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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars

on 8 August 2004
This book is billed as a second, and final, collection of reminiscences from one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers, the physicist / artist / philosopher / educator / genius, Richard Feynman. This is true; however, it is somewhat different in style to the unsurpassably brilliant "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman?" - surely one of the greatest books ever written - to which this is the sequel.
The first part of the book covers, not in chronological order, some important events from Feynman's life, particularly his early life, that were omitted from "Surely You're Joking". Most especially, it covers his meeting, marriage and subsequent death of his first wife, a tale which is no less moving for being told in his typically matter-of-fact manner.
Fully half the book is taken up with his account of his time spent on the Challenger space shuttle disaster review board, which shows that he was determined to go about accident investigation with exactly the same rigour and method that he applied to all of his pursuits.
If "Surely You're Joking" were a film, "What Do You Care" would be the bonus DVD of extras that came with it. To a certain extent, it's more of what we loved about "Surely You're Joking"; occasionally it throws the main narrative into a different light; sometimes it feels a trifle redundant. For example, why include Feynman's report on the Challenger disaster as an appendix to his own excellent and detailed account of his time working on the same, when it includes no new information? If this were indeed a DVD, it would be criticised for unnecessary reuse of material.
One welcome inclusion is a small collection of illustrations, some showing Feynman at various stages of his career but also some of his own drawings. Again, these latter would have been more relevant had they been included as part of the earlier book.
Still, "What Do You Care" is an easy read and any more wisdom from the author of "Surely You're Joking" is very welcome, however insubstantial.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 September 2003
If you've read 'Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman!', you will love this book too. If you haven't, you could do worse than read this one first!
Richard Feynman was a fantastic scientist. So are lots of people on this world. What set Feynman apart was his lust for life, his childlike, unending enthusiasm for finding things out, and his infectious humour.
As well as getting a taste of Feynman's enthusiasm, you'll also get a real insight into the way NASA worked (works...?), because the second half of this book concentrates on Feynman's involvement in the investigation into the Challenger shuttle disaster. You'll also understand why his wife told him he'd have to get involved in the investigation, because if he didn't, nobody would ever find out what went wrong.
He was a unique and brilliant man, and if you read this, maybe - just maybe - some of that brilliance and enthusiasm will rub off on you too.
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on 21 September 2017
It is really interesting to get an insight into the life and work of an absolute legend!
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on 9 January 2011
This is a follow on from Feynman's first book "Surely you are joking Mr Feynman". It sort of picks up from where the other left off, but about half of the book is devoted to his activities as part of the panel investigating the Challenger Shuttle disaster.

What I did find odd was that he seemed surprised at the behaviour and reaction of the others on the same panel; many of his comments indicate a level of bewilderment at the way that things were done and how the process was carried out. From his previous book, I would have expected him to be a lot more savvy towards the nature of those that work much more in the public sector. I wonder if he was in fact playing a double game; knowing exactly what he faced, but then pretending a level of frustration to indicate that he was not part of the same set-up. Of course, we will never know, but it is interesting to speculate.

Both parts of the book are well worth reading, and this book is one that will probably require more than one viewing.
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on 15 January 2011
First of all I will say that 'Surely you're Joking Mr. Feynman' is one of my all time favourite books. A definite 5 star book. This book is similar in layout but I did not enjoy it as much.

I very much enjoyed the first part of the book about his first wife. It is a beautiful love story.

The rest of the book is devoted to his investigation into the Challenger disaster. It is quite technical and If you aren't very interested in the Challenger then this section will really drag (like it did for me!)

This is worth the read though just for the first section alone, even if you don't find the second section particularly interesting.

I still give this 4 stars because if you are interested in the Challenger disaster then you would probably love the whole book.
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on 22 July 2013
I bought this book in order to read the section "Mr Feynman goes to Washington". Having read other books on the Challenger disaster and seen TV documentaries, it was interesting to have an insider's view on the investigating commission. Except that, in Establishment terms, Feynman was an outsider.

Sadly, NASA has quite a history of poor management decisions relating to design flaws, engineering problems, safety and risk-taking in manned space flight; the launch pad fire in the Apollo 1 capsule which killed three astronauts, the Apollo 13 near-disaster and the Columbia disaster in 2003. Every manager in NASA ought to have Feynman's final clause tattooed on his/her hand, "Nature cannot be fooled."
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 February 2009
Having read Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics I'd discovered the fascinating work and life of Richard Feynman and was keen to learn more. This is the second of two books Feynman wrote. I happened to come across this book first and perhaps I've read them in the wrong order, no matter.

The book is autobiographical, but in a typical spirit of nonconformity is not a biography. Rather it is a collection of anecdotes written about episodes in Feynman's life. The first half of the book is a selection of these short stories, in no particular order, each describing in a matter of fact fashion an aspect of Feynman's life. Each as a side effect provides an insight to his thinking and attitude to life and learning. Clearly this material was a key resource for James Gleick's work and I had the feeling that these were stories which didn't find their way into Feynman's previous book `Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman'. As a consequence Gleick's book provides a more rounded and complete picture which ties these snippets together. However Feynman's book has more to offer.

