Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: The Genius of Science: a Portrait Gallery by Abraham Pais

Pais, A. (2000). The genius of science: A portrait gallery. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

A delightful (if uneven) set of essays on a dozen physicists who Pais knew personally. Some of them are extremely famous (Dirac, Wigner) and others are names I'd heard of but didn't really know why (Feigenbaum, Jost). As with all Pais's biographies, he does an excellent job of analyzing both their personal and scientific lives. It is especially interesting when the two become entangled. The essays were written originally for a variety of audiences and so some of them are much more detailed than others. I was particularly intrigued by Wigner (who did some of his important work in the 30's at Wisconsin), and would enjoy reading a full biography of him.

Submitted by Thad Walker

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" : Adventures of a Curious Character

Feynman, R. P., Leighton, R., & Hutchings, E. (1985)."Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a curious character. New York: W.W. Norton.

"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard Feynman as told to Ralph Leighton is an entertaining autobiography by one of the most famous physicists of the twentieth century. Known for his Nobel Prize and gift for teaching, Feynman is also a talented storyteller. This book is composed of a series of stories from Feynman's life, following him from his childhood as "Ritty" the neighborhood radio mechanic, to attending college and learning to meet girls, and working on the atomic bomb (while learning to break into top secret safes).

 Throughout his life, Feynman was unabashedly curious and followed his interests on some unusual adventures, whether it was learning to draw naked women, experimenting with ants in his apartment by ferrying them around on sheets of paper, or getting down on his hands and knees trying to track a scent trail like a dog. Feynman is utterly unselfconsious in telling these often hilarious tales. He also had a magnificent sense of mischief and was willing to play harmless jokes on nearly anyone to amusing results.

 This book is a must read for anyone who needs a laugh and is ideally presented in a serious of bite-sized short stories - perfect for taking a break from research or studying.

 Copies of this book at UW-Madison Libraries

 Submitted by Clara Fehrenbach