[Free eBook] Genius: The Life and Science of Richard FeynmanAuthor James Gleick – Circuitwiringdiagram.co

An illuminating portrayal of Richard Feynman a giant of twentieth century physics from his childhood tinkering with radios, to his vital work on the Manhattan Project and beyond Raised in Depression era Rockaway Beach, physicist Richard Feynman was irreverent, eccentric, and childishly enthusiastic a new kind of scientist in a field that was in its infancy His quick mastery of quantum mechanics earned him a place at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project under J Robert Oppenheimer, where the giddy young man held his own among the nation s greatest minds There, Feynman turned theory into practice, culminating in the Trinity test, on July when the Atomic Age was born He was only twenty seven And he was just getting started In this sweeping biography, James Gleick captures the forceful personality of a great man, integrating Feynman s work and life in a way that is accessible to laymen and fascinating for the scientists who follow in his footsteps


10 thoughts on “Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

  1. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to foolRichard FeynmanPhysics is like sex sure, it may give some practical results, but that s not why we do itRichard FeynmanFeynman was lucky in three ways First, the guy was born with a brain that somehow gave him access to problems with a speed and a dexterity that seemed magical to his peers, and his peers are people that already often stretched the capacity for knowledge and intelligence SecoThe first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to foolRichard FeynmanPhysics is like sex sure, it may give some practical results, but that s not why we do itRichard FeynmanFeynman was lucky in three ways First, the guy was born with a brain that somehow gave him access to problems with a speed and a dexterity that seemed magical to his peers, and his peers are people that already often stretched the capacity for knowledge and intelligence Second, Feynman was lucky to be born at the right time He came into his abilities at the right moment for Physics He was there when physicists post Einstein s relativity seemed to grab a larger piece of global attention Third, Feynman was lucky to have participated in WWII s war of the magicians Los Alamos and the Atomic Bomb All of these things combined with Feynman s iconoclastic nature, his perseverance and single mindedness, his capacity to get to the root of problems, put Feynman second to Einstein in 20th century minds.The book itself is a very good example of scientific biography Gleick doesn t stray, however, too far from the anecdotal autobiography of Feynman in Surely You re Joking, Mr Feynman Adventures of a Curious Character Gleick elaborates, providesdetail, adds interesting vignettes on other Physicists that fell into Feynman s orbit Wilson, Oppenheimer, Dyson, Dirac, Bohr, Schwinger, Gell Mann, etc Those diversions and Gleick s occasional riffs on the idea of genius keep this from being just an average scientific biography It also was a bit stronger androbust than Gleick s earlier work Chaos Making a New Science All that said, it still wasn t an AMAZING biography I appreciated the time spent on the details The accuracy and notes associated with this book, but a lot of the magic of the book existed in Feynman himself and not in the telling of it


  2. Robert Bryce Robert Bryce says:

    I recently finished reading Genius The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick I m a big fan of Gleick s His book on Isaac Newton was brilliant And in this bio of Feynman, who was one of the midwives of the atomic bomb, Gleick illustrates just how important Feynman s thinking has been to our modern understanding of physics, and therefore, of energy Feynman grappled with the big questions about matter, science, and the quest for human knowledge and understanding One of my favor I recently finished reading Genius The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick I m a big fan of Gleick s His book on Isaac Newton was brilliant And in this bio of Feynman, who was one of the midwives of the atomic bomb, Gleick illustrates just how important Feynman s thinking has been to our modern understanding of physics, and therefore, of energy Feynman grappled with the big questions about matter, science, and the quest for human knowledge and understanding One of my favorite parts of Gleick s book comes early on, when he talks about Feynman s effort to distill human understanding of science into as short a passage as possible Feynman posed himself this question what if all scientific knowledge were lost in a cataclysm What statement would convey the most knowledge in the fewest words to the next generations Feynman proposed this All things are made of atoms little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.In that one little sentence , you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied Gleick is brilliant For me, he s a little like Mark Twain in that when I read his stuff, it whispers to me that I should perhaps quit what I m doing because I ll just never be that good


