How to Crack Safes with the Power of the Mind The Manhattan Project Science Vs. the Military
Today it’s time for a change. Instead of focusing on stupidity, I’m starting a new, regular section--Smart People, which will focus on intelligent individuals who have added to the dignity and glory of humanity.
This first instalment features the scientist Richard Feynman. As well as contributing to the development of modern Quantum Theory, Feynman also found time for a host of other extracurricular activities...
"Pompous fools--guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus--THAT, I CANNOT STAND!…An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible."
So said Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century. Throughout his life he had tried to add to Mankind’s store of knowledge, practical knowledge about this universe we live in. And time and time again he had come into conflict with pompous fools-people who knew little or nothing, but pretended to have the answer to everything.
Feynman was one of the originators of modern quantum theory, a theory which looks at the physics of the universe below the atomic level. It’s a place where things get a little weird, but Feynman brought the light of genius to a field which had been plagued by lack of clear understanding.
Before that he worked on the Atomic Bomb project at Los Alamos, during which he developed a talent for safe-cracking, a practice which required more psychology than it did nimble fingers, despite what you may think from watching Hollywood movies.
To his great surprise Feynman learned that most Los Alamos staff kept their safe combination at the factory setting. Those who didn’t usually used their birthdays or those of their loved ones. Of those who were left, top-ranking scientists might use a relevant mathematical equation. For the absent minded, they often noted down the combination and left it lying around or tucked in a drawer.
When Feynman started leaving notes in people’s safes, alerting the Project authorities to the existence of a safe-cracker, the military decided that enough was enough.
One important General, a pompous fool indeed, demanded that his safe be the grandest in the building. He was, after all, much more important than any mere scientist and his secrets should be more efficiently guarded than anyone else’s. He ordered the most expensive, most technologically sophisticated safe in existence.
Feynman, by nature a mischievous little rascal, couldn’t resist the lure… He discovered that the General, interested more in impressing people than anything else, hadn’t even bothered to lock the safe which had cost so much money and which held such precious information about the atomic bomb!
Feynman had learned that pompous fools were, indeed, the worst kind of fools. But cracking safes was just one small entry in Feynman’s list of quirks…
How to Crack Safes with the Power of the Mind
The Manhattan Project
Science Vs. the Military