Talk:Richard Feynman

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Purely apocryphal story from my grandfather[edit]

My grandfather grew up in Far Rockaway and his parents and Feynman's would often play bridge. My Grandfather was much younger than Feynman, but Feynman liked kids and would keep him entertained when they crossed paths. The story goes that during the war, not knowing better, and being in his early teens, my Grandfather asked Feynman what the army had him off doing (it was supposedly common knowledge at the time that he was doing something important and secret). Feynman said he was "building a better peashooter." I guess technically true if you know how the physics package in Little Boy worked... Can't add this to the article because of Wikipedia's rules about primary sources, but I thought this story deserved to be up on the interwebs somewhere. PS, I'm a physicist, but my Grandfather became a lawyer. Quodfui (talk) 23:48, 8 October 2013 (UTC)

Nice story, thanks.Anythingyouwant (talk) 03:16, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

Feynman = Genius?[edit]

There is a bit of accuracy disrupte on the Education section, a user, Vsmith insists that the quote on Feynman being a genius does not require specification. It is unknown if it represents a speculative point of view by removing the line "Some praised Richard Feynman as genius:". The quote there is ambiguous if it represents an objective point of view (is he so much a genius that we add a quote there?) or a speculative point of view (does some praised him that it is notable to be quoted?). By removing the line, "he is praised as.." accuracy is disrupted, thanks. -- (talk) 18:54, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Simply, "some" be weasely. The quote is from a biography and the title kinda says it. Are there ref'd opinions disputing his status. And it seems the article doesn't call him a genius. Vsmith (talk) 19:06, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Some is weasely? WP:SOFIXIT.

And it seems the article doesn't call him a genius.

I think you just slipped your tongue that what I said about ambiguity is correct. -- (talk) 19:13, 13 January 2014 (UTC)
Feynman would never have called himself a genius. Just some guy who was interested in stuff and just loved solving problems. At most he would admit he had fun doing so an maybe helped discover a bit. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:44, 17 April 2014 (UTC)
Not that I really care, by Freeman Dyson did call him a genius in a tv interview. (talk) 00:37, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Why even mention whether he was a genius or not, defined as such either by some dubious "objective" standard (e.g., IQ) or the statements of friends, colleagues, or enemies? Surely his achievements say enough for a reader to decide this. The conclusion almost all will inevitably draw is that he was a genius. Scrawlspacer (talk) 19:05, 20 October 2015 (UTC)

Feynman as Atheist[edit]

I was surprised to see no mention of his atheism. That did come up in his book "surely you're joking" at least. If I have time I might add it, but I was wondering if there was a reason it's not there Nerfer (talk) 15:38, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

Oops, never mind. I had misspelled it as athiest and no matches were found... Nerfer (talk) 17:58, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

Feynman views on women[edit]

Worth noting or no? Here are sources:,, Maranjosie (talk) 20:03, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

As the Scientific American blog you cites notes, it is probably a mistake to cherry-pick incidents from Feynman's life to 'prove' one thing or another about his character, and there is actually little in his apparent attitude to women that marks him out as in any way atypical for a man of his generation. He was a man of his time, and behaved accordingly - though perhaps he was a little more honest about it than many. If this needs discussing at all, it needs to be done in a way that avoids judging him by standards to which it is entirely inappropriate to expect him to have ascribed to. AndyTheGrump (talk) 20:20, 20 July 2014 (UTC)
You could say the same about Rolf Harris. It's true that many things Feynman said and did in the 1950s and 1960s did not spark outrage at the time, but like John Kennedy, Feynman's attitudes towards women were noted as very bad by contemporaries even then. Of course, when the 1970s rolled around, it came back to really haunt him. This should be noted in the article, which is hardly neutral at the moment without it, and I think I can do so without holding him to anachronistic standards. Hawkeye7 (talk) 21:25, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

