Fermilab’s Feynman celebration will include exhibits of Richard Feynman’s van and Edward Tufte’s “Interplanetary Explorer” Airstream trailer outside Wilson Hall. The exhibits are free, and the Fermilab site is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
The van’s owner, Ralph Leighton, will give a pre-concert lecture on Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m. Tickets and info available here.
Among the world's most famous physicists, Richard Feynman (1918-1988) won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 for his theory of quantum electrodynamics. A longtime professor at the California Institute of Technology, Feynman is known for his "Feynman diagrams," an ingenious method of visualizing the interactions of subatomic particles. These simple modeling tools are used in every analysis particle physicists at Fermilab conduct. He contributed to significant enhancements in the use of liquid helium (used to cool magnets in particle accelerators), and pioneered the fields of quantum computing and nanotechnology. Fermilab's Feynman Computing Center is named in his honor. (Photo by Michael Kindig).
Ralph Leighton is the author of Tuva or Bust: Richard Feynman’s Last Journey, an account of Feynman’s unrealized dream to visit the small Asian country of Tuva. His conversations with Feynman are the basis of the books Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think? He is the founder of the group Friends of Tuva.
In 1975, Richard Feynman bought a new Dodge Tradesman Maxivan with mustard-yellow, avocado-green interior, and customized the outside with images of his famous Feynman diagrams. The license plate on the van was QANTUM. Feynman used this van to travel to and from work when he was a professor at the California Institute of Technology, and to explore remote areas of the American west with his family during summer vacations. After Feynman’s death in 1988, his longtime friend Ralph Leighton inherited the van, and used it in 1993 to transport the Tuvan throat singers during their first tour of California.
Part of a larger piece by Edward Tufte, the Airstream Interplanetary Explorer is a trailer adorned with Feynman diagrams and outfitted with radio and television antennas. On Tufte’s Connecticut farm, the Explorer is attached to a replica rocket launcher that looks poised to send it into outer space. More images are available here.