Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher
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Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  7,298 ratings  ·  258 reviews
The six easiest chapters from Feynman's landmark work, "Lectures on Physics"-- specifically designed for the general, non-scientist reader.
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Published March 22nd 2011 by Basic Books (first published 1963)
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Emilian Kasemi


What do we mean by “understanding” something? We can imagine that this complicated array of moving things which constitutes “the world” is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics. Even if we knew every...more
Tulpesh Patel
There is not much more to be said about Richard Feynman’s impact on physics or science communication; the man is as bona-fide legend and as close to being a worshipable God as scientists can have. Six Easy Pieces is a collection of the ‘easiest’ six chapters from Richard Feynman’s most-celebrated text book The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

The ‘easy’ in the title, is, like our sense of time, all relative. The lectures, delivered in the early 60’s, were aimed at “the most intelligent in the class...more
Courtney
Mar 28, 2011 Courtney rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science Nerds
Recommended to Courtney by: Required
Note to reader: I am not within Feynman's target demographic...

So if anyone is familiar with Feynman's "claim to fame," it's basically the idea that he's the most brilliant Physicis teacher of the 20th century and his lectures are ingenius in both their presentation and method.

Now, I'm not the most science-inclined person out there. I've never taken even a preliminary physics course (and these lectures were intended for his intro Caltech class, so...). But I'm also not dumb as a rock, either.

W...more
Bob Nichols
In these lectures, Feynman is very good at explaining some basic concepts for those fairly new to physics. For field theory, he uses the analogy of waves in a pool to show how motion in one place affects motion in a distant place. He says that matter goes straight unless acted upon by an external force, but we don't know why; that the earth is pulled toward the sun, as opposed to the earth moving around the sun; and that atoms are always in motion ("jigglings and wigglings of atoms") and that su...more
Mark
Jun 22, 2011 Mark rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in a straightforward introduction to quantum mechanical "weirdness"
If you have heard about the "weirdness" of quantum mechanics but don't know what the hype is all about, look no further than chapter six of this book. In chapter six, with his usual down-to-earth approach, Feynman describes one of the most famous experiments in physics (the double-slit experiment) and what it tells us about the way fundamental particles behave. He compares the behavior of "lumps" to the behavior of "waves" before moving on to the behavior of electrons... and the outcome might su...more
Laoonatic
I think that, when reading this book, you have to be familiar with physics and maths. There are a lot of books claiming to be for the neophytes in physics/maths/astrology etc. but, truth be told, there is little to be learned when in that position. Which is why people shouldn't consider this book as being no good just because they haven't reached the paradise of enlightment which was promised to them. Such a thing isn't possible. Not from a single book, as far as I know, and anyway, not from thi...more
Rob
May 28, 2010 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: io9
Almost five-stars. For someone like me (i.e., a layperson that has no background in physics whatsoever), this is a great introduction to the mysterious world of physics—it is humorous and accessible and makes an effort to be "approximately accurate" about everything (while calling itself out on things that are simplified for the sake of the example or else "unknown or unknowable"). However, to be "approximately accurate about everything" means a bunch of math and other fancy-pants equations that...more
steve ross
That subtitle may seem overwrought, but it's true. Hawking and Greene have done much to popularize (and fetishize) physics, but Feynman will help the layperson really start to understand it at its most conceptual, basic form. And if you haven't the ability to sustain fifteen years of advanced mathematics, these lessons can still illuminate the marvels of the "mechanism."

To be fair, Hawking (astrophysics) and Greene (quantum mechanics) both do a lot for their respective fields as well, but they a...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
I think it is very rare for someone to be not only brilliant but also a wonderful teacher. Feynman has a very clear and direct style of imparting information. I just love it. Not quite as good as his autobiographical one but still very good.
Hayley
This book is an introduction to the most basic ideas of physics, and part of its sophistication is that it hints at how deep the...rabbit hole...is, without requiring readers to have enough expertise to really go down it.

It was readable but challenging for me - someone with a bachelor's in biology and no great adeptitude for physics or math. My one complaint is that author Richard Feynmann could work a little harder to help lay readers understand how his verbal descriptions of physics translate...more
Tom
I've had this book on the shelf for some time, meaning to read it to refresh my memory of physics classes taken long ago. It was a quick enjoyable read that explained things I've already learned in a new and refreshing way, (even though these lectures were given almost fifty years ago.) I was especially impressed with the first two chapters. With some minor modifications, these two lectures could be used to explain atomic theory to elementary students. This is quite an accomplishment considering...more
Mike
Feb 21, 2010 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I have read several other books by and about Richard Feynman: a man whose brilliance and oddness were well known within the Physics community, but sadly only his eccentricities were known by most of the wider world.

