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The Character of Physical Law (Messenger Lectures, 1964) Paperback – 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0262560030 ISBN-10: 0262560038 Edition: Name written on Cover

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Product Details

  • Series: Messenger Lectures, 1964
  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; Name written on Cover edition (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262560038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262560030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

...Fascinating...an insight into the thought processes of a great physicist.

About the Author

RICHARD P. FEYNMAN (1918-1988) earned a BS from MIT and a PhD from Princeton. From 1942 to 1945, he assisted with the development of the atomic bomb. Feynman then taught at Cornell and Caltech, where he contributed to the theories of superfluidity and quarks. He shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for work on the theory of quantum electrodynamics. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Anyway, this book is great, and you should get it for your smart kid who is interested in science.
hardly_b
Its prose style is disarmingly simple and conversational, yets it cuts quickly and directly to the heart of the various matters it addresses.
Connie Kaye
Why else do we read these books than to attempt to gain a bit more insight into the eternal questions.
Paul A. Jackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Every time I return to this book I pick up on more of Feynman's explanations. From almost beginning to understand angular momentum, to getting a feel for gravity, and how many laws have been integrated. For a novice at physics but with a keen interest this book gives an excellent background and, for me, is a joy to read each time, I can almost hear Feynman making his lectures and sharing jokes with his students. Each time I come away from reading this book I find myself pondering more about various aspects of physics and get a clearer idea of other books to buy to continue my current hobby of understanding the way the universe works just a little better (hopefully anyway :)
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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Jackson on September 11, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is yet another book that attempts to convey the essence of physics to common people. After explaining exactly why it can't be done, arguing that you'll never get it, Feynman goes right ahead and does it anyway.
For each topic, you get a feel for his goal in covering a topic. He explains gravity, yes, to explain gravity, but also because by explaining it he can also convey what essential properties gravity has that other laws have.
He also explains the difference between fundamental laws and the consequences of those laws. That the individual laws are reversible, but that probability is responsible for the arrow of time. He spends a lot of time showing the difficult relationship between the basic laws (which are reversible) and the irreversibility of events. Both are characteristics of the physical universe but the latter is not a fundamental law. The latter is a logical outcome of them.
So there's a hierarchy, which goes; fundamental laws like gravity at the ground level, consequences of them like irreversibility and surface tension at one level up, organic chemistry further up, then eventually concepts like tree, frog, man, pain, beauty, good and evil - each at a higher level, but based upon the levels below them, and difficult to fully predict using only the laws of the lower levels. The levels can be extended up and down. Below gravity is the unification theory of everything. Above good and evil are love, politics, etc.
And then he asks, of the extremes on this hierarchy, the fundamental laws and the most abstract concepts, which is closest to God? After asking for patience with his religious reference, he spends little time before revealing his belief that the question is flawed.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on September 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
One the greatest theoretical physicists and popular lecturer, Feynman expresses his view on the puzzles, controversies, and problems at the core of physical theory. He uses as an example the law of gravitation to show that despite the simplicity of physical laws, they are not exact, there is always a mystery, always a place where there is further work to be done, so "scientists must stick their heads out." And what is most remarkable is not what scientists have been able to discover, but what nature has taught us. Feynman stresses the importance of mathematics as the key to any system of scientific laws (mathematics is more than just a language, it is language plus logic). This is a series of lecturers to be read preferably by those individuals who have a solid background in physics, otherwise you may find your neurons will not know in which direction they should fire! As Paul Davis rightly says: "theoretical physics is one the hardest of human endeavors, combining as it does subtle and abstract concepts that normally defy visualizations with a technical complexity that is impossible to master in its entirety." Feynman did have the genius to deal with it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S. C. Flowers on January 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is apparently a nearly verbatim account of 7 Feynman lectures given at Cornell in the early 60s and is a short (but good) book. The level of these lectures was not highly technical so consequently a wide audience should find the book very readable. Of particular interest is the discussion of the way new physical laws are arrived at by scientists. Just be aware that as with other Feynman books every sentence packs non-trivial meaning so this is not a light read. It is a fun read especially for Feynman enthusiasts.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By hardly_b on September 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
The book is a really good non-specialist's introduction to some of the basic ideas and attitudes of modern physics. It won't teach you physics, but it will teach you some important things about physics. This is an ideal book for a bright kid. It's accessible, and they have the thrill of being able to connect with the "real stuff". Smart high school kids know at some level that out of ignorance their teachers aren't really telling them the truth in math and science classes, and it's a thrill for them to hear things from someone who really does understand what they are talking about.
Anyway, this book is great, and you should get it for your smart kid who is interested in science. You should also demand that they put the lectures on DVD, because watching Feynman talk is even better than reading the books. He was a god in the classroom, and it's easy when you see the lectures to understand why he was worshipped by a generation of CalTech undergraduates.
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