The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works Of Richard P. Feynman Paperback – Aug 10 2000
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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 The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a collection of previously unpublished or difficult-to-find short works by maverick physicist Richard Feynman, takes its title from his own answer.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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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.
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.
Now, 25 years later, there's a modest "boom" of Feynman material in print, by no means all worthy of being in that state (which is why Feynman kept a number of lecture transcripts tucked away forgotten in file folders) and one fears, after seeing "The Meaning of it All," that even Feynman's used kleenex and desk blotters are not safe from publication!
But this collection is welcome for gathering together many transcriptions of his famous talks from this era, the 1960s and 1970s, the best of which are "Los Alamos from Below," the deservedly legendary "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," "What is Science?" and "Cargo Cult Science."
As a physicist and as one who had the pleasure of hearing Feynman lecture in person on a number of occasions, I had some reservations about the editing of this book, however. The book unwisely starts out with an interview from late in Feynman's life, in which he tells some of his favorite stories in a quite inarticulate way, and then edits out the same stories as they appear in far more comprehensible fashion in the later material (related two decades before). The editor himself seems singularly innocent of science in all its aspects, which results in some major howlers. For example, the speed of light in glass is about 75% of its speed in vacuum, far from "a fraction of a percent" slower than its vacuum speed (p.xii) and CP Invariance (p.Read more ›
I particularly enjoyed the subtle yet unmistakable way he scolded the people at NASA for putting their political butts before the safety of the space program they were managing in his famous "Minority Report to the Space Shuttle Challenger Inquiry." But the chapter that really sold me on Richard P. Feynman, boy wonder grown up, was "It's as Simple as One, Two, Three" in which he explores the ability to do two things at once through an experiment with counting. Such a delight he took in learning as a kid from his friend Bernie that we sometimes think in pictures and not in words. And then the further delight he took in learning that some people count with their inner voice (himself), and others (his friend John Tukey) count by visualization.
I was also loved the chapter, "What is Science?", a talk to science teachers in which Feynman demonstrates that the real difference between science and other ways of "knowing" (e.g., religion) is the ability to doubt. In science we learn, as Feyman said he himself learned, to live with doubt. But in the religious way of "knowing" doubt is intolerable. Feynman gives an evolutionary illustration of why doubt is essential. He begins with the "intelligent" animals "which can learn something from experience (like cats)." At this stage, he says, each animal learned "from its own experience." Then came some animals that could learn more rapidly and from the experience of others by watching.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 on Feb. 4 2014 by Mario Lemelin
I found this book to be complicating as it jumped from subject to subject. It wasnt really that informative. Read morePublished on June 25 2003 by baby
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,... Read morePublished on Nov. 8 2002 by David Marshall
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 morePublished on Aug. 7 2002 by Rafe Champion
While I greatly enjoyed 'Surely You're Joking Dr. Feyman..." this book leaves me unentertained. Read morePublished on July 25 2002 by towSaint
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 morePublished on March 25 2002 by Ashwin
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 morePublished on March 22 2002 by Luis F Lupian
This collection of "short works" a decent collection, and will surely appeal to those who enjoyed "Genius" and "Surely You Must Be Joking... Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2002 by kresnels
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