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Freeman Dyson on J. Robert Oppenheimer

by Michael Nielsen on September 24, 2003

[…] we can see the nature of the flaw which made his life ultimately tragic. His flaw was restlestness, an inborn inability to be idle. Intervals of idleness are probably essential to creative work on the highest level. Shakespeare, we are told, was habitually idle between plays. Oppenheimer was hardly ever idle.

– in the essay “Oppenheimer”, reprinted in “From Eros to Gaia”.

From → General

  1. So what you’re saying is…it’s all right for grad students to goof off once in a while?

    I most heartily agree.

  2. Whatsmore, it may actually be good for your research. (Not to mention your sanity.)

  3. We can also wonder what Oppi would have done if he had not been (a) hounded for his communist affiliations, (b) put in a high administrative position in the Manhattan project, and (c) devastated by the nuclear genie he had unleashed. Just think if all of that time he must have spent (and I think at least post a-bomb he wanted it this way) on politics was used instead to simply do physics! Dyson had the luxury to be still, but did Oppi? Also his becoming such a distinguished physicist at such a young age…and one so well respected that a “school” of students flocked to him…this also seems to be a big load which if lightened could have led to greater results.

  4. Michael Nielsen permalink

    uh… hi, as you can see, my name is Michael Nielsen and i just saw your name in a search engine Michael, and i was just wondering whether your sir name had anything to do with mine or my family. so if you would like to drop me a line, i would really appreciate it, jsut to chat with you.
    Thanks alot.

    Sorry for disturbing what appears to be a meaninful discussion

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