Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life Hardcover – May 15, 2003
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
The late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman has been virtually canonized as the People's Physicist-an earthy, bongo-playing free spirit who delighted in puncturing the pomposity of the establishment. In this memoir, by ex-physicist and Star Trek writer Mlodinow, of a stint as a post-doctoral colleague of Feynman's at Caltech, the aging physicist still cracks wise, crashes parties, works on his physics at a strip joint and needles stuffed-shirt academics. Mlodinow was something of a Feynman-esque character himself-he liked to smoke pot with the garbage man next door and was working on a screenplay-so he turned to the older scientist for life lessons. And that's where this otherwise engaging book goes wrong, because, truth be told, Feynman was at his best only when talking about physics. Mlodinow taped many of their conversations, and transcribes them at length here, to the book's detriment. Feynman holds forth on the creative process, art and modern novels ("The few that I've looked at, I can't stand them"), but as far as insights go, platitudes like "Remember, it's supposed to be fun" (a thought inspired by the titular rainbow) are about as good as it gets. Fortunately, Mlodinow's accessible style manages to convey Feynman's cantankerous appeal as well as some of the weirdness of theoretical physics without overtaxing lay readers, while his deft, funny, novelistic portraits of its practitioners, like the (as portrayed here) toweringly pretentious and touchingly human Nobelist Murray Gell-Mann, bring this seemingly gray sub-culture to vivid life.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“An accessible portrait of a brilliant man.” —Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time
“A very unusual memoir of a very unusual author’s revealing encounters with a very human legend.” —The Dallas Morning News
“This is a sweetly entertaining book about the weird, but engaging, world of physics. . . . Young scientists will find solace and perhaps inspiration here.” —American Scientist
“Mlodinow’s tribute to the man is set against an amusing, nicely drawn backdrop of campus life, and fleshed out with a very readable account of string theory, which developed into the most promising breakthrough of the century in theoretical physics.” —The Independent (London)
“Mlodinow’s accessible style manages to convey Feynman’s cantankerous appeal as well as some of the weirdness of theoretical physics without overtaxing lay readers, while his deft, funny, novelistic portraits of its practitioners . . . bring this seemingly gray sub-culture to vivid life.” —Publishers Weekly
“An exhilarating book . . . one that reflects the radiance of its subject and so warms as it instructs.” —David Berlinski, author of One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics
“Mlodinow thinks in equations but explains in anecdote, simile, and occasional bursts of neon. . . . The results are mind-bending.” —Fortune --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Anyone who wants to understand the problem should read "The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next" by Lee Smolin and then read the first few chapters of "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes. Compare the two. Rhodes describes the excitement of theoretical physics in the early 20th century. Smolin described the dead-end that this same field has become in the late 20th century. I think that Mlodinow's angst derived from an impossible task: making progress where thousands of bright people had reached dead ends. What is ironic is that when Mlodinow was a post-doc, the string theory concepts were just getting rolling. Mlodinow thought that string-theory was going to be the way out of the dead end, but that he just wasn't smart enough to follow it. Now, in the early 21st century, It looks quite likely that string theory is another of the dead ends.
This book is *not* mostly about Feynman. Other reviewers have pointed this out. The author's interactions with Feynman are in the book but for the most part, only as they relate to Mlodinow's anxiety and uneasiness about his career. However, I must admit that what I did read in "Feynman's Rainbow" has motivated me to get out my unread copy of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" and move it to the on-deck circle of my to-be-read shelf.
However, I would not suggest this book for anyone looking for a more formal or factual biography of Feynman, or a more physics-oriented text. I feel that the primary purpose of this text was autobiographical. Much of the book consisted of Dr Mlodinow discussing his experiences as a young insecure physicist. I did enjoy reading the book, and learned a lot about Feynman I might not have known otherwise. Also included in the chapters are conversations record from Feynman, which were also very intriguing.
I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn about Feynman's personality and discover some of the challenges of physics on a more psychological level. I have this book four stars because, though I enjoyed learning about Feynman and found the book an interesting read, I couldn't personally connect with the authors troubles. But I feel it is a good resource for me and should be considered by anyone who wonders about the life of a physicist.
Mlodinow produces ground-breaking work for his Ph.D. dissertation, and receives a fellowship at CalTech because of it. As is common to most young Ph.D.'s, Mlodinow suffers a bit of a dry spell and falls into thinking that he won't be able to repeat his previous successes. Having switched from math and chemistry to physics upon reading one of Feynman's books, Mlodinow hopes to be taken under Feynman's wing as he begins his career as a scientist. Occasional hilarities ensue, but we do get to learn about different philosophical approaches to physics (manifested in the logical "Greek" Gell-Mann and the intuitive "Babylonian" Feynman), which also transcend to life experiences like the death of a loved one and career choices. I thought the most interesting parts of the book were the discussion what it means to be a scientist, and why they do what they do.
I would recommend the book mostly to students of science. Feynman was an interesting and influential character that non-scientists would enjoy, and I don't think that the details of string theory presented in the book were too confusing. I enjoyed the stories, and made me feel a little better about my own self-doubts I'm having in graduate school right now...not that I'm going to give it up and pursue writing for TV shows like the author.