Surely, Feynman fixed radios by thinking

By | April 10, 2016

You want to learn more about science and logic in a fun way? Then you should meet Feynman.

I did not know much about him until 5 years ago, when I found a Ted talk with Leonard Susskind speaking about Feynman in a way that totally got my interest.

After watching the talk, I immediately started looking for some information about the guy, read lots of articles abouth his life and his work, watched a dozen videos with him speaking and then bought his book, “Surely, you’re joking Mr. Feynman”.

Getting to know Feynman through his own words is like a rollercoaster. You see him as a scientist, an artist, a lover, a burglar or just a guy who repairs stuff just by thinking about it.

Yeah, you got that right… In his book he mentions one episode from his youth, when he got asked by someone to fix a radio which made a disturbing noise when turned on. He was about 12 years old at the time.

On the road to this guy’s house, he was asked:

“Do you know anything about radios? How do you know about radios? You’re just a little boy!”

Of course, Feynman didn’t pay too much attention on this lack of distrust. He was just eager to fix the radio. So, he arrived at the guy’s house, heard the problem and then started walking back and forth, thinking.

The “client” sat there next to him and asked:

“What are you doing? You came to fix the radio, but you’re only walking back and forth!”

Feynman replied: “I’m thinking!”

This is something that defined Feynman. Thinking before solving a problem. With this radio issue per example, while walking back and forth around the room, he was thinking about other similar problems that he had encountered before, then tried to understand the logic behind the phenomenon that’s causing the noise.

When he thought he understood what was going on, Feynman sat down next to the radio, grabbed his tools and fixed it.

Now, there’s no wonder that the owner of the radio was so amazed by how this little kid solved his problem, that he started telling everybody in town that Feynman is a genius who – “fixes radios by thinking!”

Leaving aside the fun part of the story, what Feynman did is something we all should apply when facing a problem.

  1. Analyze the problem with attention. Get as many details about it as we can and understand the process behind it;
  2. ┬áThink about similar problems we’ve faced before. Find connections;
  3. Try to use our experience in finding both the problem and the solution;
  4.  Develop the solution roadmap. Not just one, but many. Then, figure out which one is best;
  5. Apply the solution. If it doesn’t work, get back to number 1.
Show this to your friends

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *