss.

91 comments:

cahlmeeishmael said...

There's a reasonable probability that he is the only man who ever spent time in a strip bar working calculus problems.

t-man said...

Sex confounds math, because with sex 1+1=1.

prairie wind said...

I'd bet a lot of the guys in strip joints are the calculating type.

Henry said...

Far more interesting than sex, math, and death is Feynman's sense of humor. He trained his dog to do counterintuitive tricks. Throw a stick and the dog disappears in the wrong direction, runs around the house and grabs the stick on the reverse.

AllenS said...

"Do you have change for a hundred?"

MarkG said...

But why was the predatory pursuit of women some sort of compensation?

Jimmy said...

Naturally, Calculus is easier to figure out than women.

AllenS said...

Handing the bartender a $10 bill, he would say: "Can I have 10 ones."

chuck said...

Well, of course he did calculus all the time. So do I before falling asleep, in the shower, while driving, at parties, etc. And I am no Feynman, it's just what folks with an interest in mathematics do. BTW, calculus is a generic term for mathemetics, not the calculus in particular.

In any case, sex and death are separate subjects from the proclivity for math.

AllenS said...

Calculus--

"Hmmm, I'll say 38DD."

A. Shmendrik said...

With this I got no problem. Now, if it was Stephen Hawking doing calculus ringside at a stripclub, now thsat would be another matter.

Luke Lea said...

Well, yes, they do intersect. Just not at the same point, usually.

The Grand Inquisitor said...

Honestly, who doesn't sit at strip clubs and do calculus?

Actually, the guy sounds like he was really messed up. Strip clubs are miserable places, but he was trying to fill a void left by his first wife's death.

I hope he found happiness in his math, but that was probably a similar attempt to resolve the loss.

That's the rub. Hollywood makes this sexual T Rex routine seem really awesome, to the point where you're really missing out on the good life if you're not screwing all kinds of people. In reality, it's the exact opposite.

happycrow said...

1) That's actually interesting. A testosterone-laden environment that is otherwise completely stultifying actually MIGHT help one think...

2) Remember when Althouse was doing Instapundit, and that site actually held content after lunchtime? And then could come back here to **discuss it**?? That was SO COOL! I wonder what it would take for that to happen again?

pm317 said...

Well, his first wife is known to have 'taunted' him all their years together by saying 'what do you care what other people think?'. So he went on a rampage after her death. Actually their life together is a sweet lifestory and she seems to have been a remarkable character herself.

t-man said...

"Good Evening, Ma'am. Do you want to learn how to figure out the volume of those round, irregular objects protruding from your chest?"

Fred4Pres said...

But how many of those women cried out "Oh God, Oh God!!!"

Fred4Pres said...

Faulkner was onto something: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

chickenlittle said...

I just realized that Feynman's roommate at Los Alamos was Klaus Fuchs. That must have caused him untold grief.

James said...

Wow, Feynman was an asshole. Adultery is a pretty douche move.

And people who call it "the" calculus are pompous assholes.

Joe said...

...to the point where you're really missing out on the good life if you're not screwing all kinds of people. In reality, it's the exact opposite.

Not getting laid at all is the good life?

chickenlittle said...

Feynman learned that habit of calculating in his head from John von Neumann:

Dr. Feynman's years with the Manhattan Project brought the brazen young scientist into close contact with the world's greatest physicists and mathematicians. He would attend meetings in Edward Teller's office, furiously exchanging ideas with Enrico Fermi and John von Neumann, manipulating his desk calculator at top speed while von Neumann worked the same problems in his head. link

Somewhere (I can't seem to find it now) I read a much longer first person account of how impressed Feynman was by von Neumann at Los Alamos.

Terry said...

In those days hookers would call themselves "stewardesses" as a cover.

Lem said...

This is the guy credited with discovering the problem that doomed the Shuttle Challenger in 1986.

I recall a documentary about him claiming that for years he tried to make an expedition to a remote part of Russia called Tuva.

I'm guessing he never made it since the wall came down in 1989, only a year after his death.

Lucien said...

