Disentangling Quantum Physics

Male professor gesturing in front of a chalkboard.

Professor Barton Zwiebach lecturing on linearity and nonlinearity.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

What drove Einstein crazy?

It’s a simple question.

The answer is also simple—sort of.

Here’s Professor Barton Zwiebach in his video lecture segment “Photons and the loss of determinism,” just published on OCW as part of 8.04 Quantum Physics I:

. . . and now you have found a situation in which an identical set of experiments with identically prepared objects sometimes gives you different results. It’s a debacle. It’s a total disaster. What seems to have happened here? You suddenly have identical photons, and sometimes they go through [a polarizing filter], and sometimes they don’t go through. And therefore, you’ve lost predictability. It’s so simple to show that, if photons exist, you lose predictability. And that’s what drove Einstein crazy.

Professor Zwiebach explains other mind-boggling mysteries of quantum phenomena in 115 short videos on the 8.04 course site. Superposition, entanglement, Schrödinger’s equation—he covers the full range of topics. The videos are supplemented with textbook-like lecture notes, along with problem sets and exams.

Once you’ve gone through Professor Zwiebach’s 8.04 site, you might travel along to his 8.05 Quantum Physics II, where OCW features a similarly robust set of resources, including video lectures and lecture notes.

That’s right. A full year of MIT quantum physics with the same distinguished instructor.

Einstein would be crazy about that too!

The MicroMasters program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy provides new path to MIT

Online learning initiative provides real-world opportunity for students.

Chuka Ezeoguine is a student from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, who is majoring in computer science. Driven to help the world’s poor, he is developing the knowledge base he needs to create algorithm-based solutions to economic problems.

Camelia Vasilov recently graduated from Leiden University College and interns at the World Startup Factory. Raised in Moldova, her first-hand experience with poverty motivates her to master the analysis and application of empirical research, so she can return home to design and implement sound development policies.

Sangalore Sumit is a computer science engineer in Bangalore, India. He hopes to aid government in the development and implementation of data-driven programs that bridge the gap between public policy and public welfare.

Living and working on separate continents, these people have one thing in common: they all studied together at MIT. MITx, that is.

Studying together around the world, students in the MITx MicroMasters program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP) are connected by digital learning technologies and driven by a common cause: to help people in their communities and developing countries overcome challenges facing the world’s poor.

MITx MicroMasters is a new way to pursue a credentialed course of study from MIT. The cost of the DEDP program is based on ability to pay, and classes are open to anyone. According to Benjamin Olken, Professor of Economics, MIT, and Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL), “Whether you’re interested in a career in development policy, or interested in pursuing graduate school admissions, this certificate will signal your competence with advanced material.”

Students who successfully complete the five-course curriculum can apply to a newly-established accelerated master’s degree program offered by MIT’s department of economics. Accepted students will earn their degree in one semester while studying at the main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“There are thousands of social programs all over the world,” says Esther Duflo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, MIT, Co-founder and Co-director of JPAL. “But how do you evaluate their effectiveness? How do you ensure that policies used to tackle these problems are backed by scientific evidence? And how do you determine which methods are most useful in addressing these problems and yielding the best outcomes?”

Staying true to MIT’s commitment to academic rigor, the MicroMasters program in DEDP equips students with the skills and knowledge required to assess the effectiveness of anti-poverty initiatives through data-driven methodologies. It provides a solid foundation in microeconomics, data analysis, probability and statistics, development economics, and program evaluation.

“Our goal is to create a cadre of rigorously trained development economists to engage the problems of developing the world,” says Abhijit Banerjee, Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics, MIT, Co-founder and Co-director of JPAL.

Expand your mind. Expand your future. Learn more about the MicroMasters program and start improving the world today.

Gaining Street Smarts in 1.252J Urban Transportation Planning

A photo of a mural depicting a group of people standing in front of a bulldozer. The bulldozer reads "Federal Inner Belt I-95.

