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from The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

James Glieck wrote a masterful biography of eccentric and brilliant particle physicist Richard Feynman: highly recommended for folks who love science and are curious about how we came to understand (as much as we do!) the way sub-atomic particles behave. 

I found several delicious quotes; here are three. 

“Yet when Einstein doubted that God played dice with the world, or when he uttered phrases like the one later inscribed in the stone of Fine Hall at Princeton, 'The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not,' the great man was playing a delicate game with language.” [p58]

“Could God make atoms so flawed that they could break? Could God make atoms so perfect that they would defy His power to break them? It was only one of the difficulties thrown up by God's omnipotence, even before relativity placed a precise upper limit on velocity and before quantum mechanics placed a precise upper limit on certainty.” [ p59]

Feynman was deeply in love with his childhood romance Arline, who became his wife after she was already in steep decline from tuberculosis. She lived (and died) in a sanitorium in Albuquerque while Feynman was a group leader at Los Alamos in the run-up to Trinity, the first atomic bomb test, and they were only able to get together on weekends, so their marriage, such as it was, took place by letter (and through the military censors.) 

Two years after she died, Feynman wrote her a final letter:

   I adore you, sweetheart. 
   I know how much you like to hear that – but I don't only write it because you like it – I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you. 
   It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you – almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; & I thought there was no sense to writing. 
   But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.
   I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead – but I still want to comfort and take care of you – and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you – I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that together. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together – or learn Chinese – or getting a movie projector. Can't I do something now. No. I am alone without you and you were my 'idea woman' and general instigator of all our wild adventures. . .

He wrote two more paragraphs in this vein, and concluded,

   My darling wife, I do adore you.
   I love my wife. My wife is dead.
   P.S. Please excuse my not mailing this – but I don't know your new address.

Gleick follows with this: 'That he had written such a letter to the woman he loved, two years after her death, could never become part of the iconography of Feynman, the collection of stories and images that was already beginning to follow him about. The letter went into an envelope, the envelope into a box. It was not read again until after his death.' [p221-2]