Thanks to Karen Edminsten for hosting this week.
Have you ever played the game where you pick three people living or dead for a dream dinner party?
The first person on my list would be the (sadly deceased) theoretical physicist Richard Feynman. I’ve been fascinated by him ever since reading his book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman!”, a semi-autobiographical memoir.
He wrote and read this poem as part of an speech given to the National Academy of Sciences (in 1955!).
There are the rushing waves mountains of molecules each stupidly minding its own business trillions apart yet forming white surf in unison Ages on ages before any eyes could see year after year thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what? On a dead planet with no life to entertain. Never at rest tortured by energy wasted prodigiously by the Sun poured into space. A mite makes the sea roar. Deep in the sea all molecules repeat the patterns of one another till complex new ones are formed. They make others like themselves and a new dance starts. Growing in size and complexity living things masses of atoms DNA, protein dancing a pattern ever more intricate. Out of the cradle onto dry land here it is standing: atoms with consciousness; matter with curiosity. Stands at the sea, wonders at wondering: I a universe of atoms an atom in the Universe.
Bonus clip – this video of actor Oscar Isaac (swoon!) reading Richard Feynman’s letter to his first wife, written after she died from tuberculosis at age 25. The letter remained unopened and unread by anyone else until after Feynman’s own death in 1988.
Written by Richard P Feynman
Published by WW Norton & Co