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Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character Hardcover – November 17, 2005
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Not many Nobel laureates in physics amuse themselves by playing the bongo drums and cracking safes. But the capricious personality of Richard Feynman contained more than a few surprises. And it is the sheer unpredictability of this high-spirited genius--partial to the company of Las Vegas showgirls when not in the Caltech lecture hall--that has attracted so many readers to his disarmingly candid memoirs, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? Now chronologically collated into one omnibus volume (packaged with a CD of one of Feynman's signature lectures), these memoirs display perhaps the most flamboyant personality in modern science. So colorful are some of the episodes here gathered that readers might forget (as Freeman Dyson remarks in his perceptive foreword) the careful and painstaking theorist who probed the atom with rare insight. Still, this collection does include Feynman's account of how--in quite casual circumstances--he spontaneously devised scientific experiments to determine the characteristics of ants' feet and humans' noses. Though the essays are available elsewhere, the autobiographical structure adds interest for the author's many fans. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Richard P. Feynman was born in 1918 and grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. At the age of seventeen he entered MIT and in 1939 went to Princeton, then to Los Alamos, where he joined in the effort to build the atomic bomb. Following World War II he joined the physics faculty at Cornell, then went on to Caltech in 1951, where he taught until his death in 1988. He shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965, and served with distinction on the Shuttle Commission in 1986. A commemorative stamp in his name was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005.
Ralph Leighton, Richard Feynman's great friend and collaborator, now lives in northern California.
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Top Customer Reviews
Don't be intimidated by the fact that Feynman was theoretical physicist. This book is very accessible. Too be quite honest, there is not a lot of math in this book (save a few conceptual things here and there) so a working knowledge of math is not required to read this book. Feynman also doesn't write like a professor. What I mean is that the language is here is very simple, for the most, and doesn't end up sounding like a textbook.
The reason I am only giving this book 4 stars and not five stars is because of the lack of mathematical depth. I had to read this book as part of a math class book report. Since I am very interested in math I thought that there would be some really cool stuff in here but the majority of the anecdotes don't really focus on math. The fact that I had to read this for a math class probably distorted my view and altered my expectations a little bit. If I had read this without scholastic influence, this would definitely get a five star rating.
Another feature of this book is the CD which comes with it, and which contains a recording of a lecture by Feynman, covering most of the material of the Chapter entitled "Los Alamos from Below". I found this CD both entertaining and very useful, as it gives the listener a taste of what a lecture by Feynman sounded like. In fact, all the book, in its simplicity, sounds more like a series of lectures;and Feynman, in his distaste for "humanities", seems to enjoy "talking" to the public, with not a hint of literary artifice in his style!Of course, this could be seen as unbecoming such a brilliant mind, but Feynman keeps reminding the reader that he has no respect for anything but science(at one place, he talks about finding the professors of the philosophy department at Columbia particularly "inane").Some will also find his philandering a little exaggerated: but he is honest enough to admit that there is nothing he loves more than a "beautiful woman", and who could blame him?
Finally, it is worthwhile noting that, if some top-notch scientists had also literary gifts (two major examples being Poincaré and Einstein, whose writings are literary gems), Feynman couldn't care less: he even boasts that he does not give any importance to spelling mistakes, as long as the reader (or listener) understand what he is talking about! However, after reading his Nobel Banquet Speech , I was agreeably surprised with a much better style, which he even admits in the book. Talking about this speech, he says(p.343):"But then I said I received, all at once, a big pile of letters - I said it much better in the speech- reminding me of all the people that I knew; letters from childhood friends who jumped up when they read the morning newspaper and cried out 'I know him!he's that kid we used to play with and so on...'".Feynman seems to be quoting from memory, because this is not exactly what he said in the speech:"...victorious cries of 'I told you so' by those having no technical knowledge-their successful prediction being based on faith alone..."(see Nobelprize.org for the complete speech).
It's the little things that make "Classic Feynman" such a wonderful resource...even the annotated Table of Contents provides unexpected value by flagging which chapters were pulled from "Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman", which came from "What Do You Care What Other People Think", and which were new to "Classic Feynman."