Richard Feynman Surely Youre Joking Mr Feynman v5 ebook download free pdf
this is a fun, easy to read book. i was told to read it by a friend. i read it to avoid doing the linguistics tests im supposed to do. useful procrastination ftw!
As usual, comments and quotes below
Another thing I did in high school was to invent problems and theorems. I mean, if I were doing
any mathematical thing at all, I would find some practical example for which it would be useful. I
invented a set of right-triangle problems. But instead of giving the lengths of two of the sides to
find the third, I gave the difference of the two sides. A typical example was: There’s a flagpole, and
there’s a rope that comes down from the top. When you hold the rope straight down, it’s three feet
longer than the pole, and when you pull the rope out tight, it’s five feet from the base of the pole.
How high is the pole?
tricky, but certainly doable for primary school children. the smart of them. im fairly certain that a lot of high school students wud not be able to solve this.
I tried to explain–it was my own aunt–that there was no reason not to do that, but you can’t say
that to anybody who’s smart, who runs a hotel! I learned there that innovation is a very difficult
thing in the real world.
truth! this is politics in a nutshell, any kind of politics: national, local, office…
The other guy’s afraid, so he says no. So I take the two girls in a taxi to the hotel, and discover
that there’s a dance organized by the deaf and dumb, believe it or not. They all belonged to a club.
It turns out many of them can feel the rhythm enough to dance to the music and applaud the band at
the end of each number.
It was very, very interesting! I felt as if I was in a foreign country and couldn’t speak the
language: I could speak, but nobody could hear me. Everybody was talking with signs to everybody
else, and I couldn’t understand anything! I asked my girl to teach me some signs and I learned a few,
like you learn a foreign language, just for fun.
Everyone was so happy and relaxed with each other, making jokes and smiling all the time; they
didn’t seem to have any real difficulty of any kind communicating with each other. It was the same
as with any other language, except for one thing: as they’re making signs to each other, their heads
were always turning from one side to the other. I realized what that was. When someone wants to
make a side remark or interrupt you, he can’t yell, “Hey, Jack!” He can only make a signal, which
you won’t catch unless you’re in the habit of looking around all the time.
never thought of that, but true!
When it came time for me to give my talk on the subject, I started off by drawing an outline of
the cat and began to name the various muscles.
The other students in the class interrupt me: “We know all that!”
“Oh,” I say, “you do? Then no wonder I can catch up with you so fast after you’ve had four years
of biology.” They had wasted all their time memorizing stuff like that, when it could be looked up
in fifteen minutes.
ive heard this complaint lots of time about biology. i rather like evolutionary biology, which surely cannot be learned in 15 mins, but i dunno abouy plant cell biology or whatever. is biology mostly just remembering stuff? surely things like genetics, pop* genetics, evolutionary theory are hard.
At the Princeton graduate school, the physics department and the math department shared a
common lounge, and every day at four o’clock we would have tea. It was a way of relaxing in the
afternoon, in addition to imitating an English college. People would sit around playing Go, or
discussing theorems. In those days topology was the big thing.
I still remember a guy sitting on the couch, thinking very hard, and another guy standing in front
of him, saying, “And therefore such-and-such is true.”
“Why is that?” the guy on the couch asks.
“It’s trivial! It’s trivial!” the standing guy says, and he rapidly reels off a series of logical steps:
“First you assume thus-and-so, then we have Kerchoff’s this-and-that; then there’s Waffenstoffer’s
Theorem, and we substitute this and construct that. Now you put the vector which goes around here
and then thus-and-so . . .” The guy on the couch is struggling to understand all this stuff, which
goes on at high speed for about fifteen minutes!
Finally the standing guy comes out the other end, and the guy on the couch says, “Yeah, yeah.
We physicists were laughing, trying to figure them out. We decided that “trivial” means
“proved.” So we joked with the mathematicians: “We have a new theorem–that mathematicians can
prove only trivial theorems, because every theorem that’s proved is trivial.”
i thought of that befor. it makes certain theories of tautologies rather implausible. if tautologies, or necessary truths are all trivial, and just restating things – why arent they all obvius? …
One thing I never did learn was contour integration. I had learned to do integrals by various
methods shown in a book that my high school physics teacher Mr. Bader had given me.
