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

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!).


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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Live Smarter
Graduates in These States Fare Best When It Comes to Student Debt
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Student loan debt in the U.S. grows larger each year. According to CNBC, the average American in their 20s with student loans to pay off owes about $22,135. But college graduates from some states have it easier than those from others. As Money reports, choosing the right state in which to get your education may end up saving you $16,000 in loan payments.

That number comes from the latest student debt study [PDF] from the Institute for College Access and Success. The organization looked at four-year public and private nonprofit colleges to determine the states where debt levels skew low and where they creep into $30,000-plus territory. Graduates who study in Utah have it the best: 57 percent of students there graduate without debt, and those who have debt carry burdens of $19,975 on average. Behind Utah are New Mexico, California, Arizona, and Nevada, all with average debt loads of less than $25,000 a student.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is New Hampshire, where new graduates are sent into the workforce with $36,367 in debt looming over their heads. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Minnesota all produce average student debts between $31,000 and $36,000. And though graduates from West Virginia don't owe the most money, they are the most likely to owe any money at all, with 77 percent of students from the state racking up some amount of debt. The variation from state to state can be explained by the types of colleges that are popular in each region. The Northeast, for example, is home to some of the country's priciest private colleges, while students in the West are more likely to attend a public state school with lower tuition.

If you've already received a degree from an expensive school in a high-debt state, you can't go back in time and change your decision. But you can get smart about tackling the debt you've already accumulated. Check out these debt-busting strategies to see if one is right for your situation.

[h/t Money]

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This Just In
Want to Become a Billionaire? Study Engineering
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If you want to get rich—really, really rich—chances are, you should get yourself an engineering degree. As The Telegraph reports, a new analysis from the UK firm Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment finds that more of the top 100 richest people in the world (according to Forbes) studied engineering than any other major.

The survey found that 75 of the 100 richest people in the world got some kind of four-year degree (though others, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, attended a university but dropped out before graduation). Out of those who graduated, 22 of those billionaires received engineering degrees, 16 received business degrees, and 11 received finance degrees.

However, the survey doesn't seem to distinguish between the wide range of studies that fall under the "engineering" umbrella. Building a bridge, after all, is a little different than electrical engineering or computing. Four of those 100 individuals studied computer science, but the company behind the survey cites Amazon's Jeff Bezos (who got a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Princeton) and Google's Larry Page (who studied computer engineering at the University of Michigan and computer science at Stanford) as engineers, not computer scientists, so the list might be a little misleading on that front. (And we're pretty sure Bezos wouldn't be quite so rich if he had stuck just to electrical engineering.)

Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment is, obviously, a sales-focused company, so there's a sales-related angle to the survey. It found that for people who started out working at an organization they didn't found (as opposed to immediately starting their own company, a la Zuckerberg with Facebook), the most common first job was as a salesperson, followed by a stock trader. Investor George Soros was a traveling salesman for a toy and gift company, and Michael Dell sold newspaper subscriptions in high school before going on to found Dell. (Dell also worked as a maitre d’ in a Chinese restaurant.)

All these findings come with some caveats, naturally, so don't go out and change your major—or head back to college—just yet. Right now, Silicon Valley has created a high demand for engineers, and many of the world's richest people, including Bezos and Page, earned their money through the tech boom. It's plausible that in the future, a different kind of boom will make a different kind of background just as lucrative. 

But maybe don't hold your breath waiting for the kind of industry boom that makes creative writing the most valuable major of them all. You can be fairly certain that becoming an engineer will be lucrative for a while.

[h/t The Telegraph]


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