As many of you know, I’ve spent the last few years teaching Physics and Astronomy at the community college level. The last 2 semesters, I was teaching the second semester of calculus-based physics, which, at the school where I was teaching, covers electricity and magnetism. Since the whole remote thing happened mid-spring semester, I started recording video lectures mid-term, then this semester I turned them into a full set covering all the content of the class in 13 lectures. This fall, I reedited the ones from spring, but I didn’t rerecord them: there’s a bit of a discontinuity in terms of quality when you get to Lecture 7, because it was the first one I recorded and I was learning how to do it on the fly. I’m not teaching at all next semester and not planning to teach this class again any time soon, otherwise I might go back and change a few things, but for what they are, I’m pretty proud of them. I have no delusions that people want to sit through 22 hours of me talking about a bunch of math and electricity and magnetism with occasional cartoons thrown in, but I thought you should be given the option.
In case you ARE interested, though, here are some things you should know.
About the class: This class was aimed at scientists and engineers, so it gets pretty mathematical, having a prerequisite of second semester calculus (we use a lot of integrals). The textbook that goes with the class and is referenced on occasion is the OpenStax “University Physics Volume 2”, which is available for free here: https://openstax.org/details/books/university-physics-volume-2 I do reference “Halliday” as a reading option as well, but that is just because the school decided to switch the official textbook for the whole series of classes from the OpenStax book to “Fundamentals of Physics Volume 2” by Halliday and Resnick between my first and second semesters teaching the class. I thought that switching from a free open source book to an expensive book in the middle of a pandemic was… problematic at best, so while I had to include the schools new choice as an option… If you intend to read along, unless you already have Halliday, I’d suggest using the OpenStax book. In case you are interested, here is a PDF with a list of the topics, suggestions of reading for each topic in both books mentioned above, and homework problems.
If you watch the lectures, do the reading, and do the homework, then you are getting everything from my class this last semester aside from the exams, some labs, and a few extra problems that we did live on zoom.
To my teacher friends, feel free to use them as supplemental resources for you class if you think they are up to your standards. Let me know if you do, that would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (Also, let me know if you want some labs; I wrote some pretty solid coding labs using GlowScript).
That was probably a few more words than necessary… but… well… that might properly set your expectations for the lectures. :p
Here’s a little Halloween spookiness for you. Happy Halloween, everyone!
My mind floated along behind as my body stumbled down the street.
How much did I drink?
Clearly enough so that I didn’t remember the interval between my watch on deck and now. It wasn’t uncommon for me to take a sip or two from my flask while on watch, but this was something different.
Another question struck me and I had to steady myself against a horse hitching post while I searched my mind. Had Simon come up onto the deck? I’ve taken a drag off Simon’s opium before, but was I dumb enough to do so while on watch? That might explain- god, it was cold.
As if in response to my thought, I watched a man materialize out of the darkness on one side of the road, then disappear into the shadows on the other. He wasn’t even wearing a shirt.
It had been sweltering. I’d been sweating through my clothes on the deck. When did it get so cold?
I shook my head and blinked a few times, then tried to stagger onward. Clearly I’d had a mission when I started stumbling along this way. Maybe I’d remember what it was when I got further down the road.
“Fuck, iss cold,” I grumbled under my breath, pulling my thin, damp shirt against my sticky chest in an ineffectual attempt to ward off the frigid, but still air.
I only made it a little ways further down the road before stumbling into an alleyway and collapsing to the ground. The Earth undulated under and around me while my eyes were closed, so — expending an heroic effort — I rolled onto my back and opened my eyes again. High cloud cover obscured the sky. I’d been looking at crisp, clear stars from the deck of the Doris last I could recall. How long had it been?
I pulled my arms in close to my chest, still trying and still failing to ward off the cold. Freezing or not, I was also so tired it ached through every muscle in my body. I took a long, deep breath. Maybe sleeping it off was the best bet. I felt the world spin and wave around me again as the anchors on my eyelids pulled me down into the depths of sleep. This time I embraced it.
She was beautiful, her wet skin glistened in the moonlight as she looked down into my eyes and her naked body pressed against mine. I smiled at her and she smiled in return, but hers was knowing, while I’m sure mine looked stupefied and confused. I was floating on my back, and when I raised my hand to touch her shoulder, I shifted position and her body pressed closer against me, her hair falling into my face. It smelled like the breeze over turbulent waters before a storm.
