Tim's Reviews > Feynman

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani
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Aug 31, 12

Read in August, 2012

I really enjoyed this graphic biography. I found it much more engaging (perhaps because the subject was more engaging) than Logicomics, to which it will likely be compared. Unlike Nat Torkington, I loved the last part of the book, which took a stab at explaining Quantum Electrodynamics (for which Feynman shared a Nobel prize.)

It was also lovely to see people I know appear in the book, including Freeman Dyson (who explained Feynman's idiosyncratic thinking to the rest of the physics world in a way that they could understand) and Danny Hillis. I had no idea that Danny had hired Feynman at Thinking Machines. And the night that Richard Feynman and Freeman Dyson spent the night together and kept each other up talking physics can only be compared to the night when Ben Franklin and John Adams shared a room on their way to Philadelphia!

The only part of the book I found unsatisfying was the description of Feynman's safecracking while at Los Alamos. While the book made a show of explaining his technique, it left something crucial out (at least for me). I couldn't figure out how having the door left open would tell Feynman what the last two digits of the combination were.

This web page, for example, gives a different explanation of his technique that is quite clear: http://www.science20.com/geeks039_gui...

(It's possible that he often got two digits because the person sometimes left the lock on the last number, and the technique above gives the first number. But that's different than getting the last two numbers. If anyone knows differently, please explain in the comments!]

At any rate, this is a wonderful overview of the life and ideas of a man so many have heard of, but only in fragments. Best of all, it's a quick fun read that leaves you hungry for more. I've had my Dad's copy of the Feyman Lectures on Physics on my shelf for decades, but never read them, and his autobiography Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman has been on my to-read list for almost as long. Now I'm going to read both, as well as some of the other books and documentary videos cited in the extensive bibliography.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Otis (new) - added it

Otis Chandler I loved surely you're joking! Will have to check this out.


message 2: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael "[T]he night that Richard Feynman and Freeman Dyson spent the night together and kept each other up talking physics can only be compared to the night when Ben Franklin and John Adams shared a room on their way to Philadelphia!" So true! Thanks for the comprehensive review, as always.


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