Thursday, June 18, 2015

Oh Feyn, Man!

When I entered my forties, I went through a kind of nerd mid-life crisis. I began to re-open some of the math and science books I had bought in my teens and early twenties. I hadn't understood them then and I still didn't understand them.

Five years ago I bought some of the latest math and science textbooks, including a university physics book. My goal was only to read a page a day, with the hope I would get through them by the time I turned fifty. That's not going to happen. I'll be lucky to make it by 55.

I'm only a little more than 300 pages into the physics book I bought, but my experience with the Seminary curriculum has already had me thinking a number of things about how one might teach this content in a better way: 
  • There's some overlap between physics and chemistry--why separate them so sharply?
  • There are a lot of things at the end of the book that could really come earlier. As it is, you hardly get to them, especially if you're only taking two semesters of physics. The stuff I'm most interested in is like 1000 pages in!
  • It doesn't really have to be taught in this order, even though it seems like everyone does.
So, lo and behold, I discover that Richard Feynman did much of what I have in mind... in 1963. He touches on relativity and quantum physics really early in the series. He crosses into chemistry type topics. I've been doing video tutorials as I go through the book I have. But a big part of me wishes I had known about these!

What is more, they are all available for free online on the Cal Tech website! What a rush it must have been to be a physics student at Cal Tech when he taught these!

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