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Movies Every Physics Student Should Watch

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

Physics movies often make us wow due to the combined impact of scenery and music, technical detail and philosophical dialogue, futuristic lighting and a multitude of other special effects, that can't be found in run of the mill films. So, take a look at the following spoiler-free list of 20 science movies that everyone should watch in their lifetime.

Primer (IMDb 6.9)

This 2004 film is based on the physics of time. The principles of time travel in the film are inspired by Feynman diagrams in which there is no difference between watching an interaction happen forward or backward in time.

The film is so mind-bending that it makes Back To The Future look like a children's cartoon. It has deep philosophical implications and complex technical terminology in the dialogue which make us want to Google their meanings.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The film was written, directed, produced, edited and scored by Shane Carruth, who also is the protagonist of the story. In real life, he is a mathematics major (no surprises) who has previously worked as software developer before becoming a full-time filmmaker.

The Theory of Everything (IMDb 7.7)

This 2014 movie is less about physics and more about life. It is based on Professor Stephen Hawking who is played almost effortlessly by Eddie Redmayne. The film has multiple themes including science, love, life and religion. It is a beautiful mix of everything; you can watch on Amazon prime.

Hawking (IMDb 7.5)

Compared to The Theory of Everything, this 2004 film is a little less known. However, it has more substance to it than its successor. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Professor Stephen Hawking, the movie has more physics in it and less of philosophy.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The film has debates and arguments on the Steady State and the Big Bang theories which were part of Hawking's early years as a PhD student. Benedict received his first nomination for a BAFTA Award for his role in the film.

Infinity (IMDb 6.2)

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

This movie is based on the autobiography of Richard Feynman in which the Nobel Prize winning physicist has described his early childhood, his work during the second World War and his relationship with the love of his life, Arline Greenbaum. You can watch it on Amazon prime; it was released in 1996 starring Matthew Broderick and Patricia Arquette.

Copenhagen (IMDb 7.4)

This 2002 film is based on the chemistry between two genius physicists, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. It has actors Daniel Craig and Stephen Rea as Heisenberg and Bohr respectively.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The movie is quite serious as it is set against the backdrop of the second World War. It has a running time of 90 minutes followed by an epilogue by physicist Michio Kaku.

Interstellar (IMDb 8.6)

This 2014 epic science fiction film directed by Christopher Nolan is probably the most scientifically accurate film. It has a star cast of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon. Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Kip Thorne was the executive producer of the film.

The film has portrayed the correct depiction of the Penrose Process which is a means by which energy can be extracted from a rotating black hole. It was widely praised by eminent scientists such as Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson; watch it on Amazon prime.

Coherence (IMDb 7.2)

This is a science fiction thriller movie which is based on the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It has the idea of multiple realities in a single location. The film was released in 2013 starring Emily Baldoni in the lead role.

Einstein and Eddington (IMDb 7.3)

This is a British drama movie based on the friendship of Albert Einstein and Arthur Eddington and their groundbreaking work on the theory of general relativity.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

The film has David Tennant and Andy Serkis as Eddington and Einstein respectively. It is a story about the pursuit of truth against a background of war, violence, nationalism, subterfuge, and prejudice.

Predestination (IMDb 7.5)

This is not just another time travel movie: if you want your mind to be blown, then this is the one to watch. The entirety of the film is full of twists and turns and the ending is absolutely jaw-dropping. It has Ethan Hawke in the lead role.

A Serious Man (IMDb 7)

This 2009 comedy movie is fully based on the concept of Schrödinger's cat. The idea is simple: if you place a cat and something which could kill the cat in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box so that until the box was opened, the cat was, in some sense, both "dead and alive".

Contact (IMDb 7.4)

This film is based on the prize winning novel written by Carl Sagan. It is the story of a radio astronomer who has found strong evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Best Physics science Movies You Must Watch Before You Die

It has Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in the lead roles. The film has been described as the most accurate cinematic study of alien life.

2001: A Space Odyssey (IMDb 8.3)

This movie was released way back in 1968 but it is on par with Interstellar due to its stunning ahead of the time special effects for which it even received an Oscar. The main theme of the film was artificial evolution of intelligence: from tool-making ancestors to sentient machines in the future.

