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The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries

The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries

Neil deGrasse Tyson Ph.D.
Hayden Planetarium
Course No.  1816
Course No.  1816
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Course Overview

About This Course

6 lectures  |  32 minutes per lecture

Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. And with the advent of modern science, great minds have turned to testing and experimentation rather than mere thought as a way of approaching and grappling with some of the universe’s most pressing and vexing dilemmas.

So what is our latest picture of some of the most inexplicable features of the universe? What still remains to be uncovered? What are some of the next avenues of exploration for today’s chemists, physicists, biologists, and astronomers?

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Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. And with the advent of modern science, great minds have turned to testing and experimentation rather than mere thought as a way of approaching and grappling with some of the universe’s most pressing and vexing dilemmas.

So what is our latest picture of some of the most inexplicable features of the universe? What still remains to be uncovered? What are some of the next avenues of exploration for today’s chemists, physicists, biologists, and astronomers?

Pondering the answers to these and other questions is a great way to

  • appreciate the grandeur and complexity of the world around you,
  • better understand and discuss news and developments in science, and
  • spark further interest in some of science’s many exciting areas of study.

“We know a lot about the universe. But there’s even more that we don’t know,” says astrophysicist and Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, an award-winning lecturer, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the secrets of the universe. And his course The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries is the perfect gateway into this mind-bending and eye-opening subject. This visually stunning course, which has been honored with a 2013 Telly Award for Outstanding Educational Program, features six self-contained lectures that transport you on a marvelous journey to the frontiers of the known (and unknown) universe and introduce you to tantalizing questions being addressed by the world’s top scientists. Undeniably engaging and fascinating, this lecture series is a wonderful entrée to scientific pursuits that lie at the very heart of the history and nature of our universe.

An Informed Scientific Conversation

Central to The Inexplicable Universe is the way it takes you deep into hidden layers of the universe in a manner that is extremely accessible. Rather than a stern lecture given before a podium complete with confusing mathematics, Professor Tyson’s lectures have the feel of an informed conversation that manages to be both thorough and easy to grasp.

With each of the inexplicable mysteries he lays bare for you, Professor Tyson

  • introduces you to the history behind it,
  • lays out the science that has helped us grasp it,
  • explains what researchers have discovered to date, and
  • reveals what we have yet to discover.

And while the topics explore subjects in everything from quantum mechanics to cosmology to string theory, you’ll never feel overwhelmed by what you’re learning. In fact, you’re more likely to find yourself intrigued by just how much we know—and curious about what the near future will possibly reveal.

Explore Fascinating Territory

So what territory will you chart in this course? Here are some of the inexplicable ideas you’ll investigate in these lectures.

  • Neutrinos: Discovered in 1956, these fast-moving, ghostlike particles are made in abundance in the sun’s core. They hardly interact with matter; it takes a light-year’s worth of lead (5.8 trillion miles) to stop a neutrino. Not only that, but 65 billion neutrinos pass through every centimeter of your body that’s facing the sun every second of every day.
  • String theory: This astounding theory offers the hope of unifying all the particles and forces of physics. In the past several decades since the dawn of string theory, it’s been imagined that all the fundamental particles we see and measure are just the manifestation in our dimension of strings vibrating in higher dimensions and at different frequencies.
  • Quantum foam: This idea posits that when the fabric of space and time is so tightly curved on itself, space-time is less a smooth curve and more like the froth on a latte. In this state of matter and energy, quantum fluctuations can spawn entire universes, each with slightly different laws of physics within them!

In addition, you’ll also

  • get a peek at what it would be like to travel through a black hole,
  • ponder the possibility that life on Earth originated in debris from Mars,
  • probe the supposed existence of multiple universes, and
  • even imagine the possible end of the universe itself.

A One-on-One Chat with a Renowned Science Educator

Professor Tyson is renowned throughout the scientific community and the media for his vast knowledge, his penetrating insights, and his amazing ability to make even the most intimidating areas of science accessible, engaging, and—most of all—enjoyable. He brings the same inviting tone and sharp intellect to The Inexplicable Universe as he does to his range of media appearances on popular television programs, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Professor Tyson’s lectures also feature expertly crafted animations, explanatory graphics, and other instructive visual elements designed to better explain to you some of the grand, intricate ideas being discussed.

With The Inexplicable Universe, you’ll feel as if you’re participating in an exclusive chance to sit one-on-one with this renowned science educator and have a provocative, intriguing, and illuminating conversation. No other learning experience—including the most detailed science textbook—can bring you this close to interacting with an expert about the mysteries of the universe around you.

