"What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character
Richard P. Feynman, Ralph Leighton
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.
for me—someone had arranged for us to arrive at our first official meeting in limousines. I sat in the front seat, next to the driver. On the way to the meeting, the driver says to me, “I understand a lot of important people are on this commission…” “Yeah, I s’pose…” “Well, I collect autographs,” he says. “Could you do me a favor?” “Sure,” I say. I’m reaching for my pen when he says, “When we get there, could you point out to me which one Neil Armstrong is, so I can get his autograph?”
any difference how you do it. For me, there was no such thing as doing it “by arithmetic,” or doing it “by algebra.” “Doing it by algebra” was a set of rules which, if you followed them blindly, could produce the answer: “subtract 7 from both sides; if you have a multiplier, divide both sides by the multiplier,” and so on—a series of steps by which you could get the answer if you didn’t understand what you were trying to do. The rules had been invented so that the children who have to study
That’s fast!” I said. “I only asked you for the information this morning!” Graham was always very cooperative. Figure 14 Puffs of black “smoke” (fine unburned particles) were seen escaping from the same place where the flame was observed.(© NASA.) The paper on top says, “Professor Feynman of the Presidential Commission wants to know about the effects over time of temperature on the resiliency of the O-rings…”—it’s a memorandum addressed to a subordinate. Under that memo is another memo:
opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life.* The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from working engineers, and the very low figures come from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could launch a shuttle each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask, “What is the cause of management’s fantastic faith in the
such understanding and confidence, in spite of the peculiar variations from case to case. A mathematical model was made to calculate erosion. This was a model based not on physical understanding but on empirical curve fitting. Specifically, it was supposed that a stream of hot gas impinged on the O-ring material, and the heat was determined at the point of stagnation (so far, with reasonable physical, thermodynamical laws). But to determine how much rubber eroded, it was assumed that the erosion