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The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works Of Richard P. Feynman Paperback – Aug 10 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (Aug. 10 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738203491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738203492
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.7 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #909,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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 The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a collection of previously unpublished or difficult-to-find short works by maverick physicist Richard Feynman, takes its title from his own answer.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 the Audio CD edition.

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 the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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 filmed Messenger Lectures of a decade before, "The Character of Physical Law"--- by the way, why aren't these available today on video tape?
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.
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This book is a great introduction to Feynman, though I would still have to recommend "Surely You're Joking..." for the novice. That book was not technical at all, and exposed Feynman's joy in both learning and being a prankster. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out is (slightly) more technical in places, but hardly difficult. It is also much more well-rounded, allowing greater insight into Feynman, who was:
1. Smart as hell
2. Arrogant
3. Happy only when learning
4. Quite a storyteller (in every sense of the word)
5. Thoroughly unconventional
The piece by Freeman Dyson was worth the price of admission, and led me to investigate his works (also highly recommended). I also think the very underrated Challenger Inquiry report was extremely interesting.
Keep in mind, though, that many people I've spoken with really dislike Feynman's arrogance (one person said "he's just a jerk"). I personally feel he had every right to be vain, but over the course of four books, it does get tiring.
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