Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was a professor at Cornell University and CalTech and received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965. In 1986 he served with distinction on the Rogers Commission investigating the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Ralph Leighton lives in northern California.
Roughly half of these 21 short, colloquial essays deal with Feynman's firsthand investigaton of the Challenger space-shuttle disaster. He casts himself in the role of intrepid detective, and the first-person singular pronoun keeps intruding on the worthwhile things he has to say about flight safety and lack of communication within NASA. An appendix offers his chilling technical observations on the shuttle's reliability or lack of it. The remaining pieces are mostly a blur of international conferences, purveying slight anecdotes. But two essays touch genuine depths of feeling: his tribute to his father, who taught him to cultivate a sense of wonder, and his account of his love affair with his first wife (who died). In this posthumous miscellany, theoretical physicist Feynman displays only sporadically the adventurousness that captivated readers of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. (October)
Following the success of the late Nobel laureate's first commercial book, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (1984), this second was perhaps an inevitability. The book has problems, but it is worthwhile nonetheless. In general, the new anecdotes lack the wit, novelty, and outrageousness of those in the earlier work. The book's second half is the high point; it is topical, entertaining, and illuminating, and telells of Feynman's work on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Readers who bypass the first part, which is rife with unconnected tales, will be happy to find this in their libraries. Gregg Sapp, Idaho State Univ. Lib., Boise
"Feynman's voice echoes raw and direct through these pages." -- James Gleick - The New York Times Book Review