Physicist . . . Nobel winner . . . bestselling author . . . safe-cracker.
Feynman tells the story of a great man’s life, from his childhood in Long Island to his work on the Manhattan Project and the Challenger disaster. You’ll see him help build the first atomic bomb, give a lecture to Einstein, become a safecracker, try not to win a Nobel Prize (but do it anyway), fall in love, learn how to become an artist, and discover the world.
Anyone who ever wanted to know more about quantum electrodynamics, the fine art of the bongo drums, the outrageously obscure nation of Tuva, or the development and popularization of physics in the United States need look no further!
Feynman explores a wonderful life, lived to the fullest.
About the storytellers: Cartoonist Leland Myrick is the Ignatz Award- and Harvey Award-nominated author and illustrator of The Sweet Collection, School Girls, Bright Elegy, and Missouri Boy. His writing and illustrations have appeared in publications as diverse as Dark Horse Comics, GQ Japan, Vogue Russia, Flight, and First Second Books. He lives in Pasadena, California.
In addition to being the author of the New York Times #1 Bestseller Feynman, all of Jim Ottaviani‘s books have been nominated for multiple awards, including Eisners & ALA Popular Paperback of the Year. They also receive critical praise in publications ranging (widely!) from The New York Review of Books to The Comics Journal to Physics World to Entertainment Weekly to Discover Magazine.
“The Ottaviani-Myrick book is the best example of this genre [graphic novels] that I have yet seen.” Freeman Dyson in The New York Review of Books
“Ottaviani’s third graphic novel about physics is the most personable yet.” Booklist
“Ottaviani and Myrick’s portrait of the Nobel Prizewinning physicist and general polymath Richard Feynman eschews chronology in favor of rhythm, and it’s an approach that suits their subject perfectly.” Publishers Weekly
“[T]ackles the bad with the good, leaving the reader delighted by Feynman’s exuberant life and staggered at the loss humanity suffered with his death.” Graphic Novel Reporter
“[A]n affectionate and inspiring comic biography of the legendary iconoclastic physicist Richard Feynman. … I’ll be shoving Feynman at everyone I can get to read it. ” Cory Doctorow, via Boing Boing
Oprah.com | ALA/YALSA Outstanding Book for the College Bound | Washington Post | A 2012 SB&F Prize Finalist | BBC Culture | io9’s Best of 2011 | The Independent’s 10 Best Non-Fiction Graphic Books | A Horn Book Fanfare 2011 book | GeekDad |livemint.com | Hindustan Times | The Austin Chronicle | Wired.com/GeekDad | The Miami Herald | Tor.com | Washington City Paper | Salon | an excerpt at NPR’s Science Friday | The Washington Independent Review of Books | USA Today | Blogcritics Books | an interview at EarthSky |a podcast interview with EarthSky too! | RadioLab | About.com Physics | NPR: Krulwich Wonders… | Physics Buzz | Library Journal |an excerpt in American Scientist | PLAYBACK:stl | NewScientist | Graphic Eye | Fleen | a selection of the Junior Library Guild |School Library Journal
Extra! Web Exclusives
Want to know what we read and consulted when creating the book…so you can read more yourself? Then download the full bibliography!
Mistakes(!) and Updates
(1) D.W. points out that we have an anachronism in the last twopanels of page 151: “In the right panel in the middle row, there’s theheading ‘Caltech (1952)’ with Feynman walking in front of the stairwayinto Lauritsen Laboratory, where his office later was. However,Lauritsen wasn’t built until 1969; I’m not sure what was there atthat time, though. More seriously, though, in the bottom panel on thepage, Feynman is walking in front of the Beckman Institute, which wasbuilt in 1989…” Clearly I screwed up in providing Leland reference on this, so thanks for the correction.
