The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Richard Feynman

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“There is the value of the worldview created by science. There is the beauty and the wonder of the world that is discovered through the results of these new experiences. That is to say, the wonders of the content which I just reminded you of; that things move because the sun is shining, which is a deep idea, very strange and wonderful.”

HowΒ did I go so long without reading any Feynman? Actually, I know why – it’s because I wanted to read some of his books on physics, but I was also a little intimidated by him. I knew Richard Feynman was a really important physicist, and what I heard of him kind of painted this picture of a strange, hippie-ish man who used lots of out-of-the-box thinking to explain things. I finally ended up reading this book, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out – The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman because a friend gave me his copy (thanks Tom!)

This is something I think everybody could enjoy reading, and as it’s a mix of his talks, interviews, essays, and more it’s also the perfect book for reading a chapter or two, setting aide, and then picking it back up later. I personally read it mostly in two days, but that’s because I was totally loving it.

There are a lot of personal reflections spread throughout the book – about his father teaching him to look at the world in a different way, about being a part of the Manhattan project, about how he earned his reputation as a lock-picker, etc. There’s one chapter that I just skimmed, and that was his report on the space shuttle Challenger inquiry. There were a lot of really enjoyable chapters about science and it’s place in society, the relations between religion and science, how to teach science, and so on. One chapter is even a talk that he gave in 1959 about the future of miniaturization – about nanotechnology, essentially. Pretty amazing, considering we’re just now really putting nanotechnology to use and getting better at it.

Basically, this book gave a pretty good picture of Feynman, or at least I think so. You can practically see him standing up on a stage or in front of students giving some of these speeches. (I bet he’d be awesome on audiobooks, I think his physics lectures are on audio.) He seemed to have a brilliant way of looking at things and at the world, and I love that his passion for science and physics practically oozed out of the pages. You can DEFINITELY expect more Feynman-related reviews in the future – I already put some more books about him and by him on hold at the library.

“Is nobody inspired by our present picture of the universe? The value of science remains unsung by singers, so you are reduced to hearing – not a song or a poem, but an evening lecture about it. This is not yet a scientific age.”

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

 

 

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10 comments

  1. It’s been a long time since I stretched my mind by reading a good science book, but this sounds really good. I read two of Feynman’s books back when I was in school and had just discovered how much I loved physics: Surely You’re Joking My Feynman, which was pretty easy, and Q. E. D., which was definitely a stretch. But even though I wasn’t really familiar with the concept of prose style back then, as I recall, he had a really good one.

    Thanks for the review.

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    1. I’m really excited to try Surely You’re Joking and some of this other autobiographical books, but his more science-y ones like Q.E.D. and Six Easy Pieces seem tougher. I’m really looking forward to trying them all though!

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    1. Books like this are kind of perfect if you’re not into heavy science reading – a lot of it is his talking about things from his life, how he learned, and things like that. It’d be a good “intro” book if you want to get more into physics reading but want to take little steps πŸ™‚

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  2. I’m going to go a bit grumpy-student-during-exam-season here, but his mechanics lectures are significantly better than his electromagnetism ones… And yet even with that, his lectures are excellent.

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