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Richard Feynman completed his under-graduation from MIT and wanted to continue his graduation with the same school. Professor Slater asked him the reason and he mentioned that MIT is the best science school in the country. Slater asked, “You think that?” He said yes and then Slater said, “That’s why you should go to some other school and find out how the rest of the world is.”

It was only after this that Feynman decided to go to Princeton.

All of us have problems, few people crib, few face them, few add drama to it and then there’s Richard Feynman who will just smile and play pranks despite serious problems. Here are some unknown facts about Richard Feynman that make him a very interesting personality:

Fraternity brothers always said, ‘Nonsense! You can’t do that!’

Feynman had problems with his fellows at times and had to demonstrate things which they didn’t believe.

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Once he and some of the other undergraduates had an argument about whether urine came out due to pressure or gravity. Feynman settled the matter by standing on his head and peeing upside down. Another time, someone told him that if he took an aspirin and Coca Cola together, he’d faint. He told them it was a foolish notion, but soon they started to have an argument whether the aspirin should be taken before the Coke, mixed in the Coke or after the Coke? Feynman resolved the issue by getting 6 aspirins and 3 cokes. First he took 2 aspirins and a coke, then he dissolved two aspirins in a coke and after that took a coke and 2 aspirins. His friends were waiting for him to faint, but nothing happened. In his book he mentions that he was unable to sleep very well that night and so got up and worked out several formulas for the Riemann-Zeta function.

Feynman used to put up magic shows for kids, where the magic was simple chemistry put to practice. A little table with Bunsen burners all over it was the centre of his magic shows.  He would place a thin glass disc on the burner with iodine on it, that emitted purple vapour throughout the duration of the show. This is how he made things beautiful.

For the finale he figured out a trick where he would put his hands (secretly, ssh) in water and then into benzine. Then he would ‘accidentally’ brush one of the burners so his hand would light up. Feynman would then clap his burning hands. To add to the climax he would waive his hands and yell ‘FIRE! FIRE’ which would excite everyone. After this people would usually run out of the room and this marked the end of his show.

Thirteen times

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Once Feynman was asked to give a lecture at the city college and he knew that it required a lot of paperwork. Feynman pulled a number out of hat and said that he wouldn’t sign more than 13 times.

The first agreement said that Feynman had to remain loyal to the government and he had to sign it twice. He ended up signing 12 forms and then proceeded to give the lecture. At the end of the lecture, he was told that there was one more paper he had to sign in order to receive the paycheck. He refused to do so, since he was reserving the thirteenth signature for the check itself. The college insisted that they would not be able to pay him till he signed. Feynman however, was willing to give up his pay in order to avoid the fourteenth signature.

I don’t want to give a talk!

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Feynman writes in his book:

My problem is, I like to please the people who come to hear me, and I can’t do it if everybody and his brother wants to hear: I don’t know my audience then.

A few years after he won the Nobel Prize, some students from the Irvine students’ physics club came and asked him to give a talk. However Feynman refused as he had his own valid reasons.

Feynman came up with an idea to come up with a dull sounding professor and dull sounding idea and wanted to see how many people turn up for the lecture. He believed that if people really cared about physics, they would turn up. So posters saying that Professor Henry Warren from University of Washington will talk about the structure of proton on 17th May were placed in the campus.

On the day of the talk Feynman entered the hall and said that Professor Warren couldn’t come due to personal reasons and had requested him to give the talk on his behalf. The faculty adviser of the club however, found this trick.

There are innumerable stories about his life and some of the most interesting ones include the way he cracked safes during research, one early morning when he stole the door and the Nobel Prize event where he was called early in the morning with the news that he was the recipient of the Nobel Prize but he replied by saying that he was still in his sleep and that it would be better if they called him later in the morning.

Excerpt:

Nobel Prize winner, theoretical physicist, artist, bongo player and prankster Richard Feynman, was one of the most intelligent humans who explored the world of art, physics and learnt several languages as well. Ranked as one of the 10 best physicists, Feynman used to prepare his lesson plans at a bar.

Quantum Economist

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