Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Best Physics Lecture Ever

Out in Aspen Colorado, a few times each summer, there are physics lectures aimed at the general public, given in the memory of Heinz Pagels. Many years ago I heard one such lecture on the subject quantum mechanics given by a friend of mine named Shankar (one name only) who is a professor at Yale. The lecture was both entertaining and inspiring and accessible to all (not just to the physics cognoscenti). I remember how impressed I was, and I thought how great it would be to be able to give such a performance.

Last year I was honored to be asked to give one of these Pagels lectures. I spent literally weeks preparing it, trying to live up to the high standard set by Shankar. The lecture went very well, and maybe I got close to his level, but still I have to give credit where it is due: his lectures are still the yardstick by which other physics lectures should be measured. Perhaps we should declare a lecture to be a milli-Shankar if it is one one-thousandth as good as one of Shankar’s lectures.

This summer, Shankar gave yet another lecture --- this time on the subject of relativity – one of the most beautiful subjects in physics. This lecture was even better than his previous one. In fact, it was perhaps the best physics lecture, on any subject, that I have ever heard!

Fortunately, you can find all of these lectures streaming on the web. While sometimes a bit is lost in the translation to low-quality streaming video, nonetheless, I think they are all worth watching.

Here is Shankar’s lecture on relativity.

Here is his lecture on quantum mechanics.

... and in case you missed it last year, here is my lecture

1 comment:

Collin said...

I was fortunate enough to take intro physics from Shankar. His lecture on relativity and the Maxwell equations was one of the most inspiring moments of my life.