ISBN-10:
0393316041
ISBN-13:
2900393316048
Pub. Date:
04/17/1997
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character / Edition 1

by Richard P. Feynman
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900393316048
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/17/1997
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Richard P. Feynman (1918–1988) was a professor at Cornell University and CalTech and received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965. In 1986 he served with distinction on the Rogers Commission investigating the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

Ralph Leighton lives in northern California.

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


He Fixes Radios by Thinking!


WHEN I WAS about eleven or twelve I set up a lab in my house. It consisted of an old wooden packing box that I put shelves in. I had a heater, and I'd put in fat and cook french-fried potatoes all the time. I also had a storage battery, and a lamp bank.

    To build the lamp bank I went down to the five-and-ten and got some sockets you can screw down to a wooden base, and connected them with pieces of bell wire. By making different combinations of switches —in series or parallel—I knew I could get different voltages. But what I hadn't realized was that a bulb's resistance depends on its temperature, so the results of my calculations weren't the same as the stuff that came out of the circuit. But it was all right, and when the bulbs were in series, all half-lit, they would gloooooooooow, very pretty—it was great!

    I had a fuse in the system so if I shorted anything, the fuse would blow. Now I had to have a fuse that was weaker than the fuse in the house, so I made my own fuses by taking tin foil and wrapping it around an old burnt-out fuse. Across my fuse I had a five-watt bulb, so when my fuse blew, the load from the trickle charger that was always charging the storage battery would light up the bulb. The bulb was on the switchboard behind a piece of brown candy paper (it looks red when a light's behind it) —so if something went off, I'd look up to the switchboard and there would be a big red spot where the fuse went. It was fun!

    I enjoyed radios. Istarted with a crystal set that I bought at the store, and I used to listen to it at night in bed while I was going to sleep, through a pair of earphones. When my mother and father went out until late at night, they would come into my room and take the earphones off—and worry about what was going into my head while I was asleep.

    About that time I invented a burglar alarm, which was a very simple-minded thing: it was just a big battery and a bell connected with some wire. When the door to my room opened, it pushed the wire against the battery and closed the circuit, and the bell would go off.

    One night my mother and father came home from a night out and very, very quietly, so as not to disturb the child, opened the door to come into my room to take my earphones off. All of a sudden this tremendous bell went off with a helluva racket—BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG!!! I jumped out of bed yelling, "It worked! It worked!"

    I had a Ford coil—a spark coil from an automobile—and I had the spark terminals at the top of my switchboard. I would put a Raytheon RH tube, which had argon gas in it, across the terminals, and the spark would make a purple glow inside the vacuum —it was just great!

    One day I was playing with the Ford coil, punching holes in paper with the sparks, and the paper caught on fire. Soon I couldn't hold it any more because it was burning near my fingers, so I dropped it in a metal wastebasket which had a lot of newspapers in it. Newspapers burn fast, you know, and the flame looked pretty big inside the room. I shut the door so my mother—who was playing bridge with some friends in the living room—wouldn't find out there was a fire in my room, took a magazine that was lying nearby, and put it over the wastebasket to smother the fire.

    After the fire was out I took the magazine off, but now the room began to fill up with smoke. The wastebasket was still too hot to handle, so I got a pair of pliers, carried it across the room, and held it out the window for the smoke to blow out.

    But because it was breezy outside, the wind lit the fire again, and now the magazine was out of reach. So I pulled the flaming wastebasket back in through the window to get the magazine, and I noticed there were curtains in the window—it was very dangerous!

    Well, I got the magazine, put the fire out again, and this time kept the magazine with me while I shook the glowing coals out of the wastepaper basket onto the street, two or three floors below. Then I went out of my room, closed the door behind me, and said to my mother, "I'm going out to play," and the smoke went out slowly through the windows.

    I also did some things with electric motors and built an amplifier for a photo cell that I bought that could make a bell ring when I put my hand in front of the cell. I didn't get to do as much as I wanted to, because my mother kept putting me out all the time, to play. But I was often in the house, fiddling with my lab.

    I bought radios at rummage sales. I didn't have any money, but it wasn't very expensive—they were old, broken radios, and I'd buy them and try to fix them. Usually they were broken in some simple-minded way—some obvious wire was hanging loose, or a coil was broken or partly unwound—so I could get some of them going. On one of these radios one night I got WACO in Waco, Texas—it was tremendously exciting!

