Feynman’s narrative about the Challenger investigation is a great illustration of bureaucracy and politics that goes on in Washington, D.C. A great passage is at the start of the section entitled “Committing Suicide,” a term Feynman used when referring to going to D.C. to be part of the committee:
When I heard the investigation would be in Washington, my immediate reaction was not to do it: I have a principle of not going anywhere near Washington or having anything to do with government, so my immediate reaction was — how am I gonna get out of this?…My last chance was to convince my wife, “Look,” I said. Anybody could do it. They can get somebody else.” “No, said Gweneth. “If you don’t do it, there will be twelve people, all in a group, going around from place to place together. But if you join the commission, there will be eleven people — all in a group, going around from place to place together — while the twelfth one runs around all over the place, checking all kinds of unusual things. There probably won’t be anything, but if there is, you’ll find it.” She said, “There isn’t anyway one else who do that like you can.”
Reading and typing that chokes me up for two reasons: The first is that it turns out that he does do that, which I admire and seek to emulate. The other is that his wife recognizes that and needs to remind Feynman of who he is and his own uniqueness, which is beautiful. It reminds me of what Victor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning (see “p. 125” in link).