My 12 Favorite Problems

The Questions I want to answer in my Life

Your 12 Favorite Problems

Yours to choose – Feel free to Edit!


„You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, ‚How did he do it? He must be a genius!‚“

Richard Philips Feynman

Feynman’s 12 Favorite Problems

  1. How can we ​​measure the probability that a lump of uranium might explode too soon?
  2. How can I accurately keep track of time in my head?
  3. How can we design a large-scale computing system using only basic equipment?
  4. How can I write a sentence in perfect handwritten Chinese script?
  5. What is the unifying principle underlying light, radio, magnetism, and electricity?
  6. How can I sustain a two-handed polyrhythm on the drums?
  7. What are the most effective ways of teaching introductory physics concepts?
  8. What is the smallest working machine that can be constructed?
  9. How can I compute the emission of light from an excited atom?
  10. What was the root cause of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster?
  11. How could the discoveries of nuclear physics be used to promote peace instead of war?
  12. How can I keep doing important research with all the fame brought by the Nobel Prize?

Inspired by Tiago Forte during his Course How to Build A Second Brain.

Do you have to pick 12 Favorite Problems?

It’s good to settle on the number 12, as there are only so many things you can keep in your head at a time. According to science, your short-term memory can hold only 7 +/-2 pieces of information. Of course, your favorite problems are not limited to your short-term memory, but your capacity to filter information in order to solve those problems is limited. In short: Opt for 12, but don’t panic if you arrive at 8 or 15.