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New book of Feynman letters

  1. Apr 19, 2005 #1
    I went to a book signing tonight for a new volume of letters to and from Richard Feynman entitled Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track.

    The book is edited by Michelle Feynman, Richard's daughter. She gave a brief introduction to the book and then read several of the letters. Then she answered a few questions before commencing to sign the books.

    She was a beautiful, intelligent, and well-spoken woman who obviously loves her father and was, as she said, surprised and touched by many of the letters. As she points out, most of his popular 'works' stem from the spoken word, either lectures or anecdotes. Here we see Feynman writing, and well.

    I had a lot of fun and she took time to talk a bit to each of the 20 or so people who came up for a signing. She asked me if I was a physicist (!). I told her no, but that her father was an intellectual hero of mine for many years. She signed the book, "To Dan, From your hero's daughter. Best wishes. Michelle Feynman." Very nice.

    Well since I got home I've read about 100 pages of the book, all through the Los Alamos era. Very interesting and highly recommended to Feynman fans. Others might find it a bit too esoteric. One thing that always touched me about Feynman was the fateful story of his love for his first wife, Arline, and her struggle with and eventual death due to TB. This period comes out beautifully in the book. (For more on that, rent the fabulous movie Infinity, about this period of his life.)

    You can find dates for other signings at http://www.basicfeynman.com, including "authorless events" where instead of Michelle, a panel of Feynman's friends and co-workers will talk about his legacy. I'm attending one in NYC on May 2 which includes Freeman Dyson.
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  3. Apr 19, 2005 #2

    Math Is Hard

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    I was just re-reading "Surely You Must be Joking" last night. The stories of his (frequently interepted and censored!) communication with his wife while he was in New Mexico were funny and very touching. I'll have to get this book.
  4. Apr 21, 2005 #3
    That’s one of my favorite books Math is Hard. I did not know who Feynman when I first read the book. A good read for anyone imo.

    I will have to check out he new book infidel thanks for pointing it out. I did not see any tours coming close to me, probably for the best I would not have time to go to it anyway.
  5. Jun 1, 2005 #4
    Does anyone think that the post-humous publications of Feynman's letters are a little to personal to be published and that perhaps it is just a way to produce money or do you think it is just a way to allow people who never had the chance to meet him to know how he was like?
  6. Jun 2, 2005 #5


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    I don't think it's too personal, given that Feynmann's life, including its most intimate moments, is already in the public domain. The tragic story of him and Arlene was made into the movie "Infinity". The famous letter to "d-Arlene" has already been published.

    Most of the letters are of the kind that would eventually be published anyway; his reactions to the Nobel prize, his break with the National Academy, his work on science schoolbooks, all are of definite interest.

    But yes, I do think there was some idea on the part of his children to cash in on the "Feynmann phenomenon", which is making a bundle for others.
  7. Jun 2, 2005 #6
    I gathered this was due since The Guardian published a selection of them a couple of weeks ago. Even my science-hating girlfriend was enraptured. I'm a fairly poker-faced man, but his letter to his dead wife broke my heart. I will be getting this ASAP. Hmm, birthday coming up.
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