Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos

Course No. 1247
Professor Steven Pollock, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Boulder
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Course No. 1247
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Course Overview

This two-part series explains, in easily accessible terms, the discovery of the infinitely small particles-the quarks and neutrinos, muons and bosons-that make up everything in nature, from microbes to stars.

It covers the nature and functions of the individual particles, and their roles in the Standard Model of particle physics (a theory that is as much a masterpiece in science as Shakespeare's works are in literature). The lectures also trace the history of particle physics as a science, and the dedicated scientists and complex technology that have made this branch of physics so profoundly productive and important.

This course provides a framework to understand such cutting-edge physics research as gravity waves, dark matter, and string theory.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Nature of Physics
    What is the world made of, how do the constituents fit, and what are the fundamental rules they obey? We discuss the history of human understanding of atoms and subatoms, and articulate some primary ideas in particle physics, focusing on what we know well. x
  • 2
    Standard Model of Particle Physics
    Where do we stand in our understanding of the smallest building blocks of the world? The Standard Model of particle physics is one of the greatest quantitative success stories in science. What are the players, what are the forces, and what are some of the concepts and buzzwords? x
  • 3
    Pre-History of Particle Physics
    We summarize the scientific evolution of atomism: prescientific ideas, the classical worldview of Isaac Newton, and finally the modern ideas of fundamental constituents. How could a famous physicist say physics was "done" in 1899? x
  • 4
    Birth of Modern Physics
    We explore the transition from 19th-century classical physics to 20th-century modern physics. This is the story of Planck, Rutherford, Einstein, and the early quantum physicists. We gain our primitive first understandings of the realistic structure of atoms. x
  • 5
    Quantum Mechanics Gets Serious
    A qualitative introduction to the work of Schrödinger, Heisenberg, and Dirac in describing electrons, this lecture looks at how the first fundamental particle was discovered. We introduce such concepts as spin and quantum electrodynamics (QED), and conclude with the experimental discovery of antimatter and the neutron. x
  • 6
    New Particles & New Technologies
    This lecture conducts a survey of particle physics in the first half of the 20th century: cosmic rays, the discovery of the muon (Who ordered that?), Yukawa's theory of nuclear force, and the discovery of the pion. We conclude by discussing the electron volt (ev) as a tool to make sense of the particle discoveries to come. x
  • 7
    Weak Interactions & the Neutrino
    What is a weak interaction, and how is it connected to radioactivity? What is an interaction, anyway, and how does it differ from a force? We discuss the carriers of weak forces, W and Z particles, and introduce neutrinos—ghostlike particles with no mass. x
  • 8
    Accelerators & Particle Explosion
    Particle accelerators, born after World War II, were in some respects the origin of big science in the United States. We discuss how these machines worked and the steady stream of new particles discovered through their use. x
  • 9
    Particle "Zoo"
    Some new particles exhibited a curious mix of strong and weak properties. The proper description of these "strange particles" was crucial in understanding the particle "zoo." This lecture introduces lots of new lingo—mesons and baryons, hadrons and leptons, bosons and fermions. x
  • 10
    Fields & Forces
    This lecture covers the concept of a field and the early problems involved in constructing the modern theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED). We examine the 1947 Shelter Island conference, the problem of infinities, the concept of renormalization, and Feynman diagrams. x
  • 11
    "Three Quarks for Muster Mark"
    Hadrons (strongly interacting particles) are fundamental but not elementary. Could they be made of something else? This is the breakthrough idea of quarks. This lecture explores early quark conditions. x
  • 12
    From Quarks to QCD
    If quarks are the fundamental particles, how do they interact? The answer: They carry a new charge, a strong charge described by color. We introduce these concepts as part of the fledgling theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD) from the 1970s. x
  • 13
    Symmetry & Conservation Laws
    What does symmetry mean to a physicist? Pretty much what it means to you: an aesthetic property of a system, a pattern that appears the same when viewed from different perspectives. x
  • 14
    Broken Symmetry, Shattered Mirrors
    Symmetry is sometimes slightly broken or badly broken. Either way, there is something useful to be learned about the world. This lecture explores (a seemingly obvious) mirror symmetry, also called parity, and the stunning surprise that it is not perfect (parity violation). x
  • 15
    November Revolution of 1974
    In November of 1974, two simultaneous experimental discoveries rocked the world of particle physics. A new particle, a new quark, had been found. The charmed quark changed the scientific paradigm for physicists overnight. x
  • 16
    A New Generation
    The last great surprises: a new generation of particles. The tau lepton is discovered, and symmetry arguments tell scientists that the tau neutrino, and bottom and top quarks, have to be there ... and they are! x
  • 17
    Weak Forces & the Standard Model
    Progress in the 1960s and '70s was not limited to strong forces and quarks. This is the story of the theory of Weinberg, Salam, and Glashow—the electroweak theory—that unified the fundamental weak, electric, and magnetic forces. We can now summarize the Standard Model. x
