A great autobiography: Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman!
If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?
All things are made out of atoms, little particles that move around, are in perpetual motion, attract each other when they're some distance apart but repel being squeezed into one another
David Deautsh story on how quickly Feynman reached same conclusions that Deautsh was developing for months
SH:Who’s your vote for the smartest person who has ever lived? If we had to put up one human brain, past or present, to dialogue with the aliens, who would you say would be our best candidate to field? ...
DD: ... I think it probably has to be Feynman. Although his achievements in physics are nowhere near those of, say, Einstein. I met him only once, and people were saying to me, “You’ll have heard a lot of stories about Feynman, but he’s only human.” Well, to cut a long story short, I went and met him, and the stories were all true. He was an absolutely amazing intellect ... I was sent to meet him by my boss when I was just beginning to develop the ideas of quantum computation, and I had constructed what we would today call a quantum algorithm—a very, very simple one. It’s called the Deutsch algorithm. It’s not much by today’s standards, but I had been working on this for many months.
I started telling him about quantum computers. He was very quick, he was very interested, and then he said, “So what can these computers do?” I said, “Well, I’ve been working on a quantum algorithm.” And he said, “What?” So I began to tell him about it. I said, “Supposing you had a superposition of two different initial states.” He said, “Well, then you just get random numbers.” And I said, “Yes, but supposing you then do an interference experiment.” I started to continue, and he said, “No, no, stop, stop. Let me work it out.” And he rushed over to the blackboard and he produced my algorithm with almost no hint of where it was going.
SH: So how much work did that represent? How much work did he recapitulate standing at the blackboard?
DD: I don’t know, because it’s hard to say how much of a clue the few words I said were. But the crude measure is a few months. A better measure is that I was flabbergasted. I had never seen anything like this before, and I had been interacting with some extremely smart people.