I’m writing to you from Europe to tell you about my upcoming class!
Too often introductory physics courses require students to memorize lists of equations. This is a travesty. Don’t get me wrong, equations are important, they are the mathematical tools we use to describe reality.
But it’s reality, not the tools, that makes physics truly beautiful.
Step outside and take a look. Thousands of years ago, hydrogen atoms in the sun collided and fused, releasing energy in the form of photons (light). Those photons collided with other atoms in the sun that were constantly being absorbed and re-emitted. They gradually meandered towards the outer surface of the sun. Over thousands of years and eight minutes ago some of them left the sun, never to return.
A tiny fraction of these escaped photons had a trajectory to intercept the earth’s orbit. Of those photons that made it to the earth, another small fraction happened to strike the walls, trees, and people around you. Of those, another fraction happened to be deflected, following a path exactly towards your eye, allowing you to experience–visually–the incredible world around you.
This is just one of the countless stories that are constantly unfolding in our universe, and it is the job of the physicist to understand and quantify them. Starting June 25, I will be teaching Udacity’s first physics course: Landmarks in Physics. This course will be structured around some of the huge problems which have faced physicists over the years. I will be traveling throughout Europe with a film crew, putting you in the historic and geographic context of these problems. In each unit you will learn, on location, how to solve these age-old mind benders.
For example, how big around is the earth? Of course, today I could just type that sentence into Google and have an answer in milliseconds. But thousands of years ago, when Eratosthenes asked himself the same question, how did he solve it? These are the sorts of questions that we will be exploring in this course. I hope you join me! Enroll now!
Prof. Andy Brown