  • 18
    Greatest Success Story in Physics
    The Standard Model of particle physics is an impressive accomplishment. Its unparalleled success includes qualitative and quantitative measurements, with years of increasingly precise tests. x
  • 19
    The Higgs Particle
    The Higgs particle is the least understood piece of our story so far, and the one central part not yet directly verified. What is this particle, and what role does it play in the Standard Model? x
  • 20
    Solar Neutrino Puzzle
    We have always assumed that neutrinos are massless, but what if they did have mass? Why are there far fewer neutrinos coming from the sun than there should be? What does it mean to talk about neutrinos changing flavor? x
  • 21
    Back to the Future (1)—Experiments to Come
    The SSC may be dead, but experimental particle physics is alive and vibrant! What are some of the burning issues? Among those we will discuss are the search for violations of matter-antimatter symmetry, and neutrino beams that will travel through the Earth from source to target. x
  • 22
    Back to the Future (2)—Puzzles & Progress
    The Standard Model is a great success. So why are many physicists looking for a more fundamental theory of nature? We'll begin with the missing link of gravity; issues of simplicity, unification, and grand unification; then two developments that to many physicists seem to be the best candidates for new physics: supersymmetry and string theory. x
  • 23
    Really Big Stuff—The Origin of the Universe
    What does cosmology, the study of the universe as a whole, have to do with particle physics? Matter at the very largest scales requires understanding of matter at the very tiniest. We'll discuss how particle physics fits in with the Big Bang, the more recent theory of inflation, and the newly discovered dark matter and dark energy. x
  • 24
    Looking Back & Looking Forward
    What have we learned after more than 100 years of intense study of fundamental particles? What puzzles remain? What you might take out of this course is a sense of physical order and understanding of the constituents of the larger world. x

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Steven Pollock

About Your Professor

Steven Pollock, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Boulder
Dr. Steven Pollock is Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his B.S. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University. Prior to taking his position at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Professor Pollock was a senior researcher at the National Institute for Nuclear and High Energy Physics. In 2013, Professor...
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Reviews

Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 127.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good use of time and money Professor Pollock is a great lecturer. I wish I had had him way back when. I feel I have caught up (somewhat) to the Standard Model.
Date published: 2014-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Engaging Series by an Impressive Lecturer Knowledge grows. I'm old enough to know that much of my knowledge has a half life that is shorter than my life. People who were born after man landed on the moon for the first time are grandparents now. Those of us who learned the structure of matter back in high school and took one modern physics course as part of an undergraduate curriculum know just enough to know that what we know is inconsistent. If like charges repel, and the nucleus is full of positively charged particles which are very, very close together, what sticks them together? There are those of us who get excited considering the components and connections of matter and energy at the nuclear scale. What are things made of? How do we know? Does anyone have the final answer as to what's at the very bottom of things? The occasional articles we run across are tantalizing, but we have neither the concepts nor the vocabulary to follow the discussion. Professor Pollock's course brings us closer to a knowledge of what those in the front lines know now and are looking for in the near future. There is a satisfaction in knowing the standard model, knowing the difference between leptons and hadrons, in knowing where the Large Hadron Collider fits in the scheme of exploration. Professor Pollock puts the topic over at an understandable level, and with enough specificity that we can follow technical literature without being totally lost. We know the words. Professor Pollocks course doesn't us the final answer, but it is a touchstone for today's techical literature and gives us the vocabulary to follow the conversation and to ask further questions.
Date published: 2014-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good course Very interesting material digestible by a non-scientist. Good lecturer.
Date published: 2014-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How to have a great time learning physics I now have a new teaching company hero: Steven Pollock. First, there was Robert Greenberg . Then there was Alex Filippenko . Now there is Steven Pollock. Dr. Pollock is a great lecturer. He is clear, intelligent, exciting, and excited. He obviously loves his topic, and he makes you love it as well. His analogies are clear and compelling. His enthusiasm is infectious. I have never had more fun taking a Teaching Company course than this one. I initially tried this course mostly because I had completed several other physics based courses, and was looking for a new one. I’m not a particle physicist, but I do have a math background and I know something about the standard model, so I really wasn’t expecting much when I started these lectures. However, it wasn’t long before I became totally engaged. The 24 lectures sped by. The lack of mathematics, which could have been a negative, was not a limitation at all. I’m now done, and I want more from Dr. Pollock. I can hardly wait for his next course; just like Dr. Greenberg.
