This is not directly related to computers but it’s a nice thing to know about.
Bill Gates announced today that he has made a classic series of lectures by Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman available online for free on the Microsoft Research web site.
Richard Feynman was one of the world’s truly interesting people. From Wikipedia:
Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, together with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. Feynman developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime and after his death, Feynman became one of the most publicly known scientists in the world.
He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb and was a member of the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing, and introducing the concept of nanotechnology (creation of devices at the molecular scale). He held the Richard Chace Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at Caltech.
. . . He was also known as a prankster, juggler, safecracker, and a proud amateur painter and bongo player. Richard Feynman was regarded as an eccentric and a free spirit. He liked to pursue multiple, seemingly unrelated, paths, such as biology, art, percussion, Maya hieroglyphs, and lock picking.
Many anecdotes told by Feynman about his life and adventures were collected into Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, a wonderful and quite hilarious book which is more concerned with personal stories than physics or math. Highly recommended!
The lectures posted online under the name “Project Tuva” were delivered at Cornell in 1964. I’m off to listen now; I anticipate relatively deep and difficult content but delivered in a lively and humorous style. Bill Gates has made them available for no particular reason except fond memories of hearing them years ago and a feeling that it is the right thing to do, according to this interview. He may follow up with more historical lectures in other disciplines, trying to help people discover that science can be fun and inspiring.
Oh, and the reference to Tuva is sly. In later years Feynman became interested in traveling to Tuva, deep in Siberia. Although he never made it, his friend Ralph Leighton traveled there after Feynman’s death and wrote his own entertaining book about Feynman’s obsession and their adventures. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Tuvan throat singers.