Not everything we write is something everyone must see, what head or tail does one make from someone else's reading notes that they made 'in the moment'. Chances are that I won't remember what I was thinking after I forget the context. But such trivial pennings must be a good precursor to revisiting that old friend, to get back into that context, to rediscover things that we suspect, we've forgotten. How easily the mind lets go of people, of influences.
"People say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That's why we recommend it daily"
(Image Source: Lifehack)
- It is funny, when I started to read the book, I was in awe of this fellow. As I grew into the book, I felt a sense of camaraderie (like when he watched himself sleeping to see how we sleep, I have tried, but never got that far), but I feel hopeful for myself that I am not alone. This guy candidly accepts his bad as he accepts his good. So when he explains that he disliked people who read literature because he thought he weren’t doing anything useful at a part of time, I know I have been through that phase and I know better now, as he must have, later. But this guy does not make any attempt to conceal himself in any form. He’s brutefully honest, if I am to take the liberty of choice here having known him only through a handful of videos and this book here (which sparked my interest in this curious character in the first place).
- His experiments with ants reveal a startling insight into the world of the ants. He says, that he didn’t know while others did, I didn’t know either. But he bothered to know. At 26, he’s doing such stuff which people seldom pursue after crossing the school threshold or even before. But that’s not the point here. His experiments reveal, though it should come as no surprise if talked of in human terms, that everything that looks perfect at that time, like the fine straight line that the ants tend to follow is nothing but a wiggly trail in the moments of its first creation. Second, what looks like artistic and fluid, like the carrying of chocolate to the ant hole by a bunch of ants, is much chaotic in its core. We tend to oversimplify things and that is wrong. Though simplification is a must.
- The adulation that Feynman had for his father, it is beautiful. His father really knew the things he knew. Like being a salesman. This is amply depicted when Feynman describes how his father made the mind-reader spill his secrets in full detail (because his father was a salesman). The chapter was interesting but lacked some element which suddenly sprang upon me in the very last paragraph and I was all smiles.
- The questions Feynman was asked in his draft interview, the responses he gave, and his attitude even though uncalled for at that time were damn interesting. His answers were innocent and beautiful to me and perfectly all right. Why would that be a psychiatric problem? Don’t you hear a person’s voice in your head so exactly even when you can’t mimic that properly? This guy had the guts to question why does that happen. His definition of insanity was also more rational, I cannot tell how he delivered it in speech, but in writing it was beautiful. Maybe the psychiatrist already knew that he was not built for the army, that he was meant for something better, so it was a boon in disguise. Maybe that is why the senior psychiatrist smiled hiding under his fingers and made sure that army recruiter did not even consider his case. Maybe that is what scientists are, lunatics, but hey, who’s creating things? Who created the atomic bomb? And vaccination? no ordinary civilian.
- I find deep inspiration when he describes his life at Cornell and why he declined the Professorship at the Institute of Advanced Studies. His views on why he should always be teaching and the plight of scientists who were given an armchair to think and were now unable to do so, it is something I can intensely relate. Why he felt burnt out, I know that. It wasn’t really a burnout, but he had just forgotten what he did in Physics that made it so interesting before. When he reacquired this knowledge, look how well he soared. I am lucky to have this realization at a relatively young age when my mental faculties are most ripe and most receptive to slow molding but not drastic changes. Do what you enjoy, no matter what. It is right, he is an epitome of this, and he is my inspiration for this. Dick Feynman is beautiful to me.
- Feynman was a faker, alright, but he was brilliant, and that is what counts.
