26 August 2009

Feynman Lectures on the Web

Bill Gates recently purchased the rights to a series of lectures by renowned physicist and teacher Richard Feynman. Feynman was a nobel winner for and essentially the father of the field of quantum electrodynamics, and also did a lot of work on superfluidity of liquid helium. The breadth of his contributions has to mark him as one of the top physicists of all time, possibly top-five, certainly top-ten.

Feynman proves the adage that it is not science that is staid and boring, but rather scientists are staid and boring. Anyone who has written journal publications will know what I'm talking about here.

Project Tuva: The Messanger Series

You will need to download and install (Firefox users: manual installation) a Microsoft plug-in to view them but they are really a great resource. In short, they are a perfect way for someone who has only a cursory understanding of science and wants to know more, yet doesn't know where to start. For experts, they are still useful to get your mind out of the minor details that dominate scientific discourse today and thinking about the big picture once again.

My favourite lecture by far is #6 on the dual wave-particle nature of fundamental particles like photons and electrons. This lecture is very close to one of my thesis topics, on the double slit experiment. Interestingly, around thirty minutes in Feynman becomes partially incorrect as he talks about the coherent and incoherent modes as in reality, there is only partial coherence.

Har har har... (you have to be a physicist).

For very small angle scattering, i.e. ΔE/Eo is very small, the interference is less but still present. To put numbers on these, we're talking about ΔE=1-20 eV energy loss compared to Eo=300,000 eV in the denominator, or angles less than 0.004 °.

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