The Mechanical Universe

video series

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A visually splendid introductory Physics coure, The Mechanical Universe . . . and Beyond combines state-of-the-art computer graphics by NASA's celebrated Jim Blinn and dramatic reenactments of great moments in the history of Science with introductory lectures by CalTech professor David L Goodstein. "An extraordinary piece of educational television," said the Los Angeles Times of this in-depth adventure of the mind that traces the interaction of ideas from Aristotle to Einstein to explain the theories of such intellectual giants as Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton. The programs clearly explain and illustrate classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, relativity, waves and optics, heat and thermodynamics, and modern physics. Produced by the California Institute of Technilogy and the Southern California Consortium and the Annenburg--CPB Project.

available online at

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Part I

1: Introduction to The Mechanical Universe

Introductory preview introduces revolutionary ideas and heroes from Copernicus to Newton and links the Physics of the heavens and the earth.


2: The Law of Falling Bodies

Galileo's imaginative experiments proved that all bodies fall with the same constant acceleration.


3: Derivatives

The function of mathematics in physical science and the derivative as a practical tool.


4: Inertia

Galileo risks his favored status to answer the questions of the Universe with his law of inertia.


5: Vectors

Physics must explain not only why and how much, but also where and which way.


6: Newton's Laws

Newton lays down the laws of force, mass, and acceleration.


7: Integration

Newton and Leibniz arrive at the conclusion that differentiation and integration are inverse processes.


8: The Apple and the Moon

The first authentic steps toward outer space travel as Newton discovers that gravity describes the force between any two particles in the Universe.


9: Moving in Circles

A look at the Platonic theory of uniform circular motion.


10: Fundamental Forces

All physical phenomena of nature are explained by four forces: two nuclear forces, gravity, and electricity.


11: Gravity, Electricity, Magnetism

Shedding light on the mathematical form of the gravitational, electric, and magnetic forces.


12: The Milikan Experiment

A dramatic recreation of Robert Milikan's classic oil-drop experiment to determine the charge of a single electron.


13: Conservation of Energy

According to one of the major laws of Physics, energy is neither created nor destroyed.


14: Potential Energy

Potential energy provides a powerful model for understanding why the world has worked the same way since the beginning of time.


15: Conservation of Momentum

What keeps the Universe ticking away until the end of time?


16: Harmonic Motion

The music and mathematics of periodic motion.


17: Resonance

Why a swaying bridge collapses with a high wind and why a wine glass shatters at a certain sound.


18: Waves

With an analysis of simple harmonic motion and a "fudge factor", Newton extended mechanics to the propagation of sound.


19: Angular Momentum

An old momentum with a new twist.


20: Torques and Gyroscopes

From spinning tops to the precession of the equinoxes.


21: Kepler's Three Laws

The discovery of elliptical orbits helps describe the motion of heavenly bodies with unprecedented accuracy.


22: The Kepler Problem

The deduction of Kepler's laws from Newton's universal law of gravitation is one of the crowinging achievements of Western thought.


23: Energy and Eccentricity

The precise orbit of a hevenly body -- a planet, asteroid, or comet -- is fixed by the laws of conservation of energy and angular momentum.


24: Navigating in Space

Voyages to other planets use the same laws that guide planets around the solar system.


25: Kepler to Einstein

From Kepler's laws and the theory of tides to Einstein's general theory of relativity, into black holes, and beyond.


26: Harmony of the Spheres

A last lingering look back at mechanics to see new connections between old discoveries.


Part II

27: Beyond the Mechanical Universe

The world of electricity and magnetism and 20th-century discoveries of relativity and quantum mechanics.

28: Static Electricity

29: The Electric Field

30: Potential and Capacitance

31: Voltage, Energy, and Force

32 The Electric Battery

33: Electric Circuits

34: Magnetism

35: The Magnetic Field

36: Vector Fields and Hydrodynamics

37: Electromagnetic Induction

38: Alternating Current

39: Maxwell's Equations

40: Optics

Many properties of light are properties of waves, including reflection, refraction, and diffraction.

41: The Michelson-Morley Experiment

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: Mass, Momentum, Energy

45: Temperature and Gas Laws

46: The Engine of Nature

47: Entropy

48: Low Temperatures

49: The Atom

50: Particles and Waves

51: From Atoms to Quarks

52: The Quantum Mechanical Universe

A last look at where we've been and a peek into the future.

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