Date published: 2013-12-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Premature? In this series of lectures, Professor Steven Pollock endeavours to introduce the topic of subatomic particles to a non-specialized public. One major hurdle is that he shies away from any math whatsoever and consequently his explanations often come out mundane, if not downright laughable. He compares for instance the evolving ‘colour’ of subatomic particles to vanilla ice cream magically changing to Neapolitan on the way back from the grocery store. Even more significantly, the field he describes is evolving very rapidly. Not only are new subatomic particles regularly discovered, the overall intellectual framework as to how they fit together is under reconstruction, notably because the current scheme does not account for gravity. Thus, Professor Pollock’s most interesting lectures are those dealing with the first half of the 20th century. Afterwards, things accelerate and the overall picture gets muddled. Professor Pollock comes out as a knowledgeable and energetic lecturer. His fascination with the Nobel Prize and, seemingly, with fame and glory in general, is at once charming and annoying. So is his apparently limited knowledge of facets of life outside physics, including table manners _ he claims not to know if one should drink from the glass of water to the right or to the left of one's plate! Despite its shortcomings, this course will certainly be interesting to those wishing to better understand the context of the ‘major breakthroughs’ periodically popping up in the news regarding particle physics.
Date published: 2013-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Professor Pollock's presentation drew me in from the first lecture. Have re-listened to this course 4 times and have learned more each time. He provides the "big picture" as well as details on each group of particles, what they are and how they fit into the "standard model" of particle physics. If you have been fascinated by the discover of the Higgs at the LHC, then this course will provide the entire story. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2013-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course Doing both at the same time: going in depth explaining difficult concepts, and maintaining lively audience-pleasing presentation is a difficult task to achieve and Dr Pollock does it easily and masterfully. Bravo! Wonderful course. It's a pity that hot areas of research such as particle physics develop so quickly that practically any material gets outdated by the time it is released. So, I expect the course will be updated soon with "discovery of Higg's boson" lecture.
Date published: 2013-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and a lot of fun! This course was a fantastic introduction to particle physics! One of the best things that the instructor did was to continue to repeat core concepts as the course deepened. This made it much easier to keep up with the material and not get lost. We (physics-loving husband and never-took-a-physics-course-in-my-life wife) both took away new ideas and excitement about particle physics. Also, for a fun drinking game, take a shot every time Professor Pollock says the word "Framework." (Beware the last lecture!) We highly recommend this wonderful course!
Date published: 2013-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What year? I just got this highly recommended so I wanted to check it out but I can't find a date for the recording, anybody knows when this was recorded? Thanks
Date published: 2012-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Now I Get It! For a long time I had been trying to sort out the various particles of particle physics. Now I get it. While the topic is pretty complex, Dr. Pollock manages to bring it into the realm of understandability. The course helped me clarify "partically" particles from force carriers. He sorted out the particles from the categories of particles. The key is to come away with some understanding of the standard model. It's cool to gain that understanding. Anytime a topic includes a myriad of new terms, it's going to require some effort on the part of the learner. There are numerous terms to grasp in this course. Don't let that scare you away. The course is worth the effort. I like to do background research as new ideas are introduced. I keep my Ipad handy and when interesting concepts are presented, I'll do some online reading. It might take me 3 months to get through a course, but in the end, I have a good feel for the subject. This course sent me online numerous times! If a course can stimulate interest to dig deeper, it's a good course in my opinion. This one sent me digging often enough to rate it a great course. Chris Reich, BizPhyZ.com, TeachU.com
Date published: 2012-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating lectures I have an "acid-test" for courses which clearly divide the courses I listen-to into two categories. My acid-test is whether I sit in the driveway continuing to listen to a lecture for 10 or 15 minutes or more after arriving home because I am so interested in the lecture I don't want to shut it off. This course passes my acid-test. EXTREMELY well done !!!
Date published: 2012-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Course Kicks It! Most courses on this site are pretty good. This one though, is a freakin' standout! Prof. Pollock presents the information clearly, with the science emphasized and including historical anecdotes which give context to that science and are just simply interesting.