Feynman was sui generis. If you can find "Feynman's Lost Lecture"you get a CD of his lecture to a freshman physics class at Cal. Tech. Becuase there was a rule that nothing closer than n days to the final exam could contain material that would be part of the final(not quite like a furlough), he spent the lecture proving, by using plane geometry without calculus (or "the calculus")that the planets follow elliptical orbits around the sun.

James Gleick also quotes Feynman as saying (this is from memory os not exact):

"Nature chooses only the longest of threads to weave the fabric of the universe, so that even the smallest part reveals the organization of the whole."

Henry said...

@James -- Most of his life Feynman was unmarried.

MikeR said...

Probably worth chipping in that I almost took a class from him, in Nuclear Physics around 1980. We all looked forward to it enormously; he hadn't taught undergraduates in a long while. Then the class was an enormous disappointment, at least to most of us. Two peculiar problems: 1) Grades. Unlike us, he thought grades were a waste of time and no one should be in the class if they cared about them. He basically refused to discuss them. My jittery nerves just couldn't take it. 2) Content. By the end of first class, he had written several enormous matrices of complicated equations on the board, don't remember why. Then for several classes he proceeded to multiply them out, in complete detail, working out all the algebra and stuff on the results. I'd come back for the next class and there were those matrices again on the board waiting for us. I couldn't even look at them. He was fine with it - that's the way to get to the answer! Most of us dropped after a few classes. Probably a few stayed to become nuclear physicists.
An unusual person, with some great stories about him: http://longnow.org/essays/richard-feynman-connection-machine/
See the part about him being sent for office supplies.

Pastafarian said...

James, he probably attended those strip clubs after his first wife's death. Take a pill, dude.

I actually thought of Feynman when reading the comments to the Hawking thread. Maybe I'm starting to think like Althouse.

Feynman, also a theoretical physicist, wasn't anti-religion. He was a warm, humorous family man.

I've been forcing my 11-year-old daughter to watch the Messenger series of lectures that he gave at Cornell in the mid-60s. Microsoft apparently bought the rights to them and they're hosting them here:

research.microsoft.com/apps/tools/tuva

J said...

Feynman was one of the architects of the Manhattan doomsday project, along with Ed Teller and Oppenheimer (tho F-man later put on the 60s guru act at Cal Tech, somewhat successfully) .

Paraphrasing Cactus Ed Abbey, how can we ever thank them.

chuck said...

And people who call it "the" calculus are pompous assholes.

Gosh, what a terrible thing to say about the English ;)

I used the term to distinguish it from calculus as used in Anne's post. A fine point evidently lost on some.

Meade said...

AllenS walks into a (strip) bar. Calculates.

Bartender, pointing to sign, says, "Sorry pal, you'll have to leave your slide rule in your pocket."

edutcher said...

Sounds like he had 2 things working all the time.

J said...

Feynman was one of the architects of the Manhattan doomsday project, along with Ed Teller and Oppenheimer (tho F-man later put on the 60s guru act at Cal Tech, somewhat successfully) .

Paraphrasing Cactus Ed Abbey, how can we ever thank them.


Doomsday?

Hardly.

And the people who thanked them were the guys in FMF-PAC, the US Navy, the 7 Army Air Forces, and the 69 US Army divisions responsible for the reduction of Japan and its major commands on the Asian mainland.

Ann Althouse said...

"Gosh, what a terrible thing to say about the English."

They say "the calculus," and yet they say "He went to hospital."

Crazy-ass the-ness.

Pastafarian said...

J, Feynman was in his early 20s and hardly one of the architects or primary researchers. But he did contribute, and for that he does indeed deserve thanks.

He was also one of the greatest explainers of physics who ever lived. It takes a really, really deep knowledge of a subject, to explain it to someone so that they can understand it on an intuitive level.

Kirk Parker said...

t-man,

And sometimes the equation comes out 1 * 1 = 4, or something like that.

john said...

Yes Pastafarian, but OTOH Feynman himself joked "If I could explain it to the average person,I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel prize."

The Grand Inquisitor said...

"Not getting laid at all is the good life?

5/16/11 11:11 AM"

No, see, you get the dichotomy completely wrong. It's not strip clubs and sex with strangers vs celibacy.

