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The Pleasure Is Mine
on 23 May 2011
This wonderful collection of interviews, extracts, articles, and speeches gives a fascinating insight into the way that Richard Feynman viewed the world. His exuberance and curiosity shine from every page and it is difficult not to be swept along in the wake of his enthusiasm.
However, Feynman's "casual manner towards proper grammar" (p.xv) in both spoken and written forms often result in awkward sentence structures and colloquialisms that, at times, defy understanding. Moreover, these selected pieces also reveal a spontaneous thinker whose ideas often seem to tumble out faster than he was able to (fully) articulate them. Whilst this spontaneity made Feynman an engaging and gifted scientist, it also gives the impression that he was frequently addressing his next thought before completing his previous: the effect is that his arguments can feel unfinished and, on philosophical and religious issues, strangely naive.
Nonetheless, Feynman was not only a spontaneous thinker but also an original one. His musings on the future of computing and nanotechnology (pp.27-52) were significantly ahead of their time and still appear prescient more than two-decades later. Furthermore, despite his protestations that seeking knowledge is (or should be) an end unto itself, he was also enormously practical and his minority report on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (pp.151-169) is an exemplar of forensic investigation that should serve as a template for achieving bureaucratic clarity! Notwithstanding these noteworthy contributions, the real jewel-in-the-crown is the (edited) transcript from Feynman's 1981 Horizon interview: it is undoubtedly worthy of the cover price in its own right.
In summary, those familiar with the idiosyncrasies of Feynman's delivery will love this collection and most likely "hear" every word in his distinctive drawl; however, for the uninitiated, it is perhaps not the best introduction to this remarkable man.