The Quotable Feynman
Edited by Michelle Feynman
With a foreword by Brian Cox and reflections on Richard Feynman by Yo-Yo Ma
Princeton University Press (2015)
This is a hard book to review but a great one to read. How do you single out one or two quotes when every time you dip in, you bring out a gem?
Perhaps the most telling thing about the book is its length. Surely only a few figures from the literary or scientific worlds have said enough worthwhile things to fill 381 pages.
Richard Feynman was of course the Nobel prize-winning physicist who died
in 1988, aged 70. Throughout his career he demonstrated his scientific genius as well as his ability to explain the complex issues he studied to the general public.
His popular lectures were known for their wit and wisdom and both are on display here, from the profound to the humorous, across a wide range of subjects.
Here are some gems:
“Some people say, ‘How can you live without knowing?’ I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing. That is easy. How you get to know is what I want to know.”
“The thing that doesn’t fit is the most interesting.”
“Thinking is nothing but talking to yourself inside.”
“It is wonderful if you can find something you love to do in your youth which is big enough to sustain your interest through all your adult life. Because, whatever it is, if you do it well enough (and you will, if you truly love it), people will pay you to do what you want to do anyway.”
“I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
As Brian Cox says in the foreword, this book provides a glimpse into the mind of one of history’s great polymaths.
It is available in Australia through Footprint Books
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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