The pleasure of finding things out

As I was just browsing through the web, I came across a very interesting interview of Richard Feynman called “The pleasure of finding things out”. Some very thought stimulating ideas I must say. Feynman is no doubt a genius but what probably makes him different in my opinion is his approach towards science and his never ending curiosity. Another characteristic that sets him apart is his ability to communicate. He gives some amazing speeches and his autobiography is awesome too.

Here is another video of the master (Horizon series)

As he says, science is to be enjoyed. Even his Nobel prize-winning work has a very interesting story behind it. It all goes back to the time after Los Alamos, the bomb testing experiment. At a point of time, it seems he was offered the post of professor at the Institute for advanced study, a very prestigious post then that was only conferred to the likes of Einstein, Von Neumann and others and Feynman thought he didn’t deserve it. He felt he was burned out. He just couldn’t do physics. But then, he thought “You know, what they think of you is so fantastic, it’s impossible to live up to it. You have no responsibility to live up to it!”. Von Neumann had earlier given him the idea that you don’t have to be responsible to the society in doing physics, all that matters is that you enjoy doing it. So Feynman said, all right! The Institute is paying for me, they are responsible for taking me in. He then remembered why he enjoyed physics, because he played with it without any regard for its importance whatsoever.

Within a week of joining, he was in the cafeteria when he saw someone throw a plate up in the air. He noticed that the plate was wobbling and that the spin was faster than the wobble. So he took out his notebook and tried to figure out the reason behind it. Later, he went to Hans Bethe and said that he found out why it was happening. Bethe asked him how it was important to which Feynman replied “Hah! It is not an important problem, I’m doing it just because it’s fun!”. Bethe’s reaction did not discourage him and he carried on with it. Slowly, he built upon that, and physics once again became effortless for him. All the piddling around with the wobbling plates and the like finally got him the Nobel prize in physics!

What Feynman keeps repeatedly saying is that you have to be curious, you have to enjoy doing what you do. The reason why most people have BP and hypertension by the age of 35-40 is that they are frustrated in life. If only people would heed to this advice!

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