- You won’t believe it. A friend passed me this story, ‘The last question’, during one of our conversations and I was thrilled by the entire concept presented by Issac Asimov. I pestered many of my friends thereafter to read that story. I told them that if they read the first para, they couldn’t leave the story midway, and just to ensure that they read the first two paragraphs, I sat beside them. One friend who likes to have a viewpoint on anything and everything (like me, and which results in many heated arguments) challenged my claim that Asimov had real insight into what would be in the future. I said, he wrote the story in 1956, when transistors had just been in their infancy, and based the story in 2037 where computers had advanced to use molecular valves instead of transistors. His curiosity led to googling ‘Molecular valves’ and voila, someone is actually working on it as of 2013, and the concept is well founded. I think they also have a prototype, and 2037 should be a fairly good estimate for it to become mainstream. So, he conceded that Asimov was really insightful. But then, I made a casual remark that my money mysteriously disappears from my bank accounts and he challenged that too. We talked about how much DA we get, and how much an increment can do to fill our bellies. Now, even though we had a computer guzzling numbers by our side, we did the calculations orally, estimates. So the estimation came, DA increases twice a year by roughly 15 percent. So the DA can be averaged at 85% for the entire year. Now, 85% means yada yada yada…30% HRA means blah blah blah. We had different approaches of solving it, I did by breaking it down into simpler fractions, like 30% = 50% of half (= 25%) plus (50% of 10%) etc., while he simply did, 30% of such and such is so and so. He won this round and mocked me for getting too complex with a simple calculation. I said, that is how computers also calculate, everything is essentially incremental addition. He counter argued that people could make dedicated multiplier circuits where multiplication would be a simpler operation. I said that it wouldn’t make much sense because that is not really needed, we won’t achieve much, since we can always transform almost anything into addition which is much simpler, and we love simple things. He said that there would be added advantage if the circuit is specifically made for it, and I said no, it isn’t the fundamental operation in nature, and the perceived advantage that he thinks of a single multiplication as compared to successive additions is wrong, because I just need 3 operations to calculate a multiplication on the circuit level. He challenged how, I said, a multiplication is an addition operation in logarithms, and a logarithmic amplifier can be grown epitaxially on a circuit using just an extra diode. He thought about it, applied it to division and yielded that I was right. I won this round. But yesterday, while I was reading Feynman, he described how he calculated so fast. Like squares, we all know the formula for a+b squared, but most of us don’t use it, we’ll still take pen and paper and do it. Then, he moved to cube roots and solved those using logs. At first I did not understand it, but then, it was really very simple, without having to learn so many tables, but a handful of values. Like deriving everything of fundamental, simpler blocks. That is how we actually build things, the pattern of words. Now, I read this after I was ready to appreciate it. That time when I didn’t get it, I didn’t pay much attention, because it wasn’t coursework, wasn’t urgent; but then, it just hit me later, that what he did there is basically executing what I have been trying to do, on a much more grander level. Now, I cannot calculate cube roots, because I don’t remember what is log 2 or log 3, but I am sure I can work on that. It is fascinating.
- He had the balls to show the cancer in education system in Brazil, and see what the US top shot had to say about him. It is funny that we live in such a system which is so reluctant to change. The goodness of Feynman is that he criticizes no man, but the system. He didn’t have it easy, it must have been stressful, but he knew how to do it right. The way he has written this book, it is interesting to its core, I’ve giggled in almost every chapter. And yet, I don’t want to read it all in one go, because I will miss it when it is finished. He’s that good, he’s a brother in arms. He said it now, ‘he wanted to understand the world’. I’ve concluded that independently a long time ago.
- To save himself from the misery of having to decide again and again, Feynman made it a rule, and then religiously followed it. When at the restaurant, he was always swept away by the flurry of sweet delicacies available, so he made a rule that he’ll always have Chocolate cake. Similarly, when he saw that Cornell and Caltech were upping their offer each time he decided in favour of the opposite, he decided, as a rule that he wanted Caltech. Then, he also refused Chicago, even when it was offering triple of what he was getting at Caltech. But isn’t that rejecting change? I know, today we have so many things, so many options, and yet, we must decide for once and then follow it through. This seems to be my plague, this indecisiveness. It is high time I decided, or no companies or colleges will lobby for me. Do I want that? Why not, but it isn’t what I want? I think I want peace of mind which is in making that effing Megatron :D
- Feynman thought of himself as a free man, when all others were bound to the society. He bore the consequences that he sowed. Like in going to the nude dancing pub, when the master, and his friend, was arrested and the plea was people from all layers of community came there, there was no one to testify. People made excuses, and they were just afraid. Feynman was asked, and he said, “Sure, I’ll testify your claim”, and he told the court that a physics professor, tax collectors, people from high and low visited the pub regularly. His wife’s (the new one) had no problem with it and that is heartening. When they made the issue an ethical one, he asked them for figures, to quantify it. He was a data driven man, and he was beautiful.