The good life is the one this man tried to have with his first wife. It's actually not just about sex, which I think is where you're confused. He's using sex and math to fill a void, and there's no reason to assume that void is simply great sex with a wife, either. Though obviously that is part of a good marriage, there's more to it.

And I'm not even saying it's a bad thing that some people spend their lives suffering like this. After all, we can all imagine people who struggle with art or science to deal with grief actually coming up with things that benefit society.

But it's a sad story.

roesch-voltaire said...

One touches the finite the other suggests the infinite or is it the other way around? Anyway, I have thought Six easy pieces... a great book for first-year students, and a good guide for teachers who would do well to follow Feynmaan's simple idea: " first figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense." And after a not so successful semester, he also recommended getting feedback from students.

AllenS said...

"Is that a slide rule in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me."

Oh, how many times have I heard that one!

traditionalguy said...

If you start with an appreciation of the symmetry of Quantum Chromodynamics, then the sexual power of opposites attracting once they are no longer screened by clothing and morality is a mathamatical delight. Ergo, Feynman is the mind and body where they all intersected in a big bang. And for the record, the Feynmans of the planet earth were created and not evolved

Terry said...

Mike R wrote-
"Two peculiar problems: 1) Grades. Unlike us, he thought grades were a waste of time and no one should be in the class if they cared about them."

I am not a scientist but I work with astrophysicists. One of them once mentioned that he had taken a class from a famous physicist. On the first day of class the famous physicist announced that everyone was getting an "A". His reasoning was that if you had managed to get into his class you were very smart and very hard-working so it was inconceivable that you could do less than "A" level work.
Of course this was grad school at a presitigious university.

Sigivald said...

There are few people who would claim to be doing calculus while at the strip club.

Fewer still (to echo cahlmeeishmael) who one could radily believe it of - not that Dr. Feyman didn't appreciate the female body, but that he could do calculus while doing so is readily believable.

J said...

11:59--

Like other AA geeks, you might spin an integral or two (or at least spin jargon), but critical reading isn't your forte. Ed Abbey was not exactly praising Feynman (or the rest of the Manhattan bomb squad).


Moreover Truman's decision (along with brass, mostly US navy) to use nukes in Hiroshima/Nagasaki is itself a matter of debate, or rather a matter of weighing a crime against humanity.

MikeR said...

Well, Terry, I'll tell you what actually happened. Feynman gave everyone who stayed in the class a Pass. Some of them also got a little note that they didn't belong in the class for the next semester. But as I said, he just refused to discuss it ahead of time.

AllenS said...

After I go to the strip club and work on my calculus calculations, I like to stop and pick up the latest issue of Playboy, so I can read the articles.

Blue@9 said...

"Actually, the guy sounds like he was really messed up. "

Putz. Feynman was one of the most interesting personalities in the 20th century. Massive brain, massive personality, little ego.

You should read some of his books. The guy went to strip clubs because he found it entertaining and he didn't care what anyone thought. He found the strippers more interesting and better informed than your average humdrum "educated" sort.

At one point he ended up testifying at a hearing on behalf of a strip club that was getting complaints. He was the only one of the club's "respectable" clientele to testify. Why? Because he didn't care what anyone thought about his reputation in that arena--he made his name in physics, mathematics, and the classroom. Now *that* was a man of integrity.

Chip S. said...

People with a passing familiarity with the calculus of variations might say that mortality is nature's transversality condition.

Of course, that would make them pompous assholes.

Punslinger said...

My first wife divorced me because of mathmatics.

It seems that one day she put two and two together.

Punslinger said...

My first wife divorced me because of mathmatics.

It seems that one day she put two and two together.

J said...

Feynman's guru's schtick was pathetic. He was no different than an Edward Teller and like Teller a hawk on Nam as well IIRC but ...a kosher Teller. oy veyy

edutcher said...

J said...

11:59--

Like other AA geeks, you might spin an integral or two (or at least spin jargon), but critical reading isn't your forte. Ed Abbey was not exactly praising Feynman (or the rest of the Manhattan bomb squad).


