back to article Microsoft hosts Feynman lecture series

Forget Windows 7, the most useful thing that Microsoft will do this year is host the videos of a famous lecture series given by Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman back in 1964, so anyone can watch them and see a brilliant man engaged with the workings of the physical world and the people he is trying to get hooked on …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    It is obviously very good news that these should be available.

    But why do I need to install Silverlight to see them? I don't want to do that (though this is one of the few things which might make me).

  2. Cod
    Gates Halo

    Got me interested...

    I remember reading the transcripts of the lectures when I was a physics undergrad in the 90s - some incredibly tough ideas presented with such enthusiasm - certainly brought the subject to life for me.

    Can't fault BG for this....can we?

  3. GT
    Gates Horns

    Hah! Sucks to you Mac-owning physicists

    So you have to download an IE plug-in to watch this? Serve you physicists right for buying Mac.

    Putting it in Flash, WMV or MP3/4 would have been technically impossible, I guess.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @silverlight, and additional thoughts

    Siverlight isn't the problem, and I think that, that comment is just distractional from what the story is about. After all you've probably installed Flash player from Adobe, countless times, if you go do different sites and get told you need the latest version of Flash installed to play the content.

    Gates'y in his philantrophic mode has IMHO, done something very worthwhile, and I don't care if he monopolises all of those lectures if he provides them for fre, albeit even if you need to install Siverlight.

    Perhaps he could do the same for all of the Beeb's Christmas science lectures, which have also been a valuable contribution to increasing the popularity of science.

    If your only beef about this story is having to install Silverlight, then I feel sorry for you. The focus should have been on the science part of the story, not attached to the link you obviously clicked to find that out. I know, especially in this day and age, how increasingly hard it is to not be cynical, but I honestly believe, this is a story without any cynicism intended.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I wondered what the price would be.

    "This being Microsoft, you have to install its Silverlight plug-in for Internet Explorer to view the lectures."

    Yes. Physics can be fun, but (M$) business can still be cynical, manipulative, divisive and shit :-(

  6. SynnerCal
    Gates Halo

    Nice one Mr G.

    Kudos to BillG for doing this. Okay, I'm not so happy to have to bung on MS's latest piece of bloat to be able to enjoy the lectures, but hey maybe it'll work with Moonlight just as well.

    Don't suppose he'd be able to get a hold of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" TV series and do the same - okay not as key as Feynmann's lectures, but darned interested nevertheless.

  7. g e

    Sorry your browser is not compatible

    Guess I'll have to wait for King Bill to adopt a cross-platform policy or Hell to freeze over.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Try Google Chrome

    And you get the message "Sorry, your browser is not compatible." I guess this is how M$ will fight off GoogleOS.

    Mine's the one with IE in the pocket, in case all else fails.

  9. Onymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Free to the Public, eh?


    'Gates recently bought the rights [...] with the intent of making them available free to the public.[...]'

    Really, Bill? Then give the video to, or Wikimedia Commons, or to YouTube. Or just give links to downloads of the files, or seed a torrent of the files. The Feynman lectures are good stuff, but this is a just a way of forcing people to care about Silverlight.

  10. Malcolm 1


    "This being Microsoft, you have to install its Silverlight plug-in for Internet Explorer to view the lectures."

    You have to install Silverlight, granted. But the Silverlight plugin is available for IE, Firefox and Safari on Windows and OSX. It even works on Google chrome (albeit unsupported). And you can get the moonlight plugin for firefox on SUSE, openSUSE, Ubuntu and Fedora.

  11. Will

    Fail - Look at the site on Chrome - browser is not compatible


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More of the Same

    Too bad he wasn't more concerned with Scientific activities when his company was busy bashing the TCP/IP protocol as "uncontrolled, GUIs as "not needed" and insisting that everyone should run DOS and NetBui. Now that he is rich he wants a different image.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "Beeb's Christmas science lectures, "

    Your age/ignorance may be showing?

    I'd agree the Beeb's lectures weren't bad at all.

    These days they are on Channel 5. I don't watch them any more. The last one I saw seemed like one long Microsoft advert. Which leads us right back to Mr Gates and his business practices.

    Back to Feynman: he also played a very important role in the investigation of the Shuttle O-ring catastrophe. Well worth reading about (or watching, if you can find something a bit more substantial than a 30second clip on Youtube).

