Richard Feynman:No Ordinary Genius

Feynman at the Blackboard

Feyman in front of a blackboard showing some of his famous "Feynman diagrams". Adored by his students, Feynman once said "My theory is that the best way to teach is to have no philosophy,to be chaotic."

Gauche,cautious and unintelligible: that sums up most people's image of a physics professor.That's why so many loved Richard Feynman: he was brilliant,outgoing and -staggering,this - successful with women.

Until the 1980s Feynman's name was familiar only to the scientific cogniscenti as an American theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work on quantum electrodynamics,the theory of how electrons interact with light.So far,so impenetrable.

No Ordinary Genius

Feynman with Bongos

Drumming was one of Feynman's many passions

But then came volume one of Feyman's quasi-autobiography,Surely you're joking Mr Feynman!,published in 1985.For many scientists as well as non-scientists,it was a revelation.Here was a full professor of physics from the prestigious California Institute of Technology giving tips on how to pick up women,dodge military service and break into safes holding the secrets of the atomic bomb.

The book was a best-seller and did more to raise the stock of physicists among the public than any number of expositions on quests for the Key to the Universe.

Christopher Sykes,a friend of Feynman who made four films about him,has compiled a new portrait of the man.Even for Feynman converts there is much new,about his early life,his approach to science and his work on the A-bomb and the challenger disaster enquiry.Using recollections by relatives,friends and colleagues,Sykes gives us new insights into the mind of one of the most brilliant scientists of all time.

Syke's book should be compulsory reading for all who think great science is done by droning duffers in anoraks.


The genius who thought small

Feynman Lecture

Nanotechnology is one of today's buzz words,and it may be one of tomorrows most crucial technologies.Yet the concept was first put forward nearly forty years ago,by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman was fascinated by the tiny, probing the interaction of atomic particles in his theory of Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) and his prediction that protons and neutrons were made up of other particles (later known as quarks).But in a hundred years time,he may be better known as the man who inspired the first nanotechnologists to create a global revolution in technology and society.


Dec 94
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