One day he told me to stay after class. “Feynman,” he said, “you talk too much and you make
too much noise. I know why. You’re bored. So I’m going to give you a book. You go up there in the
back, in the corner, and study this book, and when you know everything that’s in this book, you can
i wish my teachers wud hav don that to me! or that i had grown up with Khan academy!
In another experiment, I laid out a lot of glass microscope slides, and got the ants to walk on
them, back and forth, to some sugar I put on the windowsill. Then, by replacing an old slide with a
new one, or by rearranging the slides, I could demonstrate that the ants had no sense of geometry:
they couldn’t figure out where something was. If they went to the sugar one way and there was a
shorter way back, they would never figure out the short way.
It was also pretty clear from rearranging the glass slides that the ants left some sort of trail. So
then came a lot of easy experiments to find out how long it takes a trail to dry up, whether it can be
easily wiped off, and so on. I also found out the trail wasn’t directional. If I’d pick up an ant on a
piece of paper, turn him around and around, and then put him back onto the trail, he wouldn’t know
that he was going the wrong way until he met another ant. (Later, in Brazil, I noticed some leaf-
cutting ants and tried the same experiment on them. They could tell, within a few steps, whether
they were going toward the food or away from it–presumably from the trail, which might be a
series of smells in a pattern: A, B, space, A, B, space, and so on.)
I tried at one point to make the ants go around in a circle, but I didn’t have enough patience to set
it up. I could see no reason, other than lack of patience, why it couldn’t be done.
yes, that DOES happen by accident in nature.
So Frankel figured out a nice program. If we got enough of these machines in a room, we could
take the cards and put them through a cycle. Everybody who does numerical calculations now
knows exactly what I’m talking about, but this was kind of a new thing then–mass production with
machines. We had done things like this on adding machines. Usually you go one step across, doing
everything yourself. But this was different–where you go first to the adder, then to the multiplier,
then to the adder, and so on. So Frankel designed this system and ordered the machines from the
IBM company because we realized it was a good way of solving our problems.
We needed a man to repair the machines, to keep them going and everything. And the army was
always going to send this fellow they had, but he was always delayed. Now, we always were in a
hurry. Everything we did, we tried to do as quickly as possible. In this particular case, we worked
out all the numerical steps that the machines were supposed to do–multiply this, and then do this,
and subtract that. Then we worked out the program, but we didn’t have any machine to test it on. So
we set up this room with girls in it. Each one had a Marchant: one was the multiplier, another was
the adder. This one cubed–all she did was cube a number on an index card and send it to the next
We went through our cycle this way until we got all the bugs out. It turned out that the speed at
which we were able to do it was a hell of a lot faster than the other way where every single person
did all the steps. We got speed with this system that was the predicted speed for the IBM machine.
The only difference is that the IBM machines didn’t get tired and could work three shifts. But the
girls got tired after a while.
Well, Mr. Frankel, who started this program, began to suffer from the computer disease that
anybody who works with computers now knows about. It’s a very serious disease and it interferes
completely with the work. The trouble with computers is you play with them. They are so
wonderful. You have these switches–if it’s an even number you do this, if it’s an odd number you
do that–and pretty soon you can do more and more elaborate things if you are clever enough, on
:D SO TRUE
All during the war, and even after, there were these perpetual rumors: “Somebody’s been trying
to get into Building Omega!” You see, during the war they were doing experiments for the bomb in
which they wanted to get enough material together for the chain reaction to just get started. They
would drop one piece of material through another, and when it went through, the reaction would
start and they’d measure how many neutrons they got. The piece would fall through so fast that
nothing should build up and explode. Enough of a reaction would begin, however, so they could
tell that things were really starting correctly, that the rates were right, and everything was going
according to prediction–a very dangerous experiment!
O_o, very dangerus experiment indeed!
That evening I went for a walk in town, and came upon a small crowd of people standing around
a great big rectangular hole in the road–it had been dug for sewer pipes, or something–and there,
sitting exactly in the hole, was a car. It was marvelous: it fitted absolutely perfectly, with its roof
level with the road. The workmen hadn’t bothered to put up any signs at the end of the day, and the
guy had simply driven into it. I noticed a difference: When we’d dig a hole, there’d be all kinds of
detour signs and flashing lights to protect us. There, they dig the hole, and when they’re finished for
the day, they just leave.
