Tuesday, November 11, 2008

World's Shortest Physics Lecture? - Follow-Up

I've finally read a news report on what I reported earlier about a science festival that included a 2-minute lecture on quantum mechanics, billed as the world's shortest physics lecture. And from what I've read, it reinforced my earlier point of view that this is nothing more than a gimmick, and people who listened to it is no more informed about what QM is than when they came in.

So why even bother? Why not stop with trying to get the "World's shortest physics lecture" titled, and actually spend some time sitting with a few people, and just talk about physics? It IS possible to educate people that way. The Illinois Science Council project of presenting various physics topics at bars and clubs during their off-peak times looks very useful and promising (I attended one recently on "The Science of Spooky" around Halloween). I can see very clearly how many people learned something new that they didn't realize even existed before. It just that it requires patience and TIME to present the material AND to get questions back from the audience. Learning isn't a one-way street, and one must allow for such discussion. A 2-minute lecture is a useless gimmick.



Peter Morgan said...

You may be right, but YouTube is all about the 2-minute attention span; how important is it if Physics is ignored in that venue? It's not surprising that a first attempt doesn't work, but that shouldn't condemn the possibility.

Have you tried the compendium of short videos that is http://www.periodicvideos.com/? [I came to this through a blog, I don't remember if it was yours.] I guess it's only subtle fundamental stuff that has to be long.

Perhaps FQXi's next essay contest should be a competition for a two-minute physics video? If enough people try the format, maybe something fun, interesting, attention-grabbing, or worthwhile in some other way might come of it. It would probably be as worthwhile as most entries in their current competition on the Nature of Time. I expect you could find material for a few dozen outraged blog posts there.

Howie Firth said...

How on earth can you pontificate about the merits or demerits of a lecture, whether 2 minutes long or otherwise, and the effect it had or didn't have on an audience, if (a) you don't know what's in it and (b) you didn't speak to any of the listeners?