Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Richard Feynman Possessed An Unquenchable Thirst For Adventure And An Unparalleled Ability To Tell The Stories Of His Life In These Two Perennially Popular, Bestselling Memoir Collections, Feynman Weaves His Views On Modern Science Together With His Outrageous Life Experiences A Combustible Mixture Of Intelligence, Curiosity, Skepticism, And Chutzpah In Surely You Re Joking, Mr Feynman , Feynman Recounts His Adventures Trading Ideas On Atomic Physics With Einstein And Bohr, Gambling With Nick The Greek, Painting A Naked Female Toreador, And Much Else Of An Eyebrow Raising And Hilarious Nature In What Do You Care What Other People Think , Feynman Introduces Us To His First Love, Who Lay Dying In A Nearby Hospital While He Worked On The Atomic Bomb At Los Alamos, And Shares His Brilliant Experiment Which Revealed The Cause Of The Space Shuttle Challenger S Explosion. This book of anecdotes is written in a very casual, fun way that makes it easy to read The problem is that the author, Nobel Prize winning physicist Dick Feynman, is annoying All the anecdotes involve him discovering a hidden talent, using it, delighting others or himself if that s his real goal and then being applauded for it sometimes only by himself For example, he discovers that he s a great artist, musician, safecracker, and critic Everything revolves around him showing off and being somewhat of a jerk There were many times when I thought, yeah buddy, you think it s funny but no one else does A few stories like this and it s quirky but piled on top of each other, it s annoying.I can t really recommend this book Maybe mischevious self aggrandizing guys would enjoy it but otherwise, I suggest a pass. This book was a pure delight The subtitle Adventures of a Curious Character is spot on Feynman gave an amazingly human and honest view into his philosophy and take on life, thought a series of stories.One thing that struck me most deeply was his passion for learning new things You would think a world famous Physicist would just be passionate for Physics but Feynman was curious about everything he saw He dabbled in art and was successful enough to have a show, he joined a Brazilian Bongo group and competed with them, he hung out in Vegas until he grokked gambling, he spent time in strip bars in Arizona until he figured out how to pick up women, he cracked safes in Los Alamos for fun the list goes on My take you should have your passions but you should also have your hobbies I think I need a new hobby I really enjoyed his lessons learned from observing the Brazilian educational system He noted that many of the students were simply memorizing words and formulas and had no understanding of the concepts they applied to I think this is not a unique problem in education.Another lesson learned from Feynman s studies of science is to never take any data for granted Always always question the sources Whenever Feynman did an experiment he would re generate many of the numbers on his own even if they had been published in other places For many things we are and not just in science standing on the shoulders of giants The easiest way to be led astray is if those results were never right to begin with I think Feynman was in his heart a true educator and scientist, with real integrity And I think it drove him nuts how many important decisions are made using unscientific principles This book was a light hearted attempt to point that out not to mention, a very entertaining read. Hadn t thought a Nobel pprize winning physicist could be so fun loving down to earth He was a man ahead of his time when it came to many things of his time when it came to his ideas about pretty girls as he calls women The audiobook reader did a great job, but what a shame Feynman didn t read it himself before he passed on Would you like cream or lemon in your tea, Mr Feynman It s Mrs Eisenhart, pouring tea I ll have both, thank you, I say, still looking for where I m going to sit, when suddenly I hear Heh heh heh heh heh Surely you re joking, Mr Feynman The title of this collection comes from a tale that took place early in Feynman s career where he was invited for an afternoon tea with the dean of his university The dean s wife is serving and asks him the above question Richard never drinks tea and never moves in the same society that does, little own the society that has lemon OR cream with it A big theme of these stories and indeed a running theme in Feynman s life is that he had no time for formalisms, rituals or societal views He does attribute a lot of this to his upbringing His father was a uniform maker and often dealt with clients of all types of notoriety and he knew that underneath all those uniforms were just another naked ape He passed on his views to his children and Richard went so far as to nearly not accept his Nobel Prize To him it was another form of bullshit and that his reward had already been awarded with other scientists using his findings.It s no argument that Feynman was a brilliant physicist, but he also had many interests And a great proportion of these stories are about these interests or how his interests intersected with his physics work There is only