Christian Long

Richard Feynman: Physics is Fun to Imagine

In TED Talks on May 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Reflection by SCOTT M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Richard Feynman: Physics is Fun to Imagine

Richard Feynman could be considered one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics. But this is funny because the way he teaches it, is probably the best way to understand it. The way he explains the motion of atoms in this video almost makes it seem like he’s teaching it in a classroom to high school students. Yet he is still one of the most renowned scientists in the physics community.

I do have to agree with him though on the part that physics is fun to imagine. You can look at any object and see that it has kinetic energy. Even if it isn’t moving the object’s atoms are still bouncing off of eachother and vibrating just a tiny bit. Feynman does a good job at giving a picture to look at when thinking of this.

In a mug of hot coffee the reason it is hot is because the atoms in the liquid are moving very fast and have a large amount of kinetic energy. The atoms bounce off of the side of the mug which make those molecules move. The moving of the molecules makes it hotter. This is a very simple way of explaining the concept of hot and cold. If a substance is hot then the atoms are- as he put it- “jiggling” more.

But the thing that he helped me understand was the bouncing ball concept. Picture a ball bouncing up and down off of a wood floor. Common sense says that the ball will eventually stop bouncing and just lay at rest but why is it? The energy of atoms is transfered from moving a lot to a little, or from hot to cold. In a world where this concept does not apply the ball would just keep bouncing up and down and never stop unless another force did. But the bouncing ball’s atoms have kinetic energy. The energy of the atoms transfers when it hits the ground from the ball to the floor. Eventually as the ball keeps going up and down it will lose all it’s kinetic energy and come to rest. Although gravity also has a role to play in this it still helps me understand more.

I wish Richard Feynman was my physics teacher.

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