The best-selling author of Chaos profiles the life and achievements of iconoclastic physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, describing his unique vision of science and his revolutionary legacy. 100,000 first printing. $100,000 ad/promo. Tour.
Gleick, firstly, goes far deeper into Feynman's life than Feynman did. Feynman didn't consider his books to be autobiographies; they were "Adventures of a curious character." They were a few hilarious events picked from his long, full life.
Gleick's book covers many of the hilarious aspects, but also covers the painful and formative aspects. Also curiously missing from Feynman's books were his science. Feynman wrote about his adventures, Gleick covered the adventures, the disasters, and the science.
Brilliant, enthralling reading. Highly recommending to anyone who enjoyed Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Which is, in turn, recommended to anyone who likes funny stories. It reads fast, BTW.)
Fortunately,the book does not contain many passages like this one!
If you're interested in learning about the history of QED and Feynman's hand in its development, this book is a nice teaser, but it really doesn't go into much depth. It focuses too much on the shallow rivalries between the physicists of that time, without really making clear what the developments were or how they were developed.
Since my brother was for a time a theoretical Physicist I heard much of the Feynman folklore. Gleick captured the folklore quite well. But the power and influence of the famous lectures given by Feynman to Caltech freshman and sophomore Physics students(known simply as Feynman's Lectures)was understated. During the last half of the 60s and through the 70s it would be hard not to find Physics Graduate students at the elite Universities (Chicago,MIT and so on) intensely studying Feynman's lectures as preparation for their PHD comps. This is so well known that the conceitful dream of other introductory text writers such as Samuelson in Economics, is to have the same role in their field.
The real shortcoming of the book is that it is a 90% solution. It would be interesting to have compared him with other Physics theoreticans--as a group. They are quite similar in many ways. You look at the famous and not so famous in that area and they have a set of commonalities. They will have self-taught themselves Mathematical subjects and found those challenges less exciting than understanding the physical world. In fact,that is the rationale of their existence, at least for a time. They all need to be do-it-themselfers.Read more ›