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The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman [Paperback]

Richard P. Feynman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 6 2005 0465023959 978-0465023950 New edition
'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out' is a magnificent treasury of the best short works of Richard P. Feynman—from interviews and speeches to lectures and printed articles. A sweeping, wide-ranging collection, it presents an intimate and fascinating view of a life in science-a life like no other. From his ruminations on science in our culture to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, this book will fascinate anyone interested in the world of ideas.

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Why do we do science? Beyond altruistic and self-aggrandizing motivations, many of our best scientists work long hours seeking the electric thrill that comes only from learning something that nobody knew before. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a collection of previously unpublished or difficult-to-find short works by maverick physicist Richard Feynman, takes its title from his own answer. From TV interview transcripts to his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, we see his quick, sharp wit, his devotion to his work, and his unwillingness to bow to social pressure or convention. It's no wonder he was only grudgingly admired by the establishment during his lifetime--read his "Minority Report to the Space Shuttle Challenger Inquiry" to see him blowing off political considerations as impediments to finding the truth.

Feynman had a fantastic sense of humor, and his memoirs of his Manhattan Project days roil with fun despite his later misgivings about nuclear weapons. Though one or two pieces are a bit hard to follow for the nontechnical reader, for the most part the book is easygoing and engaging on a personal rather than a scientific level. Freeman Dyson's foreword and editor Jeffrey Robbins's introductions to each essay set the stage well and are respectful without being worshipful. Though Feynman has been gone now for many years, his work lives on in quantum physics, computer design, and nanotechnology; like any great scientist, he asked more questions than he answered, to give future generations the pleasure of finding things out. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A Nobel-winning physicist, inveterate prankster and gifted teacher, Feynman (1918-1988) charmed plenty of contemporary and future scientists with accounts of his misadventures in the bestselling Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and explained the fundamentals of physics in (among other books) Six Easy Pieces. Editor Jeffrey Robbins's assemblage of 13 essays, interviews and addresses (only one of them new to print) will satisfy admirers of those books and other fans of the brilliant and colorful scientist. Best known among the selections here is certainly Feynman's "Minority Report to the Challenger Inquiry," in which the physicist explained to an anxious nation why the Space Shuttle exploded. The title piece transcribes a wide-ranging, often-autobiographical interview Feynman gave in 1981; an earlier talk with Omni magazine has the author explaining his prize-winning work on quantum electrodynamics, then fixing the interviewer's tape recorder. Other pieces address the field of nanotechnology, "The Relation of Science and Religion" and Feynman's experience at Los Alamos, where he helped create the A-bomb (and, in his spare time, cracked safes). Much of the work here was originally meant for oral delivery, as speeches or lectures: Feynman's talky informality can seduce, but some of the pieces read more like unedited tape transcripts than like science writing. Most often, however, Feynman remains fun and informative. Here are yet more comments, anecdotes and overviews from a charismatic rulebreaker with his own, sometimes compelling, views about what science is and how it can be done. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars scraping the bottom of the feynmaniana barrel July 16 2003
This book is yet another posthumous compilation of Feynman's musings. With each successive book - starting from the wonderful transcriptions of Leighton, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman - they have been declining in quality for years. Well, this is a hodgepodge of paper scraps and even raw oral interviews that have been thrown together to exploit just about the last drop of these kinds of things, and I can say that I don't think the process should continue.
There are some amusing things in this book and some interesting details, but there really isn't anything special except for the fact that Feynman enjoys the personality cult associated with a zany physics genius. He was an original character and, in physics, a truly great thinker. But that doesn't make every last little thing that he ever said or scribbled down interesting, except to uncritical devotees who live with the fantasy that everything he said was better than worthwhile. Indeed, if you know about something in great depth he writes (well talks) about, his views appear as superficial as the rest of non-specialists on the subjects. Where he is truly interesting in on physics, mathematics, and science - and the overwhelming majority of what he produced on those subjects is already available.
I would not recommend this book, except as a source of Feynman trivia if that is your bag. Indeed, I had heard most of these things before - either in films about the man or from his earlier writings. As such, that makes this book the crassest attempt to commercially exploit the legacy of this great man yet again. If such a thing were possible, the editor should be ashamed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars different but in a way too different June 25 2003
By baby