    On this same tube radio up in my lab I was able to hear a station up in Schenectady called WGN. Now, all of us kids—my two cousins, my sister, and the neighborhood kids—listened on the radio downstairs to a program called the Eno Crime Club—Eno effervescent salts—it was the thing! Well, I discovered that I could hear this program up in my lab on WGN one hour before it was broadcast in New York! So I'd discover what was going to happen, and then, when we were all sitting around the radio downstairs listening to the Eno Crime Club, I'd say, "You know, we haven't heard from so-and-so in a long time. I betcha he comes and saves the situation."

    Two seconds later, bup-bup, he comes! So they all got excited about this, and I predicted a couple of other things. Then they realized that there must be some trick to it—that I must know, somehow. So I owned up to what it was, that I could hear it upstairs the hour before.

    You know what the result was, naturally. Now they couldn't wait for the regular hour. They all had to sit upstairs in my lab with this little creaky radio for half an hour, listening to the Eno Crime Club from Schenectady.

    We lived at that time in a big house; it was left by my grandfather to his children, and they didn't have much money aside from the house. It was a very large, wooden house, and I would run wires all around the outside, and had plugs in all the rooms, so I could always listen to my radios, which were upstairs in my lab. I also had a loudspeaker—not the whole speaker, but the part without the big horn on it.

    One day, when I had my earphones on, I connected them to the loudspeaker, and I discovered something: I put my finger in the speaker and I could hear it in the earphones; I scratched the speaker and I'd hear it in the earphones. So I discovered that the speaker could act like a microphone, and you didn't even need any batteries. At school we were talking about Alexander Graham Bell, so I gave a demonstration of the speaker and the earphones. I didn't know it at the time, but I think it was the type of telephone he originally used.

    So now I had a microphone, and I could broadcast from upstairs to downstairs, and from downstairs to upstairs, using the amplifiers of my rummage-sale radios. At that time my sister Joan, who was nine years younger than I was, must have been about two or three, and there was a guy on the radio called Uncle Don that she liked to listen to. He'd sing little songs about "good children," and so on, and he'd read cards sent in by parents telling that "Mary So-and-so is having a birthday this Saturday at 25 Flatbush Avenue."

    One day my cousin Frances and I sat Joan down and said that there was a special program she should listen to. Then we ran upstairs and we started to broadcast: "This is Uncle Don. We know a very nice little girl named Joan who lives on New Broadway; she's got a birthday coming—not today, but such-and-such. She's a cute girl." We sang a little song, and then we made music: "Deedle leet deet, doodle doodle loot doot; deedle deedle leet, doodle loot doot doo ..." We went through the whole deal, and then we came downstairs: "How was it? Did you like the program?"

    "It was good," she said, "but why did you make the music with your mouth?"


    One day I got a telephone call: "Mister, are you Richard Feynman?"

    "Yes."

    "This is a hotel. We have a radio that doesn't work, and would like it repaired. We understand you might be able to do something about it."

    "But I'm only a little boy," I said. "I don't know how—"

    "Yes, we know that, but we'd like you to come over anyway."

    It was a hotel that my aunt was running, but I didn't know that. I went over there with—they still tell the story—a big screwdriver in my back pocket. Well, I was small, so any screwdriver looked big in my back pocket.

    I went up to the radio and tried to fix it. I didn't know anything about it, but there was also a handyman at the hotel, and either he noticed, or I noticed, a loose knob on the rheostat—to turn up the volume—so that it wasn't turning the shaft. He went off and filed something, and fixed it up so it worked.

    The next radio I tried to fix didn't work at all. That was easy: it wasn't plugged in right. As the repair jobs got more and more complicated, I got better and better, and more elaborate. I bought myself a milliammeter in New York and converted it into a voltmeter that had different scales on it by using the right lengths (which I calculated) of very fine copper wire. It wasn't very accurate, but it was good enough to tell whether things were in the right ballpark at different connections in those radio sets.

    The main reason people hired me was the Depression. They didn't have any money to fix their radios, and they'd hear about this kid who would do it for less. So I'd climb on roofs to fix antennas, and all kinds of stuff. I got a series of lessons of ever-increasing difficulty. Ultimately I got some job like converting a DC set into an AC set, and it was very hard to keep the hum from going through the system, and I didn't build it quite right. I shouldn't have bitten that one off, but I didn't know.

