Feynman's Tips on Physics: Reflections, Advice, Insights, Practice (Anglais) Broché – 15 février 2013
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However, for those looking for a timeless classic like The Feynman Lectures on Physics, one might be a little disappointed. Feynman's insights in this book are genuine and instructive, but they lack the depth of his Feynman Lectures. Where the Feynman Lectures are volumes to be kept, cherished, and re-read occasionally (certainly during one's undergradaute career) because of their ability to enlighten even after one has learned the subject from traditional means, Feynman's Tips on Physics offer very little for those who have mastered introductory physics.
This, of course, is not a fault--it is exactly the goal that the book (and Feynman's original recitation sections) set out to fulfill, but Feynman-aficionados might be slightly disappointed all the same.
To its credit, the introduction by Matt Sands and the closing question and answer transcript were a very nice read and earned this book its place among The Feynman Lectures and Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
Ralph Leighton and Michael A. Gottlieb are co-authors of "Feynman's Tips on Physics." In addition to editorial work associated with assembling Feynman's lectures, Leighton wrote the Forward, and Gottlieb the Introduction. There's also a Memoir by Matthew Sands describing the origins of the Feynman Lectures on Physics. Leighton and Gottlieb hunted for and found the (nearly lost) tapes and photographs and were the ones who negotiated (for about 5 years) with Caltech, the Feynman heirs and Addison-Wesley to arrange the book's execution. They also edited and illustrated the book.
Feynman's lectures in this book had their genesis in his concern, and among scientists and educators at Caltech, regarding the way they were teaching physics. Feynman's lectures in "Tips on Physics" came about as a consequence of Feynman giving additional help to students, particularly those who were having trouble keeping up. There's more to the book than Feynman's lectures, however, including Matt Sands memoir, and exercises in chapter 5.
While Gottlieb and Leighton are co-authors of "Tips," the part I liked best was purely Feynman. My thanks go to them primarily for making Feynman's teachings more accessible through their historical research into archived material. One of the things I like best about Feynman is his sense of humor. Take, for example, this snippet from page 17:
"...we've found a very serious problem [with grading]: no matter how carefully we select the mean, no matter how patiently we make the analysis, when they [the incoming students at Caltech] get here something happens: it always turns out that approximately half of them are below average!"
This was part of Feynman's explanation to the struggling students, explaining that even though they had been the best and brightest in their high schools, when they all came together half of them were going to be below average for the first time in their lives.
I consider "Tips on Physics" to be a good book, but it's probably the book I like least of all those devoted to Feynman's work. I suppose part of the reason is that the book isn't composed in a particularly logical way, and doesn't flow naturally from foundational concepts to derived topics. That's probably due to the circumstances in which the book was written; it's something of a hodgepodge of lectures given to struggling students, combined with material from the other authors in a form that doesn't flow as well as I'd like, with topics bounce around a bit.
Subjects include vectors (adding, subtracting, line, etc.) and the laws of gravity and motion. There are also solved problems that show how to use these various concepts. The end of the book consists of somewhat lengthy and quite interesting discussions about dynamics, including practical uses of gyroscopes and accelerometers. There's interesting practical material here, including the use of gyroscopes in stabilizing various platforms, and navigational systems using gyroscopes and accelerometers (see figure 4-21 on page 116).
The discussions about gyroscopes were the most interesting to me. These devices represent some of the most amazing mechanical inventions/designs of all time. Combined with accelerometers they form a complete navigational system. Such systems were critically important during the cold war, and were closely guarded secrets, since they were essential for targeting and delivery of nuclear weapons - both by intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as bombers. For example, on page 117 the book explains that an error of just 10^-5 g results, after integrating twice over an hour, in a positional error of over half a kilometer. Integrating twice for 10 hours increases the error to 50 kilometers.
Even though this isn't Feynman's best work I enjoyed it very much and consider it well worth reading.
If you never read any Feynman, do not start here, start with his great (serious stuff)The Feynman Lectures on Physics, boxed set: The New Millennium Edition or the stories he liked to tell (very funny stuff) Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think?
This little book introduces you to people who really liked him, so it is good. There are interesting comments from Feynman, for instance he addresses the feelings of the students who have always been the brightest in their local high school and find out in college that there are brighter students still. For students: no nonsense tips could save your bacon.
Whereas those lectures are voyages of discovery that make the reader feel that he is a true participant in the enterprise of science, those contained in this volume are generally more straightforward, and the reader is again but a lowly student ... albeit a student of one of the subject's greatest teachers. But that switch in mood is part of this book's appeal, for even as the reader trades the laboratory for the classroom in some of the more mundane aspects of problem solving, Feynman does so along with him. In fact, Feynman's admissions of the variety of mistakes he made while working out problems (some of which he admits to having to do several times in order to get them right while preparing for the lecture) made for some of the most entertaining and encouraging parts of the book. Feynman, one of the 20th century's greatest physicists, is grinding it out along with us, revealing himself to be vulnerable to the same little pitfalls that can haunt and discourage students in any hard science.
Beyond that, there are some true practical gems in the book, including a wonderfully simple method of differentiation that I had not seen presented Feynman's way until I read this book. Rounding out the lectures are some problems and solutions (not presented by Feynman) that solidify the book's practical aim. None of it is absolutely essential, and the book is arguably a bit pricey for its length. But it is certainly a worthwhile read, further enhanced, perhaps, by imagining Feynman's Far Rockaway accent as you read to make the experience of being his student seem a little more real.