Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman

Feynman is one of the brightest physicists of the 20th century who also happened to be a talented lecturer and an author of a book which is fun to read. Here are some excerpts from “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” that I found interesting:

Surely, You're Joking, Mr. Feynman - book review & quotes

On freedom:

So I have just one wish for you–the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel heed by a need to maintain your position In the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.

Isn’t it a modern luxury that very few of us can afford?


On pointless communication

When it came time to evaluate the conference at the end, the others told how much they got out of it, how successful it was, and so on. When they asked me, I said, “This conference was worse than a Rorschach test: There’s a meaningless inkblot, and the others ask you what you think you see, but when you tell them, they start arguing with you!


On mindfulness and watching your thoughts become dreams:

I also noticed that as you go to sleep the ideas continue, but they become less and less logically interconnected. You don’t notice that they’re not logically connected until you ask yourself, “What made me think of that?” and you try to work your way back, and often you can’t remember what the hell did make you think of that!

So you get every illusion of logical connection, but the actual fact is that the thoughts become more and more cockeyed until they’re completely disjointed, and beyond that, you fall asleep.

After four weeks of sleeping all the time, I wrote my theme, and explained the observations I had made. At the end of the theme I pointed out that all of these observations were made while I was watching myself fall asleep, and I don’t really know what it’s like to fall asleep when I’m not watching myself. I concluded the theme with a little verse I made up, which pointed out this problem of introspection:

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Superfreakonomics review

Book with a stupid name Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner appeared to be quite surprisingly interesting and was listened on my way to work and back home in a week or so. I would probably even say that the sequel is better than the first book – Freakonomics.

Authors position themselves as economists doing research into non-conventional topics. However, I feel that it would be more appropriate to say that book is in the sociology field. Yes, individual & group level economics is often discussed, usually through the prism of decision-making. But in overall it’s more about psychology.

Topics covered are global warming (or cooling?) & ecology, technological & scientific breakthroughs, economics of prostitution, algorithmic search for potential terrorists based on banking activity and human altruism which is covered in more details in video below. In other words, as authors confess themselves, there is no uniting topic.


Superfreakonomics is full of curious facts. For instance, you have statistically higher chances to get into trouble if you walk home drunk then if you drive home drunk.

All topics are presented as stories revolving around particular characters and therefore easily digested. One of the main lessons sounds quite banal and generic: “people respond to incentives, sometimes unpredictably”. However, we forget about it more often than we’d like to think.

You might use this RSA video made from co-author’s speech as a trailer of some sort:

Update 2010.09.22: It turns out they make a movie based on the first book! Trailer is below:

How to get Ivy league education online for free: the best internet resources and video courses for distance learning

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
~ Socrates

Why even think of educational online courses?

In my opinion, full freedom implies self-improvement and the ability to learn new things every day. And you know what? I don’t really think that joining the university is absolutely the best way to do it.

I guess I’m not the only one here who has a feeling that education in the traditional meaning of this word is dying in the 21st Century. Sounds like a bold statement, but it’s true. Even now, in 2010 amount of the information available for free is unbelievable. And it’s increasing exponentially. If you still have doubts I recommend you to watch this truly amazing video:

I’m not sure about you, but it definitely made me think a lot. Old traditional universities with big names won’t disappear overnight, of course not. Degree is still the best available indicator of credibility, top universities still have an opportunity to provide their students with the wide range of various subjects and classes. The point is if you worry about practical knowledge more than about degree and credits there are some alternatives available for you. Probably, you just don’t have that much time to spend on educating yourself in a traditional way or probably you don’t want to settle down in one place for a few years?

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