The Character of Physical Law

The Character of Physical Law In the Messenger Lectures originally delivered at Cornell University recorded for TV by the BBC Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws gathers their common features into one broad prin

  • Title: The Character of Physical Law
  • Author: Richard Feynman James Gleick
  • ISBN: 9780679601272
  • Page: 371
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In the Messenger Lectures, originally delivered at Cornell University recorded for TV by the BBC, Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws gathers their common features into one broad principle of invariance He maintains at the outset that the importance of a physical law isn t how clever we are to have found it out, but clever nature is toIn the Messenger Lectures, originally delivered at Cornell University recorded for TV by the BBC, Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws gathers their common features into one broad principle of invariance He maintains at the outset that the importance of a physical law isn t how clever we are to have found it out, but clever nature is to pay attention to it tends his discussions toward a final exposition of the elegance simplicity of all scientific laws Rather than an essay on the most significant achievements in modern science, The Character of Physical Law is a statement of what is most remarkable in nature His enlightened approach, wit enthusiasm make this a memorable exposition of the scientist s craft The Law of Gravitation is the principal example Relating the details of its discovery stressing its mathematical character, he uses it to demonstrate the essential interaction of mathematics physics He views mathematics as the key to any system of scientific laws, suggesting that if it were possible to fill out the structure of scientific theory completely, the result would be an integrated set of axioms The principles of conservation, symmetry time irreversibility are then considered in relation to developments in classical modern physics In his final lecture he develops his own analysis of the process future of scientific discovery Like any set of oral reflections, The Character of Physical Law has value as a demonstration of a mind in action The reader is particularly lucky in Feynman One of the most eminent imaginative modern physicists, he was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology until his death in 1988 He s best known for work on the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field, as well as for later research in the field of low temperature physics In 1954 he received the Albert Einstein Award for an outstanding contribution to knowledge in mathematical physical sciences in 1965 he was appointed to Foreign Membership in the Royal Society was awarded the Nobel Prize.

    508 Comment

    • Manny says:

      As I progressed through this excellent little book, I began to feel that the style was somehow familiar from another genre. Mozart? Perhaps e.e. cummings? But my subconscious, while granting that I wasn't totally off-base, informed me that it had a chess analogy in mind. I had never thought about it before, but I am suddenly rather taken with the idea of comparing great physics writers with great chess players. Penrose reminds me of Tal, trusting his astonishing visual intuition to steer him thr [...]

    • brian says:

      all the great early-20th century physicists came up with this l. ron hubbardish conceit to invent a pornucopia of whackadoo sci-fi theories and sell 'em to the public as hard 'reality'… the solvay conference - where they came up with the first round of bullshit - was a blast! they eliminated absolute time, described light as particle & wave, defined space as 'curved', played with cats which were simultaneously dead and alive, came up with a slew of random constants, and - just as Area 51 i [...]

    • Robert says:

      This is a fantastic little book for which we have to thank the BBC: They decided to film these lectures and subsequently publish transcripts of them, at a time before Feynman had turned into a one-man industry and every one of Feynman`s students`first-draft lecture notes became as diamond dust.The title tells one enough about the contents; if you have any interest in the topic you should read this book. It is almost but not completely non-mathematical. If you can cope with the algebra contained [...]

    • Roy Lotz says:

      It is impossible, by the way, by picking one of anything to pick one that is not atypical in some sense. That is the wonder of the world.I would probably be giving this little book five stars if I wasn't already familiar with much of it from reading Feynman's Six Easy Pieces and Six Not-So-Easy Pieces. There's a good deal of overlap in the material, and Feynman even uses several of the same examples and analogies. It seems he was so often explaining these things that he developed a method. I mus [...]

    • إيمان says:

      يعد ريتشارد فاينمان بلا ريب واحد من أعظم فيزيائيي القرن العشرين إن لم يكن واحد من الأعظم على الإطلاق. كانت له عدَة اسهامات في مجال فيزياء الجسيمات, الميوعة الفائقة, ميكانيكا الكم و الكهروديناميكا الكميَة. و عن أبحاثه حول الأخيرة تحصَل على جائزة نوبل للفيزياء سنة 1965 بالتشارك [...]

    • Christopher Wilson says:

      I once had a friend that I was tutoring in physics explain to me that this was her intro physics "textbook". Amazingly, though I was studying physics, I hadn't really been introduced to Richard Feynman in any real way. That Saturday, I sat down with a cup of coffee in my small rooming house kitchen and started reading this book. Feynman is a magician of explanation. On every page I read, Feynman took some concept that I was familiar with and tugged it apart, then with a sly turn deftly snapped i [...]

