Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!': Adventures of a Curious Character Richard Feynman’s memory is a blessing to us all.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! is a delightful collection of short stories about Richard Feynman’s life. It’s yet another one of the books on my reading list for 2003.

I’ve been reading this book in small sittings over the past year — on the bus to and from UCLA, on the plane to and from SJC, and sometimes on a Sunday afternoon. Feynman embodies the perfect combination of wit, intellect, and chutzpah.

One of my favorite stories had to do with Feynman’s experiments with ants. On many occasions he would observe (and sometimes interfere with) a line of ants that was crawling through his lab or house. In messing around with the ants, Feynman wasn’t trying to play God; he was trying to study ant behavior and learn what motivated them.

Although I finished the book almost a month ago, I’ve been thinking about it again over the past week. The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster brought back many memories of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster some 17 years earlier. Feynman was a member of NASA’s Rogers Commission and discovered the problem with O-rings that caused the explosion. It was his characteristic curiosity that led him to experiment with rubber O-rings and ice water, solving the mystery of the disaster.