Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Six Not-so-Easy Pieces

Proof of just how powerful Amazon can be: six years ago, I bought a copy of Six Easy Pieces, a book of class lectures by Richard Feynman. Amazon remembered that, and linked to its sequel (of sorts), Six Not-so-Easy Pieces, it put a link at the top of the home page for me. That’s cool.

Feynman, for those that don’t know, is arguably among the most brilliant minds of the 20th century — some have gone so far to say that he was even smarter than Einstein. Regardless of where he might rank, the bottom line is that he is without question a genius. I stumbled on to Feynman in a rather odd way: first, I read Chaos by James Gleick. Gleick has a gift for making exceedingly complex concepts understandable — and his explanation of things like fractals and chaos theory were like an entirely new universe to me. (To this day I’m disappointed I didn’t read Chaos while in high school, as I likely would have pursued a scientific degree. Oh well.)

A few years later, I saw a copy of Genius, Gleick’s biography of Feynman. Though I had no idea who Feynman was, I had met Gleick at an inauguration event in Washington, DC and wanted to read more of his writing. Written in the same breezy style as Chaos, it captures the brilliance of the man (his intelligence, his sense of humor) as well as the breadth of the topics he contributed to. Perhaps most interesting to me was that Gleick talked about Feynman teaching freshman physics at Caltech.

And that’s how I stumbled on to Six Easy Pieces, the book and 6-CD compilation that includes the actual lectures by Feynman, covering the essential principles of Physics.

I think it’s time to rip those CDs on to MP3s, and make them my next iPod project. Once I listen to them again, I’ll pick up a copy of Six Not-so-Easy Pieces, which focuses exclusively on Einstein’s theory of relativity.

1 comment:

  1. I love Feynman's accent. There is something wonderful about a man with a 'New York guy on the street' vocal delivery talking about mind-bending propositions.