One of the towering figures of twentieth-century science, Richard Feynman possessed a curiosity that was the stuff of legend. Even before he won the Nobel Prize in 1965, his unorthodox and spellbinding lectures on physics secured his reputation amongst students and seekers around the world. It was his outsized love for life, however, that earned him the status of an American cultural icon-here was an extraordinary intellect devoted to the proposition that the thrill of discovery was matched only by the joy of communicating it to others.
In this career-spanning collection of letters, many published here for the first time, we are able to see this side of Feynman like never before. Beginning with a short note home in his first days as a graduate student, and ending with a letter to a stranger seeking his advice decades later, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track covers a dazzling array of topics and themes, scientific developments and personal histories. With missives to and from scientific luminaries, as well as letters to and from fans, family, students, crackpots, as well as everyday people eager for Feynman's wisdom and counsel, the result is a wonderful de facto guide to life, and eloquent testimony to the human quest for knowledge at all levels.
Feynman once mused that "people are 'entertained' enormously by being allowed to understand a little bit of something they never understood before." As edited and annotated by his daughter, Michelle, these letters not only allow us to better grasp the how and why of Feynman's enduring appeal, but also to see the virtues of an inquiring eye in spectacular fashion. Whether discussing the Manhattan Project or developments in quantum physics, the Challenger investigation or grade-school textbooks, the love of his wife or the best way to approach a problem, his dedication to clarity, grace, humor, and optimism is everywhere evident.
.... on Richard Feynman:
"The most original mind of his generation." -Freeman Dyson
"An honest man, the outstanding intuitionist of our age, and a prime example of what may lie in store for anyone who dares to follow the beat of a different drum." -Julian Schwinger
"An original, brilliant, curious, energetic, eclectic, ebullient, gregarious, and consummately iconoclastic human being with a passion for science, a taste for first principles, and a view of reality that was uniquely his." - The Washington Post
"He is everything you want and expect a scientist to be: charming, skeptical, funny, blindingly intelligent." - The Guardian (UK)
"A chain reaction is not a bad analogy for Feynman's life. From a critical mass of gray matter it goes off in all directions, producing both heat and light." - Time
"For him knowledge did not describe; it acted and accomplished. . . . The science he helped create was like nothing that had come before." -James Gleick
"Here was both a showman and a very practical thinker. . . . It is unlikely that the world will see another Richard Feynman." -Paul Davies
"The more one reads of Feynman, the more one falls in love with his refreshingly enthusiastic view of the world." -Alan Guth
"He may have emitted light as well as words." -David Park...Continua
Take a bunch of Physics students and ask them who is their favourite scientist.
Among many famous names you'll be surprised to find that the winner will be probably Feynman, a name who is basically unknown for the common people.
Indeed, many known him most for his bongo playing and nude sketching rather than his research in modern physics (topics so complex and strange that even Feynman said many times he was not understanding by himself).
I generally don't like to read someone else correspondence, but in this case I made an exception.
When I picked up the book at the library I randomly opened it and found the letter of a Venezuelan high school teacher in trouble to explain energy conservation principle to his students. He wrote to a Nobel prize winner, and the response was simply lovely.
More in general the big message in this book is contained in the title, which is a sentence in a letter regarding a selection of maths books for elementary school.
People should do what they enjoy to do, spending all their energy and without fear of trying different approach to solve a problem, even making deviations from the beaten track.
That is also what a student experiences when approaches Feynman's work, for sure one of the most enthusiast scientist in the world....Continua
A really good book that is easy to read, entertaining and gives plenty of insight that you can think hard about if you'd like to.