quantum man


In the heyday of the physicist Richard P. Feynman, which ensued after his death in 1988, a publishing entrepreneur might have been tempted to start a book club of works by and about him. Offered as main selections would be Feynman’s autobiographical rambles (as told to Ralph Leighton), “ ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!’ ” and “ ‘What Do You Care What Other People Think?’ ” For alternate selections, readers could choose from his more serious works, like “QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” — a spirited account of the counterintuitive behavior of the quantum world — and the legendary “Feynman Lectures on Physics.” Whatever the man said had swagger. For those who would rather listen, there are recordings of the lectures and of Feynman playing his bongos. He was an irresistible subject for biographers and, as he called himself in two of his subtitles, a curious character indeed. The best biography, James Gleick’s “Gen­ius,” captured the ebullience — sometimes winning, sometimes exasperating — and gave lucid explanations of some hard physics. Those seeking a more mathematical treatment could turn to Jagdish Mehra’s thick book “The Beat of a Different Drum,” while for a lighter touch there was Christopher Sykes’s “No Ordinary Gen­ius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman.”

more from George Johnson at the NYT here.