In his book, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”, he recalls that he ‘felt very strongly’ after he returned to his normal life. He goes on to say that ‘fortunately’, atomic bombs had been useless for ‘almost forty years’ at the time. Feynman did not generally comment on his opinions on the ethical dilemmas arising as the result of the atomic Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing.

I'm a bit confused by this "feeling strongly". It seems to suggest that one has a clear opinion about something, but it's unclear which way that goes; is it positive or negative? How should I read "feeling strongly" about something?

  • It seems very strange that even when reading / hearing it in the full context, you still don't know whether Feynman strongly approved or disapproved of the subject matter. Please provide a link to that full context so we can understand how that might be possible. Jul 30, 2023 at 10:31
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    What's the full context?
    – alphabet
    Jul 30, 2023 at 10:51
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    Fairly obviously, given Feynman's use of fortunately above, we can assume he had a strongly negative opinion of nuclear weapons. But the text does go on to say that by and large he kept his opinions to himself, and helped to develop them. But surely this is just common sense - it's not really about the fact that this information is implicit in the English text above. I'm guessing all languages have the equivalent of "fortunately" here, and it woulld always carry the same implication regarding Feynman's attitude to the subject. Jul 30, 2023 at 11:00
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    @Stuart -- It's not Feynman's opinion in particular I'm interested in; my question is about the idiom.
    – stevenvh
    Jul 30, 2023 at 11:37
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    I'm not sure I'd class to feel strongly as an "idiom" - but putting that aside, the expression is "agnostic" as to whether the strong feelings are positive or negative in relation to the subject matter. Jul 30, 2023 at 11:57

1 Answer 1


If it is this section (last two paragraphs of the section titled 'Los Alamos from Below' in Part 3) then I suspect there should be the word 'it' between 'felt' and 'strongly'. His first impression was a strange one ... [and] he felt it [the impression] very strongly.

I returned to civilization shortly after that and went to Cornell to teach, and my first impression was a very strange one. I can’t understand it any more, but I felt very strongly then. I sat in a restaurant in New York, for example, and I looked out at the buildings and I began to think, you know, about how much the radius of the Hiroshima bomb damage was and so forth…How far from here was 34th Street?…All those buildings, all smashed—and so on. And I would go along and I would see people building a bridge, or they’d be making a new road, and I thought, they’re crazy, they just don’t understand, they don’t understand. Why are they making new things? It’s so useless.

But, fortunately, it’s been useless for almost forty years now, hasn’t it? So I’ve been wrong about it being useless making bridges and I’m glad those other people had the sense to go ahead.

'Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!' - e-book of 1997 Norton edition

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