The man in your everyday life

Published on 26 October 2018

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman giving a lecture to students in 1963. (Image: Caltech Archives)

By Amanda Wong

Say hello to Dr Richard Feynman, who has been a part of your everyday life.

It is to him that you owe a debt to, for everyday conveniences, from the barcode scanner at the supermarket, to your home’s fibre broadband connection, and the Google Maps app on your smartphone.

The late American theoretical physicist, who worked on the atomic bomb in the early part of his career, received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his breakthroughs in quantum mechanics — the basis of modern physics, and many technological advances today.

But for the man-in-the-street, who like myself, cannot tell a photon from a Pringle, Dr Feynman hardly means anything. That, however, might change.

The ArtScience Museum’s latest exhibition, All Possible Paths: Richard Feynman’s Curious Life, offers a view of the man as an inspiration to the yolo generation – someone who lived life to the fullest.

Richard Feynman, in 1956, with his bongo drums. (Image: Caltech Archives)

Not only was Dr Feynman passionate about science, he also had an insatiable curiosity about art and music. He painted and played the bongo drums, and his beloved drums and paintings are in the exhibition.

His highly visual way of thinking is also demonstrated in his uncanny ability to explain abstract concepts in fun and simple ways. One example is the Feynman Diagrams, which he drew as a visualisation of a series of complex equations relating to the behaviour of sub-atomic particles in nature. The diagrams appear in the exhibition as elegant, geometric stainless-steel sculptures by the artist Edward Tufte.

Stainless-steel Feynman Diagrams by artist Edward Tufte. (Photo: Amanda Wong)

Other works of art in the exhibition, which explore the application of quantum physics, include wave is my nature. The hypnotic installation, comprising LED strips that move in wave-like patterns, is by Russian artist Dmitry Morozov, who goes by the name ::vtol::. The work is inspired by Feynman’s theory on the movement of light.

wave is my nature by Russian artist :vtol::. (Image: Marina Bay Sands)

Indeed, the exhibition’s use of art and visuals to shed light on Dr Feynman’s life, and to explain abstract physics theories, makes the genius and his scientific discoveries seem less daunting, if not altogether mesmerising.

And that name Feynman? Your brain will now light up at its mention.

 

For more information on the exhibition, All Possible Paths: Richard Feynman’s Curious Life, click here.

Scroll Up
X