This book is not really about Feynman, rather it is six chapters excised out of a two-year course of physics lectures he gave at CalTech in the mid 60s. The publisher created this volume (and a second one that I am just getting into called "Six Not-So-Easy Pieces") and a companion aud...more
Molly Ison
Possibly the most important part of this book is in the preface, when Feynman discusses the problems of physics pedagogy. These actually are easy pieces - if you have had high school level physics, the concepts should be immediately familiar. While Feynman presents them in a way that is fairly labeled brilliant, there are many physics teachers and professors who could give you an excellent understanding of the same material (and it's not too hard to find some online). The real issue here is the...more
Laura
I may be one of the few scientists who is not a Feynman fan. He admits that his approach is to teach to the very brightest students, hoping that the others manage to catch something along the way. But, when you remember the man taught at CalTech--where basically every student is pretty darned smart, his approach seems a bit arrogant. He also claims that he had no opportunity during the lecture series to gain feedback from students--that this came only at the end of the course. Astonishing that s...more
Punk
Non-fiction. This book contains six chapters from Feynman's Lectures on Physics, which were transcribed from actual lectures he gave at Caltech during 1961-1964. It made me feel dumb. Well, not entirely, I did okay with the chemistry, biology, and astronomy aspects of it, as I have background in those areas, and I was all right with the quantum mechanics stuff because that requires more imagination than math, but I've never taken a physics course, so all the nonsense with pulleys totally shot ov...more
Upom
Feynman, the debonair physicist of the last generation. Part physicist, part bongo player, part safe cracker, all man. A charming genius without the snooty air of formalism is a role model I can follow. And here in this book is the start to understanding a Feynman way of mind. These 6 essays are adapted from Feynman's Lectures on basic physics back in the 1960's. I wish I had discovered these essays before college, because they really would have made physics easy and interesting to learn before...more
Connie  Kuntz
Apr 22, 2009 Connie Kuntz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who believes that science and spirituality aren't mutally exclusive
Recommended to Connie by: Christine O'Brien (soon to be Dr. C. O'Brien)
This book is truly mind-opening and I am convinced that Feynman was one enlightened dude. As I read the book, I felt myself opening up to the concept of atoms, amalgamations, energy, astronomy, gravity, light years, colliders and quantum physics. There was humor, history and simplified experiments in the book, too, which gave the field of Physics an "inviting" feeling, rather than a snooty one. The first five chapters were wonderful, but I struggled quite a bit with Chapter 6. To be clear: I sti...more
Lauren
Feynman never ceases to amaze me with his genuine ability to take a complicated subject (or concept) and make it accessible to the masses. After reading his book of short stories, I've been perpetually intrigues by Feynman, his interests, accomplishments, and thought process. These six lectures provide a window into the mind that helped inspire many future physicists and their subsequent breakthroughs. It inspired me to think more carefully about the mundane things we take for granted; I found m...more
Jeffrey
He was the rock 'n roll professor, dude. He loved women, partying, and was a hit with the youngsters: incoming freshmen. He had a lively mind and spirit that helped him connect to the kids. Hell, he was a kid, just with an oversized brain. He believed that if physics was so great, so cool, so awesome that it should be understandable by the many not the few. Therefore, he tried to teach it in pictures or models rather than math. He failed but, he was one cool, smart dude for thinking this way. Wa...more
Murali Neelakantan
A must read for everyone. Feynman is an evangelist for physics and his books kept me interested in physics when it was really hard to make sense of it in high school. It is not easy to teach quantum physics in a manner that makes sense in a practical way but his lectures would make it possible for everyone to relate to it, even those who have no intention of pursuing an academic programme in physics. Not only does it make the most complex issues in science accessible to lay people, it is a study...more
Bazu
Ho affrontato questo libro con forte entusiasmo, per anni �� stato nella mia lista dei desideri affascinato com'ero e come sono dalla figura di Richard Feynmann quale pioniere e grande teorico della meccanica quantistica.

Mi aspettavo un testo divulgativo in grado di prendere per mano il lettore da zero e guidarlo per le misteriose e affascinanti strade del mondo quantistico.

