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What did you get out of 1000 hrs. of Susskind lectures?

  1. Jul 10, 2013 #1
    I wanted to start a poll for this thread, but couldn't figure out how to do it. However, I was curious as to what people's experience was with watching Lenny Susskind's multiple marathons of "the theoretical minimum" variety of extended education lectures? Of course, I may be vilified for questioning the sanctity of almighty Susskind, but I'm just looking for experiences and opinions, ya know.... I think it may be a useful topic seeing as many aspiring physicists, and many on this site, myself included, have spent a lot of time on that Stanford channel looking for enlightenment from old Lenny.

    So, here's my experience...Out of the 1000 (or so :smile:) hours of Lenny's lectures, I think I got a good 3 1/2 hours of good solid science knowledge, approximately. I mean I love his style and his command of the whiteboard, but all too often I caught myself fading out and dozing off when he'd go off on those 20 minute tangents of whatever he was talking about. He's so soothing and comforting in his delivery, though, that you don't even notice you've gone off topic until those 20 minutes have been burned.

    Another issue for me was (is) that he almost never provides specific examples of actual problems and works through them. In the second quantum physics series, I can't remember one specific problem he worked through (although there probably were some). He never even discussed the quantum harmonic oscillator. His discourse just gets so abstract so fast and stays there, it's very difficult (for me) to maintain attention when the levels of abstraction keep building upon one after another hour after hour with it never being "brought home" or down to Earth with any specific examples. And I'm a pretty "abstract-o-phile" kind of guy. Am I out of bounds here?

    I'm particularly bringing this up because I had high hopes for this series as something of a one-stop shopping to get me to the theoretical minimum. On the contrary, now that I look back on it, I really don't know how much I actually learned but I do know that I certainly burned a lot of hours watching it. That's not to say it wasn't worth it, though, Lenny's very entertaining, I still watch those lectures from time to time. It's much easier to enjoy them, though, if you're not expecting to get much out of them. I think that is a shame, though. They could have been great. Am I alone with this experience? What was yours?
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  3. Jul 10, 2013 #2


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    He's boring as hell. For some reason he reminds me of Gandalf the Grey.

    EDIT: And his GR lectures are horrible by the way. They will confuse you and then once you sort out the confusions they will confuse you again. For the love of god don't watch them lol
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  4. Jul 10, 2013 #3
    I don't think I ever got beyond 30 hours of his lectures while staying awake. He's a good orator but what I've seen is too informal and slow to get anything useful out of it IMO (ie: genuine understanding, being able to solve problems).

    IMO there will never be a substitute for reading a proper textbook and trying to do the problems at the end of a chapter + asking questions to an instructor and/or PF/the internets.

    Lewin's lectures really are excellent for all introductory physics though(and even as a revision for a grad like me), I wish half my lecturers were that organized and skillful.
  5. Jul 10, 2013 #4


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    I also like Prof. Balakrishnan's QM lectures from IIT.
  6. Jul 10, 2013 #5
    Word!! I watched those the summer before I had my first QM course, it definitely helped a lot to have those topics in the back of my head somewhere even before taking it, it certainly made things easier.
  7. Jul 10, 2013 #6


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    Yeah I certainly found them to be insightful. It's too bad that GR isn't a required course for a physics BS in the US because that might help generate useful GR video lectures of a similar caliber. There are Padmanabhan's GR lectures: http://www.iucaa.ernet.in/~paddy/ although I haven't gotten around to watching them.
  8. Jul 10, 2013 #7
    Didn't know he did GR lectures too, awesome. There's always Mathview's youtube channel for getting started with GR. I actually watched them when I was a freshman but understood practically zilch at the time.
  9. Jul 10, 2013 #8
    This was my biggest problem with the the parts of the series I've seen. You're not alone. He may be a great teacher to people who already have a background in physics (e.g. his students), but I don't think he properly prepared himself for teaching the clueless among us (e.g. me); and that was the main point of the series, wasn't it?
  10. Jul 10, 2013 #9


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    But anyways, I agree with Lavabug: I personally only learn by doing a lot of problems and asking questions; lectures alone are not going to be enough by any stretch. They are too passive (Susskind's especially since he is just so dang boring).
  11. Jul 10, 2013 #10
    When giving a lecture or presentation of any type you should always consider and take into account the background, current state of knowledge and other details of your audience. I'm assuming that Mr Susskind's lectures were primarily prepared and were most suitable for those students who actually attended the lectures.If so it is likely that they are lacking somewhat for those students who view the lectures via the internet. You can't please everyone.
  12. Jul 10, 2013 #11
    That sounds all nice and good, but there's two problems with that assessment. One, the course is advertised, if you will, as the "lectures for the rest of us" to get us to the point of the "theoretical minimum" in order begin to speak and think like a physicist. It's not designed specifically for the attending students, it's designed really for more of an open-courseware format. Of course, it is also advertised, as these things often are, that all you need to know to particiate is high school algebra, geometry, a "little" trigonometry, and "basic" college calculus. I don't think so.....

