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Friday, February 8, 2013

Excellent book by Richard Feynman -- but I am not sure it it counts as an adolescent or young adult book

     Richard Feynman led an interesting life.  He was recruited while still in graduate school to work on the atomic bomb project.  He soon found himself in the company of world-famous scientists like Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein.  He drove the Army security officers crazy by figuring out how to crack open the safes and the file cabinets that held the secrets of the bomb (possibly making him the first real hacker?) and by evading the army censors by sending coded letters to his wife, then supplying the censors with the code.  Later in life he did some of the earliest theorizing about nanotechnology and served on the commission to investigate the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.  Throughout his entire life, he exemplified the heart of scientific thinking by being endlessly and boundlessly curious.  The book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999) is Feynman in his own words -- through a series of graduation addresses, interviews, and shorter pieces.  Equal parts science, math, history, and humor -- high school students who consider themselves nerds in good standing will love this book.
     The problem is, it really isn't a Young Adult or Adolescent book.  At least, it doesn't seem to be marketed that way.  In fact, judging from the cover, it seems to be written for adults.  I don't for the life of me know why.  Feynman, even when he was well past middle age, seemed to have the energy, spirit, and sense of humor of a teenager.  Sure, some of the physics and math language is very occasionally challenging (though this is a rare thing), but I am not sure why this book isn't actively marketed for high school readers.  All high school physics teachers, mathematics teachers, history teachers, and maybe English teachers should have this on their shelf, ready to lend out.  It is a good one. 

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