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110 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feynman as an excellent teacher
From 1961 to 1963, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman delivered a set of lectures to classes in basic physics. By design, the contents of the lectures were transcribed, with the goal being the creation of a set of materials that could be used worldwide in the teaching of physics. Unlike so many abstract scientists, Feynman was an excellent teacher, able to explain the...
Published on April 16, 2002 by Charles Ashbacher

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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reads very quickly
I have heard of Feynman's collection of physics lectures for a long time and had intended reading them "one of these days" but never seemed to get to it. When a couple of friends and I formed a book club to discuss science and other types of expository prose, and one of them suggested this book, I decided "this is the day."

In reading Six Easy Pieces, I had a...
Published on July 28, 2007 by Atheen M. Wilson


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110 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feynman as an excellent teacher, April 16, 2002
From 1961 to 1963, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman delivered a set of lectures to classes in basic physics. By design, the contents of the lectures were transcribed, with the goal being the creation of a set of materials that could be used worldwide in the teaching of physics. Unlike so many abstract scientists, Feynman was an excellent teacher, able to explain the principles by using everyday analogies and without appeal to advanced mathematics. This book is a collection of six of those lectures, chosen for their appeal to the general reader.
The titles and topics of the lectures are:
i) Atoms In Motion - an examination of the atomic theory of matter and how atoms react with each other.
ii) Basic physics - the history of physics before and after the discovery of quantum mechanics.
iii) The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences - how physics can be used to explain chemical, biological, geological and astronomical phenomena.
iv) Conservation of energy - the fundamental principle of conservation of energy, and how energy can change form.
v) The Theory of Gravitation - the development of the theory of gravity from Kepler to Einstein.
vi) Quantum behavior - an explanation of some simple thought experiments demonstrating the weirdness of quantum behavior.
Feynman is also honest with his audience in saying that in many cases, the mechanism is not known.
Since the lectures were delivered forty years ago, many advances have been made. However, they still remain an excellent introduction to the basic principles of physics and can be read and understood by anyone interested in how the universe functions. They can also still be used as primer material in a basic physics course.
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66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A few more tries like this and even I will begin to get it, February 27, 2001
If you have been reading the reviews of this book you might be beginning to suspect that this book is a great place to start. You're right. Feynman uses easy to understand examples and relates them very well to his subject matter.
After I saw the 10 year anniversary edition to "A Breif History of Time" I felt guilty and I read my 10 year old copy. I should have read this book first. I would have been much better prepared to read the other. Both books were great but Feynman did a better job of relating the scientific to the mundane.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introductions by a great teacher, May 7, 2006
What happens when you take one of the most creative Nobel scientists ever and put him in front of a freshman physics class? This.

These essays were transcribed from a series of lectures in the early 1960s. Although the nominal purpose was to teach physics, the real goal was to convey the excitement of science and its relationship to the everyday world. A few points have aged, especially where Feynman connects biology, but the discussion as a whole is still informative and enjoyable.

This is a great book for just about any kind of reader: the serious scientist who wants to see Feynman's mind at work, or the interested layman who wants some math-free insight into the physics of the macro and micro worlds.

//wiredweird
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reads very quickly, July 28, 2007
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I have heard of Feynman's collection of physics lectures for a long time and had intended reading them "one of these days" but never seemed to get to it. When a couple of friends and I formed a book club to discuss science and other types of expository prose, and one of them suggested this book, I decided "this is the day."

In reading Six Easy Pieces, I had a distinct sympathy with Feynman's undergraduate students. The man's mind must have run at the speed of light, ideas just firing off like gunshots. For a decade that had only reel to reel tape recorders, and big ones at that, the only resort for the student taking notes would have to have been a strong skill at shorthand.

I had expected a more difficult and thorough book, but the author presents a very simple, almost too brief, analysis of basic physics in this volume, which is a section of a larger text based on his lectures. In it he illustrates the close association, even a basic underpinning, of other sciences by physics. He notes relationships with earth sciences, particularly geology, with astronomy/cosmology, biology, and chemistry in particular. What he doesn't do is go into very great detail on how these areas relate to one another, his discussion of chemistry being the most thorough of them.

The book is very short, and the author spends much of it on the history and relationships of physics as a science. It is more like a general introduction written to preface material presented later in the course. He does a nice job of explaining the issue of particle/wave duality in electromagnetic and other waves in the final chapter of the book, which also suggests that the bulk of the book is "introductory" in nature and that more is to come later.

