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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Surely you're fine, Mr. Jokeman

Paul and I like to take turns sometimes reading to each other before bed. Right now, Paul's been reading to me from "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)", an autobiography (of sorts) from the famous physicist. I say "of sorts" because this book is more like a loose collection of anecdotes strung together without much of an overall narrative. The effect is really stunningly similar to hearing your grandpa tell you stories from the good old days for hours and hours.

Feynman is kind of a rock star of the physics world, known for womanizing and playing the bongos.

Reading this book gives you a weird insight into his strange personality, and his self-centered point of view in social interactions. Right now we're at the part of his life where he works at Los Alamos, and constantly breaks into top secret govt. safes to prove that their secrets are not secure.

My favorite story so far is this one about his attempts to enlist in the Army, only to be declared 4F for mental deficiency. The chapter is called "Uncle Sam Doesn't need you!" and you can read it in this handy little e-book here, starting on page 60. The story made me laugh so much, I was too excited to go to sleep! It's a very typical Feynman story, where he's the only one who seems normal and everybody else is kind of painted like idiots. Even though he's being found mentally unstable by army psychiatrists, he comes out looking like the sanest one in the room.

This book has definitely made me wish that we had more scientists like Mr. Feynman, a rock star hipster sort of genius who inspires a sort of iconic legend. Like Einstein. I guess our modern equivalent is Stephen Hawking, who was WAY handsome back in the day.

Having more cool, sexy scientists might help the public mindset that discourages intellect in favor of social popularity. I'm totally down with getting more bad-asses in the lab.

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