55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2007
My son bought me this book for Christmas. I have always had a fascination for physics and as a lay person I found this book extremely readable. I cannot claim to understand all the concepts in detail but these lectures must be close to perfection in explaining matters that are hard to understand.
To give an example - I have an enquiring mind and yet I reached the age of 58 without understanding why a person or article orbiting the earth appears to be weightless. After reading Richard Feynmans brief explanation I now understand.
PS On a similar topic I can thoroughly recommend Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang by Jonathan Allday published by Institute of Physics Publishing.
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2005
Despite being 'easy' these are full-on scientific concepts. Nevertheless, they are explained about as clearly as possible by one of the finest scientists and communicators of the last hundred years. This isn't a casual read, but it is extremely interesting and mind-blowing. It got me so interested that I ended up buying the full set of Physics textbooks by Feynman!
I'd regard this as essential and enjoyable reading for anyone interested in the way the world works, as this explores some of the most crucial scientific theories that have a bearing on all aspects of science and nature. The structure and behaviour of atoms, quantum mechanics and gravity, are all covered superbly. By the end of the book, you'll still be fairly boggled by the concepts, but they are so fundamental to life, science and technology that there are few people who wouldn't benefit from at least some understanding of these landmark theories.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2010
Six Easy Pieces is a great place to start, not only for science students but also anyone else who skipped physics at school and wishes to get up to speed with what they missed. The explanations in this relatively modest-sized book are quite possibly the best I have read, and Feynman quickly demonstrates why he is so highly and widely regarded as one of the all time greats.
The six chapters are:
1) ATOMS IN MOTION
- an excellent overview of the structure and behaviour of atoms, this acts as a good taster for Feynman's down-to-earth approach in communicating facts and ideas with daily language and examples.
2) BASIC PHYSICS
- a good run-through of some of the most fundamental principles, both before and after the advent of quantum physics.
3) THE RELATION OF PHYSICS TO OTHER SCIENCES
- including chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology and even psychology. This might as well be described as a rapid-fire explanation of the whole world. Never again confuse your atomic nucleus with your cell nucleus.
4) CONSERVATION OF ENERGY
- the fundamental principle of how energy can change form. Probably the most difficult chapter for a novice, but a decent introduction nonetheless.
5) THE THEORY OF GRAVITATION
- charting the development of the theory of gravity, from Kepler through to Einstein. There's some mathematics here, but provided you pay attention, it's nothing to be scared of.
6) QUANTUM BEHAVIOR
- includes a retelling of the double-slit experiment of quantum mechanics - an explanation which, in my view, remains unmatched for its clarity.
These lectures were first delivered more than 45 years ago, and while many advances have since been made, what is here remains an outstanding introduction to the basic principles of physics.
Feynman's success lay in the way he could penetrate the mind of a student and pre-empt their questions at each stage of the process. His conversational tone and relaxed teaching style should not disguise the fact that his lectures here are logically structured and well thought-out.
Only a couple of minor gripes: the editors chose to retain references to chapters not in the book (no big deal - if nothing else it whets your appetite for more). And a few of the diagrams are so small that labels are barely legible.
Yes this is a short book, but quality not quantity is what you're getting here, and six chapters from one of the most brilliant physics teachers of our time is definitely worth the price. Enjoy.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 1998
What is remarkable about the book Six Easy pieces is that Richard Feynman is able to explain concepts in physics with simple examples that anyone can understand. He is also refreshingly honest -- he says "This is what we know" and "This is what we don't know" in a very straightforward way. The book is very good at explaining physics concepts and would make a good primer for someone who skipped high school physics. The book also explains the relationship of physics to other sciences (chemistry, biology, etc.) in a way that is simple and yet clear.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2009
Firstly let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I'm a maths graduate (more than 10 years ago!) and I have to say this really opened my eyes to some theories that I had heard of but never actually looked into. From my perspective it's a great book that anyone with an interest in physics should enjoy.
