Most of this book hinges on the bizarre idea of adding amplitude arrows to calculate the probability of certain events happening. Probability equals the square of the length of an arrow, while the arrow’s direction is determined by the ending position of an imaginary stopwatch’s rotating hand, which turns during the event. Surprisingly, this unintuitive concept explains a number of phenomena, from iridescence to why light appears to travel in straight lines to the focusing effect lenses have on light.
Of this book’s four chapters, I found the first two to be challenging but reasonably accessible, while the following two became increasingly confusing as the concepts became more complex and Feynman’s patience for explanations seemed to wear thin (if straightforward explanations are even possible, which I almost doubt). I wish to reread the entire book at a later date and hopefully increase my understanding of the strange concepts it portrays.
[Why I read it: I love reading about quantum physics and have lately been on a Feynman binge.]
This book contains six accessible, non-technical lectures from Feynman’s famous Caltech physics course:
1. Atoms in Motion
2. Basic Physics
3. The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences
4. Conservation of Energy
5. The Theory of Gravitation
6. Quantum Behavior
Feynman’s genius, contagious enthusiasm, conversational tone, ability to simplify concepts without dumbing them down, and knack for creating memorable explanations, combine to form a book that allows non-geniuses like myself an intoxicating glimpse into the dazzling world of physics.
[Why I read it: I admit I’m a bit addicted to having my mind blown by theoretical and quantum physics. Also, I had previously developed a minor crush on Feynman during a lecture by my college physics teacher, who had an even bigger crush on him. So when I came across this book in Hay-on-Wye, it was a no-brainer to buy it.]
This is a simple and delightful presentation of a variety of basic physics concepts. I think every field of study needs a Walter Lewin – someone brilliant, positive and passionate, who is equally skilled both in his own field and as a teacher.