Although when heard spoken in his familiar, light-hearted and endearing drawl they seem to slip more easily into the mind, transcripts are always a wonderfully useful searchable reference.


Feynman's Red Books, a name given to the Lectures affectionately by many physicists and physics students on account of their color, are wonderful for those seeking enrichment in physics. However, they aren't so good if one doesn't already have some background in the subject, and they're certainly not very good if one seeks a level of understanding similar to physics students (for that, the traditional textbooks are still best). For the layman, I think another red book is even better: Isaac Asimov's Understanding Physics.

Understanding Physics has a couple core advantages over the Red Books. First, the treatment is less mathematical. This is not necessarily an advantage, but I certainly think it is when offering the book to a layman (which is what many try to do with the Red Books). Second, Asimov introduces historical context into every section. In fact, Understanding Physics is almost as much about the science of physics as it is about the history of physics. That's not to say Feynman ignores the past in the Red Books, but Asimov certainly gives it a much greater degree of attention. I find two outcomes after reading Understanding Physics: (1) If you know physics, then you'll come out with a greater appreciation of it and its history (2) If you don't know physics then you'll come out knowing basic physics (note the emphasis) and a greater appreciation of it and its history. You can find the entire first part here. Part 1 is about "Motion, Sound, and Heat."

posted by Complexity: 2111 days ago