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Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics By Its Most Brilliant Teacher Paperback – April 5, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 165 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This book reprints the six easiest chapters from Feynman's celebrated Lectures on Physics (LJ 12/15/63), which the Nobel Prize-winning scientist delivered from 1961 to 1963 at the California Institute of Technology. Intended for as wide an audience as possible, these chapters are primarily qualitative in nature, with a minimum of formal mathematics. They discuss atoms, basic physics, the relation of physics to other sciences, the conservation of energy, gravitation, and quantum behavior. While this informative work provides a relevant historical perspective on the essentials of physics, the result is somewhat superficial. Nonetheless, because Lectures on Physics is out of print and because the information is still relevant, reprinting these specific chapters was probably a realistic move. The material will be readily understood by scholars, physics students, and informed lay readers. Recommended for academic and public libraries. (Audio tape and CD packages are also available.)-Donald G. Frank, Harvard Univ. Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Richard P. Feynman was raised in Far Rockaway, New York, and received his Ph.D. from Princeton. He held professorships at both Cornell and the California Institute of Technology. In 1965 he received the Nobel Prize for his work on quantum electrodynamics. He died in 1988.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New Ed edition (April 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465023924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465023929
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 4.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,253,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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