Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher (Anglais) Broché – 7 avril 2011
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After I saw the 10 year anniversary edition to "A Breif History of Time" I felt guilty and I read my 10 year old copy. I should have read this book first. I would have been much better prepared to read the other. Both books were great but Feynman did a better job of relating the scientific to the mundane.
These essays were transcribed from a series of lectures in the early 1960s. Although the nominal purpose was to teach physics, the real goal was to convey the excitement of science and its relationship to the everyday world. A few points have aged, especially where Feynman connects biology, but the discussion as a whole is still informative and enjoyable.
This is a great book for just about any kind of reader: the serious scientist who wants to see Feynman's mind at work, or the interested layman who wants some math-free insight into the physics of the macro and micro worlds.
In reading Six Easy Pieces, I had a distinct sympathy with Feynman's undergraduate students. The man's mind must have run at the speed of light, ideas just firing off like gunshots. For a decade that had only reel to reel tape recorders, and big ones at that, the only resort for the student taking notes would have to have been a strong skill at shorthand.
I had expected a more difficult and thorough book, but the author presents a very simple, almost too brief, analysis of basic physics in this volume, which is a section of a larger text based on his lectures. In it he illustrates the close association, even a basic underpinning, of other sciences by physics. He notes relationships with earth sciences, particularly geology, with astronomy/cosmology, biology, and chemistry in particular. What he doesn't do is go into very great detail on how these areas relate to one another, his discussion of chemistry being the most thorough of them.
The book is very short, and the author spends much of it on the history and relationships of physics as a science. It is more like a general introduction written to preface material presented later in the course. He does a nice job of explaining the issue of particle/wave duality in electromagnetic and other waves in the final chapter of the book, which also suggests that the bulk of the book is "introductory" in nature and that more is to come later.
Athough the author presents some equations and graphs, those who are math-shy needn't be daunted; they are straight forward and helpful in understanding the points the author makes. Furthermore, Feynman's narative style goes very rapidly. He jumps from topic to topic, intercalating brief stories and amusing comments to put his message across in an entertaining manner, rather than in a ponderous discussion or chalk boards full of formulae.
Although the reader who has no physics background may enjoy learning something of the field through this book, I suspect those with a science background may find one of the more recent books on the subject more informative.
Feynman, like all great teachers, understands his subject so well that he is able to explain the concepts behind it in clear, simple terms.
There are 6 chapters in the book, all of them generalized lectures on topics in physics. Feynman explains the structure of the atom and there is a very excellent description of charge and how atoms attract each other.
I really enjoyed the chapter on the relationship of physics to the other sciences, especially chemistry and biology. There is even a section on the relationship of physics to psychology.
Chapter 5 is on gravity and there is a great explanation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Newtons law of gravitation. These ideas are explained so understandably, I felt like I received a clear conceptual picture of what is happening.
But the highlight of the book for me is Chapter 6 on quantum behavior. Feynman explains the wave-particle duality and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle so well that I really felt I understood the basic ideas. I am just a layman but I found I could really get what he was saying.
Another thing I liked about the book is its honesty. If there is something physics does not understand, Feyman admits it, outlining the parameters of knowledge but acknowledging deficiencies.
The author doesn't come across as a know-it-all, and doesn't 'talk down' to the reader, something which I find refreshing in a science book.
Like any book by Richard Feynman, this one is a delight to read. Informative, honest and with that unique Feynman ability to make even the most complex ideas understandable to the intelligent layman.