Il libro non �� stato come me lo aspettavo, probabilmente perch�� sono stato io a farmi un'idea sbagliata: �� un'introduzio

...more
Douglas Dalrymple
Easy pieces? You don’t expect me to understand any of that math, do you? It seems I’m not as smart as I thought I was, but neither are physicists, which is some consolation. (Anyway, per Socrates, the discovery of our ignorance is true wisdom, right?) In summary, Feynman explains how we used to believe that we had discovered certain physical laws which went a long way toward making a kind of sense of the universe. It was a heady time. There seemed no limit to our mastery of the material world. B...more
Jake
This is simply a great intro physics book by a great physicist, and an interesting read for people with and without a science background. It's probably the book you should read if you've gotten through A Brief History of Time and want to read more. The six easy pieces in question are atomic motion, basic physics, the relation of physics to the other sciences (which is probably the weakest part of the book), conservation of energy, gravity, and quantum behaviour. The discussion is pitched a littl...more
Joe
Learned more about teaching than I did about physics.

Good read for the el... it cools, cleans, focuses your brain. The pee-stained weirdos, sulky hipsters and loudmouths just float by and you hop off at your stop with a little better understanding-- not simply of the wave-particle theory of light, but of how to explain the wave-particle theory of light.
Blair Dowden
The "six easy pieces" are chapters selected from the famous Feynman lectures on physics, chosen for being the most general and least technical. The first essay, Atoms in Motion, is a wonderful introduction to what all matter is made of. He does a great job explaining why a gas cools when it expands, and why blowing on your soup cools it down. But other chapters do not work quite as well It, as they sometimes refer back to lectures not in this book. The final chapter in quantum mechanics is much...more
Garrett Mccutcheon
This is a great physics primer for the lay reader. Feynman's verve shines through here, and his explanations of physics, its problems, and how it relates to the world are lucid. While physics has progressed quite a ways since the 1960s, this book primarily deals with the foundations and fundamentals of physics, which haven't changed in hundreds of years.

The only criticism I can lay against this work is that Feynman's physicalist bias shines through, especially in the chapter regarding physics' c...more
Broodingferret
This was a fun read, not so much for the insights it provides regarding physics, but for the insights it provides regarding Faynman's personality. His love of problem solving and the sheer joy he felt contemplating the conundrums of physics is readily apparent in his writing. As far as the science goes, those with a basic grasp of physics won't learn anything new, and those without such basic knowledge won't understand much of what's discussed, making the real joy of the book the sense of what i...more
GONZA
Come direbbe Moretti: "...continuiamo così, facciamoci del male..". Ma non è del Mont Blanc che si tratta in questo post, che continua la serie quanto mi piacerebbe capire tutto quello che leggo, ma di fisica. Ebbene sì, la fisica del triennio delle superiori, materia che ho sempre considerato avulsa non solo dal contesto, ma dalla mia vita intera, fino a quando mi sono imbattuta in un libro di Asimov, il "Grande libro della fisica", appunto, che non dico mi ha riconciliato, perchè prevederebbe...more
Sarah
"Easy" is obviously a relative term - I'm kind of poorly qualified to judge the accessibility of science books written for a general audience, since I'm an engineer who's studied a good chunk of physics. But I still found myself getting lost in places while reading this book, though I am proud to say that by sitting there and really drilling my mind at it I was more or less able to catch back up to Feynman throughout. So I expect this would be pretty good mental exercise for most people! That sa...more
Tony
Feynman, Richard P. SIX EASY PIECES. (1995). ****. This collection of Professor Feynman’s lectures represents the essence of his first year’s lectures in physics to undergraduates at Cal Tech. The lectures capture much of his enthusiasm for the topics and display his innovation in using examples that help illustrate many of the principles. The six lectures included are: Atoms in Motion, Basic Physics, The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences, Conservation of Energy, The Theory of Gravitation, a...more
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Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was a joint recipient of the Nobel Pr...more
More about Richard P. Feynman...
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! What Do You Care What Other People Think? QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman The Feynman Lectures on Physics

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“You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight... I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!” 6 likes
“If instead of arranging the atoms in some definite pattern, again and again repeated, on and on, or even forming little lumps of complexity like the odor of violets, we make an arrangement which is always different from place to place, with different kinds of atoms arranged in many ways, continually changing, not repeating, how much more marvelously is it possible that this thing might behave? Is it possible that that "thing" walking back and forth in front of you, talking to you, is a great glob of these atoms in a very complex arrangement, such that the sheer complexity of it staggers the imagination as to what it can do? When we say we are a pile of atoms, we do not mean we are merely a pile of atoms, because a pile of atoms which is not repeated from one to the other might well have the possibilities which you see before you in the mirror.” 3 likes
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