I found this book to be complicating as it jumped from subject to subject. It wasnt really that informative. It gave out the authors personal information and feelings rather than actual facts. I guess it was something that one with the same mind frame as him could relate to. I had to read this book for school. I got nothing out of it, except the ignorant and close minded thoughts of the author. The grammar was also terrribe. It wasnt written in a way that one could follow. I had to use my imagination to kind of figure out the authors feelings of whatever he was talking. It was written in a way as if he was actually talking to in person rather than through a book. But I do have to say that it was different. I guess if you are into and study science it is the book for you. But its not really a book to learn from. Instead its more like a book to say "Oh! I feel that way too." To conclude, I dont know what to say to those of you who are into science, but to those of you who do not have much of an interest in it i would reccomend that you choose another book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A grab-bag of a book. Nov. 8 2002
This book is a hodge-podge of personal and professional reminiscenses and interviews. Feynmann tells stories about building the A-bomb, his Dad, teaching his children, curiosity, learning, "the big picture," and how he learned that different minds work differently. I enjoyed parts of the book, particularly the parts most related to the book's title, like how his Father taught him scientific curiosity.
It is obvious that a lot of people have respect for Feynman, and I don't doubt he earned it. But as a story-teller, while he is sometimes interesting, frankly a lot of the time he is rather incoherent. The interviews are especially inarticulate, fumbling for words. I guess you had to be there. Elsewhere, Feynman comes across as another famous scientist piddling in other fields in his spare time. As an educator he is interesting, though not always fully syntactical. What he teaches well is his own infectious enthusiasm for "finding things out." Like some other scientists who are not very familiar with other fields, he tends to depict that pleasure as an almost exclusively scientific one. But of course Confucius, Origen, and Augustine knew the same pleasure, as do we in the contemporary humanities. As a teacher myself, I agree that enthusiastic curiosity is itself the greatest lesson. Feynman communicates that well, among other things.
Feynman admits that "in a field that is so complicated that true science is not able to get anywhere, we have to rely on a kind of old-fashioned wisdom." It would be truer to say that science is one in a continuum of epistomological methods, from the most direct (and limited), like math, to "hard sciences" like physics and chemistry, to "soft sciences" (paleontology) and up through history to psychology and finally theology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best of Feynman July 25 2002
While I greatly enjoyed 'Surely You're Joking Dr. Feyman..." this book leaves me unentertained. There are a number of insightful articles and some gems, but the best material is repeated from 'Surely you're joking...'. For the dedicated Feynman fan, this is must-have, but it's a poor intro: read another of this amazing man's works first!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Find out Jan. 18 2004
Anyone who became familiar with Richard Feynman from his hugely popular memoirs What Do You Care What Other People Think, and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman will find The Pleasure of Finding Things Out an intermediate step between those books and the dense scientific texts behind his Nobel Prize and reputation as one of the 20th century's great minds.
This book is not meant to be entertaining, but I suppose a glimpse into Mr. Feynman's mind cannot help but be entertaining, even when it is a series of lectures based entirely on science. Here he talks about what he calls the "thrill" of boldly finding out what no man knew before, on subjects ranging from the discovery of the reasons behind the crash of the space shuttle Challenger to the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos and from the role of science in society to his Nobel acceptance speech. And while it is not specifically written with the non-scientist in mind, a strong background in science is not necessary to understand and enjoy the wind-ranging collection of philosophies, musings, and remarks collected on these pages.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Always a pleasure to read
I always was facinated by this physicist. I read many times is classics on physics. But never have quite the time to read thos little book. Now, It is a pleasure.
Published 2 months ago by Mario Lemelin
5.0 out of 5 stars Euros well spent!
Richard Feynman achieved something like cult status, almost on a par with Stephen Hawking and for some time I resisted the temptation to read him. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2002 by Rafe Champion
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance and charm: Feynman as a teacher
I very much enjoyed this entertaining and delightful collection of lectures, talks and essays by the world-renown and sorely missed Professor Feynman, Nobel Prize winning... Read more
Published on April 16 2002 by Dennis Littrell
4.0 out of 5 stars The 'extended' Feynman
So you've read all the usual books on Feynman and by Feynman.... but where this one scores over the others is in portraying a picture of Feynman the readers are mostly unaware... Read more
Published on March 25 2002 by Ashwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Read Feynman as he speaks his mind out
If you want to immerse yourself in the human side of the great Richard Feynman without having to struggle with a book full of equations, then this book is for you. Read more
Published on March 22 2002 by Luis F Lupian
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting thoughts and opinions - just for fans
This collection of "short works" a decent collection, and will surely appeal to those who enjoyed "Genius" and "Surely You Must Be Joking... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2002 by kresnels
5.0 out of 5 stars A scientist's scientist
Feynman seems to have something of a cult following, which is a shame, I think. He'd not approve of it. Read more
Published on July 30 2001 by Duwayne Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome, with some reservations....
As a physics professor in the 1970s, I tried introducing my "liberal arts physics" students to Richard Feynman, via xerox copies of some of his writings, and via the... Read more
Published on July 8 2001 by Rory Coker
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