  3. Max Max says:

    Gleick portrays Feynman as an irreverent spirit and productive scientist who deeply influenced his generation of physicists A Nobel Prize winner, Feynman s contribution to physics wasabout developing original techniques that clarified complex problems than any singular discovery As we follow Feynman s life we learn how particle physics and its community evolved in the mid twentieth century from the formulation of quantum mechanics to the standard model We witness developments in nuclear Gleick portrays Feynman as an irreverent spirit and productive scientist who deeply influenced his generation of physicists A Nobel Prize winner, Feynman s contribution to physics wasabout developing original techniques that clarified complex problems than any singular discovery As we follow Feynman s life we learn how particle physics and its community evolved in the mid twentieth century from the formulation of quantum mechanics to the standard model We witness developments in nuclear physics and quantum electrodynamics QED Gleick s biography is as much a personal story as one of science Feynman was different from other physicists, a non conformist who stood out and stood up, and this was an essential part of his greatness.Born in 1918, Feynman grew up in Far Rockaway on the ocean in Queens, NY He loved math As a child he was always playing with problems in his head He kept a notebook that he filled with math exercises By high school he was ahead of his teachers Columbia rejected him because it had filled its Jewish quota, but MIT took him and he quickly distinguished himself Realizing that there was little practical he could do with math he switched to electrical engineering and then physics Physics was just getting established as a discipline in its own right He graduated from MIT in 1939.Feynman was enad with quantum mechanics For his graduate education he elected to go to Princeton which was becoming a leader in nuclear physics He turned down a scholarship he won to Harvard Princeton was taken back by his terrible grades in everything except physics and math, and concerned that he was Jewish They took him anyway based on recommendations from his MIT professors and an unheard of perfect score on the physics entrance exam He soon impressed everyone including department head Eugene Wigner, who would win a Nobel Prize and whose mathematics provided an important foundation for quantum mechanics Wigner would later describe Feynman as a second Paul Dirac, only human The extremely reticent Dirac had mathematically defined the electron predicting the positron Wigner s sister was married to Dirac, who was a hero to Feynman.In 1939 John Wheeler, a distinguished theoretician who later would coin the term black hole , was a 28 year old Professor at Princeton A disciple of Niels Bohr, Wheeler drew Feynman into collaboration on his work in quantum field theory Wheeler postulated that there is only one electron that goes forward and backward in time At any given time only isolated parts of its path are exposed which is the particle we recognize Feynman didn t quite buy this but did develop a theory showing the positron as an electron going back in time In this work on electrodynamics Feynman explored new techniques He used path integrals which summed all possible paths a particle could take generating the wave function using a measure called probability amplitude These concepts would be fully developed later in his version of QED By the time he was a 22 year old graduate student Feynman with Wheeler s help was giving a presentation attended by Einstein, Pauli and mathematical genius John von Neumann Feynman had fallen in love with Arline Greenbaum, who he had known since high school In 1941 she was diagnosed with lymphatic tuberculosis, an unusual form of the disease with a poor but uncertain prognosis Also in 1941 WWII started Wheeler left for Chicago to work with Fermi Feynman engaged in isotope separation work at Princeton Wigner told him it was time to write his thesis and move on Feynman graduated and had planned to marry Arline But what about the disease Could he catch it, could they have children He married her anyway, despite his mother s objections, and even though Arline had to stay in a nearby hospital afterwards.In early 1943 Feynman received a call from Robert Oppenheimer saying he had found a nice sanatorium for Arline near Albuquerque, New Mexico He needed Feynman in Los Alamos Feynman became a group leader and made significant contributions to the calculations critical to the bomb s success He streamlined the use of the simple calculation devices available His unmatched speed at complex mental calculations often delivered answersquickly He served as a sounding board for the eminent Bohr who realized only Feynman was brazen enough to point out his mistakes Feynman also inspected and made important recommendations that prevented disastrous explosions at Oak Ridge and Hannaford where uranium was purified In 1945 Arline died and it affected Feynman deeply for the rest of his life Distraught he was given leave and just made it back in time to witness the Trinity explosion He had impressed Oppenheimer who wanted him to come to Berkley after the war but he followed his Los Alamos department head and future Nobel Prize winner Hans Bethe to Cornell At Cornell, Feynman formed a relationship with a young Freeman Dyson, the English mathematician Both agreed on the importance of visualization Quantum descriptions of the electron made this impossible Bohr had given up on his original conceptualization of the atom as some kind of mini solar system Describing electrons as particles with orbits, angular momentum and spin alluded to a physicality that did not exist in the quantum world Yet visualization was important Einstein s greatest achievements were inspired by visualization such as traveling along with a beam of light Just manipulating