Read For the Love of Physics Online

Authors: Walter Lewin

Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Science & Technology, #Science, #General, #Physics, #Astrophysics, #Essays

For the Love of Physics

BOOK: For the Love of Physics
8.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for

For the Love of Physics

“Fascinating. . . . A delightful scientific memoir combined with a memorable introduction to physics.”

Kirkus Reviews

“MIT’s Lewin is deservedly popular for his memorable physics lectures (both live and on MIT’s OpenCourseWare website and YouTube), and this quick-paced autobiography-cum-physics intro fully captures his candor and lively teaching style . . . joyful . . . [this text] glows with energy and should please a wide range of readers.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“Lewin may be the only physics professor in the world who celebrates the beauty of Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetic fields by passing out flowers to his delighted students. As the hundreds of thousands of students who have witnessed his lectures in person or online can attest, this classroom wizard transforms textbook formulas into magic. Lewin’s rare creativity shines through . . . a passport to adventure.”

(starred review)

“Of all the souls made famous by YouTube—Justin Bieber, those wedding entrance dancers, that guy who loses his mind while videotaping a double-rainbow—none is more deserving than MIT physics professor Walter Lewin. The professor’s sense of wonder is on full display in a new book:
For the Love of Physics: From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge of Time—A Journey Through the Wonders of Physics
. Why is a rainbow an arc and not a straight line? Why can we typically see auroras only if we’re close to the North or South Pole? If you’ve ever been interested in learning— or relearning—the answers to these and a hundred other fascinating questions, Lewin’s book is for you.”

The Boston Globe

“Everyone knows that rainbows appear after a storm. But in his new book, Lewin reveals nature’s more unusual rainbows hiding in spray kicked up by ocean waves, in fog swirling around headlights, even in glass particles floating above construction sites. After more than thirty years of teaching undergraduate physics at MIT, Lewin has honed a toolbox of clear, engaging explanations that present physics as a way of uncovering the world’s hidden wonders. Quirky, playful, and brimming with earnestness, each chapter is a joyful sketch of a topic—from Newton’s laws to Lewin’s own pioneering discoveries in X-ray astronomy. Lewin’s creativity offers lessons both for students and for educators. . . . Throughout it all, his sense of wonder is infectious.”

Science News

“Walter Lewin’s unabashed passion for physics shines through on every page of this colorful, largely autobiographical tour of science. The excitement of discovery is infectious.”

—Mario Livio, author of
The Golden Ratio
Is God a Mathematician?

“In this fun, engaging, and accessible book, Walter Lewin, a superhero of the classroom, uses his powers for good—ours! The authors share the joy of learning that the world is a knowable place.”

—James Kakalios, professor and author of
The Physics of Superheroes
The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics

Free Press

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2011 by Walter Lewin and Warren Goldstein

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Free Press Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

First Free Press hardcover edition May 2011

FREE PRESS and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

Book design by Ellen R. Sasahara

Manufactured in the United States of America

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lewin, Walter H. G.

For the love of physics : from the end of the rainbow to the edge of time—a journey through the wonders of physics / by Walter Lewin with Warren Goldstein.

p. cm.

1. Lewin, Walter H. G. 2. Physicists—Massachusetts—Biography. 3. College teachers—Massachusetts—Biography. 4. Physics—Study and teaching—Netherlands. 5. Physics—Study and teaching—Massachusetts. I. Goldstein, Warren Jay. II. Title.

QC16.L485A3 2011


[B]                                                     2010047737

ISBN 978-1-4391-0827-7

ISBN 978-1-4391-2354-6 (ebook)

For all who inspired my love for physics and art
—Walter lewin

For my grandson Caleb Benjamin Luria
—Warren Goldstein


1. From the Nucleus to Deep Space
2. Measurements, Uncertainties, and the Stars
3. Bodies in Motion
4. The Magic of Drinking with a Straw
5. Over and Under—Outside and Inside—the Rainbow
6. The Harmonies of Strings and Winds
7. The Wonders of Electricity
8. The Mysteries of Magnetism
9. Energy Conservation—
Plus ça change…

10. X-rays from Outer Space!

11. X-ray Ballooning, the Early Days

12. Cosmic Catastrophes, Neutron Stars, and Black Holes

13. Celestial Ballet

14. X-ray Bursters!

15. Ways of Seeing

Appendix 1
Appendix 2


ix feet two and lean, wearing what looks like a blue work shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows, khaki cargo pants, sandals and white socks, the professor strides back and forth at the front of his lecture hall, declaiming, gesturing, occasionally stopping for emphasis between a long series of blackboards and a thigh-high lab table. Four hundred chairs slope upward in front of him, occupied by students who shift in their seats but keep their eyes glued to their professor, who gives the impression that he is barely containing some powerful energy coursing through his body. With his high forehead, shock of unruly grey hair, glasses, and the trace of some unidentifiable European accent, he gives off a hint of Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown in the movie
Back to the Future
—the intense, otherworldly, slightly mad scientist-inventor.

But this is not Doc Brown’s garage—it’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the preeminent science and engineering university in the United States, perhaps even the world, and lecturing at the blackboard is Professor Walter H. G. Lewin. He halts his stride and turns to the class. “Now. All important in making measurements, which is
ignored in
college physics book”—he throws his arms wide, fingers spread—“is the uncertainty in your measurements.” He pauses, takes a step, giving them time to consider, and stops again: “Any measurement that you make without knowledge of the uncertainty is
” And the hands fly apart, chopping the air for emphasis. Another pause.

BOOK: For the Love of Physics
8.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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