    One job was really sensational. I was working at the time for a printer, and a man who knew that printer knew I was trying to get jobs fixing radios, so he sent a fellow around to the print shop to pick me up. The guy is obviously poor—his car is a complete wreck—and we go to his house which is in a cheap part of town. On the way, I say, "What's the trouble with the radio?"

    He says, "When I turn it on it makes a noise, and after a while the noise stops and everything's all right, but I don't like the noise at the beginning."

    I think to myself: "What the hell! If he hasn't got any money, you'd think he could stand a little noise for a while."

    And all the time, on the way to his house, he's saying things like, "Do you know anything about radios? How do you know about radios—you're just a little boy!"

    He's putting me down the whole way, and I'm thinking, "So what's the matter with him? So it makes a little noise."

    But when we got there I went over to the radio and turned it on. Little noise? My God! No wonder the poor guy couldn't stand it. The thing began to roar and wobble—WUH BUH BUH BUH BUH—A tremendous amount of noise. Then it quieted down and played correctly. So I started to think: "How can that happen?"

    I start walking back and forth, thinking, and I realize that one way it can happen is that the tubes are heating up in the wrong order—that is, the amplifier's all hot, the tubes are ready to go, and there's nothing feeding in, or there's some back circuit feeding in, or something wrong in the beginning part—the RF part —and therefore it's making a lot of noise, picking up something. And when the RF circuit's finally going, and the grid voltages are adjusted, everything's all right.

    So the guy says, "What are you doing? You come to fix the radio, but you're only walking back and forth!"

    I say, "I'm thinking!" Then I said to myself, "All right, take the tubes out, and reverse the order completely in the set." (Many radio sets in those days used the same tubes in different places—212's, I think they were, or 212-A's.) So I changed the tubes around, stepped to the front of the radio, turned the thing on, and it's as quiet as a lamb: it waits until it heats up, and then plays perfectly—no noise.

    When a person has been negative to you, and then you do something like that, they're usually a hundred percent the other way, kind of to compensate. He got me other jobs, and kept telling everybody what a tremendous genius I was, saying, "He fixes radios by thinking!" The whole idea of thinking, to fix a radio —a little boy stops and thinks, and figures out how to do it—he never thought that was possible.

    Radio circuits were much easier to understand in those days because everything was out in the open. After you took the set apart (it was a big problem to find the right screws), you could see this was a resistor, that's a condenser, here's a this, there's a that; they were all labeled. And if wax had been dripping from the condenser, it was too hot and you could tell that the condenser was burned out. If there was charcoal on one of the resistors you knew where the trouble was. Or, if you couldn't tell what was the matter by looking at it, you'd test it with your voltmeter and see whether voltage was coming through. The sets were simple, the circuits were not complicated. The voltage on the grids was always about one and a half or two volts and the voltages on the plates were one hundred or two hundred, DC. So it wasn't hard for me to fix a radio by understanding what was going on inside, noticing that something wasn't working right, and fixing it.

    Sometimes it took quite a while. I remember one particular time when it took the whole afternoon to find a burned-out resistor that was not apparent. That particular time it happened to be a friend of my mother, so I had time—there was nobody on my back saying, "What are you doing?" Instead, they were saying, "Would you like a little milk, or some cake?" I finally fixed it because I had, and still have, persistence. Once I get on a puzzle, I can't get off. If my mother's friend had said, "Never mind, it's too much work," I'd have blown my top, because I want to beat this damn thing, as long as I've gone this far. I can't just leave it after I've found out so much about it. I have to keep going to find out ultimately what is the matter with it in the end.

    That's a puzzle drive. It's what accounts for my wanting to decipher Mayan hieroglyphics, for trying to open safes. I remember in high school, during first period a guy would come to me with a puzzle in geometry, or something which had been assigned in his advanced math class. I wouldn't stop until I figured the damn thing out—it would take me fifteen or twenty minutes. But during the day, other guys would come to me with the same problem, and I'd do it for them in a flash. So for one guy, to do it took me twenty minutes, while there were five guys who thought I was a super-genius.