    • Zanna says:

      It is commonplace to praise Feynman for describing fiendishly difficult concepts in friendly vernacular and intuitive analogies, for example, his wet towels metaphor for the second law of thermodynamics communicates its content, import, and the sad desperation physicists have felt about it unforgettably. But what matters as much is that he is never sloppy, he never allows an analogy to carry away substance or overstep its explanatory limits. I have read other accounts of the double-slit experime [...]

    • Jeremy says:

      This is not a book about the content of physics, but the practice of physics. What is it physicists do and how do they think? Feynman's explanation here is unmatched in its clarity and accessibility.

    • Mohamed al-Jamri says:

      This is a short and easy to understand book. It is beneficial mostly to those new to popular science books. Feynman talks about the following topics: What are the laws of nature and how are they discovered. The story of the Law of Gravity up to Einstein, and that of the law of conservation of energy. The uncertainty and universality of the laws of nature. The flow of time, order and disorder (entropy). Levels of complexity. Quantum mechanics and uncertainty principle. And falsifiability.

    • Ami Iida says:

      the author explained "Foundation of quantum mechanics and Physics".He treated many interesting physics and quantum mechanics examples.I have a lot of harvest from the book. (^ ^)V

    • David says:

      I read this transcript of lectures and watched some of them on YouTube as well. The first few are good reviews about gravity and basic physics concepts, but the interesting bits are about the nature of the laws themselves: how they were discovered and how science works in practice. I was surprised to learn first that the axiomatic approach that grounds mathematics isn't the most effective way to approach physics and that (relatedly) physicists often guess at the right explanations and only later [...]

    • Asmaa M says:

      A lovely book.

    • Janet Pittman says:

      My son, Ryan, recommended this book since I wanted to learn more about Physics, and Richard Feynman per: Ryan is "great at explaining terms that everyone can understand". The content is seven lectures delivered at Cornell University in 1964, and I must admit that some of the material went in one eyeball and out the other despite Mr. Feynman's great diagrams and simplified explanations. The concepts of gravitation, conservation, symmetry, probability, uncertainty, and more are reviewed with credi [...]

    • خُلود يحيى says:

      الكتاب عبارة عن مجموعة محاضرات للفيزيائي الشهير رتشارد فاينمان، ويستحق الخمسة نجوم إن تجاوزنا الترجمة السيئة للجمعية العلمية السعودية للعلوم الفيزيائية واستثنينا المحاضرة السابعة والأخيرة "البحث عن قوانين جديدة" والتي لمح خلالها مرات عديدة -بثقة غير علمية- بأن عصر التنظي [...]

    • Bishnu Bhatta Buttowski says:

      I'm in dilemma what should I say whether I've read the book or watched lecture series. Well I did the both of the things. This book is the textual version of the Messenger Lecture that Feynman delivered in 1964 at Cornell University.I didn't want to rate this book but finally I decided to do this anyway. Feynman as a witty prodigy we know of delivered his speech in the same way he's known of. This lecture series covers not all the aspects that shapes our universe but tries to do so by explaining [...]

    • Ryan Curry says:

      Enjoyed this one quite a bit. Particularly the last chapter on seeking new Laws of nature.

    • Jan says:

      Feynman explains how we got to various laws and how scientists think about the new ones. I particularly enjoyed the explanation of process of how Newton came up with gravitation equation and the double slit experiment which demonstrates that electrons behave both like waves and particles. Feynman uses his characteristic analogies and stories to make the explanations super-captivating.

    • Brian Clegg says:

      This was a late discovery for me amongst Richard Feynman's books, and it's something of an oddity. Like all the books with his name on, this wasn't a case of Feynman sitting down to write a book; he never wrote a single book - in this case it's a transcription of a set of lectures Feynman gave at Cornell University which were broadcast in the UK by the BBC.What the great physicist sets out to do is to explore the nature of physical laws. Where this works best (and he would probably have hated th [...]

    • Kerem Cankocak says:

      Profesör R. Feynman sadece fizik yasalarının bugünkü kavranışına yaptığı katkılarla değil, fiziği fizikçi olmayanlar için de çekici kılma yeteneğiyle tanınır. Elinizdeki kitap, Feynman'ın davetli olarak geldiği Amerika Birleşik Devletleri'nin Cornell Üniversitesi'nde verdiği bir dizi konferansı kapsamaktadır. Feynman fiziğin geniş evrenini, bir Marslı'yla yapılan hayalî telefon konuşması benzeri örnekler çeşitliliği içerisinde bizlere tanıtmaktadır.“Ol [...]

