- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 17, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393320928
- ISBN-13: 978-0393320923
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (209 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character Paperback – January 17, 2001
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A thoughtful companion volume to the earlier Surely You Are Joking Mr. Feynman!. Perhaps the most intriguing parts of the book are the behind-the-scenes descriptions of science and policy colliding in the presidential commission to determine the cause of the Challenger space shuttle explosion; and the scientific sleuthing behind his famously elegant O-ring-in-ice-water demonstration. Not as rollicking as his other memoirs, but in some ways more profound. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Roughly half of these 21 short, colloquial essays deal with Feynman's firsthand investigaton of the Challenger space-shuttle disaster. He casts himself in the role of intrepid detective, and the first-person singular pronoun keeps intruding on the worthwhile things he has to say about flight safety and lack of communication within NASA. An appendix offers his chilling technical observations on the shuttle's reliability or lack of it. The remaining pieces are mostly a blur of international conferences, purveying slight anecdotes. But two essays touch genuine depths of feeling: his tribute to his father, who taught him to cultivate a sense of wonder, and his account of his love affair with his first wife (who died). In this posthumous miscellany, theoretical physicist Feynman displays only sporadically the adventurousness that captivated readers of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
To be sure, there are a handful of chapters which would fit right into SYJMF. However, 2 major sections cover some exceptionally serious topics which are hardly material for Feynman's typical humor. One section details his love for his first wife as well as her untimely terminal illness. The other covers his work on the commission to disinter the technical problems that led to the explosion of the Space Shuttle CHALLENGER in 1986. These major sections encompass roughly 3/4 of the book.
The chapter on his wife's suffering is especially poignant and touched me very deeply. Feynman was a man whose love and compassion matched his intellect. I could not but feel empathy and admiration for the way he took care of his bride, knowing all along that she would not live long. His decision to be straight with her about her condition, instead of feeding her some fairy-tale story about how she had a good chance of recovery, was both painful and edifying to read.
The section on the CHALLENGER goes into great detail on everything that went wrong that fateful day in '86 as the nation watched the disaster on TV. To this day, I have not seen a television documentary cover this story as I think it should be covered.
I recently saw a special on the CHALLENGER on the DISCOVERY channel. It did an excellent job of focusing on how the engineers at THIOKOL were screaming at NASA not to launch, well into the wee hours of the morning of the catastrophe. However, what the special omitted was the cover-up and closing-of-ranks that NASA did AFTER the accident. To me, NASA's behavior after the fact was even more reprehensible than its carelessness before the launch.
It was for the reason of politics that then-president Ronald Reagan personally requested that Feynman be on-board the investigation committee [a committee that also included the astronauts Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride, among others]. Reagan knew that Feynman would get to the bottom of the matter (which he did) and that Feynman did not care for the politics of making NASA "look good" (which he didn't).
With this in mind, even people who are not interested in Richard Feynman, but are curious about what happened to the CHALLENGER would gain much by reading this book. Feynman explains his thorough, logical methodology and how it rubbed many people the wrong way. His straight-forward and honest disclosures of NASA's gerrymandering created much animosity between himself and NASA exec William Rogers (who, it seems, was more interested in NASA's image than getting to the heart of the matter). For those who are interested in further reading on the CHALLENGER topic, I would recommend NO ORDINARY GENIUS: THE ILLUSTRATED FEYNMAN ...
For Feynman enthusiasts, this book is vintage Feynman - a can't miss. As a bonus, the center of the book has photographs from his life, as well as some of his sketches. The book is equally recommended for people who wonder about what "really" happened to the CHALLENGER, and why it happened. NASA aficionados may be disappointed in the work as it exposes (truthfully) all of the fudge-factors, apathy for safety issues and faulty reasoning NASA used with the efficacy of launching CHALLENGER on time and preserving its positive image after the fact.
The second and greater part of this book deals with Feynman's presence on the committee investigating the 1986 crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger, capturing the incredible dissatisfaction felt by him as he is plunged into the administrative bureaucracy of Washington and NASA. The descriptions of the shuttle and its faulty components are illustrated clearly with the help of figures and photographs. These illustrations help the reader visualize the circumstances of the crash and where the the major fault within the shuttle actually lay. These are particularly helpful in eliminating any ambiguity in the description of technical rocket components (O-rings, etc). Despite the serious content, this part of the book retains the strong elements of humor found within rest of the book. It manages to paint a ludicrous picture of the way things tended to be handled in NASA (e.g. NASA informing an official that the probability of failure of an manned rocket is 1 in 100,000 which implied that "you could fly the shuttle every day for an average of 300 years between accidents- every day, one flight, for 300 years- which is obviously crazy!"). He also points towards the general errors made by large organizations such as NASA due to the divide between levels of management by narrating personal conversations with the management, engineers and workers. The perspicuous manner with which he describes his involvement in the investigation almost makes the reader feel as if he were right alongside Feynman while he was dealt the task of investigating the crash.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed "Surely You're Joking..." and is willing to put his mind to a bit more work to enjoy the second part of the book. Overall, it is a great book that any Feynman fan will be willing to appreciate!
Always struggling to look at things "differently", Feynman became a very sought-after educator, teaching at the United States most prestigious universities, as well as other schools in places like Brazil.
At the end of the day, Feynman's most important teachings might come as: 'Never take yourself too seriously' (as other reviewers have already commented), 'Always keep an open mind' and 'Focus your efforts on what really matters'.
If you enjoy this book (which I'm sure you will), check out what could be considered the first part of it: 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' : Adventures of a Curious Character; as well as Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey - both, highly recommendable.