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"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character

208 Pages · 2010 · 2.93 MB · English

  • "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character

    LEGENDARY AMONG HIS COLLEAGUES FOR HIS BRILLIANCE AND HIS ECCENTRICITY. . .


    IT'S HARD NOT TO SMILE ALL THE WAY THROUGH." Newsweek


    Richard Feynman won the Nobel prize in physics, is one of the world's greatest


    theoretical physicists, and is a man who has fallen, often jumped, into outrageous


    adventure. He has been raising eyebrows ever since he shocked a dean's wife at Princeton


    and she was moved to exclaim: "Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!"


    "A STORYTELLER IN THE TRADITION OF MARK TWAIN. HE PROVES ONCE AGAIN


    THAT IT IS POSSIBLE TO LAUGH OUT LOUD AND SCRATCH YOUR HEAD AT THE SAME


    TIME!" The New York Times Book Review


    Feynman is surely the only person in history to solve the mystery of liquid helium


    and to be commissioned to paint a naked female toreador; to expertly crack the


    uncrackable safes guarding the Atomic Bomb's most critical secrets and to play a skillful


    frigideira in a Brazilian samba band. He has traded ideas with Einstein and Bohr;


    discussed gambling odds with Nick the Greek; and accompanied a ballet on the bongo


    drums.


    "FEYNMAN'S BUMPTIOUS REFUSAL TO TAKE ANY PROPOSITION ON SECONDHAND


    OR HEARSAY EVIDENCE, HIS PRISTINE CURIOSITY ABOUT HOW THINGS WORK, IS


    CLOSELY RELATED TO THE GIFTS THAT UNDERLIE DISTINGUISHED SCIENCE. . . ALL


    OF US COULD STAND SOME STRETCHING IN THE FEYNMAN DIRECTION. IT MIGHT


    EVEN BE FUN!" The Washington Post


    Woven with his scintillating views on science today, Feynman's astonishing life


    story is a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, eternal


    skepticism, and raging chutzpah.


    "BOOKS LIKE THIS ARE TEMPTATIONS TO GIVE UP READING AND DEVOTE LIFE TO


    REREADING. . . THE BOOK IS A LITMUS PAPER: ANYONE WHO CAN READ IT WITHOUT


    LAUGHING OUT LOUD IS BAD CRAZY!' Los Angeles Times Book Review "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"


    Adventures of a Curious Character


    by Richard P. Feynman


    As told to Ralph Leighton


    Edited by Edward Hutchings This low-priced Bantam Book


    has been completely reset in a type face


    designed for easy reading, and was printed


    from new plates. It contains the complete


    text of the original hardcover edition .


    NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.


    "SURELY YOU'RE JOKING, MR FEYNMAN!"


    A Bantam Book


    published by arrangement with


    WW. Norton Company, Inc.


    PRINTING HISTORY


    W.W. Norton edition published February 1985


    9 printings through March 1985


    A selection of Book-of-he-Month Club/Science April 1985 and


    Macmittan Book Clubs April 1985.


    Portions of this book appeared in Science '84 magazine December


    1984 and in Discover magazine November 1984.


    Bantam edition February 1986


    Cover photo by Floyd Clark I Caltech.


    All rights reserved.


    Copyright © 1985 by Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton.


    This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by


    mimeograph or any other means, without permission.


    For information address: W.W. Norton Company, Inc.,


    500 Fifth Ace., New York, NY 10110.


    ISBN 0-553-25649-1


    Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada Prefacexa0


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    earphones.xa0Ixa0didn'txa0knowxa0itxa0atxa0thexa0time,xa0butxa0Ixa0thinkxa0itxa0wasxa0thexa0typexa0ofxa0telephonexa0hexa0


    originallyxa0used.xa0


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    andxa0fromxa0downstairsxa0toxa0upstairs,xa0usingxa0thexa0amplifiersxa0ofxa0myxa0rummagexadsalexa0radios.xa0Atxa0thatxa0


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    parentsxa0tellingxa0thatxa0"Maryxa0Soxadandxadsoxa0isxa0havingxa0axa0birthdayxa0thisxa0Saturdayxa0atxa025xa0Flatbushxa0


    Avenue."xa0


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    she'sxa0gotxa0axa0birthdayxa0comingxa0xadxadxa0notxa0today,xa0butxa0suchxadandxadsuch.xa0She'sxa0axa0cutexa0girl."xa0Wexa0sangxa0axa0


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    deedlexa0leet,xa0doodlexa0lootxa0dootxa0doo.xa0.xa0."Wexa0wentxa0throughxa0thexa0wholexa0deal,xa0andxa0thenxa0wexa0camexa0


    downstairs:xa0"Howxa0wasxa0it?xa0Didxa0youxa0likexa0thexa0program?"xa0


    "Itxa0wasxa0good,"xa0shexa0said,xa0"butxa0whyxa0didxa0youxa0makexa0thexa0musicxa0withxa0yourxa0mouth?"xa0


    Onexa0dayxa0Ixa0gotxa0axa0telephonexa0call:xa0"Mister,xa0arexa0youxa0Richardxa0Feynman?"xa0


