Monday, December 12, 2016

Richard Feynman Lectures on Physics Complete Volumes

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The Feynman Lectures on Physics is a 1964 physics textbook by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton and Matthew Sands, based upon the lectures given by Feynman to undergraduate students at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1961–1963. It includes lectures on mathematics, electromagnetism, Newtonian physics, quantum physics, and the relation of physics to other sciences. Six readily accessible chapters were later compiled into a book entitled Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher, and six more in Six Not So Easy Pieces: Einstein's Relativity, Symmetry and Space-Time. The first volume focuses on mechanics, radiation, and heat. The second volume is mainly on electromagnetism and matter. The third volume, on quantum mechanics, shows, for example, how the double-slit experiment contains the essential features of quantum mechanics.

By 1960, Richard Feynman’s research and discoveries in physics had resolved a number of troubling inconsistencies in several fundamental theories. In particular, it was his work in quantum electrodynamics which would lead to the awarding in 1965 of the Nobel Prize in physics. At the same time that Feynman was at the pinnacle of his fame, the faculty of the California Institute of Technology was concerned about the quality of the introductory courses being offered to the undergraduate students. It was felt that these were burdened by an old-fashioned syllabus and that the exciting discoveries of recent years, many of which had occurred at Caltech, were not being conveyed to the students.

Thus, it was decided to reconfigure the first physics course offered to students at Caltech, with the goal being to generate more excitement in the students. Feynman readily agreed to give the course, though only once. Aware of the fact that this would be a historic event, Caltech recorded each lecture and took photographs of each drawing made on the blackboard by Feynman. Based on the lectures and the tape recordings, a team of physicists and graduate students put together a manuscript that would become The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

Although Feynman's most valuable technical contribution to the field of physics may have been in the field of quantum electrodynamics, the Feynman Lectures were destined to become his most widely read work.

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