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The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

After the thing {the atom bomb} went off and we heard about it, there was tremendous excitement at Los Alamos. Everybody had parties, we all ran around. I sat on the end of a jeep and beat drums and so on. Except for one man that I remember. [It] was Bob Wilson, who got me into it in the first place. He's sitting there moping. I said, "What are you moping about?" He said, "It's a terrible thing that we made." I said, "But you started it, you got us into it." You see, what happened to me, what happened to the rest of us is we started for a good reason but then we're working very hard to do something, and to accomplish it, it's pleasure, it's excitement. And you stop to think, you know, you just stop. After you thought at the beginning, you just stop. So he was the only one who was still thinking about it, at that particular moment.

I returned to civilization shortly after that and went to Cornell to teach, and my first impression was a very strange one and I can't understand it anymore but I felt very strongly then. I'd sat in a restaurant in New York, for example, and I looked out at the buildings and how far away, I would think, you know, how much the radius of the Hiroshima bomb damage was and so forth. How far down there was to 34th street? All those buildings, all smashed and so on. And I got a very strange feeling. I would go along and I would see people building a bridge. Or they'd be making a new road, and I thought, they're crazy, they just don't understand, they don't understand. Why are they making new things, it's so useless? But fortunately it's been useless for 30 years now isn't it, almost, maybe we'll make 30 years. So I've been wrong for 30 years about its being useless making bridges and I'm glad that those other people were able to go ahead. But my first reaction after I was finished with this thing was it's useless to make anything. Thank you very much.

Jake has always been a huge fan of Richard Feynman. Between the two of us, we own every book he's written and all of his lectures. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out is a great collection of interviews with, lectures by and reports by Richard Feynman. Funnily, I actually heard about this book at a TV show about travel.

Choosing a section out of this book is really hard. Each are magnificent in their own way. His stories with his father, his insights on the future of computers and his stories on lock picking are enough to show how multi-talented and multi-faceted this man is. Not to mention how much fun he must have been. I chose a small section that I thought gave a peek into his thought-process and personality.

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