She laughed and leaned her lips down to my neck and my hand slipped down her back, past her waist, to where soft skin faded to slick, fishy scales. I took in a gasp of surprise, but before I could do anything else, there was a prick in my neck and I was waking up in that alley.
I’d thought a bit of sleep would clear my head, but it seemed to swim now even more than before and now there was a pain in my neck and a tingly feeling emanating from it, as if I’d tweaked a muscle in my sleep.
God, it was so cold.
I rolled onto my stomach and pulled myself up into a crawl, inching along the alley. There was a small, overturned boat at the back. Perhaps if I could get under it and trap my body heat, I could get warm.
It took me a long time, but I made it and slid under to find a large piece of rotting canvas that had once been a sail, but would now suffice as a foul-smelling blanket. I curled up into it — feeling no warmer — then laid my head down and drifted back to sleep.
She swam around me in circles, giggling.
“Aye,” I called, “what’re ya doin, lass?”
“Waiting for my friends,” she purred, slowing her circles to come in close. Even operating in such a low tone, her voice had a sing-song quality to it. I could smell the breeze in her hair again as she got near and it was intoxicating.
“You should be sleeping, Monsieur,” she sighed into my ear.
“Thought I was,” I said, turning to her, “Bonnie lass, like you, I mus’ be.” I grinned my best winning smile.
Her lips parted to show rows of pointed teeth. Her gaze caressed my face and, for a moment, I though she might lean in for a kiss, but when she lunged it was for my throat. A sharp pain shot through my neck again and I awoke wrapped in moldy canvas, cowering from the cold under an overturned boat.
Now both sides of my neck ached. I must have been sleeping on it wrong. I stretched my neck and it popped, but the pain remained.
God, it was cold as Poseidon’s piss and my head was foggier than a paddle-boat tour of Avalon.
I laid there for a long moment, every deep breath bringing with it the musty smell of mildew. Trying to drift back to sleep didn’t seem like an option, so I wiggled slowly back out from under the boat and crawled along the alley, back towards the street. Perhaps I’d see a shipmate that could help me back on board. Or, perhaps, I’d remember what I had come ashore to accomplish. While I crawled along the ground, I wracked my brain. What had it been? Why was I here?
I was pretty sure Simon had come up onto the deck of the ship and it had just been the two of us out there under a crisp, flawless sky.
Or had we been alone? There was a voice. Maybe?
I made it to the street, and used a post to climb to my feet. The right foot, somewhere along the way had started to tingle and now there was a burning sensation that did nothing to stave off the cold. It was slowly moving up my ankle now.
“Ooof… smarts,” I said into the still, freezing air around me. “Whas that?”
Simon had definitely been there. I remembered him saying that exact thing, looking up as we heard the voice coming from the darkness, a sudden fog swamping the boat. It was an angelic voice singing a haunting song.
As this all came tumbling back to me, I sat back down onto the ground, grabbing my foot and rubbing it. The burning sensation had moved up my calf. Everything below that had disappeared into an unpleasant mixture of pain, cramp, and tingling.
“Oh,” I grumbled, remembering the beautiful creature from my dream. “Oh no.”
The stinging pain in my neck and the burning pain in my leg began to throb in time as my heart began to race. She wasn’t a dream.
She was a man-eating siren. “Waiting for my friends,” she’d said, “You should be sleeping.”
“Damnit!” I cried out, trying to climb to my feet. The tingling, burn in my right leg telling me that it was almost certainly gone already. Eaten in that other world — the real world — by the mermaid and her friends.
“Damn you, vicious siren!” I screamed.
Another shirtless man walked by on the street, and didn’t even seem to register my existence. That wasn’t strange because neither of us existed here. This was a venom-addled dream. A prison for my mind while they devoured my body.
I’d awoken before. I could do it again.
I stumbled back to the overturned boat, both legs barely solid, one feeling nothing but pain. By the time I was halfway there, they had started in on the other leg, beginning at the foot and working their way up from there. “Don’t you dare, you bitch,” I spat, tumbling to the ground and crawling under the boat.
I needed to fall asleep.
“Fall asleep” I grumbled aloud, “your life depends on you falling asleep this very second.”
Rather than slowing down at my command, my heart thudded on, ramping up as if it might jack-rabbit out of my chest and take off at any second.
