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The Character of Physical Law

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Hardcover published by Modern Library (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book

In these Messenger Lectures, originally delivered at Cornell University and recorded
for television by the BBC, Richard Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws and gathers
their common features into one broad principle of invariance. He maintains at the outset that the
importance of a physical law is not "how clever we are to have found it out, but... how clever
nature is to pay attention to it," and tends his discussions toward a final exposition of the
elegance and 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. Feynman's enlightened approach, his wit, and his enthusiasm make this a
memorable exposition of the scientist's craft.The Law of Gravitation is the author's principal
example. Relating the details of its discovery and stressing its mathematical character, he uses it
to demonstrate the essential interaction of mathematics and 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 mathematical axioms. The
principles of conservation, symmetry, and time-irreversibility are then considered in relation to
developments in classical and modern physics, and in his final lecture Feynman develops his own
analysis of the process and future of scientific discovery.Like any set of oral reflections, The
Character of Physical Law has special value as a demonstration of the mind in action. The reader is
particularly lucky in Richard Feynman. One of the most eminent and imaginative modern physicists, he
was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology until his death in
1988. He is best known for his work on the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field, as well as
for his later research in the field of low-temperature physics. In 1954 he received the Albert
Einstein Award for his "outstanding contribution to knowledge in mathematical and physical
sciences"; in 1965 he was appointed to Foreign Membership in the Royal Society and was awarded the
Nobel Prize.

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In these Messenger Lectures, originally delivered at Cornell University and recorded
for television by the BBC, Richard Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws and gathers
their common features into one broad principle of invariance. He maintains at the outset that the
importance of a physical law is not "how clever we are to have found it out, but... how clever
nature is to pay attention to it," and tends his discussions toward a final exposition of the
elegance and 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. Feynman's enlightened approach, his wit, and his enthusiasm make this a
memorable exposition of the scientist's craft.The Law of Gravitation is the author's principal
example. Relating the details of its discovery and stressing its mathematical character, he uses it
to demonstrate the essential interaction of mathematics and 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 mathematical axioms. The
principles of conservation, symmetry, and time-irreversibility are then considered in relation to
developments in classical and modern physics, and in his final lecture Feynman develops his own
analysis of the process and future of scientific discovery.Like any set of oral reflections, The
Character of Physical Law has special value as a demonstration of the mind in action. The reader is
particularly lucky in Richard Feynman. One of the most eminent and imaginative modern physicists, he
was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology until his death in
1988. He is best known for his work on the quantum theory of the electromagnetic field, as well as
for his later research in the field of low-temperature physics. In 1954 he received the Albert
Einstein Award for his "outstanding contribution to knowledge in mathematical and physical
sciences"; in 1965 he was appointed to Foreign Membership in the Royal Society and was awarded the
Nobel Prize.

Product Details
Hardcover (192 pages)
Published: November 8, 1994
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Modern Library
ISBN: 9780679601272
Other books byRichard P. Feynman
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    "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"

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    One of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman possessed an unquenchable thirst for adventure and an unparalleled ability to tell the stories of his life. "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" is Feynman’s last literary legacy, which he prepared as he struggled with cancer. Among its many tales—some funny, others intensely moving—we meet Feynman’s first wife, Arlene, who taught him of love’s irreducible mystery as she lay dying in a hospital bed while he worked nearby on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. We are also given a fascinating narrative of the investigation of the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion in 1986, and we relive the moment when Feynman revealed the disaster’s cause by an elegant experiment: dropping a ring of rubber into a glass of cold water and pulling it out, misshapen. 

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  • It is odd, but on the infrequent occasions when I have been called upon in a formal place to play the bongo drums, the introducer never seems to find it necessary to mention that I also...

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  • What is it about nature that lets this happen, that it is possible to guess from one part what the rest is going to do? That is an unscientific question: I do not know how to answer it,...

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