The meeting in Japan was in two parts: one was in Tokyo, and the other was in Kyoto. In the bus
on the way to Kyoto I told my friend Abraham Pais about the Japanese-style hotel, and he wanted
to try it. We stayed at the Hotel Miyako, which had both American-style and Japanese-style rooms,
and Pais shared a Japanese-style room with me.
The next morning the young woman taking care of our room fixes the bath, which was right in
our room. Sometime later she returns with a tray to deliver breakfast. I’m partly dressed. She turns
to me and says, politely, “Ohayo, gozai masu,” which means, “Good morning.”
Pais is just coming out of the bath, sopping wet and completely nude. She turns to him and with
equal composure says, “Ohayo, gozai masu,” and puts the tray down for us.
Pais looks at me and says, “God, are we uncivilized!”
We realized that in America if the maid was delivering breakfast and the guy’s standing there,
stark naked, there would be little screams and a big fuss. But in Japan they were completely used to
it, and we felt that they were much more advanced and civilized about those things than we were.
stupid puritanism and fear of nakedness.
There was a sociologist who had written a paper for us all to read–something he had written
ahead of time. I started to read the damn thing, and my eyes were coming out: I couldn’t make head
nor tail of it! I figured it was because I hadn’t read any of the books on that list. I had this uneasy
feeling of “I’m not adequate,” until finally I said to myself, “I’m gonna stop, and read one sentence
slowly, so I can figure out what the hell it means.”
So I stopped–at random–and read the next sentence very carefully. I can’t remember it precisely,
but it was very close to this: “The individual member of the social community often receives his
information via visual, symbolic channels.” I went back and forth over it, and translated. You know
what it means? “People read.”
Then I went over the next sentence, and I realized that I could translate that one also. Then it
became a kind of empty business: “Sometimes people read; sometimes people listen to the radio,”
and so on, but written in such a fancy way that I couldn’t understand it at first, and when I finally
deciphered it, there was nothing to it.
There was only one thing that happened at that meeting that was pleasant or amusing. At this
conference, every word that every guy said at the plenary session was so important that they had a
stenotypist there, typing every goddamn thing. Somewhere on the second day the stenotypist came
up to me and said, “What profession are you? Surely not a professor.”
“I am a professor,” I said.
“Oh! That must be the reason,” he said.
“Reason for what?” He said, “You see, I’m a stenotypist, and I type everything that is said here. Now, when the other
fellas talk, I type what they say, but I don’t understand what they’re saying. But every time you get
up to ask a question or to say something, I understand exactly what you mean–what the question is,
and what you’re saying–so I thought you can’t be a professor!”
yes, it is mor difficult to say somthing clearly than to obscure it.
There was a special dinner at some point, and the head of the theology place, a very nice, very
Jewish man, gave a speech. It was a good speech, and he was a very good speaker, so while it
sounds crazy now, when I’m telling about it, at that time his main idea sounded completely obvious
and true. He talked about the big differences in the welfare of various countries, which cause
jealousy, which leads to conflict, and now that we have atomic weapons, any war and we’re
doomed, so therefore the right way out is to strive for peace by making sure there are no great
differences from place to place, and since we have so much in the United States, we should give up
nearly everything to the other countries until we’re all even. Everybody was listening to this, and
we were all full of sacrificial feeling, and all thinking we ought to do this. But I came back to my
senses on the way home.
The next day one of the guys in our group said, “I think that speech last night was so good that
we should all endorse it, and it should be the summary of our conference.”
I started to say that the idea of distributing everything evenly is based on a theory that there’s
only X amount of stuff in the world, that somehow we took it away from the poorer countries in the
first place, and therefore we should give it back to them. But this theory doesn’t take into account
the real reason for the differences between countries–that is, the development of new techniques
for growing food, the development of machinery to grow food and to do other things, and the fact
that all this machinery requires the concentration of capital. It isn’t the stuff, but the power to make
the stuff, that is important. But I realize now that these people were not in science; they didn’t
understand it. They didn’t understand technology; they didn’t understand their time.
sounds like sorryaboutcolonialism (see www.everythingisaremix.info/everything-is-a-remix-part-2-transcript/).
these inequalities ar ther becus of ppl ar unequal to begin with. even if we redistributed wealth, it wudnt take long b4 whites and asians were superior again.
