Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman recounts the experiences of Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist with endless stories of academic and non-academic adventures. From helping to build the atomic bomb to becoming a master safe cracker to learning to play the bongo drums.

There’s a huge breadth of stuff in here, and it's all well-told, intelligent, and curiosity-provoking. These are the excerpts that stood out to me in particular:


  • They were completely comfortable with each other. It was my problem to be comfortable. It was a wonderful experience.
  • I was always dumb in that way. I never knew who I was talking to. I was always worried about the physics. If the idea looked lousy, I said it looked lousy. If it looked good, I said it looked good. Simple proposition.
  • Nothing happens because there’s not enough real activity and challenge: You’re not in contact with the experimental guys. You don’t have to think how to answer questions from the students. Nothing!
  • It was a brilliant idea: You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.
  • When you’re young, you have all these things to worry about—should you go there, what about your mother. And you worry, and try to decide, but then something else comes up. It’s much easier to just plain decide. Never mind—nothing is going to change your mind.
  • What I’ve always wanted to do would be bad for me, so I’ve decided that I can’t accept your offer.
  • “No,” she said, “what you mean is not that you can’t understand it, but that you didn’t invent it. You didn’t figure it out your own way, from hearing the clue. What you should do is imagine you’re a student again, and take this paper upstairs, read every line of it, and check the equations. Then you’ll understand it very easily.”

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to get future ones like it delivered straight to your inbox. If Twitter is more your speed, you can follow me there as well. 🔥