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 Has Anyone Read the Feynman Lectures on Physics?
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 11/19/2010 :  22:32:24  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Okay, so I got really bored with Hawking's new book, and frustrated that I paid for it and didn't get much good content ("model-dependent realism" is a nice idea to read about, but the physics covered is not very deep at all -- probably what I should have expected, but I think it's more basic than his other popular books).

I'm just wondering on what sort of level the Feynman Lectures are presented. The reviews look great, but figure I'll trust people here more if anyone has read them (plus, they're expensive).

I know the pop science on the topics, math is no problem, and I have no academic physics background, so is this a good place to go to learn more from there? Anyone know anything better?

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus

Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25832 Posts

Posted - 11/19/2010 :  23:18:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Expensive? Yeah. $55 for a used copy of the 3-volume set on Amazon.

Six Easy Pieces might offer a taste of the CalTech lectures, and you can get it used for under $4.

The only reason I haven't read Six Easy Pieces is that I was given it on cassette tape just about the time my car that had a cassette player died, 13 years ago, and I haven't wanted to buy a print version of something I already had on tape.

I'd started listening to the first one, and I (with a similar, but less mathy, background to yours) was having no problem following along, but it was hardly a good sampling.

I've very much enjoyed other writing by/about Feynman, though.

On another tack, have you looked into MIT's Open Courseware?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 11/19/2010 :  23:52:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Haha, I've had that problem before. I actually really hate audiobooks, but I can't stand to go buy a paper version of something I already have.

I didn't really think of MIT OCW, but in my experience, it's a bit spotty and the books change in each class. I was thinking the Feynman books would be more self-contained.

I think I have a solution... a $7 "used - very good" copy of the first book from Amazon Marketplace =)

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
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podcat
Skeptic Friend

435 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2010 :  13:32:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send podcat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Feynman's Messenger lectures can be found on YouTube by searching "Feynman lectures", or they can all be found here:

http://research.microsoft.com/apps/tools/tuva/index.html

“In a modern...society, everybody has the absolute right to believe whatever they damn well please, but they don't have the same right to be taken seriously”.

-Barry Williams, co-founder, Australian Skeptics
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2010 :  21:30:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by podcat

Feynman's Messenger lectures can be found on YouTube by searching "Feynman lectures", or they can all be found here:

http://research.microsoft.com/apps/tools/tuva/index.html


that's cool, thanks

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
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Tim Thompson
New Member

USA
36 Posts

Posted - 09/09/2011 :  17:28:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Tim Thompson's Homepage Send Tim Thompson a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I see it has been nearly a year since this was last touched upon. Still, I thought I would add what I hope are useful comments.

I have two sets of of Feynman's Lectures on Physics; one is an old 3-volume paperback set, the other a 3-volume hardbound set dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the first printing. I think very highly of them.

The books are based on the introductory, general review physics course taught to incoming freshmen & sophomores at Caltech. Volume I covers the first year, volume II covers the 2nd year, and volume III is dedicated to quantum mechanics from both years. As Feynman put it ...

"The special problem we tried to get at with these lectures was to maintain the interest of the very enthusiastic and rather smart students coming out of high school and into Caltech. They have heard a lot about how interesting and exciting physics is - the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other modern ideas. By the end of two years of our previous course, many would be very discouraged because there were really very few grand, new, modern ideas presented to them. They were made to study inclined planes, electrostatics, and so forth, and after two years it was quite stultifying. The problem was whether we could make a course which would save the more advanced and excited student by maintaining his enthusiasm" - Feynman's Preface.

Of course the books were published in 1963-1965, so perhaps by today's half-century later standards the "grand, new, modern" part might be a bit outdated. But fundamental physics does not change all that much, and in that sense the books are today just as valuable as they were then, as a presentation of fundamental physics for the beginning students.

I find the presentation to be unusual in a good way, namely that Feynman's Lectures ventures outside the normal confines of introductory physics to remind the student that there is a real universe in which all this physics has to establish a context. So chapter 3 of Volume I is entitled, "The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences", and includes short discussions of chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy and even psychology. Certainly no other introductory physics book from those days that I can remember did that. I would say that the entire 3-volume set includes less idealism and more practicality than is typical for this level of book. Volume II includes an entire chapter on atmospheric electricity and discusses charge separation in thunderstorms, which I have never seen outside my specialized books in that field. It also includes a discussion of the principle of least action, which was unusual in introductory courses then (maybe it still is unusual, I would no longer know). Volume III is dedicated to quantum mechanics, gathering up lectures delivered in both the 1st & 2nd years of the course. There may be material here that never made it into the original lectures, or at least Feynman hints at that in his preface.

The books are well written, I think; physics books where you can read the English as well as the equations are a valuable commodity. Though perhaps a bit dated, that's not a serious drawback, since the material is basic, not frontiers of physics stuff. I have no problem recommending them to anyone who want's to learn basic physics (algebra & basic calculus are required) or go back to the basics. The only thing I would say they are not appropriate for is anyone who wants to go into advanced & specialized topics right away, or someone who is looking for graduate level material, and especially more recent advanced material.

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it. -- Bertrand Russell
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2012 :  20:55:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thanks Tim Thompson! I did end up getting a cheap copy of the set soon after your recommendation last year. I only actually made it through the first book so far (alas... my primary work comes first), but the first one is very engaging, interesting, and easy to follow with zero physics background.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
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sailingsoul
SFN Addict

2830 Posts

Posted - 12/16/2012 :  19:12:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send sailingsoul a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Perhaps some TV commercials can be sacrificed so that the time saved might be better spent. I make no judgements as to the value within the link provided. Individual mileage may vary.

Richard Feynman Videos

There are only two types of religious people, the deceivers and the deceived. SS
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