Book Review: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - by Richard Feynman


A re-read of a book I’ve read several times. A mix of autobiography and funny stories from the 20th Century’s greatest physicist, with some nice life lessons. Doubt everything, test everything. Do experiments - not just in science, but everywhere.

My notes

No one has ever seen the inside of a brick. Every time you break the brick, you only see a surface. That the brick has an inside is a simple theory which helps us understand things better.

You don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in. I have developed a very powerful sense of social irresponsibility as a result. It’s made me a very happy man ever since.

I have to have something so that when I don’t have any ideas and I’m not getting anywhere I can say to myself, “At least I’m living; at least I’m doing something; I’m making some contribution” - it’s just psychological.

Don’t sit in a lovely house by the woods with no obligations. Nothing happens because there’s not enough real activity and challenge. You’re not in contact with the experimental guys. You don’t have to think how to answer questions from the students. Nothing!

Students remind me of a problem by asking questions. It’s not so easy to remind yourself of these things.

I had a way of having adventures which is hard to explain: it’s like fishing, where you put a line out and then you have to have patience. When I would tell someone about some of my adventures, they might say, “Oh, come on - let’s do that!” So we would go to a bar to see if something will happen, and they would lose patience after twenty minutes or so. You have to spend a couple of days before something happens, on average.

I decided on something, then I decided then never to decide again. Nothing - absolutely nothing - would ever change my mind again. It’s much easier to just plain decide. I got sick and tired of having to decide what kind of dessert I was going to have at the restaurant, so I decided it would always be chocolate ice cream, and never worried about it again - I had the solution to that problem.

To sell a drawing is not to make money, but to be sure that it’s in the home of someone who really wants it; someone who would feel bad if they didn’t have it.