Steve Lee's Review of Literature on Science (other than Chaos): Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc.

QED, by Richard Feynman, Princeton Science Library (Princeton University Press), 1988 (paperback)


QED was designed as a laymen's introduction to Quantum Electrodynamics (hence the title QED). Originally given as a four part lecture at UCLA, Richard Feynman does a superb job (can he do no less?) at striking a balance between the needs of an expert (to be accurate) and the needs of laymen (to be simple emough to understand). Highly recommended.

Six Easy Pieces, by Richard Feynman, (Helix Books) Addison-Wesley, 1995 (book, tapes, and/or audio CD's)


Six Easy Pieces originates from a series of lectures given by Richard Feynman -- Nobel Prize winning physicist who helped to formulate Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) -- at Caltech (the complete version is published as the Feynman Lectures). The series of lectures were designed for first and second year undergraduates (in fact, it was the only undergraduate class that Feynman ever taught at Caltech). This series takes six of these lectures (hence the name Six Easy Pieces) and puts it into both a book form and audio form. (The audio is taken from actual lectures.) The topics range from the philosophy and history of physics to the basics of QED.

If you have any degree of experience with physics, you won't find the book and the accompanying audio recordings to be earth-shattering. However, both experts and novices will find the series to be an illuminating and inspirational view of how one of history's greatest minds thought about basic problems in physics. It is awe-inspiring to see that even a genius like Feynman would step back, look at a problem, and -- if the problem was solvable -- try to solve the problem in a uniquely simple but brilliant way. When the problem wasn't "solvable," Feynman -- unlike a few people in science who can't seem to be honest to themselves, to the public, or to their science -- freely admits that physics doesn't have all of the answers.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book , however, is listening to Feynman's New York accent as he tries to explain physics to underclassmen. Whether you learn any physics or not, the joy of hearing a mind work is well worth your time.

Feynman's Lost Lectures

Feyman's Lost Lecture, by Richard Feynman, and David and Judith Goodstein, Norton, 1996 (book and audio CD)

(Image is from Norton & Co.'s Feynman's Lost Lecture homepage. Click the image to get more info on the book.)


I would recommend this book/CD for all of the reasons given for Six Easy Pieces. There are a few things I should add. This book is primarily based on a guest lecture he gave to another professor's undergraduate (introductory) class. There is only one topic covered in this work: the orbit of planets around the sun. There is an interesting reminiscence by the "co-authors" of this book -- Mr. and Mrs. Goodstein -- about the history of physics of planetary orbits and of Richard Feynman's escapades.

Coming soon: review Physics for Poets by Robert March and the REVISED edition of Stephen Hawkings' (The Illustrated) A Brief History of Time.


Visit Virtual Physics -- a Web-based physics magazine/journal with contributions by respected physicists of North America.

Feynman Stamp

Image is from the Richard Feyman stamp campaign's homepage. Click the image to get more info on how to get the US Postal Service to memorialize Richard Feynam.

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