What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Richard P. Feynman

Further Adventures of a Curious Character

The book was prepared as Feynman struggled with liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer from which he died in February 1988. The book is the last of his autobiographical works.

The first section presents a series of humorous stories from different periods of his life, while the second chronicles his involvement on the Rogers Commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In one chapter, he describes an impromptu experiment in which he showed how the O-rings in the shuttle’s rocket boosters could have failed due to cold temperatures on the morning of the launch. Later, this failure was determined to be the primary cause of the shuttle’s destruction. Feynman’s comments on the reliability of the shuttle, published as an appendix to the Rogers Commission’s final report, are included. The second section of the book was dramatized in a television movie by BBC/Science Channel titled The Challenger Disaster.

The book is much more loosely organized than the earlier Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! It contains short stories, letters, photographs, and a few of the sketches that Feynman created in later life when he had learned to draw from an artist friend, Jirayr Zorthian.

The titular story of the book focuses on Feynman’s first wife, Arline, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis before their marriage. Its title is taken from a question she often put to him when he seemed preoccupied with the opinions of his colleagues about his work, thereby echoing his own earlier words to her. She died while Feynman was working on the Manhattan Project.

The book concludes with a chapter titled “The Value of Science”, an address Feynman gave at the 1955 autumn meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.