The New York Times bestseller: sequel to “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”—funny, poignant, instructive.
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.
Roughly half of these 21 short, colloquial essays deal with Feynman’s firsthand investigaton of the Challenger space-shuttle disaster. He casts himself in the role of intrepid detective, and the first-person singular pronoun keeps intruding on the worthwhile things he has to say about flight safety and lack of communication within NASA. An appendix offers his chilling technical observations on the shuttle’s reliability or lack of it. The remaining pieces are mostly a blur of international conferences, purveying slight anecdotes. But two essays touch genuine depths of feeling: his tribute to his father, who taught him to cultivate a sense of wonder, and his account of his love affair with his first wife (who died). In this posthumous miscellany, theoretical physicist Feynman displays only sporadically the adventurousness that captivated readers of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman. ~ Publisher Weekly