The Wonders of Electricity and Magnetism

Walter Lewin, Professor of Physics


Description: The inimitable Walter Lewin gives a literally hair-raising performance in this MIT Museum lecture/demonstration for learners young and old. He unveils the real meaning behind words and things most of us use everyday without reflecting on what marvels they really represent.


Here are some of the mysteries exhibited, explored, and explained in this talk: How can you make two perfectly normal balloons zoom apart from each other? What happens when you connect a 12-volt light bulb to a 110-volt outlet? If you toss a handful of confetti onto a comb, why does some of it stick and some of it fly away? What's the best way to make sure your flashlight will work the next time you really need it? (If you guessed putting in new batteries, go to the back of the class.)


Lewin is at his electrifying best when working with children from the audience. He gives a 12-year-old girl the worst hair day of her life, and offers a young boy 10 cents for 10 hours of backbreaking labor. But Lewin reaches a new high (low?) when he repeatedly beats one of his young assistants with a swatch of cat fur. Lewin doesn't exempt himself from the torture, though: he even makes a serious attempt to electrocute himself with a 150,000-volt Van der Graaf generator.


Lewin indulges the armchair physicist who's mathematically challenged, by covering all the basics of electricity and magnetism while introducing just one equation. Keep watching, and you will find out why Walter Lewin was recently honored with MIT's Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.



About the Speaker(s): Walter H. G. Lewin is well-known at MIT for his lectures on both Newtonian mechanics and electricity and magnetism.


Lewin received his Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics in 1965 at the Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands, and has been a member of the MIT Physics faculty since 1966. During his MIT career, Lewin's investigations in astrophysics have included satellite and high-altitude balloon X-ray observations, world-wide coordinated observations of optical and X-ray bursts, and international collaborations observing X-ray sources. In addition, Lewin has collaborated over the years with various artists on sky art events. From 1998 to 2000, Lewin worked with MIT's Center for Advanced Educational Services on creating the Physics Interactive Video Tutor project -- video help sessions for freshman physics students.


Host(s): Office of the Provost, MIT Museum

credit

MIT World

license

MIT TechTV