Athough the author presents some equations and graphs, those who are math-shy needn't be daunted; they are straight forward and helpful in understanding the points the author makes. Furthermore, Feynman's narative style goes very rapidly. He jumps from topic to topic, intercalating brief stories and amusing comments to put his message across in an entertaining manner, rather than in a ponderous discussion or chalk boards full of formulae.

Although the reader who has no physics background may enjoy learning something of the field through this book, I suspect those with a science background may find one of the more recent books on the subject more informative.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Addresses those nagging questions I've always had, January 3, 2007
By 
Joshua Davies (Dallas, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
I took three semesters of physics to complete my undergraduate degree; I'll never forget the dumbfounded look on my instructor's face when we were studying electrical force and I asked, "so, why *do* protons attract electrons, anyway?" The professor sputtered and said, "it's just a force of the universe. Shut up and stop asking stupid questions." Or when the instructor presented Newton's third law ("every action has an equal and opposite reaction"), and I asked, "So why is it that when I push against a wall it doesn't push back and fall apart?" The answer was, "Well, the wall doesn't fall apart does it? So that's that. Shut up and stop asking stupid questions." Dr. Feynman addresses *exactly* these types of questions, over and over again. (If the earth and the moon are attracted to each other, why don't they crash into each other? Why are snowflakes shaped the way they are? Why does blowing on soup cool it down?) I only wish this book had been 1300 pages rather than 130 - every page answered some nagging problem I've had with the physics explanation of the universe. I don't think you can learn physics from this book, but you can get excited enough about it to start digging around and discovering more, like I did.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concepts in Physics, July 11, 2002
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This book explains some basic concepts in physics so well that even someone who doesn't like physics might enjoy it! 'Six Easy Pieces' are 6 lectures from Feynman's complete 'Lectures on Physics', chosen for their accessibility to the general public.
Feynman, like all great teachers, understands his subject so well that he is able to explain the concepts behind it in clear, simple terms.
There are 6 chapters in the book, all of them generalized lectures on topics in physics. Feynman explains the structure of the atom and there is a very excellent description of charge and how atoms attract each other.
I really enjoyed the chapter on the relationship of physics to the other sciences, especially chemistry and biology. There is even a section on the relationship of physics to psychology.
Chapter 5 is on gravity and there is a great explanation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Newtons law of gravitation. These ideas are explained so understandably, I felt like I received a clear conceptual picture of what is happening.
But the highlight of the book for me is Chapter 6 on quantum behavior. Feynman explains the wave-particle duality and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle so well that I really felt I understood the basic ideas. I am just a layman but I found I could really get what he was saying.
Another thing I liked about the book is its honesty. If there is something physics does not understand, Feyman admits it, outlining the parameters of knowledge but acknowledging deficiencies.
The author doesn't come across as a know-it-all, and doesn't 'talk down' to the reader, something which I find refreshing in a science book.
Like any book by Richard Feynman, this one is a delight to read. Informative, honest and with that unique Feynman ability to make even the most complex ideas understandable to the intelligent layman.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's True, This Isn't For Physicists (It's For Educators), July 23, 2002
By 
Richard R. Carlton (Ada, MI United States) - See all my reviews
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As a college physics teacher, and like many other reviewers, I too found the content of this abridged version of Feynman's famous lectures not worth the price of the book, but as I listened to the tapes (and by the way, several are extremely poor quality), it occured to me that the brilliance that comes through is Feynman the Educator, not the Nobel Laureate, or physicist, or college professor......and from this standpoint this set is well worth both the cost and time to anyone who fancies themself as a teacher. I have degrees in education and get great reviews from my students on a regular basis, but that didn't stop me from learning a lot from Feynman about how to expand a student's perception, application, and analysis skills and for this addition to my own personal bag of skills, I thank him.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Proper Introduction To Physics For The Layman, February 23, 2003
Six Easy Pieces is an excellent introduction to one of today's most intriguing scientific fields. Feynman presents physics in a series of easily understandable lectures that are appealing to the layman, in that it presents theories and concepts through simple example. Despite the age of his work, much of what is taught and discussed in the book is still relevant and accepted in physics today.
The book centers on the basic principles and operations of the following topics:
1 - Atoms In Motion
2 - Basic Physics
3 - The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences
4 - Conservation of Energy
5 - The Theory of Gravitation
6 - Quantum Behavior
Within each topic lesser subtopics are addressed, more specifically subtopics that are rooted to or based in one of the overall topics. The teaching style exhibited by Feynman is well thought out and should appeal to the majority of readers. However, Six Easy Pieces is meant as an introduction for the layman and is not suggested for those already experienced in the field.
In closing, Six Easy Pieces is an excellent introduction to the topic of physics, however it is just that - an introduction. Therefore, it is highly recommended for the layman, but not for the physicist.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a great bongo player..., January 28, 2006
By 
Robert Bezimienny (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
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In his introduction Professor Paul Davies describes this book as "both a primer on physics for non-scientists and...a primer on Feynman himself". The first part of this statement is borne out in the six essays containing almost no mathematics, making them in a sense "easy", and ranging across topics from the atomic hypothesis, to the notion of energy (and its conservation), gravitation, and a brief introduction to quantum theory; the expositions of several key concepts are models of clarity. It does not pretend to give a true overview of all of physics, and it is interested in philosophical issues only in the most glancing way. As a primer on Feynman himself, the book displays his humorous touches, and his impatience with fields for which he has no sympathy, notably psychoanalysis, along with his barely concealed frustration on encountering limits to the explanatory power of physics - he acknowledges such limits frankly and brusquely, but his frustration seems tempered by a sense of wonder.

