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on 18 January 2005
Richard Feynman was a great physicist, a truly original thinker and for many years a hero of mine.
This book is basically a collection of anecdotes about his life and his worldview. No scientific background is required to enjoy this book - it is fantastic - unremittingly entertaining and informative - accessible to all.
The stories cover, amongst other things: his childhood, his time at Los Alamos working on the atomic bomb (including his safe breaking escapades), failing his medical with the US Army for psychiatric reasons (you will never put your hands out in the same way again), learning Portuguese (and his reasons for selecting Portuguese over Spanish), learning to paint, learning the bongo drums and his general intolerance of stupidity.
Overall it is a fantastic and easy read - it is almost impossible not to enjoy this book
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on 23 April 2006
I love this book. I have read it many times and have also given it as a gift to a number of people all who have enjoyed it. To think that it is written by one of the greatest physicists of all time makes it all the more surprising. If there is one person who I would like to go back in time to meet it would be Mr Feynman.

The guy was a genius but also completely down to earth. If you read this book and go away with the impression that he was immodest and big headed like other reviewers felt I would be surprised. This is a man who felt embarressed by winning the Nobel prize, a guy who hated giving lectures at prestigous societies but would never give up a chance to lecture at a high school physics class, who went to Rio to join a Salsa band and march in the carnival, who spent much of his time as Las Alamos annoying the censors and learing how to crack safes. - A curious charater indeed.

All in all if you are interested either a) in physics, b) in interesting people or both read this book. If you want a more in depth but less personal view of Mr Feynman then read James Gleik's Genius.
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I'm delighted to see how many other reviews there are for this fantastic book. For so long, I thought I was one of the few who'd discovered this book, but it seems not. And that's a Good Thing, because I think EVERYONE should read this book.
Yes, Richard Feynman possessed an incredible mind. Yes, he was a brilliant theoretical physicist. But more important than any of that was his lust for life, and thirst for knowledge. And it didn't matter to him what he learned - whether it was safecracking, playing bongo drums, mixing paints, or how to sleep with women!
This book is just Feynman's recollections, as dictated to the author. As a consequence, it's ridiculously easy to read - no highbrow theory or dull prose here.
If you have an ounce of curiosity in your body, buy this book. You will learn a great deal about science, and be fascinated by Feynman's stories. You'll also learn quite a lot about Feynman (and he was a thoroughly entertaining guy!), and most of all, you'll be infected with Feynman's own lust for life and thirst for knowledge.
When you finish it, you'll be sad that you never met this amazing man when he was alive. But console yourself in the knowledge that there's a lot more of Richard Feynman for you to discover in his other books.
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on 29 November 1998
This book is truly rare. You WILL be educated, entertained, baffled, moved, and hopefully inspired to change your whole approach to life. You can not read this book without realising that Feynman was a true original. If you don't enjoy this book, send it to me and I'll eat it without ketchup.
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on 6 June 2011
If you are looking for literature and fine writing, forget it. But if you are looking to spend time with an amusing and inspirational man, you can't be wrong. You will get to know more about one of the most brilliant scientists of his time, who was a strong advocate of intellectual honesty. Every science teacher and education policy maker should read this book!!
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on 13 July 2005
My Mum found this book for me, she's a physics teacher + I'm an undergraduate physics student with a love of books!
I loved it! Who cares if Feynman was egotistic, or a womaniser or, or... well it doesn't matter!
What matters is how he puts across his love of physics and draws you in!
Its an inspiring book, about an amazing and inspiring man!
the title of the first chapter sums it all up. "He fixes radios by thinking."
Its well worth reading, whoever you are!
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on 14 May 2011
A book full of fascinating anecdotes, hilarious life stories and insightful scientific scenarios in the every day life of a truly special character.
After having read rather dry and "slow" biographies of other great man such as Benjamin Franklin, John D. Rockefeller, Theodor Roosevelt this book came as a much appreciated refreshment. It's quick, witty and very entertaining!
If you enjoy watching smart men at work and want to find out more about how they think this is the book for you!
You'll discover they're not that different to you and me, just a bit more thoughtful.
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on 30 September 2015
Feynman lived a varied and exciting life and used physics as a stepping stone, to meet all sorts of people and to get into all sorts of situations, where he could bring his unique talent to the table. He shows himself to be a polymath, making contributions not only at the Los Alamos Laboratory, but also to art, music and culture. This book gives an account of his adventures and his career throughout his amazing life.
After telling his superb stories, Richard ends with a cautionary chapter conveying how the wisdom he had built up in his adventures could help reduce unnecessary conflicts of interest in the fields of exploration, research and education. Regarding the scientific method, he was concerned that in some fields of science, there was a lot of pressure on individuals to short circuit the rigorous scientific method in order to make exaggerated claims, in order for projects attract or maintain funding, without due diligence taking place. One area of his concern was in particle physics, where the high cost of equipment and the pressure to get results led to experiments not being repeated to show the results were reproducible. Richard's concerns about the cost of particle physics, were proved right, when in 2011, the Tevatron Proton Collider at Fermilab, dating from 1983, was switched off, due to budget cuts which judged the cost of competing with CERN's Heavy Hadron Collider was too high.
In education he warned against allowing a continual stream of so called experts, being allowed to constantly move educational methods and practices, away from those that he had thrived upon during his younger days.
Feynman ended his book by hoping readers would not put in a position, where they were would compromise the scientific method in order to maintain their positions and to advance their scientific careers. Notably, after writing the book, Feynman became an investigator into the cause of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, where he found that NASA workers had encountered pressure that compromised their work and managers forecasts of a disaster, being given as one in one hundred thousand, rather than the one in two hundred that NASA engineers had estimated. His concerns are given further space, in the book, 'What Do You Care What Other People Think?', which is the follow up book 'Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman' and includes his involvement with the Rogers Commission on the Space Shuttle Disaster.
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on 17 June 2014
...then you should read this book. You will be surprised that a Nobel price winner still feels such a need to tell the world what a great guy he is, whatever he does and whatever he thinks is better than else. Even apparent self criticism is de facto used to enhance his image. You will also learn what he thinks of his colleagues, about other areas of science and in particular "cargo science", a term to which he devotes a whole chapter, without ever defining it. No need, it is encompassing all but physics and mathematics.