- He learnt how to draw. He unabashedly admits that he couldn’t draw when he was a child. I can relate to it so well that when I was a kid, and even now after all these years, the best effort that I can make is make mountains and a sun, and maybe try to draw a palm tree and a hut. He started with pyramids and what was my best attempt was his’ too. It is funny that I am relating to him so much. But if he could learn and learn it to the point that he could sell his works and that people actually bought it, even when he sold it under a pseudo-name, I can learn it as well. I just have to stop being afraid. He got a good first teacher when he really got the hang of it. If we are to relate, he liked playing drums. Hey, high five, I always wanted to learn it. He learnt bongos in Brazil. I could learn percussion.
- His discussion and his tendency to understand the problem with a real life example which basically catapulted him from a slow learner a minute ago to what he is really known for, it is really beautiful. He hides nothing. HE plays with his foul cards folded. People call him a faker, he wore it proudly. His experiences with the interdisciplinary people, the real loser fakers, the fools who fake otherwise to hide it up, in contrast to honest fools were heartening. And isn’t the stenographer’s words a real compliment? That reminds me, not everyone in science knows science. Where do I lie, I like to think that I have a lot to learn. But I CAN think logically.
- He got afraid of reading technical papers after sometime and his sister broke it up to him. ‘I don’t understand them’, said he. To this she said, ‘Of Course you don’t, because you have not invented it. So just go there and read it, and see what they are trying to say, try to think what you would make if it were you, and it will all fit.’ Did he not have a more general solution while the paper considered a single general case? His model covered the boundary conditions too, the moment he stopped being afraid. The same thing happened while in that paper of interdisciplinary committee. He did not understand what was written, but when he started to read slowly, and thought about it, he found that it was pretty trivial, an obvious point presented in a obfuscated, flowery manner. Here, I might say he understood art only in nature, in science and in its drawn form. Even writing is an art, and an equal art is to know what the simplest point was that gave birth to that idea. But most of us are faking it out here.
- Ah, again the fallacies of how education is imparted and the swindle that the publishers are running to wring every drop of profit that this otherwise noble profession deserves. I feel that I should write a book, but when I start to write, or even think of what I want to do with it, I am an incapable person. What do I know now is the problem, one problem, or maybe two, or three. I barely know the solution, I just know the approach; that I am sure of, the approach that works, for me. But I can’t just refer old books for concepts or derivations, or content structure if I am to do anything different. I can’t, because that is the very thing I am against. While I look at those books in that way, many of the books have been written in a pretty systematic way, with the organization explained in the preface (which mostly none of us reads) and then delineated in a more liberal way in the introduction passage to the books (Which again, we seldom read). As such, we just ignore what is the most important piece which could link it all up. If I cannot figure out why the author did that way, I can never understand what he wrote. Feynmann’s experiences with the Education board were astounding, horrifying. But then he mentions that general phenomenon, the wonderful tell tale of the Emperor of China and the length of his nose. Because no one was allowed to see the Emperor, no one actually knew the length of his nose. So, one travelled through the country asking the same question everywhere and then averaging the length to get the best guess. Chances are, the Emperor had no nose at all, chances are that the Emperor was long dead, long live the King. And isn’t it horrible that people judged the book which had nothing in it? It’s funny. What can the greed for profit do to us I wonder. It’s a mess, can’t we be profitable with quality, with an untainted cloth on us?
- Then are his qualms with the Government, and how the money was reimbursed. He didn’t have the receipt for the 2$ taxi fare, and the official told that he could not have the money for it. His argument was, if they didn’t trust him well to quote his expenses right (even if it was the Taxpayers money that they were saving), there was no point in sending him in the first place. He decided to not give the receipts for the air fare too, even when he had the receipts. This claim would be absurd if the entire system were fair and square. But seeing how Taxpayers money was brutally spent on something that faked science in the name of scientific education, his claim might just seem more legitimate. I guess I can live with less margins but not with a tainted conscience.