Monday, March 31, 2008

Surely, He's Joking!

Richard Phillips Feynman: "The Outrageous World Of World's Most Outspoken Nobel-Prize Winning Scientist..." so reads his anecdotal autobiography, which also flashes his life size image in a backdrop of equation-laiden blackboard - after all how else can we expect a Physicist to be featured on his book. A wide smile fits tight across his face, but that wideness is insufficient to capture any limit of the intelligence that this man is synonymous of. A free-wheeling pursuer of his own freaking curiosity, Feynman was known to follow unconnected different paths in life - and that too to great many extents:

- ...And so what if he once went out to play the Bongo Drums (Percussion) in an orchestra.

- Naah. He was better being trained and dance for samba competition in a Rio Carnival.

- Oh No! he also got a commission to paint a naked female Toreador & Playboy Playmates. In fact he was drawn in towards the brush strokes by his fellow artist, and had enough devotion to become a proud amateur painter. His
friend, in turn of this splendid exchange of professions, was never able to understand Physics that Feynman taught him. :)

- In between he had already become an evangelist of Physics (regarded as one of the best Teacher) and his opus "
The Feynman Lectures on Physics" is probably the most popular closest-to-textbook thing on the subject.

- ...And before all this he had already broken the safe combination locks that guarded some of the most secrets documents while he worked for the Manhattan project for World War II Atomic Bomb. "I always
had a thing about military guys, in such wonderful uniforms." - He quipped once. It required systematic study of safe-cracker books on how these locks worked. After one and a half years of playing with locks he became really good at it and developed a reputation at Los Alamos as a safe-breaker.

- And if the list is not enough I should mention he also had his hand through in Biology, Maya hieroglyph and...


- ...A Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, for his work on Quantum Electrodynamics. In fact he had drawn the squiggly lines of his famous self-invented "Feynman Diagrams" all over his travelling van.


Feynman was no doubt an eccentric and a free spirit. What draws me here nevertheless was a piece of text in his book that showcases his views on Social Equality. It was during a conference on "The Ethics of Equality" when some Head of the Theology society argued about the big differences in the welfare of various countries -that leads to jealousy, conflicts, atomic weapons and eventually wars. The Head contemplated and spoke passionately about the RIGHT way out to strive for peace - by making sure there are no great differences from one place to another, such as the inequality in US itself. And so he avered that the rich nations should give up nearly everything to the other countries until we're all even - and start all over again. Everyone followed his words closely and was filled to brim with sacrificial feelings, except Feynman who reflected back only to find some uneasiness in the whole setting...

In fact Feynman finally felt grated, because no gentle chap in the conference understood his point, because he realized all of them seemed to suffer from Logorrhea, evocatively describing their own viewpoint like a bumper sticker (which is of no worth to mention individually here) without listening to each other. These many (not all, by any claim) "pompous fools" belonged to the bunch of the fields: Historians, Rabbis, Jesuits, Theologians, Philosophers bla bla bla. And the conference, according to Feynman, turned out to be a "pointless inkblot".

Feynman essentially thought of the whole concept - of distributing everything evenly - as inherently flawed, because it is based on the misleading premise that there's only X amount of stuff in the world, that somehow rich countries ALWAYS took it away from the poorer countries in the first place, and therefore they should give it back to the poor lot. This concept doesn't consider the real reason for the differences between countries in the new age - that is - "the development of new techniques for growing food, the development of machinery to grow food and to do other things, and the fact that all this machinery requires the Concentration Of Capital. It isn't the Stuff, but the Power to make the Stuff, that is important." [Chapter: "Is Electricity Fire?" Highlights by me.]

This is something I completely drive for - And that this "Concentration of Capital" for social prosperity is something people don't normally understand. These people behave like Equality Purists who view Money as source of all evil. We don't need any hard-headed Capitalist here, but yes for major development we do need large chunks of capital in small group of hands. And if that is attributed to Inequality then that is unfair, and gross misunderstanding which unfortunately drives powerful tug from our "Socialist" folks. It's like the desperation of itching that the fat richness of money make them do...And on a different note, it's also not that hard to weave consensus among people of different walks of life, only if they can come out of their fucking cocooned shell, of their closed circular viewpoints,
Wouldn't you agree?


** The Autobiography I talked about is the bestseller: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! [Adventures of a Curious Character]". And if ever you thought that this book is only for Science geeks then go wash your face in some dirty mud.
Otherwise if you've even the slightest spark of self-intuition left within you, read the book here or buy it here.

3 comments:

Cyzak said...

After reading the post..I desperately want to read the book

but your link (http://www.blogger.com/www.vidyaonline.org/arvindgupta/surelyjoking.pdf) is not working

And buying is a bit difficult..
U have hard copy or pdf .. If it is pdf .. mail it to me

A said...

Thanks for the pointer dude, fixed the link. You can download it here or simply read it here.

Have a good time.

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