Date published: 2012-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course I have just finished this course and will greatly miss my evening dose of Prof Pollock . His explanations of this potentially confusing area are very clear, with helpful metaphors and no maths. The course is really well structured, covering the principles of scientific discovery (theory and experiment) and the personalities of the physicists involved. I wondered at first if I would get used to the Prof's dancing delivery - a manifestation of his huge enthusiasm - but half an hour in and I was hooked. An example of the strength of this course is the fact that even though it was clearly recorded a few years ago, before this year's discovery of the (probable) Higgs particle, this did not seem to be a drawback. The Prof had spelt out the theory for its existence so clearly that it meant I could go back and read the reports with a much better understanding and an exhilarating feeling of being able to apply what I had learned for myself. That's education!
Date published: 2012-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Fine Introduction to Basic Particle Physics This is an interesting but challenging little course for those of us who were not science majors or who have not kept up on developments in particle physics, but have an interest in the subject. It is very much worth your time to learn something about this topic, now very much in the news with the recent discovery (maybe) of the elusive Higgs boson. Professor Pollock is an engaging guide to the micro-universe; I got to like him very much as the lectures progressed. In particular, I enjoyed his short detours into the personalities of the great physicists, illustrating the very human side of the topic. It's a shame that the math underlying the physics is too challenging for even the college educated to be discussed in courses like this; I got the impression that we were seeing only a small part of the total story. Recommended for those interested in learning about current science.
Date published: 2012-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fantastic Course! Audio Version Review: When I first started this course, I will admit that I was a little disappointed when the professor said he wouldn't be talking about quantum mechanics or relativity. I think I had the wrong impression about what specifically this course was about. My fears were assuaged pretty fast, however, as I found myself fascinated by the story of particle physics. Just to reiterate, this is the story of the search for and the current state of the most fundamental particles known or theorized by man. There are no strings or quantum loops here. But it is still a phenomenal course! As a warning, it will start out pretty slow and watered down. You will, at times, be wondering whether you really are going to get anything out of it. Trust me, you will! The presenter did an amazing job of tying together difficult concepts so that the lay person could understand them. His enthusiasm and knowledge level were spot-on! I loved every minute of this course and I think it is my new favorite! I hope Professor Pollock does more in-depth courses such as these in the future! He was truly a pleasure to listen to. I highly recommend this course to anyone even remotely interested in physics. You will not be disappointed!
Date published: 2012-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An important Modern Physics course... This is a fine, fascinating course on one part of modern Physics - including Particle Physics, fundamental particles, the nucleus, fundamental forces - and how all this fits into the rest of modern Physics. This course would be fine for anyone who has taken the equivalent of High School Physics. It is an enjoyable tour through the history of the subject, through all it's changed ideas and theories, and many surprises along the way. Possible directions for further study and thinking in this field are also presented - there's a big unknown future out there yet. Dr. Pollock does a solid job explaining all of this, and brings some excitement and enthusiasm to the subject. There are adequate graphics in the DVD version. The stories of some of the important people who have worked in the field over the last 120 years are interesting. Dr. Pollock does not hide scientist's worry that there are still though to be "too many" fundamental particles, and why that has pushed scientists toward String Theory as an explanation for this concern. A very interesting course.
Date published: 2012-05-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from very weak presentation this is the first course i rate low, i was expecting more multimedia presentation, more animations. the teacher is really full of energy and very in love with subject, this really excellent, but unfortunately he made the course look like bed time stories, talking talking talking and then talking. to tell the truth i only watch until the second dvd, and i felt that the course is about the history of quantum mechanics. in youtube there is million times better information for free. i shall consider returning that course.
Date published: 2012-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding romp through the subatomic world This is one of the two best sources of information on modern particle physics that I have found. I have an undergraduate degree in physics, but have not used it for 35 years. I have forgotten an amazing amount of math! With more time on my hands, I have been trying to get more current. I have the audio version. Very easy to listen to and an incredible amount of information that is well organized. I have read several popular texts on particle physics, the best being "Understanding the Universe from Quarks to the Cosmos" by Don Lincoln. I found them complementary. I have found that if you don't delve into the math, that you need to hear several interpretations by physicists to be able to get the basic understanding of what is going on. This is an excellent source!
Date published: 2012-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Survey This course is not for everyone (obviously) but if you want to know the "stuff" we're made of, this is a must. Dr. Pollock is clear, engaging, and presents on a level that anyone with an interest can understand. He covers a huge amount of material but by the end of the course I felt I had a good understanding of the Standard Model. In fairness, I have listened to the course twice but not because I didn't understand it the first time, rather I wanted to remember some of the finer details. This course has been a great introduction for the Einstein and Quantum Mechanics courses. I'm looking forward to an updated version as the science changes.
