Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reweaving the rainbow

Physics is wonderful. Some people say that explaining things takes the magic out of them, and some might quote Keats who didn't like Newton's prism experiments (from this poem we have the expression "Unweave a rainbow"):

There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.

Richard Feynman, and many others, have answered that by saying that it's really the opposite: the more you know about something, the more wonderful it is.

New York Times has a story about an MIT professor who is an online star with his video lectures on physics. I cannot see the lectures since I don't know if I have access to any program that can play Real Media files (but that might be just as well from a productivity point of view). I sort of like the quote from the lecture about rainbows:

“All of you have looked at rainbows,” he begins. “But very few of you have ever seen one. Seeing is different than looking. Today we are going to see a rainbow.”


For the finale, he creates a rainbow by shining a bright light into a glass sphere containing a single drop of water.

“There it is!” Professor Lewin cries.

“Your life will never be the same,” he tells his students. “Because of your knowledge, you will be able to see way more than just the beauty of the bows that everyone else can see.”

I also sort of like the idea of a physicist being a superstar who brings physics to the iPods of the masses!

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