am 10. Juni 2011
Richard Feynman is one of the most famous twentieth century Physicists. He is one of those rare scientists who have managed to go beyond the success in the narrow confines of his field of research and become a public celebrity. A big part of this success comes from his persona which combined incredible brilliance with the irreverent and down-to-earth attitude to most problems in life, be they "big" ones like working on the atomic bomb, or the everyday ones that almost all of us are familiar with. It's the latter ones and his quirky and unorthodox approach to them that made Feynman endearing to the general public.
His earlier book "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" was a classic and an inspiration to generations of young scientists who were shown that you can have lots of fun while pursuing a life in science. I myself had read it in single sitting, and had completely been mesmerized by Feynman's wit and irreverent attitude. "What Do You Care What Other People Think" is a further collection of stories and anecdotes from his life. Some of these had been told by others over the years, but in this book they all come together in a single volume as told by Feynman himself. Some of the events and stories presented come from the last few years of his life, and it is hard not to feel the poignancy of the fact that these were some of his last thoughts on subjects and situations that he cared about.
Almost half of the book is dedicated to the investigation of the Challenger disaster. Feynman was on the presidential commission that investigated that disaster, and here we get a full insight into what had been going on during commission's session. Many reports have made it seem that Feynman had single handedly figured out the true cause of the disaster - the faulty o-rings that were not meant to be used in really low temperatures. In this book he sets the record straight and explains that although he was the public face that brought attention to the o-rings, there had been many people behind the scenes who had suspected a problem with them for quite a while. This part of the book is also a very useful and revealing glimpse into the workings of a big governmental and scientific agency like NASA.
The book concludes with few musings on the responsibility of science for social problems. In these musings Feynman turns uncharacteristically philosophical, even almost spiritual. He might not have been the most sophisticated thinkers in these matters, but his instincts were very acute and well worth listening to.
All of those who appreciate Feynman's work and brilliance will be grateful for this honest and easy-going narrative. It is also hard not to think that with Feynman's passing a whole era of Physics had come to an end. Those of us who think that somewhere along the way theoretical Physics had lost its way and had become a caricature of its former self, may wonder if all of that could have been avoided had Feynman lived for another ten years or so. We'll just never really know.
am 24. November 1999
Feynman's at it again in this sometimes-funny, sometimes-sad sequel to "Surely you're joking." Here, we meet his beloved first wife Arline, who died while Feynman was working on the bomb at Los Alamos. Later we follow Feynman to Washington, as he shines his piercing intellect through the NASA smokescreen surrounding the Challanger disaster. In between we're treated to Feynman's exasperated attempts to learn Japanese, and other adventures of this most curious character. While far from a balanced look at Feynman's life (James Gleick's "Genius" is the seminal work; it's sometimes hard to overlook author Ralph Leighton's unabashed hero worship), this book will be a delight to Feynmanauts.
am 16. Mai 2000
After wanting to read RF for a long time, I finally got a book. This was the first Feynman book I read. It has two parts, the first is mostly about Feynman's first wife Arlene and his friends when he was a young man. The second tells us how Feynman investigated the Challenger explosion. The book is not technical, the second part is a bit more detailed and might tell you more about rocket engines that you would like to know, but the whole book is very interesting. I particulary enjoyed the first part, how Feynman decided to still marry Arlene not matter what everyone else was telling him, and how special their relationship was. Feynman is a brillian man, yet funny and modest, he even shares some of his embarassing moments. I became a fan and am now going for more Feynman books. A first part for your heart, and a second part for your brain. Some were just random thoughts, with no order at all, and it was a bit confusing sometimes for someone who didn't know Feynman's life, but still, this was a delicious book and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about the people who make brilliant science... and still have a sense of humor. :)
am 7. Mai 2015
Nach dem überwältigenden Erfolg von „Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman“, liegt mit dem vorliegenden Band, eine Fortsetzung der Sammlung von Geschichten von Richard P. Feynman vor, sie wurden wieder von Ralph Leighton ausgewählt und gruppieren sich in zwei große Themenkomplexe; der erste "Ein sonderbarer Kauz" umfasst eine Anzahl zum Teil sehr persönlicher Geschichten, etwa über seine ersten Frau Arline, und eine Hommage an seinen Vater, und dessen ganz besondere Art, dem jungen Richard Wissenschaft nahe zu bringen und zu erläutern.
