Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988) was regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists to grace the world. In 1965 he shared the Nobel Prize with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, for the independent work he did in quantum electrodynamics.
What some people would not know about Feynman, was his involvement in the Manhattan Project – the project conceived to build the first atomic bomb which eventually led to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. As you read the sections of the book where Feynman recounts how he moralised over his decision to join the project, one tends to appreciate why absolutist morality as favoured by the religious, is so undesirable.
The main theme of the book however is about why science is so great and why doubt is so important, not only in the field of science, but in all spheres of life. Ultimately, a wonderful collection of stories from the life of the great Richard Feynman, often amusing, and with a refreshing insight into how the world works. Feynman has effectively re-inforced the idea that finding things out, especially about the natural world, through curiosity and investigation, is accompanied by a great deal of pleasure. I can personally attest to that.
If you expect science to give all the answers to the wonderful questions about what we are, where we’re going, what the meaning of the universe is and so on, then I think you could easily become disillusioned and then look for some mystic answer to these problems. How a scientist can take a mystic answer I don’t know because the whole spirit is to understand-well, never mind that.
You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit and if I can’t figure it out, then I go onto something else, but I don’t have to know an answer, I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell. It doesn’t frighten me.