Physics in Your Life

Course No. 1260
Professor Richard Wolfson, Ph.D.
Middlebury College
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4.7 out of 5
65 Reviews
72% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1260
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Course Overview

Why does a curve ball curve? Why does ice float? What's the perfect way to cook egg custard? How do CDs and DVDs work? Why don't your legs break when you jump off a chair? What keeps a moving bicycle from falling over? These questions involve physical principles that relate not only to interesting aspects of our daily lives, but also explain such phenomena as the cause of hurricanes, the formation of neutron stars, the ability of water to dissolve different substances, and other fundamental features of reality.

Therefore, this course that explores the physics of everyday events is not just informative and fun, it has the potential to lead to a deeper understanding of the universe.

But it takes a superb teacher to make these connections—to start with a nuts-and-bolts description of how a refrigerator works and end up with a profound insight into the ultimate fate of the cosmos.

Professor Richard Wolfson of Middlebury College is the ideal teacher to take you on this journey. The New York Times praised him as "absolutely stellar" in his Teaching Company course on modern physics, Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists. Now he brings the same enthusiasm to "everyday" physics, dealing with our basic understanding of the physical world as it applies to commonplace technologies and natural phenomena.

A Nonmathematical Course Where "Seeing Is Believing"

Physics in Your Life is more than a course in physics and more than a laundry list of "how things work." In fact, it combines the two, offering a back-and-forth interplay between everyday applications of physics and the concepts needed to understand them.

"My approach is entirely qualitative," says Professor Wolfson. "I believe you can understand physics, and understand it deeply, without using mathematics."

How does he do it? In the spirit of "seeing is believing," he uses an impressive array of experiments, gadgets, props, computer animations, short videos, diagrams, and pictures. Like Mr. Wizard of the classic TV science series, Professor Wolfson is a born showman. Among his hands-on demonstrations:

  • A blown-up balloon is bathed in super-cold liquid nitrogen to show the contracting effect that heat loss has on the air inside the balloon.
  • Professor Wolfson cranks a muscle-powered generator to demonstrate the surprising effort required to produce a mere 100 watts. Imagine if you had to generate all your electricity this way!
  • A giant magnetic coil on a rotating shaft reveals the ingenious simplicity of the electric motor, used in everything from electric toothbrushes to locomotives.
  • A curious phenomenon unfolds as a magnet is dropped through a hollow aluminum tube. Aluminum is non-magnetic, which means the magnet won't stick to it. But can you guess what happens?

You will also see experiments with lasers, lenses, bowling balls, gyroscopes, musical instruments, and more. And Professor Wolfson walks you step-by-step through the processes by which computers compute—from the level of electrons moving through semiconductors to binary bits, bytes, CPUs, RAM, all the way up to text and pictures appearing on your screen.

What You Will Learn

This course is organized into six modules, treating five specific realms of physics and their related applications, plus a sixth area devoted to a potpourri of topics:

"Sight and Sound" begins with the technology behind CDs and DVDs, using these devices as a springboard to study light, sound, and other phenomena. You will explore how these principles relate to such topics as rainbows, optical fibers for communications, musical instruments, and laser vision correction.

"Going Places" looks at motion and its connection to modes of transportation such as walking, automobiles, airplanes, and interplanetary probes. This module is based on Newton's laws, generalized to include such topics as fluid motion, conservation of energy, and the dynamics of space flight.

"Plug In, Turn On" looks at the intimate connection between electricity and magnetism that is at the heart of technologies from electric motors and generators to videotapes and credit cards. Electricity and magnetism join to make possible electromagnetic waves, which enable the growing host of wireless technologies.

"From Atom to Computer" starts with the element silicon and builds through progressively larger scales-transistors, logic circuits, microprocessors, motherboards, and peripherals-to create a conceptual picture of how a computer works.

"Fire and Ice" introduces heat with topics ranging from physics in the kitchen to Earth's climate and how humans are altering it. Also covered are thermal responses of materials, including the unusual behavior of water in both liquid and solid form. The module ends with the second law of thermodynamics and its implications for human energy use.

