In early July, researchers working at CERN in Europe announced they had found it -- the Higgs Boson. Finally, we had proof of a theory first formulated in 1964. It was a big day. Physicists everywhere rejoiced. The media did too. But the media coverage didn't help the public understand the discovery very well. Leonard Susskind, a prominent theoretical physicist at Stanford, realized that. So, days later, he gave a free public lecture where he explained how the Higgs mechanism works and what it actually means to "give mass to particles." And it all involved taking his audience through some basic quantum mechanics and explaining the concept of fields, plus using a handy-dandy sombrero for a prop. You can watch the full presentation above.
When not teaching undergrads and grad students, Susskind teaches in Stanford's Continuing Studies program where he introduces lifelong learners to the heady world of physics. Most notably, Susskind has offered a six-quarter sequence of courses called "Modern Physics: The Theoretical Minimum." It's aimed at a general audience of lifelong learners (like you), and it provides students with a baseline knowledge for thinking intelligently about modern physics. Happily, the complete lecture series is available online. You can find the video lectures right below, or find more introductory courses in the Physics section of our big collection of Free Online Courses.
Modern Physics: The Theoretical Minimum
- Modern Theoretical Physics: Classic Mechanics (Video) – iTunes –YouTube
- Modern Theoretical Physics: Quantum Mechanics (Video) –iTunes – YouTube
- Modern Theoretical Physics: Special Relativity (Video) – iTunes –YouTube
- Modern Theoretical Physics: Einstein (Video) – iTunes –YouTube
- Modern Theoretical Physics: Cosmology (Video) - iTunes –YouTube
- Modern Theoretical Physics: Statistical Mechanics (Video) –iTunes – YouTube