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Six Not-So-Easy Pieces: Einstein's Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,645 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
No twentieth-century American scientist is better known to a wider spectrum of people than Richard P. Feynman (1918–1988)—physicist, teacher, author, and cultural icon. His autobiographies and biographies have been read and enjoyed by millions of readers around the world, while his wit and eccentricities have made him the subject of TV specials and even a theatrical film. ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published April 6th 2005 by Basic Books (first published 1963)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
105th out of 1,030 books — 2,536 voters
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Physics Colored Glasses
5th out of 88 books — 3 voters

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Community Reviews

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Mar 03, 2015 Fortunr rated it it was amazing

Let me start with a one-sentence summary: this is a thoroughly enjoyable little book explaining, in a beautifully intuitive and holistic way, the main core features of Einstein's relativity, without getting bogged down into too much mathematical detail.

The target audience of this book is the interested layman with high school mathematics knowledge and a passion for physics: it falls into the particularly tricky (from a pedagogical standpoint) grey territory between popular science and real scie
Apr 05, 2015 Lotz rated it really liked it
All of our ideas in physics require a certain amount of common sense in their application; they are not purely mathematical or abstract ideas.

It is difficult to review these books, as their titles are so descriptive. This book, as well as its companion, Six Easy Pieces, is a book that can judged by its cover. But this is a book reviewing site, after all, so review them I must.

As you probably know, this book, like its predecessor, consists of excerpts from Feynman’s legendary Caltech lectures.
Pretty aptly titled book. In contrast to "Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher", there was a lot more mathematical formalism that was a little tough to follow, but with patience could be understood. The six lectures are put together so you can better understand Einsteins' special and general relativity. The book really made me appreciate the power of mathematics and interpretation to determine the nature of the real world. I actually found out how they d ...more
Feb 20, 2014 Rama rated it it was amazing
Learn Relativity from the maestro Richard Feynman himself