I don't think he "held views on women" - these are just examples of the way he behaved towards a few of them. Zambelo; talk 22:26, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Researching Feynman is like taking a trip down a sewer in a glass-bottomed boat. That's why he's the last of the Manhattan Project scientists to get the Hawkeye7 makeover. I was hoping against hope that someone else would fix up the article. Hawkeye7 (talk) 02:49, 23 July 2014 (UTC)
The sources don't support the inclusion of such a section, and as has been pointed out the Scientific American article itself describes how anecdotes are often cherry-picked to push a viewpoint. I doubt anyone is really qualified to discuss Feynman's views on women, only the way he behaved in various circumstances. This thing smells like someone has an axe to grind, whether the sewer is real of not. (talk) 00:29, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

Feynman's cavalier and dismissive attitude toward others is part of his legend. See for example But I don't think adding a moralizing section to his bio here would be appropriate, unless we plan to add similar sections to every other biography in wiki. Feynman was a brilliant man, who made great contributions to science. That's why he has an article, and that is what his article should discuss. Anybody looking for models of moral, humane behavior should look somewhere else. HouseOfChange (talk) 00:47, 24 January 2016 (UTC)

I think it's clear that Feynman's attitude towards women and his sexual appetites were not *just* a product of his time. His autobiographies more than make allusions towards it, and there's more than one article on the internet discussing his predatory attitude towards sex. So I would say that omitting any mention of this on the page about him is omitting an important facet of him as a person. Speculatrix (talk) p.s. this is why I added that he had been *accused* of sexual predation. dress it up in any language you want, it's still part of the ugly truth.

I think, report facts and evidence of his life and times, readers can decide their own opinions. Accusations are not facts and evidence. Sexual predation has to be defined, and then supply facts and evidence to meet the definition. CuriousMind01 (talk) 04:19, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
And the cited source does not qualify as a wp:RS. Read here why. - DVdm (talk) 07:28, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
without mention of the allegations, then how would people know to go and find out? Speculatrix (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 14:04, 5 March 2016 (UTC)

It it disagrees...[edit]

RF has so many amazing quotations, and there are so few of them in this article. My favorite, found at 3:01 in Richard Feynman Biography,

If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement, is the key to science. It doesn't make a difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn't make a difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is—If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. Thats all there is to it.

— Richard Feynman, Cornell University, 1964

I think this quotation deserves inclusion in his article. -Kyle(talk) 04:50, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

It's on WikiQuote. Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:13, 4 September 2014 (UTC)

New external link[edit]

Hi, I seek advice and guidance. I'm involved in the development of a very well visited non-commercial "hobby-site", 'Richard Feynman' at (currently, 389,810 page hits). I'm quite proud of this site, and I think that it is at least as deserving of a place in the 'External links' as the only current item (which claims to be an "official site", but clearly isn't). However, I suspect that if I try to add the link, the wrath of Wikipedians will again descend upon me. Can I ask others to look at the site and decide whether it's worthy of inclusion? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Geoffw1948 (talkcontribs) 15:15, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

Sorry, but no. The Wikipedia:External links guideline explicitly excludes links to "Blogs, personal web pages and most fansites, except those written by a recognized authority", and furthermore, your website appears to be hosting videos etc without permission of the owners - we cannot link to sites violating copyright. AndyTheGrump (talk) 15:57, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

His IQ was 122 not 125.[edit]

Read his book 'What do you care what people think?' and in the beginning of the novel when he discusses his school years he said he had an IQ of 122, not 125. Unless he was re-tested later in life which would need a citation for - excluding the current one since it doesn't discuss a re-testing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pentrazemine (talkcontribs) 20:59, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Some online sources say 122, others say 125, per my very hasty scan. Is the distinction important? Not really, sez I. I'm not even certain that it's worth mentioning at all, since after all these years, we still don't know precisely what IQ tests measure, if anything. DoctorJoeE review transgressions/talk to me! 21:21, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Those sources have obfuscated channels of redundant information passed on by other varying sources - but if you read What do you Care? the man himself says when he took it he got a 122. Actually, the entire book can be heard as an audio-text online Youtube and hear it yourself.I'll take the man's word from it himself from his autobiography than another biographer who got a source from another watered down source.