Moreover Truman's decision (along with brass, mostly US navy) to use nukes in Hiroshima/Nagasaki is itself a matter of debate, or rather a matter of weighing a crime against humanity.


The Bomb was Marshall's baby - from Day One. The Navy wanted a blockade after they'd screwed up on Okinawa.

Julius said...

I'm sorry, but you folks are not worthy of discussing the intersection of death, sex, and math.

Except Synova. She probably is. The rest of you should just move along.

Death + sex + math + New Mexico = God

Gleick's biography was really wonderful btw...

J said...

Wait a second Edutcher.

Weren't you the guy praising Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, like 24 hours ago? Maybe stick to your remedial klan history lesson, and forego the adult discussion, yokel.

IM sure you don't know a vector from yr mama's vacuum-suck

shookie-tee dookie-dee doooo

Revenant said...

Feynman, also a theoretical physicist, wasn't anti-religion. He was a warm, humorous family man.

If by "anti-religion" you mean "interested in getting rid of religion" then, no, he wasn't anti-religion. He was, however, a lifelong atheist who had no use for religion; he was anti-religion in the sense that I am anti-oyster. :)

john said...

Not only does the use of the atomic bombs seem to have been justified in the circumstances prevailing in August 1945, but I am among those convinced that the demonstrations of nuclear horror, and the global revulsion which it provoked, has contributed decisively towards preserving the world since. If the effects of nuclear attack had not been demonstrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is overwhelmingly likely that in the Cold War era, an American or Russian leader would have convinced himself that the use of atomic weapons could be justified.” (Max Hastings, Retribution). Fifty to 100 megatons not used for 15-18 kilotons, used. It’s a lousy choice; but their forebearance kept the peace and many more of us alive.

Ed Abbey OTOH, was a rather amusing gadfly, but I wouldn't have expected anything measured or nuanced in his opinions on WW2. (Although "Desert Solitaire" still sits, dogeared,on the same shelf as "Armageddon and "Retribution").

edutcher said...

J said...

Wait a second Edutcher.

Weren't you the guy praising Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, like 24 hours ago? Maybe stick to your remedial klan history lesson, and forego the adult discussion, yokel.

IM sure you don't know a vector from yr mama's vacuum-suck

shookie-tee dookie-dee doooo


shoutingthomas is right; he does drink while he types.

In any case, J obviously doesn't know enough about the issues surrounding the Bomb - or the Klan FWIW - to make a rational riposte.

And I'll bet I've had more math inflicted on me than J ever did.

PS If he is talking about math. There's also several computer languages, marketing, and epidemiology that use the term.

But he doesn't know anything about them, either.

john said...

In one of the hot tubs at Esalen, Feynman watches a woman being massaged by a man she just met:

"He starts to rub her big toe. 'I think I feel it,' he says. 'I feel a kind of dent--is that the pituitary?' I blurt out, 'You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!' They looked at me, horrified ... I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating."

The intersection of sex, math, and embarrassment.

john said...

(All of them naked, of course.)

reader_iam said...

first figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense."

That's interesting; elegant, really. You'd think that would be so obvious, and yet... .

It strikes me that, unknowingly or deliberately or not, some of the most successful homeschoolers I know basically are doing just that. I'm not as consistent across the board (alas, but I'm working on it), but now that I think about it, in the areas in which I--we--have done really, really well so far, that's been the approach.

Thanks for this post, Althouse, and for the attached discussion, commenters! I know it wasn't the point, but I sure do appreciate the unexpected insight.

Carol_Herman said...

Good. So I went to Amazon and ordered this book. Feynman was so energizing.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I heard Feynman speak at University of Alaska about 1982, when I was a mechanical engineering undergrad. He was talking about the future of nanomechanics, and passed around a running electric motor that you needed a microscope to see. Virtually everything that he talked about has since come to pass. He was accessible and funny, and also passionate about the subject.

ken in sc said...

I would not be here except for the atom bombs. My father had orders to be in the invasion of Japan. I doubt he would have survived. I was born in 1947.

Blue@9 said...

"Feynman's guru's schtick was pathetic."

Hilarious.

