The Mechanical Universe
|The Mechanical Universe|
|Created by||Dr. David Goodstein|
|Starring||Dr. David Goodstein|
|Narrated by||Aaron Fletcher|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||52|
|Original run||1985 – 1986|
The Mechanical Universe... And Beyond, is a 52-part telecourse filmed at the California Institute of Technology, and produced by Caltech and INTELECOM Intelligent Telecommunications (a non-profit consortium of California community colleges). The series introduces university level physics, covering topics from Copernicus to quantum mechanics.
Produced starting in 1985, the videos make heavy use of historical dramatizations and visual aids to explain physics concepts. The latter were state of the art at the time, incorporating almost 8 hours of computer animation created by computer graphics pioneer Jim Blinn. Each episode opens and closes with a "phantom" lecture by Caltech professor David Goodstein.[further explanation needed] After more than a quarter century, the series is still often used as a supplemental teaching aid, for its clear explanation of fundamental concepts such as special relativity.
The Mechanical Universe lectures are actual freshman physics lectures from Physics 1a and 1b courses at the California Institute of Technology. The room seen in the videos is the Bridge lecture hall.
The series can be purchased, or viewed by streaming (after a relatively simple and free registration) from the Annenberg website, or can be viewed on other video streaming sites such as YouTube and Google Video.
List of episodes
The Mechanical Universe
|#||#||Title||Directed by||Written by|
|1||1||"Introduction"||Peter F. Buffa||Jack Arnold|
|Brief overview of the material in the first 26 episodes.|
|2||2||"The Law of Falling Bodies"||Peter F. Buffa||Peter F. Buffa|
|How falling bodies behave and an introduction to the derivative.|
|3||3||"Derivatives"||Mark Rothschild||Pamela Kleibrink|
|Review of the mathematical function the derivative.|
|4||4||"Inertia"||Peter F. Buffa||Albert Abrams|
|How Galileo used the law of inertia to answer questions about the stars.|
|5||5||"Vectors"||Peter F. Buffa||Deane Rink|
|Vectors not only have a magnitude but also a direction.|
|6||6||"Newton's Laws"||Mark Rothschild||Ronald J. Casden|
|Newton's first, second and third laws.|
|7||7||"Integration"||Mark Rothschild||Seth Hill & Tom M. Apostol|
|Integration and differentiation are the inverse of each other.|
|8||8||"The Apple and the Moon"||Peter F. Buffa||Don Bane|
|An apple falls and the moon orbits the earth because of gravity.|
|9||9||"Moving in Circles"||Mark Rothschild||Deane Rink|
|Uniform circular motion has both constant velocity and constant acceleration.|
|10||10||"Fundamental Forces"||Mark Rothschild||Don Bane|
|Gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.|
|11||11||"Gravity, Electricity, Magnetism"||Peter F. Buffa||Don Bane|
|How electricity and magnetism relate to the speed of light.|
|12||12||"The Millikan Experiment"||Mark Rothschild||Albert Abrams|
|Millikan's demonstration to accurately measure the charge of an electron.|
|13||13||"Conservation of Energy"||Mark Rothschild||Seth Hill|
|Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.|
|14||14||"Potential Energy"||Mark Rothschild||Don Bane|
|Systems that are stable are at their lowest potential energy.|
|15||15||"Conservation of Momentum"||Peter Robinson||Jack George Arnold|
|Momentum is conserved when two or more bodies interact.|
|16||16||"Harmonic Motion"||Mark Rothschild||Ronald J. Casden|
|Disturbing stable systems will produce simple harmonic motion.|
|17||17||"Resonance"||Peter F. Buffa||Ronald J. Casden|
|Resonance is produced when the frequency of a disturbing force comes close to the natural harmonic frequency of a system.|
|18||18||"Waves"||Peter F. Buffa||Ronald J. Casden|
|Waves are a series of disturbances that propagate through solids, liquids and gases.|
|19||19||"Angular Momentum"||Peter F. Buffa||Jack George Arnold & David L. Goodstein|
|Objects traveling in circles have angular momentum.|
|20||20||"Torques and Gyroscopes"||Mark Rothschild||Jack George Arnold & David L. Goodstein|
|A force acting on a spinning object can cause it to precess.|
|21||21||"Kepler's Three Laws"||Peter F. Buffa||Seth Hill|
|Kepler discovered the orbits of the planets are ellipses.|
|22||22||"The Kepler Problem"||Peter F. Buffa||Seth Hill|
|Newton used Kepler's laws to create his own laws of planetary motion.|
|23||23||"Energy and Eccentricity"||Peter F. Buffa||Seth Hill|
|The conservation of energy and angular momentum help determine how eccentric an orbit will be.|
|24||24||"Navigating in Space"||Peter F. Buffa||Don Bane|
|The laws that describe planetary motion are used to navigate in space.|
|25||25||"Kepler to Einstein"||Peter F. Buffa||Don Bane & David L. Goodstein & Jack George Arnold|
|Einstein used Newton's and Kepler's laws to work on his theory of relativity.|
|26||26||"Harmony of the Spheres"||Peter F. Buffa||David L. Goodstein & Jack George Arnold|
|Harmonizing music to the orbits of the planets.|
The Mechanical Universe ...and Beyond
28. Static Electricity
Eighteenth-century "electricians" knew how to spark the interest of an audience with the principles of static electricity.
31. Voltage, Energy, and Force
When is electricity dangerous or benign, spectacular or useful?
42. The Lorentz Transformation
If the speed of light is to be the same for all observers, then the length of a meter stick, or the rate of a ticking clock, depends on who measures it.
43. Velocity and Time
Einstein is motivated to perfect the central ideas of physics, resulting in a new understanding of the meaning of space and time.
44. Energy, Momentum, and Mass
The new meaning of space and time make it necessary to formulate a new mechanics.
The Carnot engine, part two, with profound implications for the behavior of matter and the flow of time through the universe.
49. The Atom
A history of the atom, from the ancient Greeks to the early 20th century, and a new challenge for the world of physics.
50. Particles and Waves
Evidence that light can sometimes act like a particle leads to quantum mechanics, the new physics.
52. The Quantum Mechanical Universe
A last look at where we've been and a peek into the future.
Annenberg/CPB provided the funding for the production of The Mechanical Universe. The show was one of the first twelve projects funded by the initial $90 million pledge the Annenberg Foundation gave to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the early 1980s.
Funding to broadcast the show came from the following.
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
- National Science Foundation
- United States Department of Energy
- The Kavli Foundation
- George D. Smith Fund
- Volkswagen of America
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting
- Viewers Like You
- Stephen R. Ellis, Mary K. Kaiser, Arthur C. Grunwald (1991). Pictorial Communication in Virtual and Real Environments. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-7484-0008-9.
- "Introduction". The Mechanical Universe. Season 1. Episode 1. PBS.
- "Resource: The Mechanical Universe...and Beyond". Annenberg Media. 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
- "The Mechanical Universe". California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- "About the Foundation - A Strong History of Grantmaking". The Annenberg Foundation. 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- R.P. Olenick, T.M. Apostol, and D.L. Goodstein (1986). The Mechanical Universe: Introduction to Mechanics and Heat (Cambridge University Press).
- R.P. Olenick, T.M. Apostol, and D.L. Goodstein (1986). Beyond the Mechanical Universe: From Electricity to Modern Physics (Cambridge University Press). ISBN 0-521-30430-X