I have read all of Feynman’s books linked below and consider Richard Feynman to be America’s greatest scientific treasure.
Paul Halpern tells readers:
Richard Feynman was an enigmatic genius, full of contradictions, who made extraordinary science look magically easy.
Feynman was an art-lover and amateur painter, and one of his monumental achievements, expressing particle physics interactions as the lines and squiggles of “Feynman diagrams”, seems, at first glance, as straightforward as doodling. In truth, the figures represent tricky, powerful maths.
Undoubtedly, the greatest influence on Feynman was John Wheeler, his PhD supervisor at Princeton University in the early 1940s. Wheeler was an extraordinary generator of wild ideas, to which Feynman would apply his mathematical skills, trying to work out their implications.
Wheeler, Feynman developed a powerful method, known as path integrals, to bridge the differences between quantum and classical (Newtonian) processes.
Quantum mechanics, as shown by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others, involves sudden jumps from one state into another that are governed by the laws of chance, rather than perfect determinism.
In 1986, after the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, Ronald Reagan invited Feynman to serve on the Rogers Commission investigating its possible causes.
Feynman homed in on the shuttle’s rubber O-rings, which became brittle under cold conditions. With his typical frankness and perceptiveness, when it came time to writing the report, Feynman argued for a stronger conclusion than the other commission members felt was appropriate.
He ended up writing a dissenting report, and famously demonstrated his O-ring hypothesis with a glass of ice water during a congressional hearing on the subject.
Paul Halpern is Professor of Physics at University of the Sciences. His books include The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler revolutionized time and reality, 2017.
Also below you’ll find books by James Gleick, who wrote about Feynman. Here’s a little about Gleick:
James Gleick is an author and essayist who writes about science and technology and their cultural consequences. His latest book is Time Travel: A History.
He was born in New York City in 1954. He graduated from Harvard College in 1976 and helped found Metropolis, an alternative weekly newspaper in Minneapolis. Then he worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times.
In 2012 he published the best-selling The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, winner of the Royal Society Winton Prize. His first book, Chaos, was a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist and a national bestseller. He collaborated with the photographer Eliot Porter on Nature’s Chaos and with developers at Autodesk on Chaos: The Software. His other books include the best-selling biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and Isaac Newton, both shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, as well as Faster and What Just Happened. They have been translated into thirty languages.
In 1989-90 he was the McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University. For some years he wrote the Fast Forward column in the New York Times Magazine.
With Uday Ivatury, he founded The Pipeline, a pioneering New York City-based Internet service in 1993, and was its chairman and chief executive officer until 1995. He was the first editor of the Best American Science Writing series. He was elected president of the Authors Guild in 2017.
If you’re willing to fight for Main Street America, click here to sign up for my free weekly email.