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The Strangest Man Audiobook

The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom

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Publisher's Summary

Paul Dirac was among the great scientific geniuses of the modern age. One of the discoverers of quantum mechanics, the most revolutionary theory of the past century, his contributions had a unique insight, eloquence, clarity, and mathematical power. His prediction of antimatter was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of physics.

One of Einstein's most admired colleagues, Dirac was in 1933 the youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize in physics. Dirac's personality is legendary. He was an extraordinarily reserved loner, relentlessly literal-minded, and appeared to have no empathy with most people. Yet he was a family man and was intensely loyal to his friends. His tastes in the arts ranged from Beethoven to Cher, from Rembrandt to Mickey Mouse.

Based on previously undiscovered archives, The Strangest Man reveals the many facets of Dirac's brilliantly original mind. A compelling human story, The Strangest Man also depicts a spectacularly exciting era in scientific history.

©2009 Graham Farmelo; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • 2009 Costa Book Award (Biography)
  • 100 Notable Books of 2009 (New York Times)
  • Books of the Year 2009 (The Economist)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Science & Technology, 2010

"Farmelo proves himself a wizard at explaining the arcane aspects of particle physics. His great affection for his odd but brilliant subject shows on every page, giving Dirac the biography any great scientist deserves." (Publishers Weekly)

"A must-read for anyone interested in the extraordinary power of pure thought. With this revelatory, moving and definitive biography, Graham Farmelo provides the first real glimpse inside the bizarre mind of Paul Dirac." (Roger Highfield, Editor, New Scientist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (395 )
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4.2 (244 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Blithe Alden 10-15-17
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    "Disappointing"

    This is a biography of a man with brilliant ideas and a mildly interesting life. It is very thin on specifics about his ideas, focusing instead on his personal relationships. However, Dirac was a deeply reserved man, who doesn't come across as being particularly interesting outside his work. As a result, the book is full of dull details of a quiet life and bare statements of his opinions on such things as the Falklands War and Wheel of Fortune. Even the discussions of his theories seem shallow and as a result, the rivalries about physics come off as petty. The reader sounds self conscious and mispronounces words. I don't know whether the occasional malapropisms (Ironic columns) are his or the author's. A disappointment.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gil Stuber 08-19-17
    Gil Stuber 08-19-17
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    "excellent"

    If you are interested in science, quantum mechanics, or strange people, this is a great book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Abbas 12-01-16
    Abbas 12-01-16 Member Since 2017
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    "My heart. My soul."

    This book was like a piece of heaven. The author showed Paul's life in a spectacular way. Mentioning others roles in Paul's life as well as their feelings without straying away. I liked the narrator as well. It was extremely reassuring to see that I was not alone in this world and that there are more of those like me who can make a difference. This was one of my most enjoyable experiences.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hendrix 10-03-16
    Hendrix 10-03-16
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    "Fascinating"

    An absolutely great book about an absolutely fascinating and brilliant man. I loved it. The book was very well written and the narration was just as good. In addition to being a biography on Dirac, it was also an incredible history lesson on early 20th century physics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gordon 06-02-16
    Gordon 06-02-16 Member Since 2016
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    "This is an excellent book"

    This is an excellent book, an excellent subject, and an excellent performance. One of the best books I've read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Torres Niteroi, RJ Brazil 06-01-15
    M. Torres Niteroi, RJ Brazil 06-01-15
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    "fascinating !"

    fascinating account of Dirac's life and 20th century physics revolution, with deep insights on the dark periods of war and post war eras.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J.B. 04-01-14
    J.B. 04-01-14
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    "Could Have Been Done in Five Hours not Nineteen"

    So the author, Graham Farmelo, has a suspicion why Paul Dirac was such a brainiac of a mathematician and theoretical cosmologist but only provides his suspicion in the last 40 minutes of the story. The story itself lays down no foundation for the speculation - it just comes out of left field - but would have provided more of a plot if woven into the story that was told. Yes, you are informed how essential this emotionally damaged man was for the progress of the study and development of quantum mechanics but to get there you need to listen to endless tales of how this bore of a man made it through life; i.e., his family were generally hobbled humans, and because he caught a lucky drift and he had truely genius ingitht in foreseeing into sub-atomics, life took him for a good ride - he made no choice just drifted to where we find him - a distinquished scholar. There is some intrigue as we learn about all the faulted personalities that shaped his life but none of it was told in a manner to give oneself a true learning experience nor will I recollect any of the happenings as guideposts in making my life decisions.

    If one needs a very long compendium of the progress of quantum mechanics from the 1910s throught the early 1980s, this may be a good road map.

    Please don't blame me if I said anything in this review that encourages you to read or listen to the biography

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 03-01-14
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 03-01-14 Member Since 2017
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    "Paul Dirac won 1933 Nobel Prize in physics"

    This is one of the best books in terms of detail and insight into the brilliant character of Paul Dirac 1902-1984. Graham Farmelo, a British Physicist, has obviously done in-depth research, and I understand he had access to many of Dirac’s personal papers. The book won the 2009 Costa book award. The book is less a scientific biography than other books on Dirac, it emphasizes more the development of Dirac’s personality and the story of his relationship with his relations and colleagues. I learned a lot about Dirac, including his work on the atomic bomb during World War II. Dirac is responsible for several of the great breakthrough in 20th century physics and mathematics. He found the fundamental insight into quantum mechanics and remains the basic understanding even today. His textbook on Quantum Mechanics remains a rigorously clear explanation of the fundamental idea of quantum theory. He also developed the Dirac equation which is the basis of particle physics. He is known for developing quantum field theory, quantum electrodynamics and the understanding the role of magnetic monopoles in electromagnetism. Dirac was the youngest theoretician to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics (1933). He also won the Max Planck Medal and the Copley Medal. He was the Lucasian Professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. The chair is now held by Stephen Hawking. Dirac’s work was so advanced we are only just beginning to prove and use his work. B. J. Harrison did an excellent job narrating this long book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alla Belmont, CA, United States 11-28-13
    Alla Belmont, CA, United States 11-28-13 Member Since 2017
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    "Struggled thru narration for the sake of story"

    It is one of those cases when the narration works against the content. Just out of respect to the complexity of the subject in which Dirac excelled and the intensity of molding of his own individuality over decades and epochs, one revolts against the narration's idiotically repetitive inflections with very occasional regard to meaning. Two fairly straightforward Russian names - Gamov and Kapitsa are brutalized to the point of parody. Kapitsa is a presence throughout most of the story. I winced every time the name was articulated. The Quantum Mechanics fellowship of the 20th century was a multinational crowd with some foreign sounding names - does the job description of the audiobook narrator actually include at least checking the pronunciation of the names and the terminology?
    The story itself is deeply researched and put together in a thoughtful and colorful way. I wanted to have more of the intellectual context but I appreciate the amount of material the author went through in reconstructing the personal history of Paul Dirac. Since it's an audiobook, the quality of the story absolutely needs be matched with the quality of the delivery.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen West Sacramento, CA, United States 05-09-13
    Eileen West Sacramento, CA, United States 05-09-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Excellent biography of great physicist"

    I am listening to The Strangest Man The Hidden Life of Paul Direc and enjoying it very much BUT the reader makes a critical error at 6:25 into the first part. He adds "not" to a sentence describing Dirac's most important equation, the work for which he received the Nobel prize. One of the outstanding features is that the equation predicts the electron's spin. But the reader says "these properties could NOT have been predicted using the special theory of relativity and quantum mechanics." I check the book and the NOT is not in the text. Audible needs to correct this error as the mispeaking misrepresents both science and Dirac's most impressive work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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