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Physics lectures gain audience in Tibet, Mali, and even Berkeley

UC Berkeley streaming courses on Google Video. The surprise box office bonanza: "Physics for Future Presidents."
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In September, we related that UC Berkeley and Google had teamed up for some "coursecasting," and that Berkeley would be streaming hundreds of hours of course material on Google Video.

The project is now in full swing and, The San Francisco Chronicle reports, the verdict is in. The most popular video course is ... physics professor Richard Muller's "Physics for Future Presidents" class.

The video/podcast page is here.

Students in 35 states and 43 countries have been watching the 90-minute lectures. "I think we're onto something that could play a major role in the advancement of education in the world," Muller said.

Still, it's a long way from physics to LonelyGirl15. Muller's most popular lecture, on atoms and heat, has been watched 26,000 times, which means it's on the verge of breaking into Google Video's top 10,000.

No matter. The rewards are far greater than Internet rankings:

Muller recently asked during a lecture to hear from students outside Berkeley.

"Today," wrote an e-mail correspondent who identified himself as a Tibetan boy studying math, "all day I spent watching physics lectures, wonderful lectures and (it's a) wonderful idea to share these with the rest of the world."

"It's better than getting a prize," said Muller. "It's the kind of reward you don't expect."

And how about this one?

A businessman based in Bamako, Mali, in West Africa, wrote: "At the end of this month I will be in Timbuktu and I assure you I will have your lecture playing on my MP3 player as I plod away from the city by camel."
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