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Unformatted text preview: Feynman's Preface These are the lectures in physics that I gave last year and the year before to the freshman and sophomore classes at Caltech. The lectures are, of course, not verbatimthey have been edited, sometimes extensively and sometimes less so. The lectures form only part of the complete course. The whole group of 180 students gathered in a big lecture room twice a week to hear these lectures and then they broke up into small groups of 15 to 20 students in recitation sections under the guidance of a teaching assistant. In addition, there was a laboratory session once a week. The special problem we tried to get at with these lectures was to maintain the interest of the very enthusiastic and rather smart students coming out of the high schools and into Caltech. They have heard a lot about how interesting and excit-ing physics isthe theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other modern ideas. By the end of two years of our previous course, many would be very dis-couraged because there were really very few grand, new, modern ideas presented to them. They were made to study inclined planes, electrostatics, and so forth, and after two years it was quite stultifying. The problem was whether or not we could make a course which would save the more advanced and excited student by maintaining his enthusiasm. The lectures here are not in any way meant to be a survey course, but are very serious. I thought to address them to the most intelligent in the class and to make sure, if possible, that even the most intelligent student was unable to completely encompass everything that was in the lecturesby putting in suggestions of appli-cations of the ideas and concepts in various directions outside the main line of attack. For this reason, though, I tried very hard to make all the statements as accurate as possible, to point out in every case where the equations and ideas fitted into the body of physics, and howwhen they learned morethings would be modified. I also felt that for such students it is important to indicate what it is that they shouldif they are sufficiently cleverbe able to understand by deduc-tion from what has been said before, and what is being put in as something new. When new ideas came in, I would try either to deduce them if they were deducible, or to explain that it was a new idea which hadn't any basis in terms of things they had already learned and which was not supposed to be provablebut was just added in. At the start of these lectures, I assumed that the students knew something when they came out of high schoolsuch things as geometrical optics, simple chemistry ideas, and so on. I also didn't see that there was any reason to make the lectures 3 in a definite order, in the sense that I would not be allowed to mention something until I was ready to discuss it in detail. There was a great deal of mention of things to come, without complete discussions. These more complete discussions would come later when the preparation became more advanced. Examples are the dis-come later when the preparation became more advanced....
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- Spring '08