Although American physicist Richard Feynman won the Nobel prize in 1965, it was his books of anecdotes ("Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?") and his appointment to the presidential Challenger disaster investigation commission in 1986, that raised him to icon status. Feynman was an independent thinker, extremely intolerant of stupidity. Learn why Feynman fans are so devoted at today's website picks.
Created by publisher Basic Books, Basic Feynman goes beyond book promotion and includes Feynman letters, videos, photos, quotes and links to additional sites. I loved Feynman's letter to a high school student who loved physics, but was worried about his lack of math aptitude. "How do you know you don't have an aptitude for math? Perhaps you disliked your teacher, or it was presented wrong for your type of mind. What do I advise? Forget it all. Don't be afraid. Do what you get the greatest pleasure from. Is it to build a cloud chamber? Then go on doing things like that. Develop your talents wherever they may lead. Damn the torpedoes?full speed ahead!"
To keep himself "focused on Life's important questions," twenty-five year old Erik Madsen created a collection of writings from a handful of great thinkers. The Feynman page delivers a short bio and eight articles, excerpted from three of his books. Because I find them most accessible, my favorites are the three stories from "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! " Other featured thinkers include authors Mark Twain and J.R.R. Tolkien, and physicist Robert Oppenheimer.
This Feynman fan site (part of the Feynman Web Ring) has a message forum, and good collection of Feynman anecdotes. Best clicks are the personal stories found in the Guest Book and Anecdotes, and the articles (both onsite and off) in Life & Science. Don't miss the two Feynman Think Different posters created by Apple as part of their 1998 ad campaign. You'll find them under Other Good Stuff.
In Feynman's 1965 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he tells the story of a theory he dreamt up as an undergraduate physics student at MIT. "That was the beginning, and the idea seemed so obvious to me and so elegant that I fell deeply in love with it. And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only possible if you do not know much about her, so you cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent later, but after the love is strong enough to hold you to her." Years later Feynman found many faults with his original idea, but concluded his speech by calling that undergraduate theory the mother of the idea that won him the Nobel Prize.
In 1979, Feynman delivered a series of lectures introducing his Nobel-prize winning concepts of quantum electrodynamics (QED) to the physics department of Auckland University, New Zealand. Those lectures are presented here in four streaming video segments. Don't let yourself be intimated by the subject matter. Click on the first video, and give it a try. They are noteworthy because they show Feynman's renown style and enthusiasm.