Even if you’ve little interest in the topics under discussion, it’s well worth spending a few hours in Feynman’s company for the entertainment value. He’s a genuinely funny man able to express his science with a poet’s turn of phrase.
What’s really special though is how Microsoft has presented these lectures. It could simply have posted them on the site and everybody would have been happy – after all, Bill Gates used his own money to track them down, buy the rights and digitise them. Instead though, they’ve been enhanced with some truly wonderful technology.
There’s optional audio commentary from physics professors and experts, text commentary for the hearing impaired, and an ability to add your own notes to specific sections of the lecture. A timeline beneath the video allows you to easily spin to the section you want, but it’s also peppered with additional content, including detailed information on people and theories briefly mentioned by Feynman. There’s definitions of natural laws, written formulas and, in a couple of cases, an explanation of a joke you may not have gotten.
Also superb is that whenever Feynman mentions a constellation or spatial anomaly a link will take you to Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope so you can go and take a look for yourself. It’s so brilliantly designed and wonderfully implemented it’s quite obviously a labour of love. It’s also precisely how I want to see historical information presented and updated.
One of the last things I did when I finally left academia was to co-organise an international workshop on aspects of quantum field theory. As I’d heard through the grapevine that Feynman had been working in this area (variational methods), I invited him to the meeting which was due to be held on a small island, Wangerooge, in North-West Germany.
To our surprise and delight, he accepted! The Workshop Proceedings were published by World Scientific and Feynman’s contribution (transcribed by myself and a colleague) is included. The meeting was held in September 1987 and he sadly passed away in February the following year.
I plan to post some photos plus some quintessential Feynman stories from the workshop in the future.
Picture credit: PC Pro.