Dear reader,

I need to tell you something about Richard Feynman, genius scientist, and privileged newsletter appearance maker. If you’ve forgotten, I’m referring to last week’s mailer, which I said had one of the best collections I’d put together in a while. In that collection was a tender archived letter that Feynman had written to his departed wife. Stuff of immense warmth. We’ll revisit that in a bit.

On Monday, a generally reliable Twitter account I follow retweeted an unknown Twitter account which I don’t follow. The tweet claimed that Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk had died. This was debunked hilariously less than twenty minutes later, by another tweet, along the lines of, “Pamuk is not dead. I just saw him.” The debunker tweet was also from an account I don’t follow, but one that was reliable nonetheless, because it was Basharat Peer’s. Then, Peer deleted the tweet. I did not end up following Peer, and I still follow the account I originally follow. In the meantime, the account in the middle – the one that said Pamuk was dead – was suspended, as we all tried to wrap our heads around the news.

The news itself was non-existent – nothing had happened. Pamuk is alive.

I’ve been an internet user more than half my life, and it’ll be ten years on Twitter this year, but I don’t know if I’ll ever learn to avoid the ripples of information being up one minute, down the next, reliable this second, and completely false the next. I’ve done several curation cycles of people that I follow, but it’s impossible.

It was on Twitter where I had first come across Feynman’s letter last week. And it was Twitter that delivered to me the truth about Feynman.

Under two hours after my last email had gone out, I learnt that Feynman, who wrote to D’Arline two years after her death, telling her no one had come close to taking her place, would then turn into…well, a creepy. From the piece:

“He worked and held meetings in strip clubs, and while a professor at Cal Tech, he drew naked portraits of his female students. Even worse, perhaps, he pretended to be an undergraduate student to deceive younger women into sleeping with him. His second wife accused him of abuse, citing multiple occasions when he’d fly into a blind rage if she interrupted him while he was working or playing his bongos.”

Thought I’d let you know.

It’s a well-researched piece touching upon separating the science from the scientist, and other paradoxes of people who are generously called victims of their era. It’s down there, with other articles that may or may not hold their own next week. But they’re good ones, nonetheless.

Thinking of easy deceptions brought back an old, blurry memory. It didn’t happen on the internet, and was probably pardonable. I was four.

It couldn’t have been later than the first week of kindergarten, my first big experience of the blah-ness of people. I was told an ice-cream man outside school was “giving ice cream.” Upon hearing this, I crossed a road unsupervised for the first time in my life, and stretched my hand out at the ice-cream guy. I did not, of course, offer him any money. In return, he offered me no ice creams. For two minutes.

The kid who’d told me, and whose mum had bought him ice cream, is an accountant these days and I presume he now has a fair idea how transactions work. Funny how things work out.

*waits for tweet on his arrest for tax fraud*

Yours,

Varun

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