Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

jokingfeynmanAll I knew about Feynman was that he was a great physicist but I didn’t know how eventful of a life he lived. Richard Feynman gives the reader a first hand look into the experiences that made him into one of the most successful physicists of all-time. He gives a glimpse into fixing up radios as a youngster, experimenting in his college years, and working with other physicists in his older days with such humor mixed with an obviously enormous amount of knowledge. Besides making a significant contribution to the Manhattan Project at Los Alomos, and receiving a Nobel Prize, Feynman constantly developed many varied interests and pursued them passionately. Don’t worry if you aren’t a physics major for Feynman spends relatively little time on physics and instead concentrates on his many other interests – his interpersonal relationships (he was married three times, and also wrote quite a bit about his efforts to meet women in between), and his scuffles with government and university bureaucracies. In one amusing anecdote, he agrees to give a talk for a government program only on the condition that he will not sign his name more than thirteen times in the required paperwork… and sure enough a 14th signature is required and the aftermath is hilarious.

There were some elements that were interesting – his attitude and experiences towards women, how he tormented a waitress by giving her a tip in a very unique manner which probably resulted in her yelling expletives at him.  He is amusingly curious, taken either way. I’m not sure if he’s likable, but he is certainly brilliant and I enjoyed his stories.

This book is light reading. As mentioned earlier, you won’t get a much deeper understanding of physics from reading it. I did fee that it was a lesson on how to think about things colorfully, from first principles. To get an idea of the man, I highly recommend seeing “The Pleasure of finding things out“, which can be seen on YouTube. It’s an interview from 1982 and would help paint an image of what his childhood experiences, personality and quirky essence was all about.  This is definitely a book I see myself re-reading simply because of the number of times it made me laugh and that its all based on, at times, very serious reality.

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