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Feynman Lectures, So great?

  1. Jan 1, 2013 #1
    What is it about the Feynman lectures on physics? Everywhere I hear about them they're refer to as great, awesome for science and what have you. But what makes them so revered?

    What sets them apart from say the Suskind Lectures or MIT OCW? Perhaps I am to young in my career to have learned what makes them so awesome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 1, 2013 #2
    when I read that,I often said 'my god,he is a genious'.
  4. Jan 1, 2013 #3
    That's a great question. I used to say the same thing...who is this guy? What sets Feynman apart in my mind is not so much his technical prowess as it is his love of the subject. Here is somebody who truly loves what he does and has a passion that is infectious and, most importantly, incorruptable. You can see the gleen in his eyes when he dissects these physics problems. There is a saying that true art is selfish and perverse, and I think Feyman was that way about physics.

    I don't know if I could say that about these other guys. Lenny Susskind is fine lecturer and you can tell he loves his subject, but he doesn't have that manic passion that sweeps you up like Feynman, like a preacher in the pulpit. The same goes for the pop physicists like Kaku, Greene, Cox, etc. It's the level of committment that they lack, or at least the projection of that level of commitment. Feynman would have you believe he was channeling the great mathemetician. It wasn't Feynman talking, you were getting it through Feynman from the man himself. Lots of fun to watch.
  5. Jan 1, 2013 #4


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    I would further add that he has a knack for explanation. He gets at the core of things without being obscure.
  6. Jan 1, 2013 #5


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    Just watch that you dont listen to or read anything by the zombified version, i hear he has no brains.
  7. Jan 1, 2013 #6
  8. Jan 1, 2013 #7


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    I'd never watched a Feynman lecture until 3 days ago. I admire his brutal honesty.

    btw, who is Lenny Susskind?

    never mind.

    google, google, google

    ah ha!

    Susskind on Feynman:


    hmm..... I think I like this Leonardo fellow.​

    And I like Feynman more than I did 20 minutes ago, and I've liked him for 24 years!

    How is such a thing possible?
  9. Jan 1, 2013 #8


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    The lectures are actually pretty unfriendly as an introduction to physics - I think it'd be difficult to appreciate them without first knowing say Halliday and Resnick. The lectures also have a few techincal errors (that are not misprints). However, the point of view that makes many things "intuitive" is unique, and they're full of beautiful prose:

    "From a long view of the history of mankind - seen from, say, ten thousand years from now, there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade. "

    "The next great awakening of human intellect may well produce a method of understanding the qualitative content of equations. Today we cannot...Today, we cannot see whether Schrödinger's equation contains frogs, musical composers, or morality - or whether it does not. We cannot say whether something beyond it like God is needed, or not. And so we can all hold strong opinions either way"

    He ways always inveighing against philosophers, but these volumes are some of the most vigorous philosophy.
  10. Jan 1, 2013 #9


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    Halliday and Resnick?

    Good god.


    That book* is at least 30 years old! Have we not progressed since then?

    I liked the rainbow lecture very much. I take pictures of them wherever I find them. I found this one in my living room this last weekend.


    What was that rainbow lecture dude's name?

    *Why I never respond to those FB; "Grab the book closest to you. Turn to page whatever. Find the whatever paragraph. Post the whatever sentence. That is you!"

    I am not a physics problem.... I am, the HUMOR POLICE!

  11. Jan 2, 2013 #10


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  12. Jan 2, 2013 #11
    The New edition of Fundamentals of Physics is named "Principles of Physics" by Robert Resnick, David Halliday & Jearl Walker.

    Feynman Lectures on Physics is Famous because of Feynman's insights in Physics. Anyway there is also another series which is not so Famous compared to Feynamans. some are Berkeley Physics Course, Landu & Liftz Course in Theoretical Physics, Harvard Physics Project etc.
  13. Jan 2, 2013 #12


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    Landaus books cannot be compared to feynmans. They serve different purposes.
  14. Jan 7, 2013 #13
    I disagree with this statement personally and on behalf of the thousands of 1960's and '70's Caltech alumni who used FLP as their textbook in the two-year Introductory Physics course required of all Caltech undergraduates. That FLP is unsuitable as an introduction to physics is a popular misconception, about which you can read more here.
    In recent years (starting with the Definitive Edition in 2005) FLP has undergone a process of revision by which ~1200 corrections to errata have been made, thus far, including a few errors in physics, and many errors in mathematics. If you are aware of any outstanding errors in FLP not listed in our posted errata, please use the email address found on this page to write to us about them.