  14. dek

    @AC 15:46

    There is nothing philanthropic about on the one hand offering something that should have been truly free for all to watch *without restrictions* and on the other imposing a marketing driven constraint. I'm now more interested in how much or little the BBC porned away scientific heritage which after all had already been paid for by the licence fee and should have remained publicly accessible (and that doesn't mean via the i-is-a-dummy-Player).

  15. Christopher Martin

    Where else can I get this

    I've installed Moonlight and changed my user agent string to IE, but MS still don't let me in. Anyone know where else I can get these lectures in some format that works?

  16. Paul Saleh

    work for you?

    Can anyone get it to work. It freezes on the dialogue box "Preparing Content...." in both firefox and IE 7,8. On more than one machine. Grrr.

  17. Don Mitchell


    I knew Feynman in the last 1970s, sat in on a series of lections he was doing on field theory (which was only about 25% comprehensible to me). His speaking style was still very similar to what you see in the 1964 lectures.

    I was struck by how often Feynman understood the practical ramifications of theories, while the graduate student only knew the math. A student would propose some matrix, and Feynman would say "That can't be true, because it would add a new degree of freedom to electrons. So besides having plus or minus charge and up and down spin, they would be red and blue. But that extra degree of freedom would manifest as an unseen macroscopic change in thermodynamics, so it can't be." To the students, it was just a matrix. To Feynman it was red and blue electrons.

    Can we please shut up about bashing Microsoft for promoting their player. If Adobe and Apple can do it, so can Microsoft.

  18. Swarthy

    Is It possible to extract Silverlight video?

    And if so, how long until these are on a Torrent?

  19. Anonymous Coward


    can anyone get this thing to work? I've tried it on 3 separate machines with 4 different browsers and it screws up every time.

    Silverlight? Silversh*$%, more like.

  20. aL 17
    Dead Vulture

    typical reg FUD/ignorance


    silverlight is not a "ie plugin"

    its a plugin for firefox/safariie on windows/mac.

    its no less propriterary than flash witch has a far far larger market share, worry about flash antitrust. not silverlight. fyi, silverlight is smaller that flash, call out bloat where its appropriate.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    bunch of moaners!

    erm... Silverlight is also available for Firefox and Safari on Windows and MacOS. On Linux there is/will be Moonlight. No reason to moan...

  22. C-N


    Fortunately, I have already purchased the series on DVD. It's a shame they didn't simply use a real standard for sharing the videos. Have they given them over to the public domain, or are they merely allowing MS users to have a peek?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any idea...?

    Why the BBC no longer has the rights to them?

  24. Steven Jones

    The true Feynman

    This guy was one of my few heroes as a physics undergraduate back in the mid 1970s. There was no doubt of his brilliance and the unique nature of his outlook and character.However, he's a man almost as well defined by his image than what he did. To find out a little more about the truth about Feynmann, the people he worked with, and how his achievements contributed so much to post-war theoretical physics plus a little of the complexity of his character, then I can heartily recommend "Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick". Not all James Gleick's books are so good (well, some can be down right disappointing). But that one is superb.

  25. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Surely your'e joking Mr Gates?

    If you think that the world and his dog are going to install Silverlight to view these.

    Reading RF's books inspired me as a youngster and with his well documented efforts to make science understanable by all, I would like to guess that he would not like this totally artificial impediment to everyone sharing his wit and wisdom about the world of Science.

    With all apologies to the author of "Surely your'e joking My Feynmann".

  26. Mark McNeill

    Sorry, your browser is not compatible.

    You're using Feynman to send a great message there, Bill.

  27. Christopher Martin


    Well, I found a Windows machine.

    Aaaaaand.... Lecture 1 stopped playing 36 minutes in.

    "Sorry, Tuva cannot connect to the necessary online content. Please check your internet connection, or try again later."


  28. Ian Halstead
    Gates Horns

    Sudden surge of angular momentum...

    ...on the part of the sadly deceased Mr Feynman, who would undoubtedly have wanted these to be seen by the largest audience possible. It feels just like Browning or Colt sponsoring your local primary school nativity play.

    Just wrong. Open information on open standards please.

  29. Martin 6 Silver badge

    This is why we need Windows7

    Finally it's only with Microsoft's revolutionary .net technology that lots of people in different places can see a grainy low resolution black and white moving images in their living rooms.

    This is going to revolutionise entertainment and may be the end of the kinescope industry.

  30. Eduard Coli
    Gates Horns

    The Brave New Monopoly

    Nice to see that Billy G.'s new monopoly Corbis is bearing fruit.