In the introduction to this book, Roger Penrose, another great theoretical physicist of our times, states that "Relativity is not airy-fairy philosophy, nor is space-time mere mathematical formalism. It is a foundational ingredient of the very universe in which we live." On that note, it is encouraging for many readers that this book offers a great opportunity to take that extra step to learn the mathematical constructions for the effects
Oct 07, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For all of those who took introductory college level physics courses once upon a time, and wish to know more about the development of the science during the 20th century, this is a very authentic introduction. A basic understanding of calculus is important, even if it was acquired some years ago and partially forgotten, to comprehend the various mathematical explanations that go along with any serious study of physics. If that doesn't scare you, or if you have the will and the patience to give i ...more
Jun 25, 2014 Utsav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-is-drugs
Essential reading for relativity enthusiasts (of the weekend variety, I might add- the more academic ones might be better served by lectures given by the wild-haired maestro himself). Requires, and assumes, knowledge of Std XII Maths and Physics- you'll be pretty lost if you don't know what the hell differentials and integrals are. Though written in Feynman's casual, conversational style, the book never fails to make your head spin, and it's fun to put the book down on your chest in the middle o ...more
Kerem Cankocak
Apr 02, 2016 Kerem Cankocak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feynman olağanüstü etkili bir eğitimciydi. Sayısız ödülleri arasında, 1972'de kazandığı Örsted Öğretim Madalyası'yla özellikle gurur duyardı. Özgün olarak 1963'te basılmış olan Feynman'ın Fizik Dersleri'ni, Scientific American dergisinde bir eleştirmen şöyle betimliyordu: “Çetin, ama besleyici ve leziz. 25 yıl sonra öğretmenler için yol gösterici ve yeni başlayan öğrenciler içinse en iyisi.” Bu kitabın içeriğini oluşturan konular Feynman’ın fizik derslerinin popülerleştirilmiş özetleridir. Altı ...more
CV Rick
Nov 14, 2009 CV Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Richard Feynman was a brilliant, creative teacher. In this volume he tackles some of the trickier subjects in physics. He starts slowly, even simplistically with a discussion of symmetry and builds one upon the other taking the reader through some relativistic topics and finally concluding with a fantastic description of space-time geometry. In a few short lessons, he showed me what had taken months at university to understand. I wish there were more teachers like him today.
Charles Bell
Apr 03, 2010 Charles Bell rated it it was ok
I learned that there are somethings I cannot grasp and sometimes these things are not understandable by most people. I am one of them when it comes to this book. However, the main thing is that I learned that this man was unique in that he was brilliant and could teach also. A most commendable combination in any he had a sense of humour! I honor the man even though I did not understand most of the book.
Rajendra Dave
Nov 13, 2012 Rajendra Dave rated it really liked it
Very appropriate title, especially if one has not read complete lecture series. One more book that needs to re-read.Classic Feynman otherwise.
Victor Davis
Jan 11, 2015 Victor Davis rated it really liked it
I've only ever read one lucid explanation of relativity, and that was a chapter of Music of the Spheres. But Richard Feynman is a great teacher, and this is a lucid book with actual equations. I could wrap my head around this subject under his guidance. I wonder if there is a seminal textbook on the subject...
Garrett Mccutcheon
Jan 29, 2014 Garrett Mccutcheon rated it it was ok
Whereas Six Easy Pieces was a well-written physics primer for lay readers, Six Not-So-Easy Pieces reads like a poorly conceived text book. The introduction of vectors serves to form a foundation for the explanations which follow in the next chapters, but lay readers who don't already have an exposure to vectors aren't likely to learn them from this brief passage, and more experienced readers already have an in depth knowledge of the subject. This second volume loses or neglects everything which ...more
Vikas Datta
What a phenomenal exposition of the mysteries of science..
Patrick Barrett
Apr 06, 2016 Patrick Barrett rated it it was amazing
Yes, well, I have to come clean. This is really way beyond me, especially the maths itself, although I love the conceptual side of maths and the understanding I can tell myself I've gained when I read explanations by mathematicians etc whose words seem to give insight. And Feynman's words are not even written words, really, but fun-filled attempts to give the beginnings of understanding to whatever audience he might be addressing. I wanted to read this because I loved his Six Easy Pieces, which ...more
Oct 30, 2015 Fazil rated it it was amazing
"The thing is reality itself is fascinating..!!"
Mar 20, 2014 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Richard Feynman was a brilliant scientist. While there are many brilliant scientists, perhaps the term gets thrown around a bit too loosely. Feynman was an elite scientist, maybe one of the most influential and important in American history. What truly sets him apart, more than this, is he is also one of the best teachers. He has the ability to use thought experiments to explain complicated concepts, and in this book, he tries to explain some of the most difficult. Vectors, Physical Symmetry, th ...more
Sep 15, 2008 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Feynman, Richard P. SIX NOT-SO-EASY PIECES. (1997). ***. I don’t want to scare anyone off with my so-so rating of three stars. If you are in a university now, majoring in one of the hard sciences, or if you are a practising physicist, you will love this book. For me – having been out of it now for a few years – it brought back painful memories of how hard I had to work to get through some of my courses, and never really understood much of what I was supposed to have learned. The first (of six) l ...more
Mar 13, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Ah yes, the six not-so-easy pieces. Another winner!

This book is more "hard science" than it's predecessor. Meaning that there is more math and mental effort required to follow along. But not a lot, as the bulk of the discussion is still textual. One can skip over the vector math sections and still get the "gist" of the topic: relativity. Thus, enjoying the way Feynman approaches and details how we see "our world" versus those stuck in a two dimensional one.

