Sunday, August 11, 2013

What I Learned from the Fantastic Mr Feynman?

Richard Feynman was described by many in different ways. Some of those descriptions went like this, a theoretical physicist, a nobel prize winning scientist, a life lover, an explorer, an artist among more. But what people will remember him most for was that he was such a great human being. 


Read his bio here. The You Tube video titled 'The Fantastic - Mr Feynman' 


The video started with a funny looking man playing the bongo drums. The video went on and then I found out that this man was also one of the greatest scientific minds of the twentieth century.


Being part of the Manhattan Project (that created the atomic bomb), designing lectures for undergraduate students at Caltech and revolutionizing physics with his theories on Quantum Electro Dynamics were some of his many achievements. 


But what amazed me most about him was his love for life, his fascination for the little things and his child like curiosity that he never lost even as he grew old. His Ode to a Flower best describes how The Fantastic Mr Feynman looked at life and all that is wonderful in it.


Ode to a Flower


"I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe… 


I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. 


The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts."


A few lessons I learned from this amazing person were:-

1) Don't take life too seriously - Laugh, play the bongo, fall in love, and look stupid once in a while. It won't hurt you too much. He would be seen playing the bongo drums, computing, painting, safe cracking, writing poetry or doing physics. He did what he enjoyed most and he truly lived a rich life...a life full of rich experiences

2) Make work your reward - When Feynman won the Nobel Prize he mentioned that the Nobel Prize was not so important, the real joy for him was when he discovered his theory and contribute to his field. For him that was the real prize. For him work was the reward.

3) Combine different Disciplines - Feynman taught himself art through his friend Jirayr Zorthian who was a renowned artist of the time. He told Jirayr he would exchange classed of Science for classes of art. He always looked for ways to connect fields and his thinking and contributions to the world reflected this as well.

4) Be the happiest, most enthusiastic person you know - His energy for life was just magical. He was just smiling throughout the video. He was like a little child jumping from one life project to another. Just looking at him would fill you with so many good emotions. Even with all the big scale projects he worked on, he never lost the love for life and all that is wonderful about it.

Henry David Thoreau once said, "I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, Discover that I had not lived."Richard Feyman lived in a similar way. He lived life to the fullest, and took every experience with full enthusiasm for life and excitement for the present moment. He put his heart and soul into everything he did. He loved his craft and brought joy to so many doing it.

I leave you here with the thoughts of this great man

 "It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing—atoms with curiosity—that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate." 

—Richard Feynman The Meaning Of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist, 1998

Thank you Richard for being who you are, and thank you Richard for the happiness you brought in so many people's lives with the work you loved doing:)

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