Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: Feynman

While nosing around the graphic novel and comic strip collection of Politics and Prose I found an illustrated biography of Richard Feynman. A mix of physics and comics was something I couldn't pass up.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Feynman I'll give you the short version. He was part of the Manhattan Project. He was part of the group that figured out what was wrong with the Space Shuttle Challenger after it exploded. He split the Nobel Prize for his work quantum electrodynamics (QED) with people in other countries coming at the same subject from other directions. But I think he's best known for The Feynman Lectures from when he taught freshman physics at CalTech. You can watch similar lectures given at Cornell on Project Tuva. PDFs of the Feynman Lectures books are available here.
(note: I tried watching the lecture on gravity last night and had to kill Microsoft Silverlight a few times and reload the page. Good intentions, Mr Gates, but your problem was using Microsoft software to run the site. Just Google "Feynman Lectures" and you'll find them elsewhere.)

Only a few days before finding the book I'd shown Yummy the video The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out. It's an edited interview with Feynman talking about his life. Much of which was used in the book almost verbatim.

A recent episode of "Eureka" talked about "Feynman Day". In Eureka that's their equivalent to April Fools since Feynman was a notorious practical joker. Alas, this book doesn't much get into that part of him.

The art isn't the greatest. This isn't a comic book. His brilliant mind resulted in a nuclear blast, not the other way around like some Stan Lee character.

You can see more samples on the publisher's site.

When looking for pictures I saw some complaints that this doesn't have much that's new. This is far from the first Feynman biography. But it's the first I've read. I think that's the way most people who pick it up will be. They've heard of him, but don't want to wade through a normal biography.

The book goes into the science he worked on, too. There were a few bits that gave me trouble, but by the end I kind of got it. These bits were drawn from the book "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" which came from him trying to figure out how to explain such a complicated issue that it deserved a Nobel Prize to non-mathematicians. The author included so much of that into this book because it was a physics book he could get his mind around. I may have to include it on my reading list.

This book will appeal to a wide range of ages. I'd have no problem handing this to a ten year old. Depending on the kid either you'll have to help with the scientific stuff or the kid will end up explaining it to you. I know my Grandpa would have enjoyed the book, too.

No comments: