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Flip Tanedo | USLHC | USA

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Project Tuva: Feynman Messenger Lectures

Bill Gates has released videos of Richard Feynman’s Messenger Series lectures, “The Character of Physical Law,” the rights of which he purchased from the BBC not too long ago. For those unfamiliar, Richard Feynman was one of the greatest American physicists and most well-known personalities in science. His autobiographical book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, has been an inspiration to generations of particle physicists.

tuva

The lectures, originally filmed at Cornell, are black and white and are of a quality that today’s YouTube-enriched youth would scoff at. But even then, Feynman’s charisma completely transcends the medium and make the recordings a joy to watch for physicists and non-physicists alike. (The lecture were aimed at a general audience.) Even then, Microsoft has tried to enrich the lectures by making them semi-interactive experiences. A transcript of Feynman’s words appears at the bottom of the screen, to the right there is an option to view additional multimedia materials on topics Feynman mentions, and to the left there is a panel to insert notes (like YouTube comments) at different points along the lecture.

Clearly, the “Project Tuva” team at Microsoft has thought carefully about how they might improve the online lecture experience. Many people have already groaned, however, that the format requires Microsoft’s proprietary Silverlight browser plug-in. It appears for the moment that Linux users are largely at a loss for installing the plug-in. (I’ve had more that one colleague refuse to install the plug-in on principle.)

For those with a craving for more public-level Feynman videos, I would also suggest taking a look at his Auckland lectures.

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