For anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to learn from a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, you’re in luck: You can read physicist Richard Feynman’s most famous lectures online for free.
Richard Feynman is legendary in the physics world for a lot of things, like helping develop the foundations of quantum mechanics (for which he won the 1965 Nobel Prize), working on the Manhattan Project and playing the bongos. But more than anything, Feynman was known as a fantastic educator. His knack for translating complex scientific principles into plain English earned Feynman the nickname "The Great Explainer."
Last year, California Institute of Technology and the Feynman Lectures Website published the complete and up-to-date Feynman Lectures online, allowing anyone with an internet connection to learn physics from one of the greats. While there's nothing like watching Feynman lecture, only a few were ever filmed. But even in text, the Feynman Lectures are a remarkable example of the teacher at work.
Despite the title, the lectures are anything but boring, and they read more like an engaging conversation at a party. You may not understand everything he covers on the first go-round, but you’ll probably get the gist.
The joy he found in teaching is evident in every sentence, diagram and equation. While the lectures are designed with the future physicist in mind, Feynman challenges all readers to push themselves and question everything.
When Feynman died in 1988, he left these phrases on his office blackboard: “What I cannot create, I do not understand" and "know how to solve every problem that has been solved." This was in essence his motto. Feynman believed that to truly understand something, you have to break it down to its simplest parts and piece it back together.
Though The Feynman Lectures may not make you a genius, reading them can take you one step toward understanding the foundations of the universe.