one story in this collection that is technical in any way The collection reads as if you had somehow run into Feynman in a seedy bar in 1960s Vegas there s a story about this time waiting for a showgirl to finish work He is a great orator and the origins of these stories are that they were recorded and transcribed by Ralph Leighton, a drumming pal of Richard s Yes, Feynman played the bongos So while you have this brilliant man, in some ways ahead of his time in the ways that he thought and how he acted, there ares some hints that he is a man of his time Reading these stories you come to realise that Feynman was quite the womaniser He appreciated the female form in a socially acceptable way for the time that he lived in And so when someone from the twenty first century reads this book he can come across as a bit sleazy I am not going to defend his attitudes nor am I going to condone them Personally I found nothing overtly offensive about his actions or his attitudes But I can imagine my partner reading this and sighing at several statements made by him The book covers times in his childhood right up until late in life There is a nice large chapter on his time at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project There are also stories about his time in Brazil and Japan and his love for immersing himself in a different way of life There are also a couple of great chapters on education one about the standard of students he sees while in Brazil and the other concerning a time when he was asked to be on a panel to decide high school texts for his school region I d recommend this read to most people It is extremely accessible, with little jargon or technical physics It talks on his philosophy of living, learning and how to deal with the world around you He is definitely a great orator and that is why his legacy lives on This book remains a popular seller in the general sciences and recordings of his lectures and interviews are popular on youtube It s great to know that we still have so much of him around.And for those who want there are plenty collections of his wisdom There is also Feynman a biographic graphic novel. You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be It s their mistake, not my failing Richard Feynman, Surely You re Joking, Mr Feynman I ve been circling this book, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, and Gleck s Genius The Life and Science of Richard Feynman for awhile This one seemed the most fun and easiest place to start I was driving from Taos Santa Fe back to Phoenix last week and as I drove past Los Alamos, it was just the particle collision in my brain I needed to start on Feynman.Often, memoirs are hard to read because you know a bunch of it is fa ade A person is showing you a part of them for a purpose They want to be viewed as smart, important, funny, etc They carefully guide you through a Potemkin village of their life Richard Feynman s memoir is different Not that I don t think Feynman had an ego He might have even had an agenda with the book But, for the most part, he seemed much interested in the stories he wanted to tell, rather than on how they would make him look He wasn t all that worried about how he looked so much His entire life was built around doing what he wanted, exploring what he found interesting, violating taboos, beating his own drums and cutting his own path He was a Nobel prize winning polymath physicist whose other talents included playing drums, teaching, drawing naked girls, picking locks, making atomic bombs, practical jokes, and telling stories He wasn t interested in the usual trappings of success Many of those things annoyed him He was curious He was a risk taker He was a genius. Nobody ever figures out what life is all about,and it doesn t matter Explore the world Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough Video Review The story of Feynman changed fundamentally, what I think about the world around me.The story of Richard and his father helped me to understand, that many parents could help their children to a fulfilling life Parents could pique the interest of the child very early and could give him real answers if he asks why again and again.He changed my view about scientists He proved that the life of a scientist can be also sexy and interesting and the same time useful and deep activity You rarely have a chance to meet pedagogues who can help you fall in love with learning and set the fire of science in you, as Feynman did.This book is not only interesting for physicists and scientists, but also for parents and pedagogues who want to inspire their children, students to have a better life Elon Musk founder of Tesla founded a school build on the same principles what Feynman confessed Where children have a chance to understand the thing work around us, understand the whys , and continuously maintain the interest of the students.Of course many people cannot afford this luxury But also they can profit from these pedagogical principles, even if these seems to be terrifying at the first time as a parent If you encourage your child to question anybody, you will be also questioned If you encourage your child, not to defer to different orders, it questions