Der zweite Teil "Mr. Feynman goes to Washington" berichtet von Feynman's Beteiligung an der Untersuchung der Katastrophe der Challenger Raumfähre. Nach deren spektakulären Explosion 1986, unmittelbar nach dem Start zur ersten Mission, an der auch Zivilpersonen beteiligt waren, trug man Feynman an, Mitglied der offiziellen Untersuchungskommission zu werden, was allein schon ungewöhnlich ist, da alle sonstigen Teilnehmer Politiker oder Militärs waren. Feynman zögerte zunächst, er hatte ja schon unliebsame Erfahrungen bei Zusammenarbeiten mit Regierungsbehörden gesammelt; er beriet sich mit seiner Frau Gweneth, sie kommentierte das etwa so "... wenn Du nicht teilnimmst, werden zwölf Personen in schöner Eintracht alles besichtigen, beraten und einen Bericht schreiben; wenn Du dabei bist, werden elf einträchtig alles besichtigen etc., aber einer wird neugierig überall herum laufen, Fragen stellen, und nicht Ruhe geben, vielleicht ist ja gar nichts zu finden, wenn da aber etwas ist, wirst DU es auch herausbekommen..." - danach war die Sache entschieden. Feynman bereitet sich emsig vor, er ließ sich von Al Hibbs und einigen seiner Mitarbeitern vom Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena das Shuttle Projekt, die Funktionsweise von Raketenmotoren usw. erklären.
Spektakulär war dann auch das Ergebnis, Feynman berichtet vor laufenden Kameras von seiner 'Entdeckung', einem Dichtungs- O-Ring, dessen Material bei niedrigen Temperaturen seine Flexibilität verliert, zur Demonstration presst Feynman etwas von dem Material mit einer kleinen Schraubzwinge, die er in einer Pause in einem Baumarkt gekauft hatte, zusammen und taucht die Probe einige Zeit in Eiswasser, das er sich servieren lies, und in der Tat, die Probe benötige eine Weile, bis sie sich wieder ausdehnte. Feynman gibt dann aber zu, dass er vorsichtig auf seine 'Entdeckung' hingeführt wurden war, von einem anderen Mitglied der Untersuchungs- Kommission, General Katyna, mit dem er sich etwas angefreundet hatte, als er feststellte, das dieser nach den Meetings die U- Bahn nahm; Feynman: ein General, der mit der U- Bahn fährt kann nicht ganz so übel sein...
All diese Anekdoten, sind einfach erfrischend zu lesen, und zeigen ein weiteres mal Feynman's unabhängigen Geist in Aktion. Als der Abschlussbericht der Rogers-Kommission, der dem damalig Präsidenten der USA Ronald Reagan vorgelegt werden sollte, fertig gestellt wurde, musste sich Feynman ein weiteres mal behaupten, denn seine kritischen Anmerkungen sollten zunächst unter den Tisch fallen; er erwirkt schließlich, dass sie als seine persönlichen Ansichten dem Bericht als Anhang angefügt wurden; darin kritisiert Fenyman schonungslos die NASA Administration, die sehr wohl über technische Probleme von ihren Ingenieuren in Kenntnis gesetzt worden war, aber beschloss, diese aus Prestigegründen zu ignorieren.
Die Arbeit an den Challenger Geschichten zog sich bis 1988 hin, da Feynman wieder mit dem Krebs zu kämpfen hatten, wie Ralph Leighton im Vorwort bemerkt. Im Februar 1988 verstarb Feynman, sie wird somit leider die letzte Feynman Erzählung bleiben.
Eine deutsche Ausgabe dieses Buch erschien unter den Titel 'Kümmert sie, was andere Leute denken'.
am 11. Mai 1998
Joking, Mr. Feynman." The love story of his first marriage; the love story which relates to the rest of his life.
The stories he wrote in "Surely" were well polished, short and to the point, very much as he conveyed his pursuit of simpler presentations of the rudiments of physics.
This book, undoubtably disrupted by the accelerating decline of his health, is less polished, but is excellent when he describes his part in the determination of the Challenger disaster. [At one point he exclaims that the Challenger hearings are 'killing me'... speeding his death.] His further descriptions of his life with his first wife are also a wonderful and very human essay.
Feynman, with one exception, is the prime model of how a human being should approach life in its amazing totality. The ideas in this book are as much a part of that model as "Surely" and his "Introduction to Physics."
The title, by the way, was taken from words his first wife spoke about sixty years ago. Feynman had been placed in a situation where his presentation of himself - not his ideas - was of critical importance. His first wife, using those words, made it possible for him to ignore the presentation and pursue the ideas.
This book is about love of life, as are all his books.
am 19. November 1998
Dr. Feynman, by allowing us to see some very personal moments during his amazing life gives the reader a personal connection to one of history's greatest men. From his work on the Manhattan Project to the Shuttle Challenger disaster, Feynman's wit and sense of humor (as well as his bold style) gave personality to complex scientific problems. This book is a definite must read for any Feynman fan as well as any physicist in need of some perspective. Feynman was the embodiment of Einstein's notion, that you can't understand physics unless you can explain it to a barmaid. Feynman could (and often did), and his style of writing brings his deep understanding of all things, complex or simple to light.
am 2. August 1999
The very valuable part is the first one, especially the story which gives its title to the book, very sad and well written. "It's as simple as 1, 2, 3..." will occupy you for hours counting and reading the sequel.
The bigger part 2, "Mr Feynman goes to Washington" is far less interesting, with unending details and poor editing. To be read only once in one's Feynman addicted life.
The epilogue finds more room in "The meaning of it all".