Physics in Your Life

Realms of Physics
1: Realms of Physics

Professor Richard Wolfson introduces the field of physics and describes the fundamental role it plays in our lives. He discusses the difference between classical and modern physics and outlines the course scope....

32 min
The Amazing Disc
2: The Amazing Disc

This lecture uses compact discs and DVDs as metaphors for the whole realm of physics, especially for the phenomena of light and sound....

30 min
The Wonderful Wave
3: The Wonderful Wave

Most of our contact with and knowledge about the world comes from waves. This lecture explores basic wave behaviors and properties, and everyday phenomena....

30 min
Seeing the Light
4: Seeing the Light

We learn how images are formed in the eye and how the principles of optics are used in everything from telescopes to microscopes, CD players to cameras....

30 min
Is Seeing Believing?
5: Is Seeing Believing?

Nature and technology have a variety of tricks for altering the path of light, some of which form images while others result in such beautiful optical effects as rainbows. The optical fibers that carry our email and web pages exploit such "tricks."...

30 min
Music to Your Ears
6: Music to Your Ears

Sound is a propagating disturbance that carries energy but not matter. Sound waves are important not only for hearing but for probing structures as diverse as the Sun and developing fetuses....

30 min
May the Forces Be With You
7: May the Forces Be With You

The single most important concept in physics is that forces cause not motion but change in motion. This lecture introduces Newton's famous three laws of motion....

30 min
Aristotle's Revenge
8: Aristotle's Revenge

Friction is a hidden force that obscures the simplicity of Newton's laws. Without friction, we couldn't walk, run, or dance; start, stop, or steer a car; or even balance....

31 min
Going in Circles
9: Going in Circles

Motion in curved paths, especially circles, is important in everything from atoms to cars to satellites to galaxies, yet few ideas in physics are so confusing....

30 min
Taking Flight
10: Taking Flight

We look at how balloons and airplanes achieve flight. Newton's laws provide a simple but full explanation for flight. A more sophisticated explanation involves the physics of fluid motion....

31 min
Into Space
11: Into Space

This lecture investigates the physics of space flight, from orbits to the misnamed state called "zero gravity." We also look at many applications of space technology....

30 min
A Conservative Streak
12: A Conservative Streak

Under the right conditions, energy and momentum are conserved-that is, their values do not change. This explains many of the interactions that occur....

31 min
The Electrical Heart of Matter
13: The Electrical Heart of Matter

This lecture looks at aspects of electricity, including electric charge and electric fields, and the role electricity plays in holding matter together....

30 min
Harnessing the Electrical Genie
14: Harnessing the Electrical Genie

Current is the net flow of electric charge. Voltage is the energy imparted per unit charge. Together, they give us electric power. Electric charge flows more easily in some materials than others, and these differences are exploited in technology....

31 min
A Magnetic Personality
15: A Magnetic Personality

Magnetism arises from moving electric charges. We use this relationship in a huge number of ways, from motors and loudspeakers to clocks and circuit breakers....

31 min
Making Electricity
16: Making Electricity

To make electric current and keep it flowing, we need devices that can separate positive and negative charge and keep them separate. Here we look at devices from everyday batteries to solar cells....

31 min
Credit Card to Power Plant
17: Credit Card to Power Plant

Electromagnetic induction is the basis for electric generators and a host of applications-from devices that read credit cards, to tape recorders, bicycle speedometers, and electric toothbrush chargers....

30 min
Making Waves
18: Making Waves

Everything we know about electromagnetism is described by Maxwell's equations. Maxwell's equations lead us directly to the nature of light, radio, x-rays, and other electromagnetic waves....

30 min
The Miracle Element
19: The Miracle Element

Professor Wolfson uses a series of six lectures to take us from the atomic level all the way up to a complete computer. This first lecture examines the intriguing properties of the element silicon, essential to modern electronics....

31 min
The Twentieth Century's Greatest Invention?
20: The Twentieth Century's Greatest Invention?

One of the most important inventions of the 20th century is the transistor, a tiny semiconductor device at the heart of every electronic gadget, from the simplest radio to the most complex supercomputer....