Gravity (IMDb 7.7)

This film is the winner of seven academy awards; starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It is the story of astronauts who are stranded in space after mid orbit destruction of their Space Shuttle and attempt to return to Earth. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

Flatland: The Movie (IMDb 6.9)

Flatland is a romance of many dimensions. It is an animated movie with a voice cast of Martin Sheen, Kristen Bell and Tony Hale. Based on the 1884 novel written by Edwin Abbott; it is a combination of science, maths and philosophy.

October Sky (IMDb 7.8)

Released in 1999 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern, this is a film about a coal miner's son who wants to become a NASA engineer, against his father's wishes. The good thing is that the story is based on real events, which is why, the movie is deeply motivational, especially for young, growing minds.

physics movies list

Back To The Future (IMDb 8.5)

This is probably the best science fiction comedy of all time. The theme is time travel and its bizarre implications such as the grandfather paradox. The movie was released in 1985, has Michael J. Fox in the lead, and earned a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

The Martian (IMDb 8)

It is the story of an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars after his team members assume him dead. He must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, this is one of the most scientifically accurate films.

Marie Curie: More Than Meets The Eye (IMDb 7.5)

This is a movie on the life of Marie Curie who is remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium and her contributions to finding treatment for cancer. The film is set amidst the backdrop of world war starring Kate Trotter as Marie Curie.

Particle Fever (IMDb 7.4)

This 100 minute film is a story of the large hadron collider at CERN and its discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in 2012. Particle fever is so well made that you don't have to be a physics student to enjoy it.

Apollo 13 (IMDb 7.6)

This film was released in 1995 starring Tom Hanks as Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell. Based on a true story; nominated for nine academy awards; most technically accurate film because it was executed by NASA engineers and actors took a crash course in physics.

A Universe of Atoms, An Atom In The Universe

poem an atom in the universe by richard feynman

American physicist Richard Feynman was a man who always jumped into an adventure. He was an artist, a story-teller and an everyday joker whose life was a combination of his intelligence, curiosity and uncertainty.

In the summer of 1955, Feynman wrote a poem about the earth and its development as a planet of activity, of living things and ultimately of beings who would be able to think and wonder. This poem came right after the discovery of Miller-Urey experiment.

Feynman says,

I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think.
There are the rushing waves
mountains of molecules
each stupidly minding its own business
trillions apart
yet forming white surf in unison.

poem an atom in the universe by richard feynman

Ages on ages,
before any eyes could see
year after year,
thunderously pounding the shore as now.
For whom? For what?
On a dead planet
with no life to entertain.

Never at rest
tortured by energy
wasted prodigiously by the sun
poured into space.
A mite makes the sea roar.

Deep in the sea
all molecules repeat
the patterns of one another
till complex new ones are formed.
They make others like themselves
and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity
living things
masses of atoms
DNA, protein
dancing a pattern ever more intricate.

Out of the cradle
onto dry land
here it is
atoms with consciousness;
matter with curiosity.

Stands at the sea,
wonders at wondering: I
a universe of atoms
an atom in the universe.

poem an atom in the universe by richard feynman

In a free verse poem Feynman has demonstrated once again the great extent of his intellect and imagination.

Earth was once a lifeless planet.

A whole lot of activity was still made possible because of the presence of the sun. This went on for "ages and ages" meaning for the amount of time we cannot comprehend since we can only think about in days, weeks and months.

Then, deep in the sea, under conditions as described by British-Indian biologist Haldane, a whole range of organic molecules began to mature as discovered by Miller-Urey experiment in 1952.

A whole lot of activity happened in a distant past to give birth to creatures who could think and wonder today. Feynman ends the story by saying, "My mortal body is indeed a universe of atoms but I am just an atom in the universe myself," which is a great realization.

Is gravity a theory or a law?

Is gravity a theory or a law?

Why is it called Newton's law of gravity and not Newton's theory? Is Einstein's theory of general relativity scientifically inferior to Newton's law? Since in our day-to-day usage, the law carries more weight than the word theory?

Questions like these are doing the rounds on the internet. So we see it fit to explain, once and for all, what scientific terminology is. Before studying science, you must know the meanings of such terms like: axiom, hypothesis, experiment, model, law and theory.

Luckily, this terminology is well incorporated in the method of science. So, let us first understand the scientific method with an example and then we will answer whether gravity is a theory or a law. You will be surprised.

It is observed that bees are attracted to flowers. This statement is taken to be true to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. This is called an axiom.


