Saturday, March 8, 2014

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

Title: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

Author: Richard. P. Feynman

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” is all about Feynman’s experiences and his Science career. This book contains many funny anecdotes. The fun Feynman had in MIT is wonderfully written down. The book also describes how he moved on from MIT to Princeton to Los Alamos and Cornell along with a ‘touch of Brazil’(as put forth by the author). The book ends with Feynman’s narration of his life as a Physicist.

In the book, there were many parts that I enjoyed. The part when Feynman creates his own symbols for sin θ, cos θ, and later realizes that he cannot create symbols on his own while he teaches one of his friends, as they were known only to him and were not universally accepted, is the one I love the most.  

Another part I liked was an incident which took place when Feynman was in MIT. There were two or three students who always kept studying and had double doors to their room to keep out noise. This seemed a little too much for the other students and one of them removed one of the doors and hid it. Considering this a nice idea, Feynman removed the other door and hid it in the basement. This created a ruckus, the next morning, and the three students were highly distressed at seeing both the doors missing. This issue was taken to the fraternity, and the guy who removed the first door was caught. Everybody immediately assumed that he had removed both the doors and asked him for the other door. Feynman, then, voluntarily accepted that he had removed the second door. But, nobody believed him. To the contrary, they asked him to keep quiet and told that it wasn’t the time to joke. Hence, Feynman concludes saying that, many times when truth was told people rarely believed.

But why is the book titled “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”? The answer is part of an anecdote in the book. In Princeton, Feynman had experienced a few embarrassing situations. The dean had invited all the freshers for tea. The dean’s wife had asked whether he would like lemon or cream in his tea, and Feynman had replied that he would like both! The dean’s wife had been very surprised and embarrassed, and had said, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” And that is the story behind the title.

I enjoyed reading this book very much.

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