    • albin james says:

      Prof. Feynman consciously chooses select examples like the Law of Gravitation (which he says would have been considered less fancy Physics by then) and uses them to emphasise how tight-knit things really are in nature and how Mathematics is an indispensable tool for Physics. He goes into showing the importance of careful study and hard work while explaining the process of scientific research. He shows utmost respect to nature by taking a no nonsense attitude and avoiding any false modesty (he kn [...]

    • Giorgos Vachtanidis says:

      Εξαιρετικό βιβλίο. Για όσους ήδη ασχολούνται με τη Φυσική, θα τους αναθερμάνει και θα τους εντείνει το ενδιαφέρον και για όσους δεν ασχολούνται, θα τους γεννήσει την επιθυμία να το κάνουν!

    • David says:

      Feynman's lectures make good reading. That alone is somewhat unusual, since many lectures do not survive well when they are simply transcribed. The other unusual thing about Feynman's lecture style is that he makes what he's talking about clear and accessible without an excess of jargon. His approach is sometimes quirky, but in his lectures you can see how he thinks about that approach. In these lectures, there's a balance between musings about physics and musings about how people think (about p [...]

    • Abdulrahman Kauther says:

      For a long time, I was against the idea of having a favorite book; I thought it would be like picking a favorite child. But this book completely shattered this mindset.If you are not a physicist, this book will be a very easy and simple way for you to understand what physics is, and how we study it. On the other hand, if you are a physicist, this book will provide you with an extremely beautiful and concise way to look at the world and think about the major concepts of physics.This is, rightfull [...]

    • Tom says:

      I procrastinated reading this because I thought the level of physics might be too difficult. It is actually extremely accessible and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the way the universe works and the relationship between mathematics and physics. Since the chapters are transcribed lectures, there are a few points in the book at which complex mathematics is glossed over or presented as an understood explanation. Also, as lectures, the diagrams and illustrations are sparse, which makes the [...]

    • Sean says:

      Book was great but listen to the guy's lectures and you get a feel for what it must have been like to learn from him.

    • Chi-Tathon Kupwiwat says:

      A critical, quantitative and imaginative way of thought to see nature.The Law of Gravitation, an example of Physical LawPg.13 Even the artists appreciate sunsets, and the ocean waves, and the march of the stars across the heavens. There is then some reason to talk of other things sometimes. As we look into these things we get an aesthetic pleasure from them directly from observation. There is also a rhythm and a pattern between the phenomena of nature which is not apparent to the eye, but only t [...]

    • Sebastian says:

      What the title of this book promises is an analysis of the concept of physical law, a text that would go “meta” and, perhaps, analyse what the concept of a physical law is, how it came/comes about, how it relates to the natural world, or how we as humans deal with it. When the book does actually grapple with these issues, it truly shines, but sadly, this only happens in the early and late chapters. The middle is a sort of highly-compressed tour of some examples of physical laws that seems ai [...]

    • Eric says:

      Not quite amazing but a very entertaining scientific tour of the reality of the world around us. Usually just a step removed from being too difficult to follow. I did have one very interesting insight as this went on. Feynman posed that one could eventually understand the meanderings of the glacier from analyzing with increasing care the behavior of the ice crystals from which it is made. We recently finished listening to T. Colin Campbell's "Whole," wherein he spoke of one of our problems in nu [...]

    • Daniel says:

      This isn’t a book about physics — This is a book about how to think. “I would like to imagine a discussion between a Mayan astronomer and his student. The Mayans were able to calculate with great precision predictions, for example, for eclipses and position of the moon in the sky, the position of Venus, etc. It was all done by arithmetic. They counted a certain number and subtracted some numbers, and so on. There was no discussion of what the moon was. There was no discussion even if the i [...]

    • Fipah says:

      3 stars = I liked it A light read that serves as a non-mathematical introduction to variegated chapters of general physics. I found the volume to be too light actually, as I felt that everything was indeed aimed at a reader who has a very low foundation in science. Surprisingly, this was mentioned even by the author himself; he discussed the many readers' futile endeavour to learn about science via reading popular science books, and I do agree with his premise that one cannot learn much from suc [...]

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