I'll see if I can find the YT video and crunch down the part where he brings it up. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pentrazemine (talkcontribs) 23:23, 26 February 2015 (UTC)

My point was simply that the precise number is of questionable relevance to this article specifically, and to the great scheme of things in general. In the real world IQ scores are largely ignored. They're of no practical value for anything except gaining entry to Mensa, which -- trust me -- counts some spectacularly stupid people among its top-two-percentile members. Intelligence is far too nebulous and subjective to be measurable by any single parameter. My own score was 152, and beyond an all-too-brief interlude of bragging rights within the dork brigade at my middle school, it was of zero value to me or anyone else. Nobody in his right mind -- I, least of all -- would use that number to conclude that I was by any measure smarter than Richard Feynman, for example. I guess it would be fun to view that clip, though, if you can find it. DoctorJoeE review transgressions/talk to me! 00:09, 27 February 2015 (UTC)
Cite a specific source with a specific page number, and we can check it. I have the Gleick biography at hand and have already checked that. By the way, I've just been reading a very interesting source that describes the development of Feynman's thinking about mathematics and physics, which will help improve this article. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk, how I edit) 02:07, 27 February 2015 (UTC)
Would that be Krauss's book? Quantam Man? DoctorJoeE review transgressions/talk to me! 03:18, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Jewish categories[edit]

See Talk:Richard_Feynman/Archive_2#Categories_for_this_article for a discussion of whether we can use reliable sources to call him Jewish even if he himself asked not be called Jewish. Note, that he did not say is not, just he asked not be called so, and also note that he is deceased. Debresser (talk) 11:43, 29 April 2015 (UTC)

His parents were Jewish - he chose not to be. That should be the end of the discussion. 2604:2000:7130:8000:CCD:522B:72A2:8E1D (talk) 07:35, 12 November 2015 (UTC)

Casita Barranca[edit]

Tannu Tuva[edit]

What is the point of mentioning Tannu Tuva in this article? Lots of people want to travel to places they do not have opportunity to, Hawaii, Rome, Paris, whatever. The article does not make it all clear what is the significance of this completely insignificant looking idea that Feynman wanted to travel to Tannu Tuva. I think the article should be cleaned up in this respect. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:12, 8 November 2015 (UTC)

Widely covered in some books and in the media, so it seems to be significant. - DVdm (talk) 08:38, 12 November 2015 (UTC)

Concerning his "acting" in Anti-Clock[edit]

In the section on his Personal Life it says, "Feynman has a minor acting role in the film Anti-Clock credited as "The Professor"", with a link to the Film's IMDb page as a reference. I think it's worth pointing out, in the event that it may be relevant, that he didn't do any acting for that film. I've seen Anti-Clock, and Feynman's appearance is in the form of stock footage from his 1964 Messenger lectures on "The Character of Physical Law".— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 18:16, 19 January 2016‎ (UTC)

Please put new messages at the bottom and sign all your talk page messages with four tildes (~~~~). Thanks.
Good point. IMDB is not a really reliable source anyway. I went ahead and chanced it: [1]. - DVdm (talk) 18:58, 19 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks. I think your revision is appropriate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:01, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

Simple question[edit]

What's that slightly caustic line by Murray Gell-Mann doing in the personal life section of this man?

Murray Gell-Mann remarked, “Feynman was a great scientist, but he spent a great deal of his effort generating anecdotes about himself.”

I can go and ask my granny what she thought about Feynman's life choices, then we can add her opinion too, is my point.

The quote seems more in its place on the page about Murray Gell-Mann.