    So I got a fancy reputation. During high school every puzzle that was known to man must have come to me. Every damn, crazy conundrum that people had invented, I knew. So when I got to MIT there was a dance, and one of the seniors had his girlfriend there, and she knew a lot of puzzles, and he was telling her that I was pretty good at them. So during the dance she came over to me and said, "They say you're a smart guy, so here's one for you: "A man has eight cords of wood to chop ..."

    And I said, "He starts by chopping every other one in three parts," because I had heard that one.

    Then she'd go away and come back with another one, and I'd always know it.

    This went on for quite a while, and finally, near the end of the dance, she came over, looking as if she was going to get me for sure this time, and she said, "A mother and daughter are traveling to Europe ..."

    "The daughter got the bubonic plague."

    She collapsed! That was hardly enough clues to get the answer to that one: It was the long story about how a mother and daughter stop at a hotel and stay in separate rooms, and the next day the mother goes to the daughter's room and there's nobody there, or somebody else is there, and she says, "Where's my daughter?" and the hotel keeper says, "What daughter?" and the register's got only the mother's name, and so on, and so on, and there's a big mystery as to what happened. The answer is, the daughter got bubonic plague, and the hotel, not wanting to have to close up, spirits the daughter away, cleans up the room, and erases all evidence of her having been there. It was a long tale, but I had heard it, so when the girl started out with, "A mother and daughter are traveling to Europe," I knew one thing that started that way, so I took a flying guess, and got it.

    We had a thing at high school called the algebra team, which consisted of five kids, and we would travel to different schools as a team and have competitions. We would sit in one row of seats and the other team would sit in another row. A teacher, who was running the contest, would take out an envelope, and on the envelope it says "forty-five seconds." She opens it up, writes the problem on the blackboard, and says, "Go!"—so you really have more than forty-five seconds because while she's writing you can think. Now the game was this: You have a piece of paper, and on it you can write anything, you can do anything. The only thing that counted was the answer. If the answer was "six books," you'd have to write "6," and put a big circle around it. If what was in the circle was right, you won; if it wasn't, you lost.

    One thing was for sure: It was practically impossible to do the problem in any conventional, straightforward way, like putting "A is the number of red books, B is the number of blue books," grind, grind, grind, until you get "six books." That would take you fifty seconds, because the people who set up the timings on these problems had made them all a trifle short. So you had to think, "Is there a way to see it?" Sometimes you could see it in a flash, and sometimes you'd have to invent another way to do it and then do the algebra as fast as you could. It was wonderful practice, and I got better and better, and I eventually got to be the head of the team. So I learned to do algebra very quickly, and it came in handy in college. When we had a problem in calculus, I was very quick to see where it was going and to do the algebra —fast.

    Another thing I did in high school was to invent problems and theorems. I mean, if I were doing any mathematical thing at all, I would find some practical example for which it would be useful. I invented a set of right-triangle problems. But instead of giving the lengths of two of the sides to find the third, I gave the difference of the two sides. A typical example was: There's a flagpole, and there's a rope that comes down from the top. When you hold the rope straight down, it's three feet longer than the pole, and when you pull the rope out tight, it's five feet from the base of the pole. How high is the pole?

    I developed some equations for solving problems like that, and as a result I noticed some connection—perhaps it was sin² + cos² = 1—that reminded me of trigonometry. Now, a few years earlier, perhaps when I was eleven or twelve, I had read a book on trigonometry that I had checked out from the library, but the book was by now long gone. I remembered only that trigonometry had something to so with relations between sines and cosines. So I began to work out all the relations by drawing triangles, and each one I proved by myself. I also calculated the sine, cosine, and tangent of every five degrees, starting with the sine of five degrees as given, by addition and half-angle formulas that I had worked out.

    A few years later, when we studied trigonometry in school, I still had my notes and I saw that my demonstrations were often different from those in the book. Sometimes, for a thing where I didn't notice a simple way to do it, I went all over the place till I got it. Other times, my way was most clever—the standard demonstration in the book was much more complicated! So sometimes I had 'em beat, and sometimes it was the other way around.

    While I was doing all this trigonometry, I didn't like the symbols for sine, cosine, tangent, and so on. To me, "sin f" looked like s times i times n times f!. So I invented another symbol, like a square root sign, that was a sigma with a long arm sticking out of it, and I put the f underneath. For the tangent it was a tau with the top of the tau extended, and for the cosine I made a kind of gamma, but it looked a little bit like the square root sign.