basic societal values of many people and they can be stigmatized being unrespectful But I think, you will only show a path for your child, which even can lead to the Nobel prize, but to a happier, interesting life And now I am surely not joking. Everyone has a collection of favorite stories that they enjoy telling but it s unusual for the stories to be so good that a friend insists on writing them down, so that other people can appreciate them too When I read this book, I almost feel that Feynman s telling the stories himself Well, when that happens in real life, you always want to join in here s my personal best effort at a Feynman type anecdote I hope it s now far enough in the past that the people concerned will see the funny side, if they happen to stumble across this page by accident STAR TREK AND THE PERSONAL SATELLITE ASSISTANTIt was early 2000, and I had just started working at NASA Ames Research Center in California I was part of this little group that was supposed to be developing spoken language dialogue systems for space applications The guy whose idea it was had started up the group, recruited me and two other people, and then left to join Microsoft Research before I d even arrived So everyone was looking at us suspiciously Why did NASA need software that you could talk to The rest of this review is available elsewhere the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons I ll never make that mistake again, reading the experts opinions Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that s the end of you. I can usually tell when I m going to give a book 5 stars by one sign I can t shut up about it Well, I couldn t and can t shut up about this book it was simply great This greatness sort of snuck up on me I d recently read a collection of anecdotes by a scientist A Primate s Memoir and found it rather disappointing Plus, the whole idea of reading a book of stories about a great physicist, without learning any actual physics, seemed silly But my skepticism had withered away by the end of the first chapter I was entranced by the man, absolutely fascinated, and remained so the whole time.The subtitle of this book is perfect, because the two meanings of the word curious converge to encapsulate Feynman he was curious in the sense of being odd, as well as curious in his love of learning I was trying to figure out a way to describe Feynman s personality, and this is the best I ve come up with Feynman is Huck Finn grown up to become a physicist The qualities that make Mark Twain s most famous character so endearing are also the qualities that endear Feynman to me mischievousness, curiosity, cleverness, honesty, naivet , friendliness, frankness, and an uncompromising moral principle Like Huck, Feynman is always getting himself into absurd situations, and getting out of them with pure quickness of mind like Huck, Feynman likes to fool other people and play tricks, but all without a hint of malice and like Huck, Feynman will stick his neck out for what he feels is right.There are some hilarious stories in here, which I won t spoil But what was impressive to me was the amount of serious thought that could be found Feynman s criticism of the Brazilian school system which relied overmuch on memorization by rote, and concentrated overmuch on passing tests, instead of teaching students how to make sense of the world around them applies equally well to many aspects of the current U.S school system Equally relevant was Feynman s chapter on the time he served on the board that oversaw the evaluation of math textbooks for the California school system it was a Kafkaesque farce But by far the most consistent intellectual theme that went through these reflections was an absolute distrust of pretension, reputation, convention, snobbery, prestige, and authority.In my own life, one of the most interesting, and also most difficult, lessons that I ve had to learn is that people are not nearly as competent as they d like you to believe When I was a kid, I had a lot of faith in all sorts of things I thought that if an expert said something, it must be true I assumed that there was a particular expert in every type of activity, be it business or science, to ensure that things ran the way they were supposed to In short, I had the comforting illusion that very smart people in very white lab coats were behind the scenes, ensuring that things ran smoothly The world certainly cooperated with this illusion for a while after all, that s the whole basis of advertising but it wasn t long after meeting people in the real world that this illusion imploded the world is run by people underqualified and overconfident.I include this bit about myself because I don t think I would have reacted so emotionally to this rather lighthearted book were it not that I had that experience In a way, a distrust of all authority is Feynman s central social message He is constantly running into experts who haven t the slightest idea what they re talking about He goes to academic conferences full of pretentious windbags he trusts the results of other people s experiments, and later finds that they were seriously flawed.So any time somebody makes a claim, he decides to test it out for himself