• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Have anyone read Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman ?

  • Thread starter Maxwells Demon
  • Start date
  • #1
Maxwells Demon

Main Question or Discussion Point

Have anyone read "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman"??

Have anyone read "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman"??

What did you think of it?

I only read about half and the the library wanted it back.. But I thought the first half was good, and a little bit funny too..
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
230
0
I would consider Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! to be one of the ten best books that I've ever read. It's both an entertaining read about one of physics' more interesting characters, and it mentions some interesting mathematical and physical concepts that aren't common knowledge (for example, "differentiating under the integral sign," which is covered in slightly more detail in Needham's Visual Complex Analysis; and the Eulerian wobble/nutation of a rotating body, which is problem 4.51 of Bender & Orszag Advanced Mathematical Methods for Scientists and Engineers.)
 
  • #3
Maxwells Demon
Yeah, I agree.. What I like about it is that its easy to read.. You don't have to be a physics or mathematics professor to read it..

las3rjock do you know any other good books? Do you know "Nemesis - The death star" by physics professor at Berkeley Richard Muller.. That also a very good book..

I've heard that S. Hawkings book isn't very good though.. you know "a brief history of time"
 
  • #4
1,997
5
I would consider Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! to be one of the ten best books that I've ever read.
Well to each his own, but I cannot possibly agree with that thought. :smile:

While it is certainly entertaining, it is more like pulp nonfiction and most certainly not a book of literature.
But again we all have our opinions. :smile:

Furthermore Feynman writes in this book about throwing two atom bombs, which targeted civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as some cheerful event. I admire him for his math and physics skills and intuition but certainly not for these kind of things.

I've heard that S. Hawkings book isn't very good though.. you know "a brief history of time"
I think it is a pretty good organized popular science book.
 
Last edited:
  • #5
2,063
2
Yeah, I agree.. What I like about it is that its easy to read.. You don't have to be a physics or mathematics professor to read it..
You probably don't even need to be a physics student to enjoy it. I know a few people who are as far from physics as the nearest quasar to the Sun, who enjoyed the book.
 
  • #6
2,063
2
I think it is a pretty good organized popular science book.
Organised enough to confuse the newbie. ;) If the reader doesn't know much, or anything at all about physics, reading the first half or so would do. For clarity in popular science, I like John Gribbin.
 
  • #7
230
0
Well to each his own, but I cannot possibly agree with that thought. :smile:
You disagree that I consider Surely You're Joking to be one of the ten best books that I have ever read? (Notice how the statement is constructed to be true independent of anyone else's opinion of the book :wink:)

Seriously, though, I just happen to believe that not every book needs to be a One Hundred Years of Solitude or a Finnegan's Wake or a Principles of Mathematical Analysis. I think it's okay for a book to be a light, entertaining read, and if there's the possibility of learning about some interesting mathematics or physics as a side effect, that's even better. :smile:
 
  • #8
1,997
5
You disagree that I consider Surely You're Joking to be one of the ten best books that I have ever read?
Not at all, why did you think I wrote "to each his own"?

Seriously, though, I just happen to believe that not every book needs to be a One Hundred Years of Solitude or a Finnegan's Wake or a Principles of Mathematical Analysis. I think it's okay for a book to be a light, entertaining read, and if there's the possibility of learning about some interesting mathematics or physics as a side effect, that's even better. :smile:
I actually I do not disagree with what you say.
The book is definitely entertaining, except for the, IMHO heartless, sentiment towards using weapons of mass destruction.
 
Last edited:
  • #9
Maxwells Demon
I've heard that Hawkings book is a bit hard to understand, and that it's the kind a book that makes you not wanna learn more physics.. The reason why many children don't like physics is because of the way many teachers approach it..

I need a book that sees physics in a fascinating and easy-to-understand way.. That means not explaining physics by equations but with words and with examples which you can relate to..
 
  • #10
1,997
5
I've heard that Hawkings book is a bit hard to understand, and that it's the kind a book that makes you not wanna learn more physics.. The reason why many children don't like physics is because of the way many teachers approach it..

I need a book that sees physics in a fascinating and easy-to-understand way.. That means not explaining physics by equations but with words and with examples which you can relate to..
Hawking's book does not include many equations as far as I remember. And the illustrated version is full of illustrations.
 
  • #11
There's also "A Briefer History of Time" if you don't feel like tackling the original. Hawking's book didn't break lots of popsci sales records for no reason :smile:

I'm a big fan of the genre and feel my duty to run off some of my favorites! Probably the best one I've read, certainly in the past few years, is Zero by Charles Seife, well written and thoroughly enjoyable. Similarly, Infinity by Brian Clegg.

Dr Michio Kaku's books are also generally quite good, though "Hyperspace" is perhaps worth avoiding for the non-physicist. And of course, Simon Singh's books are always popular, a knowledgeable man - good reads but something I feel just didn't quite connect. Books I recommend with a more technical flavor include: Lee Smolin (particularly Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, I haven't picked up his new one yet), Alan Guth's Inflationary Universe and naturally Brian Greene's books.

Last but not least! Time Travel in Einstein's Universe - Richard J. Gott was excellent, another one of my favorites - especially good at opening the mind; not least of all in the fact that it helps give an idea of just how little we actually know about anything.
 
