Prof strips, shows Hitler, 9/11 images to teach quantum mechanics

To cries of "Yay! Physics!" Columbia University Professor Emlyn Hughes creates performance art, in order to, allegedly, clear students' brains of "garbage."

Yes, those are Nazi flags. Bwog Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's very rare that taking your clothes off does any harm.

Often, it gets the distracted to pay attention and the numb to get excited.

This might well have been the genesis of the thought process belonging to Columbia University Professor Emlyn Hughes when he considered how to introduce his students to quantum mechanics.

As his audience became increasingly rapt, the professor stripped to his underwear, put on a black t-shirt, hoodie and pants, and curled up in the fetal position.

So all fairly normal thus far.

But then someone came out and put two toy puppies on stools that were on the stage.

A ninja proceeded to mutilate one of them with what looked like a samurai sword.

Was he done? Of course not. For then images of terror appeared on the screen.

Stalin, Saddam, Hitler, 9/11 -- all were projected at the students, while they offered cries such as "Yay! Physics!" and "What is happening?"

And then one of the students exclaimed that the professor had a gun. He did not. It was a microphone.

Through this, the professor explained:

In order to learn quantum mechanics you have strip to your raw, erase all the garbage from your brain, and start all over again. Um ... nothing you have learned your life up to now has in any way helped you prepare for this. Because everything you do in your everyday life is totally opposite what you learn in quantum mechanics.

It so happened that his performance was filmed and posted yesterday to the Columbia-centric Bwog blog.

In due course, as the Columbia Spectator reports, some students expressed outrage.

They complained that they weren't offered "context."

Many, though, might feel some sympathy with Professor Emlyn Hughes, who may well have been named after the great Liverpool soccer player of the '80s, nicknamed "Crazy Horse."

When your primary research interest is in working with CERN on the Large Hadron Collider, it can't be easy to introduce quantum mechanics to first-year students whose intelligence level and world awareness may not be up to yours.

A sample of this surely came out during the professor's performance.

As the screen was adorned with footage of 9/11, a girl's voice from the audience could clearly be heard: "This is literally the Taliban."

 

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