Sunday, 17 July 2016

For the love of Physics

 Today I finished reading: For the love of physics by Walter Lewin. Lewin was famous for his physics lectures at MIT, particularly when they were posted online. The most iconic moment in his course was when he let a big pendulum off in front of him. The point was that it didn't swing back and smash
him in the head, because of energy conversation.

The book is enjoyable, but also a bit strange. It starts out with popular real world physics, but the second half is about his research into X-ray astronomy mostly using ballons. The last chapter is about Modern Art. He is a big collector and he has worked with some artists. I liked the way he used in the end chapter the metaphor "ways of seeing" to unify his interests in art and physics.

I was disappointed that there were not a lot of discussion of his teaching methods. It  does look as though he was an inspirational teacher. In the book he reported that he gave out flowers, when he displayed Maxwell's equations on the screen. Students wrote to him to say they remember the flowers, if nothing else from the course.  Students liked the demos as well.