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Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,077 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
Some of the brightest minds in science have passed through the halls of the California Institute of Technology. In the early 1980s, Leonard Mlodinow joined their ranks to begin a postdoctoral fellowship. Afraid he was not smart enough to be there, despite his groundbreaking Ph.D. thesis, he took his insecurities to Richard Feynman, Caltech’s intimidating resident genius an ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 29th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Trevor
Sep 25, 2009 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science, maths
I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I don’t think I was expecting quite this. This one did have an almost Tuesdays with Morrie An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson feel about it (which is not exactly high praise) although I guess there is something about someone at the end of their life (sort of - or potentially) handing over hard won advice to someone in the next generation, even if that isn't ever quite what happens here.

I also think Mlodinow worked out early in the pi
...more
Arghya Dutta
Jan 06, 2015 Arghya Dutta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know whether this book was marketed as a biography of Richard Feynman, as the blurb quote by Stephen Hawking may tell you, or just a popular science book. It is neither. And the resulting disappointments are reflected in my friend Trevor's review.

Instead this book is all about "a day in the life of" a physicist. It tells all the anxiety, jealousy, squabbling, prestige, grit, moments of truth and the joy of finding a consistent theory of a physicist.

After completing his PhD, Mlodinow was
...more
Shashi Martynova
Обаятельный очерк периода невыдуманной жизни физика (популяризатора, энтузиаста всего интересного) Леонарда Млодинова во времена его знакомства с Ричардом Фейнманом. Переведя 2 книги Млодинова и прочитав как редактор еще одну, я к его стилю привыкла и он мне глубоко симпатичен, по массе причин. Это его хронологически первый текст для широкого читателя, и теперь я могу отследить развитие этого самого стиля от начала. Млодинов, как выясняется, со сравнительно младых ногтей был балагур и весельчак, ...more
Eppursimuov3
Jan 13, 2014 Eppursimuov3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it has Feynman’s name on it, Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life is the story of Leonard Mlodinow rather than that of Richard Feynman himself. Not that it makes the book any less significant, as Mlodinow has his own story to tell. As a new post-doctorate researcher at Caltech, Mlodinow shares all the wonders, insecurities, and fears as he begins life as a physicist. Along the way, he reveals some of the more interesting encounters and conversations that he shar ...more
David
Jul 01, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics, memoirs
This fun, little book is quite charming. Leonard Mlodinow was hired by the CalTech Physics Department. He did not have a clue as to what sort of theoretical research to begin. He talked to all of the faculty members, including Nobel laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman. He brought a tape recorder to many of his visits with Feynman, so now, 20 years later, we can read some of the transcripts. Feynman was a very interesting character, who hated psychology and philosophy. Yet, Mlodinow le ...more
Ethan
May 31, 2016 Ethan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book for anyone who has ever been in a situation where they are expected to perform at a very high level and are plagued by doubts of their own competence. Leonard Mlodinow does a very good job describing exactly how that feels, and how he worked through his problems with "help" from some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. This isn't necessarily a book about Feynman, and people who are looking for a biography of Feynman's life would be well served elsewhere. Ho ...more
Rama
Feb 20, 2014 Rama rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Walking with a giant

Caltech is the home of some of the best minds in physics. Most notable physicists on its faculty included Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann; both are Nobel laureates. The author narrates in simple words his casual interactions with Richard Feynman when he (author) was a freshman-faculty member at the physics department. Feeling unsettled in the world of giants, he looks for guidance and direction to establish his career, and in the process learns some basic lessons about b
...more
Jorge
Mar 30, 2011 Jorge rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A medio camino entre una novela corta y un libro de física teórica, El arcoiris de Feynman es un relato autobiográfico de Mlodinow en el que cuenta sus primeros años posteriores a su doctorado en física. Luego de ganar una beca para investigar en el Caltech (una de las universidades más prestigiosas de Estados Unidos, con 20 premios nobeles en su historia), Mlodinow se encuentra con un bloqueo y se siente incapaz de cumplir con las expectativas puestas sobre su persona. No encuentra un tema de i ...more
Remo

Leonard Mlodinow [LM] es un físico teórico que en su tesis doctoral propuso un enfoque completamente novedoso que permitía resolver muchos problemas conocidos de la física de una manera mucho más simple. A grandes rasgos, su modelo suponía que el Universo tenía infinitas dimensiones espaciales, lo cual permitía, de alguna retorcida manera, simplificar todos los cálculos de los problemas más famosos de la mecánica cuántica. Esta tesis le consiguió el acceso a los mejores puestos de investigación

...more
Eowyn Dean
Aug 23, 2015 Eowyn Dean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short, funny, and occasionally deep snapshot of Feynman's impact on Leonard Mlodinow during the short time when they were Caltech office-neighbors. Far more psychological than Feynman would have approved! A great pick-me-up type of book for those who love physics; you won't learn any science from it, but perhaps you to will be thrilled to learn some tidbit -- like that Feynman also wondered about a world with two temporal dimensions instead of one.
Raunaq Ahmed
Dec 25, 2011 Raunaq Ahmed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely a joy to read! A very well written book, and has got a nice charm to it. There have been a lot of books on Feynman(the brilliant physicist) and his science, but none like this. It gives a unique glimpse into the wonderful man's life and science.

