A Little April Fool's Stuff

Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which “are” there. — Richard Feynman

Friday nights at D.G. Wills bookstore in La Jolla was the subject of the first “TGIF” back in September of 1999, about the kind of heels-up-on-the-cracker-barrel kind of wonderfully smart bullshit sessions there every week. One could hear some of Ted Burke’s genuinely good poetry readings and fine harmonica workings. Stuff like that. Here it is almost 12 years later, and this Friday night one can hear the well-loved-by-many, 92-year-old Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman’s voice, a little fainter than it once was, but still cool, precise, and quick with a joke, in the same setting. That bookstore and Dennis Wills himself are among the very real reasons it is worth living in San Diego. I haven’t been there recently, but it is just good to know that it is nearby.

All right — heh-heh — a little April Fool’s stuff. I am, I guess, a little wacky that way. But here’s the thing: “Internationally renowned theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss will discuss his new book, Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science, Friday, April 1, 7 p.m., 7461 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, Ca. 92037 (858)456-1800. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Here Lawrence M. Krauss, himself a theoretical physicist and best-selling author, offers a unique scientific biography: a rollicking narrative coupled with clear and novel expositions of science at the limits…” (D.G. Wills online)

Cribbing again from Wikipedia, “Richard Feynman: (May 11, 1918–February 15, 1988) was an American physicist known for his work in 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 in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He 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, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing and introducing the concept of nanotechnology.”

“I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb.” — Richard Feynman

I will try to get there, and I suggest it to readers here as well. The combination of the subject matter, the setting, and characters involved promise to be lively stuff any way you cut it.

As for April Fool stuff, I do have an appreciation of good ones, which are rare. One of the best that springs immediately to mind was in these pages back in, I think, 1990. It was in the music section, and John D’Agostino wrote it. It concerned certain leaked facts from Apple Music and some other vague sources about a proposed three-man Beatles reunion at, I think, the Atlantis on Mission Bay. Anyway, he had me absolutely for well over 1000 words, as I remember it. How he maintained verisimilitude at such length is both admirable and embarrassing to me. Gullibility is such a personal bette noir. I could barely keep up the riotous fun for the opening two paragraphs here or keep my ten-year-old son convinced for more than five minutes that we had won the lottery.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feynman

Among my favorites, too: “When things are going well, something will go wrong. When things just can’t get any worse, they will. Anytime things appear to be going better, you have overlooked something.” This seems so true so often. It is not just me; I’m off the hook.

As to why the subject of Dr. Feynman seems so appropriate for April Fool’s, though his work was not comedy, is this from About.com/Physics: “As a young man, just having received his Ph.D. from Princeton, Feynman was part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. As a junior researcher on the project, he was primarily focusing on administration of the ‘human computers’ in the theoretical division. Out of isolation and boredom, Feynman was known around the project as something of a practical joker...which at times was inappropriate, given the sensitive and classified nature of the work.”

Feynman influenced deeply the work of Dr. Mark O. Martin, my good friend teaching microbiology in Tacoma, Washington, these days. Martin is one of the smartest and most wickedly funny men I know. His humor, too, is no joke.

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