"Potpourri" offers a miscellany of topics in physics: the workings of the satellite Global Positioning System; rotational motion in phenomena from dance to pulsars; lasers and their many uses; nuclear physics and its multifaceted role in our lives; the mechanics of the human body and how physics enables us to explore the body through medical imaging; and the evolution of the universe from the big bang to you.

From Everyday Examples to Universal Principles

The beauty of this course is that it takes you from the specific to the general. "This is not a standard introductory physics course," says Professor Wolfson. "It's not a course that's going to lay out a lot of physical principles, and then give you a few minor examples of them. Rather, it's going to focus more directly on the application of those principles in your everyday life."

For example, at the beginning of the first module you delve into a mystery that may have long puzzled you: How are music and images encoded in the plastic discs that are CDs and DVDs? As you discover how microscopic pits on a rotating disc are interpreted as ones or zeroes by a laser optical system, Professor Wolfson relates these processes to principles you will encounter later in the course:

  • Discs rotate, as do objects from car wheels to planets.
  • Discs store information, a role they have in common with magnetic tapes, credit card strips, semiconductor electronics, phonograph records, and DNA molecules.
  • Discs are read with an optical system that involves lasers and the reflection, refraction, and interference of light.
  • The stream of information coming off a disc is manipulated by physics-based electronic circuitry. It is then converted into light and sound using a variety of physics principles.

"CDs and DVDs are metaphors for almost all of physics," says Professor Wolfson. Many disciplines—from quantum physics, to optics, mechanics, and electronics—are involved in making CDs and DVDs work.

Bringing Physics Down to Earth

Physics can get complicated, and whenever the discussion threatens to become too abstract, Professor Wolfson pulls you back to Earth with a memorable explanation or analogy:

  • On the information content of a CD: "Brahms's Symphony No. 3 as recorded on a disc is nothing but a single number. It's a binary number with many, many digits. When you go out and buy Microsoft Office to put on your computer, it's nothing but an enormous binary number. When you write your Ph.D. thesis, there's nothing but a single, large number."
  • On the nature of waves: "A wave of people in a stadium is a true example of a wave. The disturbance consists of the people removing themselves from their seated positions, standing up, and sitting down again. That disturbance moves around the stadium, and it carries with it the energy that it takes to lift a person out of his or her seat—but it does not move the people around the stadium. A wave, then, is a traveling disturbance that carries energy, but it doesn't carry matter."
  • On the energy source of hurricanes: "A hurricane works by the latent heat of water evaporated from the ocean, released in the air to drive the hurricane. Similarly, in a double boiler, latent heat from the boiling water is released in contact with the bottom of the upper pan, and that's what causes the food to cook."
  • On computer crashes: "In a computer hard disc, there is a head that literally flies, held aloft by aerodynamic forces. The distance is on the order of one millionth of one meter. A disc crash is like an airplane crash. The flying disc hits a particle of dust, loses those aerodynamic forces, and crashes into the disc, damaging the surface—and there goes your Ph.D. thesis if you haven't got it backed up!"

Clearing Things Up

Professor Wolfson also clears up some common misconceptions:

  • Sonic booms: People tend to think that sonic booms occur at the moment an airplane breaks through the sound barrier, and then it's over. That's not true at all. As long as an airplane is moving faster than the speed of sound, it's dragging a big shock wave behind it, creating a boom as it passes.
  • What stops a car? Brakes do not stop the car. They simply stop the wheels from turning. What stops the car is the frictional force between the wheels and the road, which is most efficient when the wheels are still rolling.
  • Centrifugal force: There is no such force. The term centrifugal force is used to describe apparent but actually nonexistent forces one experiences in rotating frames of reference-a sort of fudge to make Newton's laws seem to apply in a situation in which they don't apply.
  • "Zero g": It's a common misconception that there's no gravity in space. Apparent weightlessness arises any time the only force acting on an object is gravity. That condition is called "free fall."

Physics in Your Life is the perfect complement to Professor Wolfson's other Teaching Company course on physics, Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists. And while the two courses treat very different realms, they are united by the energy and enthusiasm of an educator whom Teaching Company customers call "brilliant," "exciting," and "one of the most dynamic and engaging professors I've ever had the pleasure of listening to."