However you'll note I only gave it 4 stars. After reading it I passed the book onto my father, who is an avid reader of New Scientist so he's definitely interested in stuff like this. However, in his own words he's finding that some parts are "a bit hard going". And for that reason alone I don't think that it's quite as accessible as some other books, so I have to knock 1 star off.
That said, had I reviewed this before passing it to my father I would probably have given it 5!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2010
As an A-level physics student hoping to study physics at university, I have to say that this is one of the best popular science books I have read. I recieved the book 'Six Not So Easy Pieces' as a gift, and took that as a hint that it was very important that I read this book. Feynman has a unique way of describing physical concepts, and is able to explain complex ideas with clarity and accuracy. He also seems to be able to find real life analogies and examples for phenomenon that are so unlike anything we see in the world we live in. This book has made so many aspects of physics clearer to me, and I urge you to pick it up if you have any interest in the subject whatsoever, regardless of your prior knowledge and ability. And even if you find yourself completely uninterested in physics, I can almost guarantee that this book will change your mind!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2010
As a physical chemist I had heard many good things about Richard Feynman's work and his ability to communicate, but had never read any of his books. I enjoyed this one very much as Feyman has a unique technique of communication making him very easy to follow.
This book is short and has very few equations, which helps the readability. But undergraduate students will need a more complete text for any physics course. "Six Easy Pieces" will help greatly in elucidating some points which can be more difficult to follow in other physics books. "Now I understand that" will be a common reaction to reading Feynman's explanations of some vital topics in physics.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 1998
As a top graduate student in engineering and science, physics is a part of my life. A number of courses I took have taught me plenty of analytical tools and essentials of physics. Having thought that I know almost everything about physics, I looked at Feyman's 6-easy pieces and couldn't help reading it to find out if there is something I can learn from a small and elementary physics novel. Well, I am so surprised that Feynman taught me quite a bit about things that I've never thought about before, even if I am well familiar the complicated and challenging quantum electrodynamics that he developed. He had such simple explanations on conceptually deep natural phenomena such as motion of planets and stars, probabilistic interpretation in quantum physics ; and amusingly interesting insights on daily events such as why blowing your soup to make it cooler. That's what I thought of Feynman's 6-easy pieces as a person who knows physics better than most people. In fact, I bought and will read Feynman's lecture on physics (3-volume) after reading 6-easy pieces. I am sure that I will learn much more from Feynman and so will anyone.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2011
Six Easy Pieces is a extraordinary introduction to physics and, as Paul Davies opines in his opening remarks (p.xi), an even more extraordinary introduction to Richard Feynman: how one envies those fortunate enough to have experienced Feynman's lectures first-hand! Indeed, these opening chapters of his Caltech Lectures leave no doubt that he was as gifted a teacher as he was a scientist and it is a rare talent that creates text that is as joyous and illuminating as this.
The six topics covered in this first book represent the fundamental building blocks of physics (atomic nature of matter, historical perspective, relative perspective, conservation of energy, gravity, and quantum behaviour) and no previous scientific education is required to follow the arguments advanced. Nonetheless, the later subjects (conservation of energy, gravity, and quantum behaviour) do rely on some mathematical lines of reasoning and, for those not versed in such concepts, perseverance may be required to grasp these proofs: nonetheless, time and patience should be all that is required and Feynman's more unconventional illustrations throughout the book more than compensate for the effort.
Ultimately, the wonder of this book is that it not only delivers a peerless introduction to physics but that it also reveals its author to be a man who was deeply intimate with his subject and someone who brought unparalleled clarity to complex and counter-intuitive ideas.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2001
Richard Feynman has never failed to provide me with the inspiration and motivation to learn more about the world around me. His illustrations are easy to understand, and are enjoyable to pass on to others. He makes physics seem necessary, challenging and very interesting. I have never studied physics before, and found the content within reach. References to "missing" chapters have encouraged me to buy the full lecture set.