Once I was asked to serve on a committee which was to evaluate various weapons for the army,
and I wrote a letter back which explained that I was only a theoretical physicist, and I didn’t know
anything about weapons for the army.
The army responded that they had found in their experience that theoretical physicists were very
useful to them in making decisions, so would I please reconsider?
I wrote back again and said I didn’t really know anything, and doubted I could help them.
Finally I got a letter from the Secretary of the Army, which proposed a compromise: I would
come to the first meeting, where I could listen and see whether I could make a contribution or not.
Then I could decide whether I should continue.
I said I would, of course. What else could I do?
I went down to Washington and the first thing that I went to was a cocktail party to meet
everybody. There were generals and other important characters from the army, and everybody
talked. It was pleasant enough.
One guy in a uniform came to me and told me that the army was glad that physicists were
advising the military because it had a lot of problems. One of the problems was that tanks use up
their fuel very quickly and thus can’t go very far. So the question was how to refuel them as they’re
going along. Now this guy had the idea that, since the physicists can get energy out of uranium,
could I work out a way in which we could use silicon dioxide–sand, dirt–as a fuel? If that were
possible, then all this tank would have to do would be to have a little scoop underneath, and as it
goes along, it would pick up the dirt and use it for fuel! He thought that was a great idea, and that
all I had to do was to work out the details. That was the kind of problem I thought we would be
talking about in the meeting the next day.
i wonder… ar they still so depressingly dumb?
This question of trying to figure out whether a book is good or bad by looking at it carefully or
by taking the reports of a lot of people who looked at it carelessly is like this famous old problem:
Nobody was permitted to see the Emperor of China, and the question was, What is the length of the
Emperor of China’s nose? To find out, you go all over the country asking people what they think
the length of the Emperor of China’s nose is, and you average it. And that would be very “accurate”
because you averaged so many people. But it’s no way to find anything out; when you have a very
wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at it, you don’t improve your
knowledge of the situation by averaging.
F seems to be wrong, but he might hav a point about the conditions under which wisdom of the crowds averaging works. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_the_crowd
I thought: “Now where is the ego located? I know everybody thinks the seat of thinking is in the
brain, but how do they know that?” I knew already from reading things that it wasn’t so obvious to
people before a lot of psychological studies were made. The Greeks thought the seat of thinking
was in the liver, for instance. I wondered, “Is it possible that where the ego is located is learned by
children looking at people putting their hand to their head when they say, ‘Let me think’? Therefore
the idea that the ego is located up there, behind the eyes, might be conventional!” I figured that if I
could move my ego an inch to one side, I could move it further. This was the beginning of my
Feynmann didnt do his research properly.
”During the second half of the first millennium BC, the Ancient Greeks developed differing views on the function of the brain. It is said that it was the Pythagorean Alcmaeon of Croton (6th and 5th centuries BC) who first considered the brain to be the place where the mind was located. In the 4th century BC Hippocrates, believed the brain to be the seat of intelligence (based, among others before him, on Alcmaeon’s work). During the 4th century BC Aristotle thought that, while the heart was the seat of intelligence, the brain was a cooling mechanism for the blood. He reasoned that humans are more rational than the beasts because, among other reasons, they have a larger brain to cool their hot-bloodedness.”
Other kinds of errors are more characteristic of poor science. When I was at Cornell, I often
talked to the people in the psychology department. One of the students told me she wanted to do an
experiment that went something like this–it had been found by others that under certain
circumstances, X, rats did something, A. She was curious as to whether, if she changed the
circumstances to Y, they would still do A. So her proposal was to do the experiment under
circumstances Y and see if they still did A.
I explained to her that it was necessary first to repeat in her laboratory the experiment of the
other person–to do it under condition X to see if she could also get result A, and then change to Y
and see if A changed. Then she would know that the real difference was the thing she thought she
had under control.
She was very delighted with this new idea, and went to her professor. And his reply was, no, you
cannot do that, because the experiment has already been done and you would be wasting time. This
was in about 1947 or so, and it seems to have been the general policy then to not try to repeat
psychological experiments, but only to change the conditions and see what happens.
sadly, this is STILL the case!
So I have just one wish for you–the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain
the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel heed by a need to maintain your
position In the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that
Feynmann wud hav been sad to see the state of affairs of the modern publish or perish science, the lack of repetitions in various fields, the publication bias, the near impossibility of politically incorrect science.