Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life by Leonard Mlodinow

Feynman

When Leonard Mlodinow is offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology (“Caltech”), he is besides himself with ecstasy. However the enthusiasm swiftly wanes out as the young student is racked by feelings of insecurity and plagued by the fear of failure. Caltech after all was the Institute, whose hallowed portals lent hospitality to twenty Nobel Laureates. When Mlodinow is at the nadir of his doubtful professional existence, he realizes, by chance, that his office is flanked on both sides by the working environs of two Nobel Prize winning Physicists, Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman.

Richard Feynman, arguably the greatest theoretical physicist post Albert Einstein (he was popularly referred to as the “Einstein” of “our” times by his admirers) is held in awe and reverence by his peers (excepting Murray Gell-Mann) and students alike. It is to Feynman that Mlodinow elects to approach and pour out his insecurities. There is however a small hitch – Feynman is dying courtesy a very rare form of cancer. He has very limited time left to handhold a novice through his time of turbulence.

This beautiful book is the outcome of a series of interactions between a rookie aspirant and an incomparable master at the pedestal of his powers. The terminally ill Feynman, acerbic at times and affectionate at others, imparts to Mlodinow valuable lessons not only concerning Physics but also revolving around life in general. A particular passage where Feynman stands in studied silence admiring a rainbow when Mlodinow joins him warms the cockles of the reader’s heart.

After a courageous battle with the scourge of cancer, Feynman finaly succumbed on the 15th of February, 1988. But his tutelage of Mlodinow was more or less complete as the dutiful student not only received his Doctorate from Caltech but also went on to more famous endeavours collaborating with the likes of Stephen Hawking and during the process, writing a couple of bestsellers as well.

Feynman’s Rainbow – A multi-couloured moving paean to one man’s life, legacy and legend.

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