Saturday, August 3, 2013

Physics For Future Presidents course

Have you ever wished that you knew more about science and how things work? Or maybe felt that despite having an otherwise well-rounded education, you do not have a so sure footing on science, in particular physics, and could maybe understand more if things could be easier math wise? If so, you're not alone. Many of us have wished for a better science grasp and as you may well know, this wish has been recently granted thanks to iTunesU.

ITunesU is a subsection of the iTunes store which holds classes and courses from different colleges and schools from around the country in audio and video. These higher education courses encompass almost the widest possible array of subjects. The best part is that they are all for free.

I have listened to a few, and thought of giving a shout out to one in particular. This one is Berkeley's Physics for Future Presidents imparted by Richard Muller.

This course can be thought as a quick, extensive course in everyday physics. It has an interesting angle, as it tries to answer what information must a US president needs to have on physics for effective policy decisions ranging from national security and terrorism to energy generation and use. Of course, what is true for the US president applies to regular citizens who wish to know more about the those policies, act and decide through their congressmen in the democratic exercise of their rights, and not be bewildered by the scientific concepts. This is achieved through high content conceptual emphasis over mathematical minutia. The end result is that course delivers making the world clearer and, for many, less intimidating.

The instructor, Dr. Muller, is top-notch in credentials and in teaching style.

I have only tried the audio version, but I don't think that I miss any of the concepts by using only my ears. Notwithstanding I was so enthusiastic about the course that I bought the accompanying textbook, or tried to. One must be aware that there are actually two main books books by Dr. Muller under the same name. One, the said textbook on two editions, the fall 2007 and the updated 2010 edition; the other, a condensed version of the material, aimed for the general public in paperback grey cover. I, alas, got the latter. Still good and as clearly explained as in the audio, but not the flagship. 

If you're more visually oriented,  the course is also available on YouTube

In closing, need to mention Asimov's Understanding Physics as a possible second companion to the course.  It's fine contentwise, but be wary as it somehow is without the charm of Asimov's other works.


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