“Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those which are there.” – Richard Feynman

James Gleick’s biography begins by correcting some of the myths about Feynman. Feynman created some of them himself, of course. Overall, the book is yet another tribute. Gleick fills in the narrative that Feynman left out of the two popularizations of his life, Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think?


Underlying and beyond the stories Gleick explains the physics, as best as can be done, in colloquial English. Motivated, I browsed the stacks at the Austin Public Library and checked out Quantum Field Theory Demystified by David McMahon and Understanding Quantum Mechanics by Roland Omnès. Both were approximately the kind of book a physics major would read over the summer before the sophomore year. Though I renewed the check-out, after five weeks, I still did not get much, but gleaned what I could. Relevant here is the fact that just as the Pythagorean Theorem can be shown synthetically and analytically, the truths in quantum mechanics can be expressed with three different methods: wave equations, statistical equations, and Feynman path integrals. Gleick devotes considerable effort to explaining Feynman’s work, given that the intended audience is people who like physics, but really do not understand it.


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