In particular, the author recollects his time with Feynman who at the time was in the final stages of his cancer. Even then, Feynman was so warm and full of life. There is a lot a physicist can learn from this book. A general audience will als
...more
Ypres
Feb 12, 2016 Ypres rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, science
I started this book because I needed motivation. Last year, I started the physics career, and my results were the opposite of what I expected. Now im facing the special exams session (redoing the exams) in almost all the subjects. I was facing a crisis. Why I am here? I'm smart enough to study this career? I'm glad to say that there is much that I have encountered. Every Feynman's lesson, even if i'm agree or not with many of his own ideas, contains the wisdom of a man who loves life,but knows t ...more
NC Weil
Apr 22, 2016 NC Weil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Feynman’s Rainbow by Leonard Mlodinow
Reviewed by NC Weil

The author, a freshly-minted young Ph.D. physicist, was offered a position on California Institute of Technology’s faculty in 1981. At that time, the Caltech physics department boasted two Nobel Prize winners: Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann. These two were as opposite in temperament and approach as two titans of subatomic physics could be, and Mlodinow’s office location on the same hall gave him access to both.
But it is Feynman he fo
...more
Venky
Nov 07, 2015 Venky rated it liked it
Shelves: bibliocase
When Leonard Mlodinow is offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology ("Caltech"), he is besides himself with ecstasy. However the enthusiasm swiftly wanes out as the young student is racked by feelings of insecurity and plagued by the fear of failure. Caltech after all was the Institute, whose hallowed portals lent hospitality to twenty Nobel Laureates. When Mlodinow is at the nadir of his doubtful professional existence, he realizes, by chance, that his office is ...more
Shweta Ramdas
May 17, 2016 Shweta Ramdas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
What goes on inside the mind of a genius? Are they just wired differently? And how do we mortals learn from them?

This book is an intriguing series of conversations between Feynman and Leonard Mlodinow, then a new faculty member at Caltech who finds himself having a dry spell in research (oh hello, imposter syndrome!), and given an office in the same hallway as Feynman. Mlodinow uses his conversations with Feynman to guide his path through physics, and along the way discovers what lies behind Fe
...more
Ari
Jun 23, 2016 Ari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Why you do what you do?"

Have you ever asked yourself why you go to work every day doing what you do? To make a living is a valid part of the answer, but how nice if it is not the complete story. With hope, there may be a little bit more to survival when we exert ourselves in our daily labour? For scientists, like medical doctors and teachers, we aspire to them and expect them to view their work more so than the sole mean to a livelihood, better, as selfless devotion and sacrifice to a higher id
...more
Roy
Apr 16, 2016 Roy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, sociology
An interesting account by Leonard Mlodinow's coming of age as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech where he was situated between Murray Gellman and Richard Feynman.
Most of it deals with his personal search for his direction in life and a feeling of inadequacy being in such rarified company. His interactions with Feynman act as guideposts towards finding his future path.
This is a short and easily read book. I'm not sure I learned anything new about Feynman, someone I have read a lot about, but the
...more
Heather
Jul 28, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Give me physics book for the lay person and I'm all over it. Throw a little philosophy in to boot, and I'll consider it an enjoyable read. A short sweet book that shows the humanity of one of our greatest physicists. Dug it.
Adarsh
Oct 08, 2012 Adarsh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Often moving, often funny, always relatable. Would recommend to other people, especially theoretical physicists at the beginning of their careers. Non-physicists will also be able to appreciate it, though.
Dan
Aug 15, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Not too heavy into physics. More about the personality of Feynman as seen through the author's eyes. Author was an up and coming physicist for whom Feynman was an occasional mentor.
Mark Bailey
Jul 12, 2016 Mark Bailey rated it really liked it
Shelves: torrey
A wonderful look inside the academic hallways of the upper echelons of physics. Mlodinow was talented but insecure and directionless when he landed a career job at Cal Tech. He had the chutzpah to impose himself on a reluctant Feynman and collect some of Feynman's personal wisdom, earned in success, loss, grief, and a fatal disease.

