Dressing up science: Richard Feynman and Al Hibbs costume parties

In the costume of "Queen Elizabeth II", as it turned out at the end of the party, was Richard Feynman

Unlike Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale, universities and institutes in Southern California have always been characterized by a more relaxed and informal culture. When you get pleasure from surfing and sand, and the weather tends to sunbathe and dive with a snorkel, it is very difficult to spend all your time in laboratories and libraries. Even walking along the sunny streets of Pasadena - which are much closer to the mountains than to the ocean - and watching the gentle breeze swing palm trees, thoughts of entertainment and leprosy no, no, and interrupt any prolonged attack of seriousness.

Richard Feynman with his family and his own painted van in Altaden, California.

Richard "Dick" Feynman adored his life in this place, as did his talented former student (and gambling friend ) Albert "Al" Hibbs. For most of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, they lived relatively close to each other in Altadena, north of Pasadena. Altadena’s scientists were (and remain) best known as the location of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where Hibbs played a leading role as a researcher and speaker. Hibbs was a pioneer in space, he developed Explorer 1 , the first American satellite launched into Earth orbit in 1958. He remained “JPL voice” and commented on Voyager and other missions on TV. Hibbs received his doctorate under the guidance of Feynman in 1955 on the subject of "the growth of water waves under the influence of wind." Together they wrote a book, and since then have remained good friends.

Al Hibbs and Roy Walford pose with a roulette wheel after winning an unprecedented amount of money in a casino using a rather dubious information collection system.

Before that, Feynman lived in Ithaca, where there was frost for most of the year, and he had to scrape away frost from cars, so he enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Altadena, where you could walk in T-shirts or drive your Dodge van, painted with Feynman diagrams, and enjoy the bohemian lifestyle. One of his closest friends was an experimental artist of Armenian origin, Girard “Jerry” Zortian , known for his extensive ranches and local booze.

Richard Feynman with Girard Zortayan and his sons at the Zortianov Ranch

Feynman and Zortyan agreed to teach each other in turn art and physics. And, apparently, Feynman benefited from this agreement more, because he learned from Zortian to draw realistic sketches. Feynman (often with Zortian and other friends) sometimes dined in Pasadena in a bar where they showed a striptease. He sat there at the table, worked on the equations in physics and sketched the dancers. He also attracted students and other people to pose in his home, with the support and permission of his wife Gweneth. She, according to the stories, served milk and cookies to the models. Feynman's talent has evolved so much that he was offered to participate in art exhibitions. He often used the pseudonym Ofey [Ofey], a pun, a combination of the French expression “Au Fait” (done) and the surname “Feynman”.

In the notebook Feynman sketches superimposed on the equation

Despite all the prestige and invited lectures (which he usually rejected) associated with his 1965 Nobel Prize, Feynman just wanted to have fun. His works on physics, drawing portraits, relaxed trips with his family to the beach, playing bongo drums with his friend Ralph Leighton testified to that. He took a lively part in the Frosch camp, an annual event for freshmen Caltech, during which various outdoor activities were practiced, such as kayaking. He joined the Caltech Musical Theater, which was directed by Shirley Marnius, and participated in many performances, such as Fiorello and South Pacific. Professor of English Yazuka Jenica La Belle , who played in performances with him, introduced him to the poetry of William Blake and the pleasures of the reading rooms of libraries. Together with another friend from JPL, Richard "Dick" Davis, a marathon lover, Feynman became interested in running. Davis also shared Feynman's love of art. In general, Feynman lived a full life.

Richard Feynman and Janice La Belle in Caltech's play Fiorello

Despite all the fun and leprosy, Feynman’s years at Caltech were extremely productive — including his fruitful work on superfluid fluids, the VA weak interaction model, theories on nanotechnology and quantum computers, and the parton model of hadrons . His multifaceted careless existence (which lasted, at least, until he fell ill with cancer in the last years of his life) did not seem to harm his ingenious contributions to science. Caltech somehow managed to generate (and still spawn) a large number of important breakthroughs and a steady stream of Nobel Prizes for advanced research, in parallel with enjoying all the riches of Pasadena.

Richard Feynman lectures in Caltech at the ceremony of awarding degrees and diplomas

One day of the year was special for Feynman, Gweneth and their circle of friends: the first of April. It was then that Al Hibbs broke away from his work as a JPL commentator and space missions to hold a themed costume party in honor of April Fools Day. From year to year themes changed - certain questions or tasks were always asked. And every year, as long as health allowed, Feynman corresponded to the theme of the party with the help of Gwyneth's skills in costume creation.

Hibbs lived in a spacious two-story house of " American artisans " style - ideally suited for such events - in whose territory there was a beautiful natural pond surrounded by stones. He began to organize parties since the 1970s, when he had a second wife, Mark. They adored inventing tasks, delivering invitations, seeing the reactions of their guests in the form of costumes.

Feynman at the party "Myths and Legends" in the costume of "God." His wife, Gweneth, is dressed in Medusa, and uses a stone as a pair.

Once the task was to "dress up a character from myths or legends." Feynman wrapped himself in a falling white robe and attached a long gray beard. Someone asked him if he depicted Moses. “No,” answered Feynman, “I am God.” Hibbs sarcastically remarked that this is already known to all.

Another time, the theme was "the religions of the earth." Gweneth made a beautiful costume for her husband, resembling the traditional clothes of Ladakhi monks from the Himalayas. The local artist Sylvia Pozner was so impressed with him that she painted his portrait in this costume, decorating it with a Feynman diagram, which he held in his hand, which looked a bit like a zipper.

Richard Feynman dressed as a Ladakhi monk, portrait by Sylvia Pozner

In another year, the theme was “astronomical bodies,” which was ideal for Hibbs. Feynman put on a regular suit. Around that time, the best-selling autobiography, “ You are, of course, joking, Mr. Feynman! ” According to Shirley Marnus, who was present at that party when other participants asked him what kind of celestial body he represents, he said something like “You think I'm kidding, but in fact I'm serious ”[pun - the name of the star Sirius sounds in English very much like serious -“ serious ”/ approx. trans.].

Richard Feynman dressed as Queen Elizabeth II

Perhaps the most outrageous Feynman costume was the outfit he chose for completing the quest “dress king, queen, cheater or fool” [referring to cards — king, queen, jack, and joker / approx. trans.]. The guests watched in amazement at the regal woman in a simple green dress, white gloves and a modest tablet hat with a big handbag sitting on a chair in a straight and stiff pose. She was very much like Queen Elizabeth II. But on closer inspection, it turned out to be Feynman in women's clothes, with cosmetics and a wig. The guests were smitten. At the end of the party, when the music was already quite depraved, Feynman, to everyone's merriment, undressed.

After Feynman died of cancer in February 1988, after a long illness and several operations, Al and Mark Hibbs decided to honor his memory a few months later through a special event, “Richard Feynman’s Memorable Costume Party”. The guests were offered “to come in suits of interesting questions”. The party attended and sad Gwenet. On it was an ornament attached to a cord wrapped around the neck and ending in a point. Her gloomy question sounded like “what's the point?” [Pun: what's the point? - “what's the point”, or “what’s the point” / approx. trans.].

Richard Feynman in costume for the Havana scene from the play “Guys 'n' Dolls]. Feynman also played the role of Joey Biltmore in the same performance.

Let us recall the spirit of Hibbs and Feynman, and the cheerful, but at the same time inquisitive atmosphere of Pasadena of the 1970s and 80s. You may come up with your own scientific assignments for your costume parties. Take the time to create your own fun suit with a scientific background.

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/411179/

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