Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman Paperback – Apr 1 1997
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
To anyone involved in nuclear power, physics or engineering a great read. I would also recommend 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' by Richard RhodesPublished 1 month ago by Alexander Ironside
it is really a captivating book. When you start reading, you cannot leave it till its end. He was really a genius man.Published 2 months ago by Amir
Humorous. Fascinating and frightening facts about the author and early atomic experiments.Published 6 months ago by Aug
If you're looking at this book and have spent the time to scroll through and read the reviews, just add it to your cart already. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Adam Szypula