Friday, January 07, 2005

QED Play

Just came back from a theatrical play, QED. I'm a huge fan of Feynman, and this is a play that was written about him after his death in 1988. I have most of his books (and most of the books about him) I've seen the movie about him (sucks) and I was dissapointed to find out that the play in NY has been discontinued. But them I come to Greece and find out that s few people decided to produce the play here, so yesterday I found out about it and today I saw it.

There is only one actor, Feynman, who is discussing about his life and his thoughts during one of his last days before he died. The set is his Caltech office, very nice with 8 blackboards full of his equations! I am amazed that they found an actor that looks very much like Feynman, and he had a sincere interest in Physics. Although I knew most of the stories already it was quite enjoyable; 2 hours went by with one man talking on his own, that was amazing. They included a lot of physics, probably more than in any other movie or play i've seen. I even cried a little bit when they did the story about the rotating plate at Cornell, it was the first time I fully understood it...

Feynman was very depressed at some point in Cornell because he didn't enjoy what he was working on. And one evening at the cafeteria, someone threw a plate in the air. And the plate was rotating in two directions, both around its axis and up and down (it's hard to visualize). He noticed that the first rotation frequency was different than the other, and he workd out some equations only to find out that the frequency ratio was exactly 2:1. All excited he went to his advisor and told him about it, and he responded "That is cool, but how is this useful?" And Feynman said it was just for fun. Than insignificant incident reminded him that physics was fun, and he must start doing stuff he found fun. He then went to Caltech and had a brilliant career, because he enjoyed what he was doing. Not only that, but his work on that rotating plate inspired him indirectly on some ideas on electron wavefunctions, a work that evolved into his nobel prize a few years later.

So two things I learned: 1. Always do what you enjoy and 2. The most stupid useless thing might become of importance one day. This is why I hate when people ask "why is this useful?" You can never know, god damn it! Just do what you like most! And the QED play reminded me of that, so now I can go to sleep in a sane state of mind.