Don’t we all fantasize about meeting our favorite celebrities 😉 or idols? Even I do. But unlike others, my idol is a bit different; it’s one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century: none other than Richard Feynman. Here is a small write-up about what would have happened if I would have been lucky enough to get a chance to spend the day with Richard Feynman.
A Day with Richard Feynman
Jan 13, 2065
OstCorp Gaming tested it’s new V.R. game ‘A Day With’ today. The game allows ardent fans to interact with late celebrities and such. Every detail about their personality is studied closely and replicated in order to provide a completely life-like experience. I, being the lucky volunteer I am, get to interact with none other than Richard Feynman. That guy has been my inspiration for as long as I can remember. It was, indeed, the best day of my life. After I set up my V.R. headgear and adjusted electrodes all over my body, I was ready to make my blast to the past.
Being instantly transported to a coffee shop with the science celebrity, I was overwhelmed by a myriad of emotions. I blabbered a few incoherent words because frankly, there’s really so much to say; I’m not sure where to start. Ever had that feeling about meeting your hero and going blank in your head? Yeah, that’s what I was feeling.
It was finally Richard Feynman who spoke sensible words. He asked me about my day; then we talked about the weather. You know, breaking the ice and stuff. After breakfast, we went on for a walk. It turns out that he was scheduled for a brief conference talk and wasn’t expecting a full day’s schedule. He was quite concerned about it. I said, “You’re a great speaker; what are you worried about?” He said, “Yes, everyone thinks I’m a great speaker. So, that means they expect more from me.”
For all Richard Feynman’s independence, he was surprisingly diligent. He said to me, “Sometimes it is these throwaway conference talks that have ended up being some of my most popular pieces. Whether it’s nanotechnology, foundations of quantum theory or other things, never take anything too lightly as that’ll work against you.” As expected, the talk was spellbinding.
Moving on to lunch, he shared more of his wisdom with me. He said, “Peace of mind is the most important prerequisite for creative work.” And he thought one should do everything to achieve that. He said that among other things, one should always stay away from anything worldly, like management.
“One thing about me is that I went through some trouble to arrange my life, so I wasn’t particularly busy, which meant I could just work on what I felt like. Usually, I had a good supply of problems. Although if nothing crops up, I can always go back to trying to decode Mayan hieroglyphs.”
Feynman sure was becoming more interesting the more time I spent with him, and he gave away this elusive air of effortless intelligence. “Any regrets?” I asked. “None at all,” the answer came as swiftly as it could. “I spent my life in academia—though I find most academics rather dull. And I don’t like their standard view of the outside world very much. So, well, I don’t regret anything for myself, although I do regret the state of academics today.”
Around the evening, we ran into an acquaintance of his. We ended up having dinner with this rather charismatic founder of a semi-cult. It was a curious dinner time. And afterward, we talked for hours about leadership and leaders like Robert Oppenheimer and Brigham Young. He was fascinated—and mystified—by what it is that lets great leaders lead people to do incredible things.
Did you know that Richard Feynman spent most of his life working on glaring current problems in physics? But he was a confident problem solver. And occasionally, he would venture outside with his ‘one can solve any problem just by thinking about it’ attitude.
Richard Feynman was a self-certified loner. Other than for social reasons, he didn’t like to work with other people. And he was mostly interested in his own work. After some more chit chat, it was time for me to go home, and it was time for him to stop existing. I felt a tinge of sadness as I motioned the game developers to switch off, but it had to be done. Now that I’m myself going to sleep, I feel rather happy to have spent a day with one of the most brilliant minds this world has seen.
Richard Feynman loved doing physics. I think what he loved the most was the process of it. Of calculating. Of figuring things out. All that mattered to him was the result and the process of finding it. And he was often quite competitive about it. Some scientists are driven by the ambition to build grand intellectual edifices. I think Feynman was much more driven by the pure pleasure of actually doing the science. He seemed to like spending his time figuring things out, and calculating. And he was a great calculator and perhaps, the best human calculator there’s ever been.
It was indeed one of the best days in my life 🙂
Enjoy a similar hypothetical conversation with Isaac Newton!
Another such idol of mine is Stephen Hawking, the greatest physicist of the 21st century.