Geography and history teachers, you should watch this on the day after Feynman Day. Can you make use of this in your classes — say, after the state tests?
How about you physics and science teachers?
In 1998 NOVA produced and broadcast a film that rather defies categorization. Biography? Drama? Humor? Frustrated travelogue?
“Last Journey of a Genius” tells a lot of biography of Dick Feynman, but it focuses on his unusual drive to learn about, and travel to an obscure Central Asian country/province/area/culture called Tannu Tuva. Feynman’s close friend Ralph Leighton plays a big role in this film, too. This film reveals more about the character of Richard Feynman, his overwhelming curiosity and humanity, than you can get any other place, including his memoirs (which every civil human should read).
NOVA captivates me almost every week. Good fortune found me in front of a television somewhere when this was first broadcast. For several reasons, I’ve been unable to get a VHS, or a DVD version of the story despite many attempts over the years.
But fortune and good history smile again. Open Culture collected the film, and it’s available for free in their documentary section.
Drumming, story telling, geography, Cold War politics, ballet, more drumming, some nuclear physics, astronomy, a lot of good humor, and a plea for orange juice. It still makes me smile.
In 1989, PBS’ NOVA aired The Last Journey of a Genius, a television film that documents the final days of the great physicist Richard Feynman and his obsession with traveling to Tannu Tuva, a state outside of outer Mongolia, which then remained under Soviet control. For the better part of a decade, Feynman and his friend Ralph Leighton schemed to make their way to Tannu Tuva, but Cold War politics always frustrated their efforts. The video runs roughly 50 minutes and features an ailing Feynman talking about his wanderlust and their maneuverings. He died two weeks later, having never made the trip, though Ralph Leighton and Feyman’s daughter Michelle later landed in their Shangri-La. Her journey was recorded by the Russian service of the BBC.
The film now appears in the Documentary section of our collection of Free Movies Online.
Hang on to this link for Feynman Day 2014 (May 11). What’s your favorite Feynman story?
This kind of history and science is exactly the sort of stuff CSCOPE critics in Texas, and critics of the Common Core standards, worry that children will see. Very odd, because stuff this good is not even mentioned in CSCOPE, nor in CCSS.
Tip of the old scrub brush to Kenny Darrell, who found this film and let me know about it.
- Feynman Day! Richard Feynman, mensch, drummer, Nobel winner, born May 11, 1918 (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- The Eccentric Life Of Noble Prize-Winning Physicist Richard Feynman (telegraph.co.uk)
- Celebrate Richard Feynman’s birthday with this beautiful video (trollishdelver.com)
- Richard Feynman Biographical Comic Out Today (tested.com)
- Theory and Practice (futilitycloset.com)
- Feynman: his birthday, his diagrams and his lectures | Jon Butterworth | Life & Physics (guardian.co.uk)
- The Common Character Trait of Geniuses: A Passion for Abstraction (bigthink.com)
- Feynman was right about nanotechnology, and years ahead — but nobody knew it until later; the controversy about whether Feynman invented nanotechnology and computer memory solutions