An Animated History of Physics Introduces the Discoveries of Galileo, Newton, Maxwell & Einstein

How can you present sci­en­tif­ic ideas to an audi­ence of all ages — sci­en­tists and non-sci­en­tists alike — so that these ideas will stick in peo­ple’s minds? Since 2012, BBC Two has been try­ing to answer this ques­tion with its series “Dara Ó Bri­ain’s Sci­ence Club.” Irish stand-up come­di­an and TV pre­sen­ter Dara Ó Bri­ain invites experts to his show to tack­le the biggest con­cepts in sci­ence in a way that is under­stand­able to non-experts as well. Film clips and ani­ma­tions are used to visu­al­ize the ideas and con­cepts dealt with in the show.

In 2012, Åsa Lucan­der, a Lon­don-based ani­ma­tor orig­i­nal­ly from Fin­land, was approached by the BBC with the task of cre­at­ing an ani­ma­tion about the his­to­ry of physics. The result is as enter­tain­ing as it is instruc­tive. The clip deals with the dis­cov­er­ies of four major sci­en­tists and the impact of their find­ings: Galileo Galilei, Isaac New­ton, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Ein­stein.

Bonus mate­r­i­al:

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Free Online Physics Cours­es

Leonard Susskind Teach­es You “The The­o­ret­i­cal Min­i­mum” for Under­stand­ing Mod­ern Physics

125 Great Sci­ence Videos: From Astron­o­my to Physics and Psy­chol­o­gy

Fun with Quantum Levitation

Pre­pare to have your mind blown.

You may have seen lev­i­ta­tion tricks per­formed by magi­cians, but rest assured that they can’t beat this: quan­tum lev­i­ta­tion. The video above was cap­tured at the 2011 ASTC con­fer­ence, a gath­er­ing of sci­en­tists in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land, with the pur­pose of demon­strat­ing “how sci­ence cen­ters and muse­ums are putting new ideas to prac­ti­cal use to serve their com­mu­ni­ties.” The School of Physics and Astron­o­my at Tel-Aviv Uni­ver­si­ty has put togeth­er this physics exper­i­ment show­cas­ing quan­tum super­con­duc­tors locked in a mag­net­ic field.

While the video fails to explain the sci­ence of what is hap­pen­ing here, the com­ple­men­tary web­site is help­ful. The white round disk (essen­tial­ly a sap­phire wafer coat­ed with a thin lay­er of yttri­um bar­i­um cop­per oxide) is cooled to below neg­a­tive 185 degrees C. At that tem­per­a­ture (dubbed the crit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture), the mate­r­i­al becomes super­con­duc­tive, mean­ing that it has zero elec­tri­cal resis­tance. From the web­site:

Super­con­duc­tiv­i­ty and mag­net­ic field do not like each oth­er. When pos­si­ble, the super­con­duc­tor will expel all the mag­net­ic field from inside. This is the Meiss­ner effect. In our case, since the super­con­duc­tor is extreme­ly thin, the mag­net­ic field DOES pen­e­trate. How­ev­er, it does that in dis­crete quan­ti­ties (this is quan­tum physics after all! ) called flux tubes.

Inside each mag­net­ic flux tube super­con­duc­tiv­i­ty is local­ly destroyed. The super­con­duc­tor will try to keep the mag­net­ic tubes pinned in weak areas (e.g. grain bound­aries). Any spa­tial move­ment of the super­con­duc­tor will cause the flux tubes to move. In order to pre­vent that, the super­con­duc­tor remains “trapped” in midair.

And in case you’re won­der­ing: are there prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tions for quan­tum lev­i­ta­tion? The answer, of course, is yes!

Find free physics cours­es in our big col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es from top uni­ver­si­ties — 400 great cours­es and grow­ing.

Eugene Buchko is a blog­ger and pho­tog­ra­ph­er liv­ing in Atlanta, GA. He main­tains a pho­to­blog, Eru­dite Expres­sions, and writes about what he reads on his read­ing blog.

H/T Engad­get

Richard Feynman on Beauty

After dis­miss­ing the pop­u­lar notion that sci­en­tists are unable to tru­ly appre­ci­ate beau­ty in nature, physi­cist Richard Feyn­man (1918 — 1988) explains what a sci­en­tist real­ly is and does. Here are some of the most mem­o­rable lines from this beau­ti­ful mix of Feyn­man quotes and (most­ly) BBC and NASA footage:

  • Peo­ple say to me, Are you look­ing for the ulti­mate laws of physics? — No, I’m not. I’m just look­ing to find out more about the world.
  • When we’re going to inves­ti­gate [nature], we should­n’t pre­de­cide what it is we’re try­ing to do, except to find out more about it.
  • I can live with doubt and uncer­tain­ty and not know­ing. I think it’s much more inter­est­ing to live not know­ing than to have answers that might be wrong. (…) I don’t feel fright­ened by not know­ing things, by being lost in the mys­te­ri­ous uni­verse with­out hav­ing any pur­pose.
  • When you doubt and ask, it gets a lit­tle hard­er to believe.

Beau­ty is the first video in The Feyn­man Series, along with Hon­ours and Curios­i­ty. The sequence is a com­pan­ion to The Sagan Series, which pays trib­ute to the late Carl Sagan. H/T Kot­tke

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Richard Feynman’s Physics Lec­tures Online

The Plea­sure of Find­ing Things Out

The Last Jour­ney Of A Genius: Richard Feyn­man Dreams of Tan­nu Tuva


The Bohr-Einstein Debates, Reenacted With Dog Puppets

Boing­Bo­ing is run­ning a piece this morn­ing on Chad Orzel’s new book, How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. It’s good stuff, and it reminds me that Orzel also recent­ly released a video that re-enacts the famous Bohr-Ein­stein debates, with, yes, dog pup­pets. You can watch above. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, you can get it on YouTube in three parts: here, here and here.

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Physics in the Tiger Woods Scandal

Here’s the intel­lec­tu­al upside of the Tiger Woods ker­fuf­fle: A copy of John Grib­bin’s Get a Grip on Physics was spot­ted in Woods’ wrecked Cadil­lac. (Pho­to here.) And, ever since, the book has been in high demand. The Wall Street Jour­nal reports that the book’s Ama­zon sales rank has jumped from 396,224 to 2,268. But, from what I can tell, the book actu­al­ly seems to be out of print, and you’ll need to pay a min­i­mum of $42 to buy a used copy online. (Here’s an instance where Google’s book dig­i­ti­za­tion ini­tia­tive would ben­e­fit an author.) If you’re look­ing to bone up on your physics, let me save you a few bucks. With Learn­ing Physics Through Free Online Cours­es, we have pulled togeth­er free cours­es from MIT, Stan­ford, UC Berke­ley, and Yale, plus a series of famous lec­tures by Richard Feyn­man that Bill Gates has put online. These and many oth­er physics cours­es can also be found in our larg­er col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es Online and on our Free iPhone App. Enjoy and remem­ber to wear your seat­belt.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.