Latest Review

Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

The Impulse Factor
Nick Tasler

Other Book Reviews

The End of Certainty
Moonwalking with Einstein
Wind, Sand and Stars
At Home in the Universe
What's Mine is Yours
Organize with Chaos
We Are What We Think
The Impulse Factor
The Perfect Swarm
A Guide for the Perplexed
Understanding Comics
Dead Poets Society
Bad Science
Motionless Journey
The Five Day Course in Thinking
Small is Beutiful
The Quantum and the Lotus
Into the Wild
Man on Wire
Never Have a Bad Day Ever Again
Turning to One Another
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
The Little Prince
Bradbury Stories
For One More Day
Finding Our Way
Leadership and the New Science
Secrets of the People Whisperer
Mind Set
The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Boost Your Creative Intelligence
A Simpler Way
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Run Lola Run
Snow Cake
Design and Layout
Creativity Today
Graphic Design School
The Explorer's Eye
The Pig that Wants to be Eaten
The Empty Raincoat
Business the Richard Branson Way
Exercises in Style
A Short History of Nearly Everything
How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci
Oulipo Compendium
POD People
Flash Fiction
Review of How to Change Your Life in 7 Steps
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Screw it, Let's do it
How to Get Ideas
The Art of Travel
Introducing Chaos
Deep Simplicity
Introducing Quantum Theory
Introducing Fractal Geometry
Review of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
Nature's Chaos
Zen in the Art of Writing
The Art of Possibility
Experimental Tarvel
The Art of Looking Sideways
The Power of Now
The Alchemist
The monk who sold his Ferrari
Review of Man's Search for Meaning
Review of Einstein's Dreams
Review of The Ultimate Book of Business Thinking
Review of What Do You Care What Other People Think?
Review of The Tipping Point
Review of Who Moved My Cheese?
Review of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Review of Zeno and the Tortoise
Review of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Review of Emergence
Review of Pooh and the Philosophers
Review of Business The Ultimate Resource
Review of Shackleton's Way
Review of Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work
Review of Reckoning with Risk
Review of Field of Dreams
Review of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
Review of 101 Philosophy Problems
Review of The Spirited Business
Review of Genius
Books available in association with

James Gleick

View Genius on AmazonThis is a fantastic book for those interested in physics, but more importantly for those interested in change.

It is the biography of Richard Feynman, the talented physicist, winner of the Nobel Prize and major contributor to our understanding of particle physics. The term ‘genius’ is often used cheaply, and although Feynman would have declined the description, having read this account it is difficult to argue that he was not fully deserving of the title.

I first became aware of Richard Feynman through quotations credited to him, and was intrigued to find out more about the man behind the ideas. This book deals with his life and achievements and as much of this was directed at the hidden and mysterious world and mathematics that define the inner working of atoms, you might expect a difficult read. Have no fear. James Gleick has done a brilliant job of avoiding the mathematics whilst successfully conveying the ideas that Feynman spent a lifetime working on, without belittling them through oversimplification. Instead he succeeds in graphically illuminating the world of quantum physics as a truly remarkable one where particles exist for fractions of a billionth of a second, appear capable of travelling back in time, and provide the key to unlock our understanding of the universe, gravity and time itself.

‘I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.’
Richard Feynman.

That James Gleick is able to graphically convey the work of a genius operating in this field is truly fitting since the hallmark of Feynman’s work was a single minded focus on creating and sharing understanding, to create penny dropping moments of revelation, no matter how complex the underlying concepts. His career spanned almost the entire period of the development of modern physics, through to his untimely death in 1988. His life criss-crossed the paths of an array of great scientists such as Einstein, Dirac and Fermi and includes work on the development of the atom bomb and the investigation of the Challenger Shuttle disaster. Along the way he left a trail of discoveries. ideas and people he inspired, and received the Nobel Prize in recognition of only a small part of his contribution to science.

All of this is a fascinating account of a key participant and luminary at the cutting edge of scientific advance. But for me it is so much more. With an interest in the journey of change, this book provides a real insight into the thinking and approach of someone who saw change as an invitation to explore. His guiding principles were that nothing can ever be known with absolute certainty and that all knowledge was partial and temporary. For Feynman, as for Einstein, the most powerful tool in creating advance was imagination.

Rather than the widespread popularly held view that science is about the known, Feynman lived his life in the belief that science was about the process of how things get to be known, and how we understand the extent to which things remain unknown, for nothing is known absolutely.

‘He believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish on our ability to know, but as the essence of knowing. The alternative to uncertainty is authority, against which science has fought for centuries; teach doubt not to be feared but to be welcomed. ... it was not certainty, but freedom from certainty that empowered people to make judgements about right and wrong’ - a true explorer.

We might say that not simply science, but life itself is about the unknown.

This is a book full of insights. If you want to glimpse into the world of quantum physics and understand concepts and principles that you may have feared were beyond you, this book does the job. Beyond this the book provides an insight into the thinking of a man who was truly a genius and who defined genius as the ability to question, challenge, understand and create understanding. Richard Feynman would not have described himself as a genius, simply that whilst most people seek to collect answers and catalogue the known, he spent a lifetime dealing with questions and recognising that nothing is truly known. With this apparently small change in outlook and approach, we are perhaps all geniuses.

‘We are not that much smarter than each other’
Richard Feynman

Feynman is quoted as saying that he never read a scientific biography that he enjoyed. I agree with the reviewer who on the back cover suggests that he would have enjoyed this one. I read it on holiday and recommend that you set aside a little time to do the same. Incidentally, Feynman wrote two books ‘What Do You Care What Other People Think?’, which is reviewed here, and ‘Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman!’ which I aim to read soon.

Steve Unwin
August 2 2004.

View or buy from View Genius on Amazon