“Beat the Belt” is a 1980s mural on Memorial Drive in Cambridge, MA, commemorating the success of citizen resistance to the Inner Belt Highway that threatened to run through Cambridge. (Courtesy of Chris Ball on Flickr. CC-BY.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Try to remember: When was the last time an instructor sent you out to watch the traffic go by?

Not recently?

For students taking Frederick Salvucci’s 1.252J Urban Transportation Planning, whose site has just appeared on OCW, it was just the other day.

For the first of four main assignments in the course, Salvucci sends students out in groups to four different intersections and has them count what goes by. The point is “to get students used to thinking about quantities: How many bicycles? How many people in buses? How many people in cars? How many trucks? How many cabs are going down the street? What problems do you observe at that intersection?” Salvucci explains his thinking in his Instructor Insights on the site’s This Course at MIT page.

Knowledge at First Hand

For the students, Boston and Cambridge are a kind of lab, and if there’s anyone who knows this lab, and its highways, byways, and flyways, it’s Salvucci. Growing up in Boston, he served two stints as Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, oversaw the extension of the T’s Red and Orange lines, and orchestrated the financial backing and political support for the “Big Dig,” one of the most complex public works projects in history.

Students go on walking tours, observing roads and neighborhoods, evaluating the impact of urban planning on neighborhoods. They attend public meetings, which “force proponents of transportation projects to explain why they make sense to the public.” The students also investigate what might have been but never came to pass—projects like the “Inner Belt Highway” that were proposed and boosted but ultimately dropped because of community opposition.

Combining experiential learning with the study of research in transportation planning and projects, students write reports and give presentations on their findings.

Boston’s transportation problems, from its half-mad drivers and winding roads to its snowmaggedons and parking torments, are the stuff of legend. Why not join these heroic students and their sage guide in 1.252J, and start learning how to make everything flow more smoothly. Please!

OCW’s latest peak: 2400 courses

Photo of rock cairn on a mountaintop.

Photo by Wolfgang Lutz on Unsplash, license CC 0 (public domain).

Over the past two months, OCW has published 16 more courses. Six of these are brand-new subjects, taking our total live collection above 2400 total courses for the first time. Another 10 recent publications are updates of prior versions, as we work to bring you the latest MIT teaching from subjects across the entire curriculum.

Here’s the latest 16:

 

New OCW version of 8.01 Classical Mechanics!

Man gesturing at an overlaid diagram with math formulas.

Using a lightboard, Senior Lecturer Peter Dourmashkin gives a brief lecture on “Newton’s 2nd Law and Circular Motion.”

The How and Why of Motion: Classical Mechanics

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Terrific news for students and teachers of introductory physics: OCW has just published a new version of 8.01 Classical Mechanics.

This course is taken by all MIT students in their first year and helps form the foundation for much of what they will learn in their undergraduate careers.

Arranged in weekly learning units, the OCW course site abounds in useful materials. The centerpiece is a series of 220 short instructional videos that cover the full range of topics, from kinematics and Newton’s Laws of Motion to rotational motion and angular momentum. An additional six review videos cover basic concepts like vectors and scalars, so you can be familiar with the necessary terminology before you start the first learning unit.

Videos Galore

The course is taught by a team of seven MIT instructors led by Professor Deepto Chakrabarty and Senior Lecturer Peter Dourmashkin. The videos are presented in variety of formats: studio, tablet, and lightboard. 8.01 is the first OCW course to employ a lightboard, a relatively new technology that allows the instructor to face the viewer while writing on a transparent surface (a software program reverses the writing so the viewer can read it). Many instructors like this form of online instruction for its more intimate and personal feel over traditional classroom videos.

Students can also read Peter Dourmashkin’s openly published and fully downloadable textbook.

Each course topic has a problem set tied to videos of related worked examples to help learners make the most of their homework.

