Tuva or Bust!: Richard Feynman's Last Journey

Overview

As a stamp-collecting boy always fascinated by remote places, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman was particularly taken by the diamond-shaped stamps from a place called Tannu Tuva deep within Outer Mongolia. He hoped, someday, to travel there.
In 1977, Feynman and his sidekick— fellow drummer and geography enthusiast Ralph Leighton—set out to make arrangements to visit Tuva, doing noble and hilarious battle with Soviet red tape, befriending quite a few Tuvans, and ...

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Overview

As a stamp-collecting boy always fascinated by remote places, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Richard Feynman was particularly taken by the diamond-shaped stamps from a place called Tannu Tuva deep within Outer Mongolia. He hoped, someday, to travel there.
In 1977, Feynman and his sidekick— fellow drummer and geography enthusiast Ralph Leighton—set out to make arrangements to visit Tuva, doing noble and hilarious battle with Soviet red tape, befriending quite a few Tuvans, and discovering the wonders of Tuvan throat-singing. Their Byzantine attempts to reach Tannu Tuva would span a decade, interrupted by Feynman's appointment to the committee investigating the Challenger disaster, and his tragic struggle with the cancer that finally killed him. Tuva or Bust! chronicles the deepening friendship of two zany, brilliant strategists whose love of the absurd will delight and instruct. It is Richard Feynman's last, best adventure.

A hilarious and moving tale of renowned physicist Richard Feynman's last adventure--a journey of the mind and spirit to the lost country of Tannu Tuva, a mysterious land recalled from his childhood stamp collecting. "Animated by irrepressible high spirits, this serendipitous saga is a tale of adventure, heartbreak and rare friendship."--Publishers Weekly.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a kid, physicist Richard Feynman collected triangular postage stamps from Tannu Tuva, a remote, mountain-capped fastness in Mongolia. In adulthood, a chance conversation with fellow drummer and coauthor Leighton ( What Do You Care What Other People Think? ) kindled their yearning for this exotic land of nomads, yaks and camels, nominally independent from 1921 to 1944 and now part of the U.S.S.R. The duo spent a frustrating decade trying to get to Tannu Tuva, dickering with Soviet officials while Feynman, who died in 1988, also coped with recurring cancer and investigated the Challenger space shuttle disaster for NASA. Only Leighton would ultimately make the long-sought pilgrimage to Tannu Tuva, where he was serenaded with songs by ethnographer Ondar Daryma, who wages a ``one-man crusade to preserve Tuvan culture.'' (A vinyl record of xoomei --Tuvan throat-singing in which one singer, incredibly, intones two melodies at once--comes as an insert with the book). Animated by irrepressible high spirits, this serendipitous saga is a tale of adventure, heartbreak and rare friendship. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Intrigued by the comely, diamond-shaped stamps collected as children from an obscure, Soviet-controlled region of Mongolia called Tannu Tuva, and by the curious spelling of its capital--Kyzyl--Nobel laureate physicist Feynman and his sidekick Leighton make a pact to visit the area. Despite snags engendered by Cold War politics and Feynman's deteriorating physical condition, their persistence is rewarded by an official invitation to Tuva from the USSR Academy of Sciences. Sadly, Feynman is felled by abdominal cancer before the trip begins, yet his irrepressible pranks and unquenchable intellectual curiosity touch the hearts of all involved in organizing the journey. Readers who enjoyed the collaborative efforts of Feynman and Leighton in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman ( LJ 3/15/85) and What Do You Care What Other People Think? ( LJ 11/15/88) will undoubtedly cherish this poignant account of Feynman's last escapade.--Mark Annichiarico, ``Library Journal''
Booknews
A splendid piece of Feynmaniana--the Tuva attempt by a close friend. Includes a phonodisc of Tuvan singing. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Scientific American Editors
A delightful tale that Leighton tells in this updated paperback version of the hardcover published in 1991....A harrowing and often hilarious tale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393320695
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/17/2000
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 464,996
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph Leighton, Richard Feynman's great friend and collaborator, now lives in northern California.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Did you know that Tannu-Tuva is a country?

    All the things we could learn if only we ask! A book that shows us that if we want something bad enough, we'll find a way to get it....even if it takes years. Fun read showing how an interest in stamp collection turns to obsession and finally reality. Richard Feynman, a prominent physicist, and his friend Ralph Leighton, decide they want to go to the Siberian country, Tannu-Tuva, after a debate over a stamp from the country questions if it is a real place. The book recounts their search to learn about this country and their obscure journey in an attempt to get there. I had no idea that a country called Tannu-Tuva exists and it was great fun to learn about it and such things as throat singing and to follow the two men in their journey of discovery.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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