Who are you again?

Michael K said...

Moreover Truman's decision (along with brass, mostly US navy) to use nukes in Hiroshima/Nagasaki is itself a matter of debate, or rather a matter of weighing a crime against humanity.

Speaking of assholes. The 500,000 anticipated dead US troops in the invasion of the Kwanto Plain thank you.

The reason why Feynmann will be remembered longer than Oppenheimer and Teller is nanotechnology. Back in the 70s, he offered a $25,000 prize, now known as the Feynmann Prize, for a working electric motor that was some tiny dimension I can't remember anymore. Maybe 1 mm largest dimension.

Anyway, a parade of guys come by his office with losing projects until one day a guy comes in with a wooden box. He says, "What's in the box?" He says, "I knew I was in trouble when the guy answered 'a microscope.' " Sure enough that was the first winner.

Joe said...

The Grand Inquisitor, you said "exact opposite." I took you at your word.

As for the rest of your self-righteous bullshit, it's just that. Feynman had an interesting full life. To suggest he was filling a void displays your utter ignorance of the man and betrays your insistance that anyone who doesn't follow your morality must be defacto sad and unfulfilled.

You must have a very sad life.

chickenlittle said...

The topic is: the intersection of death, sex, and math. Discuss.

"The cause of death is the envy of entropy."
~Annie Gottlieb link

It sounded intriguing.

John Lynch said...

Sounds like he never answered any of the important questions.

Or he did, and he became a nihilist.

If you can't find any meaning to life, or that meaning is so abstract that your day to day life is simply pursuing base desires, then it follows that there's no reason to live other than as an animal.

Being smart doesn't make you moral. Unfortunately, we make a lot of excuses for people because of who they are or what else they've done. That's the context for the quote "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." We shouldn't cover up people's flaws simply because they are famous.

Oh, and sex is 1+1=3.

yashu said...

Having an "interesting full life" (in some sense) and "filling a void" (in some sense) aren't mutually exclusive. And one doesn't have to make a *moral* judgment to speculate that a seemingly excessive or compulsive quality to someone's sexual behavior, after the death of a beloved spouse, might involve "some kind of compensation" -- or, put differently, might be some way, conscious or not, of dealing with profound, irreparable loss and long-term grief.

Zach said...

Calling it "predatory" is prejudging things more than a little.

Feynman's first wife had tuberculosis through most of the courtship and all of the marriage. His (very loving) family disapproved, and he dropped them for a little while because of it. She died while he was under tremendous pressure with the Manhattan project, and he didn't get any time off until after the bomb dropped, which was pretty gloomy for a lot of scientists involved with the project.

The way James Gleick put it, Feynman couldn't forgive the women of the world for not being Arline Greenbaum. He had already had a soulmate, she died in a pretty wrenching way, and for several years he just wanted to have fun.

Revenant said...

If you can't find any meaning to life, or that meaning is so abstract that your day to day life is simply pursuing base desires, then it follows that there's no reason to live other than as an animal.

The statement that Feynman lived "as an animal" and dedicated his day to day life to the pursuit of "base desires" is so hilariously idiotic that I have to believe you said it as a joke.

Like his ex-wife pointed out, he devoted his day to day life to physics. Sure, his love life was shocking to that portion of humanity that gets nauseous at the thought of non-procreative sex -- but a person would have to be profoundly ignorant to think that such activity was the major focus of the man's existence.

What he wanted to do was understand how the universe worked, and explain the workings to others. He had considerable success in that area. Because he lived and worked, all of humanity was left much better off.

Which is more than can be said for you.

Crimso said...

"Moreover Truman's decision (along with brass, mostly US navy) to use nukes in Hiroshima/Nagasaki is itself a matter of debate, or rather a matter of weighing a crime against humanity."

I recommend "Tennozan" by George Feifer. It is subtitled "The Battle of Okinawa and the Atomic Bomb" but it is neither a history of the Okinawa Campaign nor does it really have much to say about the bomb. It is mostly a recounting of what the fighting was like on Okinawa from both American troops as well as some of the few Japanese survivors. Feifer doesn't come across as being pro-war, and goes into some detail about atrocities committed by both sides. He does, however, reach the conclusion that the Japanese would not have given up without a complete physical occupation of Japan. Only the prospect of something as devastating as continued nuclear attacks changed their minds (well, some of their minds).

