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The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

by Richard P. Feynman

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» See also 31 mentions

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Review #12 - The Pleasure of Finding Things Out by Feynman

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, first published in 1999, is a short collection of interviews, speeches, published papers, and lectures by theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. I read this book after watching Christopher Sykes’s brilliant 1981 BBC Horizon production of the same title, available on BBC iPlayer. I recommend watching the documentary before reading this book. This book contains many transcripts of speeches and interviews that explain technical concepts beyond the average person’s comprehension. Nevertheless, Feynman was a great storyteller, funny and witty, someone you would love to be around at parties; he liked to play the bongos, and while stationed at Los Alamos Labs during the Manhattan Project, one of his hobbies was safe-cracking. He met Niels Bohr (codename Nicholas Baker) and his son Aage (James Baker), Oppenheimer, and Hans Bethe, amongst others.

- IRONJAW'S BOOK REVIEW, Review #12. September 19, 2016 ( )
  ironjaw | Oct 18, 2016 |
I can't say I read every page of this book, a compilation of material by, and about, Mr. Feynman's life in science. I'm not a science guy, but I 'discovered' Feynman a couple years ago and love his approach to his life's work. He's like (or was..... he died awhile ago) the brightest guy you ever would think about meeting, but is entirely normal otherwise and has a wealth of stories to prove it.

You don't need to know much science to get through this, and even if you're a complete neophyte you can appreciate most of it. The key takeaway I had had was that it's entirely possible to be both a Nobel prize winner as well as a regular guy. That's pretty cool! ( )
  gmmartz | Aug 14, 2016 |
Outstanding insight into the personality of a great thinker. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
Per fans.
Alcuni saggi sono interessanti, altri lo sono come il libretto di istruzioni di una autovettura che non è la tua. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
You may think you are taking a chance with this book, but you will be amply rewarded. ( )
  Benedict8 | Jul 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Feynman, Richard P.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dyson, FreemanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robbins, JeffreyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[Foreword]
"I did love the man this side idolatry as much as any," wrote Elizabethan dramatist Ben Johnson.
[Editor's Introduction]
Recently I was present at a lecture at Harvard University's venerable Jefferson Lab.
This is the edited transcript of an interview with Feynman made for the BBC television program Horizon in 1981, shown in the United States as an episode of Nova.
Quotations
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
You see, one thing is, I can live with the doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we're here.

I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me.
There is an infinite amount of crazy stuff, which, put another way, is the environment is actively, intensely unscientific. There is talk about telepathy still, altough it's dying out. There is faith-healing galore, all over. There is a whole religion of faith-healing. There's a miracle at Lourdes where healing goes on. Now, it might be true that astrology is right. It might be true that if you go to the dentist on the day that Mars is at right angles to Venus, that it is better than if you go on a different day. It might be true that you can be cured by the miracle of Lourdes. But if it is true, it ought to be investigated. Why? To improve it. If it is true then maybe we can find out if the stars do influence life; that we could make the system more powerful by investigating statistically, scientifically judging the evidence objectively, more carefully. If the healing process works at Lourdes, the question is, how far from the site of the miracle can the person, who is ill, stand? Have they in fact made a mistake and the back row is really not working? Or is it working so well that there is plenty of room for more people to be arranged near the place of the miracle? Or is it possible, as it is with the saints which have recently been created in the United States - there is a saint who has cured leukemia apparently indirectly - that ribbons that are touched to the sheet of the sick person (the ribbon having previously touched some relic of the saint) increase the cure of leukemia - the question is, is it gradually being diluted? You may laugh, but if you believe in the truth of the healing, than you are responsible to investigate it, to improve its efficiency and to make it satisfactory instead of cheating. For example, it may turn out that after a hundred touches it doesn't work anymore. Now it's also possible that the results of this investigation have other consequences, namely, that nothing is there.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0465023959, Paperback)

Why do we do science? Beyond altruistic and self-aggrandizing motivations, many of our best scientists work long hours seeking the electric thrill that comes only from learning something that nobody knew before. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a collection of previously unpublished or difficult-to-find short works by maverick physicist Richard Feynman, takes its title from his own answer. From TV interview transcripts to his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, we see his quick, sharp wit, his devotion to his work, and his unwillingness to bow to social pressure or convention. It's no wonder he was only grudgingly admired by the establishment during his lifetime--read his "Minority Report to the Space Shuttle Challenger Inquiry" to see him blowing off political considerations as impediments to finding the truth.

Feynman had a fantastic sense of humor, and his memoirs of his Manhattan Project days roil with fun despite his later misgivings about nuclear weapons. Though one or two pieces are a bit hard to follow for the nontechnical reader, for the most part the book is easygoing and engaging on a personal rather than a scientific level. Freeman Dyson's foreword and editor Jeffrey Robbins's introductions to each essay set the stage well and are respectful without being worshipful. Though Feynman has been gone now for many years, his work lives on in quantum physics, computer design, and nanotechnology; like any great scientist, he asked more questions than he answered, to give future generations the pleasure of finding things out. --Rob Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:10 -0400)

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