Remarkable stories among the pervasive onslaught of yackety-yack

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  • Four video lectures by Feynman explaining the basics of quantum electrodynamics (theory of photons, electrons, vacuum) at a level accessible to high-school students. I watched these a few years ago, and I still remember the impact. This was the point at which my view of what photons and electrons mean to physicists today turned from a confused pile of inconsistent and partially outdated ideas into a coherent story. Given the controversies, jargon and gibberish on Physics Stack Exchange, you may assume that humanity's current understanding of the universe is in a state of flux. But watching Feynman, you'll see that the wisdom of the crowds doesn't work in this case. Luckily somebody thought to invite him to straighten things out and recorded the lectures. By the way, even though this is almost forty years old, nothing in these lectures has been superseded.


  • Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine by Daniel Hillis. I was quite a bit surprised when Feynman appeared in this fascinating chapter of the history of AI research. (Later, I was reading recollections about perhaps the proudest development in Soviet physics — superfluidity — and was again surprised, but not as much this time, when Feynman appeared on those pages too, revolutionising that field on his way from the bomb to QED.) By the way, the Connection Machine's architecture inspired the design of "Miles Dyson"'s "chip" in Terminator 2: Judgment Day[1] (which looks like a hypercube; still relevant, as a lot of contemporary supercomputers in 2015 use a high-dimensional torus interconnect, which is almost the same thing).


  • Stephen Wolfram's memories about working with Feynman. I keep wondering what it is about certain people's use of the 24 hours that makes them orders of magnitude more effective than other full-time experts. Depending on whom you read, Feynman was either drumming all day, starting from before getting out of bed and including while taking a bath, or solving integral equations all day, including while driving. Or a superposition of the two.



  • The Unravelling of the Real 3D Mandelbulb. A three-dimensional object inspired by the Mandelbrot set, discovered after a few false trails. But the main take-away from this page is not the 3D fractal — as there's no shortage of such things — but how proper rendering, with light sources and shadows, can make incredible beauty out of a big mess.

References

  1. T2 and Technology by Larry Yaeger, consultant on the movie