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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." x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 22
    Circuits—So Logical!
    The fundamental building blocks of computers are digital circuits that store and process information in the form of binary numbers. x
  • 23
    How’s Your Memory?
    We investigate how individual electronic memory cells work and how they're assembled into voluminous computer memories. x
  • 24
    Atom to Computer
    We learn what goes into a complete computer, comprising a microprocessor, motherboard, and different peripheral devices. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

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Your professor

Richard Wolfson

About Your Professor

Richard Wolfson, Ph.D.
Middlebury College
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...
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Physics in Your Life is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 65.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I highly recommend it! Absolutely brilliant! The professor explains complex ideas clearly, thoroughly and with just the right amount of detail for your average person. All the videos are entertaining and enjoyable. His demonstrations prove what he is saying and are easy to understand. I think all the lectures are perfect and I can't criticize anything about it. Truly amazing and I wish I watched this in the eighth grade. If I did I probably would have become a physicist.
Date published: 2018-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great features and great shopping experience I bought Physics in your life and I just love it! It came in promptly in Canada and was well wrapped. I am very pleased with the shopping experience and the product and will buy again and recommend to friends.
Date published: 2018-05-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing I only made it through two full lectures and several partial lectures of this course before deciding to return it. The good: 1) The professor in this course appears to be lecturing as he would in a classroom, Unlike other GC courses I've gone through, he does not appear to be reading from a teleprompter. This gave his lectures a more casual "feel" to them that I liked. 2) The professor seems genuinely enthusiastic about the material without being over the top. 3) Others have commented that he looks at his notes frequently, and he does. But that did not bother me at all. In "live" courses I took back in my college years, instructors often did the same thing. I returned the course for three reasons: 1) Outdated - produced over 10 years ago, so some of the references were outdated. For a science course, I was looking for something more recent. (I've since learned that I can call GC Customer Service before purchasing to find out the release date of a course. 2) Although the professor appears to genuinely be lecturing (as opposed to reading from a teleprompter), he spoke too fast for me. I forced my way through the first two lectures, hoping the rate of delivery would slow, but it did not. I then spot-checked several other lectures, and the delivery was too fast for me in all of them. 3) The biggest issue of all for me was that I purchased the download version and one of the lectures would not download for me. GC's digital tech support team confirmed it is a problem on GC's end. They are working the problem, but the fix is taking too long for me. GC Customer Service was great to work with and agreed to a return.
Date published: 2018-05-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, informative and energizing The content was mind-expanding, and the instructor showed mastery of the topics. The equipment he used to demonstrate principles was very helpful, but I found sometimes the presentation seemed hurried as a way to work in multiple examples. Overall, this course was well worth the viewing.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Wolfson was just great. I so enjoyed his presentation that I have bought another tape by him, Cosmology by Professor Mark Whittle, and Astronomy by Alex Filippenko. They were all top drawer. I start my day having a cup of coffee while still lounging in bed and watching my daily lesson. Great way to get a heads up on the day!
Date published: 2017-07-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unfortunate The professors' delivery was full of ums and ahhs and he was constantly looking at his notes. If it were not for the hassle I would return this course. Of all the Great Courses that I have received only one other, and by the same professor, was less than stellar. I thought that I would try a course of his again because I love the subject matter but I was very disappointed.
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You make learning fun Some instructors simply have the ability to make a subject enjoyable. Doctor Wolfson has this ability in spades. With infectious enthusiasm and a seemingly endless supply of simple experiments, he communicates the basics of physics so that a non-scientific mind can grasp and enjoy them. Much like 'The Joy of Science', this course should be a requirement for a rounded knowledge of life, the universe and everything. A simple understanding of classical physics makes many other courses accessible and the various ideas you'll encounter here pop up in a surprising variety of places. Of course if you already have a science degree, you won't find all that much here. But for an armchair historian like me, this course helps round out bits of the world that I knew existed, but didn't quite understand. The only real negative is the age of the course. The instructor did a great job with the rudimentary computer models he had available, but it would be wonderful to see a remake with modern computer technology and the amazing graphics contained in some recent Great Courses.