    "Yes."xa0


    "Thisxa0isxa0axa0hotel.xa0Wexa0havexa0axa0radioxa0thatxa0doesn'txa0work,xa0andxa0wouldxa0likexa0itxa0repaired.xa0Wexa0


    understandxa0youxa0mightxa0bexa0ablexa0toxa0doxa0somethingxa0aboutxa0it."xa0


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    soxa0anyxa0screwdriverxa0lookedxa0bigxa0inxa0myxa0backxa0pocket.xa0


    Ixa0wentxa0upxa0toxa0thexa0radioxa0andxa0triedxa0toxa0fixxa0it.xa0Ixa0didn'txa0knowxa0anythingxa0aboutxa0it,xa0butxa0therexa0


    wasxa0alsoxa0axa0handymanxa0atxa0thexa0hotel,xa0andxa0eitherxa0hexa0noticed,xa0orxa0Ixa0noticed,xa0axa0loosexa0knobxa0onxa0thexa0


    rheostatxa0xadxadtoxa0turnxa0upxa0thexa0volumexa0xadxadxa0soxa0thatxa0itxa0wasn'txa0turningxa0thexa0shaft.xa0Hexa0wentxa0offxa0andxa0


    filedxa0something,xa0andxa0fixedxa0itxa0upxa0soxa0itxa0worked.xa0


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    right.xa0Asxa0thexa0repairxa0jobsxa0gotxa0morexa0andxa0morexa0complicated,xa0Ixa0gotxa0betterxa0andxa0better,xa0andxa0morexa0


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    thatxa0hadxa0differentxa0scalesxa0onxa0itxa0byxa0usingxa0thexa0rightxa0lengthsxa0(whichxa0Ixa0calculated)xa0ofxa0veryxa0finexa0


    copperxa0wire.xa0Itxa0wasn'txa0veryxa0accurate,xa0butxa0itxa0wasxa0goodxa0enoughxa0toxa0tellxa0whetherxa0thingsxa0werexa0


    inxa0thexa0rightxa0ballparkxa0atxa0differentxa0connectionsxa0inxa0thosexa0radioxa0sets.xa0


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    moneyxa0toxa0fixxa0theirxa0radios,xa0andxa0they'dxa0hearxa0aboutxa0thisxa0kidxa0whoxa0wouldxa0doxa0itxa0forxa0less.xa0Soxa0I'dxa0


    climbxa0onxa0roofsxa0toxa0fixxa0antennas,xa0andxa0allxa0kindsxa0ofxa0stuff.xa0Ixa0gotxa0axa0seriesxa0ofxa0lessonsxa0ofxa0everxadxa0


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    andxa0itxa0wasxa0veryxa0hardxa0toxa0keepxa0thexa0humxa0fromxa0goingxa0throughxa0thexa0system,xa0andxa0Ixa0didn'txa0buildxa0itxa0


    quitexa0right.xa0Ixa0shouldn'txa0havexa0bittenxa0thatxa0onexa0off,xa0butxa0Ixa0didn'txa0know.xa0


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    aroundxa0toxa0thexa0printxa0shopxa0toxa0pickxa0mexa0up.xa0Thexa0guyxa0isxa0obviouslyxa0poorxadxadxa0hisxa0carxa0isxa0axa0completexa0


    wreckxa0xadxadandxa0wexa0goxa0toxa0hisxa0housexa0whichxa0isxa0inxa0axa0cheapxa0partxa0ofxa0town.xa0Onxa0thexa0way,xa0Ixa0say,xa0


    "What'sxa0thexa0troublexa0withthexa0radio?"xa0


    Hexa0says,xa0"Whenxa0Ixa0turnxa0itxa0onxa0itxa0makesxa0axa0noise,xa0andxa0afterxa0axa0whilexa0thexa0noisexa0stopsxa0andxa0


    everything'sxa0allxa0right,xa0butxa0Ixa0don'txa0likexa0thexa0noisexa0atxa0thexa0beginning."xa0


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    standxa0axa0littlexa0noisexa0forxa0axa0while."xa0


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    anythingxa0aboutxa0radios?xa0Howxa0doxa0youxa0knowxa0aboutxa0radiosxa0xadxadxa0you'rexa0justxa0axa0littlexa0boy!"xa0


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    him?xa0Soxa0itxa0makesxa0axa0littlexa0noise."xa0


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    God!Noxa0wonderxa0thexa0poorxa0guyxa0couldn'txa0standxa0it.xa0Thexa0thingxa0beganxa0toxa0roarxa0andxa0wobblexa0xadxadxa0


    WUHxa0BUHxa0BUHxa0BUHxa0BUHxa0xadxadxa0Atremendousxa0amountxa0ofxa0noise.xa0Thenxa0itxa0quietedxa0downxa0


    andxa0playedxa0correctly.xa0Soxa0Ixa0startedxa0toxa0think:xa0"Howxa0canxa0thatxa0happen?"xa0


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    arexa0readyxa0toxa0go,xa0andxa0there'sxa0nothingxa0feedingxa0in,xa0orxa0there'sxa0somexa0backxa0circuitxa0feedingxa0in,xa0orxa0


