Feynman's "What do you care what other people think?"

November 20, 2015

So I just finished reading this beautiful book by Richard P. Feynman - "What do you care what other people think?" and it moved me so much that I thought I'd write a post about it. It is a collection of short stories in which Feynman shares various experiences of his life.




This book provides a brief glimpse into the life of one of this century's most brilliant theoretical physicists and original thinkers. Some of the incidents described are typically funny while some are deeply moving. In any case, the reader feels privileged to be sifting through the thoughts of such a great mind. The book causes us to experience a myriad of emotions -enjoyment reading about how Feynman's father taught him to think, despair and sadness  when his beloved first wife - Arlene - passed away. This book was a thoroughly satisfying read and from the moment I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.




I especially enjoyed reading the epilogue. It's called "The Value Of Science" and is a public address given by Feynman at the 1955 autumn meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. In this address, Feynman talks about what he thinks is the value of science - that he was so dedicated to and loved - given all the terrible things it was capable of doing.


There is a small piece of poem that he'd included in his address, which I'm producing below as I found it to be beautifully written.





"I stand at the seashore alone and start to think,

There are the rushing waves

mountains of molecules

each stupidly minding its own business

trillions apart

yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages

before any eyes could see

year after year

thunderously pounding the shore as now.

For whom, for what?

On a dead planet

with no life to entertain.

Never at rest

tortured by energy

wasted prodigiously by the sun

poured into space.

A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea

all molecules repeat

the patterns of one another

till complex new ones are formed.

They make others like themselves

and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity

living things

masses of atoms

DNA, protein

 dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle

onto dry land

here it is


atoms with consciousness;

matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,

wonders at wondering: I

a universe of atoms

an atom in the universe. "


I wish I could produce the entire address for everyone to read. It's inspiring and interesting and thought-provoking. If you get a chance, be sure to grab this book! I, for one, would read it again and again. :)


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