Then, a natural question arises. Why are bees attracted to flowers? This is the first step of the scientific method. An observation is followed up by a question. Like, on one summer day, Isaac Newton had questioned the fall of an apple.

One may guess that bees are attracted by the color of flowers. Another person may say that bees are attracted by the nectar inside flowers.

All guesses are called hypotheses.

A scientific hypothesis can be tested in laboratory with the help of an experiment. First, bees are let inside a glass chamber containing artificial flowers. Second, bees are let inside another glass chamber containing real flowers. Further observations are noted down.

example of scientific method

It is observed that bees are attracted to artificial flowers, they sit on them briefly, then fly away. Thus, the first hypothesis stands true as bees are indeed attracted by the color. In the second set-up, bees sit on real flowers and remain there for long. So, the second hypothesis is also true.

After hypotheses have been tested, it is time to formulate laws, theories or conclusions on basis of the result. In our case, we come to the simple conclusion: "bees are attracted to flowers due to both color and nectar."

A law, on the other hand, is a formula. Like, Newton's law of universal gravitation is used to calculate the "magnitude" of the gravitational force between two objects of mass separated by a given distance.

Is gravity a theory or a law?
Newton's law

Newton's law is also used in a model so as to mimic remote physical phenomena locally, say on one's computer, such as sky-diving or revolution of Moon around Earth. Thus, a model is generally a simulation. But Newton's law does not attempt to explain how or why gravity works.

In science, theory holds a special place. It is a well-substantiated explanation of the natural world that can incorporate all facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. So, Einstein's theory of general relativity explains "why" things fall.

While laws rarely change, theories get modified whenever new evidence is discovered. Einstein published his version of the theory in 1915 and since then the theory has adapted as new technologies and new evidence have expanded our view of the universe.

Is gravity a theory or a law?
Is gravity a theory or a law?

So, is gravity a theory or a law? Well, first of all, it is an always acting force that one can feel. Second, it is both a theory and a law. The law of gravity calculates the amount of attraction while the theory describes why objects attract each other in the first place.

You have now an understanding of terms such as axiom, hypothesis, experiment, law, model and theory, by our use of the scientific method. Whenever you encounter a phrase like "it is just a theory" from the other party, you will know where they lack in their understanding.

Half The Particles In The Universe Obey Him

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

Half the particles in the universe obey him: This is how a professor of physics once introduced Satyendra Nath Bose to his students. Bose was a self-taught scholar and polymath who laid the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose-Einstein condensate.

Several Nobel Prizes were awarded for research related to the field initiated by him but Bose himself was not awarded the most coveted Prize. Yet, it is true that half the particles in the universe obey him and that in itself is a remarkable achievement.

Early Life

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Satyendra was born on January 1, 1894 to a middle-class Bengali family in Calcutta. He was the eldest of seven children with six sisters after him. At an early age, Bose showed an aptitude for learning and a thirst for knowledge.

Surendra Nath, an accountant by profession, encouraged his son's mathematical skills. Each morning, he would leave arithmetic problems scribbled on the veranda floor, and a young Bose would sit and do his sums and proudly show his father when he returned.

When he was 13, Satyendra began attending the illustrious Hindu School in Central Calcutta. Bose was quickly recognized as an outstanding pupil especially in mathematics and the sciences. He was also fortunate to have had brilliant teachers and class fellows.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Hindu School

Like any other student, Satyendra was anxious before taking matriculation exam but he still passed with flying colors standing fifth in the order of merit. The year was 1909 and a fifteen-year-old Bose decided to join Presidency College for an Intermediate Science Course.

Meanwhile in the west, Albert Einstein had become a much celebrated scientist thanks to the success of Special Relativity in 1905.

While at Presidency College, Satyendra came under the guidance of teachers like Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray. A 17-year-old Bose thrived his intermediate examination, then chose Applied Mathematics for Bachelor of Science Degree, graduating two years later in 1913, at the top of his class.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
The Hub of Learning

Just one year later (1914), at age 20, newly graduate Satyendra was married to Ushabati Ghosh, the eleven-year-old daughter of a prominent Calcutta physician. This was before the passing of Child Marriage Restraint Act which had fixed the age of marriage for girls at 18 years and boys at 21 years.