The second half of the book has a detailed account of the work on investigating the cause of the Challenger Shuttle disaster. This description will be of interest to anyone who wants to find out the technical details of just what went wrong, but more interestingly has some fascinating insights into the afflictions that can infect the thinking of large organisations. In the case of NASA this led to mistaken understanding of safety and risk, which when compounded by poor communication between management and staff created a widespread blind spot, which extended well outside NASA, about the challenge and dangers of space flight. There are lessons here for any organisation, which even if they don't surface as safety issues, will undoubtedly have impacts in some aspect of the organisation's performance.

On a personal note, I've left the best bit of the book until last, appropriately because it is the last nine pages. Here is reproduced a public address given in 1955 to the National Academy of Sciences titled `The Value of Science'. Feynman gives a brilliant description of the absolute and essential role of exploration in creating advance, and the fact that non-scientists have little comprehension of the real learning process by which this advance is made. For me this short concluding section of the book was worth the price alone, illustrated by the books concluding paragraph..

"It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress that is the fruit of this freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations."
In short, if you want to find out about Feynman, Genius is a more complete read, having read that you may be inspired to read this book to find out more. However if you want to learn of lessons from the Challenger disaster, or simply read the description of exploration in `The Value of Science',this is a book well worth reading.
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on 6 April 2013
I already owned two Feynman books "Surely you`re joking" and "The pleasure of finding things out". But there was a recent T.V. docu-drama about Feymans time on the Challenger investigation (starring William Hurt as Feynman) which was largely based on this book. As other reviewers have said it is a little more of the same sort of stuff as "Surely..." and the rest is about the Challenger.

Some people have reached the conclusion that the "O-rings" fault was simply 'given' to Feynman to 'discover', but what the documentary and this book show is that Feynman actually uncovered many more problems, and many of them vastly more significant. That was his real contribution. That, and his example of not putting up with bureacracy, or being told what how he should go about things - more of that healthy disrespect for authority!

This is a quicker read than "Surely.." and "The Pleasure of finding things out." and either of those other books are a better introduction, but this has it`s place. You can never get enough Feynman.

Finally, for Feynman enthusiasts, look out for the book "Genius" by James Gleik - a full biography of Feynman and his contribution to Physics. I`ve started it (got it for £2.99 in a remainders shop!) so can`t give a full review here.

And, as a special treat, have a look at this website: [Letters of Note dot com] where you can find some of Feynmans letters in the archive section. One in particular, a love letter to his wife written some time after her death, is particularly moving.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 June 2011
Richard Feynman is one of the most famous twentieth century Physicists. He is one of those rare scientists who have managed to go beyond the success in the narrow confines of his field of research and become a public celebrity. A big part of this success comes from his persona which combined incredible brilliance with the irreverent and down-to-earth attitude to most problems in life, be they "big" ones like working on the atomic bomb, or the everyday ones that almost all of us are familiar with. It's the latter ones and his quirky and unorthodox approach to them that made Feynman endearing to the general public.

His earlier book "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" was a classic and an inspiration to generations of young scientists who were shown that you can have lots of fun while pursuing a life in science. I myself had read it in single sitting, and had completely been mesmerized by Feynman's wit and irreverent attitude. "What Do You Care What Other People Think" is a further collection of stories and anecdotes from his life. Some of these had been told by others over the years, but in this book they all come together in a single volume as told by Feynman himself. Some of the events and stories presented come from the last few years of his life, and it is hard not to feel the poignancy of the fact that these were some of his last thoughts on subjects and situations that he cared about.

Almost half of the book is dedicated to the investigation of the Challenger disaster. Feynman was on the presidential commission that investigated that disaster, and here we get a full insight into what had been going on during commission's session. Many reports have made it seem that Feynman had single handedly figured out the true cause of the disaster - the faulty o-rings that were not meant to be used in really low temperatures. In this book he sets the record straight and explains that although he was the public face that brought attention to the o-rings, there had been many people behind the scenes who had suspected a problem with them for quite a while. This part of the book is also a very useful and revealing glimpse into the workings of a big governmental and scientific agency like NASA.

The book concludes with few musings on the responsibility of science for social problems. In these musings Feynman turns uncharacteristically philosophical, even almost spiritual. He might not have been the most sophisticated thinkers in these matters, but his instincts were very acute and well worth listening to.

All of those who appreciate Feynman's work and brilliance will be grateful for this honest and easy-going narrative. It is also hard not to think that with Feynman's passing a whole era of Physics had come to an end. Those of us who think that somewhere along the way theoretical Physics had lost its way and had become a caricature of its former self, may wonder if all of that could have been avoided had Feynman lived for another ten years or so. We'll just never really know.
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on 24 December 2009
This is the second book I have read on Richard Feynman, I would recommend reading surely your joking mr feynman (which is also a better book) first. But this is definitely worth a read if you have any interest in the legend that is Richard Feynman, and for the price you cant go wrong
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