equations proved less productive Even Dirac who eschewed experimentation, would visualize geometric shapes first then translate them into equations Feynman tried to visualize the world he was describing mathematically One can use lines to represent a magnetic field but are there really any such lines Mathematically a field is just an array of values in space Feynman said, I have a terrible confusion between the symbols I use to describe the objects and the objects themselves In 1948 Julian Schwinger presented his work on quantum electrodynamics at a meeting of the world s top theorists who were duly impressed Feynman followed presenting his version of QED including his soon to be famous Feynman diagrams but it was not well received Afterwards Freeman Dyson put together a paper which refined the mathematics supporting Feynman s ideas, and then Feynman published again Gradually physicists began adopting Feynman s techniques instead of Schwinger s Feynman s approach incorporated the principle of least action applied to particle paths, the path integrals Feynman had worked on under Wheeler Summing of the probability amplitudes of these paths yielded the wave function Implicit was the electron going back and forth in time As Feynman put it, It may prove useful in physics to consider events in all of time at once and to imagine that we at each instant are only aware of those that lie behind us In 1949 Feynman decided it was time to move on from Cornell His personal life was unsettled and disorganized He had numerous short term relationships with women and never established a permanent residence He left for Brazil where he lived it up and accepted an offer at Caltech which gave him a first year sabbatical he could enjoy In 1952 he married one of his many romantic interests The marriage lasted four unhappy years and ended bitterly In 1960 he married an English woman he met in Switzerland This one was happy and lasted the rest of his life They had a son and adopted a daughter Feynman settled down.At Caltech Feynman turned to the study of superfluidity, but he would return to QED In the 1950 s the accelerator age of particle physics was beginning Caltech recruited Murray Gell Mann who would lead mainstream particle physics in the sixties and seventies and open up the world of quarks He also brought out Feynman s competitive instincts But in 1957 under pressure from their department head they collaborated on an important paper proposing a theory of the weak interaction While Gell Mann respected Feynman s ability, he had little respect for Feynman s lack of decorum and sketchy documentation Asked by a student about copies of some of Feynman s notes that he found, Gell Mann replied that Feynman s methods are not used at Caltech The student asked what Feynman s methods were Gell Mann replied You write down the problem You think very hard Then you write down the answer Feynman s genius came in broad leaps often not explaining the intermediate details which were all computed or visualized in his head Other physicists made their contributions methodically addressing the next unanswered question But genius isthan excellence, something that could be expected of someone brilliant Genius delivers the unexpected It is brilliance combined with originality Feynman didn t research all the available knowledge then proceed to the next step Thus he would take on problems others might dismiss as already solved or unsolvable He focused intently only on those parts that interested him and wrestled with problems in his head often using visual pictures that he would later turn into equations in some ways similar to Dirac, his hero.In the 1960 s Feynman was asked to help with the undergraduate program at Caltech The result was a series of lectures for freshmen that were published, widely acclaimed and used by many universities He began with the atom and looked at physics in his own unique if disjointed way These lectures and many others have been packaged up in books for different levels of readers and are still popular today In 1965 Feynman along with Schwinger and Tomonaga from Japan were awarded the Nobel Prize for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics with deep ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles At a 1967 conference James Watson gave Feynman a copy of what would be his popular Double Helix Feynman was impressed and immediately shared it with a friend who commented, It s amazing that Watson made this great discovery even though he was so out of touch with what everyone in his field was doing Feynman retorted, That s what I ve forgotten He recognized that his best work had resulted from defining problems in ways others hadn t considered or proposing new solutions to problems considered already solved.In 1977 Feynman was diagnosed with a rare cancer perhaps due to his work on the Manhattan Project Another rare cancer would strike in the 1980 s But he had one last hurrah following the Challenger disaster in 1986 The only non political appointee to the president s investigating commission he sought out his own set of facts as he always had The disaster had been caused by an O ring that lost resilience at the cold temperature at the time of launch When the commission was dancing around the responsibility for the O ring failure, Feynman was simple and clear At a hearing he took a C clamp, pressured a sample of the material after putting it in a glass of ice water and showed everyone in the room that the material would not bounce back This way of cutting to the chase was so typically Feynman and a fitting end to a remarkable career Richard Feynman died in 1988 Fellow physicist Paul Olum summed it up How could someone like Dick Feynman be dead This great and wonderful mind This extraordinary feeling for things and ability is in the ground and there s nothing there any He was such an extraordinary special person in the universe