Materials for Multiple Uses

The materials on the OCW site were used both for on-campus instruction and in a series of MOOCs hosted on the edX platform. The MOOCs are run periodically, so students interested in getting an MITx on edX certificate can get a head start by familiarizing themselves with the materials on OCW before diving into the MOOC.

So don’t let inertia get the better of you! Steer your vector to 8.01 and get moving!

More Introductory Computer Science

A visualization of clusters found by a clustering algorithm.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Back in February we told you about a new OCW course in computer science, 6.0001 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python. It’s a true introduction, for students with little or no programming experience.

Now you can develop your newly acquired skills further with the 2nd module in the sequence, 6.0002 Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science. It picks up where 6.0001 left off, providing you with “an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems and to help students, regardless of their major, feel justifiably confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals.”

The OCW site has full video lectures, featuring Professors John Guttag and Eric Grimson, along with lecture slides and supporting code, problem sets (so you can try out what you’ve learned), and files to install the latest version of Python, version 3.5.

Topics include Optimization Problems, Stochastic Thinking, Monte Carlo Simulation, Understanding Experimental Data, Introduction to Machine Learning, and Clustering.

This module offers a fresh approach to teaching how to think like a computer scientist. It joins our collection of Introductory Programming courses from MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, and is sure to join 6.0001 as one of OCW’s most visited courses.

Peer Review: Learning How to Give and Take

Photo of a traffic sign for "two way traffic" with two arrows, one pointing up and one pointing down. By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Peer review! Hardly are those words out than a writing instructor’s heart starts to stir—but with joy or trepidation?

Peer review! That activity in which students review each other’s work and give each other feedback. It’s an essential writing skill, after all, being able to assess a piece of writing critically and offer suggestions for making it more effective without sending the author into a tailspin of despair.

It’s what every good editor does.

Writing is an art, like playing a musical instrument, and to learn how to do it well, you have to practice, so students in writing courses have to write a lot if they are going to improve. But even the most conscientious writing instructor can’t analyze everything the students in a class produce, and it’s often helpful to get more than one perspective on a piece of writing, so peer review offers an attractive solution on more than one front. It can also allow an instructor the breathing space to focus on higher-level things, like getting the students to think like writers.

Not Sweating the Small Stuff

Running a peer-review workshop is not easy, as anyone who’s tried it knows. Great advice from a veteran of many workshops is offered by Jared David Berezin, whose 21W.035 Science Writing and New Media: Communicating Science to the Public appeared this month on OCW.

Rather than just throwing the students into the workshop environment, he begins by holding a discussion, where he shares his own experience on the best and worst of workshopping and gets students’ thinking “about the value of peer-review in the workplace, and ways to solicit peer feedback in a professional, non-classroom setting.”

In the workshops, he wants students “to focus on the larger, global issues in the drafts, rather than editing sentences.” How come? “For many readers, it’s easier to focus on the little things, because they can be commented on with confidence and fixed quickly. Instead, I’d rather students use the precious time in the classroom to discuss the more difficult and nebulous issues within a text.”

Paraphrase as a Passport to Understanding

Nonetheless, he asks students “to provide evidence for all comments by referring directly to the text. Referencing single moments in the text can allow readers and authors to engage in a concrete discussion of ways to improve the overall draft, rather than speaking in vague abstractions.”

Students are required to take notes on each other’s work and to ask others to paraphrase what they have written. This “allows the author to assess whether the reader’s understanding aligns with the intent and desired meaning.”

Active Experiments

Aside from these and many other practical tips for making peer-review workshops a success, the course site has a gold mine of detailed assignments, in-class exercises, and “communication experiments” designed to foster creativity and versatility (Berezin shares his reflections on these experiments, peer review, and other facets of his teaching in his Instructor Insights). Most experiments, like “reverse-engineering metaphors” and descriptions of a green space from assigned perspectives, involve group work as well as individual writing. In this class, isolation is not an option.

If you are a writing teacher, or an aspiring writer hoping to make your mark, you’ll want to take a look at 21W.035. It has a lot to offer, both to you and to your peers.