  31. Xris M
    Thumb Up


    Feynman is one of my favourite physicists and I will be defintely be watching these later tonight.

    Who cares that I have to install "another" piece of software to run it, turns out it was already installed anyway.

    In the words of The Fast Show


  32. Jach

    Bah Silverlight

    I guess I'll emerge moonlight and see if it works, 'cause I really want to see these, but I'm also tempted to wait out a torrent that's in a different format...

    rofl at the "No restart is required" sales pitch on the link. I don't remember what it's like to have to restart after installing anything. (Oh wait, yes I do; I recently installed Firefox 3.5 for a Windows friend.)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, this being the BBC

    one has to wonder why it's not on iPlayer, free for all and without Bill's paws getting in the way.

    @ GT: Silverlight runs happily under Safari and Firefox on the Mac. I hope you enjoy your 14th birthday.

  34. Jach


    Nope, no dice. Sucks for us Linux users (and I guess Mac users). Now to purge moonlight from my system...

    @AC Since we don't have the option of "click here to install! and all will be well", Silverlight is indeed the problem.

  35. zorgborg

    i would like to see Mr. Richar Feinman free lectures but not on Internet Explorer

    Dear Microsoft,

    I would like to see free lectures by Mr.Feinman and I would like for you to release them on Adobe Flash for Firefox.

    Please make this valuable information free,

    Thank you

  36. Paul E
    Gates Halo

    Some people..

    If Jobs did this and forced people to use quicktime would people be complaining?

    Firm makes video available using firms own video software. Shocking isn't it?

  37. Ed Vim

    Lectures also on youtube

    This is good PR for Bill Gates to push both Silverlight and his philanthropy, but if you have issues over either one or both just go to youtube.

    As for the 'Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation' lovers, you do realize that choosing private and charter schools over public schools is a trend that breaks one of the strengths that used to be an important part of America's foundation -- every child is entitled to an education. Our current shift to every child with money or contacts gets an education is a dangerous social path. Another B&M Foundation PR statement is all the money they've pledged to African health care, with the added 'read the disclaimer in fine print' -- the majority of medicinal contracts are earmarked for Big Pharma corporations. Generics lose out, so do the people who need those meds. The big dollars go to the ones who need it the least. The list goes on and on about Bill's philanthropy, but

    once you start examining each one there's a lot going on between the lines.

  38. E 2

    Stop whining

    Gates puts the lectures up there for all to watch for free, and you buggers still find a way to insult him for it. Fuckwits, all of you.

  39. Anonymous Coward


    I don't even want to use Internet Explorer, let alone have to download an add-in.

    "(M$) business can still be cynical, manipulative, divisive and shit " --- I don't imagine that this is going to change the pattern of browser use, or make a big mark on the uptake of Silverlight, but the MS-exclusive attitude still stinks.

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. Tom 7

    The BBC bought the rights..

    with my (or my dads) license money and now I have to buy a gig of ram and download a load of technically unnecessary software to watch something I've already paid for,

    This kind of philanthropy makes the mafia look charitable.

  42. J 3


    I was so ready to praise Bill Gates too... But Silverlight, just to see videos?

    Nice of him to make it available. Although I think nobody should have the rights to such things, to begin with. Why should Bill Gates (or Steve Jobs or Mark Shuttleworth or whatever rich person you name) have the rights to Da Vinci's works, for example? Or for Feynman's lectures?

    I thought these rights were supposed to "protect the authors" (and, at a stretch, their families, although I myself don't see why someone's family should be making money out of of the work of some guy dead for, say, decades).

  43. Mark McC

    Not such thing as a free MS lunch

    Oh, I need to install your Silverlight plugin? *sigh* I was probably going to have to do that at some point anyway. *click*

    OK, Silverlight installed - now can I has Feynmann? Whoops, it seems my browser (Opera) isn't capable of streaming video content. Strange, all that Youtube and iPlayer stuff must have been my imagination.

    Switch to backup browser (Chrome). Damn, seems Google (the people behind Youtube and the guys touting HTML5) didn't bother to write video playback into their browser either. Silly Google.

    Internet Explorer it is then! Time for some Feynma..."Internet Explorer has encountered an error and needs to close".

    Thankfully, for people lumbered with inferior browsers or those of us too dumb to run IE for more than 5 minutes without it crashing, bittorrent is there to help with higher-quality versions to watch at our convenience.

    This could have been a nice philanthropic gesture garnering some praise for Microsoft but they just couldn't resist the chance to wrap it in a clumsy attempt to push IE onto more people.