Date published: 2017-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course from Prof. Wolfson This is a wonderful course by a truly great teacher. To me it seemed more of a course in physics than on our life. It could be entitled "I will teach you physics by meticulously analysing illustrations from your everyday life including very high tech". It is an ideal complement to Prof. Wolfson's Physics and our Universe. Indeed, here Wolfson takes-up and illustrates more extensively many issues raised in Physics and our Universe giving fuller explanations. Finally, I don't think that this is really suitable for somebody with no knowledge of Physics whatsoever, though even such an audience would find it attention catching.
Date published: 2016-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course; Not Easy; and Yes - For Beginners I agree with the many positive reviews, and won't repeat in detail. - Most of the basic principles of classical physics (that is, physics other than relativity and quantum mechanics) are explained, and then applied to a huge variety of everyday experiences. And (almost) no math is used. You can live a very happy, fulfilled life knowing none of this, but I would opine that your life would be even better if you have at least some idea of what is going on, and why, in all that matter and energy around you. Even though I was familiar with most of the material, I found the course fascinating. As has been noted, parts of the course are not easy. But I disagree strongly with those who claim it's "not for beginners." Our professor starts with the basics, and assumes only what anyone of average experience and intelligence would be expected to know. And he explains almost everything with remarkable clarity, as far as possible given the time constraints. The many demonstrations are beautifully done, always educational, and sometimes astonishing. And if you don't catch something the first time, re-viewing should enable you to comprehend pretty much everything in the course at the level presented. Professor Wolfson is outstanding. He has apparently dedicated much of his professional life to bringing physics to us masses, and his ability and enthusiasm are constantly evident. (The only slight negatives I can come up with are that he not infrequently repeats a point, or examples, well beyond what is necessary, and that he occasionally 'misspeaks' because his mind seems already to have gone on to the next point before his words have finished with the current one.) Of course, much of physics just isn't easy and intuitive. It is still wonderful, as is the remarkable ability of human beings to make sense of it. For this, among many reasons, the course has my highest recommendation.
Date published: 2015-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! As a daughter of a physics professor, and the wife of a physics major, physics has been a big part of my life. I wanted to get this course for my two children, ages 6 and 7, whom we are homeschooling. This course was an excellent choice, and the whole family loved it! The children could understand the concepts easily, as there is almost no mathematics involved in the descriptions on how things work/behave. The professor is engaging, and his use of demonstrations is very effective. We were sad when the lectures were over. I am now considering whether the kids are ready for Prof. Wolfson's course on relativity. He was such a great professor in this course that I think we will give it a go.
Date published: 2014-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Basic understanding of everyday matters My last physics lesson in High school was over 25 years ago, so I thought this well rated course was an ideal opportunity to learn something about physics in everyday life. I was not disappointed. With 36 lectures, it is longer than most courses, but the amount of information given about different fields do not allow any less time. To the contrary - while most explanations do not go too deep into details but are rather meant to understand the basic principle, there are too many lectures where I felt that the material was rushed to pack it into 30 minutes. I sometimes wondered if Prof. Wolfson calculated how fast he had to talk to finish in the alloted time. However, considering how well the material is otherwise presented through demonstrations, video-clips, or computer graphics, I did not want to take any stars away. The course is also well structured into six modules that make it easier to learn and follow the material. Overall, I think the course is a great opportunity for someone without much background knowledge other than high school lessons to learn more about many things in our daily life that we take for granted. One will not be able to built any of the modern devices that are explained, but it is nice to understand some principles of how they work.
Date published: 2013-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Banish Physics Phobia If you thought Physics was incomprehensible, or an esoteric practice only expressed in long equations far removed from daily life or anything that may be encountered during your average day, then be ready for a surprise. Physics in Your Life, another masterful course by Prof.. Wolfson, makes learning about Physics fun by exploring how and why things we encounter every day work. Blu-Rays, DVDs, airplane flight, credit cards, microwaves, cell phones, a/c. heat pumps, MRIs, the list of examples and explanations in the course seems endless. If you are curious about the world around us and never thought that Physics could make sense to you, I encourage you to try this course. You may well find a new perspective of the world we live in, and learn some Physics along the way.
