Saturday, November 25, 2006

Richard Feynman: "...To Protect Civilization..."

This brief, 40 minute interview with Dr. Richard Feynman was uploaded for students of NSIT in India. The documentary, entitled The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, is fascinating. It describes how the Nobel Laureate became captivated with physics, mathematics, and science -- at an early age -- through his Father's gentle instruction.

Feynman also describes how, early in his career, he was invited to participate in the Manhattan Project during World War II. The effort was spurred by scientists' fears that Nazi Germany was also beginning to construct atomic weapons. Feynman's angst over opening a Pandora's box capable of unimaginable destruction is palpable.

...My first reaction was, well, I didn’t want to get interrupted in my normal work to do this odd job. There was also the problem, of course, of any moral thing involving war. I wouldn’t have much to do with that, but it kinda scared me when I realized what the weapon would be, and that since it might be possible, it must be possible. There was nothing that I knew that indicated that if we could do it they couldn’t do it, and therefore it was very important to try to cooperate...

...I had a very strong reaction... after the war... I remember being in New York with my Mother in a restaurant... right after, immediately after [the atomic bomb had been dropped]... and thinking about New York. And I knew how big the bomb in Hiroshima was and how big an area it covered and so on. And I realized from where we were on 59th Street... if you dropped one on 34th Street, it would spread all the way out here and all these people would be killed...

...and it wasn't only one bomb available, it was easy to continue to make them. And, therefore, things were sort of doomed. Because, already, it appeared to me, very early, that -- earlier than others, who were more optimistic -- that [given] international relations and the way people were behaving, it was no different than it had ever been before. It was just going to go out the same way... and I was sure therefore that it was going to be used very soon.

Google Video: Richard Feynman: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

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