Richard Feynman is not only one of the greatest physicists of the last century, but also one of the most charismatic personalities. Feynman, besides his achievements in theoretical physics, was a passionate drummer, a practical prankster, a great educator and a relentless optimist. So, given that everybody enjoys a good Feynman story, here are 10 fun facts that you probably did not know about Richard Feynman.
1. Feynman was an art lover
In later years of his life Feynman expressed regret for ignoring other fields of interest besides science when he was younger. This lead him to the discovery of another passion — painting. He used to sign his paintings using the pseudonym “Ofey”.
2. Feynman loved travelling to Brazil
Probably the favourite travel destinations of the great physicist was Brazil. When travelling in Brazil he taught physics courses, learned to play an instrument called frigideira and participated in a samba school.
3. Feynman tried acting
Believe it or not, Feynman had a minor role in a movie called Anti-Clock where he played a professor.
Her name was Joan Feynman and she, among other things, studied the physics of the Sun. During her graduate years she took a year-off at Guatemala to study the anthropology of the Maya people.
5. Feynman cracked safes for fun
When the young Richard Feynman got bored in the remote New Mexico desert, where he was working on the Manhattan project, he found another hobby — cracking safes. Eventually he became so good, he could open nearly every cabinet containing secret documents. For a fun discussion of this neat story check out this great video from Numberphile.
6. Feynman said he had synaesthesia
Feynman is recorded of saying that in certain equations he would see certain letters in colour. This is known as synaesthesia — a phenomenon when stimulating one sense affects the other senses.
7. Feynman had a dream of visiting the distant land of Tuva
One of Feynman’s biggest dreams in his later life was visiting the exotic land of Tuva. Unfortunately, due to the difficult political situation between the US and the Soviet Union, this dream never came true. Only after his death an approval for visit arrived through mail.
When working at Caltech Feynman would often spend his time at nude bars where he would write physics equations or draw sketches on the paper placemats.
9. Feynman had a van decorated in his famous diagrams
Back in 1975 the great physicist bought a Dodge Tradesman Maxivan and registered personalized license plates saying “quantum”. He would often use the van for family trips to the wild.
10. Feynman played the leading role in the investigation of the Challenger disaster
The Challenger disaster occurred in 1986 when the mentioned spacecraft broke apart 73 seconds after lift off. Feynman, as one of the scientists responsible for investigating the causes of the disaster, played a major role in demonstrating that the O-rings used for covering the factory joints of the spacecraft were not tested in cold temperatures, which turned out to be the major cause for the tragedy.