Online physics curriculum

The number of online university courses that have been video recorded is large and growing fast. I’ve posted a few of them before, and now I want to try an experiment, namely: Starting with the first day of college class lecture in physics and math, how far can you get without leaving gaps (like, you watch a video on Newton’s first law and then jump right to quantum field theory isn’t permissible). This is a first-try ordering and I haven’t watched a large percentage of the lectures, so there will be room for improvement down the road, especially as new courses come out. Sometimes the naming of courses is weird, so I’ll freely change the titles to fit this curriculum guide, so if you click on a link and the titles don’t match, I know, I’m aware.

  1. Classical Mechanics – (Introductory) Newtonian mechanics, fluid mechanics, and kinetic gas theory.  Includes homework help playlist.
  2. Calculus, Single Variable -Differentiation and integration of one variable. Watched concurrently with Classical Mechanics. Includes homework help playlist.
  3. Electricity and Magnetism – Introductory electromagnetism, with many interesting applications. Includes homework help playlist.
  4. Calculus, Multiple Variable – Covers vector and multi-variable calculus. Watched concurrently with Electricity and Magnetism. Includes homework help playlist.
  5. Introduction to Solid State Chemistry – Introduction to the principles of chemistry with an emphasis on solid-state systems. Recitation sessions in the latter half of the same playlist. Optional, but recommended.
  6. Vibrations and Waves – Mechanical vibrations and waves, with many interesting applications.
  7. Differential Equations – Ordinary differential equations. Watched concurrently with Vibration and Waves.
  8. Thermodynamics and Kinetics – Thermodynamics and kinetic theory.
  9. Linear Algebra – Matrix theory and linear algebra.
  10. Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics – Extrasolar planets, black holes, and dark energy. Optional, but recommended.
  11. Classical Mechanics – (Advanced) Review of Newtonian mechanics, principle of least action, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics, Poisson brackets.
  12. Quantum Entanglements – Spin, Bell’s theorem, two-slit experiment, Hamiltonian.
  13. Special Relativity and Electromagnetic Theory – Mathematics of special relativity, Lorentz invariance, dynamics. Note that the lecture ordering is messed up, and that the video entitled Lectures 2 & 3 should go after Lecture 7.
  14. Quantum Mechanics – Builds on Quantum Entanglements, but can be watched separately.
  15. Classical Field Theory – Builds on Special Relativity, mechanics of special relativity.
  16. General Relativity – Newtonian gravitation, tensors, curved space, field equations.
  17. Cosmology – Expansion of the universe, dark matter, inflation.
  18. Statistical Mechanics – Information theory, partition function, thermodynamics.
  19. Mathematical Methods I
  20. Mathematical Methods II
  21. Particle Physics: Basic Concepts
  22. Particle Physics: Standard Model
  23. Particle Physics: Supersymmetry – Not available on YouTube, only on iTunes.
  24. String Theory
  25. Topics in String Theory – Not an official playlist, but whatever.

By the middle of the list I began to find my ability to write a short summary waning (as I haven’t myself even begun many of those topics) and by the end I just gave up. Also, I stuck Gilbert Strang’s Mathematical Methods lectures in essentially randomly. Roughly, the list can be divided into: MIT introductory courses followed by Leonard Susskind’s “Modern Physics: The Theoretical Minimum” with a few choice meats inserted here and there.

There are still many more free courses available, like Quantum Mechanics from James Binney, Quantum Field Theory from Sidney Coleman, or various Astronomy lectures (this one from Berkeley). There’s also plenty more math videos out in the wild. For the matter of this list, I’d like to see videos on calculus of complex variable, intermediate electrodynamics, and partial differential equations (so something like MIT 18.048.07, and 18.152 respectively).

That aside, the experiment was largely a success: There are years worth of materials here and they can take you with relatively few bumps from the first know-nothing day of freshman college all the way up to graduate level topics like cosmology and string theory. Of course, seeing physics and knowing physics aren’t the same thing: You have to sit down and think about it and work on problems.

EDIT: Added Thermodynamics and Kinetics.

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