  4. Bradley Bradley says:

    For those who know of Richard Feynman, I salute you.This biography by Gleik, the writer that made Chaos Making a New Science a household name, tries, mostly successfully, to give us the same treatment about Feynman.I was fascinated throughout I ve only heard a few funny anecdotes about the man and everyone seems to concur that he s one hell of a genius, but it s better to get into ALL the aspects Humor, the heartwarming bits, the slightly frustrating but mostly amazing rise of his career as a For those who know of Richard Feynman, I salute you.This biography by Gleik, the writer that made Chaos Making a New Science a household name, tries, mostly successfully, to give us the same treatment about Feynman.I was fascinated throughout I ve only heard a few funny anecdotes about the man and everyone seems to concur that he s one hell of a genius, but it s better to get into ALL the aspects Humor, the heartwarming bits, the slightly frustrating but mostly amazing rise of his career as a physicist all of these things pop out on the page.An iconoclast Possibly But I see himlike a man who, from near first principles, derived a new way of looking at the universe without bothering to read the majority of the works that came before He was always shaking things up, keeping his mind agile, and never letting himself succumb to that most horrible of states rigidity He was well aware of the tendency of scientists with their pet theories to become ossified the longer they protected their positions.Feynman always rode the high wave of creativity and originality He may not have always been successful, but he never took himself too seriously despite being an integral part of quantum physics Strong, Weak, and EM forces Oh, yeah.This book truly humanizes him but also rises above normal biographies in that it postulates, rightly so, a wide and specific theory of what makes Genius It also comes to some conclusions that shed a bit of light on our own world, too For one where are all the geniuses The answer They re all around us And it s often hard to pick certain creative geniuses out of a crowd because the market might be saturated with tons of people who stand on the backs of giants.One could argue that Richard Feynman was very lucky to have come around at exactly the right time, work on the first atomic bomb, and be surrounded by so many other brilliant minds His bouts of isolation and creativity were bolstered by others Who knows Without biographies like this, he might have disappeared into footnotes, too.No one ever really sees the worth of the people around them while they re living


