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What Richard Feynman’s PhD Thesis Looks Like: A Video Introduction (2020) (openculture.com)
133 points by paulpauper 42 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

I will never not upvote stories on Feynman. I’ve read all the books and he was an extraordinary man who brought an ability to describe complicated topics at a layman’s level. It’s true that he didn’t have some of the super core contributions to scientists that some of his peers did, but the levity and abilities he brought to the field were extraordinary. Truly an amazing figure.

His autobiography books condense key insights into short anecdotes, that feel pretty much like parables. It is really a practical book to learn to think by yourself, showing how easy it is to question everything around you, and have a scientific mind. For example his approach to how to do 'soft sciences' (the process to formulate hypothesis, to make it refutable, etc) can spare you reading many dense volumes. Oh, and the cargo-culting concept, once you know it you see it everywhere. In short, it is so easy and fun to read that it's definitely a must read for anyone.

I have thought about the cargo cult every day for about a year and a half now, when people are still disinfecting everything constantly over a year after we learned that surfaces aren't how covid spreads. Will we even remember where this came from in a few years when we're still doing this stuff? Nope, just a cargo cult now.

Which book?

I think the poster is referring to: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!


Exactly, thank you for the reference.

Both, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

I decided that I had to work in science or technology when I was 14 after reading his memoirs. (I didn't get into programming until later.) I think many on this site are in the same boat!

Yes I think that's true. And I wonder how much of the background radiation of dissatisfaction in our field can be traced to many of us getting into it as the culmination of an early interest in (or obsession with) math and science, but then discovering that most of the jobs require a bunch of product work which is not actually very technical. For me, I still get satisfaction in the constant micro problem solving inherent in programming, but it's not the kind of big problems I dreamed of figuring out while reading Feynman late into the night as a teenager.

aren't Feynman diagrams a core discovery , and also was awarded a Nobel Prize

Well, he was awarded a Nobel prize jointly with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger.

Here is the speech given on awarding the prize that summarizes what it was for:


Anyone interested in diagrams should consider reading "Drawing Theories Apart The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics" at some point. You don't have to be at an expert level (though it certainly helps) to understand the majority of it.


I'm starting to dive into the Path Integral formulation and this is taking me to turn things upside-down from what I thought of the order of what relies on what. I've started to get Baez's view [1] and given that, the question in [2] becames more and more important. But it's never too late to learn. An important element is to search the simplest cases posible, discrete better than continuous, finite beter than countable. If you think of a matrix as a number-labeled bipartite graph, and you glue the graphs of a sequence of matrices the only sensible way, then the product of the sequence is a "path sumatorial", look at here [3]. You sum productorials one for each path, the sum extending to all paths. That is readable in the original Feynman paper. That is for finite state spaces. For a continous state space (e. g. some real variables), the integral became a path integral, and you are integrating a functional over paths, so you need a Lebesgue measure on a space of paths to do a Lebesgue Integral. Baez has some old lectures that develop further.

[1] https://www.classe.cornell.edu/spr/1999-03/msg0015539.html

[2] https://hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/553/why-isnt-feynman...

[3] https://www.math3ma.com/blog/matrices-probability-graphs

His thesis is basically the cliffnotes version of the later Feynman & Hibbs-book, which is a bit of a standard in that part of physics. I relied heavily on it when I did my thesis (even if it was at best tangentially related).

Feyman was very readable for an academic, even on an academic level. Very clear writing style.

Too bad it turned out that project to rid the theory of fields, which are invisible and extend everywhere through space, failed. However, I guess what's coming is that space and matter itself is defined by these fields.

A sad indictment on our times that someone like Feynman would be cancelled today.

How so?

I have heard others say that he was sexist. If true isn't it more of a sad indictment of Feynman?

But I'd rather focus on the positive things attributed to him and not pull the conversation down to "cancelling" (or whatever the term is today).

Hmmm, I don't think I know enough to say. He was definitely a bit of a cad, which is unbecoming for anyone. But what gets people like him "cancelled" is when their targets are people they have power over. Probably the best example that I'm familiar with (because I was a fan of his) is Charlie Rose. Everyone knew he was a womanizer, but what caught up to him was the way he targeted women who worked for him. I don't know enough about Feynman's behavior to say if he was doing that. None of the stories I know of involve students or employees of his, but I also wouldn't be shocked if stories like that are out there.

I remember and was shocked by the "bitches" story when I read the book, but I didn't remember the part about the nudes of students or the posing as a an undergraduate. Like I said, not surprising though.

A tribute to Richard Feynman in art form https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/objkt/189632

20 benjamins for some pixels? Please.

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