    On the other hand, I agree with what DiracPool wrote:
    Only I would add two things: (1) that Feynman's technical prowess and his scope were very impressive indeed, in and of themselves (leading Hans Bethe to label him "a magician"), and (2) that Feynman was a showman. He loved to put on a good performance. His undergraduate lectures were carefully scripted and (what most people do not know:) rehearsed! Here is how Matt Sands describes what attending the lectures was like, in his memoir, On the Origins of The Feynman Lectures on Physics in the book "Feynman's Tips on Physics."

    Feynman would appear five minutes or so before the scheduled start of the lecture. He would take out of his shirt pocket one or two small pieces of paper—perhaps five by nine inches—unfold them, and smooth them out at the center of the lecture bench at the front of the lecture hall. These were his notes for his lecture, though he rarely referred to them. (A photo reproduced at the beginning of FLP Chapter 19 of Volume II shows Feynman during one of his lectures, standing behind the lecture bench, with two sheets of notes visible on the bench.) As soon as the bell would ring, announcing the start of the official class period, he would start his lecture. Each lecture was a carefully scripted, dramatic production, which he had, clearly, planned in detail—usually with an introduction, development, climax, and denouement. And his timing was most impressive. Only very rarely would he finish more than a fraction of a minute before or after the end of the hour. Even the use of the chalk boards at the front of the lecture hall appeared to be carefully choreographed. He would begin at the upper left of board number one on the left, and at the end of the lecture would have just completely filled board two on the far right.​

    So, another thing that sets FLP apart from other physics lectures is that they were intended to be entertaining, and they really are!

    Mike Gottlieb
    Editor, The Feynman Lectures on Physics New Millennium Edition
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  15. Jan 7, 2013 #14
    I started reading the original version (that's what the library in my university has), but it didn't do much for me. I read ~150 pages of the book, yet i didn't feel as if my eyes were opened to something new. I think it is, perhaps, because i've heard so much about it that i expected to be amazed by every page i read, and when that didn't happen i was disappointed.
    What I plan on doing is actually watch the lectures, maybe that will be a better experience.
    The lectures can be found here: http://research.microsoft.com/apps/tools/tuva/ (thanks to Bill Gates!)
  16. Jan 7, 2013 #15


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    I can read Feynman (and Richard Dawkins) because they have the ability to clearly explain their subject matter to a layman. Feynman also knew his limitations, he was clear on what was known and what was not, and would only explain what was known.
  17. Jan 7, 2013 #16
    Those are not FLP lectures (of which 120 have been published). They are, rather, Feynman's Messenger Lectures, 7 lectures which he gave at Cornell in 1964, shortly after he finished giving the FLP lectures at Caltech in 1961-64. There is some overlap in material, which is given similar treatment in both lecture series, but the two should not be confused: they vary in scope immensely, and they were given to different kinds of audiences, at different institutions, at different times, and for different reasons. (The Messenger Lectures are nonetheless enjoyable!)
  18. Jan 7, 2013 #17
    So, is there a place where I can find the lectures online?
  19. Jan 7, 2013 #18
    The FLP lectures were never filmed or videotaped; They were tape-recorded and photographed -- it was from these materials that Feynman's co-authors Robert Leighton and Matthew Sands wrote and illustrated the book. The tape recordings are sold by Basic Books on CD - you can find them on sale at Amazon, for example.
  20. Jan 7, 2013 #19
    Thanks, I guess i'll just try and give another chance to the books.
  21. Jan 11, 2013 #20
    ¿When do you plan to release the book of exercises? Not the tips, the new one.
  22. Jan 11, 2013 #21
    The soonest it could be published, according to the publisher's schedule, would be July 2013. We are still working on the figures and layout but hope to be ready by then. Beyond that, I can not say; It's not really possible to predict exactly when it will be published, because there are many mitigating circumstances outside our control.
  23. Jan 11, 2013 #22
    The Feynman Lectures are great books no doubt. Everything said in them is correct and intuitive, but there lies their greatest weakness. They don't teach you well how to do exercises. Feynman tried to avoid formula symbols, and may have a good explanation when other books might only drop a model and do some calculations on it. With the usual books you have less of a feeling that you understand what is happening, but you get on the problem solving path faster and you learn to fill in the gaps by yourself, which is more important IMHO. I don't know anyone who actually recommends the Feynman lectures as the main book for the first few semesters of physics, but quite a few who said it helped them to get the big picture when they read them later. So I would recommend to read them either before you take physics courses, or sometime after the fifth or sixth semester. But at some point you should read them. They'll make you a better physicist.
  24. Jan 18, 2013 #23


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