Do you know the equation for the relationship between spin and wobble for a thrown disc? No? Don’t worry, I don’t either. But there’s an interesting story and valuable lesson to learn from all that information… and no, there’s no math involved.
Dr. Feynman’s gaze was transfixed. A student in the Cornell University cafeteria was tossing a plate in the air with a slight spin, and to Feynman’s amazement, the wobble was consistent. It’s important to note that Dr. Feynman was amazed because he was a theoretical physicist, as no typical person would be so fascinated with a plate wobbling.
Feynman went to work and, for months, dedicated himself to the task of discovering an equation that would explain this quirky phenomenon… he was determined to find the mathematical reason for the wobble. And he did! He excitedly showed his colleague Hans Bethe who remarked, “That’s interesting, Feynman, but what’s the importance of it?”
Feynman’s reply, “It has no importance; it’s just fun!”
That’s right. For Feynman, it was a serious, number-crunching, time-consuming, equation-hunting exploration. Beyond that, it was not good for anything else. Except for this simple truth, he enjoyed the endeavor. He was having fun working this out.
In his book Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, Alan Alda writes about his fascination with Feynman. In discovering the story about the curious Dr. Feynman, Alda spent seven years of his life (not his original intent) writing a play about the good physicist. The result was the wonderful Broadway play QED, which captured the essence of the bongo-playing, story-telling professor. But it wasn’t just the performance of the play that gave Alda great satisfaction. As it turned out, “looking for Feynman has been the fun.”
As you rush towards the conclusion of a meeting or head down the road to make it home, make sure you take a little time to enjoy the journey and view the world around you. Give yourself time to look, play—and have a little fun.