  44. RW

    Gates will suborn anything to his lust for money

    That he'd use Silverlight, which has pretty low uptake, undoes any "charitable" aspect of putting these online. Why not YouTube if the object is to make these available?

    Shame on sleazy Bill Gates!

  45. Mark C 1
    Thumb Up

    Why don't you all STFU?

    Feynman lectures for free on the web .... this is just a plain great thing.

    Stop the moaning ... install Silverlight ... watch it .... remove Silverlight.

    Or just get with the fact you've already (as noted above) installed Flash and fuck knows what else and get off your high horses.


  46. Steve Coffman


    So you gotta install a Microsoft browser plug-in to view content provided by Microsoft? BFD... if you want to watch videos on Apple's website, you gotta install Apple's Quicktime. I don't hear many complaints about that.... if you want to see the content on Adobe's website (and just about every other website with rich content) you gotta install the Adobe Flash plugin; again i don't hear much sreaming there. But since it's from MS, it's automatically gotta be crap, huh? I've actually downloaded and installed Silverlight to be able to watch videos on Netflix... and you know what? It worked fine.

    Even El Reg's own review of Silverlight was positive: "...Silverlight is shaping up to be what client-side .NET should have been from the beginning: lightweight, high-performance, cross-platform, and supported by a rich GUI framework that takes a sane approach to layout. There is room for this alongside Flash."

    I seriously doubt if Steve Jobs had purchased the videos and made them available for free online but the 'catch' was you had to install Quicktime that anyone would say anything at all...

    P.S. Silverlight is supported on Intel-based Macs.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A treasure

    Without this man, I would never have passed my Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering as our physics lecturer was - well, he was clever and keen but not a good lecturer !

    Is Silverlight available on Mac and Linux ? I've installed it on my PC but there are lots of Mac and Linux users who will be very interested in seeing this. I'm sure some clever person will work out how to capture the video and convert it...

  48. adnim

    @AC:I wondered what the price would be

    My thoughts exactly.

    Still Richard F is one of my heroes.

    More stuff for those who like this kind of thing.... All free, a choice of formats and not a SilverLight in sight:

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silverlight redux

    Someone said "I bet you have to install Flash". No, I've never done that: the mac comes with it as far as I can tell.

    Further, I said that this was one of the things that would actually make me install it, and that is was obviously very good news that they were available (though I probably would rather read the books again I think). I just would rather have them in an open format rather than some proprietary thing. Such formats exist.

    I guess it bugs me that what seems to be happening here is MS exploiting these lectures to attempt to propagate their monopoly.

  50. Sky
    Thumb Up

    Bill Gates

    Bill Gates has made my day.

  51. James 98
    Gates Halo



  52. Fred W

    Installing Silverlight

    Cue Julie Andrews singing, "A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down:" The checkbox to -not- enable automatic updates is ignored, so turn automatic updates off after install if you don't want it. More grab-you-by-the-bits T&C's than usual. Installation appears to hang, but in my case, reloading the site URL brings it up OK. enjoy the lectures, removethe spyware afterwards.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what Feynman

    woulda mayda windows...

  54. Anonymous Coward

    Gates puts the lectures up there for free?

    No he didn't; he could have just as easily or more made it available via youtube or other channels.

    Instead he makes it available only via Silverlight to increase Silverlight marketshare. Why does MS want to increase SL marketshare? Probably the same reason they pushed there own web 'standards' with IE6 & IIS; they want to control the web.

    After all, some competing OS like the iPhone OS or ChromeOS will be useless if key moments in history are locked away in a MS patented format.

    Somehow Gates philanthropy always seems to be tainted with a 'this also benefits MS/Bill Gates' smell.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    This is fantastic... keep the anti-MS zealotry out of it and concentrate on what this is: An awesome opportunity to see an amazing physicist explain the world. You would think if there's anything in the world that would help people shove aside petty technology evangelism for a moment, it would be this - but apparently my hopes were too high...

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If microsoft gave away gold bars with microsoft written on then...

    some people would still complain.

  57. scottf007

    Get over it

    What is wrong with so many people here. What is wrong with silverlight.

    It is supported by over 90% of all Browsers

    It is supported by over 90% of all OSs

    Why would he put it in another format, and what would that format be? There is no standard format for streaming video.

    I use Chrome, and most silverlight sites work in Chorme (not this one) but you are talking about less than 1.8% of the market.

    If i own something, and a mechanism to stream it, then that is what I would use. Why would they use a competitors product to do this?

