“surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!”

title: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” : Adventures of a Curious Character

author: Richard P. Feynman

genre: Non-Fiction, physics, semi-autobiographical

borrowed from: Dad

dates read: Feb 5th – Feb 9th

review: 4.5 out of 5 stars

summary: Richard Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was a very curious young boy and would perform experiments and was always trying to figure things out, both in his daily and academic life.  This book is a collection of stories that he told his friend Ralph Leighton, who recorded their conversations and essentially transcribed into the book.  Some stories are heavy in mathematics and physics, while others are simply talking about his life experiences, and there are many stories in between.  They showcase Feynman’s adventuresome and curious nature and how his way of living took him to many interesting places and allowed him to meet many fascinating people.

personal thoughts: I loved the conversational style of the book, it really did seem like he was just talking; sometimes he would flit from one thing to another in the same story.  I admire his drive to explore the world and his fearlessness, how he wasn’t afraid to question things and think critically.  He often talks about his inability to censor himself, that when he got excited about things he just said what was on his mind, no matter who he was talking to.  I think that caused a lot of people to admire and respect him, knowing that he wouldn’t lie if some theory they were working on didn’t make sense, or whatnot.  He really seemed to love and embrace life and he wasn’t afraid to try new things.  He talks about his love for puzzles and how safe cracking became one of his hobbies because of its puzzle-like nature.  He also took up drawing and drums, selling some of his art and participating in live performances with his drumming.  He certainly was a “Curious Character.”

favorite quotes:
“When a person has been negative to you, and then you do something [to help them out], they’re usually a hundred percent the other way, kind of to compensate.” p. 20

“I took an oyster, and it was absolutely terrible.  But I said to myself, ‘That doesn’t really prove you’re a man.  You didn’t know how terrible it was gonna be.  It was easy enough when it was uncertain.'” p. 100

“When you’re young, you have all these things to worry about – should you go there, what about your mother.  And you worry, and try to decide, but then something else comes up.  It’s much easier to just plain decide.  Never mind – nothing is going to change your mind.” p. 235

“I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. . . It’s a feeling of awe – of scientific awe – which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion.  It could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.” p. 261

“There were a lot of fools at that conference – pompous fools – and pompous fools drive me up the wall.  Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out.  But pompous fools – guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND!  An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is all right.  But a dishonest fool is terrible!” p. 284


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