Or perhaps a section regarding Feynman being a controversial figure could be added, where the quote would be more appropriate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:35, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Please sign all your talk page messages with four tildes (~~~~). Thanks.
I also don't see the relevance of this remark, not even in an article about Gell-Mann. It's not even controversial—on the contrary, rather obvious actually. - DVdm (talk) 13:06, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
I agree. The statement does not have a clear connection to any of the topics mentioned in this section, and not even to the sentence that precedes it. (I suppose it might have a connection to the interviews Feynman began granting in the 1980s, but if that is it, the connection needs to be made much clearer.) The discussion before this sentence has been about his book, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, the reaction to it, and a side story about a lawsuit. The sentence right before this one is related to the book, though the connection to it could be made more explicit. I suggest that we wait a week or so to see if there is further comment; if there is none, we can remove the sentence.  – Corinne (talk) 00:09, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
Gell-Mann's threatened lawsuit is interesting and relevant to the article, so perhaps this quote is relevant to the lawsuit. The quote is a fairly mild example of Gell-Mann's remarks about Feynman over the years, perhaps because Feynman took many opportunities of provoking and belittling Gell-Mann. See for example HouseOfChange (talk) 07:12, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
HouseOfChange Just to be clear, I was not suggesting removing the sentence about the threatened lawsuit but rather the sentence that follows it, first mentioned at the beginning of this section. Thank you for the link to the Atlantic article. I just finished reading it, and it was very interesting. I read the Feynman article Richard Feynman several months ago, and I'd have to read it through again carefully to be sure, but I don't see much mention of the intense rivalry that developed between Feynman and Gell-Mann that is covered extensively in the Atlantic article. It seems that Gell-Mann was often frustrated and/or annoyed by Feynman. I'm wondering, if a carefully nuanced mention of this rivalry were inserted here, whether it would make the sentence being discussed in this section more relevant, almost an example/illustration of Gell-Mann's frustration with Feynman. Something like:
  • Gell-Mann was upset by Feyman's account in the book of the weak interaction work, and threatened to sue, resulting in a correction being inserted in later editions. This incident was just the latest provocation in a decades-long intense rivalry between the two scientists. Gell-Mann often expressed frustration at the attention Feynman received; he once remarked, "[Feynman] was a great scientist, but he spent a great deal of his effort generating anecdotes about himself."
I put into italics (just so you would see it) a phrase I would add in the first sentence to make it clear that the account was in the book Surely You're Joking.... I added two sentences after that based on what I read in the Atlantic article. Feel free to change them. If these sentences are added, they might need a reference to the Atlantic article, and I don't know how to add the reference.  – Corinne (talk) 18:35, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
Dear Corinne, I like your suggestion. It is late at night here in Sweden, so if I bungle adding your ideas, please correct me. HouseOfChange (talk) 21:36, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
I think the article is improved by the addition of The Atlantic piece. Anyone in doubt about it can listen to Gell-Mann in the video link. Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:15, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
HouseOfChange I see you added one of the two sentences I suggested, above, but not the other ("Gell-Mann often expressed frustration..."). I think that provides a good introduction to the quote, and I think it is accurate (based on the Atlantic article). I also think "an intense rivalry" is accurate, and "an intense bad feeling" (your wording) is not colloquial. I think their rivalry was both personal and professional. Hawkeye7, I welcome your opinion here. Maybe HouseOfChange was sleepy... ;  – Corinne (talk) 01:31, 17 July 2016 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done Hawkeye7 (talk) 01:43, 17 July 2016 (UTC)

IQ again[edit]

The point of the entry about IQ is that it shows (a) that a "genius" does not necessary have a high IQ; (b) Feynman's disdain for pretentious organisations like Mensa and (c) the sibling rivalry between Dick and Joan. But let's look at what Carroll wrote:

There has been much speculation and writing on the nature of g [IQ]. Spearman believed that g was involved in cognitive operations whenever the individual was required to (a) apprehend experience and think about it, (b) educe or find relations among stimuli, and (c) educe or find correlates. Currently, the general factor is often interpreted as representing the maximal complexity or general difficulty of the tasks that an individual with a given level of g can perform, and hence the amount of conscious mental manipulation required by those tasks (Jensen, 1980, p. 231; Marshalek, Lohman, & Snow, 1983). This is probably not the whole story, however. For one thing, exceptional persons able to perform highly complex arithmetical tasks, such as finding the 23rd root of a 201-digit number, do not always appear to possess particularly high levels of general ability (e.g., Jensen, 1990, with reference to the case of the calculating prodigy Shakuntala Devi). Perhaps this implies that the "complexity" of a task is only in the eye of the beholder. In addition, people with obvious brilliance of intellect do not always make exceptionally high scores on tests of g or IQ. According to his biographer, in high school the brilliant mathematician Richard Feynman's score on the school's IQ test was "a merely respectable 125" (Gleick, 1992, p. 30). It was probably a paper-and-pencil test that had a ceiling, and an IQ of 125 under these circumstances is hardly to be shrugged off, because it is about 1.6 standard deviations above the mean of 100. The general experience of psychologists in applying tests would lead them to expect that Feynman would have made a much higher IQ if he had been properly tested.

It is difficult, however, to draw conclusions about the nature of g from individual cases. The matter can be better considered by analyzing the characteristics of tests that are highly loaded with g. Most such tests involve detailed and complex thinking about similarities, comparisons, the meanings of difficult words and sentences, logical relations and implications, quantitative problems, and the like. Some tests of g also involve background knowledge of a wide variety of relevant principles or facts, as well as the ability to apply those principles or facts to a variety of problems, regardless of their complexity. This could mean that g represents general ability to learn and to apply knowledge. Successful performance of tests of g may also require a large and capable working memory (Carpenter, Just, & Shell, 1990; Kyllonen & Christal, 1989), and ability to choose adequate strategies for solving problems.

I seems to me that this quote from Carroll indicates that the score is accepted as correct. The standard IQ tests are supposed to represent general aptitude, not mathematical aptitude. Given that Feynman was so poor at English, it does not follow that it was an incorrect assessment. I fear that the reader may infer that the score was wrong rather than the underlying concept. Hawkeye7 (talk) 23:11, 15 July 2016 (UTC)

Another caustic comment?[edit]

In the fourth paragraph in the section Richard Feynman#Pedagogy, we read the following sentences:

  • The book was published in 1985 as Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and became a best-seller. Feynman's sexism was on full display.

This last sentence contains a strong judgment about Richard Feynman and the content of his book but does not give any further information. Nowhere else in the article is this discussed. I think if this is a well-known, distinctive characteristic of Feynman, it should be discussed apart from this somewhat of off-hand comment about just one of his many published works, and supported with reliable sources.

Also, the last sentence of this section reads:

  • Many of Feyman's [sic] colleagues were surprised that he took her side; he liked her personally.

(I left in a typo that is there.)

The clause tacked on the end after a semi-colon, "he liked her personally", suggests that the only reason he supported La Belle in her lawsuit against Caltech was that he liked her. I really doubt that that was the only reason he supported her. This clause may be misleading. It also indirectly supports the suggestion in the sentence quoted in my first comment that Feynman was sexist – that he would support a female professor in her bid for tenure merely because he liked her, and not because of her qualifications for the position. If that is the intention of the person who added this to the article, the suggestion should be made more explicit. Otherwise, I think this sentence should either be made clearer or removed.

Also, what is the point of mentioning that Feynman's colleagues were surprised that he took La Belle's side without explaining why they were surprised?

Note that I concentrate on copy-editing articles; I merely point out when things don't make sense. I'll leave it up to other editors to look up sources and/or remove or modify these sentences.  – Corinne (talk) 00:29, 16 July 2016 (UTC)

I fixed the typo. Gleick says:

Feynman, to the surprise and displeasure of some of his humanities colleagues, had taken her side; he had spent many pleasant hours in her office reading aloud such poems as Theodore Roethke's "I knew a Woman"...

