Thursday, 16 June 2005

Surely you're joking Mr Feynman!

I've just finished reading "Surely you're joking Mr Feynman!" (There are lots of reviews on that link)

It is a very funny series of anecdotes by of all people, a Nobel Prize winning physicist. He worked on the atom bomb at Los Alamos. (This last bit is not funny but he does give some interesting views on the subject.) He's dead now but I wish I could have met him and had a chat. He'd either have liked me because I asked questions and wasn't full of b/s or else he'd have not bothered with me because I can be a right pain and full of b/s!

The reason I was reading him was because a dear friend had recommended him because of his learning/teaching styles. And you know what, it has been a great confidence booster reading him. At long last I know I was right and my education was wrong. Feynman is no doubt a totally brilliant brain and yet, he poked fun at the establishment because they would tie themselves up into intellectual knots. At one point he was on a government board to help choose the maths books for schools and he really put in the effort, unlike the other reviewers, and showed what a lot of twaddle was being published. I think it is no different now.

My biggest problem with maths at school was why we would use this or that formula and I have to say I couldn't get over that lack of understanding. Sure I could do the problems, and make the maths add up but I never understood about co-sines and tangents and I now think it is not because I'm stupid (I wasn't then!) but because my need to understand "why" was never satisfied.

He was all for explaining why we learn certain things and the practical applications to the point that there is no reason to learn anything unless you think about it and learn the whys and wherefores.

Aside from feeling good about by myself by reading this book, I had such a good laugh. He was not what one would expect from a Physics Professor. He'd spend his evenings in strip clubs and would tout his new found drawing skills to brothels! All with the blessings of one of his wives.

Look through your bookshelves or check your local library.

Original Comments:

Kevin T. said...
I'm glad you wrote about your fondness for this book. I haven't read it yet, but it's been on my bookshelf since we saw Alan Alda portray Feynman in Q.E.D. on Broadway several years ago. I'll have to move the book closer to the top of the pile!

P.S. Found your blog through BlogExplosion.
Thursday, June 16, 2005 8:43:00 PM
doris said...
Hi Kevin

You'll pick it up and read it now, won't you? Especially if you have children! It is a read you can pick up and put down as the "stories" are in bites - which is useful for our busy lives.

I didn't know Feynman was portrayed in QED and will look out for that now.

Good ole BlogExplosion! :-)
Thursday, June 16, 2005 8:56:00 PM
Cheryl said...
Oh Brilliant! I just read the excerpt on Amazon - the bit where as a kid he sets the waste bin on fire in his bedroom whilst his mum has friends round to play bridge; I want more!
Friday, June 17, 2005 9:33:00 AM
Karen said...
Sounds an interesting read - I'll give it a go...Here via Michele - Hope you have a good weekend
Friday, June 17, 2005 10:24:00 AM
doris said...
Hello Cheryl and Karen

Thanks for letting me know what you thought. It is such a great book. I wish I had read it earlier in my life. As it is, it has been on our book shelf for years as it was Mr Doris' before we married but I just never realised.... our book cover is different to the one pictured but it goes to show to not judge a book by it's cover! LOL
Friday, June 17, 2005 10:54:00 AM
Scott-O-Rama said...
Off Topic: Just came across your blog on Blog Explosion. Great work! I love it!
Friday, June 17, 2005 11:14:00 AM
Lynda said...
Thanks for the recommendation, Doris - I am going to give it a whirl!

Michele sent me - I'm glad she did :-)
Friday, June 17, 2005 5:10:00 PM
War Eagle said...
visit from michelle's.
Friday, June 17, 2005 5:20:00 PM
Indigo said...
Sounds interesting!

Michele sent me!
Friday, June 17, 2005 5:20:00 PM
doris said...
Hi y'all! Thanks for your comments and am comin' to visit you too :-)
Friday, June 17, 2005 5:24:00 PM
MrsDoF said...
This book is a must read in our family.
The US Post Office has a commemorative stamp out just this week. My husband wrote about it on his weblog here
Saturday, June 18, 2005 12:13:00 AM
doris said...
Nice one MrsDof! I've been to look and have posted a follow-up. Thanks for letting me know. What a handsome devil Feynham was... I could imagine the pillow talk >blush<
Saturday, June 18, 2005 12:28:00 AM
Carmi said...
Through some psychotic quirk of fate, I am related to him. My parents can explain it better than I can, but we have apparently crossed paths often in our lives.

I rather enjoyed his contribution to the Challenger disaster investigation.

Weird, isn't it, how the world can be so small?
Saturday, June 18, 2005 11:08:00 PM
doris said...
Gosh, it is a small world. I'm into genealogy so I know how complicated the relationship lines can be so someone has to be related to Richard Feynman :-)

What is doubly weird is that I saw your pic on another blog where we had both posted a comment and I felt inclined to go visit your blog but didn't because I was distracted by something else in the blogging world!

Glad you have posted I'm visiting your site now and commenting over there shortly :-)
Saturday, June 18, 2005 11:16:00 PM
Pearl said...
I loved that book too.
Sunday, June 19, 2005 12:11:00 PM
doris said...
I'm amazed how many people have read this book. No wonder it has been in best seller lists.
Sunday, June 19, 2005 1:13:00 PM
decrepitoldfool said...
This is one of my favorite books - Feynman was such a pistol. You would probably also enjoy Why do you care what other people think?! The further adventures of a curious character.

I have totally mixed up in my head which stories are in which book but they are both wonderful.
Monday, June 20, 2005 3:08:00 AM
doris said...
Thanks for that link and recommendation Decrepitoldfool! So at least one book is not a re-hash of the other. I'm currently browsing Chemistry and Chemical Magic and then may well read Tesla: Man out of Time as we have that already! This is so very funny because I am not really the intellectual type but whilst I'm on a roll and interested, nay fascinated, I may as well take advantage :-)
Tuesday, June 21, 2005 5:28:00 PM
Astryngia said...
You would have enjoyed Lancelot Hogben's great tomes about mathematics but I think they're out of print now - failing that, try
Saturday, September 10, 2005 11:43:00 PM

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