The very generality of the topics and the way in which they are treated, with their assumptions at least unbuttoned if not fully laid bare, gave promise of serious philosophical discussion of the foundational concepts of physics - this did not occur, and in the introduction by Feynman's faculty collegues, Goodstein and Neugarber, it is said that he eschewed philosophy in the main. This would be in contrast with Einstein, who was not only well versed in ancient and modern philosophy, but whose ideas seemed very much to emerge from philosophical considerations. As a incredibly clear and engaging history and discussion of physics his book "The Evolution of Physics", co-written with Leopold Infeld, is priceless - both this book and Feynman's are evidence that to be able to advance at the cutting edge of physics a precise understandings of the basics is necessary - in fact Feynman at one point states that if he, or another authority, were unable to explain a concept to a bright first year physics student then the concept itself was not really understood. Hopefully this last comment takes away a little of intimidation present in tackling a work by a Nobel laureate scientist - both Feynman and Einstein want to communicate, and they are both spectacularly successful in so doing, Feynman in this volume sticking to expositions of ideas in physics, Einstein also enriching the discussion with philosophy.

For further philosophical engagement with core ideas in physics, and the broader sciences, there are the classic texts by Emile Meyerson, "Identity and Reality" being available readily in translation, while reference libraries could well shelve "The Relativistic Deduction" and "Explanation in the Sciences". Milic Capek's book, "The Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics", is another model of clarity - it is extremely well-written, is focused on the philosophical implications of physical theories rather than the physics itself (so no mathematics is presented), and is demanding; his book, "Bergson and Modern Physics", is also very involving, and in engaging with Bergson seeks to develop an alterative perspective to what might be considered the default mainstream view.

Perhaps the value of this book can be measured by looking at an anecdote from another field. The world chess champion Mikhail Tal related how he continued to view Russian television programs on the basics of chess, programs intended for beginners, even when he was champion - he said that he could always gain from having another perspective on the core priniciple of chess. Feynman's book might well serve a similar purpose to established thinkers in the field while instructing others as they begin their journey.

Oh, if you're wondering about the title of this review, Professor Davies tells of Feynman's love of the bongos, along with his "frequenting of strip clubs" and "his obsession with the long-lost country of Tuva" - no wonder he was wary of psychoanalysts!
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must even for people who work in physics, January 12, 1998
By A Customer
As a top graduate student in engineering and science, physics is a part of my life. A number of courses I took have taught me plenty of analytical tools and essentials of physics. Having thought that I know almost everything about physics, I looked at Feyman's 6-easy pieces and couldn't help reading it to find out if there is something I can learn from a small and elementary physics novel. Well, I am so surprised that Feynman taught me quite a bit about things that I've never thought about before, even if I am well familiar the complicated and challenging quantum electrodynamics that he developed. He had such simple explanations on conceptually deep natural phenomena such as motion of planets and stars, probabilistic interpretation in quantum physics ; and amusingly interesting insights on daily events such as why blowing your soup to make it cooler. That's what I thought of Feynman's 6-easy pieces as a person who knows physics better than most people. In fact, I bought and will read Feynman's lecture on physics (3-volume) after reading 6-easy pieces. I am sure that I will learn much more from Feynman and so will anyone.
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Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher
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