    Now the inverse sine was the same sigma, but left-to-right reflected so that it started with the horizontal line with the value underneath, and then the sigma. That was the inverse sine, NOT sin-1 f—that was crazy! They had that in books! To me, sin-1 meant 1/sine, the reciprocal. So my symbols were better.

    I didn't like f(x)—that looked to me like f times x. I also didn't like dy/dx—you have a tendency to cancel the d's—so I made a different sign, something like an & sign. For logarithms it was a big L extended to the right, with the thing you take the log of inside, and so on.

    I thought my symbols were just as good, if not better, than the regular symbols—it doesn't make any difference what symbols you use—but I discovered later that it does make a difference. Once when I was explaining something to another kid in high school, without thinking I started to make these symbols, and he said, "What the hell are those?" I realized then that if I'm going to talk to anybody else, I'll have to use the standard symbols, so I eventually gave up my own symbols.

    I had also invented a set of symbols for the typewriter, like FORTRAN has to do, so I could type equations. I also fixed typewriters, with paper clips and rubber bands (the rubber bands didn't break down like they do here in Los Angeles), but I wasn't a professional repairman; I'd just fix them so they would work. But the whole problem of discovering what was the matter, and figuring out what you have to do to fix it—that was interesting to me, like a puzzle.

Table of Contents

Introduction--Albert R. Hibbs

Vitals

Part 1. From Far Rockaway to MIT
He Fixes Radios by Thinking!
String Beans
Who Stole the Door?
Latin or Italian?
Always Trying to Escape
The Chief Research Chemist of the Metaplast Corporation

Part 2. The Princeton Years
"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"
Meeeeeeeeeee!
A Map of the Cat?
Monster Minds
Mixing Paints
A Different Box of Tools
Mindreaders
The Amateur Scientist

Part 3. Feynman, the Bomb, and the Military
Fizzled Fuses
Testing Bloodhounds
Los Alamos from Below
Safecracker Meets Safecracker
Uncle Sam Doesn't Need You!

Part 4. From Cornell to Caltech with A Touch of Brazil
The Dignified Professor
Any Questions?
I Want My Dollar!
You Just Ask Them?
Lucky Numbers
O Americano, Outra Vez!
Man of a Thousand Tongues
Certainly, Mr. Big!
An Offer You Must Refuse

Part 5. The World of One Physicist
Would You Solve the Dirac Equation?
The 7 Percent Solution
Thirteen Times
It Sounds Greek to Me!
But Is It Art?
Is Electricity Fire?
Judging Books by Their Covers
Alfred Nobel's Other Mistake
Bringing Culture to the Physicists
Found Out in Paris
Altered States
Cargo Cult Science
Index

