25 July 2015

Learning Physics on YouTube Can Be Very Entertaining

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Derek Muller

Derek Muller


Hours after finishing this piece about physics online, I see a TED talk by John Green covering exactly the same subject with some great examples and his enthusiasm for it matches my own. So, enjoy the TED video below, and check out some of the real science on YouTube. I know you will have to wade through the Moon landing hoax,chemtrail,Clinton killed JFK junk, but there is a lot of good science out there for folks who have beyond a 4th grade education.

Have you seen Veratasium?

Physicist Derek Muller has been making some great science videos on his YouTube channel since 2011, and you really should check them out. Having worked in front of a camera for 35 years, I can tell you he’s a natural and makes it look easy. Trust me it’s not. I’ve found that it comes very easy to some, and not at all to others.

PBS is airing a documentary this weekend that is hosted by Derek, and I think he ranks as one of the best science communicators (and ambassadors for physics) out there. My favorite videos are those that teach me something new, and since I only know enough about quantum physics to be dangerous, this one answered some questions I’ve wondered about for a long time.

It may seem strange that pairs of quarks can just pop into existence, and it makes you wonder if this is just our view from a universe of only 4 dimensions (counting time). Think of a group of beings who live in a 2D world..like a sheet of paper. The could do math that would predict how things work in more than 2 dimensions, but it would be impossible for them to imagine it. We can do math in multiple dimensions as well, but it seems very hard for for us to imagine higher dimensions, although string theory seems to insist that there must be as well.

Think about it this way: Put a pencil point down in that 2D world, and to its inhabitants, it would seem to have popped into existence out of nowhere! Lift it up and it vanishes. Just like quarks? Now, I know the energies all add up, (at least I assume they do!) so I’m just using this as an illustration, but there are some physicists who think that the fundamental force of gravity seems so weak because we are only feeling it indirectly from its action in a higher dimension. 

Check out Twisting the Dragons Tail this weekend. A preview is below.

Oh, and one last Veritasium video that surprises most people. How far into the Universe can we see. If you think 13.7 billion light years is the limit (since that is how old the Universe is), then prepare to be wrong.

I hope these videos convinced you to subscribe to his video channel!