Monday, December 5, 2005

Book Review: The Meaning of it All

Richard Feynman was a great speaker. If you haven't had chance, check out the Feyman lectures on physics, and at a minimum, give the first 3 a try.

I also really enjoyed his more anecdotal books, "Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?". I was disappointed that there weren't more like them.

So what a pleasant surprise when I came across the title "The Meaning of it All" when browsing the local second hand book store.

The Meaning of it All is not a book he wrote, but rather the transcript of three lectures he gave at University of Washington in '63.

From the Amazon site's reviews:

"Many appreciate Richard P. Feynman's contributions to twentieth-century physics, but few realize how engaged he was with the world around him-how deeply and thoughtfully he considered the religious, political, and social issues of his day. Now a wonderful book-based on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963-shows us this other side of Feynman, as he expounds on the inherent conflict between science and religion, on people's distrust of politicians, and on our universal fascination with flying saucers, faith healing, and mental telepathy."

It surprising how many things he talks about are still current-day issues. Culture of fear and use of fear by the far right to justify actions; dangers of dumbing down media; ethics in science... It makes me wonder how much these really are 'new' issues. Are they really constantly there and we fail to have the hind-sight to see that, or are they cyclical perhaps?

Anyhow, if you can find a copy, pick it up. It's a great, quick read that will help you frame some of your thinking, regardless of which side of the issues you stand on.

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