Geek on the Cheap #125:Last Bit of MIT – Quantum Mechanics Made (Sort of) Easy

Feb 15, 2010 | Posted in Geek on the Cheap, sci-osophy

Okay, this is my last MIT-related GoC for the near future. I couldn’t resist this post because a friend of mine is editing a book by Walter Lewin, the well-known MIT physics professor (emeritus) whose lectures plunk physics solidly into the realm of the knowable for the average person (or undergraduate).

And who doesn’t want to impress her friends and colleagues with an understanding (however shallow) of quantum physics? That’s what I’ll be gabbing about at Mah Jongg next weekend, filling my competitors ears with a fuzzy explanation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as they try to make a hand. (Clever strategy, no?)

And I’m challenging you to hop to the head of the class with this lecture, the last in Lewin’s course on classical mechanics, which is available in its entirety through MIT OpenCourseWare. And for those of you who prefer to read, you can find the entire transcript here.

Why should you care about quantum mechanics? Because, as Lewin says, “[it’s] a bizarre world that we rarely experience in our daily lives, because we are used to basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls [classical mechanics].” In other words, quantum mechanics is not intuitive. And this is an important concept in and of itself for practicing science, politics and life: Intuition does not equal truth.

But enough tiny philosophy. Next week we’re back to brass tacks – an inexpensive computer build you don’t have to build.

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