Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 27, 2008

Richard P. Feynman Interview

Filed under: books, culture, science — Tags: — codesmithy @ 9:44 am


I recently finished up reading “Sure You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” It is a good book, although some of the details of some of later stories exceed mentioning in polite company. The interview ties many of the disparate aspects of the book together. I think the bit about the atomic bomb was particularly important. We are often embark on debatable tasks for good reasons. When we concentrate on doing the task, sometimes the reasons and the pretext changes. It is therefore essential to revisit our decisions. Feynman is, without a doubt, a brilliant man who loved life. However, he left behind a terrible gift that has the potential of putting human survival in jeopardy. This is the reevaluation that we, the inheritors of Feynman’s legacy, must consider: will we keep maintaining the machine of our potential destruction for the illusion of safety it provides, or will we step out from the shadow and dismantle it for a more hopeful future?

The real issue is probably not what the answer to the question is, but rather how many will have the imagination to even ask it in the first place.



  1. Feynman played a minor role in the creation of the atom bomb – it would have been built without him – so to say that Feynman “left behind” this terrible gift is a gross exaggeration. Feynman was of Jewish descent and he joined the Manhattan project with full knowledge that his very able older colleague Heisenberg was in Germany working on an atom bomb for Hitler. So, I think it is understandable that he was willing to help out. Later, in retrospect, Feynman admitted that he should have quit working on the bomb when Germany was defeated, but, you know, he had some other things on his mind at the time: his wife was dying of TB – she died in a hospital in Albuquerque, not from from Los Alamos. Not that that is any excuse, really, but I think you have to look at this issue with some perspective.

    As for your “real issue” of “how many will have the imagination to even ask it in the first place?” The answer is A LOT of people have asked that question, including Feynman, Einstein, Szilard, and many other people who were involved in the development of nuclear weapons.

    Comment by Michael A. Gottlieb — March 28, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  2. When I used “left behind”, it wasn’t my intent to single Feynman out. Although, I see how it could come across that way. For that, I apologize. Obviously the Manhattan Project involved countless people directly and indirectly.

    When I asked, “how many will have the imagination to even ask it in the first place?” I was talking about the public consciousness. As much as we’d like to credit Feynman, Einstein and others, the undeniable fact is that they failed. As inheritors of the world they helped create, we are failing. We are still on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. Even today, the mainstream presidential candidates talk more about the need for the strategic defense initiative than moving towards nuclear disarmament.

    I’m not blaming anyone for this. I just see it as a problem that needs fixing. If you see this as old-hat and moot then fine. However, I will think that you are blind not to see that the world is, in fact, heading in the opposite direction.

    Comment by codesmithy — April 1, 2008 @ 6:18 am

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