Challenger Investigation and Richard Feynman, #Books, #Nostalgia.

I am re reading (tending to infinity) the book by Richard P Feynman – “What do you care what other people think“. I might have read it more than 25 times till now the book and every time I read, I am fascinated by him and his style. More than anything, his tongue in cheek humor is what made this Nobel Prize winner, into an author with a serious fan following.

One interesting fact, Feynman was the  theoretical physicist on Project Manhattan ( the team that produced the first atom bombs).

When he was asked to be part of the investigation of the causes into the accident of the space shuttle Challenger, he wants to back out of it. He asks his wife’s opinion and here I am quoting verbatim her reply as recorded in the book.

The commission doing the investigation had twelve people on it read on an insight into how they work.

“There will be twelve people, all in a group, going around from place to place together. But if you(Feynman) join the commission, there will be eleven people – all in a group, going around from place to place together – while the twelfth one runs around all over the place, checking all kinds of unusual things. There probably won’t be anything, but if there is, you’ll find it. There isn’t anyone else who can do that like you can”.

Nothing much changed regarding commissions since then. I can still see the same patterns in organizations even today. Unless there is someone like Feynman who will go around all over place asking all sorts of questions, proper or not, the commissions generally take a long time to come to any conclusion.

The way the media was handled and how hungry they are for news worthy items is very well described. He reveals dramatically the reason for the crash in the news conference.

I read this book first time when I was in college. I enjoy reading his books and about him even today. There are many brilliant scientists but a scientist who can write well and with such tongue in cheek humor is a rarity. Read the book, laugh out loud and let me know what you think of it.


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