  5. Josh Friedlander Josh Friedlander says:

    Gleick is a thorough, intelligent science writer able to give over complex ideas without sacrificing too much depth He still lost me with some of the particle physics stuff Feynman started his academic career as a precocious math undergrad at Princeton, and went to the pinnacle of modern science, first at the Manhattan Project and later designing a daunting freshman physics curriculum at CalTech later published as Six Easy Pieces His career neatly parallels the modern perception of science Gleick is a thorough, intelligent science writer able to give over complex ideas without sacrificing too much depth He still lost me with some of the particle physics stuff Feynman started his academic career as a precocious math undergrad at Princeton, and went to the pinnacle of modern science, first at the Manhattan Project and later designing a daunting freshman physics curriculum at CalTech later published as Six Easy Pieces His career neatly parallels the modern perception of science theoretical physics was transformed from a discipline akin, in practical application, to medieval French , to a near religion, captivating the awed respect of the public, and leading to enormous increases in governmental research spending and the development of Big Science And later, as the pace of new developments dropped, and scientists, confronted with an ever increasing list of particles, gradually gave up on finding a unified theory of the atom,mystical and antiscientific thinking gradually re emerged Notable personal aspects of Feynman were his pre feminist attitudes toward women, culminating in protests at some of his public talks, and, related, his near constant womanising He never recovered emotionally from the death of his beloved first wife Also worth noting is that his quips and stories, seemingly off the cuff, were carefully rehearsed in his notebooks.All of which shouldn t take away from the scope of his genius Gleick sees his subject as the genius par excellence, akin to Einstein and Newton the latter a previous biographical subject He devotes a chapter in the final section to a fascinating discussion of the nature and history of genius Feynman s thinking was, in speed and clarity, unlike that of normal people.One final point in an interview with the BBC retold by Gleick, Feynman becomes quite agitated when asked to explain in layman s terms how magnets work He insists that they just work This is quite out of the ordinary, as in every other regard Feynman seemed to consider the ability to explain something in simple terms as the hallmark of a clear understanding This just adds to my conviction that the Insane Clown Posse was really onto something


  6. Carl Zimmer Carl Zimmer says:

    I do not do well with audiobooks I quickly drift away to thoughts about other things When I come back to the audiobook, I usually have no idea what s going on I recently launched into Genius, James Gleick s biography of Richard Feynman, and this experience has been surprisingly different I have immensely enjoyed having his words poured into my ears I suspect it has to do with the gorgeous style and structure of Gleick s writing here He clearly has amassed a staggering amount of vivid detai I do not do well with audiobooks I quickly drift away to thoughts about other things When I come back to the audiobook, I usually have no idea what s going on I recently launched into Genius, James Gleick s biography of Richard Feynman, and this experience has been surprisingly different I have immensely enjoyed having his words poured into my ears I suspect it has to do with the gorgeous style and structure of Gleick s writing here He clearly has amassed a staggering amount of vivid detail from Feynman s life, but he s selected from this mountain carefully, rather than dumping it all on the reader s head To tell Feynman s story, he has to guide us through the recent history of physics, which he manages to do with remarkable grace It s the story of a remarkable person in a remarkable time I look forward to hoursof listening


  7. Arjun Arjun says:

    Fantastic bio of Feynman, and likely the best in the same vein as Isaacson s takes on Einstein or Jobs that we ll see Highly recommended for anyone interested in the nature of science during Feynman s rise a period where quantum mechanics was very much developing and characters like Feynman were radically unorthodox.Hearing Feynman s story is truly inspirational and makes you want to go out and discover things.


  8. Bob Bob says:

    This book made me cry Weird, maybe, but true In Gleick s portrayal of the true genius of Feynman, as well as some of his other contemporary genius physicists What made me cry Reading it was a fundamentally humbling experience These people are SMART And not smart like most smart folks not at all Growing up, I always had the feeling that, given the time and effort to study something, that I was capable of learning anything Obviously, one cannot learn everything, but I never, until this bo This book made me cry Weird, maybe, but true In Gleick s portrayal of the true genius of Feynman, as well as some of his other contemporary genius physicists What made me cry Reading it was a fundamentally humbling experience These people are SMART And not smart like most smart folks not at all Growing up, I always had the feeling that, given the time and effort to study something, that I was capable of learning anything Obviously, one cannot learn everything, but I never, until this book, felt that avenues were not open to me, intellectually In reading the stories in this book, it became clear to me that these people weren t justeducated than me in their academic specialties, but on an entire much higher plane in some place I could NEVER achieve, no matter how hard I ever could work on it In the physical world, skills and capabilities are obvious No matter how hard any of us train, we will never sprint faster that Usain Bolt That stangible than intellectual barriers, which always feltapproachable to me Well, this book slammed the door on that idea for me in a very enjoyable, yet humbling way It was fun to read this book for me because it portray genius in a way that is entertaining to me, much like watching great athletes in the arena plying their trade What do great physicists talk about and do to advance their field A great read