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mathematics-free This was the first GC course I ever bought. The whole family thoroughly enjoyed it. It is clearly and enthusiastically presented and, amazingly, mathematics free. Some of us were inspired to get hold of textbooks afterwards to learn some of the maths that'd been left out; on its own terms, though, the course makes sense, which is really remarkable.
Date published: 2011-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course, Great Professor I my opinion, Dr. Pollock is one of the best Teaching Company professors. He is presenting very difficult conceptual ideas and he anticipates the viewer's confusion with certain topics and leads them skillfully through the minefields. He is careful with language and takes great care to give the best explanation possible when very abstract ideas threaten to disconnect the student from a decent understanding of difficult subject matter. I only hope the Teaching Company keeps his courses coming.
Date published: 2011-12-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Particle Physics Clarified I have taken and enjoyed many courses from the Teaching Company over the years, especially in the science and math areas. The course on Particle Physics by Professor Steven Pollock is also enjoyable by providing an introductory historical, scientific and philosphical perspective on the complex topic describing the various elementary particles and their associated forces. However, the course lacks an essential element which prevents me from rating it higher. It lacks any semblance of a mathematical framework, which could greatly enhance the course. On numerous occasions Professor Pollock quotes Richard Feynman, but he apparently has forgotten that Professor Feynman was one of the leading advocates in the quantification of science. The course is also lacking in visual graphics to help enhance the many concepts described. Compatred to the excellent course by Professor Wolfson entiltled Physics and Our Universe, the course leaves you with a sense of emptiness about this intriguing topic. While I did not expect to see much math, I did expect to see relevant math which would enhance the concepts presented. Perhaps the course should be entitled Particle Physics for the Humanities Major? One could probably get as much from the course just by listening to the audio version, since the video material provides few visual concepts that enhance the material.
Date published: 2011-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wonderful Introduction To Particle Physics The excitement of particle physics and its discoveries can hardly be exaggerated. I usually find it useful to read a book from a different author, along with Teaching Company courses. I chose Close's Very Short Introduction To Particle Physics with this, and the duo enhanced my feeble understanding of the field greatly. Firstly, on par with topics such as origins of life, this is a thriving dynamic field where new discoveries are made every year, so I guess I can't really complain much if some info is a bit dated. Prof. Pollock's presentation has a few quite important characteristics; 1. It is intuitive, meaning he's able to explain abstract, sometimes ridiculous-sounding ideas by appealing to your everyday experiences and common sensibilities. 2. He reiterates the essentials time and again, hammering the sometimes abstruse, always complicated ideas in your head. 3. He is modest (unlike many big-ego physicists he talks about), so he manifests a refreshing honesty and realism when taking stock of the achievements, and more importantly, when discussing, time and again, the sociological and human factors influencing research. 4. Although Pollock takes a generally historical approach to the topic, he frequently goes back and forth in time, developing different strands and concepts as he sees fit. And although this is a tad challenging at times, I think it works in the end. That said, the material could benefit greatly from a revamp, and the inclusion of the preliminary results of the latest CERN experiments and challenges to the theory. All in all, Pollock's been a favorite of mine for a long time, and him and the Teaching Company provide a deserving introduction to Particle Physics.
Date published: 2011-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "A great" nuts and bolts run through the "Zoo" The standard atomic model used to be neutrons and protons in the middle with electrons whizzing around the outside. Professor Pollock incrementally moves us through the bewildering discoveries and subatomic architecture made known only to physicists during the 20th century. This is a very enjoyable course with a lot of visual material but it is not without rigor. Although some new question marks have been added to particle physics since the taping of this course, it is, nevertheless, a great entry vehicle and an even greater "catcher upper". As the number of subatomic particles has been jokingly referred to as the particle zoo. And as much as any overview of particle physics will focus on the "piece parts" this course represents a great nuts and bolts run through the zoo.
Date published: 2011-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Particle Physics This is a good course, delivered with enthusiasm by a very competent professor. This is obviously a fairly abstract subject, but Professor Pollock does manage to come up with metaphors and images which help the participant understand the course better. There are , however, a couple of problems which I would like to point out. First, even after 12 hours on the topic I am not sure where it all fits, nor was it really addressed; why so many particles? which are energy, which are matter? what makes a particle elementary? In other words, the physics of particles is less of a mystery to me, but I am still unable to get the "big picture". Secondly--and this is not the problem of the professor--even though the course was taped less than 10 years ago, it is unfortunately already dated. The field is moving rapidly and I was disappointed that none of the recent discovery made at CERN was presented. Overall, I did get a lot out of this course, but not as much as I would have liked.