“Damnit. Go to sleep!” I cried in a weak, pleading, panicked tone. Knowing that I’d never needed to fall asleep so badly in my entire life.
I’m taking a creative writing class this semester to shake things up a bit and it has been a lot of fun. I wrote the following piece for the class and thought I’d share because I haven’t posted any fiction on my blog in a little while.
We had just finished reading Ocean Vuong’s novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. If you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest it. It is an incredibly beautiful piece of literature. The prompt for the following piece was to take a line from the book that we liked and use it for the first line of a short story. The line I chose was “I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck.” Since the novel takes the form of a letter to the main character’s mother, I thought it fitting to do the same… but in a pretty different way. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck.
I fear the worst, and if there is anyone that deserves to know what’s coming, it’s you.
I suppose I should start at the beginning. The first time I traveled through time, I was so overwhelmed with the fact that it had happened that I didn’t really get a chance to take advantage of the opportunity. My machine – which I’ve affectionately named The Device – can only jump just less than 6 days into the future, stays there for just over 21 minutes, then falls back through time to the moment it left. Having wasted a trip checking and rechecking the date to verify that I had actually made it would be fine if it wasn’t for the other constraint of the Device: due to the fact that there are only 3 quarks in a baryon and some other reasons too lengthy to get into, the machine can only make this trip 3 times.
I can picture the incredulity on your face. I assure you, it is true. I have made this trip, I have done it 3 times, and the Device sits lifeless in the corner of my study, its core burned out, never to budge again. True, I could construct another, but it would take another four years due to the slow timeline of the distillation process. Four years that I do not believe we have.
This reminds me, mother, I should probably come clean: I was not called in to the office the last four Christmases, as I said. I was working on the core for the Device. I am sorry for lying to you and prioritizing my work over time with you. I see now that this was a mistake.
The second trip, I was ready. You might not think that much can be done with 21 minutes and 17.93 seconds, especially when you can only jump 5.92 days into the future, but you’d be surprised what can be accomplished with a little planning. I know you taught me that gambling was a sign of weakness, but I fear that I have another confession to make. That house I bought you, the car, the weekly fancy fruit baskets were not the result of my salary. I suspect you knew that though. How could they have been. In fact, they (and much more wealth) are the results of five days of bets and investments that some have called “incredibly lucky.” It doesn’t take long to look up which stocks shot up the fastest in a weekly period, nor to write down who won major sporting events and horse races. A week of sure things has made me a small fortune that I haven’t known how to tell you about until now. Is it still a sign of weakness, mom? Is it weakness if it wasn’t really gambling?
Another thing you taught me was to settle for what I have and not to strive for more than I need. This, I fear, mother, is another lesson that I ignored. My small fortune should have been enough, but I found that there’s no such thing as enough money. If I had hundreds of millions instead of hundreds of thousands, imagine the good I could do. Is it being unthankful for what I have to strive for more? Is it selfish if I intend to use much of it to help others?
Well, that’s 2 of 3 trips down. The thing about money, is that it’s easier to make money if you have money to begin with. One more trip to the future to gather information and one more week of sure bets would certainly put me under the gaze of the IRS, but it should also allow me to grow what I have by at least a hundred, maybe a thousand times. That’s what I thought, at least.
I got there to find that nothing remained.
Just that small jump of a handful of days put me in a desolate wasteland of smoldering soil. The air was so thick with smoke that I spent most of my 21 minutes in the future, doubled over, coughing as if my body were trying to eject my very lungs.
I should have been near downtown, but as far as I could see through the smoke, there was nothing but ash. No buildings, no trees, no rubble, no people remained. It’s possible that whatever happened was local, as one can’t travel very far in a third of an hour while unable to pull in a full breath. I don’t think so, though.
My hair has been falling away in clumps and I’ve been nauseous and weak since getting back. Signs of radiation sickness.
I’ve spent the last 3 days – between bouts of vomiting – trying to determine what’s coming and trying to stop it, but there’s only so much I can do, not knowing what it is. This morning, too weak to stand, I was taken to the hospital, where I now lay confined and quarantined while they run their tests and ignore my input as the nonsense of a sick and fevered mind.
I can’t stop thinking about all the time I spent working that I should have spent with you, now that I can’t remedy it. I’m sorry, mother. I felt the need to tell you, to get it off my chest, but pray that the letter is too late. I pray you don’t have to spend your last days awaiting the end.