Date published: 2013-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mr. Wizard for Older Science Lovers I use the above title for my review out of deep respect for Professor Wolfson, whose many courses I have enjoyed, along with his engaging book on Einstein's relativity. The older fans of Professor Wolfson will remember Mr. Wizard (Don Herbert) from 1950s and 1960s television, where he visualized young science lovers into enjoying their science. This course is well-conceived and, lest it go unnoticed, scrupulously prepared and intelligently presented. I got the frequent feeling while watching that Professor Wolfson was itching to take his clear explanations to the next level but feared leaving many of us behind. No matter. He is a wonderful and entirely relevant teacher who does not let ego get in the way of his presentations. He wants you to understand how things work--just that simple. It does not hurt that the phenomena he describes we encounter every day and take entirely for granted. Take this trip.
Date published: 2012-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Entertaining I love this course. I'm 50 years old and a high school grad with no college. I like to learn a little bit about a lot of things and this course is spot on. I understood every principle through the speaker's examples and visuals. I suspect this guy could teach basic physics to 5th graders and they'd understand it also. I'm so star-struck by this man because my father was an professor of engineering and I never understood a word he said. That's why I can so appreciate this lecturer. For pure enjoyment, this lecture can't be beat.
Date published: 2012-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Physics revealed in everyday objects... This refreshing and interestingly different course brings Physics to life - showing us how modern objects in our life, and items out there is the universe too, have underlying Physics principles and discoveries to thank for their existence. This course would be easily understandable for almost all viewers who have had at least some General Science classes in high school. This is not the same as a high shcool or college Physics class, but instead is a more general course, looking at Physics in a different way by trying to link it to modern day objects we use all the time. The course should be of interest to anyone wanting to learn more about science and technology, not just those interested in serious Physics. Dr. Wolfson is a fine lecturer whose energy and enthusiasm makes this course all the more enjoyable. I enjoyed his demonstrations, examples, and the many graphics which add quite a bit to the value of the course. The wide variety of subjects that Dr. Wolfson touches on during the course is rather impressive. The discussions of recordings on disks (DVDs, CDs, etc.) was perhaps the most interesting to me, but I also enjoyed discussions of lasers and computers.
Date published: 2012-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent conceptual intro - Great professor I'd definitely recommend this course for anyone who has forgotten most of their college freshman physics, or slept through it, and wants to refresh their basic ideas about how the world we live in really works, without revisiting the dreaded bogs of calculus. Somehow, Dr. Wolfson manages to clearly expound the basics of mechanics, electromagnetism, heat, energy, entropy, and optics, and add a taste of particle physics and relativity, with almost no math— nothing beyond high school algebra. You know a course has been effective when you find it makes you look at the world around you in a new way. I'd also rate Dr. Wolfson among the top three lecturers in the over 30 courses I've taken from GreatCourses. He has the gift of explaining the connections between concepts that reveal the sudden clarity behind them. Dr. Wolfson reminds me of those rare professors for whom you stood in long lines to register for their classes. I went on to take his "Modern Physics" and found that just as informative and engaging.
Date published: 2011-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from For Beginner and Graduate Alike to Enjoy This course is an excellent overview of Physics in You Life for anyone from beginning student to graduate. Professor Wolfson is articulate, amiable, energetic and captivating. He underscores the better points of each topic with demonstrations which are a joy to watch. I have a strong background in electricity and electronics, yet I found myself totally taken by the demonstrations of how electricity works in the real world. This course is right on the money when it comes to walking that fine line of what is too elemental vs what might be a bit too technical. A course like this would well suit a parent and child venturing into a new subject together. Perhaps first year physics that could be understood and enjoyed by both. I found myself watching several of the lectures a second time. Not because I didn't understand the subject matter the first time around, but because I enjoyed the presentation so much I wanted to watch an immediate rerun. Well my friends at The Great Courses, once again you have shown how you can pick the number one professors in the country and match them with course material that anyone can enjoy. In me you have created another life long learner, and follower of your courses. Thank you for providing such programs as this.
