Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science

( 13 )

Overview

A gripping new scientific biography of the revered Nobel Prize–winning physicist (and curious character).
Perhaps the greatest physicist of the second half of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman changed the way we think about quantum mechanics, the most perplexing of all physical theories. Here Lawrence M. Krauss, himself a theoretical physicist and best-selling author, offers a unique scientific biography: a rollicking narrative coupled with clear and novel expositions of ...
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Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science (Great Discoveries)

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Overview

A gripping new scientific biography of the revered Nobel Prize–winning physicist (and curious character).
Perhaps the greatest physicist of the second half of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman changed the way we think about quantum mechanics, the most perplexing of all physical theories. Here Lawrence M. Krauss, himself a theoretical physicist and best-selling author, offers a unique scientific biography: a rollicking narrative coupled with clear and novel expositions of science at the limits. An immensely colorful persona in and out of the office, Feynman revolutionized our understanding of nature amid a turbulent life. Krauss presents that life—from the death of Feynman’s childhood sweetheart during the Manhattan Project to his reluctant rise as a scientific icon—as seen through the science, providing a new understanding of the legacy of a man who has fascinated millions. An accessible reflection on the issues that drive physics today, Quantum Man captures the story of a man who was willing to break all the rules to tame a theory that broke all the rules.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Physicist Richard Feynman has a reputation as a bongo-playing, hard-partying, flamboyant Nobel Prize laureate for his work on quantum electrodynamics theory, but this tends to obscure the fact that he was a brilliant thinker who continued making contributions to science until his death in 1988. He foresaw new directions in science that have begun to produce practical applications only in the last decade: nanotechnology, atomic-scale biology like the manipulation of DNA, lasers to move individual atoms, and quantum engineering. In the 1960s, Feynman entered the field of quantum gravity and created important tools and techniques for scientists studying black holes and gravity waves. Author Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek), an MIT-trained physicist, doesn't necessarily break new ground in this biography, but Krauss excels in his ability, like Feynman himself, to make complicated physics comprehensible. He incorporates Feynman's lectures and quotes several of the late physicist's colleagues to aid him in this process. This book is highly recommended for readers who want to get to know one of the preeminent scientists of the 20th century.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Brian Greene
“Seamlessly entwining colorful episodes of physics’ most ‘curious character’ with wonderfully clear descriptions of Feynman’s penetrating breakthroughs in quantum theory, Krauss’s account is both entertaining and masterly. A great read.”
Steven Pinker
“A lively and engrossing biography of a lively and engrossing man. Krauss recounts the life and ideas of one of the century’s greatest scientist with a deep understanding of both the physics and the man, presented with great lucidity and charm.”
Walter Isaacson
“Lawrence Krauss's wonderful biography manages to combine a rolling narrative with a crystal clear explanation of Richard Feynman's science. Its lively descriptions make both electromagnetism and quantum mechanics fun, while Krauss's personal reflections on his subject add a new level of insight into the man and his scientific legacy. Quantum Man is a masterpiece.”
Richard Dawkins
“Such a charismatic figure deserves a charismatic, knowledgeable, and literate physicist as his warts-and-all biographer. Lawrence Krauss fits the bill admirably and rises to the challenge with style, panache, and deep understanding.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Richard Feynman was a legend for a whole generation of scientists, long before anyone in the public knew who he was," writes Krauss (Physics/Arizona State Univ.;The Physics of Star Trek, 2007 etc.) in this engaging biography.

The author's first introduction to the physicist who became a hero to him occurred in high school, when a science teacher gave him Feynman's (1918–1988) popular work The Character of Physical Law. In 1974, Krauss, then an undergraduate physics major, attended a keynote address by Feynman, and a photo of him talking to the physicist appeared in a national magazine. However, it was really only after the 1986 Challenger disaster that Feynman's name became widely known—as a member of the NASA investigatory panel, he placed an O-ring in a glass of ice water, demonstrating its vulnerability to cold. This incident encapsulates Feynman's creative genius and his ability to solve puzzles by unconventional means—whether about the foundations of quantum physics or simply a matter of poor engineering. Krauss traces how he refused to accept the conventional wisdom on any subject but would scrutinize it from different points of view before coming to his own conclusion. Feynman's work has had an impact on almost every aspect of modern science today, from nanotechnology to particle physics, semi-conductors and high-temperature superconductors. In the author's view, he was arguably the most important scientist in the latter half of the 20th century, comparable to Einstein in influence, although his genius was not to achieve fundamentally new results but to look at "old things from a new viewpoint." Krauss explains the complicated scientific material in a clear, lively style that would have earned Feynman's approval.

A worthy addition to the Feynman shelf and a welcome follow-up to the standard-bearer, James Gleick's Genius (1992).

George Johnson
…an enlightening addition to the field…Though he couldn't resist recycling some well-worn Feynman anecdotes (and providing a couple of his own), [Krauss] concentrates on Feynman the thinker, and on the contributions that merited his fame…Other good books give a feel for this and Feynman's later accomplishments. But I understood it all better after watching over the shoulder of Krauss the physicist as he worked his way through the Feynman oeuvre—not the stories of fast times in Rio, but the scientific papers.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393064711
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/21/2011
  • Series: Great Discoveries Series
  • Pages: 350
  • Sales rank: 987,585
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence M. Krauss is the director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and has written more than three hundred scientific publications and seven books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. He lives in Tempe, Arizona, and Shaker Heights, Ohio.
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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part I The Paths to Greatness

Chapter 1 Lights, Camera, Action 3

Chapter 2 The Quantum Universe 18

Chapter 3 A New Way of Thinking 36

Chapter 4 Alice in Quantumland 51

Chapter 5 Endings and Beginnings 59

Chapter 6 Loss of Innocence 76

Chapter 7 Paths to Greatness 92

Chapter 8 From Here to Infinity 108

Chapter 9 Splitting an Atom 124

Chapter 10 Through a Glass Darkly 141

Part II The Rest of the Universe

Chapter 11 Matter of the Heart and the Heart of Matter 163

Chapter 12 Rearranging the Universe 180

Chapter 13 Hiding in the Mirror 193

Chapter 14 Distractions and Delights 218

Chapter 15 Twisting the Tail of the Cosmos 233

Chapter 16 From Top to Bottom 263

Chapter 17 Truth, Beauty, and Freedom 287

Epilogue Character Is Destiny 314

Acknowledgments and Sources 321

Index 325

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Read Feynman First

    Don't waste your time with this book. Feynman's own books are much better and clearer. Read Feynman's QED to get some real insight into his thinking.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Very Detailed, Interesting Scientist

    This book goes into (great detail) about Quantum mechanics and the BOMB. If you know what QED and QCD are then this book is for you. If not, you will learn what they are. It is (heavy reading) but has its surprises. One was how much of a womanizer Richard was, like many male celebrities. You see the O ring on the cover of the book. That has to do with the Challenger. He was a very involved scientist.

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  • Posted April 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Good Take on his Science

    A perspective on Feynman from his scientific contributions, which can still be seen in Quantum Computing today. Seems he was busy calculating and solving problems right up to his death. Also covered his entrance into his now famous lecture series, which I now understand undergraduates were somewhat too intimidated to take (and not many passed.) I have one copy of the lecture series myself which I page through from time to time,

    If you have no science background, or interest in science this book is probably not for you. It delves somewhat deeply into his science and what he accomplished in that realm, and not much about his personal life,

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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