You will also learn that a great brain is not necessarily a great spirit. Mr Feynman's work has tremendously contributed to scientific progress, and he was certainly a very sympathetic guy to talk to, in a bar. But he had a limited horizon. For him, physics and mathematics was all you need to know about the world. In this respect it is interesting that on the 360 pages of this book you won't see one single mention of the term "axiom". Perhaps Mr Feynman avoided thinking beyond axioms, for good reasons.

Otherwise, you learn incidentally that the development of the atomic bomb was an incredible makeshift job, poorly organized and supervised by the US army. And that Mr Feynman didn't loose a single instant before, during or after his work in Los Alamos thinking about its effects on human lives. True, he didn't have much time, when spending his spare time learning how to crack all kind of safes. Or engage with pretty women whenever they crossed his path.

To conclude, this book leaves you with mixed feelings. There are interesting aspects, such as his desacralization of the inner circles of scientific research, but at the end you feel somehow disappointed that such great brains can be so confined.
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on 14 May 2013
i first stumbled across this terrifically entertaining, funny and thought provoking book back in the 80s. I think I was on a visit to California from London.It was then- and still is- one of my all time favourite books. Why? simply because Richard Feynman was such an amazing and unique character: A Nobel prize winning physicist...a bongo playing strip club loving genius- he wasn't even your stereotypical nerdy looking scientist-in fact the very opposite- he looked like a movie star. He was full of fun and life -always smiling and joking and he didn't care what people thought of him. His stories.. his adventures
were amazing and I remember thinking I wished I knew him. I wished i'd had a brilliant teacher like him.

Every 5 or 10 years or so I'd read something about Feynman by chance but then wouldn't be able to find my copy amongst my huge piles of books that were all over the place- so i'd go and buy another's always been in print. I must have at least five copies somewhere.I just like to know that it/he is around .. (also I really liked the original blue paperback cover with- I think- red and yellow -even the cover was fun) Finally, it was when i first read 'Surely You're joking Mr Feynman...' that I knew that one day I too would write a book about my own adventures- and many years later I finally did-; so Feynman inspired me too- just like he inspired his students.

Last night I watched `The Fantastic Mr Feynman' on BBC2 and remembered once more how incredible he was..( watching him drop the O ring in the glass of iced water to solve the whole Challenger spaceship disaster) -one of the world's greatest geniuses..and also how much fun he was, all over again. So that's why I'm lying in bed long after midnight writing my first ever review.
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