The gleanings of wisdom are worth the read. I am equally inspired by Mlodinov's parallel careers of both physics and writing. The world needs more of that. Chet Raymo
...more
Gregory Kolosov
Aug 19, 2016 Gregory Kolosov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ты думаешь, что читаешь просто про великого физика, что в книге рассказывается о его обыденной жизни и жизни его коллег вокруг. О том как совершаются открытия и о том как не совершаются. На самом деле ты читаешь космическое фентези! Невероятную но существующую фантастику! Каждый из ученых - герой, рыцарь с мечом из интеллекта, в броне из веры в свое дело. Отважные исследователи самых сложных и самых красивых загадок нашего мира. Довольно простая книга, она не поведает вам секреты как физики так ...more
Ayesha
Aug 03, 2014 Ayesha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting read. Not as up-close and personal about Feynman as I thought it would be initially, but it gives a good glimpse of what the man was like to his colleagues and those around him. What I like about the book is the fact that Mlodinov doesn't make Feynman out to be some kind of God, but showcases him as an annoying hall-mate sometimes. I think I'm giving it one star less from perfect possibly because I wanted to know more about Feynman, and I wasn't given that information. Otherwi ...more
Philipp
Sep 07, 2015 Philipp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, physics
This one finds me at exactly the right time as an early career researcher supposed to find his own niche.

This book is about Mlodinow starting out at Caltech, with a very good PhD thesis that made some waves in the physics community, but also with a serious case of impostor's syndrome. On his floor, just two doors down, is a dying Feynman, not far from that, Murray Gell-Mann's office - the relationship between both as well as their relative outlook on life is the undercurrent of this book, with a
...more
Brandie
Jul 26, 2011 Brandie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One can never tire of reading about Dr. Feynman and his insights into How We Do Physics. How Feynman did physics is so different from how most people do physics, and reading about it makes me wish for a way to jump into his mind and watch the way he thought about things from the inside out.

The narrator of the book, Dr. Mlodinow, was a young physicist when Feynman was nearing what was (sadly) to be the end of his career. While I read, I was partly envious of Mlodinow's opportunities to pester Fe
...more
Mazola1
Leonard Mlodinow's charming little book tells the story of his friendship with one of the giants of 20th century physics, the legendary Richard Feynman. Famed as both a brilliant thinker and a colorful character who marched to his own drummer, Feynman was terminally ill with cancer and near the end of his career when Mlodinow met him. At the time,Mlodinow was a junior faculty member unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, and doubtful that he could make it in physics despite having authore ...more
Barbara
In 1981, Leonard Mlodinow, a recent grad with a doctorate in physics, landed a faculty position at Caltech - and immediately began to doubt whether or not he was worthy of it. To his good fortune, not one but two Nobel laureates were housed on the same floor (Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann), and he sought their counsel. Feynman proved the more accessible, and their dialogues form the basis for this book.

Unfortunately, there is very little of Feynman to be found. From the technical perspect
...more
David Glad
Nice relatively short (audio)book of the author's experiences of coming to CalTech as a PhD student after getting his masters at Berkeley and his encounters with Feynman and other influences during his time there. Gave surprising insight into how politics worked at CalTech, such as their proud boast of having 19 Nobel Laureates to MIT's 20 (emphasizing the latter school being five times the size) when he first arrived (it would be tied shortly after). Another amusing passage was how when John Sc ...more
Katy
Jul 25, 2008 Katy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Instead of "Tuesdays with Morrie" it's "Tuesdays with Feynman"...OK, not completely, but kinda. Mlodinow was a first year physics prof at CalTech, searching for some answers re: physics and life. Who better to turn to than physics legend Ricard Feynman?

I've read several of Feynman's books and have enjoyed their blend of personality and science. Mlodinow creates the same blend, just it's not 100% his personality carrying the books...like Feynman's books, it's Feynman's personality that sells this
...more
Sun
Mar 12, 2010 Sun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookaweek2010
This isn't really about Richard Feynman, renowned physicist. It's about Leonard Mlodinow, post-doctoral researcher. I admit it was the title's reference to Feynman that got my attention but it was Mlodinow's story of his experience as a new Caltech research fellow that makes this a great read. In 1973, Mlodinow arrives in Pasadena and finds to his amazement that he can work on whatever physics problem he wants. He has no clue what that is, so spends some time trying to get to know the rest of th ...more
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Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist and author.

Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1959, of parents who were both Holocaust survivors. His father, who spent more than a year in the Buchenwald death camp, had been a leader in the Jewish resistance under Nazi rule in his hometown of Częstochowa, Poland. As a child, Mlodinow was interested in both mathematics and chemistry, and while in high schoo
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“You’re wasting your time,” he said. “You don’t learn how to discover things by reading books on it. And psychology is a bunch of bullshit.” 1 likes
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