Clas­sic Feyn­man: All the Adven­tures of a Curi­ous Character

Richard P. Feyn­man; Ralph Leighton, ed.
  • Review
By – July 13, 2012

This book is a sort­ed merge” of the con­tents of two ear­li­er books, Sure­ly You’re Jok­ing, Mr. Feyn­man! and What Do You Care What Oth­er Peo­ple Think?, accom­pa­nied by a com­mem­o­ra­tive audio CD of Feyn­man himself. 

I read one of the orig­i­nal books years ago, so some of the tales weren’t brand new to me, but they lose noth­ing in being read for the sec­ond time. The tales orig­i­nal­ly from the oth­er book were just as intrigu­ing and charm­ing as the oth­ers, and I’m sure will bear re-read­ing just as well. 

The CD is from an orig­i­nal record­ing of Feyn­man telling some of the sto­ries about Los Alam­os that are found in the book. Hear­ing Feynman’s accent — sound­ing more like a plumber from Brook­lyn than a Nobel Lau­re­ate in physics — and rapid-fire deliv­ery is worth the price of admis­sion all by itself. Edi­tor Ralph Leighton has done a splen­did job of tran­scrib­ing ver­bal­ly-trans­mit­ted sto­ries to the very dif­fer­ent medi­um of the print­ed word. His very occa­sion­al foot­notes are nev­er obtru­sive and always illuminating. 

Feyn­man reveals him­self as a com­pli­cat­ed char­ac­ter, dri­ven by insa­tiable curios­i­ty and joy in fig­ur­ing out how the world works, but unwill­ing to lim­it him­self only to the study of the physics he so enriched. He digressed into biol­o­gy, was an avid drum­mer, stud­ied sketch­ing (the sketch­es repro­duced in the book seem near­ly pro­fes­sion­al to the eyes of your artis­ti­cal­ly inex­pert review­er), and appears to have pos­sessed a great deal of insight into the human character. 

I will say about this book the best thing I can say about any book: I wish it had been longer. 

Zvi Siegel is a one-time the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist and cur­rent soft­ware engi­neer, who hopes to return to physics some­day. In the mean­time, he spends much of his free time reading.

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