Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gates Puts Feynman Lectures Online

Last November we had a post that began:

One way to ascertain a person's intelligence is to examine how they simplify the seemingly complex.

If you read Richard Feynman's 1974 Caltech Commencement Address "Cargo Cult Science" you get a feel for how a superior mind works. Another example is a comment he made after serving on the Presidential Commission that investigated the space shuttle Challenger disaster:

"For a successful technology," Feynman concluded, "reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
It is almost childlike in its simplicity....

"Cargo Cult Science" is worth a read.
Here's the headline story from the New York Times' TierneyLab:

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates believes that if he had been able to watch physicist Richard Feynman lecture on physics in 1964 his life might have played out differently.

Mr. Gates, of course, is legendary as a Harvard University dropout who went on to create the world’s most successful software firm. He has told associates that if had watched the lectures earlier in his life he might have become a physicist instead of a software entrepreneur.

However, Mr. Gates, who is also well known for his sharp and varied intellectual interests and his philanthropic commitment to education, said this week that he had purchased the rights to videos of seven lectures that Dr. Feynman gave at Cornell University called “The Character of Physical Law,” in an effort to make them broadly available via the Internet.

Microsoft Research announced on Wednesday that Mr. Gates, who purchased the rights to the videos privately from the Feynman estate, BBC and from Cornell University, in cooperation with Curtis Wong, a Microsoft researcher, has created a Web site that is intended to enhance the videos by annotating them with related digital content.

The name “Tuva” was chosen in reference to Dr. Feynman’s decade long — and ultimately unsuccessful — effort to reach the tiny Russian republic of Tuva, which is located in Asia, toward the end of his life.

Mr. Gates said that he had stumbled upon the film version of the lectures a number of years ago, watched them with a friend using a traditional film projector, and “fell in love” with them....MORE
From Wikipedia:
...Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics in both his books and lectures, notably a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman is also known for his semi-autobiographical books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?, and through books about him, such as Tuva or Bust! He was also known as a prankster, juggler, safecracker, and a proud amateur painter and bongo player. He was regarded as an eccentric and a free spirit. He liked to pursue multiple, seemingly unrelated, paths, such as biology, art, percussion, Maya hieroglyphs, and lock picking....
He also won a Nobel Prize in Physics.