Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster and People Think

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"What Do You Care What Other People Think?"
Further Adventures of a Curious Character Richard P. Feynman as told to Ralph Leighton

Preface A CURIOUS CHARACTER The Making of a Scientist "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" It's as Simple as One, Two, Three . . . Getting Ahead Hotel City Who the Hell Is Herman? Feynman Sexist Pig! I Just Shook His Hand, Can You Believe It? Letters, Photos, and Drawings MR. FEYNMAN GOES TO WASHINGTON: INVESTIGATING THE SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER DISASTER Preliminaries Committing Suicide The Cold Facts Check Six! Gumshoes Fantastic Figures An Inflamed Appendix The Tenth Recommendation Meet the Press Afterthoughts Appendix F: Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle 11 11 20 54 60 63 69 72 76 83 Part 2 Part 1

Contents

113 113 116 119 154 159 177 189 199 206 212 220

6
EPILOGUE Preface The Value of Science
239 239 240

Contents BECAUSE of the appearance of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" a few things need to be explained here. First, although the central character in this book is the same as before, the "adventures of a curious character" here are different: some are light and some tragic, but most of the time Mr. Feynman is surely not joking—although it's often hard to tell. Second, the stories in this book fit together more loosely than those in "Surely You're Joking . . . ," where they were arranged chronologically to give a semblance of order. (That resulted in some readers getting the mistaken idea that SYJ is an autobiography.) My motivation is simple: ever since hearing my first Feynman stories, I have had the powerful desire to share them with others. Finally, most of these stories were not told at drumming sessions, as before. I will elaborate on this in the brief outline that follows. Part 1, "A Curious Character," begins by describing the influence of those who most shaped Feynman's personality—his father, Mel, and his first love, Arlene. The first story was adapted from "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out," a BBC program produced by Christopher Sykes. The story of Arlene, from which the title of this book was taken, was painful for Feynman to recount. It was assembled over

Index

249

Preface

8

Preface

the past ten years out of pieces from six different stories. When it was finally complete, Feynman was especially fond of this story, and happy to share it with others. The other Feynman stories in Part 1, although generally lighter in tone, are included here because there won't be a second volume of SYJ. Feynman was particularly proud of "It's as Simple as One, Two, Three," which he occasionally thought of writing up as a psychology paper. The letters in the last chapter of Part 1 have been provided courtesy of Gweneth Feynman, Freeman Dyson, and Henry Bethe. Part 2, "Mr. Feynman Goes to Washington," is, unfortunately, Feynman's last big adventure. The story is particularly long because its content is still timely. (Shorter versions have appeared in Engineering and Science and Physics Today.) It was not published sooner because Feynman underwent his third and fourth major surgeries—plus radiation, hyperthermia, and other treatments—since serving on the Rogers Commission. Feynman's decade-long battle against cancer ended on February 15, 1988, two weeks after he taught his last class at Caltech. I decided to include one of his most eloquent and inspirational speeches, "The Value of Science," as an epilogue. Ralph Leighton March 1988

'WhatDoYiu Care What Other People Think?"

IN THIS STORY I'm going to talk a lot about NASA,* but when I say "NASA did this" and "NASA did that," I don't mean all of NASA; I just mean that part of NASA associated with the shuttle. To remind you about the shuttle, the large central part is the tank, which holds the fuel: liquid oxygen is at the top, and liquid hydrogen is in the main part. The engines which burn that fuel are at the back end of the...
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