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Lectures for a New Year: A Physics Classic from 1960

In 1960, University of Toronto physics professors Patterson Hume and Donald Ivey produced a half-hour educational film explaining basic principles of physics. They called it Frames of Reference, and used the opportunity to make the seemingly-boring topic of physics education actually pretty fun (or at least as fun as an educational film from 1960 featuring dudes in suits could be). Using visual gags and a series of engaging experiments featuring themselves and hockey pucks, the professors explained how objects move, how we perceive their motion, and why those things matter. If you enjoy nothing else about this physics lecture, just check out their staging -- they had to build a complex set and camera rig to film this thing! This is one of several engaging films made by the seminal Physical Science Study Committee.

Topics: people upside-down, movement, velocity, observation, hockey pucks, force, unbalanced forces, and of course frames of reference.

For: anyone who wants to learn some basic physics, or who enjoys old educational films. There's also some inherent interest here for educators -- this film has been used in classrooms for fifty years to explain physics, and is a stellar example of how education on heady topics (like physics) doesn't have to be boring.

Viewing notes: Audio doesn't start until about 30 seconds in. Also, if the embedded video below doesn't work for you, try YouTube: part one, two, three. The YouTube videos are lower-quality, but work on more devices. A high-quality download is available from Archive.org.

Further Reading

Ivey and Hume also worked on the classic CBC TV series The Nature of Things. You can see more recent incarnations of the series from the CBC. The pair also wrote a book about physics (in two volumes) on the topic, though it's a little tricky to buy copies these days -- each volume goes for more than a hundred bucks on Amazon! Check for it in your local library instead (I found a library copy just ten miles away!).

Transcript

I haven't been able to find a transcript of this talk. The only option I've found is to enable YouTube's automated captioning system, which frankly doesn't work very well with this fuzzy audio.  UPDATE:  here is a transcript, though you need access to the American Journal of Physics (usually best done achieved via a library).

Suggest a Lecture

Got a favorite lecture? Is it online in some video format? Leave a comment and we'll check it out!

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
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FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Yale's Insanely Popular Happiness Course Is Now Open to Everyone Online
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iStock

Yale University's happiest course is giving people yet another reason to smile. After breaking registration records, "Psychology and the Good Life" has been repurposed into a free online course anyone can take, Quartz reports.

Psychology professor Laurie Santos debuted the class in the 2018 spring semester, and it's officially the most popular course in the university's 317-year history. About 1200 students, or a quarter of Yale's undergraduate student body, are currently enrolled. Now that a free version of the course has launched on Coursera, the curriculum is about to reach even more learners.

The online "Science of Well-Being" class is led by Santos from her home. Throughout the course, students will learn about happiness from a psychological perspective, including misconceptions about happiness and activities that have been proven to boost life satisfaction. "The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice," the course description reads.

Each section comes with readings, video lessons, and a quiz, as well as the chance to connect and brainstorm with classmates. After passing the assignments, students come away from the six-week course with a certificate and hopefully a broader understanding of the factors that contribute to a happy life. You can visit the course page over at Coursera to enroll.

[h/t Quartz]

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