The marriage had been arranged by Bose's mother, Amodini Rai Chaudhuri. Bose would rather have married later but went along with his mother’s wishes. He refused to accept dowry for his marriage in a time when it was commonly practiced, and set about to teach the English language to Usha afterwards.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
A young couple

Bose also continued his education by enrolling for Master's Degree in Applied Mathematics at University of Calcutta. In 1915, at age 21 he not only graduated at the top of his class but also created a record in the history of the University by securing 92% marks!

During this time, World War I had begun in the west. Also, Albert Einstein had successfully published his Theory of General Relativity.

Any modern scholar at this stage in their career would enroll for PhD degree; this would be a straightforward process. But Bose was rather interested in teaching. And so, from 1916 to 1921, he worked as a lecturer in the Physics Department of the University of Calcutta.

During this time, Bose came across the newly published theory of general relativity.  He was instantly fascinated by it, so much so that along with colleague and friend, Meghnad Saha, Bose went on to translate Einstein's scientific papers from German to English and published them in a book.

As a polyglot, Bose was well versed in several languages such as Bengali, English, French, German and Sanskrit.

In 1921, Albert Einstein was given the prestigious Nobel Prize for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the Law of the Photoelectric Effect, a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. Bose in Calcutta was overjoyed by the victory of his hero.

The Breakthrough

The same year (1921), Satyendra left his beloved Calcutta and took up a position at Dhaka University, in present-day Bangladesh, where he was Reader (associate professor) for the Physics Department. In a letter written to his friend Meghnad Saha, Bose described the situation at the University:

It has been well over a month since I moved to your part of the country. Work has not yet started. Your Dacca College had quite a few things but due to utter neglect they are in a bad way. We do suffer from lack of journals here, but the authorities of the new University have promised to place order for some of them along with their back numbers. Talk is going on about having a separate science library.

Bose helped in setting up whole new departments at the University, including laboratories, for teaching advanced courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students of Physics and Chemistry. And as Reader, he gave lectures on Thermodynamics and Classical Electromagnetism.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
In Dhaka

During one such lecture, Bose felt dissatisfied with the existing derivations of Plank’s Radiation Law. After much thought and several discussions with Saha, Bose came up with a paper deriving the same result without the use of classical physics as Planck himself had done. This was a breakthrough!

Bose's derivation was rejected at first, because it was a radical idea which couldn't be accepted just about by anyone. Bose was not disheartened though as he sent the paper directly to Albert Einstein in Germany.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Bose's letter to Einstein

In a way, Bose helped revive Einstein's falling scientific career. This was the mid-1920s and Einstein was deeply involved in opposing the ongoing quantum revolution, despite him having pioneered it. Bose's letter came like a breath of fresh air catching the attention of the great scientist.

Einstein was quick to recognize the importance of the received letter. He translated Bose's paper into German and had it published in Zeitschrift für Physik, a popular peer-reviewed German scientific journal of the time, under Bose's name, in 1924. Hence, Bose-Einstein statistics was born!

Einstein was greatly impressed that a certain young man from India had reached out to him for the sake of scientific progress. Einstein wrote to Bose: Your paper is an important step forward and I liked it very much.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

The more Einstein thought about Bose's paper, the more influenced he became by its implications. The reason Bose's interpretation produced accurate results was that since photons are indistinguishable from each other, one cannot treat any two photons having equal energy as being two different photons.

Understanding this is pretty easy: consider the situation when you have to toss two distinguishable and unbiased coins at the same time. Then there may come one of the four possible outcomes as shown by the following picture.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

In this way, the probability of getting Two Heads is merely 1/4, which is of course obvious. But suppose that the two coins become indistinguishable from one another, that is, by looking at them you cannot tell the difference.

Then, there will be three possible outcomes only: Two Heads or Two Tails or One of Each. Now the chance of getting Two Heads is increased to 1/3. This means that in the world of Bose statistics, the likelihood of events happening is quite different from our everyday expectations.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Einstein had started to realize just how important this proposition was. In fact, Bose himself had not been aware of the potential of his idea. Einstein adopted Bose's idea and extended it to atoms. This led him to predict the existence of phenomena which we now call Bose-Einstein Condensate.

Bose-Einstein condensate is the fifth state of matter in which every atom becomes indistinguishable from the others forming a giant super atom. In a normal gas, atoms move randomly at very high speeds but in the case of Bose-Einstein Condensate, the atoms stay together in a perfect harmony.

