Feynman's Rainbow This is a great book about Richard Feynman. It’s writted by Leonard Mlodinow, who was a young faculty member at Caltech while Feynman was a Nobel-prize-winning professor there. Mlodinow audio recorded several conversations with Feynman about life and about how and why Feynman did science. Mlodinow describes how years later he pulled the Radio Shack audio cassettes out of his basement and realized that he wanted to uncover Feynman’s thoughts and write them up.

Feynman’s Rainbow is written as a series of stories of Mlodinow himself figuring out how and why physics works and academia works interspersed with pages of direct quotes from Feynman.

Best parts of the book: Feynman talking about why he does science, Feynman describing his first love Arlene, Feynman scolding Mlodinow about Mlodinow’s reasons for choosing one research area over any other. It’s an active book. You hear the two characters Mlodinow and Feynman talking. It’s nice.

Surprising parts of the book: The string theory explanantion was surprisingly interesting. Also, just how much of a kid Feynman was – was surprisingly interesting. Just that he had to take everything apart and put it back together himself before believing it.

One of the best messages: Do what you love, man. Because otherwise, there could come a time when you’re looking at the ceiling and you have no reason for doing what you do. Avoid that, love it in the first place.
(Messages are personal, what a person gets out of a book is usually quite personal, so this is just one of the best messages).

Reading this book also made me go back to the library and immediately check out the two great books of stories that Feynman wrote about his own life: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character.


  1. Posted Wednesday August 23, 2006 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I must get this book! I’ve read his two books of stories. Thanks for listing this!!!

  2. Vince
    Posted Sunday August 27, 2006 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Yes, I am on my second reading of it. The copy I brought a year or so ago is called “some time with feynman” all lower case.

    Anyway its a good read & I’ve been a Feynman fan for some years – Surely your joking & what do you care.. are both good reads – & if you are interested in the physics of it all then Feynman’s QED book is aimed producing a non mathematical explanation of quantum mechanics – the book was not written as such but is based on a series of lectures given in New Zealand to non physists on Quantum Electro – Dynamics, the field Feynman got his nobel prize in – for essentially producing the Feynman diagrams whic are a non mathematical but accurate way of calculating quantum photon & electron behaviour – as he explains in the book/lectures – you can see the lectures online (& so see Feynman at work) at : http://www.vega.org.uk/video/subseries/8
    You can buy the book from Penguin for a small sum.

  3. Posted Monday August 28, 2006 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Vince, thank you for the comment! Very neat. You are truly a Feynman fan – it’s easy to see. thank you for the suggestions! He is something else.

    Dave, this is more about him than by him (even though his direct words are in it), and more reflective than some of the silly (and crazy!) adventures in his other books. I really liked the getting-to-the-core-Feynman-messages theme of this little book.

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  1. By senia.com » SENIA.COM Summary - August, 2006 on Wednesday November 22, 2006 at 2:08 am

    […] It looks like I’m getting more into recommendations: * On the Web: funny David Cowan post, great brain resource Sharpbrains.com, love-this-one! Dave Shearon blog, super video of Dancing Matt, a few great articles about the new eight planets!, and a small critique of a a NYT article about one-size-fits-all bright-color interior. * Books: Feynman’s Rainbow and two books I like described by Dave Shearon. * On TV: Josh Ritter on Conan O’Brien . […]