Friday, May 11, 2018

Richard Feynman (1918-1988)

When I took cryptography from Manuel Blum, he handed out copies of the chapter "Safecracker Meets Safecracker" from Richard Feynman's book Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman. Feynman, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who was born a hundred years ago today, wrote this book not about physics but just a series of stories from different times in his life. This chapter described how Feynman learned how to open locked safes in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.

We all have interesting stories to tell but Feynman finds a way to keep things compelling in a way most scientists could not--even if he sometimes comes off being a bit of a jerk, hence the title. This book inspired me to tell my own stories which occasionally show up in this blog.

His most important stories form The Feynman Lectures on Physics (free to read online), an amazing explanation of deep physical concepts.

Richard Feynman's biggest contribution to theoretical computer science comes from a 1981 keynote address.
What kind of computer are we going to use to simulate physics? The full description of quantum mechanics for a large system cannot be simulated with a normal computer. And therefore, the problem is, how can we simulate the quantum mechanics? Can you do it with a new kind of computer—a quantum computer?
which begat a proof-of-concept paper by David Deutsch and Richard Jozsa which begat Daniel Simon's exponential separation which begat Peter Shor's factoring algorithm which begat billions of research dollars and considerable expectations, real and imagined, for Feynman's vision.

1 comment:

  1. Without doubt, the best science writer (among several very good ones) I have had the fortune of experiencing. His writing is always focused on cutting out any BS and sticking to elementary, direct and well-founded formulations. He is a true inspiration to us today, not only for his incredible scientific mind but for his power of clear and concise explanation. I hope his approach will inspire many many generations to come.