According to La Belle:

I met Feynman. I was going to a meeting in Bridge [Laboratory of Physics]—the building that he taught in. I was walking up the stairs, and I heard this voice say, “Come back down the stairs.” And I went back down and said, “Why did you want me to walk down?” and he said, “So I can watch you walk up the stairs again.” I suppose I was wearing a miniskirt, which is what I tended to wear in those days.

The letter that Feynman wrote is reproduced in the interview with La Belle. In part, he wrote:

I have known Jenijoy ever since the very first decisions on her tenure, for she introduced me to literary research and the Huntington Library and the wonders of holding in one’s hand an old book written by Newton. I could appreciate directly how much he knew and how much he didn’t know and what expressions he used that we still use.I will be very sorry to see her leave. Caltech is the loser.

Suggestions for improving the wording are welcome. Hawkeye7 (talk) 04:17, 16 July 2016 (UTC)

How about, instead of "he liked her personally", "he had gotten to know her and both liked and admired her.  – Corinne (talk) 04:46, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
I made a few changes in wording, but did not change the meaning. Thanks to Hawkeye7 for research that added this interesting material, and to Corinne for suggestions on improving the tone. HouseOfChange (talk) 06:55, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
That sounds good. Hawkeye7 (talk) 12:23, 16 July 2016 (UTC)

Recent edit to Caltech years section[edit]

I'm not knowledgeable enough to judge the appropriateness of the addition of this material, but if it is deemed appropriate, I thought I'd point out that it seems a bit repetitious. It repeats the information about his doing the work that led to the Nobel prize. I think only one mention is necessary, either the statement or the quote.  – Corinne (talk) 18:43, 16 July 2016 (UTC)

Why not review the whole article? You know you want to. Face-wink.svg Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:02, 16 July 2016 (UTC)
I removed the repetition. The physics in question is covered in the preceding three paragraphs. Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:04, 16 July 2016 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Richard Feynman/GA2. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Jclemens (talk · contribs) 04:56, 5 August 2016 (UTC)

Rate Attribute Review Comment
1. Well written:
1a. the prose is clear and concise, and the spelling and grammar are correct. Astoundingly good shape, really.
1b. it complies with the manual of style guidelines for lead sections, layout, words to watch, fiction, and list incorporation. No issues noted.
2. Verifiable with no original research:
2a. it contains a list of all references (sources of information), presented in accordance with the layout style guideline. Well cited
2b. all in-line citations are from reliable sources, including those for direct quotations, statistics, published opinion, counter-intuitive or controversial statements that are challenged or likely to be challenged, and contentious material relating to living persons—science-based articles should follow the scientific citation guidelines. No issues identified.
2c. it contains no original research. None identified.
2d. it contains no copyright violations nor plagiarism. Via Earwig's tool, three possible matches were detected; all three were investigated and found to have triggered on longer quotations, properly cited in this article.
3. Broad in its coverage:
3a. it addresses the main aspects of the topic. Yes, appropriate.
3b. it stays focused on the topic without going into unnecessary detail (see summary style). Good.
4. Neutral: it represents viewpoints fairly and without editorial bias, giving due weight to each. Adequately deals with controversies and criticism.
5. Stable: it does not change significantly from day to day because of an ongoing edit war or content dispute. No issues noted.
6. Illustrated, if possible, by images:
6a. images are tagged with their copyright status, and valid fair use rationales are provided for non-free content. The initial portrait has a pretty convoluted rationale, but as I parse it it should be fine.
6b. images are relevant to the topic, and have suitable captions. Fine.
7. Overall assessment. A rare "first pass" pass from me, I see no reason for this not to have already been recognized as a good article.

First read through[edit]

  • "née" isn't a common way I've seen a mother's maiden name referenced in other biographical articles.

Wow, other than that, the text is in really good shape. The fact that this was a former FA is pretty obvious. Jclemens (talk) 05:45, 5 August 2016 (UTC)