Friday, April 08, 2005

What I do

Today, as I have for the past two weeks, I've been setting Richard Feynman's Lectures on Physics into type. I think it is ok that I say this, not like a big secret or anything. Hopefully I won't be visited later by the Science Police and forced to explain why the sky is blue, as penance for my loose lips.

In this job, as in few others in my memory, we are being asked to faithfully duplicate the setting of this manuscript, even to the point of leaving in obvious typos like "be be" for "to be", matching original line breaks, no matter what text we have had to insert or delete. These things haven't been touched for thirty years, just reprinted over and over again. The hearsay story I have is that some friends of Feynman posthumously found his personal edits to these MSS, and decided to fold them back in to the old type.

The consequence is that if a 1 is edited to a 5, we have to set the entire page over from scratch. You'd think a little white-out would be in order.

Another consequence is that we have had to go to the wayback machine for many of our settings. We don't know the names of those thirty-year-old fonts, so we have to match them as well as we can with what fonts we have. It doesn't always work.

Finally, there are always 3 people working on the entire book all at once, so any changes we introduce to the symbols have to be taken up in work that may have already been finished, and the initial setting for the math was done by a subcontractor in India.

All that said, I am enjoying it. Feynman rules, and I learn interesting things about physics from time to time (like "God is weakly left-handed").

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