And remember, the Japanese Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (which effectively was the Japanese government, directly under the level of Hirohito) split 3-3 on the question of continuing the war. After the second bombing.

Jose_K said...

strip bar working calculus problems.He also worked as a painter there. Thre is nothing new there but for the married women. All the rest is in his book :surely you are joking, mr Feynmann?
he said he stopped drinking to preserve his brain and he did not do drugs but in another essay he gave details about experiment with drugs.
He also fought with a pimp
And aided Fuch run away

Jose_K said...

This is the guy credited with discovering the problem that doomed the Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
But he denied he was the one to praise,

Blue@9 said...

Sounds like he never answered any of the important questions.

Or he did, and he became a nihilist.

If you can't find any meaning to life, or that meaning is so abstract that your day to day life is simply pursuing base desires, then it follows that there's no reason to live other than as an animal.


Important questions? As a physicist he got a lot closer to "truth" and "god" than you ever will.

He was a guy who filled his life with discovery and creativity and fun. He played samba drums, he became an expert on Mayan hieroglyphs, he worked on the atomic bomb, and he figured out why the Challenger exploded. Oh yeah, and he won a Nobel Prize, one of the real ones that's awarded for real accomplishments.

And you think he was a nihilist? Jeebus, this was a guy who was all about *life*, not the afterlife. I would say that that's the opposite of nihilism.

I would be damn happy if my obituary read like that and the worst you could say is that I enjoyed strip clubs.

Just the Noose said...

@Meade

"AllenS walks into a (strip) bar. Calculates.

Bartender, pointing to sign, says, "Sorry pal, you'll have to leave your slide rule in your pocket."

Despondent, Allen shuffles towards the door bearing a bronze plaque engraved with 'Free Beer Tomorrow'.

Michael K said...

And remember, the Japanese Supreme Council for the Direction of the War (which effectively was the Japanese government, directly under the level of Hirohito) split 3-3 on the question of continuing the war. After the second bombing.

The Japanese had an atomic bomb program under way and the physicists told the Emperor that we could not possibly have enough U 235 for a second bomb and the decision was to continue the war. Then the second bomb went off.

They were right. We didn't have enough U 235. The second bomb was the plutonium bomb.

Had the war continued, the result would have been the genocide of the Japanese people, by their own hand.

traditionalguy said...

What Revenant and Blue@9 said. He was a magnificent man.

Jim Bullock said...

http://xkcd.com/182/

Pastafarian said...

One more interesting thing about Feynman -- he was once "fired" by the University of Wisconsin.

He was hired there at the beginning of the war, but before he could begin, he was called off to the Manhattan Project.

reader_iam @ 1:26: If you're a home-schooler, I recommend watching some of the lectures at the link I gave at 11:34.

I think it's the second episode in which he proves that the statement "a planet sweeps out equal areas in equal times" is equivalent to the statement "a planet is attracted to one focus of its elliptical orbit with a force that's proportional to the square of the distance." And the proof hinges not on (the) calculus, but on similar triangles. Similar fucking triangles -- I shit you not.

He correctly attributes it to Newton, but he explains it much more elegantly and clearly than Newton ever did. It's a thing of beauty. And he's warm, and engaging, and entertaining without being schlocky or cloying. I wish I'd gone to a good enough school to have had a class with him.

PackerBronco said...

I have a huge collection of Fenyman books. His greatest attribute IMHO is that he went through life constantly thinking. This was one dude who was AWAKE.

ddh said...

I love the bilingual spoonerism "Centro Brasiliero de Pesquisas Friscas," which sounds like saying the Brazilian Center of Frisky Research. As fun as that research center could be (and possibly appropriate given Feynman's extracurricular activities), Feynman really worked at the Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas FĂ­sicas.

John Lynch said...

Hah.

No, I meant it.

If you leave a trail of human devastation in your wake I don't care if you find the Holy Grail or invent the Total Perspective Vortex. You're still a jerk.

