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Readdressing Feynman’s legacy


By James Dacey at the APS April meeting, Anaheim, California

Bongo player, womanizer and all-round practical joker are common depictions used by biographers in describing the great 20th century physicist, Richard Feynman.

Tonight, here at the Hyatt hotel, Anaheim, theorist and popular science writer Lawrence Krauss will offer a fresh perspective by readdressing Feynmann’s legacy to science – in physics and beyond.

Krauss has just written a book _Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science_, which is released in March in the US.

I managed to catch up with Krauss earlier today to find about what inspired him to write the book and what he admires most about Feynman’s approach to physics.

“Feynman for me, like most scientists, was a sort of idol and it was a great opportunity to pay homage to him, and a personal homage because the last time I saw him I’d meant to tell him a few things and didn’t get a chance to,” he said.

Part of Krauss’ motivation for writing the book was his feeling that many earlier biographies have focused too much on Feynman’s personality, which can give the impression that science was something Feynman did “on the side”.

“The public knows of him as a curious character, and he is a fascinating human individual, and he’s obviously captured people’s imagination. But what was clear to me is that people did not know why physicists revered him and I wanted to talk about his scientific legacy.”

Krauss told me that his own approach to physics was inspired by Feynman. “He often appeared to have results by magic, and what I also wanted to get across is how incredibly organized he was in his own thinking.

“The reason he could answer so many questions is that at some point or other he’d worked it out before. He’d have thousands and thousands of pages of notes in a very organized fashion.

“While he was a joker in life, when it came to science he was dead serious and he didn’t mess around.”

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