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"What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character

Richard P. Feynman, Ralph Leighton · 5 HN comments
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The New York Times best-selling sequel to"Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!" One of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman possessed an unquenchable thirst for adventure and an unparalleled ability to tell the stories of his life."What Do You Care What Other People Think?" is Feynman’s last literary legacy, prepared with his friend and fellow drummer, Ralph Leighton. Among its many tales―some funny, others intensely moving―we meet Feynman’s first wife, Arlene, who taught him of love’s irreducible mystery as she lay dying in a hospital bed while he worked nearby on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. We are also given a fascinating narrative of the investigation of the space shuttle Challenger ’s explosion in 1986, and we relive the moment when Feynman revealed the disaster’s cause by an elegant experiment: dropping a ring of rubber into a glass of cold water and pulling it out, misshapen.
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The sequel, "What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character [1] is also excellent, and includes his account of serving on the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/What-Care-Other-People-Think/dp/03933... or part of the buy it together bundle in wimagguc's link

stcredzero
Funny, but I get the impression from that book's narrative of the Challenger disaster that Feynmann was in the role of someone else's "useful genius."
I think shedding some self consciousness can be a good thing. Feynman captures it with a perhaps more positive spin than this book. http://www.amazon.com/What-Care-Other-People-Think/dp/039332...

If this is taken to extreme, it's actually very bad. Leaders who don't care for their followers cause a lot of anguish. And how will polite society fare if nobody cares how anyone else feels? So if society needs 90% of people to be self conscious and follow norms, are they all the suckers?

orblivion
>If this is taken to extreme, it's actually very bad. Leaders who don't care for their followers cause a lot of anguish.

Yes, this is called being a sociopath.

flumbaps
I think that's an over-use of the word sociopath. I think sociopaths lack empathy in general, but there might be a lot of reasons why normal people in leadership roles end up not caring for their followers. Rich and powerful people might feel disgusted by the poor, for example. The strong might be disgusted by the weak. Or within powerful circles a close in-group mentality might develop, so members feel little empathy for those who aren't in their group. Powerful people might even be insulated from reality, becoming emotionally detached from the consequences of their actions, and unable to equate the abstract information and statistics they receive with genuine human suffering. Maybe some even stop feeling empathy as a coping mechanism to lighten the burden of responsibility.
mathattack
There are many industries (investment banking?) where empathy can hurt. For most of us, empathy helps. If you have customers, you need empathy. If you have counterparties, it can hurt. If you have employees you need empathy. If you outsource your work on fixed contract, empathy can hurt.
May 05, 2013 · rckrd on The Feynman File (2005)
Interesting read, but if anyone is interested in more personal anecdotes like this, I suggest:

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Feynman-Adventures-Curious-Char...

[2]http://www.amazon.com/What-Care-Other-People-Think/dp/039332...

I highly recommend both of Feynman's memoirs:

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Feynman-Adventures-Curious-Char...

"What Do You Care What Other People Think?" http://www.amazon.com/What-Care-Other-People-Think/dp/039332...

He's of course a good writer. But if you didn't know any better, you'd think him to be a sort of adult-Pollyanna, someone of innocent optimism and immense curiosity. It reminds me a lot of reading Woz's autobiography, in fact; I guess it makes sense that this characteristic of constantly questioning and challenging the norms is what leads to great innovation.

In a chapter from "Surely You're Joking", Feynman describes how he was curious about the accepted fact that dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans. So he went around sniffing objects held by humans, even getting down on the carpet on his hands and knees to see if he could smell his own footprints: http://goo.gl/WBbw1

It's an amusing story, but one that is very telling of Feynman's insatiable curiosity and scientific mind. He did these smell-experiments not as a child, but when he was a scientist at Los Alamos.

jamesbritt
But if you didn't know any better, you'd think him to be a sort of adult-Pollyanna, someone of innocent optimism and immense curiosity.

And you're saying he wasn't? Based on what information?

danso
Sorry, what I meant was, if you didn't know he was a brilliant scientist (and learned in many other areas), you would think he was someone of only those qualities, rather than someone who has those qualities and was also a stellar intellectual and scientist. IMO, sometimes those qualities are seen as mutually exclusive.
tnicola
There is a third one: "The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out".

http://www.amazon.ca/Pleasure-Finding-Things-Out-Richard/dp/...

It has some duplicates from the other two books, but it also has some new stories.

jerometinkton
Really fun reads. Great to give to people who think anything 'sciency' is stuffy:) I love this old Horizon as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsgBtOVzHKI
gus_massa
Feynman didn´t write the book himself. It is an edited version of the taped conversations of Feynman with Ralph Leighton.
danso
I'll take your word for it. Though "Surely You're Joking" reads very closely in style to his letter and with "What Do You Care What Other People Think?", in which he's listed as author with Ralph Leighton as editor.
mhartl
I know Ralph Leighton personally, and Gus is right. In fact, the same goes for The Feynman Lectures on Physics: Feynman gave the lectures, and other people took the transcripts and turned them into book.† This was harder than anyone expected it to be.

†I served as Caltech's editor for The Feynman Lectures on Physics: The Definitive and Extended Edition, which came out in 2005.

jamesbritt
There's an audio recording of him telling some of his tales, as well as him playing bongo drums.

Safecracker Suite: Drumming and Storytelling

http://www.amazon.com/Safecracker-Suite-Storytelling-Richard...

Read something REALLY fun, enlightening and TRUE: Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a curious character) and What do you care what other people think (Further adventures of a curious character)

ObAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/What-Care-Other-People-Think/dp/039332...

ObAmazon: http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Feynman-Adventures-Curious-Char...

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