Date published: 2011-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and entertaining This is an excellent course for beginners and is presented by one of the best teachers the Teaching Company has to offer. It's definitely one of my favorite courses. Although I like the idea of a 'physics in your life' course, what I'd really love to see is a full 90-lecture course covering every aspect of physics (i.e. everything that's covered in any physics textbook). They have a full 96-lecture course on astronomy; why not physics? And there is no one more qualified than Professor Wolfson. I really hope the Teaching Company will take up this idea.
Date published: 2011-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent all around Excellent, with only few minor flaws. Professor Wolfson is enthusiastic and most of the material is interesting and well explained. I noticed only a handful of minor errors during the 18 hours. Slightly annoying are the dramatic grunting “uhs” this professor uses to indicate something that is difficult. He also inserts some quick “ums”, but they aren't very distracting because they're short and infrequent. Glitches represent a tiny minority within the wealth of material. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2011-08-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not for beginners I have a graduate degree, though didn't take much science, and I thought this course would introduce a new way of thinking. Prof. Wolfson lost me fairly quickly since, despite the title, he seemed to assume at least some prior knowledge. My husband, who is a scientist and has taken physics, enjoyed this course more than I did, but even he got lost at times and agrees that this course is not for true beginners. Prof. Wolfson is amiable, and his presentation is good, with numerous demonstrations. People with some scientific knowledge would probably like this course and his others.
Date published: 2011-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great overview that anyone can relate to This was exactly the introduction to physics I was looking for. Uses basic (and not so basic) physical properties to explain why we see rainbows, how CD players work, how we measure distances that don't seem like they could be measured, how we manage electrical charges to perform countless tasks, and interesting properties of sound and light that we've all observed but might not be able to explain. At first, I was a little put off by the simplicity of a few of the presentations: "If I hit this tennis ball with the same force as I hit this bowling ball, the tennis ball will go farther...", but I quickly realized that as the topics became more complex, I was able to follow along because of the way that Wolfson had built my understanding of physical properties, step-by-step. His use of visual aids, both real and digital, are most helpful. I watch these while I'm working out, and even if I don't catch every word of an explanation, I can still follow along from the diagrams and demonstrations. I appreciate the professor's choice to minimize the math involved in the course. Several topics have led me to the Internet or textbooks to see how to apply the math, but it's nice to be able to get a great overview of so many areas of physics without having to master the math involved to move on and enjoy the next topic. Overall, a great course for someone who wants a better appreciation of the many forms that physics takes in our daily life without all of the computations involved in an introductory physics classroom course.
Date published: 2011-03-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Why only 4 stars? This is an excellent course, no doubt. The material is interesting, is presented very engagingly, and has a lot of good content. If you don't have a physical science background, you will find this a perfect course to (re)introduce physics into your life. That is, if you are interested in physics but don't know much about it, get this course. A caveat: This course is basic physics. If you are a physicist, mathematician, or engineer in the physical sciences, I recommend you consider one of the more advanced science courses by TeachCo.
Date published: 2011-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow, Physics is Understandable now! I have almost completed the Physics for Your Life course, and I have to give huge kudos to the professor teaching this course. He has arranged the physics concepts with every day objects we are familiar with in such a way the each lesson builds on the next while using examples that make a lot of sense of the complex ideas described. This course is fascinating, and I am excited to dig deeper into physics, and feel like I have a much better understanding of the world around me. The simplicity of some of the concepts is amazing, and how the professor goes about providing real world examples and demonstrations is so incredibly helpful. I consider this to be the best Teaching Company course yet. I'd love it if the professor would do another physics course that takes these same concepts, but where he illustrates and teaches the math that proves these ideas. He really is a great teacher, and I thank him for taking the time to do this fascinating, amazing, helpful course.
Date published: 2011-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Primer for Deeper Study I loved the entire series. Prof. Wolfson is great at explaining complex ideas. I had many "aha" moments as I went through each lecture. This is a great overview and Prof. Wolfson seems to want to cram as much material into this course as possible---he talks a million kW/hr. (Kilo-words!) But he is very understandable and I liked the pace. There are many times when I would be just about to grasp a deeper concept and he says "but I'm not going to get into the math..." That's good. But, I wish he offered a second round, the same subject matter WITH the math. This has really made me think about how physics is taught---always the student is just about to understand an idea, a concept, and then comes a ton of weird math variables. Everything gets muddy. I think an overview class first and then a class of similar content with the math would be excellent. What do do you say Dr. Wolfson? Give me a part 2 WITH math? Great stuff. I want MORE. Chris Reich
