Some of Feynman's key characteristics are:
- obsession with understanding the experiments well, see also Section "How to teach and learn physics"
- when doing more mathematical stuff, analogous obsession about starting with a concrete example and then generalizing that into the theory
- liked to teach others. At Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman for example he mentions that one key problem of the Institute for Advanced Study is that they didn't have to teach, and besides that making you feel useless when were not having new ideas, it is also the case that student's questions often inspire you to look again in some direction which sometimes happens to be profitableHe hated however mentoring others one to one, because almost everyone was too stupid for him
- interest in other natural sciences, and also random art and culture (and especially if it involves pretty women)
Some non-Physics related ones, mostly highlighted at Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick (1994):
- Feynman was a huge womanizer during a certain period of his life
- he hated pomp, going as far as seeming uneducated to some people in the way he spoke, or going out of his way to look like that. This is in stark contrast to "rivals" Murray Gell-Mann and Julian Schwinger, who were posh/snobby.
Feynman was apparently seriously interested/amused by computer:
- Video 4. "Los Alamos From Below by Richard Feynman (1975)" see description for the human emulator
- quantum computers as experiments that are hard to predict outcomes was first attributed to Feynman
- www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKWGGDXe5MA Richard Feynman Computer Heuristics Lecture (1986)
In 1948 he published his reworking of classical quantum mechanics in terms of the path integral formulation: journals.aps.org/rmp/abstract/10.1103/RevModPhys.20.367 Space Time Approach to nonrelativistic quantum mechanics (paywalled 2021)
Reading about her death e.g. at Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick (1994) is a major tearjerker, it's just too horrible. The book mentions on chapter "The Last Springtime" that at last, during the last months of her life, after much hesitation, they did fuck in the sanatorium Arline was staying at in Albuquerque, the nearest major city to Los Alamos, despite the risk of Feynman being being infected, which would be particularly serious given that Feynman would be in constant contact with students and possibly infect others as part of his career as a researcher/teacher.
Ciro Santilli considers this tragedy a cause of Feynman was a huge womanizer during a certain period of his life.
Feynman became a terrible womanizer after his first wife Arline Greenbaum died, involving himself with several married women, and leading to at least two abortions according to Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick (1994).
One particular case that stuck to Ciro Santilli's mind, partly because he is Brazilian, is when Feynman was in Brazil, he had a girlfriend called Clotilde that called him "Ricardinho", which means "Little Richard"; -inho is a diminutive suffix in Portuguese, and also indicates affection. At some point he even promised to take her back to the United States, but didn't in the end, and instead came back and married his second wife in marriage that soon failed.
From Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman chapter O Americano, Outra Vez!:
The people from the airlines were somewhat bored with their lives, strangely enough, and at night they would often go to bars to drink. I liked them all, and in order to be sociable, I would go with them to the bar to have a few drinks, several nights a week.One day, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I was walking along the sidewalk opposite the beach at Copacabana past a bar. I suddenly got this treMENdous, strong feeling: "That's just what I want; that'll fit just right. I'd just love to have a drink right now!"I started to walk into the bar, and I suddenly thought to myself, "Wait a minute! It's the middle of the afternoon. There's nobody here, There's no social reason to drink. Why do you have such a terribly strong feeling that you have to have a drink?" - and I got scared.I never drank ever again, since then. I suppose I really wasn't in any danger, because I found it very easy to stop. But that strong feeling that I didn't understand frightened me. You see, I get such fun out of thinking that I don't want to destroy this most pleasant machine that makes life such a big kick. It's the same reason that, later on, I was reluctant to try experiments with LSD in spite of my curiosity about hallucinations.
The mantra of the computer simulation engineer.
The first key paper to his approach to quantum electrodynamics apparently.
Published on Physical review 76.769.
This is a good book.
It has some overlap with Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, which it likely takes as primary sources of some stories.
However, while Surely goes into a lot of detail of each event, this book paints a more cohesive and global picture of things.
In terms of hard physics/mathematics, this book takes the approach of spending a few paragraphs in some chapters describing in high level terms some of the key ideas, which is a good compromise. It does sometime fall into the sin of to talk about something without giving the real name to not scare off the audience, but it does give a lot of names, notably it talks a lot about Lagrangian mechanics. And it goes into more details than Surely in any case.
Transcript: calteches.library.caltech.edu/34/3/FeynmanLosAlamos.htm Also included full text into Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
- www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY-u1qyRM5w&t=2881s describes the computing aspects. Particularly interesting is the quote about how they used the typist secretary pool to emulate the IBM machines and debug their programs before the machines had arrived. This is exactly analogous to what is done in 2020 in the semiconductor industry, where slower models are used to estimate how future algorithms will run in future hardware.
"O Americano, Outra Vez!" means "The American, once again!" in Portuguese, which is what one of the samba school boss exclaimed when Feynman was not playing well his instrument, the frigideira, during a rehearsal.
Feynman really enjoyed Brazil's (and notably Rio's) stereotypical "take it easy and enjoy life" attitude.
Key quote that names the chapter:
My friend Matt Sands was once going to write a book to be called Alfred Nobel's Other Mistake.
A friend of mine who's a rich man - he invented some kind of simple digital switch - tells me about these people who contribute money to make prizes or give lectures: "You always look at them carefully to find out what crookery they're trying to absolve their conscience of."
TODO who was he talking about? Robert Noyce or Gordon Moore feel likely candidates:
- Advanced quantum mechanics by Freeman Dyson (1951)
- Arline Greenbaum
- Ciro Santilli's drug experiences
- Derivation of the Schrodinger equation
- Double-slit experiment
- Eightfold way
- Encyclopedia Britannica
- Hans Bethe
- John Archibald Wheeler
- Lagrangian mechanics
- Lamb shift
- Los Alamos From Below by Richard Feynman (1975)
- Military-industrial complex
- Moving magnet and conductor problem
- Path integral formulation
- Photomultiplier tube
- Physics education needs more focus on understanding experiments and their history
- Pocono conference
- Quantum computers as experiments that are hard to predict outcomes
- Richard Feynman Quantum Electrodynamics Lecture at University of Auckland (1979)
- Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman chapter O Americano, Outra Vez!
- There is value in tutorials written by early pioneers of the field
- Why it is hard to simulate quantum systems?