The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist

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9781433201714: The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist

Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman's contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around him--how deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. In this collection of lectures that Richard Feynman originally gave in 1963, unpublished during his lifetime, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist discusses several mega questions of science. What is the nature of the tension between science and religious faith? Why does uncertainty play such a crucial role in the scientific imagination? Is this really a scientific age? What explains our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and telepathy? Marked by Feynman's characteristic combination of rationality and humor, these lectures provide an intimate glimpse at the man behind the legend. At the start of his final lecture he says, "I dedicate this lecture to showing what ridiculous conclusions and rare statements such a man as myself can make." Rare, perhaps, and irreverent, sure. But ridiculous? Not even close. This is quintessential Feynman--reflective, amusing, and ever enlightening.

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Product Description:

Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman’s contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around him—how deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now, a wonderful book—based on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963—shows us this other side of Feynman, as he expounds on the inherent conflict between science and religion, people’s distrust of politicians, and our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and mental telepathy. Here we see Feynman in top form: nearly bursting into a Navajo war chant, then pressing for an overhaul of the English language (if you want to know why Johnny can’t read, just look at the spelling of “friend”); and, finally, ruminating on the death of his first wife from tuberculosis. This is quintessential Feynman—reflective, amusing, and ever enlightening.

Review:

In this series of lectures originally given in 1963, which remained unpublished during Richard Feynman's lifetime, the Nobel-winning physicist thinks aloud on several "meta"--questions of science. What is the nature of the tension between science and religious faith? Why does uncertainty play such a crucial role in the scientific imagination? Is this really a scientific age?

Marked by Feynman's characteristic combination of rationality and humor, these lectures provide an intimate glimpse at the man behind the legend. "In case you are beginning to believe," he says at the start of his final lecture, "that some of the things I said before are true because I am a scientist and according to the brochure that you get I won some awards and so forth, instead of your looking at the ideas themselves and judging them directly...I will get rid of that tonight. I dedicate this lecture to showing what ridiculous conclusions and rare statements such a man as myself can make." Rare, perhaps. Irreverent, sure. But ridiculous? Not even close.

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