The Feynman, Lectures on Physics, 3 volumes (Anglais) Broché – 1 janvier 1970
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This three volume work was originally designed for a two-year introductory physics course given at the California Institute of Technology — a course designed to take advantage of readers' increasing mathematical prowess and to provide a more comprehensive view of modern-day physics. The volumes are an edited version of Richard Feynman's lectures, taped and transcribed specifically for the books. Feynman's effective classroom style remains intact in these volumes, a valuable work by a remarkable educator. It is a rigorous undertaking that resulted in a classic reference work for anyone interested in physics.--Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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I was spellbound. It was unimaginable to me that a subject so full of technical detail, formulas and equations, could be brought to life so brilliantly and vividly.
I soon changed my major to math, and I never heard or thought of Richard Feynman again until the Challenger disaster about 20 years later. When President Reagan appointed Feynman to the investigating panel, I said, "Hey! That's the guy who wrote those wonderful Physics books!"
Since then I have learned a lot more about Richard Feynman, and I guess I could say that if I have a hero, he's it. I have also gone back to look at these incomparable physics books again, and they are at least as magnificent as I thought they were in 1966. After decades of reading math and science books, I still believe this set of three books is head and shoulders above ANY textbook that I have seen in ANY subject. (Although, as others have said, it isn't really a textbook. On the other hand, after reading these books, you are likely to ask, "Who the hell needs a texbook?")
Feynman manages to cover the technical and mechanical details of his subject while at the same time conveying a deep and philosophical understanding of the way the physical world works. He shines a dazzling and penetrating floodlight on a subject which is murky to all but the most talented among us.
No praise is too high or too exaggerated for this work. It is one of the great achievements in the history of scientific writing.
The books bespeak the Beauty of Physics. Feynman's enthusiasm and
creativity comes through. The wonder and joy of physics is there.
For this alone the books are rightly appreciated. I have the set on my bookshelf and do go back to read it from time to time.
The dark side can be shown by Feynman himself in Volume 3. Regarding the lectures, he says "...I think the system is a failure." It seemed to only reach the brightest students and the ones with the best physics backgrounds. He quotes Gibbons: "The
power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous." In short,
the lectures do NOT make a great text.
I was an undergraduate at Caltech starting in 1970, and the first two years of physics used these books as text. There was a book of problems accompanying the lectures, but the connection was slight. The majority of us had a hard time. Beauty is one thing, but solving problems is another. It took years of grinding through Schaum's and other books to gain an understanding of physics sufficient for a Ph.D., which I now actually have.
So that's how I view these books. They are must-have books, but it is difficult to use them as a text. (Volume 3, the Quantum
Mechanics one comes the closest, I must confess.)
It has always been widely agreed that the Lectures are insufficient as a standalone textbook, and best used as supplemental reading. As can be seen from the reviews here, Feynman's approach appeals to many readers, but falls flat with others. This is not surprising, as different people respond to different ways of explaining physics. As an historical aside, Feynman and Schwinger took such different approaches to developing quantum electrodynamics theory that it wasn't immediately clear that their formulations were even equivalent. Most physicists find Feynman's approach easier to learn, but others find it unsatisfying. People are different. Physicists are different. Even physics students are different. There is not, and will never be, one book that is the best for every reader. The Feynman Lectures are great because they have been so enlightening to so many people, not because they meet the impossible standard of being clear to every reader.
That said, these are real physics books, so don't bother if you are looking for a superficial understanding. If you already know physics you can probably breeze through the books pretty easily getting a lot of nice insights, but otherwise you need to be prepared to work hard. Also, as a self-teaching tool, these books are incomplete, since they contain no problems, and actually don't prepare you very well to do problems (unless, perhaps, you are as smart as Feynman). For that you probably need a more conventional physics text. I used "Theoretical Physics" by Georg Joos, which is available from Dover (and can be ordered here) because it has lots of problems with complete solutions in the back of the book, but there are many other good, more pedestrian, physics texts to supplement FLP.
If what you want is something lighter, I highly recommend "The Character of Physical Law". You'll learn something and it won't hurt so much. (I also recommend that you see the movies if you possibly can. He was amazing in front of an audience.)