The book is a treat (as are the other b
Zoffix Znet
Nov 10, 2013 Zoffix Znet rated it it was ok
I've read this book right after I finished the first part, "Six Easy Pieces" and the differences between the books are vast. In the first book, you are just a person from a crowd whom Feynman educates on basic workings of the universe. The Not-so-easy Pieces makes you feel more of a student at a lecture, occasionally scratching your head and wondering if your math skills are good enough to fully understand the material. There is definitely quite a few of equations in this book, which is contrast ...more
Hadi Dayekh
I highly recommend this book to whoever is interested in Einstein's theories of special and general relativity. The book dives a little bit into the math of the theories but delivers the ideas very clearly through Feynman's well known talent of giving appropriate analogies for any topic. Some bits of this book are hard to grasp, especially in the idea of symmetry of physical laws as well as the math of the curved space. I think these two topic are a bit difficult to understand through reading th ...more
Nicholas Teague
Oct 04, 2014 Nicholas Teague rated it it was amazing
Feynman at his absolute best and that's saying a lot. Highly recommended. Was super proud of myself in that I found what appears to be a mathematical error in eqtn 5.16 (it appears a minus sign was mistaken for an equal sign) but occurs to me that isn't Feynman's error but likely the transcriber's. (Assuming it is even an error, granted some of this material is fairly advanced.) The appeal of this book is the outstanding clarity of thought and elegant communication of some of natures most comple ...more
Vijesh Balakrishnan
Oct 11, 2014 Vijesh Balakrishnan rated it it was amazing
Mathematics and equations are just tools to operate on the observations that are made. To explain what is happening around us, this should not have to be used. I realise this now, after this mind-blowing read! Some genius this guy is! Articulated things so well, so well that I sat there after every topic he covered (usually in1 or 2 pages) lost in thought for a while- dreaming, thinking and enjoying how wonderful our world is!
Planck Constant
Aug 27, 2014 Planck Constant rated it it was amazing
Richard Feynman is a brilliant scientist and in this book he also shows what a good teacher he is. The title suits the book perfectly as the subjects being explained are not easy pieces at all. A lot of mathematical calculations are included as well. However the way Feynman explains them is quite clear and his sense of humor gives a fun touch and softens the heaviness of the subjects. A great book to read for physics lovers.
Prooost Davis
Apr 18, 2011 Prooost Davis rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Curious characters
"Not so easy" is right! Feynman designed these lectures so that, he hoped, physics non-majors would be able to grasp the concepts, while majors would get a sense of the excitement of physics and maintain their interest.

There is a lot of math in the book, but one can ignore most of it (as I did), and try to understand the ideas from Feynman's very clear and simple language. But, simple as Feynman's language is, these concepts are hard for even a smart person to get his or her head around. We have
Andrés Silva
Sep 14, 2013 Andrés Silva rated it really liked it
I have found this book much more interesting than the first part. In the first part I discovered that Feynman, as a popularizer of science, is not so good as it is said (in my opinion, of course). With that in mind, I was expecting a difficult read here and I've found it. However, this book contains a very good and complete description of many issues related to Einstein's relativity and other pluses, like an amazing chapter on symmetries.
I still think that the easiest introduction to Einstein's
Mar 02, 2014 Jakep rated it really liked it
This book helped me to rethink my physics knowledge, but in a more understandable manner. It is written on a level that is engaging and not overly complex with the exception for some of the math the author uses.
Dec 11, 2014 Krollo rated it really liked it
How odd - with a little mathematics, one can understand the ideas of relativity. I've found out why E=mc^2, why general relativity agrees with elementary physics, why the binomial expansion is useful...
Jun 24, 2016 Tedb0t rated it really liked it
Will probably re-read at some point. These concepts require lots of practice. I'm not sure how helpful the section on symmetry is.
Apr 08, 2016 Francesco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not simple. There are a lot of math formulas, some of those require a good preparation to be understood. But anyway, you can read this also without any preparation. Feynman gives us ideas and reflections about the world around us and it's nice to follow him through those statements
Aug 03, 2014 Skeptycal rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Dick Feynman is one of my favorite curious characters. His lectures and writings are so wonderfully entertaining and thoughtfully accurate. Even 50 years after his original Caltech, his vision of the world and the physics that runs it all is genius. For any physics or science student, his works are all absolutely must reads. For anyone simply seeking the joy of finding things out, his popular books are highly recommended. I personally prefer the audio versions of his lectures that contain his or ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover 4 21 Oct 14, 2012 10:24PM  
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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
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“So our problem is to explain where symmetry comes from. Why is nature so nearly symmetrical? No one has any idea why. The only thing we might suggest is something like this: There is a gate in
Japan, a gate in Neiko, which is sometimes called by the Japanese
the most beautiful gate in all Japan; it was built in a time when
there was great influence from Chinese art. This gate is very elaborate,
with lots of gables and beautiful carving and lots of columns
and dragon heads and princes carved into the pillars, and so on.
But when one looks closely he sees that in the elaborate and complex
design along one of the pillars, one of the small design elements
is carved upside down; otherwise the thing is completely
symmetrical. If one asks why this is, the story is that it was carved
upside down so that the gods will not be jealous of the perfection
of man. So they purposely put an error in there, so that the gods
would not be jealous and get angry with human beings.
We might like to turn the idea around and think that the true
explanation of the near symmetry of nature is this: that God made
the laws only nearly symmetrical so that we should not be jealous
of His perfection!”
More quotes…