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"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 106 reviews.
lizzie_e More than 1 year ago
I am a student in the 10th grade and, although I never would have picked this on my own, based on the content and the little information I knew about it before i started reading it, I really enjoyed this book! I had to read this book for my 10th grade honors physical science class, and was pleasantly surprised! I was dreading having to read it (I'm not much of a nonfiction/scientific reader, I like light reads), but this book made it interesting, not boring to read about Richard Feynman's encounters in the scientific world.The topics covered in this novel are nothing I ever would have suspected to interest me, but I was surprised to find that I did not actually mind reading this book. Basically Richard Feynman is retelling and recounting upon his most intriguing journeys and the memorable circumstances he has been in. It chronicles his life from the beginning, as Feynman shares his exciting personal experiences with you. It reads as though you and Mr. Feynman are sitting down, sharing funny, memorable stories with each other, a very smooth read. When reading, I almost forgot that I was reading this for an assignment, because of the way the information is presented in such a relaxed, casual way. It is a bit lengthy, but it's just interesting enough that you'll want to keep turning those pages until you've reached the end. I would highly recommend this to anyone, assigned or not!
crazy4karate More than 1 year ago
this book is not just another book only about science. it has a lot of backround in it. i read this for a science class project and it was very entertaining. it was a book that i just kept reading and reading and i couldnt put it down! Dr. Feynman retells his life which is just so entertaining to read because he lead a full life. As i read i just gouldnt help but laugh out loud. i deffinatly recomend this book for anyone who likes science but loves a good laugh as well.
amy010 More than 1 year ago
A fascinating foray into the fun yet formidable physics of Mr. Feynman.  Actually, this book is less about physics and more about the life of Nobel Prize Laureate, Richard Feynman.  (Richard just rolled over in his grave; if you want to know why -- read this book!)  Once I adjusted  my expectations from education to entertainment, I absorbed every word.  He was always interesting, at times very entertaining and despite his obvious genius he had an utter lack of pretentiousness and conceit that I previously assumed afflicted all venerated scientists.  I left this book wishing for more, and feeling inspired to pursue my own adventures in curiosity.  What could I achieve if, like Richard, I abandoned my Western culture imperative of accomplishment through suffering and played with my talents in ways I felt was fun?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Feynman was brilliant first and foremost. Curiosity seemed to be the driving force behind his accomplishments and not the nobel prize he was awarded and with reluctance accepted. This is an easy read for anyone who enjoys great stories.
JessicaZ123 More than 1 year ago
For my science class I had to read this book and I was not very excited about it at all because I am not a big book reader. I thought it was going to be one of those books just talking about straight science. But I was wrong. Once I started the book I could not put it down! Mr. Feynman is highly intelligent and a very curious guy. All of his experiences and adventures were very funny and entertaining! Although there were some dull parts in the book because I had no idea what he was talking about. But this made me go look up the things I didn't know about and i got to learn a lot! Throughout the whole book I learned so many things without having to make myself read it. It was not just science too. There were some things in the book that I had no idea what was out there. Mr. Feynman can also relate to almost everyone in his book. Reading about his college life about girls and jokes on his fraternity was very funny. He also talked about the war and how he helped out in it. I thought that was very interesting. Overall this book was highly entertaining and I recommend it to anyone! It is an easy read and you will not be able to put the book down. I hope you will enjoy it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Surely You¿re Joking Mr. Feynman?¿ is a great book, if you¿re a physicist, and are really into science books and stuff like that. The book is made of great and funny little short stories about Richard Phillips Feynman¿s past life. If you are a fifteen year old young adult and you pick up this book, the first thing one would probably want to do is put it right back down. I recommend you do not do that this book is worth the price, and the 346 pages of reading. If it makes you happy the book also comes on disc. At the beginning of the book yes, I enjoyed it a lot. It was nothing like I thought it was going to be. It was just Feynman as a child talking about how he had a lab, and fixed radios as a kid. From reading Mr. Feynman¿s book, I can tell that his life is not as boring as most people would assume it to be. Once you get past his childhood, the book goes into when he was in a fraternity, that¿s when everything to me got interesting. People not believing what he was capable of just because of how nerdy he might have been. I thought that was quite interesting, because I have never heard of the Phi Beta Delta. Going past the Princeton years, the book got a little sciency (I know that is not a word), for me, It went way, way over my head after this point. With the equations, and all the science talk. But, once you thought the book was getting kind of weird, Feynman, had another crazy story to tell. Whether it was him getting into fights at a bar, or meeting a guy that tells him red and white makes yellow! Feynman never stopped surprising me with the way the book was going. So, I would recommend this book its fun to read, and it keeps you laughing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have always thought about becoming a physicist and after reading this book, I am safely say that I would like to become a physicist and follow in the footsteps of Feynman. His witty charm and his down to earth tone shows how a mere man and can do soo much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is by far the most entertaining that I have ever read. He takes us through his daily adventures which seem completely unscience-like and shows that physics is not just guys in lab coats.