What I haven’t really seen pointed out that the new online video isn’t actually “the” Feynman Lectures. “The” lectures were given as an actual class for Caltech physics undergrads, and the point was to teach them physics. There’s not a lot of point reiterating the detail in my old post, but the main thrust is that the lectures are not far removed from what you’d hear if you wandered into your local university intro physics class. Well, except much more interesting and competent. [Per comments, this is certainly not to say that your local professors are not very interesting and competent. They almost certainly are. Just not as much so as Feynman! -Matt] It’s perfectly possible to read, enjoy, and appreciate them without much math background, but they’re not meant as a casual pop physics tome.
The lectures now online aren’t those lectures. This is a different set of lectures he gave to a general audience at Cornell. I was first exposed to them in their book form, the brilliant The Character of Physical Law. They technically qualify as pop physics given their focus on physics for a general audience without any hefty math content, but they’re still the best exposition of what physics actually is that I’ve ever read. It’s certainly one of the very few books in this genre that actually manage to do do justice to the topic without insulting the intelligence or being incomprehensible (or these days, flogging the author’s pet untestable theory).
If you want to try before you buy, the now-online video of the Messenger Lectures is pretty much just the live-action version of the Character of Physical Law. Either way you really shouldn’t miss them. Certainly not when they’re free! I cannot possibly recommend them enough.
No, seriously, this is a weekend and you should have some free time. Use it to watch the lectures. It’s what physics is All About, and if you have any inclination at all to like physics this is something you’ll like. Go!
Well, that’s a week. See you in the next one!