Richard Wolfson Ph.D.

Richard Wolfson Ph.D. >

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The Fundamental Science
Episode 1 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Take a quick trip from the subatomic to the galactic realm as an introduction to physics, the science that explains physical reality at all scales. Professor Wolfson shows how physics is the fundamental science that underlies all the natural sciences.…
Languages of Physics
Episode 2 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Understanding physics is as much about language as it is about mathematics. Begin by looking at how ordinary terms, such as theory and uncertainty, have a precise meaning in physics. Learn how fundamental units are defined. Then get a taste…
An Evolving Universe
Episode 59 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Trace the discoveries that led astronomers to conclude that the universe began some 14 billion years ago in a big bang. Detailed measurements of the cosmic microwave background and other observations point to an initial period of tremendous inflation, followed…
Describing Motion
Episode 3 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Motion is everywhere, at all scales. Learn the difference between distance and displacement, and between speed and velocity. Add to these the concept of acceleration, which is the rate of change of velocity, and you are ready to delve deeper…
Gravity
Episode 13 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Newton realized that the same force that makes an apple fall to the ground also keeps the moon in its orbit around Earth. Explore this force, called gravity, by focusing on circular orbits. End by analyzing why an orbiting spacecraft…
Introducing the Quantum
Episode 50 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Begin your study of the ideas that revolutionized physics at the atomic scale: quantum theory. The word quantum comes from Max Planck's proposal in 1900 that the atomic vibrations that produce light must be quantized: that is, they occur only…
Space-Time and Mass-Energy
Episode 48 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
In relativity theory, contrary to popular views, reality is what's not relative: that is, what doesn't depend on one's frame of reference. See how space and time constitute one such pair, merging into a four-dimensional space-time. Mass and energy similarly…
Falling Freely
Episode 4 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Use concepts from the previous episode to analyze motion when an object is under constant acceleration due to gravity. In principle, the initial conditions in such cases allow the position of the object to be determined for any time in…
Electromagnetic Waves
Episode 40 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Explore the remarkable insight of physicist James Clerk Maxwell in the 1860s that changing electric fields give rise to magnetic fields in the same way that changing magnetic fields produce electric fields. Together, these changing fields result in electromagnetic waves,…
Magnetism
Episode 34 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
In this introduction to magnetism, discover that magnetic phenomena are really about electricity, since magnetism involves moving electric charge. Learn the right-hand rule for the direction of magnetic force. Also investigate how a current-carrying wire in a magnetic field is…
Time and Space
Episode 47 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Einstein's special theory of relativity upends traditional notions of space and time. Solve the simple formulas that show the reality of time dilation and length contraction. Conclude by examining the twins paradox, discovering why one twin who travels to a…
Special Relativity
Episode 46 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Discover the startling consequences of Einstein's principle of relativity: that the laws of physics are the same for all observers in uniform motion. One result is that the speed of light is the same for all observers, no matter what…
Applications of Electromagnetic Induction
Episode 37 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Survey some of the technologies that exploit electromagnetic induction: the electric generators that supply nearly all the world's electrical energy, transformers that step voltage up or down for different uses, airport metal detectors, microphones, electric guitars, and induction stovetops, among…
Quantum Mechanics
Episode 53 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
In 1926 Erwin Schrodinger developed an equation that underlies much of our modern quantum-mechanical description of physical reality. Solve a simple problem with the Schrodinger equation. Then learn how the merger of quantum mechanics and special relativity led to the…
Consequences of the Second Law
Episode 27 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
The second law puts limits on the efficiency of heat engines and shows that humankind's energy use could be better planned. Learn why it makes sense to exploit low-entropy, high-quality energy for uses such as transportation, motors, and electronics, while…
Entropy: The Second Law of Thermodynamics
Episode 26 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Turn to an idea that has been compared to a work of Shakespeare: the second law of thermodynamics. According to the second law, entropy, a measure of disorder, always increases in a closed system. Order can only increase at the…
Energy from the Nucleus
Episode 57 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Investigate nuclear fission, in which a heavy, unstable nucleus breaks apart; and nuclear fusion, where light nuclei are joined. In both, the released energy is millions of times greater than the energy from chemical reactions and comes from the conversion…
Cracks in the Classical Picture
Episode 44 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Embark on the final section of the course, which covers the revolutionary theories that superseded classical physics. Why did classical physics need to be replaced? Discover that by the late 19th century, inexplicable cracks were beginning to appear in its…
Earth, Ether, Light
Episode 45 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
Review the famous Michelson-Morley experiment, which was designed to detect the motion of Earth relative to a conjectured ether wind that supposedly pervaded all of space. The failure to detect any such motion revealed a deep-seated contradiction at the heart…
The Atomic Nucleus
Episode 56 of Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works Series
In the first of two episodes on nuclear physics, study the atomic nucleus, which consists of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons, held together by the strong nuclear force. Many combinations of protons and neutrons are unstable; such nuclei…