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    noise,xa0pickingxa0upxa0something.xa0Andxa0whenxa0thexa0RFxa0circuit'sxa0finallyxa0going,xa0andxa0thexa0gridxa0


    voltagesxa0arexa0adjusted,xa0everything'sxa0allxa0right.xa0


    Soxa0thexa0guyxa0says,xa0"Whatxa0arexa0youxa0doing?xa0Youxa0comexa0toxa0fixxa0thexa0radio,xa0butxa0you'rexa0onlyxa0


    walkingxa0backxa0andxa0forth!"xa0


    Ixa0say,xa0"I'mxa0thinking!"xa0Thenxa0Ixa0saidxa0toxa0myself,xa0"Allxa0right,xa0takexa0thexa0tubesxa0out,xa0andxa0


    reversexa0thexa0orderxa0completelyxa0inxa0thexa0set."xa0(Manyxa0radioxa0setsxa0inxa0thosexa0daysxa0usedxa0thexa0samexa0


    tubesxa0inxa0differentxa0placesxa0xadxadxa0212's,xa0Ixa0thinkxa0theyxa0were,xa0orxa0212xadA's.)xa0Soxa0Ixa0changedxa0thexa0tubesxa0


    around,xa0steppedxa0toxa0thexa0frontxa0ofxa0thexa0radio,turnedxa0thexa0thingxa0on,xa0andxa0it'sxa0asxa0quietxa0asxa0axa0lamb:xa0itxa0


    waitsxa0untilxa0itxa0heatsxa0up,xa0andxa0thenxa0playsxa0perfectlyxadxadxa0noxa0noise.xa0


    Whenxa0axa0personxa0hasxa0beenxa0negativexa0toxa0you,xa0andxa0thenxa0youxa0doxa0somethingxa0likexa0that,xa0


    they'rexa0usuallyxa0axa0hundredxa0percentxa0thexa0otherxa0way,xa0kindxa0ofxa0toxa0compensate.xa0Hexa0gotxa0mexa0otherxa0


    jobs,xa0andxa0keptxa0tellingxa0everybodyxa0whatxa0axa0tremendousxa0geniusxa0Ixa0was,xa0saying,xa0"Hexa0fixesxa0radiosxa0


    bythinking!"xa0Thexa0wholexa0ideaxa0ofxa0thinking,xa0toxa0fixxa0axa0radioxa0xadxadaxa0littlexa0boyxa0stopsxa0andxa0thinks,xa0


    andxa0figuresxa0outxa0howxa0toxa0doxa0itxa0xadxadxa0hexa0neverxa0thoughtthatxa0wasxa0possible.xa0


    Radioxa0circuitsxa0werexa0muchxa0easierxa0toxa0understandxa0inxa0thosexa0daysxa0becausexa0everythingxa0


    wasxa0outxa0inxa0thexa0open.xa0Afterxa0youxa0tookxa0thexa0setxa0apartxa0(itxa0wasxa0axa0bigxa0problemxa0toxa0findxa0thexa0rightxa0


    screws),xa0youxa0couldxa0seexa0thisxa0wasxa0axa0resistor,xa0that'sxa0axa0condenser,xa0here'sxa0axa0this,xa0there'sxa0axa0that;xa0


    theyxa0werexa0allxa0labeled.xa0Andxa0ifxa0waxxa0hadxa0beenxa0drippingxa0fromxa0thexa0condenser,xa0itxa0wasxa0tooxa0hotxa0


    andxa0youxa0couldxa0tellxa0thatxa0thexa0condenserxa0wasxa0burnedxa0out.xa0Ifxa0therexa0wasxa0charcoalxa0onxa0onexa0ofxa0thexa0


    resistorsxa0youxa0knewxa0wherexa0thexa0troublexa0was.xa0Or,xa0ifxa0youxa0couldn'txa0tellxa0whatxa0wasxa0thexa0matterxa0byxa0


    lookingxa0atxa0it,xa0you'dxa0testxa0itxa0withxa0yourxa0voltmeterxa0andxa0seexa0whetherxa0voltagexa0wasxa0comingxa0


    through.xa0Thexa0setsxa0werexa0simple,xa0thexa0circuitsxa0werexa0notxa0complicated.xa0Thexa0voltagexa0onxa0thexa0


    gridsxa0wasxa0alwaysxa0aboutxa0onexa0andxa0axa0halfxa0orxa0twoxa0voltsxa0andxa0thexa0voltagesxa0onxa0thexa0platesxa0werexa0


    onexa0hundredxa0orxa0twoxa0hundred,xa0DC.xa0Soxa0itxa0wasn'txa0hardxa0forxa0mexa0toxa0fixxa0axa0radioxa0byxa0understandingxa0


    whatxa0wasxa0goingxa0onxa0inside,xa0noticingxa0thatxa0somethingxa0wasn'txa0workingxa0right,xa0andxa0fixingxa0it.xa0


    Sometimesxa0itxa0tookxa0quitexa0axa0while.xa0Ixa0rememberxa0onexa0particularxa0timexa0whenxa0itxa0tookxa0the


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