Day 12: Feynman’s Lecture on Conservation of Energy
Today in college-prep physics we wrapped up our discussion of energy with Richard Feynman’s lecture on the conservation of energy. Before doing so, I gave some background about Feynman, including the intersection of art and physics in Edward Tufte’s new exhibition “All Possible Photons: The Conceptual and Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams.”
I also mentioned the irony of Feynman’s brilliant lectures and his perception of their failure. From the Preface of Six Easy Pieces (and also the Preface of The Feynman Lectures of Physics):
I don’t think I did very well by the students. When I look at the way the majority of the students handled the problems on the examinations, I think that the system is a failure.
I think, however, that there isn’t any solution to this problem of education other than to realize that the best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher—a situation in which the student discusses the ideas, thinks about the things, and talks about the things. It’s impossible to learn very much by simply sitting in a lecture, or even by simply doing problems that are assigned. But in our modem times we have so many students to teach that we have to try to ???nd some substitute for the ideal. Perhaps my lectures can make some contribution. Perhaps in some small place where there are individual teachers and students, they may get some inspiration or some ideas from the lectures. Perhaps they will have fun thinking them through—or going on to develop some of the ideas further.
RICHARD P. FEYNMAN
We listened to an audio recording of Feynman’s toy block analogy for the conservation of energy.
I also provided students with a text copy of the lecture and some follow -up questions: 03_U5_ws1_Feynman_Lecture
(NOTE: While researching links for Feynman and Tufte, I came across an article on The Feynman-Tufte Principle … A visual display of data should be simple enough to fit on the side of a van. An nice, short read.)