Why does everyone assume I'm talking about God? A Buddhist would say much the same thing.

Was Clinton a great guy just because he was President? Is Obama? Why not? People can see that politicians can be jerks, so why not scientists? Aren't they human? What's the difference?

If someone is a jerk, they're a jerk no matter what their other accomplishments.

PS- I got an A in every Physics course I ever took. Nice try.

Revenant said...

No, I meant it.

Then you can be safely ignored, as befits the ignoramuses of the world.

Michael K said...

I know a operating room nurse who worked as a private duty nurse for Feynmann as he was dying. She loved him.

Methadras said...

cahlmeeishmael said...

There's a reasonable probability that he is the only man who ever spent time in a strip bar working calculus problems.


Nope, we used to do it all the time. We as in my friends and I. We also knew a couple of the strippers who were in a couple of our calc classes (multivar and diffcalc) that invited us to see them dance and would introduce us to a few of their 'friends' if we helped them with some problems. It all worked out in the end. The calculus too. :D

Methadras said...

For the record, Feynman was one of my favorite physicists because of the way he approached physics from a personal point of view and he seemed like a normal guy who had a great sense of humor and I can appreciate that.

John Lynch said...

It saves a lot of time and trouble on the internet to just ignore people who will never say anything you need to hear. I encourage ignoring people. It's a good skill.

Revenant (I'll use third person since he's ignoring me) does say a lot of interesting things when he's not e-thugging (he's not averse to disagreeing with absolutely everyone, either) so I won't reciprocate.

For anyone else, I wish more people would stop giving the rich, famous, brilliant and powerful a pass to do whatever they want, up to and including outright crimes (like the French minister linked earlier). This is especially true for people who should know better.

I don't care about how smart someone is. I don't care about how much money they have. I wish that my family had thought about, well, the important things. The universe lasts a lot longer than the people around us.

Greater understanding of the world (physics, economics, politics, whatever) is meaningless compared to what we do in our daily lives to the people around us.

This isn't to say the universe isn't important- the universe is so much bigger and we are so insignificant- but that the universe is going to be there no matter what we do. It follows that what we do to each other is going to matter more to us than what the universe is doing. The universe doesn't care about us.

How do you live when your life has no cosmic significance whatsoever? Well, stop being a jerk. That's the answer from Buddha to Confucians to Zeno to Kierkegaard. Not even counting the big world religions. It's not ignorant at all to say how we act is much more important than understanding the world.

Clearly we should care about the world. Everyone's lives are better because we are not so ignorant about the world. But it doesn't excuse being a jerk, which is what the article Althouse linked to was about.

Being "judgmental" simply means refusing to accept someone else's judgment. I'll remain judgmental, thank you very much.

Largo said...

'He also did calculations "while sitting at the strip bars [which he] visited because he claimed they helped him concentrate."'

<nitpic>
Quote fail. Surely his *claiming* that strip bars helped him concentrate was not his reason for visiting strip bars. But I don't think the fail lay with Ann -- her rendering of the quote looks quite reasonable. I wonder whose editors screwed up -- The Guardian's, or Krouss's?

</nitpic>

Blue@9 said...

John Lynch:

What the hell are you talking about? What crimes did Feynman commit? What trail of human devastation?

You're down on him because he was a single guy who enjoyed the company of ladies?

Man, I love you hold yourself up so high and spit on the mass of normal humanity.

No one is suggesting that you excuse his crimes because of his brilliance--we're saying he didn't commit any damn crimes at all.

The guy liked looking at boobs-- OMG, regale us with your solipsistic, self-congratulatory pap about how much more moral you are. The rest of us will look at boobs and walk through life enjoying what it has to offer.

Nihilist.

John Lynch said...

Hah.

Dude is dead and wouldn't care what I thought anyway. So why does anyone else? This is fascinating.

Suresh Vemuri said...

Lynch maybe correct!


But the point is, Scientists indirectly helping humanity/living things by inventing different machines.
For example, EEG or machines with which doctors insert Stents into human beings hearts.

But whether they are Presidents/Scientists maybe they are JERKS!