- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: WW Norton; 1 edition (Feb. 6 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393320928
- ISBN-13: 978-0393320923
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 299 g
- Average Customer Review: 44 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
What Do You Care What Other People Think: Further Adventures Of A Curious Character Paperback – Feb 6 2001
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A thoughtful companion volume to the earlier Surely You Are Joking Mr. Feynman!. Perhaps the most intriguing parts of the book are the behind-the-scenes descriptions of science and policy colliding in the presidential commission to determine the cause of the Challenger space shuttle explosion; and the scientific sleuthing behind his famously elegant O-ring-in-ice-water demonstration. Not as rollicking as his other memoirs, but in some ways more profound. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Roughly half of these 21 short, colloquial essays deal with Feynman's firsthand investigaton of the Challenger space-shuttle disaster. He casts himself in the role of intrepid detective, and the first-person singular pronoun keeps intruding on the worthwhile things he has to say about flight safety and lack of communication within NASA. An appendix offers his chilling technical observations on the shuttle's reliability or lack of it. The remaining pieces are mostly a blur of international conferences, purveying slight anecdotes. But two essays touch genuine depths of feeling: his tribute to his father, who taught him to cultivate a sense of wonder, and his account of his love affair with his first wife (who died). In this posthumous miscellany, theoretical physicist Feynman displays only sporadically the adventurousness that captivated readers of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
First section describes how his father taught him to think about the world and his father's ambition to make young Richard a scientist. The end of the book is Feyman's case for the importance of science. In between we get the sad, but sweet story of his first wife and the utterly compelling story of his time on the committee investigating the challenger explosion. It was my favorite part of the book.
The description of how government committees decide facts and make recommendations was eye opening. It was the best description of how these things work that I've ever read. Feynman was constantly up against a committee chairman that wanted to keep everyone in a room asking questions of experts. Feynman didn't like that setup. He wanted to travel out to NASA and talk to engineers, so he did.
Going to Huston and Canaveral, Feynman learned something about the nature of NASA that probably goes for any big organization. He found that NASA was a unified force when their goal was putting a man of the moon. Information was shared freely and appreciated at every level. Once that goal was met NASA became compartmentalized.
Leaders at the top spent their time reassuring Congress that NASA would achieve their goals with low costs and high safety. Engineers at the bottom realized that this wasn't entirely possible. The middle managers didn't want to hear the challenges because they would be forced to report it to the top bosses who didn't want to hear it. It was much easier for top bosses to paint a rosy picture to Congress if they were unaware of the actual challenges of making it work. The end result was that top bosses said that the likelihood of a mission death was 1-100,000 while engineers on the ground felt that the likelihood was more like 1-300.
Feynman concludes that maybe the shuttle program was a bad idea. It could never live up to the ambitious projections of the leaders and the American public was being lied to. NASA should be honest with the American people, Feynman thought, then Congress and voters can decide if they are getting enough for their money. It was a surprisingly thing to hear from an advocate of science and discovery. But Feynam reckoned that the amount of science and discovery has been little compared to the cost. He complained years after the first shuttle launch he still hadn't read any significant experiments in scientific journals.
In all, I liked this book a little better than "Surely You're Joking." It was a little more thought provoking than those fun tales.
His earlier book "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" was a classic and an inspiration to generations of young scientists who were shown that you can have lots of fun while pursuing a life in science. I myself had read it in single sitting, and had completely been mesmerized by Feynman's wit and irreverent attitude. "What Do You Care What Other People Think" is a further collection of stories and anecdotes from his life. Some of these had been told by others over the years, but in this book they all come together in a single volume as told by Feynman himself. Some of the events and stories presented come from the last few years of his life, and it is hard not to feel the poignancy of the fact that these were some of his last thoughts on subjects and situations that he cared about.
Almost half of the book is dedicated to the investigation of the Challenger disaster. Feynman was on the presidential commission that investigated that disaster, and here we get a full insight into what had been going on during commission's session. Many reports have made it seem that Feynman had single handedly figured out the true cause of the disaster - the faulty o-rings that were not meant to be used in really low temperatures. In this book he sets the record straight and explains that although he was the public face that brought attention to the o-rings, there had been many people behind the scenes who had suspected a problem with them for quite a while. This part of the book is also a very useful and revealing glimpse into the workings of a big governmental and scientific agency like NASA.
The book concludes with few musings on the responsibility of science for social problems. In these musings Feynman turns uncharacteristically philosophical, even almost spiritual. He might not have been the most sophisticated thinkers in these matters, but his instincts were very acute and well worth listening to.
All of those who appreciate Feynman's work and brilliance will be grateful for this honest and easy-going narrative. It is also hard not to think that with Feynman's passing a whole era of Physics had come to an end. Those of us who think that somewhere along the way theoretical Physics had lost its way and had become a caricature of its former self, may wonder if all of that could have been avoided had Feynman lived for another ten years or so. We'll just never really know.
The stories he wrote in "Surely" were well polished, short and to the point, very much as he conveyed his pursuit of simpler presentations of the rudiments of physics.
This book, undoubtably disrupted by the accelerating decline of his health, is less polished, but is excellent when he describes his part in the determination of the Challenger disaster. [At one point he exclaims that the Challenger hearings are 'killing me'... speeding his death.] His further descriptions of his life with his first wife are also a wonderful and very human essay.
Feynman, with one exception, is the prime model of how a human being should approach life in its amazing totality. The ideas in this book are as much a part of that model as "Surely" and his "Introduction to Physics."
The title, by the way, was taken from words his first wife spoke about sixty years ago. Feynman had been placed in a situation where his presentation of himself - not his ideas - was of critical importance. His first wife, using those words, made it possible for him to ignore the presentation and pursue the ideas.
This book is about love of life, as are all his books.
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