FEYNMAN WAS GAZING AT A RAINBOW...
as if he had never seen one before. Or maybe as if it might be his last. I approached him cautiously and joined him in staring at the rainbow. It wasn't something I normally did-in those days. "Do you know who first explained the true origin of the rainbow?" I asked.
"It was Descartes," he said. After a moment he looked me in the eye. "And what do you think was the salient feature of the rainbow that inspired Descartes's mathematical analysis?" he asked.
"I give up. What would you say inspired his theory?" "I would say his inspiration was that he thought rainbows were beautiful..."
-from FEYNMAN'S RAINBOW
In this funny, inspiring, and revelatory book, a young scientist looks back at the time he shared with Richard Feynman.
In the early 1980s, Leonard Mlodinow came to the California Institute of Technology to begin a postdoctoral fellowship. Afraid he was not smart enough to be there in spite of his groundbreaking Ph.D. thesis, he took his insecurities to Richard Feynman, Caltech's intimidating resident genius and iconoclast. And so began a pivotal year of awakening in a young man's life...
Through a series of fascinating, sprawling exchanges, Mlodinow and Feynman delved into the nature of science, creativity, love, mathematics, happiness, God, art, pleasures, and ambition. And as the relationship between them deepened, their conversations took on a sense of urgency. For while Mlodinow was searching for direction, Feynman was battling cancer-and confronting his own mortality.
The late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman has been virtually canonized as the People's Physicist-an earthy, bongo-playing free spirit who delighted in puncturing the pomposity of the establishment. In this memoir, by ex-physicist and Star Trek writer Mlodinow, of a stint as a post-doctoral colleague of Feynman's at Caltech, the aging physicist still cracks wise, crashes parties, works on his physics at a strip joint and needles stuffed-shirt academics. Mlodinow was something of a Feynman-esque character himself-he liked to smoke pot with the garbage man next door and was working on a screenplay-so he turned to the older scientist for life lessons. And that's where this otherwise engaging book goes wrong, because, truth be told, Feynman was at his best only when talking about physics. Mlodinow taped many of their conversations, and transcribes them at length here, to the book's detriment. Feynman holds forth on the creative process, art and modern novels ("The few that I've looked at, I can't stand them"), but as far as insights go, platitudes like "Remember, it's supposed to be fun" (a thought inspired by the titular rainbow) are about as good as it gets. Fortunately, Mlodinow's accessible style manages to convey Feynman's cantankerous appeal as well as some of the weirdness of theoretical physics without overtaxing lay readers, while his deft, funny, novelistic portraits of its practitioners, like the (as portrayed here) toweringly pretentious and touchingly human Nobelist Murray Gell-Mann, bring this seemingly gray sub-culture to vivid life.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . More about ordinary insecurities than about the greatness of physicists
Posted November 24, 2008 by Acastillo , Amarillo, TXI originally purchased this book expecting it to discuss physics and such; however, I was pleasantly surprised as to how it was really about Feynman's life lessons. The author tells of his meeting with greats such as Feynman and Gell-Mann and discovers they are human beings being driven to greatness. Thus, the author learns that everyone goes through life struggles, but it is how we deal with those struggles that makes a man great.
Overall, I very much enjoyed the author's perspective of these fine physicists and especially enjoyed his writing style. It was certainly an easy and enjoyable read. Bravo.
Grand Central Publishing
May 01, 2004
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