Date published: 2010-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Praise! Praise! Praise! What a great course. Love science or not, this course will answer lots of questions you didn't know you wanted to know. Like: how does a bicycle stay up as you move? why do skaters spin faster when they pull their arms in? why does ice float and why doesn't the glass overflow when the ice melts? how do CDs and DVDs record all that information? how does the computer remember what we write? and so many more. Get this course and find out how physics is involved in all of our life.
Date published: 2010-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Physics geek? Buy this. If you love Physics, buy this. If you don't love Physics, buy this. Professor Wolfson, although a little jumpy(nervous) in his presentation at first, will warm you up to learning about Physics in cool new ways. This course is very good for those who always find themselves asking "How does a computer really work?", "How do planes really fly?" ,"What's GPS?" and a host of other questions that are explained in this course. The next time you hear somebody talking about such things you'll want to jump in the conversation and share what you learned from Prof. Wolfson. Not a mathematical, academic, or boring course. This is pure learning, and fun. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2010-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course Prof Wolfson has put a lot of effort into preparing a thorough course with plenty of practical demonstrations and applications. He uses excellent explanations and demonstrations of the Physics behind a whole host of applications. There were so many modern day appliances and applications where I went "ah, that's how it works". I found his teaching style helped me to understand many things that I previously had no idea about. The course is engaging and does develop your understanding of Physics as well as stretch your imagination. It also addresses some emerging social and environmental issues such as global warming and energy use. I was in total amazement of the ingenuity and creativity of many of the people (mostly Physicists) who have made our lives so much more comfortable and better. This is the sort of course that all high school students should do.
Date published: 2010-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! Who knew physics could be so much fun. Professor Wolfson is at his best. A few lectures dealt with things that don't interest me very much, but that's just me. Overall it was a great introduction to physics - entertaining and informative.
Date published: 2010-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the very best in TTC! In short, this is one of the very best courses in the TTC. I have written a few commendations and recommendations below. Commendations: 1. Prof Richard Wolfson is excellent: Clear and enthusiastic. 2. The course is well structured (into six modules). 3. Plenty of insights per lecture. 4. Plenty of practical examples and demonstrations (which makes the concepts very easy to understand). 5. Shows the 'big picture' synthesis of physics topics. Although I learnt physics in high school and university, some of them were 'too detailed', and I find Prof Wolfson's lectures to be clearer with the overall 'big picture' (e.g., centrifugal motion (lecture 9); rotational motion (lecture 32)). 6. Some of the specific lectures, modules and topics that I really love are: - The semiconductor-to-computer module (fantastic! I never knew I can learn all of this in less than 6 lectures (in the module)); - The logic gates AND, XOR, NOR, NAND explanations etc make perfect sense in less than one lecture (lecture 22); - Gyroscope example (lecture 32) - never knew how this works before!; - Phase diagram of water (explained simply) - (lecture 27); and - Nuclear fusion and the curve of binding energy (lecture 34). Recommendation - only one: - I think it is okay to have more maths to make us really understand various physics phenomena deeper. Overall conclusion: One of the best courses I have purchased from TTC and listened to.
Date published: 2010-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinary professor Professor Wolfson is THE BEST lecturer in the Teaching Company collections. His explanations are eminently clear. They strike just the right note: not too complex, but not overly simplified. He illustrates key scientific ideas with examples from everday life to which we can easily relate, and at the same time pulls back the curtain for a friendly view of scientists at work. He has a unique ability to make whatever topic he is talking about comprehensible at multiple levels, from the big picture to the details. I have read a lot of physics books, and I teach college courses in a technical field; nevertheless, I frequently have the experience during his lectures of an intellectual light bulb turning on and of saying, "Aha--Now I finally understand this idea!" A personal preference: I love his conscientious attention to accuracy. He is unassuming and accessible but in the process, his use of language and quantities are always precise; I feel that when he says something, I can trust it to be correct.
Date published: 2010-05-16
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