(2) Not a mistake, per se, but on page 247, we show a Western Union telegram from Feynman to the Roger’s Commission. Mike Gottlieb, while digging through a forgotten filing cabinet
stored in a closet across the hall from Feynman’s old office in 2008, found a letter on Caltech stationary typed by his secretary, worded somewhat differently from the telegram described in “What Do You Care what Other People Think?”. That letter is now in the Caltech Archives, for you to discover.
(3) Much more importantly, Mike also pointed this out (here, I’ll quote him in full): “On page 220 you have Feynman saying ‘If you’re shooting craps one die always stops before the other, so the probability of rolling snake eyes is 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36.’ Feynman would never say that because the probability of snake eyes has nothing to do with one die stopping before the other; This statement is a fake kind of explanation meant to justify the previous statement that ‘If a path is a succession of interactions, to get the amplitude of the whole path you multiply the amplitudes instead of adding.’ If the probability of events A and B happening are a and b respectively, then the probability of both A and B happening is a times b and it does not matter whether A and B are simultaneous or not. Similarly, if A and B are two events – for example, two events that occur to some particle — say, the particle is an electron and the events are absorbing/emitting photons — then the amplitude that both A and B happen is the amplitude of A happening times the amplitude of B happening. In quantum mechanics, A and B can be simultaneous. In fact, in that case, while A and B will appear simultaneous to some observers, they will appear to happen at different times to other observers (in other reference frames), so it does not make sense (in a relativistically correct theory) to say whether they are simultaneous or not (in any absolute sense), which renders the explanation in your book confusing, in my opinion… but it is not something likely to be noticed by most people.”
So… I would have sworn I drew that directly from my transcription of the original lectures, as presented in New Zealand. When I look through my notes, I see it there embedded between quotes I transcribed from his actual presentation in NZ (but which were then either heavily edited or removed in the book QED). However…I also see that even as I took those notes I was already starting to move things around and shorten dialogue myself. What I was trying to do was, whenever possible, use Feynman’s actual spoken words for dialogue, but within the clearer structure of the book to compress 3 hours of NZ lectures/2 chapters from the book (plus a smattering of the final two lectures/chapters) into about 20 pages of comics. So, while I haven’t had a chance to re-watch the lectures, if I had to bet I’d bet M.G. is right: I probably inserted that bit and indulged myself in some of what Feynman (and Mike!) rightly call fakery or hocus-pocus to get the multiplication point across quickly and move on. (I also wanted to provide the visual resonance to dice…God’s proverbial dice, a la Einstein to be specific.)
Following up, here’s what he had to say: “Feynman’s introduction of what he calls ‘the rule for successive amplitudes’ starts at around minute 63 on the Vega Science Trust tape of his Robb Memorial Lectures, Part 2. (I am not sure if he discusses it again elsewhere.) The paraphrased quotation in Feynman, ‘If a path is a succession of interactions, to get the amplitude of the whole path you multiply the amplitudes instead of adding,’ might come from minute 67:43, where Feynman says, ‘This is the rule of composition: Add the angles and multiply the lengths. So if you have two events in succession you combine them by this rule of composition, that you add the angles and multiply the lengths.’ However, this was not followed by a discussion of shooting craps, or joint probabilities, so it appears you may have added that part. I would like to suggest the following correction: Change the original to ‘If you’re shooting craps, the probability of rolling a one on either die is 1/6, so the probability of rolling snake eyes is 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36.'”.
To which I say… Thank you! Shorter and more accurate is always better. The paperback edition was already at the printer, so this correction won’t appear in the next printed version. But I’m grateful for the clear explanation and correction!
(4) The Hoyle interview referenced in the bibliography area has moved since the first edition came out. It’s now at CosmoLearning: “Richard Feynman: Take the world from another point of view (1973)”. Go watch; it’s great.