In 1995, 70 years after its prediction, the Bose-Einstein Condensate was first observed to exist. This was achieved by cooling a gas of Bosons to very close to Absolute Zero, at which point the microscopic quantum phenomena, particularly wavefunction interference, become apparent macroscopically!
Bose's work had earned him an invitation to collaborate with the greatest minds of the time in Europe. Bose applied for a two-year leave from the Dhaka University to enable him to go to Europe. He was permitted only after he showed Einstein’s appreciative postcard to the Vice Chancellor of the University.

After arriving in Paris, Bose wrote to Einstein.

I have been granted leave by my University for two years. I have arrived just a week ago in Paris. I do not know whether it will be possible for me to work under you in Germany. I shall be glad, however, if you will grant me the permission to work under you, for it will mean for me the realization of a long-cherished dream.

Bose waited eagerly for the great scientist to respond. In the meanwhile, he was fortunate to have helped the legendary Marie Curie in her lab work where he made certain difficult measurements of the Piezoelectric Effect. Bose also met Maurice de Broglie later, who introduced him to X-ray diffraction and spectroscopyAnd at last, Einstein's reply came in.

Thank you sincerely for your letter. I am glad that I shall have the opportunity soon of making your personal acquaintance.

Bose proceeded to Berlin. Even though he did not get the opportunity to work with Einstein, his meeting with him was quite profitable. Einstein wrote a letter of recommendation for Bose which enabled him to meet some of the best German scientists including Fritz Haber, Lise Meitner and Max Born.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
In good company

After his stay in Europe, Bose returned to Dhaka in 1926. He was 32 years old. Bose did not have a doctorate and as a result, he would not be qualified for the post of Professor he had applied for. But again, Einstein's letter of recommendation was much help. Bose was declared Head of the Department of Physics at Dhaka University.

Whatever Bose had learned in Europe, he applied it in Dhaka. Bose designed equipment himself for an X-ray crystallography laboratory. He also set up laboratories and libraries to make the department a center of research in Unified Field Theories. Bose continued to teach at the University until 1945.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose

When the partition of India became imminent, Bose returned to Calcutta. He was depressed by the division of India and Pakistan and felt it to be a wound in the heart of his beloved nation. Bose found it very difficult to focus on the sciences in the middle of this social imbalance. Bose decided to stay in Calcutta and taught there until retirement.

Bose’s path breaking work won him Einstein’s admiration and a permanent place in the history of theoretical physics. But few know about his passionate patriotism or his talent as an Esraj player. He was a man who tried to see the world around him in its entirety, in its complexity and in which his particular science and himself were but small parts.

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
A celebrated Esraj player

Bose devoted a lot of time to promoting Bengali as teaching language, translating scientific papers into it, and promoting the development of the region. He strongly felt that it was duty to present science to the common man in his own language. Being Bengali, Bose was devastated by the division of Bengal on the basis of religion in 1905.


Bose was made Professor Emeritus on his retirement. He was 62 years old. Then followed innumerous invitations to big events and parties but Bose dearly missed the pleasure of finding things out, the never ending quest for knowledge and the kick in the discovery.

He returned to the University of Calcutta to continue research in nuclear physics, organic chemistry and unified field theories. This seeking he enjoyed the most. It was during this time that physicist Paul Dirac had come to visit Calcutta along with his wife.

They were sharing the same car with Bose. Bose let them have the pleasantly warm back seat. The front seat, which Bose occupied along with the driver, did not have much room, nevertheless, Bose asked two more of his students to get in.

Dirac, a little surprised, asked if it wasn’t too crowded. Bose turned around and said in his disarming fashion, "We believe in Bose-Einstein statistics."

Biography of Satyendra Nath Bose
Dirac and Bose

Dirac explained to his wife, "In Bose-Einstein statistics things are crowded together." The term Boson was coined by Dirac to commemorate the contributions of Bose in theoretical physics. Such was their friendship.
In 1958, Bose was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, finally. A year later, he was appointed as National Professor by the Government of India, a post he held till his death. As mentioned before, Bose was never awarded the Nobel Prize. When Bose himself was asked about the same, he simply replied, "I have got all the recognition I deserve."

Bose died in Calcutta, 1974, aged 80. With his death, an era ended. It would not be wrong to address Bose as the greatest Indian physicist of all time. Not just because he was a great scientist but also because he loved his country dearly. It is quite unfortunate that Bose's name is not mainstream popular in India. But things are changing now.
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