One of my old friends from graduate school, and a colleague to the present day, Lloyd Knox — whom you may remember from such cosmology hits as the Dark Energy Song — has started an initiative to create “short documentary videos to demonstrate the explanatory power of simple physical models and to help us understand and aesthetically appreciate the natural world”. It’s called The Spherical Cow company — the name comes from the traditional physicists’ trick of idealizing and simplifying any problem he or she gets, sometimes out of all recognition — but usually, when done well, keeping enough of the salient features.
The first video does just that, giving a simple description of the formation of the Cosmic Microwave Background, in the form of a conversation between Lloyd and his son, Teddy — with interpolations for animations and narration. Even with those occasional animations, the whole thing is pleasingly low-fi, but well-explained and charming (especially so for me, as I know the protagonists). I look forward to the next videos in the series, and I’ll certainly be recommending them to students of all ages.