The Character of Physical Law

Richard Feynman

The Character of Physical Law is a great place to learn about current physics and experience Richard Feynman at his most ebullient and entertaining. In his book The Character of Physical Law, Feynman tackled some of the most pressing and intriguing open questions in modern physics.

During the second part of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman became one of the world’s preeminent physicists. Feynman’s contributions to the subject of quantum electrodynamics earned him the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, made him a media darling for a short time as a member of the panel examining the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and made him a household name. Taken from his legendary 1964 series of Messenger Lectures at Cornell, Feynman’s The Character of Physical Law serves as a primer on contemporary physics and a showcase for the man at the height of his humor and enthusiasm.

In this seminal work (first published in 1967), Feynman summarizes the commonalities between many physical laws and argues that it is not “how intelligent we are to have discovered it out” that matters but rather “how clever nature is to pay heed to it.” He talks about how mathematics and physics influence one another, the conservation principle, the enigma of symmetry, and the method of scientific discovery. In his introduction, Physics Nobel laureate and 2004 recipient Frank Wilczek notes that some of Feynman’s insights have since been updated but that “the need for these particular revisions enhances rather than detracts from the book.”