(5) More good information and the correction of an anachronism, this time from Prof. Marc Hairston at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for Space Sciences, who writes: “I loved how it turned out but, as Becky [Hairston, Marc’s wife and a teacher herself] mentioned, there was one
anachronism that crept into it on page 26 when he’s explaining the aurora to his little sister, Joan. This was about the mid-30s and he tells her ‘it’s the solar wind, which accelerates electrons through the magnetosphere.’ He’s got his facts right, and the concepts were sort of known at the time, but the two terms “solar wind” and “magnetosphere” were not invented until the late 1950s. It’s hard to figure out sometimes what exactly people understood at given time so I dug out one of the classics from that era, “Geomagnetism” by Sidney Chapman and Julies Bartels. It was first published by Oxford Press in 1940 and our reading room has a republished edition from 1962 where they did some corrections but didn’t do any updating. So about 1935-1940 there was the “corpuscular theory” that there were hot charged particles (type unknown) coming off the sun and creating the corona. There was also some understanding that there was a connection between the solar cycle with the larger number of flares during the solar maximum and the number and intensities of auroral displays. But it wasn’t universally accepted that these “corpuscles” reached the Earth. Some were arguing that the ultraviolet light from the sun was variable and that was what was energizing the upper atmosphere particles and causing the aurora. But some were speculating about what would happen if these charged particles reached the Earth and how they would interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, and their early drawings look very much like our current picture of the magnetosphere. So reading over Chapman’s book is like seeing a jigsaw puzzle on a table. You can see that all the key pieces are lying there, but no one has the understanding yet to put them together completely. So if I were having to put words into the 1935 Feynman, I’d have him saying something like ‘Scientists think it’s electrically charged particles coming from the sun and being deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field towards the magnetic poles.’ Same idea, just using the contemporary words.
“As for the terms, “solar wind” was coined by Eugene Parker in a paper in 1958 when he put several of the ideas that were already out there in Chapman’s book and other places and realized that there must be a continuous flow of charged particles from the sun. Meanwhile the term magnetosphere was coined by Thomas Gold in 1959 to explain the region of space where the early satellites were seeing ions and electrons that were trapped on the Earth’s magnetic field lines. Part of the upcoming Cindi comic book actually explains the origin of the term as you can see in the attached picture.
“(Oh, and Gold is the same Gold who thought up the steady state theory with Fred Hoyle and later was controversial for his idea that oil and hydrocarbons were not biological in origin but actually came from the Earth’s core.)”
Good points, and good stories! Thanks Marc. And you can check out his comics work at CINDI Education.
(6) Thanks to reader C.D.’s question, here’s an update on page 57: The story of Richard giving Joan an astronomy textbook is a little bit factual, a little bit fictional. There is indeed a book titled “The Solar System” by Henry Norris Russell, and if you follow that link you’ll see that Leland drew a version of its title page. (If you squint, you can see that he reproduced the text with great fidelity…it may not have been the best idea for me to ask him to be so faithful, since that detail made it confusing to C.D..) When looking into this further, I find that there’s a newly available interview of Joan Feynman that says the actual book her brother gave her was “Astronomy” by Robert Horace Baker. I recommend reading the whole thing at Finding Ada. So why did I pick the book I did? I can’t find the email exchange right now, but as I recall when I wrote to Dr. (Joan) Feynman a number of years ago, she replied that she didn’t remember what book it was, so I picked something that was plausible. Perhaps in the intervening years she ran across the volume on her shelf — I’m sure she kept that important gift! — or simply remembered the title, and that’s why the interview linked to above names a different book.
(7) Professor Leonard Finegold noted a mistake on page 168, asking “Is the wiggly line [under the electromagnetic spectrum] backwards?” The answer is yes, and I’m surprised nobody (including me) noticed it before. I remember some discussion about this panel, and can’t remember what it was about…but it wasn’t this! First Second is great about these things, so we plan to get this fixed in the next printing. (We hope to address Mike’s concern and incorporate his suggestion from (3) above at the same time.) Thanks, Len! … and also Alexander Phillips, who contacted us about the same thing just a few days later. And this after almost 5 years of the book being in print; Feynman would have something to say about the odds against that happening!