Columbia University physics professor Emlyn Hughes stripped down to his shorts in class on Monday. He did this before a backdrop of images showing the 9/11 attacks, Nazis, Adolf Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. His assistants then used a sword to stab blindfolded stuffed animals.
Of course, students captured the behavior on cellphone video.
Professor Hughes had one hour to teach quantum mechanics, the mathematical formulas predicting the behavior of microscopic particles. These are brain-draining equations starting with vector analysis.
He explained: "In order to learn quantum mechanics you have to strip to your raw, erase the entire garbage in your brain and start over again."
Some students we spoke to seemed to welcome Professor Hughes's approach.
We could not reach Professor Hughes for comment.
A Columbia a spokesman issued a statement saying: "Universities should have a climate of academic freedom though classes should stick to the subject matter and concluded; administrators are currently reviewing the facts of this particular presentation in quantum mechanics."
Professor Hughes is deputy chair of the Physics Department. A faculty member very close to him said he has tenure, so he is not going anywhere.
That may be good for the country because Hughes is one of the lead American physicists working on the biggest science project in the world: the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
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