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6 Lectures
  • 1
    History’s Mysteries
    Science history is filled with puzzling mysteries that were only solved with modern science’s focus on experimentation instead of thought. Here, take a closer look at concepts that were once unexplainable but, thanks to modern physics, are now better understood. You’ll focus on two such former mysteries: the existence of an invisible “aether” through which light and sound were believed to travel and the orbit of Mercury, which seemed (to earlier scientists) to violate Newton’s fundamental laws of motion. x
  • 2
    The Spooky Universe
    Did you know that electrons, discovered in 1897, have never actually been observed by scientists? Or that quarks can only be studied in pairs? Or that as you travel faster or find yourself in a higher gravity, time ticks more slowly for you? Delve into these and other mind-warping facts and insights about the fundamentals of matter in a lecture that covers everything from particle physics to quantum tunneling to thermonuclear fusion. x
  • 3
    Inexplicable Life
    Join Professor Tyson on a fascinating investigation of the possible origins of life in the universe. Why was Jupiter believed to be a good environment for life in the 17th century? Why is there only one single “tree of life” on Earth instead of multiple ones? How do extremophiles help scientists study life’s genesis? Could life have come to Earth from another planet? And what do we mean when we hope to find examples of life that is “intelligent”? x
  • 4
    Inexplicable Physics
    Among the many topics you’ll learn about in this lecture are the discovery of more elements on the periodic table; muon neutrinos, tao particles, and the three regimes of matter; the secrets of string theory (which offers the hope of unifying all the particles and forces of physics); and even the hypothetical experience of traveling through a black hole. x
  • 5
    Inexplicable Space
    Scientists have made astounding progress in their grasp of the universe. But what remains to be understood? Investigate some perplexing aspects of space that science has uncovered in the last half-century. Learn about the mysterious trajectory of the Pioneer spacecraft (known as the “Pioneer anomaly”). Explore two of the longest-standing problems in astrophysics: dark matter and dark energy. And even try to map the shape of space-time. x
  • 6
    Inexplicable Cosmology
    Take a fascinating trip through dimensions higher than our own. You’ll discover how quantum physics and string theory have opened our eyes to the possibilities of quantum foam, the multiverse, antimatter, and tachyons. Also, join Dr. Tyson for a preview of the long-term fate of the universe (including the collision of galaxies, the burning out of stars, and the decay of orbits into black holes). x

Lecture Titles

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Neil deGrasse Tyson
Ph.D. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Hayden Planetarium

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He is also a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the museum. Professor Tyson earned his undergraduate degree in Physics from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University. Dr. Tyson has written prolifically for the public, including a series of essays in Natural History magazine on which his previous Great Course, My Favorite Universe, is based. His books include Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier; a memoir, The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist; and One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos (coauthored with Charles Liu and Robert Irion), winner of the 2001 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award to a Scientist. Dr. Tyson is host of The Cosmos, a science documentary series televised on the Fox network, and former host of the PBS television series NOVA scienceNOW. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson."

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Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by 43 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Good learning experience An outstanding presentation. Dr. Tyson draws the learner into a web of excitement and interest and doesn't let up even when he utters the last syllable in his presentation. As soon as the 6th lecture was finished I went to the catalog and ordered his earlier course. Teaching style is magnetic and there is never any question that Dr. Tyson is deeply involved and knowledgeable in the areas that he discusses. It would be a real treat to sit in one of his classes. I cannot praise the course or the professor more highly. Superb. September 2, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by extraordinary I was an avid reader of Carl Sagan. When I saw the series COSMOS, I felt some what betrayed that someone else would dare to share the stage with SAGAN. Now that I saw Dr. Tyson's series on "The Inexplicable Universe" I, now feel that we, the human race, have gone beyond Carl Sagan. This is good! Dr. Tyson has his own very nice way of presenting the "cosmos"; so that we may somewhat begin to understand what our conscious mind perceives and how we fit into this universe . Easy to understand. GREAT WORK!! I will now read all his works. June 29, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by NDT should do a full course for TGC This is a fascinating intellectual and visual journey with the most engaging, knowledgeable, and entertaining tour guide! Why only 4 stars for the content? Because after both of NDT's courses, I wanted more. Come on TGC and NDT, let's at least have 12 (maybe 24) for the next course-please. I would ask for 36, but I don't want to overreach. Highly recommended! June 27, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by I love this guy!!! And I've never said that about any Professor in my life. There are 2 things to talk about when talking about this course; the presenter and the content. To the first point -- I come out of the Carl Sagan generation and I caught myself comparing Mr. Tyson to the former great. Both had/have a way of taking very complicated subjects and making them understandable to a novice in the field. Their love of the subject, and desire to share this love with others is extraordinary. While watching this course I felt I was in Mr. Tyson's living room and he was talking to just me. His 'handling' of the camera was unobtrusive. I've seen him on various short interviews on TV but have never watched "Cosmos." [I'm now going to find this on my cable -- I can't wait.] Also, his non-ethnocentrism is refreshing. Why do we think we are the only "intelligent life" in the universe? His closing question is very provocative -- "Is the human intellect insufficient to answer the very questions it is smart enough to propose?" Now to the course content. This is not a course on astrophysics but teaches us lots about the universe we live in. It shows how many of "history's mysteries" have been solved and proposes some solutions to today's mysteries. There's matter and anti-matter. What about an alternate universe? How did we jump from organic material to life? While he doesn't use the term "god particle" he does describe something 'out there'. I got so wrapped up in this course that I stayed awake well past my bedtime to watch the entire course straight through. Was this because of the course content or Mr. Tyson? I'm not sure. Probably both. June 3, 2014
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