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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman Paperback – Apr 1 1997


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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman + What Do You Care What Other People Think + The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; Reprint edition (April 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393316041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393316049
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.3 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Amazon

A series of anecdotes shouldn't by rights add up to an autobiography, but that's just one of the many pieces of received wisdom that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88) cheerfully ignores in his engagingly eccentric book, a bestseller ever since its initial publication in 1985. Fiercely independent (read the chapter entitled "Judging Books by Their Covers"), intolerant of stupidity even when it comes packaged as high intellectualism (check out "Is Electricity Fire?"), unafraid to offend (see "You Just Ask Them?"), Feynman informs by entertaining. It's possible to enjoy Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman simply as a bunch of hilarious yarns with the smart-alecky author as know-it-all hero. At some point, however, attentive readers realize that underneath all the merriment simmers a running commentary on what constitutes authentic knowledge: learning by understanding, not by rote; refusal to give up on seemingly insoluble problems; and total disrespect for fancy ideas that have no grounding in the real world. Feynman himself had all these qualities in spades, and they come through with vigor and verve in his no-bull prose. No wonder his students--and readers around the world--adored him. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

History will remember Nobel Prize–winning physicist Feynman (1918–1988), for his work in quantum physics and his role in the investigation of the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. Contemporary readers and listeners, however, will remember him best for his reputation as a free-thinking iconoclast whose personal adventures were hilarious, insightful and inspiring. Todd does a fabulous job of conveying Feynman's infectious enthusiasm and childlike sense of wonder with his energetic portrayal of the scientist. He's adept even in difficult sections, such as when Feynman "speaks Italian" and "Chinese"—inventing completely made-up but accurate sounding languages. Todd does a good job of portraying Feynman's inquisitive manner and conveys the book's message and attitude with aplomb. While he sounds nothing like the late physicist (Feynman— the subject of James Gleick's Genius—had a thick Long Island accent and sounded more like a cross between Yogi Bear and The Honeymooners' Ed Norton), Todd's clean, polite voice is a revelation. Based on the Norton paperback. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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WHEN I WAS about eleven or twelve I set up a lab in my house. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrice Levesque on Nov. 1 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A compilation of chronologically lined-up short stories about Feynman's life, this book cannot be called an autobiography; we just get the « greatest hits ». We discover a really smart man through his relations with authority, art, science, religion, psychology, music and more. Feynman worked as a physicist but you don't find the typical introverted lab-coat nerd personality; instead we get to know a curious man with passions from lock picking to drums. Feynman mentions scientific stuff he works on to give context, but no more; we often forget he's a physicist (one of the most important physicists of the 20th Century, no less!): the book thus can be enjoyed by anybody, especially... you.
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Format: Hardcover
To borrow the phrase from MTV this is Feynman unplugged.
I really enjoyed his commencement talk that is last chapter in the book. He exhorts his listeners to create real empirically supportable results in their research. There is a new kind of scientist in our midst that I feel Dr. Feynman would have detested. This kind of scientist is less interested in the reality of what is being studied and more interested in advancing a certain agenda. There is a great web site (junkscience^com) that catalogues many of these scientific gunslingers.
This book is a retrospective that begins at the beginning and finishes in 1974 (many years before his report on the Challenger accident). It describes his early years working in a hotel, going to MIT, working at Los Alamos, and teaching at Cornell and Caltech. There are many demonstrations of his wicked wit and quirky (quarky?) sense of humor. He is quick to seize the opportunity to use his wit as is shown when he hides a door in his fraternity house.
This is a fun read!
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Format: Paperback
I was given this book by my CIO (one of those guys who proudly label themselves as a "nerd") who told me to "read this book, it's rad". We're both voracious readers, so I knew this would be a great book, but I wasn't prepared for it to be such an "important" one. But important it is. This book details the life of a remarkably simple man driven by his passion for the truth, the sensory beauty of life, and the many mysteries of nature.
Ok, so getting a Nobel Prize and (for the most part) spawning the science of Modern Quantum clearly puts you in the category of "interesting", what really stands R. Feyman out from the rest of his peers is the exceptional balance he managed to strike in his life between Productive (Science, Manhattan Project, etc.) and Sensory (Travel, Musical talent, wife/women).
Stories of him being the only scientist at Trinity (where the first atom bomb he worked on was detonated) to get out from the protected bunker so he could "see" the detonation (jumped behind the glass in his truck because he WAS PRETTY SURE the gamma and X-rays wouldn't harm his eyes) and him leading a protest against the shutting down of a local strip bar (where he would spend many of his final days doing drawings), this book details the life of one of the bravest, most accomplished, and dynamic men of our time.
A very worthwile read for those who are looking for a quick entertaining read, or for a hero. I think you'll find them both in this book.
Hope this was helpful.
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By A Customer on Jan. 8 2004
Format: Paperback
It was a pleasure to read these collected stories from Feynman's life. Each story is entertaining and often humorous or enlightening. Most remarkable I think is how honest these stories are. Feynman includes some very strange stories - particularly one about him hanging out in Vegas and trying to pick up women - that seem a bit out of place. But I think that is part of the appeal of this book: it is a very honest look at Feynman's rich life.
In a way, Feynman reminds me of the title character from Oliver Sack's "An Anthropologist on Mars" about an autistic woman who describes herself as continuously observing human behavior like an anthropologist on Mars. Feynman is constantly trying to do experiments to see how other people respond, including many enjoyable practical jokes. Maybe humans were sort of like physics for him, and he was just trying to perturb the system and see how they worked.
The real message I got out of these stories was how Feynman was so willing to try everything - particularly the things he was not very good at. He's a bad artist, so he decides to learn how to draw and ends up getting his own art show. He's not very musical, so he learns to play drums and ends up recording the music for a ballet. He doesn't know any biology, so he starts learning and ends up doing experiments with JD Watson. In one section he delves into Mayan history and starts deciphering the codecs. In another memorable chapter he learns the art of safecracking while at Los Alamos. This book sort of inspires me to try something I stink at and see how much I can accomplish. For Feynman, it seems like there was nothing he couldn't do.
Overall I think you will be glad if you get this book. However, I also got the book "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out" and that was not as enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback
I always thougth that theoretical physicists were these super smart guys sitting around the black board drawing weird diagrams of atom smashing and writing math forumulas that predict that life cannot exist and pondering the meaning of things like gravity and magnetism. Now the truth is out, they are weird, but in an normal sort of insane way. They have these great insights and then spend the rest of their lives banging away at the great unsolvable problems like "what do women want" and "where to find a hotel in city that's full up."
I really liked this book. It brings out the human side of Dr. Feynman. I've read his lectures on physics books and they are dry and full of stuff I've long forgotten. But after reading about his adventures with the California state school system in picking a science text book had me rolling on the ground laughing. As a student I always wondered how these bad textbooks got sent down to torment me and now I know. It surely wasn't Richard's fault!
Anyway a good read about the life of one who saw life through a different set of colored glasses.
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