Learning Graphically: Feynman in Comics!


One of the comics I've gotten the most out of in terms of education has been the graphic biography of Richard Feynman, the American theoretical physicist with an amazing body of work who co-won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Feynman is known for several things, including his work in quantum mechanics, particle physics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium and the development of a theory of quantum electrodynamics (for which he won the Nobel with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga). Some of the most significant parts of the graphic history of Feynman, however, have to do with his part in the development of the atomic bomb and his role in the investigation of the Challenger shuttle disaster. "Feynman" is written by Jim Ottaviani with art by Leland Myrick and colored by Hilary Sycamore. I'm not a physics expert in any way, but I found their Feynman biography extremely interesting and illuminating! I highly recommend it for anyone, but I can speak to the fact that it's a great way to get to know this aspect of science history and the scientific community in a really engaging and fun way. There's so much great humor, information and accessibility that just oozes out of its colorful pages! My favorite part of "Feynman" is the portrayal of his famous lectures. I'm a big fan of making academic subjects accessible to a wide audience - because we should all have a chance to get excited about all the wonderful discoveries and thought-provoking research being done out in the world! Feynman was a master of this in physics. He delivered many lectures that were known for explaining extremely complex and cutting edge physics concepts in a way that anyone could understand (such as his lecture on nanotechnology called "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom"). According to the graphic biography, that was the goal he set for himself! The best part is that you get to experience excerpts of these lectures right in the comic. More than any other medium, a graphic narrative like this was exactly effective for showing a lecture as if you were there - seeing him by the board, looking at the diagrams, and reading his explanations. Now I'm really excited about finding a copy of his three-volume collection of undergraduate lectures, "The Feynman Lectures on Physics." Before reading this comic, I would not have felt confident enough to think I would understand a series of physics lectures (at least not with several years of preparation). But the magic of Ottaviani's "Feynman" is that, like the famous physicist himself wanted, it can convince us that physics is something everyone can understand and enjoy! I highly recommend that you pick up a copy, no matter how much you do or don't know about science. I attached a link to the American Scientist article about the comic, which includes a free preview of "Feynman." Additionally, some great news! The Feynman Lectures on Physics are available online for your reading pleasure, thanks to the California Institute of Technology: http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/

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