From the author of the national best seller Chaos comes an outstanding biography of one of the most dazzling and flamboyant scientists of the 20th century that "not only paints a highly attractive portrait of Feynman but also . . . makes for a stimulating adventure in the annals of science." (The New York Times).
©1993 James Gleick (P)2011 Random House
I expected this book to concentrate more on the life of RPF than it did but I am grateful to be disappointed - the clues were in the title, after all! This book balances the life of Feynman with the scientific environment of the time and the progress of Feynman and his peers in developing their understanding of the quantum world. It is fantastic. The author conveys the feeling that Feynman was around at a time when scientific endeavour and discover was at its peak - an exciting time of debate and competition towards a deeper understanding of a science in its (comparative) infancy.
I have read the autobiographical books of RPF and watched some of his interviews such as the BBC Horizon one (available on YouTube), but these do not fully reveal just what an incredible mind he had. He never lost the child's curiosity to learn about the world around him and had an obsessive desire to develop the mathematical and intuitive abilities required to do so. This is a frank and honest book relating the good and bad in him, and this makes it all the more enjoyable. Newton said, ?If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants? - Feynman took nothing for granted in science and insisted on standing on his own shoulders, and by doing so became one of the most influential and highly regarded scientists of all time.
I highly recommend this book to people who want to learn more about RPF, about the evolution of quantum physics and the people who were pivotal to it and also to anyone curious as to what a Genius really is - This book only emphasises what a much-abused word it has become.
With a constantly active and searching mind, his last words were reported to be 'I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring.'
I was leant this book (I mean the brick of a hardback that you turn pages to access) by a colleague and began reading it a couple of weeks ago, then took advantage of an offer to get the audiobook. I'm still some way from the end, but already there are some serious impediments to my total enjoyment.
First is that Gleick, who clearly knows his subject, knows a lot more than just this subject, and lets us know. A biography is a journey following the stream of its subject's life, and it is right to expect some context from the surrounding landscape--it seems to me that Gleick deviates way too far into the surrounding countryside, often leaving the catchment of the waterway he should be following.
Second, and worst, is that Dick Estell is seriously inappropriate as a narrator of a book so centred on scientific narrative. His reading is stilted and uncomfortable, with studied delivery of every syllable. As if that were not enough, he has is own unique pronunciation of primer. Pythagoras and Descartes.
I'm ploughing on--I have a real and abiding admiration of Ritty Feynman, and despite my wider objections, I'm interested to learn of his career through Los Alamos and Caltech to the Committee of Enquiry into the Challenger disaster. I may update this review later...
I am grateful that James did this, for I learned many new things. I have read many other books about Feynman, and have had that 'I'll eat it cause it's on the plate' feeling about the last few. I feel that way about this too, cause of all the revisited material, but Gleick fills in so many gaps that it is still very refreshing. Mind you all: If you are new to Feynman, this would be one of the most comprehensive books ever written on him! It covers all the old and much new material. This is for everyone!
Like Bird & Sherwin's biography of Oppenheimer, Farmelo's account of Dirac, and Issacson's book on Einstein, Gleick's tome on Feynman brings to life the man whom one of his colleagues called "50% genius, 50% buffoon"--and then amended his comment to "100% genius, 100% buffoon!" Lots of personal accounts of the wacky, intense genius that Feynman was, with wonderful details of his work and how he helped to recreate science in the nearly mystical world of quantum mechanics.
"Feynman Life and Science"
This book is half biography and half science. Feynman was one of a kind and had a remarkable career. You can???t help thinking that this is how brains are supposed to work. The science exposition is clear and easy to follow. The narrator is a perfect match to the material.
"So glad to have this in audio..."
I've adored this book since it was first published. I am so happy to have it on audio now. The narration is pretty flat, and I'm not entirely sure about some of the pronunciations (Pretty sure I.I. Rabi is "Rah-bee" not "Rab-eye") but glad to have it nonetheless. Eagerly awaiting Gleick's newest!
One my pet peeves about some audio books is a narrator who doesn't bother to learn the pronunciation of names, but just wings it. I am not too far in, but already he calls Murray Gell-Mann "Jel Man" as though he were describing some man made of jelly. Gell is properly pronounced as the 'gel' in the first syllable of gelding, and the vowel in Mann is of the 'ah" variety. This sort of thing REALLY annoys me even although the book itself is quite good.
"Good General Biography, Reader a Bit Lacking"
This is a good general-purpose biography of the physicist Richard Feynman. Given that it's written for the average reader, it doesn't go into great depth about the Feynman's work. It does, however, give a good feel for Physics during the time that Feynman was beginning his career, notably during the period when he was working at Los Alamos. The beginning skips around quite a bit providing some background, so be patient, it does get around to Feynman's life. The only issue is with the reader. He manages to mis-pronounce a fair number of names in the book and someone should have taken the time to edit the performance so as to catch the mispronounciations in the mathematics and physics terms (e.g., "matrices" is *not* pronounced "matresses".)
"Great Book, Bad Performance and Editing"
I was embarrassed for Dick Estell and any Editors attached to this recording. Do some research; Show some respect both to the author and those great minds represented in this book.
I hope in the future Audible will re-record this Audiobook.
"Ok, that's the last straw...Dess Carts?"
Yes, in print or by a different narrator.
This is a fantastic biography of a great scientist and human, ruined by bad narration.
The narrator reads everything like a Sunday-school teacher reading out of a children's bible. He mispronounces scientific words and historical figures incessantly! This narration is a bad joke.
In a heartbeat.
I'm sure the narrator is a nice guy, but this book did not suit him. The audio director also needs to wake up!
"What I cannot review, I do not understand"
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."
- Richard Feynman
"Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."
- Richard Feynman
Feynman was lucky in three ways. First, the guy was born with a brain that somehow gave him access to problems with a speed and a dexterity that seemed magical to his peers, and his peers are people that already often stretched the capacity for knowledge and intelligence. Second, Feynman was lucky to be born at the right time. He came into his abilities at the right moment for Physics. He was there when physicists (post Einstein's relativity) seemed to grab a larger piece of global attention. Third, Feynman was lucky to have participated in WWII's war of the magicians (Los Alamos and the Atomic Bomb). All of these things combined with Feynman's iconoclastic nature, his perseverance and single-mindedness, his capacity to get to the root of problems, put Feynman second to Einstein in 20th century minds.
The book itself is a very good example of scientific biography. Gleick doesn't stray, however, too far from the anecdotal autobiography of Feynman in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character. Gleick elaborates, provides more detail, adds interesting vignettes on other Physicists that fell into Feynman's orbit (Wilson, Oppenheimer, Dyson, Dirac, Bohr, Schwinger, Gell-Mann, etc). Those diversions and Gleick's occasional riffs on the idea of genius keep this from being just an average scientific biography. It also was a bit stronger and more robust than Gleick's earlier work: Chaos: Making a New Science.
All that said, it still wasn't an AMAZING biography. I appreciated the time spent on the details. The accuracy and notes associated with this book, but a lot of the magic of the book existed in Feynman himself and not in the telling of it.
"Performer mispronounces basic science words"
The performer cannot pronounce some pretty basic words. For example, he pronounces the first "s" in "Descartes" and "matrices" like "mattresses". Most European names were butchered. Many technical terms slaughtered. It's extremely distracting and makes the science and the story enormously hard to follow. I strongly recommend reading this book in text rather than listening to the audiobook.
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