    Full Chrome support will come, but when they release it before it is ready people always complain if anything goes wrong.

    Get over it, Feynman is an absolute legend - even mentioning silverlight in the article detracts from the whole issue.

    I am almost positive BillG had no actual input about where or how this would be hosted anyway.

  58. Chris Young

    @ David W

    I couldn't have put it better myself

  59. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Stop whining

    "Gates puts the lectures up there for all to watch for free, and you buggers still find a way to insult him for it. Fuckwits, all of you."

    But it isn't really for free, is it? Or do you do all sorts of things for people in order to get free stuff? "Ooh, freebies! Fill in your details here - yes sir! Why am I getting cold-called all the time?" Again, Gates gives with one hand and takes with the other, and some people fail to see the deception.

    And credit is due to the commenter noting the record of Gates' "charitable" work. Corporations such as his who readily exploit people who need help the most should be regarded as a complete disgrace. Sadly, the average idiot (people who all too readily use terms like "fuckwit") and the compliant media never seem to muster the conviction (or the competence) to make such connections in their own minds or such observations in public.

  60. OffBeatMammal

    why the hate from the freetards?

    I don't get it?

    these lectures were hidden from view and BillG decided to do something about it. He works with Microsoft Research (a bunch of folks who probably need to get paid so they can eat) to make the content available in a friendly and approachable user interface (so probably some designers needed to get paid as well) and then he hosts it and provides the bandwidth (okay, that's probably a drop in the ocean) and makes it available worldwide, for FREE, without adverts or spyware or requiring a signup

    Sure, he chooses to use a technology that both El Reg and Cnet [,39029471,49302990,00.htm] and others are impresed with that happens to come from Microsoft (but yes, it works on a Intel Macs - you know, the modern ones - and thanks to the Moonlight project on Linux) and is less bloated and unstable than Flash but still people have to find something to complain about.

    To all those suggesting youTube... really. you trust Google more than Microsoft? The ads, the tracking cookies, the reading your email and deciding what ads to serve, the partnership with 23andMe to use your genetic code to predict your iGoogle colour scheme? Okay, the last one is probably made up but it's no dumber than some of the rubbish people are spouting about how this is some evil plot on BillG's part to rool the inter-tubez and kill all the lolcats

    Flash is not an open standard and Adobe don't care about you... they care about selling Flash Builder and Photoshop and of course they don't like to see a viable competitor (after all JavaFX hasn't been a raging success has it).

    Google don't care about you... they care about selling ad impressions and Chrome is a way for them to try and control the web (or at least undermine Mozilla and Opera and Apple and Microsoft) but in their favour they are escalating the performance arms race on the web - why the heck should the fact that these lectures are available in a widely accepted and supported platform detract from their value?

  61. Christopher Martin


    Hell yes, there are alternatives. Who says the video has to be streaming?

    They could just throw their video files into a torrent. It might take an incompetant intern about an hour to do this. Then the rest of the world could save them, watch them on the airplane, distribute them in other formats...

    No one is saying they are obligated to provide us free content. But doing so with Silverlight and claiming purely altruistic motives is complete shit.

    After watching the first lecture on a Windows machine on campus, I made a significant effort to watch this at home.

    To everyone who has mentioned Moonlight - have you actually tried using it? Even if you change your user agent string to MSIE, you still can't get past the your-browser-is-bad page because it thinks you don't have Silverlight.

    I do have an older machine with Win2k on it, so I tried that - and the playback is incredibly jittery (pauses every second or so, unwatchable). What the hell? I know this machine is capable of displaying streaming video. Silverlight fails.

    I even tried installing IE6 in Wine, but the page says it's an unsupported browser (and I'm not aware of a UA-switcher extension for IE). Come on, Microsoft, haven't you yet learned the cardinal rule of checking browser compatibility - Don't use the UA string!

  62. Anonymous Coward

    Free Adverts? How Philanthropic can you get!

    Some bozo puts up some films in yet-another-bloody-format in order to get us all to install his yet-another-bloody-graphics-plugin and it's news?

    The news is that Feynman's work has been transformed into an advert for some shite Microsoft program nobody needs.

  63. Francis Fish

    I'm sure I've seen them available as Flash somewhere

    It *was* ages ago and I've lost the link.

  64. Francis Fish

    Moonlight shining out of arz

    Points you at moonlight, then you install it, then it still tells you hard luck.

    Very impressed.

    Testing? What's that again?

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