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Finalists for the 1992-1993 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes : SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY

September 05, 1993|MARJORIE LEWELLYN MARKS | Marjorie Lewellyn Marks is manager of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and a contributing author of "Life Guidance Through Literature" (American Library Assn.)

GENIUS: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick (Pantheon Books). The "half-genius, half-buffoon" reputation that the father of quantum theories cultivated for himself is tempered by this biography, which reveals a young Los Alamos scientist who agonized over what he'd helped create: "It gnawed at him that ordinary people were living their ordinary lives oblivious to the nuclear doom that science had prepared for them. . . ." Gleick provides a panoramic perspective on the era when theories of quantum mechanics and particle physics were in full flower. Finally, we have Feynman's own impatience at colleagues who expect ultimate answers: "I've had a lifetime of people who believe that the answer is just around the corner. . . . I don't have to know an answer. . . . I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell."

The Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalists and winners are selected in each category by an independent panel of judges. Winners will be announced in the Book Review issue of October 31.

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