While physics is obviously a tricky subject for older students, Feynman had a way of bringing it back to earth. A collection of the more easily understood information from his physics lectures can be found in Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by its Most Brilliant Teacher — a book classified as “living” and recommended to high school students due to its conceptual vs mathematical nature. For those ready for more, you can access the Feynman Physics Lectures free!
Who Was Richard Feynman?
Glad you asked. Richard Feynman was a Nobel-winning physicist whose popularity was only surpassed by his genius.
“You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”Albert Einstein
Feynman could explain a subject as complicated as quantum physics to those without any physics background. Yet is famously quoted as having said:
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”Richard Feynman
He was best known for a series of lectures he gave at Caltech simply referred to as the Feynman Lectures.
Feynman was extremely curious about the world. He was considered an intuitive, easily grasping tough concepts. Part of his insight was fostered by his father who encouraged him to think out of the box and not accept common conclusions at face value.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”Richard Feynman
He was said to have opposed rote learning and took great exception to the ‘new math’ of the 1960s:
“In the ‘new’ mathematics, then, first there must be freedom of thought; second, we do not want to teach just words; and third, subjects should not be introduced without explaining the purpose or reason, or without giving any way in which the material could be really used to discover something interesting. I don’t think it is worth while teaching such material.”“New Textbooks for the ‘New’ Mathematics,” ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE
March 1965, Vol. XXVIII, No . 6
The Feynman Lectures
While Six Easy Pieces is probably the best introduction to physics à la Feynman, the free audio of his lectures is there for those who want more. These free recordings are taken from his physics lectures at Caltech, the material from which Six Easy Pieces was pulled. But be aware, upper-level math is required to understand the lectures.
Some will think this odd content to include on a site for homeschool moms. And it is true, it may not be appropriate for all. Nevertheless, there are enthusiasts of all types. We need to provide for our child’s interest. And some children/students (like Feynman himself), are into math and science.
“When Feynman faces a problem, he’s unusually good at going back to being like a child, ignoring what everyone else thinks.… He was so unstuck — if something didn’t work, he’d look at it another way.”Marvin Minsky, MIT (H.T. Farnam Street)
“New Textbooks for the ‘New’ Mathematics”
Article by Feynman that should be read by all teachers, tutors, and mentors!
The Feynman Lectures on Physics
Six Easy Pieces
Introductory compilation pulled from the lectures.