The pleasure of finding things out about Richard Feynman

25 years after the physicist’s death, Feynman’s legacy thrives online


Nobel Prize-winning physicist and renowned teacher of science Richard Feynman, whose career was bracketed by work on the Manhattan Project and the Challenger Commission, died of cancer 25 years ago tomorrow, Feb. 15, 1988, at the age of 69.

I am someone who barely escaped high school physics, so I admit to knowing only the basics about Feynman before researching this compilation in which the 25th anniversary of his death was noted. I've since learned that there's a wealth of resources out there for both the simply curious as well Feynman's legion of devotees.

 "I think someone who can make science interesting is magical, and the person who did that better than anybody was Richard Feynman," says Bill Gates in his 2009 introduction of the Microsoft-hosted Tuva Project, a collection of Feynman's famous Messenger Lectures at Cornell University in 1964. (Feynman's introduction by Cornell Provost Dale Corson is worth the time alone.) The lectures can be found on YouTube, as well.

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Among the most quoted interviews of Feynman is a 1981 piece by the BBC entitled "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out," which would become the title of the book pictured above that was published in 1999. Here's the interview long-form followed by a couple of shorter derivative clips:

The Feynman Series (Part 1) Beauty, by Reid Gower.

The Feynman Series (Part 2) Honours, by Reid Gower.

Near the end of his life, Feynman was called upon to participate in the commission charged with investigating the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (my own stop-the-presses moment). In this next video clip we hear him explain how he was convinced to sign up - repeated pleas to his ego - and see his famous demonstration during a congressional hearing that involved an O-ring and a glass of ice water.

Science Channel and the BBC are making a movie about that disaster and investigation, with William Hurt cast as Feynman. It's slated to air this fall.

I'm looking forward to seeing it.

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