  9. Jean Jean says:

    I heard Feynman speak a number of times at conferences in the 1970 s He was a good speaker I chose this biography as I wanted to knowabout this famous professor Richard Feynman 1918 1988 was a genius in mathematical physics He was called the most original mind of his generation Quantum electrodynamics QED was developed into an effective theory in 1948 independently by Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Shinichiro Tomona Ga In 1965 the three shared the Nobel Prize for the theory.The I heard Feynman speak a number of times at conferences in the 1970 s He was a good speaker I chose this biography as I wanted to knowabout this famous professor Richard Feynman 1918 1988 was a genius in mathematical physics He was called the most original mind of his generation Quantum electrodynamics QED was developed into an effective theory in 1948 independently by Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Shinichiro Tomona Ga In 1965 the three shared the Nobel Prize for the theory.The author reveals that Feynman s road to QED began as a graduate student at Princeton University He started with a theory in which an electron that emits a light particle photon must interact with a distant electron that absorbs the particle Feynman next work was a reformulation of Quantum Mechanics in a new way The work was included in his doctoral thesis.The author tells of Feynman s work at Los Alamos, N.M working on the Manhattan Project Gleick also goes into Feynman s personal life including his love of Arline Greenbaum They were married in 1941 after she became seriously ill She entered a sanitarium near Las Alamos to be near him She was diagnosed with lymphatic tuberculosis She died just after their fourth anniversary Years later he married Gweneth Howarth, an English woman he met at a conference in Switzerland.Feynman along with Sally Ride and Alan Shepherd served on the Presidential commission that investigated the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger.Gleick was a science reporter and does a good job in his portrayal of scientific people and dramatizing the emergencies of new ideas The author did in depth research to write this book Feynman was a complex brilliant man Gleick s book provides a good introduction into his physics and his life Gleick also reveals that Feynman was an inspired teacher The author demonstrates in the book that Feynman was a man of absolute integrity in his scientific work Gleick kept the biography balanced presenting all the sides of Feynman People without a science background may have a problem following some of the science presented in the book The book is 489 pages long The book has lots of pictures I read it using the Kindle app my iPad


  10. Greg Brozeit Greg Brozeit says:

    I doubt I ve ever read a longer book The text was only 440 pages, but I found that I re read and re re and re re re read a number of sections because the physics described was very deep and complex, especially for a layperson But I feel I have a better understanding of the significant advances in physics in the 20th century as seen through the lens of Feynmman s intellect, methods and, as the title so ably states, genius Although I still don t have a deep knowledge of concepts like quantum I doubt I ve ever read a longer book The text was only 440 pages, but I found that I re read and re re and re re re read a number of sections because the physics described was very deep and complex, especially for a layperson But I feel I have a better understanding of the significant advances in physics in the 20th century as seen through the lens of Feynmman s intellect, methods and, as the title so ably states, genius Although I still don t have a deep knowledge of concepts like quantum theory, quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics or quantum chromodynamics, I do feel as thought I understand why they are important in physics and other sciences.I found the human stories of Feynman s first love and marriage , his time at Los Alamos and his essential contributions to understanding the causes of the Challenger disaster to be great history and human interest Also, his views on the math and science textbooks used in grade schools was a refreshing episode that humanized him evenfor me.And I learned that this book is really about two geniuses, Feynman and the author of the book, James Gleick Gleick s narrative demonstrates an amazing gift of writing and synthesis that few could ever hope to achieve