    Two, even if it were designed just for the students in the class which, from what I gather, are not actually students but interested "continuing education" persons from the community, no amount of pre-requisite work is going to prepare you for the disorganized, disconnected, and bombastic presentation of the material.
  13. Jul 10, 2013 #12
    I had high hope's also with Mathview's series, especially with learning about covariant and contravariant indices, tensors, etc. But again, I didn't get much out of it. I had better luck with the guy from digital-university.org's series on tensors. He seems like an old school engineer of some sort trying to pass on his knowledge to the youngsters. Unfortunately, his writing of the equations is painfully slow, and I mean painfully. However if you can stick with it, you can get something out of it.
  14. Jul 10, 2013 #13
    The problem is that the usefulness of teaching "physics for the rest of us" ie: devoid of math and problem solving is extremely questionable. Thinking like a scientist involves a lot of problem solving, so removing it from a physics instruction is akin to learning to play basketball without laying hands on the ball. Math literacy and problem solving experience is required just like a working set of hands with muscle memory to dribble, pass and shoot hoops. You can do all of those with your face if you felt so inclined, but it would be painful and ugly in the long run. :P
  15. Jul 10, 2013 #14


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    Hi WannabeNewton,
    Would you say these lectures are at the level of Griffiths Introductory book on QM? If not, do you (or anyone) know of QM lectures at Griffiths level?

  16. Jul 10, 2013 #15
    Balakrishnan are probably at around Griffith's level. On their own they left me with a few blank spots (and there were no actual problems in it) but I was quickly able to fill them in when I actually had the course taught to me from Cohen-Tannoudji's book (more rigorous and extensive than Griffiths', less verbose).
    Oh yes, that old dude's lectures on QM and circuit theory were pretty nice. I spent a great deal of time on his circuit theory videos, and only a little bit on the qm and gr but as you said these last two were painfully slow at times. Still very proper though, you could get basic proficiency in elementary QM problems out of those, but for understanding you would definitely want to read the words in a book like Cohen-Tannoudji (I admit I am a fanboy of this book).

    Pat Hoppep's videos on electronic circuits are 80% of what I used to study for my analog electronics final. xD Elementary, but gets the job done faster than tearing through a massive tome like Malvino's "Electronic principles".

    Mathview's videos make more sense to me now that I've actually had a GR course taught at practically the same level and leafed through a few of the popular elementary texts. :P Best to grab something super friendly like "relativity demystified" to get some basic proficiency and then have a look at a more advanced book.
  17. Jul 10, 2013 #16


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    I quite enjoyed the Leonard Susskind lectures (Stanford University), from general relativity to cosmology to statistical mechanics. I think he gives a great introduction to these topics and others.

    It's obvious by his cookie eating.
  18. Jul 10, 2013 #17
    If he puts down the bakery goods off-cam at the same rate as he does on cam, it's a miracle he didn't croak 20 years ago...
  19. Jul 10, 2013 #18


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    I am going to search these out now and watch them. I'm usually not phased by dry lecturers, but this may be a treat. I'm always trying to push the limits of my willpower to stay awake.

    wannabenewton: "Boring as hell" and "reminds me of Gandalf the Grey..." do not belong together in a single statement. >=/
  20. Jul 10, 2013 #19
    I never understood the attempt to learn physics from youtube, to me any lecture on there, no matter how good, is pretty much useless. There's no substitute for a textbook and many hours of practice.
  21. Jul 10, 2013 #20


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    I would say they are somewhat above the level of Griffiths because the Professor doesn't shy away from actually teaching mathematics, something Griffiths doesn't do (he teaches something but it isn't math). I'm not sure if Griffiths even mentions what a separable Hilbert space is once in his text in a rigorous way; I'd be surprised if Griffiths even mentioned what a Cauchy sequence is with regards to completeness of metric spaces.

    I don't know of any strictly Griffiths level QM lectures unfortunately, sorry :frown:

    But hey there's always the Ellen DeGeneres Show! I'm sure there's some QM there somewhere.
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