by Richard & Ralph Leighton Feynman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 31, 1988
There is a touch of sadness in reading this second installment of Feynmaniana: The iconoclast physicist and Nobelist died in February 1988 following years of treatment for stomach cancer. Further, there are fewer of the high jinks--safecracking at Los Alamos, late nights in Las Vegas, bongo drum-playing here, there, and everywhere--recounted in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (1985). Instead, we are treated to tales of childhood and the turn of curious mind cultivated by his father, a sales manager for a company making uniforms. It was his father who taught Richard to observe nature (the trail of a maggot eating a leaf; the movement of a ball riding in a little red wagon. . .) and to distrust authority. It was Arlene, Richard's first wife, who asked the title question. Arlene was the high-school sweetheart who died of tuberculosis when Feynman was at Los Alamos working on the atomic bomb. Arlene liked games and tricks. Typical were pencils she had printed with the message, ""Richard darling, I love you! Putsy,"" embarrassing the young post-doc then at Princeton--and inviting her retort. There are also tales of maturity. Indeed, over half the volume is a record of Feynman's notes and observations while serving on the Rogers' Commission investigating the Challenger disaster. Feynman was celebrated as the investigator ever ready to go to talk to the low-level guys at Kennedy, Houston, Marshall or wherever, and ask gutsy questions. Incidentally, Feynman sets the record straight: While he made TV news with his demonstration of the failure of the O-ring rubber to spring back after exposure to ice water, it was actually an astronaut who told another Commission member who made the canny suggestion to Feynman. This section should be read by all who serve on commissions--not to mention the investigatees as well. As in the earlier work, Leighton's invisible hand brings Feynman to life in all his wonderful and multiple dimensions. Marvelous.
Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1988
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988
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