Net Makes Star of MIT Eccentric

Physics professor creates rainbows, has Net-happy acolytes in India and China
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2007 8:11 PM CST

(Newser) – The latest Net sensation doesn’t defend Britney Spears or mimic the history of dance; instead he explains electrostatics, pendulums, and the conservation of energy. Walter Lewin, a 71-year-old MIT physics professor, is one of the first academic superstars of the Internet, bringing educational showmanship—say, demonstrating rockets by riding a tricycle propelled by a fire extinguisher—to a global classroom, the New York Times reports.

Lewin’s a beneficiary, and a central asset, of iTunes U, the iTunes Store’s higher education foray. For no charge, viewers in India and Iraq can watch Lewin fire a golf ball from a cannon at a bulletproof-vested stuffed monkey—to demonstrate free fall, of course. Said one 62-year-old San Diego florist-cum-MIT Internet student: “I walk with a new spring in my step” due to Lewin.