Inspiring and very readable portrait of a free-spirited genius.

FEYNMAN’S RAINBOW

A SEARCH FOR BEAUTY IN PHYSICS AND LIFE

A former Caltech physicist pulls no punches as he recalls his encounters with Richard Feynman.

Like many scientists of his generation, Mlodinow (Euclid’s Window, 2001) was attracted to physics by Nobelist Feynman’s published lectures on quantum theory. In 1981, this newly minted Ph.D. found himself in an office just down the hall from his idol. Caltech was then, as now, one of the major centers of physics research: Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann was in the office next door, and another faculty member at the time was John Schwarz, the leading advocate of a then-disreputable notion that would eventually blossom into string theory. Uncertain what he was doing in such high-powered company, Mlodinow had long talks with Feynman about every aspect of science and life. The physicist permitted his young colleague to tape some of their conversations, and this account is based in part on transcripts of those tapes, interspersed with Mlodinow's reminiscences about life at Caltech. Neither the author nor his famous not-quite-mentor were comfortable in academic culture. Feynman was a notorious nonconformist, often working on physics in strip clubs, or eating lunch at the student union instead of at the elegant faculty club. Mlodinow spent much of his free time smoking dope and watching old gangster movies with working-class friends. He dabbled in fiction writing, a pastime most of his scientific colleagues regarded with suspicion if not outright scorn. Feynman did what he could to assuage Mlodinow's trepidations about a physics career, offering insights into scientific creativity and the nature of physics, as well as more general topics. Already diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually kill him, Feynman had arrived at unconventional conclusions about the world at large.

Inspiring and very readable portrait of a free-spirited genius.

Pub Date: May 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53045-X

Page Count: 200

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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