Introduction Background Contents Distribution


The Mechanical Universe...and Beyond is a critically-acclaimed series of 52 thirty-minute videotape programs covering the basic topics of an introductory university physics course. The series was originally produced as a broadcast telecourse by the California Institute of Technology and Intelecom, Inc. with program funding from the Annenberg/CPB Project.

Each program in the series opens and closes with Caltech Professor David Goodstein providing philosophical, historical and often humorous insight into the subject at hand while lecturing to his freshman physics class. The Mechanical Universe contains hundreds of computer animation segments, created by Dr. James F. Blinn, as the primary tool of instruction. Dynamic location footage and historical re-creations are also used to stress the fact that science is a human endeavor.

Upon completion of the broadcast telecourse, Professor Richard Olenick, Associate Project Director, received funding from the National Science Foundation to produce a seven-hour High School Adaptation suitable for high school physics students. The Mechanical Universe has been translated into nine languages, and a Spanish language version of the High School Adaptation has just been completed.

The series has been broadcast as a telecourse over the PBS television network and can still be seen on many PBS stations. Available on consumer VHS videocassette and laserdisc, and accompanied by textbooks, The Mechanical Universe is arguably the most successful attempt to date to use video technology in the presentation of rigorous physics instruction.


The Mechanical Universe is based on the physics course developed by Dr. David Goodstein at the California Institute of Technology. It was one of twelve projects initially selected for funding by the Annenberg/CPB Project. Course development began with the creation of a set of phantom lectures for the 52 lessons, covering the scientific revolution begun by Copernicus through to current quantum theory. The project was a joint production of Caltech and Intelecom, the largest college television consortia in the United States. The production team included distinguished scientists, video industry professionals, and gifted educators all working in collaboration.

To ensure the highest degree of academic and technical quality, a series of checks and balances was built into the development process. Each program underwent rigorous evaluation by an academic team and a production team, as well as an Oversight Committee, a Local Advisory Committee of educators and a National Advisory Committee comprised of distinguished professionals in film, science, education, and national affairs.


Graphics Text Only

The Mechanical Universe...and Beyond was designed to cover the typical curriculum of a university freshman physics course. As an aid in viewing the topics and subject matter found in the 52 programs, two versions of the Table of Contents are presented above. The Graphic Table of Contents will access a visual index with both descriptive text and representative images of each of the programs. The Text Only Table of Contents will access the same descriptive information without the display of images.


The Mechanical Universe...and Beyond is available from the following sources:

The Annenberg/CPB Project
VHS videocassettes and CAV Laserdiscs
For more information on the Annenberg/CPB Collection, call 1-800-LEARNER

Intelecom, Inc.
The Mechanical Universe International Sales and Distribution
VHS and 3/4" videocassettes and texts of the High School Adaptation
For more information on Intelecom programs, call 1-800-LRN BY TV
or send e-mail to: intelecm@cerfnet.com

The PBS Adult Learning Service (ALS) .
Site-wide satellite downlink license of the telecourse
For more information on PBS ALSS, call 1-800-257-2578
or send e-mail to: als@pbs.org