Sunday, 5 August 2007

Don't You Have Time To Think?

People remember Richard Feynman for many different reasons.

He was one of the scientists who was involved in the Manhattan Project, which lead to the creation of the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima (something he was confronted with later in his life). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965 for advancing the field of quantum electrodynamics. He served on the committee that investigated the crash of the space shuttle Challenger, and on live TV demonstrated through a remarkably simple experiment how the one part of the shuttle was damaged and caused the crash.

In Don't You Have Time To Think?, we are introduced to a man who is a definite rarity. Feynman is scientist as well as a passionate educator who strived to make science interesting and approachable to the common people. His books, including The Feynman Lectures On Physics, speak volumes about his effort to dispel the 'science is scientific folk only' form of thinking.

Most of the book are letters that were send and received by Feynman to and from people of all sorts – colleagues, students, family, friends, fans, critics, skeptics.

It's amazing to see how many letter he had answered. Some asked for career advices, while a few expressed their admiration for Feynman incredible passion and playful teaching approach to a subject generally deemed as "boring". In between, letters from handful of amateur scientist buffs (if that is the correct term) appears, discussing some ideas they have stumbled upon. And with patience and encouragement, Feynman wrote back. The rest are largely letters to colleagues and family members, which also showed many sides to his unique individuality (two of Feynman's well-known hobbies happen to be lock picking and bongo drumming).

Even as a scientist of Nobel Prize stature, Feynman took the trouble to reply many of (if not all) the letters he gets. I personally can't imagine anyone, even an ordinary person, who would take the time to answer their personal mails.

Feynman also served as a textbook reviewer for the California state and I really, really think that his article on how to write mathematics textbooks for school-age students titled 'New Textbooks for The 'New' Mathematic' should be read by the people at our ministry.

Don't You Have Time To Think? is an anthology of the man named Richard Feynman. More than just an accomplished scientist, Richard is son to Melville and Lucille Feynman, husband to Arline (who died at a young age) and Gweneth, father to Carl and Michelle, a wise friend, an friendly educator, a cancer survivor and an inspiration to a countless many.


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