Date published: 2011-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow. This course would be perfect...if only I had someone else to talk to about all its greatness and wonders. I love particle physics.
Date published: 2011-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Experience Professor Steven Pollock is an amazing scientist and communicator. Taking on the challenge of explaining one of the most complex fields of science without the mechanics of complex mathematics is one heck of a task. To put it bluntly he succeeded magnificently. Tracing the origins of the discoveries of the fundamental particles of nature to the formulation of the standard model of particle physics, Dr Pollock not only explains the how of discovery but at the same time brought home the world of micro subatomic particles in a way that was understandable and intellectually satisfying. The world of quarks, leptons and higgs is a fascinating topic and one that is currently in the daily news as the new accelerator in Europe is coming on line. The only regret I have is that the course, being eight years old, was a little out of date in light of today's particle physics experiments. It would be worthwhile to present an updated version of the material. This fact in no way detracts from the value of the course or the material presented. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the subatomic world and the fundimental building blocks of what we are made of.
Date published: 2011-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely FANTASTIC course! Every High School in North America - nay on Earth - should have this course for 11th/12th grade students to view. My knowledge of mathematics stops short of the mathematics required to have a deep understanding of quantum mechanics. But rest assured, a deep knowledge of mathematics is not required for this course. Professor Pollock explains all the concepts in what I consider to be very understandable language for anyone who has a passing interest in Science. I particularly enjoyed Professor Pollock's obvious enthusiasm for the subject matter. This is a course I view almost monthly. Anytime I feel like taking a mental bath to refresh my neurons, I turn to this course. Thank you Professor Pollock!
Date published: 2011-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Homework Discussion- Particle Physics Enjoyed Prof. Pollock's enthusiastic presentations. I am a Registered Nurse a BSN with mostly a life sciences college background, no prior coursework in physics, not even in high school, and no math beyond pre-calc. This course worked for me, but I did have to view some of the DVDs three times. No calculations are involved, but Prof. Pollock does use some terminology that presupposes a scientific background: "degrees of freedom," for example. Would recommend the DVD versions of all Great Courses over the Audio versions. Can any brainy person out there give me the answers for Particle Physics Chapter 11's "Questions to Consider?" For Ques. #1, I got e); for Ques. #2, I chose a); and for Question #3, I think the quark make-up was one "anti-up," for value of -2/3 and one "anti-down," for value -1/3, to make a total of -1, as the counterpart of the +1 of the pi+ up, anti-down meson. Am I on the right track here? Seems too intuitive to be correct! I've just begun Prof. Pollock's Ideas of General Physics, and think it would have been better for me to have had this background before taking Particle Physics. Overall, I've learned a huge amount and have become more enthusiastic about the "hard" sciences from taking Prof. Pollock's course, with no threat of exams or grades, or competition from annoying, over zealous pre-med students.
Date published: 2010-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better Each time I Watch It I can see how some folks might not 'get' this course the first time around, but I've come to really appreciate it. Frankly, I figure that TTC courses cost enough to merit constant re-watching. If they don't, I feel I didn't get my money's worth. No other TTC physics course (& they're the only game in town, basically) sets forth The Standard Model of particle physics as well as this one does. Since I am trying to learn as much as I can about this field without actually going back to college (I wish I could!), I was thrilled to find this course. I was further thrilled to enjoy the instructor's presentation very much. (As a bona fide female, I'll even add that I found him 'easy on the eyes,' as they say.) I enjoyed the history that was included, especially the more 'current' history of events occurring in the 60s and 70s. My brother-in-law worked at SLAC for years--including the 60s & 70s--but I was too spaced then to realize what incredible stuff he was doing. He once offered to take me "through the accelerator" & I instantly agreed. Imagine my disappointment when all we did was walk 2 miles down a cinder-block hallway to a big room at the end filled with giant cement blocks. I thought I'd get a chance to zoom at almost the speed of light myself ! I mean, he DID ask me if I "wanted to go THROUGH the accelerator..." But that did not happen. It's probably for the best. Hitting the big cement blocks could have been pretty rough. The course is great & try watching it a second time before you give up on it. It is rich in content.
Date published: 2010-11-11
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