Mistress Troubles

 Posted by on 19 January 2006 at 9:59 pm  Uncategorized
Jan 192006

Wow, I really really really must read some Richard Feynman! Paul sent me a link to this NRO article celebrating a new publication:

Now [Richard Feynman's] two bestselling collections of essays, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? have just been reissued as a single volume (edited by Ralph Leighton): Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character, which includes an hour-long CD of Feynman recounting his adventures in Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project.

The opening story of the article is great, but I almost cried from laughing so hard at this story from the article which quotes Feynman:

It’s difficult to discuss Feynman, by the way, and resist citing at least several passages from his work. I’ll limit myself to just a couple:
There are so many ideas about nuclear energy that are so perfectly obvious, that I’d be here all day telling you stuff,” [Feynman says in exasperation to "a very nice fella" from the U.S. Patent Office visiting him at Los Alamos.] “Example: nuclear reactor…under water…water goes in…steam goes out the other side…Pshshshsht — it’s a submarine. Or: nuclear reactor…air comes rushing in the front…heated up by nuclear reaction…out the back it goes…Boom! Through the air — it’s an airplane. Or: nuclear reactor…you have hydrogen go through the thing…Zoom! — it’s a rocket….There’s a million ideas!” I said, as I went out the door.

From that quick conversation, Feynman found himself the inadvertent owner of three patents. Here he is, years later, in a letter explaining why he declined an offer to leave Cal-Tech that would have tripled his salary:

The reason I have to refuse a salary like that is I would be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do — get a wonderful mistress, put her up in an apartment, buy her nice things…With the salary you have offered, I could actually do that, and I know what would happen to me. I’d worry about her, what she’s doing; I’d get into arguments when I come home, and so on. All this bother would make me uncomfortable and unhappy. I wouldn’t be able to do physics well, and it would be a big mess!


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