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  • Subject area(s): Science
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Unlike many physicists what made Richard Feynman standout wasn't entirely his efforts towards advanced incomprehensible physics which many of his contemporaries, such as Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli or Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. He instead also wanted to educate the public which combined with the huge amount of charisma which possessed led him to become much more famous in almost the same way many celebrities are today. His book '''Perfectly reasonable deviations from the beaten track''' which were a series of letters which were sent to and from him over his life time really encapsulates why the general public loved him, his complete delight of teaching people. One such example is a letter from Bernard Hanft, a regular civilian who claimed he had found a new force, unlike most men of Feynman'''s intellect and experience a letter like that would have be disregarded instantly but Feynman to the time to write back and humour him with a personal promos to investigate the matter further. And the juxtaposition between this and completely ignoring some letter from great scientists and professors just as a matter of laziness. In this essay I want to focus on four separate parts of Feynman'''s work the manhattan project, his Nobel prize work, the Challenger investigation and his contribution to teaching.

Atomic bomb

After getting his Phd from Princeton in 1942, Feynman was recruited by Robert Oppenheimer, who he called '''Oppy''' , to go and work in los Alamos in New Mexico on the atomic bomb. His first job in New Mexico was working on Uranium enrichment and trying to sort uranium-235 from uranium-238, he and the team from Princeton worked on a machine called a isotron which theoretically should have many times more effective than the calutron which was being used but the project was abandoned after a few months as is was concluded that it was almost impossible to create. He then went and worked with another great physicist of the time Hans Bethe and together created a formula to work out the yield of a fission bomb, a formulae that is still used today for some nuclear warheads. During this time he was also partially looking after his wife who was living 30miles away in Albuquerque, she was extremely ill with Tuberculosis and died in 1945. This is key event in understanding what lead Feynman into being so debaucherous and unpredictable in his later life. While visiting an Enrichment  plant in Tennessee he also implamentted a level of safety standards as well as tying to teach the workers there a small bit on what made Uranium so dangerous. Which is a a good beginning to understand of how good at explaining and making people understand he was.

2. His Nobel prize

When asked what he got the award for Feynman answered '''If its good enough to win the Nobel prize you aren't going to understand it'''. Officially it was awarded to Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger and Richard P. Feynman "for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles'''. It was clear that even some  of they're fellow physicists didn't fully understand what they were on about especially when Feynman introduced '''The Feynman Diagrams''' which were a series of visual representation(eg below) which showed the way subatomic particles act in certain conditions.

During the time he spent working on quantum electrodynamics Feynman'''s life went quite downhill, after the death of his father and then his mother he became extremely depressed and borderline alcoholic, living on married friends couches "until these arrangements became sexually volatile''' or in frat houses with people much younger than him. While at Cornell he did find one frat house which he did enjoy called Telluride House once saying "it's there that I did the fundamental work" for his Nobel prize.

3. Challenger disaster

Challenger was one of the US governments major space shuttle missions and it completely malfunctioned and crashed the Presidential Rogers Commission was formed to understand what had happened to the machine. Feynman was put on this commission to act as a voice of reason among so many government officials who were concerned with purely protecting the governments and NASAs face during the entire thing. Feynman concluded after many weeks of investigation that unlike the odds which NASA scientists had originally put out which were 1 in 1000000 of the mission failing it was more like 1 in 200. And to prove that the part of failing was the O ring of the thruster, which NASA had denied say it just wasn't possible, he did a demonstration on live television with some ice water and a section of O ring to prove that they couldn't have stood the sub zero temperatures of the launch, humiliating NASA and leading to the title of one of his books What Do You Care What Other People Think? He said of the matter afterwards "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.''' This was a pivotal point for Feynman as it really put his name out there, cementing him within the group of Celebrity physicists.

4. Eduction

The Feynman Lectures on physics are often seen as the gold standard on teaching his is able to convey ideas which are widely though of as being impossible to understand and using metaphors and diagrams he is able to convey very complex ideas. They were recorded for use at Caltech but have since been used by hundreds of other schools and colleges around the world. What really gives these lectures so great is the energy which he puts into them and the use of humour to lighten up the general mood of the lecture hall, you often hear students laughing. his contributions to eduction didn't only go this far as he also tried to change the way kids were taught in school and expressed his hatred of '''route learning''' saying that children should use the scientific method and reseach only what they were interested in.

These are only a few examples of what this great man did during his life, he did many great lectures, tv shows and books which explain much more.

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