Richard P. Feynman was born in 1918 and grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. At the age of seventeen he entered MIT and in 1939 went to Princeton, then to Los Alamos, where he joined in the effort to build the atomic bomb. Following World War II he joined the physics faculty at Cornell, then went on to Caltech in 1951, where he taught until his death in 1988. He shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965, and served with distinction on the Shuttle Commission in 1986. A commemorative stamp in his name was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005. Ralph Leighton, Richard Feynman's great friend and collaborator, now 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