and the few times he doesn t do this, he gets into trouble This realization, that most people are inclined to trust claims from authority, is integral to his almost supernatural ability to navigate unfamiliar situations Feynman is so easily able to bluff his way through because people take his word for things So this central insight to always check for youself is both the heart of his scientific attitude, as well as his way of effortlessly gliding through the world His ability to crack safes, for example, wasn t due to his knowing a lot about safes, but simply realizing that most people used their safes foolishly, not resetting the factory combination or setting it to something obvious Most of us assume that we couldn t figure out how to crack a safe but Feynman did what he always did, and saw for himself whether he could and he could I honestly wish that this book was three times its length Now, I must know about Feynman My favorite saints are the ones who would hate to be worshiped, and Feynman certainly would think this glowing review was nonsense Well, perhaps it is but the only way you ll know for sure is by reading this book, and checking for yourself. Feynman is a physicist who taught at Cornell and Princeton, worked on the Manhattan Project and won the Nobel Prize He s also a complete hoot The book is a series of autobiographical stories pranks pulled as a student at MIT and at Los Alamos, teaching himself to paint, scientific discoveries he made, his three marriages, how he was rejected by the draft board for being mentally suspect they asked him if he ever heard voices and he said yes he did and then went on to describe what he found interesting about that He said that sometimes when falling in and out of sleep he d imagine conversations with his foreign born colleagues and the voices in his head spoke accurately with their accents but that if he tried to imitate such accents he could not do so at all So how was it that one part of his brain had captured accents correctly but another hadn t This was entirely typical of Feynman s wide ranging curiosity and intelligence, but the end result in this case was that the psychologists decided he was nuts His colleagues at Cornell were vastly amused by this What I love about Feynman first of all, his great interest in everything and his willingness to experiment The great joy he found in working things through he said that the reason he d never tried drugs, though he was tempted, was that he enjoyed thinking too much and didn t want to risk that Also, he s clearly so very intelligent and reading his book, his thoughts seem so easy to follow it makes the world of science seem accessible. There s presumably a rule where only smart people are awarded Nobel Prizes in Physics Richard Feynman was no exception This memoir is filled with anecdotes from his childhood spent fixing radios, his experiences as a young man doing bomb research at Los Alamos up through his days as a renowned professor at Cal Tech The central theme was always that this is one smart cookie It was interesting to pick up on his thought processes It probably didn t feature as much pure science as most of his other books, but at least you could appreciate his intuition into the physical world s biggest puzzles Rather than emphasizing the technical details of physics, most of his stories were focused on his other interests and his geeky humor.While some of the stories were entertaining, and the lumens of candle power abounded, it didn t always work for me I kept getting the feeling that had the same stories been told in the third person, they would have been better less egotistical sounding In every one of his sidelines, he was masterful It was like he was still driving home the point of how brilliant he was even when he was slumming it After a while, I got tired of hearing how he became fluent in Portuguese when he taught in Brazil, or impressed the locals to no end with his distinctive style of bongo playing, or could dance like a professional, or got just about any woman he wanted to sleep with him It was this last one that left the worst taste in my mouth Some of his tales of attraction and conquest occurred when one of his wives was on her death bed He was probably not as bad as I ve made him sound Like I said, we can certainly appreciate his intellect He had a rare ability to explain difficult concepts in laymen s terms, too I got a confirmation of this a week after I finished the book when we were interviewing a former student of his from Cal Tech He mentioned the Feynman Effect a phenomenon whereby someone asking him a question got answered in such a clear and intuitive way that it was only later that they realized they still didn t know exactly how it all tied to their existing understanding.So, count me as a fan of his scientific contributions and his ability to communicate, but not of his swagger If it had all been a bit of a joke you know, physicist funny hair limited social skills but a would be Lothario in spite of it , I would have laughed along with him, but I don t think that was his intention.
- Audio CD
- Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character
- Richard P. Feynman
- 21 July 2017 Richard P. Feynman