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JQI Joins Coursera Consortium

Quantum class to be taught online all over the world
Charles Clark, left, and Victor Galitski, right, in a television studio at the University of Maryland.

Charles Clark, left, and Victor Galitski, right, in a television studio at the University of Maryland.

The University of Maryland announces that it will participate with Coursera, the company that provides university classes online to thousands of students at no fee, in teaching four courses starting in the spring of 2013. One of the four will be “Exploring Quantum Physics,” to be taught by two fellows of the Joint Quantum Institute (*), Victor Galitski and Charles Clark. Galitski is a physics professor at the University of Maryland, while Clark is an adjunct physics professor.

Coursera specializes in “massive online open courses,” or MOOC’s, some of which attract an online enrollment of a hundred thousand students or more. Some, as New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman, see this as an important new means of changing the traditional and reaching students who would otherwise not be exposed to certain subject.

The JQI is a natural home for a class about quantum mechanics. Charles Clark quotes Richard Feynman as saying “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” To which Clark says, “that’s no reason not to try! What Feynman was referring to are some of the ‘spooky’ phenomena like quantum entanglement, which are incomprehensible from the standpoint of classical physics. Even though they have been thoroughly tested by experiment, and are even being exploited for applications such as cryptography and logic processing, they still seem so counterintuitive that they continue to give rise to new extraordinary ideas such as the recently-discovered topological insulators. Quantum physics combines a spectacular record of discovery and predictive success, with foundational perplexities so severe that even Albert Einstein came to believe that it was wrong. This is what makes it such an exciting area of science!”

(*) The Joint Quantum Institute is operated jointly by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD and the University of Maryland in College Park.

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