  • #12
40
0
I just read the Feynman book a few weeks ago...it was very entertaining, covered a good amount of interesting topics (in a simple, non-technical approach), as well as discussed some of the history of the war and the atom bomb, as well as some other events that I didn't know so much about. I would definitely recommend it, although I agree it is not some great work of literature, but the stories are much more interesting to read, imo.

One thing I've heard is that all of the "principled" scientists left the atom bomb project once Germany was out of the war....it's interesting though that Feynman specifically uses some quote that he attributed to von neumann I think, that goes "you're not responsible for the world you're in", and then goes on to state that this become a motto of his to live by, and the start of his "active social irresponsibility".


BTW, have any of you read the co-authored book with Einstein called "The Evolution of Physics", and would you recommend it?
 
  • #13
Maxwells Demon
fasterthanjoao, what's "Zero" about??
 
  • #14
The number. Covers everything from that fact that for hundreds of years, people denied that it existed, to the fact that it does - and the role it plays in destroying unification. It's good from the point of view that due to the nature of the subject, it requires covering plenty of generations and cultures - the thoughts of all different kinds of mathematicians and theologians.
 
  • #15
Maxwells Demon
and "Infinity" is the same but for infinity or what?
 
  • #16
As good as. If i remember correctly, Infinity covers a bit more of the philosophical ground
 
  • #17
Maxwells Demon
Which one do you prefer? Infinity or Zero?? And which one do you think I'd prefer, based on my earlier comments in this thread?
 
  • #18
I prefer Zero, and think that it's probably an easier read too - so I'd start with that.

Depending on why you want to read these books, you might also want to delve into some science fiction - Tau Zero by Anderson is good fun. Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity is also very interesting.
 
  • #19
Maxwells Demon
all right, have you read "Nemesis - The Death Star"?? It's about the sun having a companion star that forces this comet belt to hit the earth every 80 million years (or so).. The theory came up because they discovered that big mass extinctions (like the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) came periodically.

Sorry for the bad explanation, I'm from Denmark, my English isn't sooo good :P
 
  • #20
198
0
Furthermore Feynman writes in this book about throwing two atom bombs, which targeted civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as some cheerful event.
It's been a little while since I've read the book, but I don't remember it that way. In particular, I remember just after he saw the first atomic test, when he passed by some workers building a bridge, saying that he thought it was futile then, but realizing "now" that it's been futile for 40 years, but that was no reason to stop building bridges. I think he mentioned people at Los Alamos weren't really concerned about the ethical consequences of the bomb since they were all so busy or something, and I think as a stylistic choice he recounted the story without dwelling on the bigger picture.
 
  • #21
robphy
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
5,490
720
MeJennifer said:
Furthermore Feynman writes in this book about throwing two atom bombs, which targeted civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as some cheerful event.
It's been a little while since I've read the book, but I don't remember it that way. In particular, I remember just after he saw the first atomic test, when he passed by some workers building a bridge, saying that he thought it was futile then, but realizing "now" that it's been futile for 40 years, but that was no reason to stop building bridges. I think he mentioned people at Los Alamos weren't really concerned about the ethical consequences of the bomb since they were all so busy or something, and I think as a stylistic choice he recounted the story without dwelling on the bigger picture.
About a minute into this portion of the "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out" video [which unfortunately has an audio-sync problem],
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw8AYGEk018&mode=related&search= ,
Feynman makes some comments on Hiroshima, which appears to connect the quoted posts.
 
  • #22
198
0
  • #23
1,030
4
Furthermore Feynman writes in this book about throwing two atom bombs, which targeted civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as some cheerful event.
Here's what he actually wrote in "Surely You're Joking":

After the thing [Trinity] went off, there was a tremendous excitement at Los Alamos. Everybody had parties, we all ran around. I sat on the end of a jeep and beat drums and so on. But one man, I remember, Bob Wilson, was just sitting there moping.

I said, "What are you moping about?"

He said, "It's a terrible thing that we made."

I said, "But you started. You got us into it."

You see, what happened to me--what happened to the rest of us--is we STARTED for a good reason, then you're working very hard to accomplish something and it's a pleasure, it's excitement. And you stop thinking, you know; you just STOP. Bob Wilson was the only one who was still thinking about it, at that moment.

I returned to civilization shortly after that and went to Cornell to teach, and my first impression was a very strange one. I can't understand it any more, but I felt very strongly then. I sat in a restaurant in New York, for example, and I looked out at the buildings and I began to think, you know, about how much the radius of the Hiroshima bomb damage was and so forth... How far from here was 34th street?... All those buildings, all smashed--and so on. And I would go along and I would see people building a bridge, or they'd be making a new road, and I thought, they're CRAZY, they just don't understand, they don't UNDERSTAND. Why are they making new things? It's so useless.

But fortunately, it's been useless for almost forty years now, hasn't it? So I've been wrong about it being useless making bridges and I'm glad those other people had the sense to go ahead.
It appears you misunderstood.
 

Related Threads on Have anyone read Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman ?

Replies
6
Views
4K
Replies
12
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
4K
Replies
7
Views
5K
Replies
10
Views
1K
Replies
8
Views
8K
Top