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OK, this is too good to pass up. Jim Blinn, the computer-graphics expert responsible for the Mechanical Universe animations — and therefore, responsible for filling my childhood with arrows — summarizes The Mechanical Universe in nine minutes. Watch all of first-year physics packed in a single morsel:

Blinn also worked on Caltech’s Project MATHEMATICS! series. I’m a little surprised that so few of the Project MATHEMATICS! videos have found their way onto the Intertubes yet. Here’s a “teaser trailer” of sorts, made from clips of “The Story of π”:

3 Comments

  1. “This is because taking the derivative of something makes it redder.” Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

  2. You had a pretty nice childhood. We have the complete series at our high school, but we only use some of it, and only in our physics course, which is mostly taken by juniors and in whom enrollment is shrinking at our standards-obsessed campus.

  3. One day, when I was a wee munchkin, I caught a cold and stayed home from school. My father took the day off to take care of me, and since I didn’t feel up to doing anything more elaborate than resting on the sofa, he tried to find something on TV which would be better to watch than normal daytime fare. Lo, there was PBS — Alabama Public Television, to be precise — and they were broadcasting The Mechanical Universe.

    I understood only a fraction of it, naturally, but remember, these were the days before Toy Story, and you couldn’t ask for better animation!

    It’s hard to believe that happened in kindergarten, but that’s the only chronologically consistent possibility, because I know it was in first grade that during alphabet lessons I befuddled the teacher by asserting that

    [tex] F = ma. [/tex]

    She looked it up in her husband’s engineering textbook that night, and then she had an interesting story to tell in the teachers’ lounge.

    Another classic from those days was Timothy Ferris’ Creation of the Universe. You know, I think watching those shows as many times as I did when I was that young crosses the line from science nerdity into outright weirdness. . . .

    I’m sorry to hear that physics enrollment at your school is dropping. I took a whole bunch of AP classes in high school (and I bluffed my way through the exams of a couple classes I didn’t take), and at the time, it seemed to me that “teaching to the test” really impaired the education we got. What’s the good of getting all the motivated youngsters together when all you can teach them is the material which can be pressure-molded into multiple-choice questions? I can only imagine what damage that sort of obsession might do when inflicted upon all the classes.