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Talking physics with Feynman: path integrals


An educational road trip with Richard Feynman
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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Then I had an offer, because there was an interval of a couple of weeks between Cornell and Michigan, and Feynman happened to be driving from Cleveland to Albuquerque and he offered to take me for a ride just to see the country, and the Commonwealth Fund wanted me to do that, and so that was fine. So I took a bus to Cleveland and Feynman picked me up there, and then from Cleveland we drove then all across the country to Albuquerque, which of course in those days was much more an adventure than it is now. It was all country roads and going through small towns and seeing the real life, instead of superhighways. So it was a great ride. We got marooned in a huge rain storm in Oklahoma and spent a night in a more or less brothel in which Feynman managed to get us a room, because, I mean, the whole place was completely crowded with people who were stuck because of the rain, so all the hotels were full. And Feynman found this wonderful place which only cost 50 cents a night! So we spent a very restless night there with the strange noises going on outside.

[Q] It's part of life...

Yes. So I saw a lot. It was a great time. And during the day we took hitchhikers, which in those days were very much part of the scene, so we always had company going on... going across.

[Q] So it was four days of Feynman?

Yes. So Feynman talked about all kinds of things, so I heard about his wife who had died, and about his views about life in general and especially about nuclear bombs. He had very strong views about nuclear bombs and he thought we were all going to get blown up with nuclear bombs. He didn't see much hope that the world would not get destroyed and it was just a question of when. But he was never gloomy, he always just had this very cheerful attitude that, 'Well, it's going to be pretty bad but one way or another we'll come through.'

Freeman Dyson (1923-2020), who was born in England, moved to Cornell University after graduating from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics. He subsequently became a professor and worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology. He published several books and, among other honours, was awarded the Heineman Prize and the Royal Society's Hughes Medal.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Cornell University, Michigan University, Cleveland, Albuquerque, Commonwealth Foundation, Oklahoma, Richard Feynman

Duration: 2 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008