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Richard Feynman gives the reader a first hand look into the experiences that made him into one of the most successful physicists of all-time. He gives a glimpse into fixing up radios as a youngster, experimenting in his colleges years, and working with other physicists in his older days. With a very personable and upbeat style of writing, the book chronicling Feynman’s life is sure to keep you interested. As a person very interested in the math and science, this book was very compelling to me, as I was introduced to the brilliant mind of Feynman. The creativity and ingenuity the Feynman possessed, at times, seemed almost unrealistic. Among many other reasons, the almost seemingly made up stories of his experiences are what really make this book captivating. Along the way, you will most certainly stop and think to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that” or “Wow! That guy is a genius” or “OOOOH… I never thought about it like that”. It’s these moments that really made the book worth reading to me. I am under the assumption, that if you are contemplating reading this book, then you are somewhat like me in that you are a math and science person. With that being said. if you aren’t perhaps you might brush up on some chemistry, calculus, and physics terms before you read the book (Or at least be ready to look words up as you read). The is geared towards an audience with a certain knowledge for such subjects and doesn’t waste any paper explaining the fundamentals of those subjects. Personally, I enjoyed this aspect because it keeps things moving along as no more than a page is needed to setup any long-winded account of some fantastic experiment. Without a doubt, this conglomeration of stories taught me a great deal about upper level ideas in math and science. Yet, even with all of the technical explanations, Feynman’s personality and private life is put out in the open to keep the book from reading like a college level textbook. While the chapters don’t always flow one into another, each one has a very specific purpose as it not only describes his scientific dealings but also unearths what was going on in his life at the time. A tremendously written book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, should be the next book you decide to immerse yourself into. Ready yourself for some of the most astounding and remarkable stories from one of the 20th century’s brightest physicists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I chose to read and review this book for my senior seminar class in college. It brings humor and a real-life light to the world of a working scientist. This is a great autobiography that let's into the mind of Richard Feynman, and emerges you into his stories that are humorous and highly entertaining. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a passion for science or an interest in autobiographies, it is one of the best ones I have ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book wonderfully illustrates how research and study are only a small part of broadening the mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great quick read. Wonderful stories that had me laughing out loud.
Alex_Harris More than 1 year ago
“Surely You’re Joking, Mr.Feynman!” by Richard P. Feynman was a collection of stories giving a narrative of Richard Feynman’s life as one of the most interesting men in physics in the twentieth century. I highly recommend reading, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr.Feynman!”. It was a great read; I never wanted to put it down once I would start reading. This book kept you entertained the whole way through. Feynman was quite the fascinating character, always bouncing from one adventure to the next. You see him go through life and progress as a person and a scientist. He inspires you to want to take on new challenges and learn about the different wonders our world holds. While being enthralled in the read, you also learn a lot about physics, biology, different cultures, history, arts and more! Feynman is quite the out of the ordinary character. You see into his scientific way of thinking mind but also the goofy side to him that loved playing pranks on everyone around him. Feynman tells about his childhood, the start of his interest in science. You also learn about his time in college, learning and fooling around with his fraternity brothers, to working on the top-secret atomic bomb for World War II in Los Alamos. You hear many stories from his different professions, working in the military, traveling the world, learning the arts, to winning the Noble Prize for physics. As you watch Feynman learn throughout his life in this book, so will you. This is a great book that you must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Feynman is a genius not only in physics but in storytelling as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman is a great novel for any type of person. You do not have to be an award winning scientist to understand or enjoy it. The novel has something in it for every type of person. It is a very well written and highly entertaining collection of stories from the life of Richard Feynman. I laughed out loud as I was reading the adventures that this man went through throughout his life and the crazy way that his discoveries came about. It is truly an inside look at the real life of Mr. Feynman. You get to see what the man was really like not only in his science and discoveries but also in his personal life. I was never bored when reading and I found myself having trouble putting the book down! The novel is definitely worth reading more than once as well. The stories never get old and you will continue to be amazed every time. As I read this book it changed by opinion of scientist and made me realize that they were just regular people that were able to come up with amazing breakthroughs. I would definitely recommend reading this book. You will not regret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I'm only 13, I love this book. My dad gave this to me and it has easily become my favorite book. I think anyone that loves science should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Richard Philip Feynman was definitely a curious character! I enjoyed reading this book very much. He led an absolutely complete life with many hilarious, and exciting adventures. All these wonderful Feynman stories are inspirational, and in some ways educational. Feynman is original and honest, and admits to what he doesn¡¯t know, and thoroughly explains his thoughts