Feynman's Lost Lecture: Motion of Planets Around the Sun

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9780224043946: Feynman's Lost Lecture: Motion of Planets Around the Sun

Richard Feynman's fame rests to a large extent on his picaresque exploits, but he was also a theoretical physicist of some significance. The discovery of the notes for his major lecture on the motion of planets around the sun, presented in this book, allows readers an insight into the workings of his mind. The book relates how the notes came to be lost, and how they came to be found again and reconstructed. The lecture concerns the fact that, when a planet or any other body arcs through space under the influence of gravity, it traces out a specific set of mathematical curves. Feynman considers why nature chooses to trace out in the sky those - and only those - elegant geometrical constructions.

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Review:

Richard Feynman, the rock star of theoretical physics, has left an image that belies his nerdy side. Not many bongo-playing surfer beatniks would have spent hours of their spare time proving Newton's law of elliptical planetary motion using only plane geometry. But Feynman's Lost Lecture: The Motion of Planets Around the Sun shows that the great man did just that. Originally delivered to an introductory physics class at Caltech in 1963, this 76-minute CD and book set contains everything the math-savvy listener needs to savor the pleasures of applied math. Caltech physicist David L. Goodstein and archivist Judith R. Goodstein found the notes and tape amid another professor's papers and set to work making sense of them; unfortunately, photographs of the blackboard drawings didn't survive. The book briefly covers their find and recovery work, then presents the proof as reconstructed--crucial reading if one is to follow the lecture. There's nothing easy about it, as Feynman acknowledges in the lecture:

I am going to give what I will call an elementary demonstration. "Elementary" means that very little is required to know ahead of time in order to understand it, except to have an infinite amount of intelligence.
He means, instead, that he is strictly using geometrical methods to reach his destination, which explains why it was so difficult to reconstruct without his diagrams. His charming Brooklyn accent and good humor show through in this lecture, even if the material is quite a bit drier than his fans might expect. Still, those interested in adding a new dimension to their understanding of this brilliant scientist--and those with a deep interest in Newtonian physics--will find The Motion of Planets Around the Sun a rare and unexpected treat. --Rob Lightner

From the Back Cover:

On March 13, 1964, Feynman delivered a lecture to the Caltech freshman class, "The Motion of Planets Around the Sun"why the planets move elliptically instead of in perfect circles. For reasons unknown, most probably for his own amusement, he chose to make the argument using mathematics no more advanced than high-school plane geometry. Isaac Newton had pulled off much the same trick nearly 300 years earlier in his masterpiece, the Principia. Feynman, unable to follow Newton's obscure proof, invented his own original, geometrical proof in the Caltech lecture. The subject of Feynman's lecture was the watershed discovery that separated the ancient world discovery that separated the ancient world from the modern world - the culmination of the Scientific Revolution. Before Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, the universe was Earth-centered. After their discoveries, our idea of the universe steadily altered and expanded, moving outward to the infinity we try to understand in our own time. Thus Feynman deals here with a crowning achievement of the human mind, comparable to Beethoven's symphonies. Shakespeare's plays, or Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Feynman conclusively demonstrates the astonishing fact that has mystified and intrigued all deep thinkers since Newton's time: Nature obeys mathematics. For thirty years this brilliant and seminal lecture lay dormant in the Caltech archives. Now, in this book, Feynman's lost lecture has been reconstructed and explained in meticulous detail together with a history of ideas of the planets' motions. Anyone who remembers high-school geometry can enjoy it and can profit from the compact disc that accompanies this book.

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Richard P. Feynman
Editorial: Jonathan Cape Ltd (1996)
ISBN 10: 0224043943 ISBN 13: 9780224043946
Nuevos Tapa dura Cantidad: 1
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Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, Estados Unidos de America)
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Descripción Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1996. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M0224043943

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