Tuva or Bust!
|Publisher||W. W. Norton|
The introduction explains how Feynman challenged Leighton, at the time a high school math teacher, "Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva (the Tuvan People's Republic)?" Since Feynman had a reputation as a prankster and had proven himself entirely capable of inventing a fictional country name to confound friends, Leighton assumed it was made up. But the country existed, and the pair became fascinated with this hard-to-reach destination, at the geographic center of Asia, which had become a republic in the Soviet Union. They made it a goal to travel there, which, for Americans in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was extremely difficult.
In many ways, the attempt to travel to Tuva is an allegory for Feynman's perpetual curiosity to discover new things, and how he inspired his friends, admirers and protégés to do the same. During their decade-long quest to travel to Tuva, Feynman was suffering from cancer, and died shortly before the visas finally arrived; this book describes "Richard Feynman's last adventure".
The book describes the difficulties and various attempts Leighton and Feynman made to obtain permission to travel to Tuva. It also describes the culture, language and history of the place. Included with some editions of the book is a small plastic turntable record of Tuvan throat singing.
Feynman never managed to get to Tuva. Instead of him, the trip was realized by his daughter Michelle. Michelle Feynman travelled to Tuva on June 8, 2009.