31 min
Building the Electronics Revolution
21: Building the Electronics Revolution

The revolution that enabled modern electronics came in the early 1960s, when engineers learned to combine multiple transistors and other electronic devices on a single piece, or "chip," of silicon....

30 min
Circuits-So Logical!
22: Circuits-So Logical!

The fundamental building blocks of computers are digital circuits that store and process information in the form of binary numbers....

30 min
How's Your Memory?
23: How's Your Memory?

We investigate how individual electronic memory cells work and how they're assembled into voluminous computer memories....

31 min
Atom to Computer
24: Atom to Computer

We learn what goes into a complete computer, comprising a microprocessor, motherboard, and different peripheral devices....

31 min
Keeping Warm
25: Keeping Warm

This lecture introduces a number of ideas related to heat, including the flow of heat, temperature and how it is measured, and energy balance....

31 min
Life in the Greenhouse
26: Life in the Greenhouse

Professor Wolfson discusses the process of energy balance as it applies to Earth's climate and how human activity may be altering that climate....

30 min
The Tip of the Iceberg
27: The Tip of the Iceberg

We investigate changes in state between liquids, solid, and gases, and how these affect different substances, including water, which has some unusual properties....

31 min
Physics in the Kitchen
28: Physics in the Kitchen

The kitchen is full of examples of physics, especially relating to heat transfer. We explore refrigeration and the many styles of cooking, including broiling, boiling, steaming, and microwaving....

31 min
Like a Work of Shakespeare
29: Like a Work of Shakespeare

The writer C. P. Snow compared the second law of thermodynamics to the works of Shakespeare as being something every educated person should know....

30 min
Energy in Your Life
30: Energy in Your Life

How much energy does it take to supply our energy needs? Professor Wolfson inventories our energy use and gives a visceral demonstration of what that implies....

30 min
Your Place on Earth
31: Your Place on Earth

Featuring a potpourri of physics applications, Professor Wolfson begins a five lecture series which opens with a look at the Global Positioning System (GPS), a constellation of satellites that can pinpoint a location on Earth within inches....

30 min
Dance and Spin
32: Dance and Spin

The physics of rotational motion leads to some surprising phenomena, with roles in such everyday occurrences as bicycle riding, ice skating, and weather....

30 min
The Light Fantastic
33: The Light Fantastic

The laser is among the most important inventions of the 20th century. We explore different types of lasers and their uses....

31 min
Nuclear Matters
34: Nuclear Matters

Nuclear physics is inextricably part of our lives-in energy, defense policy, medicine, airline security, and even in smoke detectors and radiocarbon dating....

30 min
Physics in Your Body
35: Physics in Your Body

Beginning with the mechanics of how the human body works, we then investigate medical techniques that use physics, particularly medical imaging tools such PET, CAT, and MRI....

31 min
Your Place in the Universe
36: Your Place in the Universe

Professor Wolfson closes with a philosophical look at where we humans fit into the universe, particularly how the material from which we are made comes, ultimately, from stars and from processes that commenced during the Big Bang....

31 min
Richard Wolfson

Physics explains the workings of the universe at the deepest level, the everyday natural phenomena that are all around us, and the technologies that enable modern society. It's an essential liberal art.

ALMA MATER

Dartmouth College

INSTITUTION

Middlebury College

About Richard Wolfson

Dr. Richard Wolfson is the Benjamin F. Wissler Professor of Physics at Middlebury College, where he also teaches Climate Change in Middlebury's Environmental Studies Program. He completed his undergraduate work at MIT and Swarthmore College, graduating from Swarthmore with a double major in Physics and Philosophy. He holds a master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Physics from Dartmouth.

Professor Wolfson's published work encompasses diverse fields such as medical physics, plasma physics, solar energy engineering, electronic circuit design, observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, nuclear issues, and climate change. His current research involves the eruptive behavior of the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, as well as terrestrial climate change and the sun-Earth connection.

Professor Wolfson is the author of several books, including the college textbooks Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Essential University Physics,and Energy, Environment, and Climate. He is also an interpreter of science for the nonspecialist, a contributor to Scientific American, and author of the books Nuclear Choices: A Citizen's Guide to Nuclear Technology and Simply Einstein: Relativity Demystified.

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