and innovations. Anyone who is curious in learning such things that he does, such as safecracking or surviving fraternities should read this book. However, his stories are randomly placed and sometimes the ending to his story is sudden and almost seems as if it was just brought up because it worth mentioning. This book is an easy read, and doesn¡¯t have many specifics on the science and the concrete history of Feynman. Nevertheless, the way it¡¯s written makes it seem as if Feynman was speaking out to the reader, making the reading experience a bit more personal. The book does not go in chronological order, and may sometimes confuse the reader but it does cover all the major parts of his life. His encounters with many famous people such as Einstein, Bohr, Nick the Greek, as well as many other famous scientists gives enough reason for one to recount their story, but the way and when he does encounter them, it makes his stories truly unique and original. One can thoroughly enjoy this well-written book containing the many accounts in his life for its picture of Feynman¡¯s curious mind. Scientists, physicists, students, safecrackers, absolutely anyone, ought to read this book!
deslni01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's not often a simple title and subtitle truly encompass an entire work. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" (Adventures of a Curious Character) does just that and more. It introduces two important concepts to Feynman's book and life. On the one hand, Feynman loved entertainment and was always the life of the party, in some form or another. For example, telling people at a party he could correctly identify any book picked up by a person merely by smelling it (and making it a challenge). Throughout his life he found ways to be the center of attention wherever he went, and hilarious results followed. The other hand details all of his adventures, whether they be funny or not, and how truly curious of a character Feynman was. He was hand-picked by Nils and Aage Bohr, while visiting Los Alamos, to talk physics to because he was the only one who would actually discuss physics, not stand mouth-agape in awe. He had no problems with authority, and telling authoritative figures they were wrong - and this played a tremendous role in his life. He dabbled in the arts; he played bongo drums; he frequented a strip club (and defending it in court); he got into bathroom bar fights. These are just the tip of the iceberg of the adventures Feynman found himself in.Reading this memoir, taped and edited by Feynman's close friend Ralph Leighton, leads the reader into adventure after adventure in Feynman's life. It is a tremendously entertaining book, that is both a quick, page turning read, and very deep in many of the stories and lessons. This is not a science book; the amount of science in the book is minimal, and he does not discuss science in any technical way. If you are not scientifically inclined, this book will still prove to be both insightful and entertaining.
mthelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've long been meaning to read the famous Caltech physics professor's book, which seems to have been read years ago by everyone I know who attended Caltech. I listened to it on audible audiobook, and found it laugh-out-loud funny. Feyman discussed his capers at MIT where he went for undergrad, Princeton (grad school), Los Alamos, Cornell (where he taught), Brazil, Caltech, Japan and more. He picked locks at Los Alamos, played drums in a Caltech play, took drawing classes and had his own show at Caltech, and even helped in the development of a ballet in San Francisco. One essay discussed how it was NOT a good thing that he won the Nobel, in that he was no longer able to just pop into schools to discuss physics with high school clubs. Instead it became a "big deal" when he went places and he would have to give big lectures to people who knew nothing about physics. The chapter late in the book about his participation on math textbook selection committee in Los Angeles should be required reading for every current textbook selection committee in the country.
Devil_llama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A witty, charming memoir from one of the most unorthodox physicists of all time. Unlike many physicists, Feynman writes in an accessible, easy to read style that carries you along with the narrative.
cherry0411 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books of all time! While the stories are entertaining and humorous on their own, if you already have an appreciation for math/nerdy/geeky humor then you'll DEFINITELY enjoy this. This completely blow the geek=socially awkward stereotype right out of the water! If goes to know that the great scientific minds of our time has MANY hobbies. science is merely just one of them.
shanth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Feynman is a really entertaining writer, though he sometimes reminds you of the Peanuts strip where Sally is going ``lookit! lookit! lookit!''.
LorenIpsum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I knew embarrassingly little about Feynman the scientist when I picked up this book; having now read it, I remain woefully ignorant. But I *did* learn something about Feynman the man: I don't much care for him.The book is divided into about forty autobiographical anecdotes. Most of them are quick and light and droll, but they tend to have a thoughtful pith (à la Terry Pratchett). This is a good formula, but it would work better if Feynman himself weren't so irritating. Half of the time, he's affecting humility; the other half, he's mocking the foolishness of the people around him. The juxtaposition can be jarring, especially because the mocking is so often pitiless. Humble men are, in my experience, merciful; Feynman is anything but. The inconsistency bothered me, a lot.That being said, the insights here are really good, and many of the quips are at least chuckle-worthy. If I hadn't been so busy judging the author, I imagine I would have loved the work.
TomMcGreevy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You get the sense that Feynman was as the title says, indeed a curious character. His focus on understanding the world drove him, and his willingness to accept those who were different, or experience things foreign formed the basis for these memoirs. The stories told in here give a sense of an original man whose take on most things was decidedly unique.
TheoClarke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Self-congratulatory recollections of a very funny self-aware genius.