Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Author: Richard Feynman

Finished Reading: July 16, 2023

Number of Pages: 400

To be honest, this was a DNF maybe 2-3 years ago because this wasn't quite what I was looking for at the time. That said, I'm extremely glad that I picked it up again and enjoyed the journey!

I didn't get the impression that this was an autobiography. I instead felt it was a recollection of of Feynman's core memories with some wisdom sprinkled here and there. This was the perfect balance of what I was looking for. In addition to his passion for science and teaching, Feynman comes off as super quirky, rebellious, and 'anti-establishment' at times. I'd been reading a lot about the Manhattan Project while reading this book (in preparation for Oppenheimer), so it was nice to take a break from all the subordination and seriousness at Los Alamos with Feynman's funny stories.

I don't have much to comment on his life as a whole, other than that it seemed very active and fulfilling. He had some pretty questionable behavior that I didn't agree with. That said, below are some bits of advice and profound thoughts I took away.

I want to beat this damn thing, as long as I've gone this far. I can't just leave it after I've found out so much about it. I have to keep going to find out ultimately what is the matter with it in the end. That's a puzzle drive. It's what accounts for my wanting to decipher mayan hieroglyphics, for trying to open safes.
I often advise my students the same way: learn what the rest of the world is like. The variety is worthwhile.
I've very often made mistakes in my physics by thinking the theory isn't as good as it really is, thinking that there are lots of complications that are going to spoil it -- an attitude that anything can happen, in spite of what you're pretty sure should happen.
Von Neumann gave me an interesting idea: that you don't have to be responsible for the world that you're in. So I have developed a very powerful sense of social irresponsibility as a result of Von Neumann's advice. It's made me a very happy man ever since.
I was always dumb in that way. I never knew who I was talking to. I was always worried about the physics. If the idea looked lousy, I said it looked lousy. If it looked good, I said it looked good. Simple proposition. I've always lived that way. It's nice, it's pleasant--if you can do it. I'm lucky in my life that I can do this.
You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing.
I get so much fun out of thinking that I don't want to destroy this most pleasant machine that makes life such a big kick [by drinking too much alcohol].
I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world [through art] ... It's an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; \ a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It's a feeling of awe--of scientific aw--which I felt it could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had this emotion.
I had already received my prize in the pleasure I got in discovering what I did.